USA Women Shine in Pan American Qualifications and Team Finals


Team USA for the Pan American Games at podium training. Photo by Grace Chaui via USA Gymnastics.

The first round of competition for the 2015 American Games started today in Toronto. The women began their Pan Am journey with the team finals and all-around and event finals qualifications in the first subdivision. They will have to wait through two more subdivisions for the results. Madison Desch of GAGE, Rachel Gowey of Chow’s Gymnastics, Amelia Hundley of Cincinnati Gymnastics, Emily Schild of Everest Gymnastics and Megan Skaggs of Gymnastics Academy of Atlanta make up the team.

The format for the team competition is four up, three count. The USA started on floor with Schild, Skaggs, Hundley and Desch. Schild led off with a strong effort, scoring a 13.75.  Skaggs went up next, and performed an artistically beautiful routine but struggled on her landings, almost putting her hand down on her last pass. She scored a 13.4. Hundley opened up her first competition in 2015 with a brand new routine that earned a 14.3. Desch finished up with the strongest routine of the rotation scoring a 14.65. Team USA earned a 42.7 on their first event.  Desch and Hundley took the top two spots from America on floor, giving them both the opportunity to qualify for event finals.

Maddie Desch takes the top score on floor. Photo by Grace Chaui during podium training via USA Gymnastics

Skaggs, Schild, Desch and Hundley were all up again for Vault. As commentator Elfi Schlegel put it, team USA put on a vault clinic. All four girls performed solid double twisting yurchenkos, with scores that built along the line-up. Skaggs earned a 14.9, Desch a 14.95, Schild a 15.05 and Hundley led the team with a 15.1. A 45.1 event score put team USA at 87.8 at the half-way point.

The line-up on Uneven Bars was Skaggs, Hundley, Desch and Gowey. Skaggs started off the event with a solid bar routine earning a 13.75. Hundley came up next with a solid routine chocked full of release moves and a tiny hop on landing for a 14.5. Desch performed a beautiful bar routine. Her release moves floated through the air with a beautiful swing in between for a 14.45. Gowey anchored the team with a very strong routine for her first outing in 2015 scoring a 14.75. Gowey and Hundley were the top two USA scores and team USA finished the event with a 43.7.

Gowey dominates bars. Photo by Grace Chaui during podium training via USA Gymnastics.

The USA ended on balance beam, with Hundley, Skaggs, Desch and Gowey competing.  Hundley led off with a solid routine with just a few wobbles for a 13.750. Skaggs went up next with a nice flowing routine but had a deep bend on her dismount for a 14.05. Desch brought out a beautiful routine and but fell on a difficult hand-spring step out, hand-spring two feet to layout full, scoring a 13.25. Gowey ended the competition with a true Chow style routine- slow and steady, nary a wobble, with beautiful fluidity to score a 14.5. USA earned a 42.3 on beam, and Gowey and Skaggs were the top scoring Americans.

Rachel Gowey is gorgeous on beam. Photo by Grace Chaui during podium training via USA Gymnastics.

Team USA leads after subdivision one with a 173.8. Hundley and Desch are currently one-two in the all-around with a 57.65 and a 57.3 respectively, which is impressive for Desch with a fall. Hundley and Gowey are both in the running for two event finals, with Desch and Skaggs each in the hunt for one. Final results will be determined after two more subdivisions, including Canada and Brazil.

Amelia Hundley qualifies in first into the all-around from team USA. Photo by Grace Chiu via USA Gymnastics.

Full replay videos are being uploaded to the Pan American Games youtube channel. The Women’s all-around final will be held tomorrow at 6:50 pm EST. You can watch live on ESPN3. Official Results of subdivision one via Toronto2015.org:

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The Vault Finalists – Start List, Predictions, Qualification Video and Score Round up


Tomorrow (Saturday October 5) are the first two event finals of the World Championships. You can watch live in the US here starting at 8:30am EST.

The 2013 WAG World Championship vault finalists in the order they will compete (start list) are:

  1. 218 STEINGRUBER Giulia SUI
  2. 133 PENA ABREU Yamilet DOM
  3. 233 CHUSOVITINA Oksana UZB
  4. 238 PHAN Thi Ha Thanh VIE
  5. 191 NETTEB Chantysha NED
  6. 229 BILES Simone USA
  7. 200 HONG Un Jong PRK
  8. 231 MARONEY Mc Kayla USA

Their qualification scores were:

  1. McKayla Maroney USA 15.641
  2. Simone Biles USA 15.550
  3. Hong Un Jong PRK 15.249
  4. Phan Thi Ha Thanh VIE 14.966
  5. Giulia Steingruber SUI 14.799
  6. Oksana Chosovitina UZB 14.750
  7. Yamilet Pena DOM 14.683
  8. Chantysha Netteb NED 14.516

The general predictions (and I agree) for this event finals are pretty easy. The top three will finish the same way they qualified:

  1. McKayla Maroney USA
  2. Simone Biles USA
  3. Hong Un Jong PRK

The plot twist will be an possible half twist. Hong Un Jong has submitted a Triple Twisting Yurchenko to be named after her. If she is able to add a half twist to her amanar and stay on her feet, she will undoubtedly win. We have yet to see her do the vault, but anything can happen in a World Championship Final!

