Team USA Dominates at the City of Jesolo


Team USA continues their streak of team and all-around dominance on the international stage at this year’s City of Jesolo Trophy meet in Italy. They won the junior and senior team gold medals and swept the all-around podiums.  Two-time World all-around champion Simone Biles of World Champions Centre won the senior division, and Lauren Hernandez of MG Elite won the junior all-around title.

The first day of competition determined both the team and individual all-around standings and served as qualifications for event finals to be held tomorrow. Team USA totaled 241.3 in the senior team competition, followed by Italy (224.35) and Canada (221.75). The junior competition was held earlier in the day, where the junior team took the gold with a 229.1, followed by Canada for silver (222.45) and Italy rounding out the podium with the bronze (208.15).

Senior Team Medalists. Photo by Filippo Tomasi via USA Gymnastics
The USA junior team. Photo by Filippo Tomasi via USA Gymnastics

For the all-around competition, Biles led the seniors with an incredible score of 62.1. Bailie Key of Texas Dreams took the silver in her senior debut with a 59.5, and Aly Raisman of Brestyan’s American Gymnastics totaled a 59.1 for the bronze in her fist competition since the 2012 Olympics. In addition to sweeping the podium, the USA posted the top 5 all-around scores, and with no two per country rule in place, took nine of the top ten spots.

Bailie Key, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. Photo by Filippo Tomasi via USA Gymnastics

Gabrielle Douglas of Buckeye Gymnastics came in fourth in her first competition since the Olympics with a 58.9, and Alyssa Baumann of WOGA Gymnastics took fifth, posting a 58.7. Erika Fasana of Italy took sixth (57.55), and seventh through tenth went back to the USA.  The order was Maggie Nichols of Twin City Twisters (57.5), Megan Skaggs of Gymnastics Academy of Atlanta, (57.15), Madison Desch of Great American Gymnastics Express, (56.9), and Kyla Ross of Gym-Max Gymnastics (56.75). Emily Schild of Everest Gymnastics made her international debut and scored a 54.95.

The USA Senior Team. Photo by Filippo Tomasi via USA Gymnastics

All of USA’s juniors finished in the top ten in the all-around in addition to sweeping the podium. Hernandez posted a 57.65 for gold followed by Norah Flatley of Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance Institute with a 57.45 for silver and reigning National junior champion Jazmyn Foberg of MG Elite with a 56.55 for bronze. Ragan Smith of Texas Dreams Gymnastics was fifth (56.1) and Olivia Trautman of Twin City Twisters took sixth (55.2). Victoria Nguyen of Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance Institute finished ninth (54.5).

Norah Flatley, Lauren Hernandez and Jazmyn Foberg. Photo by Filippo Tomasi via USA Gymnastics
USA Juniors with Marta Karolyi. Photo by Filippo Tomasi via USA Gymnastics

Both junior and senior event finals will be held tomorrow. In the senior ranks, Biles qualified to all four event finals in first, and Ross will join her in the bars final, Baumann in the beam final and Raisman in the floor. In the junior division, the qualifiers were Smith and Foberg on vault, Hernandez and Flatley on bars, Flatley and Nguyen on beam, and Hernandez and Flatley on floor.

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

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.

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).

The Latest on The Fierce Five


Exactly two years ago, five young girls made history at the 2012 Olympics. It is hard for any gymnastics fan not to get choked up thinking of that night. And if you are just tuning back into the gymnastics world for the upcoming elite competitions, then undoubtedly the status of each of the Fierce Five gymnasts is on your mind. Coming off of the 2012 Olympics, each gymnast expressed their desire to continue in the sport of gymnastics and make a run at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. And so, the question constantly remains – when are they returning?

Kyla Ross, the youngest member of the Fierce Five has not missed a beat since the 2012 Olympics. She has competed at nearly every major competition since then, and is undeniably one of the USA’s shining stars. Ross is expected to headline both the Secret US Classics and the P&G National Championships this August. She looked great in podium training and well prepared for the season.

McKayla Maroney has also continued to train towards Rio despite four, count them four, leg surgeries since the games. Shortly after successfully defending her World Championship Vault title last year, Maroney took a rest from gymnastics to heal up some knee issues. After having some knee pain at Worlds, she discovered she had tendonitis in one knee and a fracture in the other. Unfortunately rest was not enough and she finally underwent surgery in March. Maroney had six to eight weeks of therapy following surgery, and was released to return to training in late May or early June. She assured people in an interview with International Gymnastics (AWESOME interview that you have to watch!) that she will be working hard to be back for P&G National Championships and World Championships this year. However, she has yet to return to a national team training camp and has not yet released any information about her competition status. Update: In a social media video she made today, Maroney said that she would not be competing this season.“I just want to say how much I appreciate you guys following me, supporting me, being there for me even though I can’t compete this season with my injuries.” She also gave a great interview to USA Gymnastics catching us up on the details of her injuries and her commitment to Rio.

Gabby Douglas made her serious return to training this spring with a return to her former gym in April. After her trial period with coach Chow was over however, she decided that this was not the best training option for her and has set out to find a new gym to make her bid to Rio. She is currently training at Buckeye Gymnastics, however it is not known if she will stay there long-term. Douglas impressed Marta Karolyi at the June National Team Training camp with her level of physical fitness, however Karolyi was hoping to see her compete at the Secret U.S. Classics and the P&G National Championships to help determine if she would be ready to compete at this year’s World Championships according to an interview with NBC Olympic Talk. Douglas is not competing this weekend at Classics, though it has not yet been announced if she will be competing at the national championships later this month. Update: New coach Kittia Carpenter of Buckeye gymnastics confirmed that Douglas will not be attempting to comeback to competition until 2015. Check out the full story here.

Aly Raisman announced earlier this year that she would be pacing her comeback slowly and focusing on attending her first national team training camp after the World Championships in October. A few videos have come out as well as an interview here and there that indicates she is training seriously and working hard, just pacing her return to competition. She will be focusing on 2015.

Jordyn Wieber is the one member of the Fierce Five who has not yet resumed training at the elite competitive level. From all appearances, she thoroughly enjoyed taking a year off from gymnastics and any heavy training to attend her first year of college and be team manager for UCLA gymnastics. Though Wieber has maintained that she is working to stay in shape, she has yet to announce a decision about a serious return to competitive gymnastics. She maintained for the last year that she wanted to try a year of college and then decide what to do. As we are coming up to the start of a new school year, it seems that her decision should be coming soon.

In the current regime of USA Gymnastics, the likelihood of most of these incredible gymnasts being able to represent the USA at two Olympics is slim. The nature of the sport combined with the incredibly successful system that is currently in place makes it difficult for the older gymnasts to compete with the young fresh talent coming up. However, if anyone can do it, the Fierce Five can. With two years to go, there is still time for each of them. Though with the realities of gymnastics, the ticking of the clock is always a loud sound.

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.”

aly-raisman
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.