Who’s Who in 2015- The World Champions


Heading into the series of competitions this summer that will determine the top gymnasts in the USA, it is helpful to to take stalk of all the gymnasts expected to make their mark in the 2015 elite season. In the first of this series, we will start by looking at the gymnasts that made up the 2014 World Championship team. TThey are without a doubt some of the front runners in the 2015 season. Below are the gymnasts, and where they could likely contribute to team USA on a world stage.

Simone Biles – All-Around; Vault, Beam, Floor

Simone Biles, 2014 World Championships Team Final. Photo by John Cheng via USA Gymnastics

Biles is without a doubt one of the most dominant gymnasts of all time. The combination of her innate natural talent, polished training and positive personality make her a female gymnast without equal. Healthy and at the top of her game, it is currently unimaginable that any gymnast in the US or the world could come close to catching her. Unless she is injured, stops training, or another gymnast bursts onto the scene, it is very likely that she will continue her all-around reign both this year and into the 2016 Olympics. When it comes to event finals, she has the ability to represent on all four. Only McKayla Maroney seems to have a shot at overtaking her in the vault (if she returns to competition), and Biles currently has not match on the floor.

Kyla Ross – All-Around; Bars, Beam

Kyla Ross, 2014 World Championships Team Final. Photo by John Cheng via USA Gymnastics.

Ross has gone from event specialist in 2012 to team anchor ever since. For the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Ross has been second only to Biles in the all-around at both the National and World Championships. She has also been the team leader, voice of wisdom and steady rock for the rest of the US team. This year, Ross is working on adding in a bit more difficulty to maintain her standings in the all around and be competitive with the upcoming juniors. She has also grown a ton in artistry over the years, and become a crowd favorite on floor even if her difficulty does not usually allow her to get into the finals.

Ashton Locklear – Bars

Ashton Locklear, 2014 World Championships Event Finals. Photo by John Cheng via USA Gymnastics.

Locklear burst onto the scene in 2014 to become the USA’s top bar worker. She had been injured the year before, so her level of difficulty was quite a surprise to most fans. She also has beautiful long lines and superb execution. She won the US national title on bars, represented the USA at the World Championships in the team final on bars and took fourth in event finals. Locklear has been injured at the start of this year, so this summer will be the first we see of her. She has been working to improve on her other events as well as maintain her stellar uneven bars set.

Alyssa Baumann – Beam

Alyssa Baumann 2014 World Championships Team Final. Photo by John Cheng via USA Gymnastics

Baumann is absolutely beautiful on beam. She represented team US in the team finals at the World Championships. In 2015, she also qualified to the event finals at the City of Jesolo as the second highest scoring gymnast in the USA. Baumann is clean and beautiful on all her events, and could represent Team USA on any event in a pinch. However, with the influx of new competition in the US, she has to improve her scores to continue to represent the USA. Beam is an event that the top all-arounders in the USA are strong on. She will need to show that she is even stronger.

MyKayla Skinner – Vault, Floor

Skinner is known as the daredevil of the US team. She is the only one in the world to rival Biles in difficulty. She is especially exciting on vault and floor. Unlike Biles, Skinner struggles to complete her incredibly risky routines with clean execution. She has continued to improve in this area, enough to make the 2014 World Championship team and to make two event finals. She will have to continue to show major improvements in these areas this year to beat out the new competition.

MyKayla Skinner- 2014 World Championship Floor Final. Photo by John Cheng via USA Gymnastics.

Madison Kocian – Bars

Madison Kocian, 2014 World Championships Team Finals. Photo by John Cheng via USA Gymnastics.

Kocian looked to be an incredibly strong candidate for the 2013 World Championship team, until an untimely ankle injury kept her out of the running. In 2014, Kocian was able to come back and represent the USA on her best event, the uneven bars, during the team finals. However, a mistake in qualifications kept her from qualifying to event finals. Kocian was injured again at the beginning of the year, so we have yet to see where she is fitting into the picture. However, at the top of her game she is a steady all-arounder and a top bar worker.

Madison Desch – All-around (Alternate)

Maddie Desch. 2014 National Championships.

Desch made the World Championship team as an alternate. Desch has beautiful form, and can be strong on all four events. However, she lacks the consistency of many of the other gymnasts from the USA. She will be looking to improve in this to represent the US in the future.