Check out each of their qualification vaults!

McKayla Maroney USA 15.641 
6.300 (D) + 9.550 (E) = 15.850

6.000 (D) + 9.433  (E) = 15.433

Simone Biles USA 15.550
6.300 (D) + 9.600 (E) = 15.900

5.600 (D) + 9.600 (E) = 15.200

Hong Un Jong PRK 15.249
6.300 (D) + 9.333 (E) = 15.633
6.400 (D) + 8.566 (E) – 0.1 = 14.866

Phan Thi Ha Thanh VIE 14.966
5.800 (D) + 9.066 (E) =  14.866
6.200 (D) + 8.866 (E) = 15.066

Giulia Steingruber SUI 14.799
6.200 (D) + 9.166 (E) = 15.366
5.000 (D) + 9.233 (E) = 14.233

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCM9MLHo4OQ

Oksana Chosovitina UZB 14.750
6.200 (D) + 8.800 (E) = 15.000
5.500 (D) + 9.100 (E) 0.1 = 14.500

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcwJ7OJlxKE

Yamilet Pena DOM 14.683
1 7.000 (D) + 7.900 (E) =  14.900
2 5.800 (D) + 8.666 (E) = 14.466



Chantysha Netteb NED 14.516
5.800 (D) + 9.133 (E) – 0.1 = 14.833
5.200 (D) +9.000 (E) = 14.200

McKayla Maroney – the Princess of Poise


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Photo by John Cheng

McKayla has gone through so much in the past year, it truly is quite amazing that she is not only at Worlds, but has improved since last year. Three surgeries, media frenzy, meme fame and a changed life. She has made no bones that she has some unfinished business called doing her best at the Olympic vault finals. So between now and then, she will give gymnastics her all.

Though vaulting is what she shines at, she really wants to be an all-arounder. And floor is her favorite event. So it was incredibly meaningful for her to be able to compete all around in the qualifications. She didn’t have her most spectacular day, but she did really well.

She started her day out on floor. She had a number of small bobbles on her landings and her leaps weren’t quite all the way split. But it was really a great routine. Many on the gymternet felt like she was really underscored here.

After seeing her INCREDIBLE vault in podium training, this amanar was anticlimactic. But it was a normal, amazing vault from McKayla.

Her second vault however, was one of her better ones.

McKayla is not known for her bars. But this was most definitely one of the best bar routines she has ever done!

On the other hand, this beam routine was most definitely not her best. Getting into the swing of competing beam again often takes some time.

As always, the highlight of the day was McKayla’s interview. Such poise, so much authenticity, and so much grace. i fall more in love with this girl every interview.

She only qualified into the vault finals, being another victim of the 2 per country rule on both floor (where she tied with Kyla Ross but the tie was broken with Kyla’s higher E score) and the all around (where she placed 5th in the world).

Simone Biles – The Queen of Springs


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Photo by John Cheng

Simone Biles is USA’s Queen of Springs. I really think there are springs in her legs! The way she tumbles is just amazing. She is doing some of the hardest floor passes in the world and yet it seems like she is just getting started. She does these high flying skills that should take everything she’s got and instead she has power to spare. And she punches off the beam like she is tumbling on the floor.

Simone has such a sweet personality, and the joy of gymnastics just shines through everything she does. I used to coach a gymnast who would be barrelling down the vault runway and just break into a huge grin. Every single time. She just loved it so much. Simone does that as well. You can tell her smiles on floor are as more from her love of doing what she is doing than putting on a performance.

Simone had an incredible day of qualifications. She just hit everywhere! She started out on bars, where she earned a higher execution score than even Aliya Mustafina!

6.000 (D) + 8.800 (E) = 14.800

Simones presentation and poise on beam has improved so very much this year.  She really hit her skills with precision and attacked the beam.

6.100 (D) + 8.300 (E) = 14.400

Simone completely rocked floor. Her tumbling passes were sky high and mostly stuck. She performed her little hear out and was a joy to watch on floor.

6.500 (D) + 8.533 (E) = 15.033

Simone gave McKayla a run for her money on vault! She put up two awesome vaults.

