The Latest on Gabby Douglas


Gabby Douglas after winning the all-around final in London. Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty

It would seem that Gabby Douglas has settled in to train at Buckeye Gymnastics in Powell, Ohio in her bid to defend her Olympic title at the 2016 Olympics. With the recent coaching changes, Douglas has pushed back her timeline to return to competition and will not compete in the P&G National Championships later this month. Nor will she petition to the World Team selection camp this fall, focusing on 2015 instead.

Kittia Carpenter is the girls’ team director at Buckeye Gymnastics, Gabby’s new gym. In an interview with USA Today Carpenter said, “She wants to come back looking as strong as she left and she didn’t feel she’s quite there yet.”

In addition to regaining her former skills, Douglas will need to update her routines and combinations to be consistent with the new Code of Points, which changes after each Olympics. And in order to be competitive, she will need to continue to increase her difficulty (start) values. Carpenter said she wants to add new skills on uneven bars and floor exercise to boost her start values.

Douglas assured the Associated Press earlier in the month, “I’m committed to Rio, I’m not going to let anything get in the way of that.” Carpenter echoed her belief in Douglas’ determination to make a run at the 2016 Olympics. “She’s training 30 hours a week, and is limiting her commercial and appearance commitments to one day a week.”

Marta Karolyi shared her opinions with USA Today on the matter saying, “Time will tell. I’m not crazy about lots of changes. I like stability and I know from my times when I was directing coaching gymnasts, I liked to develop a relationship with my gymnast. It takes time to develop those kinds of relationships.”

Karolyi is hopeful but cautious about the future. “I really hope — she is very talented and I was surprised at how well she came back after a big break. Physically, she was very fit. My wish is that she will be consistent in her training. And if that’s what she will do, I think she will be fine. But if she jumps up and down and left and right, it will be much harder.”

Liang Chow, Douglas’ former coach expressed sadness at her departure earlier in the month, but has been supportive of her decision to find new coaching. He commented on the situation to the Des Moines Register saying, “I’ve been coaching the sport for a number of years. And I went through many athletes. Some athletes stay with your program for a long, long period of time. Some athletes, they have a different approach as far as coaching style or your philosophies. I totally respect their own opinions — they have the right to choose their own coach.”

He went on to express his best wishes for her, “Of course, when you work together day in and day out, you’re going to miss her. I want her next chapter to be a successful one.”

Chow reiterated those sentiments on Friday after podium training at the Secret U.S. Classics. “I wish them the best of luck. We all have to move on. She has her dreams to achieve and I have my duties to perform.”

With so many people in her court rooting for her success, hopefully moving on and achieving her dreams of Rio is exactly what she will do.

 

The Latest on Ari Agrapides


The large field of juniors at the Secret US Classics continues to get smaller as another star from 2013 is pulling out due to a minor injury. Last year’s Junior National Vault Champion Ari Agrapides will be missing the action this weekend as she rests from a minor foot injury. Coach Maggie Haney posted on Facebook earlier today, “Ari tapped her toe on the bar earlier this week, leaving an open cut & creating a small fracture in her toe. As a precaution, she is sitting out Classics & resting so she can be at her best for Championships!”

Agrapides took the junior ranks by storm last year with what is undeniably the best vaulting in the junior ranks. With a great deal of promise on all the events, and many years to go in her career (she just misses the age limit for the 2016 Olympics) the future is very bright. It will be great to see her seek to defend her vault title at the end of the month!

Pictures for MG Elite Facebook Page

The Latest on Bailie Key


Current Junior National Champion Bailie Key of Texas Dreams will not be competing at the Secret US Classics this weekend. On July 23, coach Kim Zmeskal Burdette broke the news on twitter. “To best heal after a minor arm procedure, Bailie Key will bypass competing at the U.S.Classic.”

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Bailie Key training at the 2014 Pacific Rim Championships. Photo by Ruth Judson

From all appearances, Key is ready to go and this is just a minor blip in her year. As she is already qualified to the P&G National Championships, and has competed twice this year internationally, missing this competition really isn’t a big deal. Most likely, Key would have liked to have a warm up meet before defending her title at nationals, but coming in fresh and healthy will benefit her more in the long run.