Jesolo – The first look at Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman


This years’ City of Jesolo Trophy competition may prove to be one of the most exciting in this annual meet’s history. The presence of two time World Champion Simone Biles, Olympic and World Champion Kyla Ross, and the returning 2012 Olympic Champions Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman brings quite the impressive roster to this meet.

Gymnastike is on the scene, and providing as many routines as possible from the training sessions in Jesolo, which you can access with a Gymnastike Gold subscription. These videos provide the first look to the question that is on everyone’s mind.

How will Raisman and Douglas look? Is their comeback for real? Can they compete at their former level? And the answer is a RESOUNDING yes. They look like world caliber gymnasts early in their season. They showed solid beam and bars routines, solid double twisting yurchenko on vault, and dance throughs on floor with improved artistry. There is no more room to doubt that their comeback is for real. Here are the details on their training session.

Gabby Douglas

Douglas did a double twisting yurchenko in both days of training. It is solid and powerful, but has some form issues in the air, a bit pikey coming down and some landing deductions. That being said, it is a solid vault.

On bars, there were a few issues in each routine shown, but overall it is a great bar routine. Not quite as much high flying action as in 2012, but great releases and combinations. The routine: Piked stalder full (struggled at the top on day 2 of training but hit it nicely day 1)+ piked Tkatchev + Pak (struggled with the connection on day 1 but had a great day 2), piked stalder + piked stalder half+ Endo half + Chow, dismounted with a double layout.

On beam, Douglas looked steady and confident. She hit her skills well and traveled through the routine at a nice pace. Her leaps and jumps all hit full splits and showed her former agility. The routine: Stoop mount, front pike, back handspring stepout + layout stepout, standing full, switch ring leap, front tuck, full turn, switch split + switch split half, front aerial + sissone  + split jump, back handspring stepout + back handspring back tuck (timer dismount).

Douglas brings a brand new floor presence, showing definite improvement in artistry and musicality. She did a two pass routine showing off her new routine with a Memmel turn, double arabian (added a stag jump in tumbling training), switch ring leap + split leap 3/2, a double L turn (a bit rough the first day, beautiful the second) and a Ferrari. She ended with a double back.

Aly Raisman

Raisman also did a double twisting yurchenko in both days of training. She had a little bit of leg form the first day which looked better the second day. But she had a lot of power, solid landings and overall looks great on vault.

Raisman has said that she still feels the sting of not getting an all-around medal at the Olympics. In this comeback she is definitely making a bid to be an all-around contender and is working hard on improving her bars. She had some form breaks and missed a cast handstand, but she seems to have a little better form here- feet together, toes pointed more, greater extension in her swing. The routine: Mount, Maloney + straddle Tkatchev, hop blind + straddle Jaeger, stalder, overshoot to handstand, toe full, Ray, toe 1/2, tuck double front dismount.

On beam, Raisman brought her steady, methodical routine that makes her so dependable on this apparatus. Everything was solid and powerful. She had a few small form issues, but looked clean and controlled. She also brought in a lot of new connections! The routine: Leap mount, pike front + wolf, backhandspring + layout to two feet (feet slightly apart in air) + split jump, switch leap 1/1, aerial, switch leap + switch half (really missed 180 on this) + back tuck, front tuck + sissone, 1/1L turn +1/1 turn, roundoff double back (timer dismount).

Dancing with the Stars taught Raisman more grace and it shows in her new floor routine. A great mix of graceful arm waving and her Jewish folk music along with her always powerful tumbling. The routine: 3/2 twist through to double arabian (added a front tuck in tumbling), switch full + split jump (missed hitting her splits in both jumps), double layout!, switch ring leap + split leap 3/2, full turn.

Overall, the two look just as they should at this point in the year. Some clean up work to be done, some more skills to be added, but confident, fit and ready to compete.

City of Jesolo Trophy 2015 Roster and Details


This weekend boasts one of the most exciting meets of the spring, as it gives us a first look at many of the US gymnasts. The City of Jesolo Trophy will be held March 2529, with team, all-around and event finals taking place on the 28-29. USA Gymnastics takes quite a large team to this meet, giving many gymnasts a chance to debut for the year as well as gain international experience. The senior squad includes 2013-14 World all-around champion Simone Biles, and 2012 Olympic team gold-medalists Gabrielle Douglas, Alexandra Raisman, and Kyla Ross. Junior 2013 Junior National Champion Bailie Key will make her senior debut.