You can tell she is just having the time of her life. Love the quote “Actually, I was telling Brenna [Dowell] before I was getting ready to march out, Martha [Karolyi] scares me more than the judges, so I saw the judges and I was fine!”

Simone is going into the All Around finals as the leader of the pack. She also qualified for every event finals. She is the first American to do that since Shannon Miller!

Kyla Ross – The Empress of Elegance


by John Cheng, USAG

Kyla Ross has gone from the Queen of Clean to the Empress of Elegance. Last year, I was always so impressed with her beautiful lines and lightness of movement. But her gymnastics didn’t keep my attention. It didn’t inspire me. No longer. Kyla now commands my attention on every event.

The change is not only in her incredibly improved expression, artistry and dance on floor and beam. Her experience in Olympic competition, the media frenzy, fame and the incredible bond of her team has given her a poise, a presence, a confidence that shows in everything she does. From her interviews to her height, her bright red lipstick to her beautiful routines, Kyla has grown up.

Kyla stepped out onto the floor today in a beautiful red leo with red lipstick to match. She looked gorgeous. And fierce! She was raring to go, always the first one off from the line-up to prepare for the event.

She did a beautiful DTY, but not the best she can do. She had a much bigger hop on her landing than normal, but it is still quite a gorgeous vault.

5.800 (D) +9.366 (E)  = 15.166

Kyla’s has such a light and airy swing and competes bars with a calmness that is almost peaceful to watch. She is a little short on a few of her handstands, but other than that, it was a great routine. Stuck landing and all.

6.400 (D) + 8.733 (E) =15.133

Kyla competes beam like she is dancing in the clouds. Every movement is done with a lightness and a preciseness that just makes it look like she is floating. This was a great routine. She missed one of her connections and had the tiniest of wobbles. But this is a routine I will watch a few times.

5.900 (D) +8.666 (E) = 14.566

I really am falling in love with this floor routine. The choreography is beautiful, playing with little nuances and hits in the music and really expressing the music well. And Kyla is performing it so well. She has great musicality, expressiveness and of course, execution. This is undoubtedly the best floor routine she has ever done. And a stick on her last pass to boot!

5.700 (E) + 8.633 (D) = 14.333

And perhaps where she has grown the most is her ability to interview. She is delightful, humble, authentic and just fun to hear from.

What a great start from our Empress of Elegance!

The Rock Becomes The Star: Aly Raisman Top American Qualifier for AA Finals


Aly Raisman (Photo Credit: NBC Olympics)

Earlier this year, I wrote that it was great to have stars like Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber on your team, but that you also needed a rock. Aly Raisman has been that rock for team USA since her senior debut in 2010. She has gone out routine after routine, meet after meet, year after year and hit her routines. Over those years, she has always been in her teammates’ shadows. In the 2010 World Championships, she qualified into the All-Around Finals in third, just behind the current USA “It Girl”, Rebecca Bross. A disasterous mistake on bars, her nemesis, left her 13th. In the 2011 World Championships, she qualified into the All-Around Finals in fourth, also behind the current USA “It Girl”, this time Jordyn Wieber.  Another mistake on bars left her fourth.

This year, Aly came in with upgrades on every event, and has even improved on bars. But her lower difficulty on bars usually left her about a point behind Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber. She continued to be the rock, they continued to be the stars.

I often mused with friends about how Aly could legitimately challenge for the All-Around podium if it wasn’t for that awful two per country rule. I lamented the fact that after all her consistency and team leadership, she wouldn’t even get to compete in the All-Around Finals.  After all, it was inconceivable that Jordyn wouldn’t qualify, and Gabby has looked stronger than ever in training.

But the inconceivable became reality today as Aly was the highest US All-Around qualifier over BOTH Gabby and Jordyn. With the two per country rule, this means that Jordyn Wieber, the reigning Word Champion will not get to compete in the All-Around Finals. In my All-Around Hopefuls post I wrote: Aly would need someone else to make a mistake to make it into the finals and onto the podium. But her rock solid, consistent performances make her a gymnast you should not count out. After all, anything can happen in the pressure of the Olympic spotlight.

There was no one more surprised than Aly herself in qualifying in first. Over the years she has captured our heart with her humble attitude, sky high tumbling, sweet smile and loyal friendships with the other gymnasts. She continued to do so today, with a response of concern for her teammate and best friend Jordyn Wieber.

Today Aly becomes a star herself. The last two years, the only routines she ever missed on a world stage were bars in All-Around competition. If she can go out in All-Around Finals and be the rock for herself that she always is for her team, she will no longer be Aly the Rock. She will be Aly the Rock Star.