Key rose slowly in the junior ranks until last year, where she became the dominant US Junior. Not only is Key the current Junior National Champion in the US, she has won every international competition she has been in both in 2013 and in 2014. Unless any of the current juniors come out with a surprise performance this year, that is unlikely to change any time soon.

Key’s sweet smile, dependable performance, and beautiful gymnastics will be missed at Classics this year.  But it will give other juniors time to shine. And will lead us to appreciate her even more at the P&G National Championships.

Here is Key at the 2014 Pacific Rims. Her new floor routine is one of my very favorites this year!

And here she is at the May National Training Camp. She trains a double layout here, which would be a new addition to her floor routine if she puts it in this year.

Thanks To Ruth Judson for the great photos. Check out her work!

 

The Latest on Laurie Hernandez


Laurie Hernandez Twitter selfie

The July National Team Training Camp roster and the 2014 US Secret Classic roster both had something very disturbing in common. The were missing crowd favorite junior elite Laurie Hernandez of MG Elite. In fact, we will be missing her for some time.

Hernandez participated in her second national team camp of 2014 in June after missing the spring due to a wrist injury. During training, she dislocated her kneecap and tore her patella tendon. Coach MaggieHaney shared, “She was doing her first yurchenko double full of the camp, and she landed short. Her knees were beginning to grow in a weird shape and this was the result. Laurie had surgery about 1 month ago and will need about 6 months to be back to 100%.”

MG Elite girls getting a well deserved pedicure. Notice the wrap on Laurie Hernanez’s (middle) knee. Picture from MG Elite Facebook Page

Hernandez rose dramatically in the junior elite ranks from 2012 to 2013, placing 21st in the all-around in 2012 at the national championships to second in 2013. She followed this up with some great international showings as well. With another year under her belt, many have wondered if she would be able to give Bailie Key, current 2013 Junior National Champion, a run for the all-around gold this year. But that will have to wait.

Fortunately, time is on her side. Hernandez does not become a senior until 2016. Though two years is an eternity in the sport of gymnastics, she is currently on track to make a very competitive bid for a place on the 2016 Olympic team. Hernandez’s contagious smile, uplifting personality and crowd favorite floor performances will be missed in 2014.  “She has been in the gym conditioning & I’m sure she will come back strong,” assures Haney. We can’t wait!

Here is a look at her May National Team Training camp video

And because it is impossible to talk about Laurie Hernandez without wanting to watch her floor routine…

 

Going Out on Top


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Elizabeth Price ends her elite career with a gold in the all-around.

Gymnastics. A sport about constantly reaching for perfection. And then reaching for even more. Setting goals – small goals that lead to large goals, large goals that lead to larger goals, that eventually lead to the elusive end-goal. Since perfection is not actually attainable, the struggle to define what those end goals truly are, and when you have reached them, is quite difficult. So choosing to go out when you are at the top of your game, yet have not actually reached the “normal” goals of elite gymnastics is not a decision we see often in the world of gymnastics.

Right now, Ebee, as she is affectionately known to her fans, is the “it” gymnast. Many had declared 2014 as the Year of Ebee. She won the all-around in both international competitions she competed at early this year – the American Cup and the Pacific Rim Championship. She won the all-around in the FIG World Cup Series. She scored a career high beam score in March at the American Cup, and her career high floor score in April at the Pac Rims. Added to that were  her two best all-around scores at the same meets, reaching within tenths of Simone Biles all-around score at last years World Championships. With injuries abounding, Price seemed to be a lock for this year’s World Championship team, and a definite top contender for the all-around world title.

And though Price has accomplished so much internationally, winning four World Cup titles, these are goals she has never attained. In her first year as a senior, she was named as an alternate to the 2012 Olympic Team. In 2013, injuries held her back from being named to the World Championship team. And so it seemed an obvious choice that Price would defer her scholarship to Stanford for at least a year to make a run at this World Championship team, if not longer to work towards Rio. When you add all that up, it is as refreshing as it is unexpected to see Elizabeth Price retire from elite gymnastics this spring.

You see, these goals may be the ones we expect of elite gymnasts, but they are not Price’s goals. “I never really planned on going to Rio,” Price told NBC Olympic Talk. “It would have been a huge experience if I had gotten to go to the Olympics, or if I were to go in 2016. … But I don’t think that there will be any regret or anything for me not going.”