The competition highlights competitions in both the junior and senior levels, in the team, all-around and individual event categories. As the defending Jesolo champions, the United States automatically qualify to the team and all-around finals, as does the host country, Italy on March 28. The other countries will participate in qualifying rounds March 25-27.

The March 28 competition will determine the team and all-around results in both the junior and senior divisions, and the top eight athletes, with a maximum of two per team, will advance to the event finals on March 29.  The competition schedule is:  March 25, junior team qualification; March 26, senior team qualification; March 28, junior and senior team and all-around finals; and March 29, individual event finals.

The Italian Gymnastics Federation will broadcast a livestream of the competition on its YouTube Channel,www.youtube.com/user/FGIfederginnastica.

The complete U.S. Team roster is included below.

Seniors

Alyssa Baumann, Plano, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics

Simone Biles, Spring, Texas/World Champions Centre

Madison Desch, Lenexa, Kansas/Great American Gymnastics Express

Gabrielle Douglas, Virginia Beach, Va./Buckeye Gymnastics

Bailie Key, Montgomery, Texas/Texas Dreams Gymnastics

Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn./Twin City Twisters

Aly Raisman, Needham, Mass./Brestyan’s American Gymnastics

Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif./Gym-Max Gymnastics

Emily Schild, Huntersville, N.C./Everest Gymnastics

Megan Skaggs, Marietta, Ga./Gymnastics Academy of Georgia

Juniors

Norah Flatley, Cumming, Iowa/Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance Institute

Jazmyn Foberg, Bayville, N.J./MG Elite

Lauren Hernandez, Old Bridge, N.J./MG Elite

Victoria Nguyen, West Des Moines, Iowa/Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance Institute

Ragan Smith, Lewisville, Texas/Texas Dreams Gymnastics

Olivia Trautman, Champlin, Minn./Twin City Twisters

*Schild and Skaggs have been added to the senior national squad, with Trautman named to the junior team.

Picture by Kim Zmeskal-Burdette Instagram

Simone Steals the Show – AT&T American Cup Results


Simone Biles stole the show in her usual style Saturday, March 7 at the AT&T Stadium. Many wondered if such a large arena would dwarf these tiny gymnasts, but with Biles it is a wonder that even a stadium that large can contain her power and charisma. Biles won the meet by 4.5 points, with her American teammate MyKayla Skinner coming in second. Winning by points used to be a crazy thing, but with Biles it has become the norm.

Biles began the meet with one of the most impressive Amanar vaults she has ever done in competition, flying sky high and basically sticking, scoring a whopping 16.033. MyKayla Skinner turned in a clean double twisting yurchenko to score a 15.1, a departure from her normal Cheng vault, which she had trouble with in podium training. Jessica Lopez of Venezuela came in right behind her with another double twisting yurchenko that scored a 15. After the first rotation, Biles was leading by almost a full point.

Heading into the second rotation, Biles added in some of her former difficulty on bars, which she has been working hard to bring back to her former level after last years shoulder issues. She competed these with ease, and scored a 15.2 on her “weakest” event. Lopez was just behind her, scoring a 14.933 for a beautifully done bar routine full of release moves. Bars are without a doubt Skinner’s weakest event, but she worked through them well, adding in new difficulty of her own and sticking the dismount for a 14.266. Biles increased her lead to just over a point, but Lopez edged out Skinner for second.

Beam is usually the rotation that shakes up the standings, but not so today. Biles approached her routine with a calm, collected attitude, and though she had a few small wobbles, she came through with a great routine, scoring a 15.066. Ellie Black of Canada came in with the second highest score on beam with a 14.266 followed closely by Natsumi Sasada of Japan with a 14.2. Lopez fell on her backhandspring layout, but had a beautiful routine otherwise for a 13.166. Skinner had a few big bobbles, including a near fall on her backhandspring full tuck combination. She scored a 13.533, and the standings remained the same coming into the final rotation.

