In history past, the National Championships outcome determined many things, including a place on the national and world teams. However, these days it is just an important stepping stone. Ok, maybe a boulder that gets you halfway across the river sized stepping stone, but still, just a step. For today’s gymnast, the selection for a spot on the national and world stage is a journey rather than a result of one important competition. So for each gymnast, the weight of their performance at this competition on their chances for a spot on the national or world team, the size of step this competition is for them, depends on where they are at in their journey. Let’s take a look. (As we look all pics are from Christy Linder’s Facebook page… you’ll want to check it out!)
Just Stay on Course
Right now, there appear to be three ‘lock” positions on this year’s world championship team, Simone Biles, Gabby Doublas and Aly Raisman. Biles has absolutely nothing to prove. She could fall in the river (or on each event) multiple times, and it just wouldn’t matter. Her only job is to stay healthy and continuing on being one of the most amazing gymnasts in history. Douglas and Raisman don’t have a whole lot to prove either. At both Jesolo and Secret Classics they have shown that they are still able to hang with the best of the best, and are on track to be at the front of the pack come world team selection camp. Barring injury, these three seem to be locks for this year’s World Championship team, and they just need to stay on course to not just make the team, but most likely win more World Championship medals.
Step it Up a Little Notch
The next three girls Maggie Nichols, Kyla Ross and Bailie Key seem to be the most likely to take the last three World Championship team spots. They are all strong all-arounders and could definitely contribute to the team on any event if needed. Nichols is probably the surprise leader of this group. Nichols is strong on all four events, and could easily lead off team USA in any one of them. Her super clean amanar vault makes her a huge addition to USA’s vault line-up, and the combination of the two factors make her very close to a lock on the team. However, she is still climbing the ranks and proving herself, so it will be key that she hits at this competition.
Ross and Key are both known for the same things- clean lines, clear heads and consistency. However, the issue for both is that they don’t bring in high enough scores to overcome the four mentioned above. While it is unlikely that any other girls will overtake them in the all-around, there are a handful of girls that can contribute higher scores on an individual event. For Ross to maintain her place as a bars and beam specialist, she will definitely need to show progress towards her newly upgraded bars routine. Both girls will need to score high and hit with consistency.
Show Your Specialities
There are a few other girls who have an outside chance of making a worlds team because of one or two events if they are able to consistently and significantly outscore one of the girls above. Numerous combinations of the girls above could make a strong bars line-up for a worlds team, but it is not a sure thing that any of them would medal in an event finals. Madison Kocian, Ashton Locklear, Rachel Gowey and Brenna Dowell would all like to fill that gap. While each of them need to make a strong showing on at least one other event, it is CRUCIAL that they each hit a strong uneven bars routine. From Locklear, who placed fourth at last year’s uneven event finals at the World Championships but has been injured ever since, to Gowey and Kocian coming back from longer injuries, to Dowell making the switch back from NCAA, each gymnast has a rich resume and a strong ground to stand on, but a lot to prove.
Alyssa Baumann was on last year’s world championship team as well, and is a standout on balance beam. While team USA will have a STRONG balance beam line up, again it is less likely for them to top the podium on this event. If Baumann can come in with one of the top beam routines, she might be able to make a case for her spot on the worlds team. However, this would be a VERY tall feat for her.
MyKayla Skinner was another member of last year’s world championship team, but if ever there was a year where you cannot rest on your laurels, it is this year. With Raisman and Nichols in the mix, Skinner has dropped a notch in her contributions on floor and vault. She will need to perform the routines of a lifetime on both events to show that she still has a place on the world team.
Step Up to the Plate
Amelia Hundley has mostly hit when it has counted, and has shown that she can come back and give it her all at the recent Pan American Games. Hundley is a strong all-arounder, and can definitely deliver on bars and floor. However, to keep pace with the other girls who could contribute either as an all-arounder, a bars specialist or a floor specialist, Hundley will have to deliver some of the best routines she has ever performed. As will Madison Desch. Desch was an alternate at the 2015 World Championships and was recently selected to compete at the Pan American Games. Looking like a lock for the all-around, Desch fell on beam and ended up second. While Desch is a strong gymnast, she just needs to show higher scores and more consistency than in the past.
Nia Dennis has been a gymnast that many have expected to top the podiums at this point in her career. Undeniably talented, Dennis could be in the mix. However, her consistency has always been an issue. A recent gym change could be what Dennis needed to move from talented but inconsistent to a contender. If Dennis wants a place on this year’s world team, she will have to reflect that in her competition.
Emily Schild is the picture of clean lines and technically perfect gymnastics. She has been stepping up to every challenge given to her this year, unfortunately, her scores are just not on par with the rest of the field. The same can be said of beautiful to watch Lauren Navvarro and Polina Shchennikova. Both round out the senior field with gymnastics you don’t want to miss, but often is.