Though she had not planned on Rio, it would still seem that deferring for a year to go to the World Championships in light of her current success would be in order. “Even though it made me a better competitor, it was really a decision that I wanted to move on from gymnastics. I felt like I had accomplished everything I wanted to with my elite gymnastics career. I don’t think worlds would make me feel any better of how well I did [as an elite gymnast],” she said.

As a fan of gymnastics, I am most used to seeing a mix of heartbreak and success at the end of a gymnast’s elite career. Either not having achieved what they longed for, or having achieved it, then wanting to achieve it again and falling short. To see someone like Price, achieve more than she hoped for in elite gymnastics, and then keep her focus on HER goals (NCAA gymnastics) and move on towards those is quite refreshing. It is so wonderful to cheer her on with a heart full of happiness at all she has accomplished.

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Martha Karolyi and coach Donna Strauss congratulate Elizabeth Price after beam.

Price will be attending Stanford in the fall, and will no doubt dominate the NCAA scene. She currently competes some of the most difficult vault, bars and floor in elite gymnastics. Going into NCAA with that kind of difficulty and a healthy body will make her a standout for sure, and an incredible addition to the Stanford team. Price says she chose Stanford because it is a great academic institution with a great gymnastics team.

Here’s a look at Elizabeth Price’s last international elite gymnastics meet.

Career High Floor Routine

Second highest bar score of her career

Her last elite meet interviews:

And just for fun, her career best vault:

And career best beam:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4hLll-7PQo

Congratulations Elizabeth Price, for an incredible elite gymnastics career. We look forward to four more years!

Simone Biles Withdraws from Pacific Rims


Simone Biles gave it her all to compete this week at the 2014 Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championship. But in the end, her body just wasn’t quite with her. A shoulder injury kept her from the 2014 AT&T American Cup the beginning of March. Time to heal and be at her best just wasn’t on her side. As a precaution, USA Gymnastics decided this afternoon to withdraw her from the competition.

In media interviews following the first training session, Biles said that training was pretty rough. She assured us that the ice on her shoulder was a normal part of her regular routine after practice, but when asked if she was feeling healthy and ready she said they were “figuring it out.”

Aimee Boorman and Simone Biles preparing for beam.
Aimee Boorman and Simone Biles preparing for beam.

The US girls started their second training session of the day on beam. Biles looked good, and finished out the rotation with a strong routine. However, there were many serious chats on the side with coach Aimee Boorman.

Aimee Boorman and Simone Biles preparing for beam.
Aimee Boorman and Simone Biles preparing for beam.

Next on floor, she debuted her awesome new, somewhat more mature, floor routine and looked great. However, in her full routine she barely made her Biles and in tumbling runs after sat it down.

The US girls sat out the vault rotation, and it was during that time that it was decided that she would step out of the competition. “Simone was ready to compete, but her shoulder started bothering her again during training so she is withdrawing as a precaution,” said Martha Karolyi, U.S. women’s team national coordinator.  “We want to be careful given the upcoming schedule for 2014 because Simone is an important part of the team.”

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Aimee Boorman and Simone Biles sit on the sidelines after deciding to withdraw her from the 2014 Pacific Rims.

The rest of the team went on to do bars, while Biles sat with Boorman on the side, both obviously disappointed in the outcome of the day.

All in all, Biles looks incredibly fit and prepared. She just needs a little time. And luckily, time is on her side. They broke ground on her new gym today. With time for her new training facilities to be built and her shoulder to heal, she will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with later in the year.

Peyton Ernst, who was originally the second alternate, will be flying in to replace Biles.

 

Russian National Championships All Around Wrap Up and Videos


Alla Sosnitskaya, Aliya Mustafina and Anastasia Grishina sweep the podium at the 2014 Russian National Championships. Photo by E. Mikhailova/sportgymrus.ru

The Russian National Championships are in full swing, with the first day of competition in the books. The all-around and team qualifications took place today in Penza, where World and Olympic gold medalist  Aliya Mustafina (Moscow) walked away with her fourth national title.  Mustafina scored a 59.566, nearly a point and a half higher than her fellow Moscow teammate in the silver position, Alla Sosnitskaya (58.067). 2012 Olympian Anastasia Grishina (56.467) rounded out the podium in bronze for a Moscow sweep of the medals.