Lopez had a pretty routine with great lines. Her lower difficulty left her with a 13.266. Erika Fasan of Italy came through with a 14.400 for a well done floor routine with a beautiful Memmel turn and solid tumbling to overtake Lopez not only in the floor scores, but for the bronze medal. Skinner made it through her incredibly difficult floor routine for a 14.933 and the silver medal. But it was Biles of course who brought the house down. Adding even more difficulty to an already insanely difficult routine, Biles was in the rafters in her tumbling, but it is her mega watt smile and personality that bring her routine to life. She scored a 16.0, the highest floor score since 2009 when code changes decreased the start values on floor.

Simone Biles truly is a special gymnast. With big gymnastics, a bigger personality and the biggest heart around, she is one of a kind. She had hoped to start 2015 off strong. Mission accomplished.

The Latest on the Fierce Five – March 201


Three of the Fierce Five are undoubtedly back as players in the 2015 world of elite women’s gymnastics. Gabrielle Douglas, 2012 All-around and Team Olympic Champion and Aly Raisman, 2012 Team and Floor Olympic Champion are both hoping to make their comeback debuts at the 2015 City of Jesolo Trophy competition. Both have been at multiple national team camps, and are reported to look healthy and ready to compete. Kyla Ross has never left the world of elite gymnastics, and will be looking to continue to contribute to the US team as she has since the 2012 Olympics. Raisman, Ross and Douglas are all working hard to compete at the City of Jesolo Trophy competition at the end of March.

3/5 fierce five roomies- Aly Raisman via Instagram

3/5 fierce five roomies- Aly Raisman via Instagram

“October was my first training camp back,” said Raisman in an interview with USA Gymnastics. “Gabby was literally the only one I knew at October training camp.” Raisman doesn’t know the rest of the national team that well, but they definitely know her. “They are all so nice, but they’re all so young… Training camps now are a little bit different… it’s crazy because the girls now, when they come here, they ask for my picture and I feel like they know so much information about me. It’s crazy but it means so much to me because I was the same way. I remember coming to training camp when Shawn Johnson and Nastia first came back and I was just in awe… I wanted to copy everything single thing that they did. I remember Shawn used to eat these beets (the vegetables) and so I still eat them because she ate them.”

Raisman has all her skills back and is getting into routine shape for 2015. But she is waiting for the first competition of the year to really see where she is at. “I feel like until I compete it is not going to be where I want it to be… You are only as good as your last competition, so I know I still have a lot of work to do and I still have to prove myself.”

“Aly’s skill level is getting higher and higher,” said Marta Karolyi in the same interview. “I was very pleased with her tumbling. She is improving her bars, so I am looking forward to see what is happening. She is extremely enthusiastic about this whole comeback, and it looks like she honestly wants to be there. Realizing she has to fight to make the team, but wanting [it] very much.”

Kyla Ross has without a doubt become the rock and foundation of the US team over the last two years. Karolyi went on to say, “Kyla was always a girl who was very goal oriented, very disciplined and realizes that the every day hard work is what makes you better… Kyla as a person has become more and more confident with the years and the international success that she had and gradually she became a very quiet leader.” Ross is focusing 2015 on the one thing she has lacked over the past few years- increasing her start values. Ross is known for her perfect, high execution scores style of gymnastics. But she knows to continue to be the best of the best, she has to have more difficulty. “I have been focusing on the things I lacked last year, especially focusing on my difficulty and start value.” Ross in fact decided to stay out of the AT&T American Cup this year to give her more time to work on adding new skills to her routines. Check out the whole interview.

After the 2012 Olympics, Gabrielle Douglass honestly didn’t know if she would continue on in the sport. But after going to competitions and seeing others compete, she really begin to feel the desire. Especially to accomplish what no one has ever done before – to win back to back Olympic All-Around titles. “No one has ever done it before, and that is definitely pushing me,” Douglass told USA Gymnastics. “Gabby is an extremely talented girl, said Marta Karolyi, “I love her bar work… We will have to see how she does on these other events. She is one of these girls that needs this environment.. to see what is happening with the other girls, what is everybody doing and get into the rhythm.” When Douglas thinks about her training, half measures will not do for her. “I really want to make it big and I really want to make it better than last time,” she says. Apart from the coveted Olympic title, Douglas does not have any individual international titles to her name. In addition to adding a second Olympic title, she will be looking to add more National Championship and World Championship titles along the the way. Check out the whole interview with Douglas and watch her training.

Jordyn Wieber has now officially retired from elite gymnastics. On Friday before the American Cup, she released an update on her decision to retire from elite gymnastics. For anyone who has watched her joy at working with the UCLA team, this comes as no surprise. “It was after enrolling at UCLA when I realized that the juggling act of being a student, team manager and professional gymnast wouldn’t allow me the time that I needed to continue my competitive career. I also began to realize that I felt fulfilled with what I had accomplished in my gymnastics career, and was ready to move on to the next phase of my life,” wrote Wieber. It is so wonderful to see her so full of joy and so fulfilled. “Although I’m leaving the sport I love, the principles it taught — sacrifice, maturity, perseverance and dedication — are traits that will stay with me forever.”

And so that just leaves the most famous of the five, McKayla Maroney. Maroney has been incredibly quiet over the last year. After the 2013 World Championships, she underwent yet another surgery, trying to get her knee up to par for future competition. But Maroney has been absent from the elite scene far longer than her recovery should have taken, with no communication on her status. Recently, International Gymnastics Magazine published a teaser for their April edition with an update and promise of more details to come.

IG caught up with Maroney at the All Olympia Invitational her team was hosting at the Los Angeles Convention Center. She told them that she has had a long bout with adrenal fatigue. “I’m really, really excited for this year and coming back, just because I’m now healed,” said Maroney “I haven’t felt like this in a long time. I’m feeling great.”

In the world of elite gymnastics where youth reigns, it would be quite amazing for all four gymnasts to make the 2016 Olympic team. Simone Biles has been decimating the rest of the world of gymnastics for the past two years, and there are quite a few juniors who are incredibly talented and strong competitors. But the Fierce Five are appropriately named, and there is no doubt that each one will give an incredible fight to make the team.

AT&T American Cup Live


Live Blog of the 2015 AT&T American Cup Women

Vault

  • Vanessa Ferrari – Yurechenko  11/2 14.133Elsabeth Black -Tsuk 1 1/2 layout–Stuck 14.566
  • Jessica Lopez – Clean Yurchenko 2/2 15.000
  • Emily Little – Powerful DTY, slight hop on landing. 14.766
  • Natsumi Sasada – Clean Yur 1/1, landed came off the table to the side, landed fart to the left, but still between the lines. 13.833
  • Erika Fasana – DTY, somewhat low but clean. 14.533
  • Claudia Fragapane – DTY, slightly offline with a small hop on the landing. 14.633
  • Simone Biles – Amanar – one of the best Amanars she has performed in competition for a 16.033
  • MyKayla Skinner – In a surprise twist does her DTY instead of a full. Slightly piked down and big hop on landing but powerful. 15.100
Results after Rotation 1
1.Simone Biles 16.033
2MyKayla Skinner 15.100
3Jessica Lopez 15.000

Bars:

  • Jessica Lopez – Beautiful bars set chocked full of releases. piked tkatchev to pac, shaposh, tkatchev to geinger, double front dismount. 14.933
  • Emily Little – Shaposh, bail, hecht, really struggles on a cast handstand but muscles it up, double layout with a hop. 13.166
  • Natsumi Sasada- 13.500
  • Erika Fasana- 13.900
  • Claudia Fragapane – piked tkatchev, off on Church, pak, full-piroutte, beautiful double layout dismount. 12.633
  • Simone Biles – Weiler, shaposh, ,tkatchev, piked tkatchev to pak, full twisting double dismount to stick. 15.200
  • MyKayla Skinner – Shaposh to pac, toe shaposh half, Ray, full in stuck. Much improved, still form issues. 14.266
  • Vanessa Ferrari  – lots of good pirouetting on highbar, straddle jeager, full in with small hop.13.966
  • Elsabeth Black- clear hip, off on pike Tkatchev, straddle Jaeger to pak, toe on front lay half dismount 13.000
Results after Rotation 2
1.Simone Biles 31.233
2. Jessica Lopez 29.933
3. MyKayla Skinner 29.366