Aliya Mustafina takes her fourth Russian National Title. Photo by E. Mikhailova/sportgymrus.ru

Mustafina had the highest scores on balance beam and floor. Maintaining her reputation as the reigning world champion on beam, she delivered a solid beam set earning her a 15.4, the highest beam score of the year at any of the major international events. Mustafina earned a deduction on bars for hitting her feet on the mat, which took her out of the top three on what is usually her best event.

Alla Sosnitskaya in silver. Photo by E. Mikhailova/sportgymrus.ru

Sosnitskaya is a second year senior, and has not represented Russia on the world stage. She had a solid meet, hitting four for four routines. Her best event is floor, where she had the second highest score of the competition with a 14.833.

Anastasia Grishina wins the bronze. Photo by E. Mikhailova/sportgymrus.ru

There were high hopes in the Russian camp that Grishina would really shine at this competition. While she managed to get on to the podium, her performance was not one that gives any confidence that 2014 will be a stronger year for her than she has shown in the past. Grishina has long been viewed as a talented gymnast who could really help round out Russia’s all-arounders for serious medal contention on the world stage. She has not yet been able to deliver that kind of performance, and many are hoping that this will be her year.

Viktoria Komova returns to competition. Photo by E. Mikhailova/sportgymrus.ru

One of the most anticipated aspect of the championships was Olympic silver medalist Viktoria Komova’s return to competition after a year and a half absence. Komova competed on three events. Her best event was no surprise, scoring 14.900 on bars which put her as the third highest score on the event. She competed a simple and low valued vault, did not compete on floor, and had a rough beam routine earning only an 11.6.

Surprising everyone, World and Olympic team medalist Ksenia Afanasyeva decided to compete at the last moment to help her team qualify. She came out with the second highest vault score despite heavily taped ankles due to her lingering ankle injury. World and Olympic teammate Tatiana Nabieva, and reigning Russian National Champion was also a surprise in the competition as she had declared her retirement from gymnastics over social media at the end of 2013.

Other notable routines included Russia’s vaulting specialist 2012 Olympian Maria Paseka, who had the highest vault score of the competition, scoring a 15.033. First year senior Daria Spiridonova put up the highest bar’s score with a 15.133, while 2013 World team member Anna Rodionova came away with the second highest score at 15.06. Second year senior Polina Fedorova scored the second highest of the day on beam with a 14.500.

Tune in to Russian gymnastics on their website at sportgymrus.ru, where the remainder of the competition will be livestreamed. Available videos from today’s competition are linked or shown below.

All Around

Aliya Mustafina 59.566  (3 14.733 9 14.333 1 15.400 1 15.100)
Alla Sosnitskaya  58.067 (4 14.700 6 14.467 4 14.067 2 14.833)
Anastasia Grishina 156.467 (10 13.867 11 13.900 3 14.400 3 14.300)

Top Scores on:

Vault

Maria Paseka: 15.033

Ksenia Afanasyeva: 14.933
Aliya Mustafina: 14.733

Bars

Daria Spiridonova: 15.133

Anna Rodionova: 15.067 (routine not available, but here she is a few weeks ago at Cottbus)

Viktoria Komova: 14.900

Balance Beam

Aliya Mustafina: 15.400

Polina Fedorova: 14.500
Anastasia Grishina:14.400

 

Floor

Aliya Mustafina:15.100

Alla Sosnitskaya:14.833

Anastasia Grishina:14.300

 

Aly Raisman Pushing Back her Comeback


Aly Raisman has been shooting for a return to competition at the 2014 Secret Classics since her return to training last fall. She had taken a full year off from training after the Olympics and has been back in the gym for about seven months, working on a return to gymnastics. In the past, she has said that getting back into training the full number of hours she needs to train to return to her previous level of competitiveness has been her biggest challenge.