Beam

  • Natsumi Sasada –  Beautiful roundoff layout, front tuck, ariel, switch ring, slight bobble, full turn, front arield, sheep jump, bobbles but recoers, switch leap, switch leap, roundoff double pike dismount. Has nice clean lines throughout the routine, some bobbles break the flow. 14.200
  • Erika Fasana- back handspring stepout layout, switch to back tuck, beautiful turn combo, full turn y turn, split half, side arial, front aerial, Roundoff double pike. Nice flow and sharp dance throughout. 13.800Claudia Fragapane – 13.500
  • Simone Biles – 2 1/2 wolf, front arial, slpit leap, slight bobble on connection, backhandspring layout step out layout stepout, front arial, switchsplit, swiich half with a bobble back pike, front tuck, Full in dismount. Calm cool and collected through the routine, moved a little slower than usual. Holding her back as she walked off. 15.066
  • MyKayla Skinner –  backhandspring tuck full with a big save, switch half, front tuck, switch leap back pike, side aerial, full turn combo nicely done (1/1 leg horizontal, 1/1), roundoff double back dismount. Overall leaps looked more split, toes more pointed throughout, clean turns. 13.533
  • Vanessa Ferrari – roundoff back layout with a big bobble, split leap, split ring, front aerial sheep jump, switch half, full turn, switch ring, pretty far from her head though, roundoff double pike, small hop. Pretty work in and out of her skills, nice flow throughout.
  • Elsabeth Black – double turn big bobble but saves it, front pike, backhandrping stepout layout to two feet, lots of pretty work in between, backhandspring stepout  tuck full, big bobble, switch leap switch half, front tuck, bobble, roundoff 21/2 twist dismount. Some great work but lots of big bobbles14.266
  • Jessica Lopez – switch split, backhandspring stepout backhandspring layout, falls off, jump series, switch side leap, front aerial sheep jump, aerial split leap, pretty combo!, side aerial, roundoff back hand spring double twist dismount. Beautiful routine though. 13.166
  • Emily Little – front tuck, wolf turn, front aerial, spilt jump, backhandspring stepout layout step out, switch split switch side, roundoff 2 1/2 twist with a big hop. 13.633
Results after Rotation 3
1.Simone Biles 46.299
2. Jessica Lopez 43.099
3. MyKayla Skinner 42.899

Floor

  • Elsabeth Black Dramatic music and flare to match, 2.5 through to double back, front double full,  front full 1/2 through to double pike. good landings. 14.300
  • Natsumi Sasada – 1 1/2 to front, falls back and hands down, double tuck, dbl full, dbl pike 12.200
  • Emily Little –  Piked full in stuck, full in, switch split switch side, full 1/2 steppout through to double full, wolf 11/2double turn, pike to end. Clean lines, great form on all her tumbling.13.700
  • Claudia Fragapane – double layout full almost falls but pulls it up, double arabian, falls, her famous breakdancing, triple twist, double layout to end, puts her hands down. Such a hard routine, just could not pull it out today. 11.766
  • Vanessa Ferrari – double layout lands oob, full in, double tuck, switch ring, switch full, switch ring full,  double pike to end. Beautiful choreography in this routine. 13.766
  • Jessica Lopez – triple twist, double pike, switch ring switch full, pretty choreography work, double twist, falls out of triple turn, two and a half twist to end. 13.266
  • Erika Fasana – double layout small hop, full in, double Y turn, double pike stuck, nicely done routine. 14.400
  • Simone Biles –  New pass to open full twisting double layout, the Biles to spilt leap, beautifully done, wolf turn 2/2, switch split switch full, double double, ends with a strong full in, hops. She is electric on floor! 16.000!!!
  • MyKayla Skinner – Double twisting double layout (Moors), double double, wolf turn, 1 1/2 through to 21/2, full in to end. Her jumps and leaps are still improving but not quite 180. 14.933
Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.03.13 PM

Biles and Skinner Ready to do Big Gymnastics at the AT&T American Cup


One of the most prestigious events for an American gymnast in the elite gymnastics calendar is the American Cup. This weekend marks the 2015 AT&T American Cup, which will be held in the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium, one of the biggest venues for this important event. Simone Biles of World Champions Center, Spring, Tx and MyKayla Skinner of Desert Lights, Gilbert, Az will be representing the US women.

“I was really surprised, it was such an honor” said Skinner about being chosen to represent the US at this event. “I hope [people] realize I have become a bigger and better gymnast, I hope they can see I have been working really hard.” Skinner has added upgrades to bars and floor and hopes to debut them at the competition. She also hopes people notice how much she has been working on her flexibility and artistry. When she thinks about competing in such a big arena, Skinner says that it is “Going to be really cool. We will be more pumped and it [will be] more fun. It’s going to be different, but exciting.”

Marta Karyoli, Simone Biles and MyKayla Skinner at the 2015 AT&T American Cup. Photo via USA Gymnastics.

Marta Karyoli, Simone Biles and MyKayla Skinner at the 2015 AT&T American Cup. Photo via USA Gymnastics.

Biles, comes into the competition with more to prove than Skinner. As a two time World Champion, Biles is the heavy favorite to win.  Though she admits that the stadium could be intimidating, the veteran gymnast said in an interview with USA Gymnastics after training today, “Once you start doing gymnastics, you don’t really pay attention to how big the stadium is, you just focus on what you are doing in the moment.” In an interview earlier this week she said that “You need a big stadium for big gymnastics.” Big gymnastics is what Biles is all about. She is looking to make a great start to her 2015 year, and will be debuting upgrades on bars and floor. Already competing one of the highest start values in the world on floor, Biles looks to be adding even more with a new opening tumbling pass, while she continues to make the gymnastics look effortless.

Biles senior career has already been enormously successful, with two national and world all around titles to her name. But every iconic American champion can point to winning the American Cup, and Biles has yet to add this title to her resume. “Every time anyone says anything about the American Cup, they think of who has won it. So I think just adding my name would mean a lot to me.”

Don’t miss any of the action on Saturday. Watch the AT&T American Cup live.

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. ET – First 90 minutes webcast on attamericancup.com/live
1-3 p.m. ET – Live on NBC (check local listings)

In the meantime, check out Biles and Skinner’s podium training highlights.

Simone Biles

MyKayla Skinner

Photos and Videos via USA Gymnastics.

 

Three Members of the Fierce Five on Jesolo Nominative List


In the rhythm of the US women’s national team calendar, the City of Jesolo Trophy is the first big meet of the 2015 elite season for the majority of the national team. Each year, the team is chosen at a national team camp shortly before the competition. However, the US is required to turn in a nominative list before that, so it gives a preview of who is likely to get the call.

The nominative list has some exciting news. If all goes as planned, Gabrielle Douglas and Aly Raisman will make their first appearances since the 2012 Olympics in elite level competition.  In fact, this roster contains an all star cast. In addition to Douglas and Raisman, 2013 and 2014 World Champion Simone Biles is on the list as well as the third member of the Fierce Five and 2013/2014 World Championship team member Kyla Ross. Joining them are 2014 World Championship team gold medalists MyKayla Skinner, Alyssa Baumann and Madison Desch. Bailie Key, who made quite a splash as a junior, winning many domestic and international titles including the junior division of the Jesolo competition in 2013 and 2014, would be making her senior debut at this competition. Last but not least is Emily Schild, who made quite an impression at the Nastia Liukin Cup in 2013 as a junior and comes from the same gym as Ashton Locklear (2014 World Championship team member). The senior nominative list is:

Alexandra Raisman, Brestyan’s
Gabrielle Douglas, Buckeye
Mykayla Skinner, Desert Lights
Kyla Ross, Gym Max
Simone Biles, World Champions Gym
Emily Schild, Everest Gymnastics
Alyssa Baumann, WOGA
Bailie Key, Texas Dreams
Madison Desch, GAGE
One of the exciting aspects of the City of Jesolo Trophy is that there is also an opportunity for many talented juniors to get international experience. Just one year away from the Olympics, it is as important for many of the juniors who will turn senior next year to make a good impression as the seniors. The top juniors in the running are all on the nominative list. Of the following list, only Jordan Chiles and Victoria Nguyen are not age eligible for the 2016 Olympics.
Norah Flatley, Chow’s Gymnastics
Jazmyn Foberg, MG Elite
Lauren Hernandez, MG Elite
Olivia Trautman, Twin City Twisters
Victoria Nguyen, Chow’s Gymnastics
Jordan Chiles, Naydenov

From Bees to Ants – Simone Biles and the 2015 AT&T American Cup


Everything is different and everything is the same for Simone Biles as she heads into the 2015 AT&T American Cup. The most prestigious international invitational held in the United States will be at the AT&T Stadium (the Dallas Cowboys football stadium) in Arlington, Texas on March 7. Biles and MyKayla Skinner are the two women representing the USA in the competition.