Aly Raisman at Best of the US with Johnny Weir. Photo by Aly Raisman (twitter)

And though she has been trying to meet that challenge head on, the wisdom of her coaches has been to take it slow. A pow wow between Martha Karolyi, her coaches Mihai and Silvia Brestyan has led to a decision to wait until 2015 for a comeback to competition.  According to NBC, Raisman said at the Best of U.S. Awards on Wednesday, Martha and Mihai and Silvia Brestyan, my coaches, they all decided just to wait and to take it slow and to not rush. My goals are more 2015 and 2016.”

Her next step toward that goal will now be focusing on readiness to attend a national team training camp after the 2014 World Championships. Many of the gymnasts have said over the years that the training camps and Karolyi can be more intimidating than the judges and big competitions. Raisman seems to echo that sentiment. “It’ll be my first time being at training camp in over two years, so I think it’ll be [Karolyi’s] way of really watching me,So I’ll be really nervous, but I’m working really hard so she can see the improvement.”

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Aly Raisman at the premiere of Bachelorette in Los Angeles Image Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Raisman has been adamant since winning her Olympic medals in 2012 that she wanted to continue to compete and planned to stay in the sport for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Many gymnasts have found the path to returning to the commitment of intense training in the midst of fame and opportunities after winning an Olympic medal to be a difficult one. Raisman is no different, but seems to continue to press ahead with her goal, if more slowly than her fans would like.

 

Maggie Nichols is Going to Tokyo


The final U.S. women’s gymnastics assignment for the spring has been made.Yesterday, USA Gymnastics announced  that Maggie Nichols will be competing at the 2014 Tokyo World Cup. This is the third (and final) international assignment the US has made for this spring.

Peyton Ernst, Kyla Ross and Maggie Nichols on the podium in at the City of Jesolo.

Nichols, a second year senior, has represented the USA internationally three times in 2013 (including an exhibition) and once this year. She had a great competition last weekend at the City of Jesolo meet, coming in third in the all-around behind two U.S. teammates. More importantly, she showed consistent, solid routines on every event. She performed a dynamic, entertaining routine on floor, placing third in qualifications (but did not advance to event finals due to the two per country rule) and showed a great beam set as well.

Nichols replaced Peyton Ernst who was the nominative gymnast for the competition and who represented the USA at the Tokyo World Cup in 2013. This comes as no surprise, as USA Gymnastics had announced earlier in the month that the final decisions would not be made until after the City of Jesolo Trophy meet. Ernst is the second alternate for the team representing the U.S. at the Pacific Rim Championship behind Brenna Dowell.

Peyton Ernst, Bailie Key and Maggie Nichols. Photo from Maggie Nichols Twitter.

The Tokyo World Cup  is the final meet of the 2013-14 International Gymnastics Federation World Cup all-around series. It will be held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium April 5, 2014. Many of the same competitors seen at the 2014 AT&T American Cup, the most recent meet held on American soil in the series, are expected to compete. They include 2006 World all-around champion Vanessa Ferrari of Italy, Victoria Moors of Canada, Carlotta Ferlito of Italy, and Roxana Popa of Spain. Asuka Teramoto of Japan, the defending champion, is also expected to be there.

 

Have You Heard the Latest? Simone Biles


Simone Biles has been in the middle of turmoil and change over the last month. She has been dealing with a shoulder injury that caused her to pull out of the AT&T American Cup. Additionally, she and her coach announced a decision to change gyms.

Martha Karolyi confirmed to Gymnastike on Sunday that Biles had been given the ok by her doctors to return to training and would be able to compete in the upcoming Pacific Rims Championships. Indeed, Biles spent her 17th birthday at the national team verification camp, where she hoped to make her case to be named to the Pacific Rims team.

At March Verification Camp. Photo by Simone Biles
At March Verification Camp. Photo by Simone Biles

Biles was added to that team yesterday, when USA Gymnastics confirmed the six gymnasts who would be representing the USA. In response, she tweeted:Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.56.05 PM

Today, the Houston Chronicle confirmed that the Biles family are in the process of building the World Champions Centre, which will become the permanent new training center for Biles and coach Aimee Boorman. In the meantime, they will be training at AIM Athletics in The Woodlands.

AIM Athletics say that their goal is to “develop outstanding athletes who will deliver quality performances and a positive public identity to the community.” They want to “help each athlete grow as a total person and develop skills to better meet the challenges of a rapidly changing society.” This seems like a great environment for Biles in the midst of her own rapidly changing life.