In 2013, Biles competed in this prestigious competition as an unproven senior. Though people knew she had potential, she was far from being a sure thing in the world of gymnastics. In a small, cozy arena in Worcester, Mass, Biles won silver to her American teammate, Katelyn Ohashi. Fast forward two years: a new outlook on her gymnastics, a new training center, and multiple world championship titles behind her, Biles is coming into 2015 not only as the favorite for the American Cup, but as the gymnast to beat.

Everything is different.

“I’m approaching this competition by knowing what I’m capable of doing, knowing what I’ve done in the past. I want to come out with a really strong start to the year” said Biles at a pre-meet phone conference. “I have actually not competed in anything close to as big as this stadium is. I went there earlier this year for a promotion… I think we’re gonna look like ants down there because the stadium is so big, but I guess you need a big stadium for big gymnastics… I watched the board more than the players. It was huge! I don’t know how it’s gonna to turn out, but I’m excited to see it. ”

After her shenanigan’s with the bee at the 2014 World Championships, Biles must have insects on the brain. Her thought that they will look like ants in such a huge stadium is probably right. But no one will bring bigger gymnastics than Biles. Already touting the most difficulty in women’s gymnastics, Biles plans to bring in two more upgrades to the AT&T American Cup. She has added a release combination- a piked Tkatchev into pak on bars, and will be adding yet another twist on floor, upgrading one of her floor passes to a double layout full-out. Check out her latest work:

Competing near home is also something new. “I’m really excited to compete because I know a lot of my friends and family are going to come. They haven’t seen me compete since one of my first years in elite. There are a lot of people coming out to see me and I’m really excited for them to see me.” Biles, who makes friends everywhere she goes, is also excited to see Jessica Lopez of Venezuela, who she connected with earlier in the year at the Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular.

Everything is the same.

And yet, the At&T American Cup is just another competition. “I’ve had competitions where we go one at a time, so I’m kinda used to it,” she said about the format of the competition. She is also used to televised events: “Sometimes they put us on hold…” When all is said and done, she has been training towards this in the same way she has gone into every other competition. “We just want to do what we’ve always done. After Worlds we did dial down a bit and tried to work new skills and plan out routines, but then we started gearing back up with American Cup coming up. It’s been the same…nothing’s really changed.”

Currently focused on hitting her routines at the American Cup, later this year Biles will turn her attention to more upgrades and making the World Championship team. Biles said her goals for the year are “Adding more upgrades for Classics and P&Gs, and then try to make the Worlds team again and at the end of the year I’ll start over again and see what happens.”

In the world of gymnastics, it is impossible to look at one competition on it’s own. How it fits in to the ever present Olympic question is always a part of the equation. But Biles, like many other elite gymnasts, tries to stay focused on the here and now. “I try not think about 2016 yet, I’m going into this year as I have any other year, trying to do what I always do. I just try not to think about it. We have this whole year to think about it. We have to live in the moment, and thinking of next year kindof scares me, so if anyone brings up the Olympics, it’s not me.”

Biles has been unbeatable for the past two years, winning even with falls and mistakes. Many wonder if any gymnast can ever challenge her as long as she stays in the sport. Two people that have yet to try are returning Olympic veterans Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman. But to Biles, who always focuses so much more on how she loves her teammates than on how they might turn out in the ranks, its the more the merrier. “[Gabby and Aly] look really good, really healthy. I am just so excited for them. I know how bad they want to compete, and I know how it feels to be out for a while, after being out last year for a little while, so I am really excited for them. The look really good.”

Don’t miss Biles and any of the action at the AT&T American Cup. Watch podium training live on March 5 (Women – 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET and Men – 2:30-4:30 p.m. ET) and catch the first 90 minutes of competition on March 7 at 11:30 a.m. on attamericancup.com/live and then the rest of the competion from 1-3 p.m. ET Live on NBC (check local listings).

Going Out on Top


10246762_10151747462747168_7264512043822779786_n

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.

IMG_4405

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!