U.S. Senior National Champions and National Team


Simone Biles made what everyone already knows official. At this point in USA gymnastics, she is in a league of her own. She decisively won back to back U.S. National Championship titles, this time by over four points – with a fall. Over a two day competition, she looked incredibly strong, relaxed and consistent until the very end of her beam routine where she fell. And when you are so far ahead that you are competing with yourself, that is frustrating. But on the scoreboard it hardly mattered. Biles also walked away with the national title on floor and vault.

Kyla Ross won her second silver national all-around title, as well as her second national beam title. Ross is also in a league of her own this year firmly capturing the silver despite two uncharacteristic falls on night one. Ross proved to everyone that she is indeed human on the first day of competition with a fall on floor and on bars. Her almost inhuman consistency and perfection are marveled at around the world, and they returned in full force on night two, where she earned the highest execution score total. 

Maggie Nichols, the only gymnast on the medal podium to hit eight for eight routines, took the bronze. At this championship, Nichols put an exclamation point on her statement from the U.S. Secret Classics. She is a consistent all-around gymnast who can be depended upon to hit on any event. She also won the bronze on bars, an important event in USA gymnastics.

Apart from the three all-arounders, Ashton Locklear made quite a splash at this competition, easily winning the uneven bars national title. Between the national championships and classics earlier this month, she has posted the highest bar’s scores in the world this year with her incredibly clean and difficult bar routine. 

The top six all-around gymnasts were automatically added to the national team. Additionally, four more gymnasts who were named to the Pan American Games team were also added. Ross and Biles, who have loads of international experience were left off the team, letting other gymnasts gain much needed international competition experience. 

U.S. Senior National Team

Alyssa Baumann, Plano, Texas/WOGA, Simone Biles, Spring, Texas/World Champions Centre, Madison Desch, Blue Springs, Mo./GAGE, Brenna Dowell, Odessa, Mo./GAGE, Amelia Hundley, Fairfield, Ohio/Cincinnati Gymnastics, Madison Kocian, Dallas/WOGA, Ashton Locklear, Huntersville, N.C./Everest Gymnastics, Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn./Twin City Twisters, Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif./Gym-Max and MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz./Desert Lights.

The gymnasts leaving on a bus on Sunday to Canada to represent the USA at the Pan American Games are Baumann, Desch, Hundley, Kocian, Locklear, Nichols and Skinner.

The results for the all-around top six and the even medalists are as follows.

All-Around

  1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 122.550
  2. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 118.300
  3. Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn., 117.900
  4. Alyssa Baumann, Plano, Texas, 116.100
  5. MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz., 115.450
  6. Amelia Hundley, Hamilton, Ohio, 112.200

Vault

  1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 31.025
  2. MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz., 30.225

 Uneven Bars

  1. Ashton Locklear, Hamlet, N.C., 31.050
  2. Madison Kocian, Dallas, Texas, 30.750
  3. Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn., 29.400

Balance Beam

  1. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 30.550
  2. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 30.300
  3. Alyssa Baumann, Plano, Texas, 30.300

Floor Exercise

  1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 31.150
  2. MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz., 30.000
  3. Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn., 29.000

March National Team Camp


At March Verification Camp. Photo by Simone Biles

At March Verification Camp. Photo by Simone Biles

The final selection camp for the US Women’s Teams competing at the City of Jesolo Trophy, the Pacific Rims Gymnastics Championships and the Tokyo World Cup will be this weekend at the women’s national team camp. These camps are held roughly every month at the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center at the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas. Sometimes these camps are to help in training and preparation, but other months they are more the format of a meet. The results of these internal meets help determine the assignments for individuals and composition of teams for upcoming competitions. The March training camp is generally one of these such camps, selecting teams for the spring competitions.

Team USA’s entries for the City of Jesolo Trophy (to be held March 22-23 in Jesolo, Italy) will be announced on Monday at the conclusion of the camp. The gymnasts representing the USA at the and the 2014 Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships (April 9-13 in Richmond, B.C., Canada) and the Tokyo World Cup, (April 5-6 in Tokyo, Japan) will be announced later in the month.

Each athlete wanting to represent the US at these competitions will have to show that they are ready to compete full-routines in an international competition setting to Martha Karolyi and the rest of the selection committee. The selection committee will look at their current state of readiness along with each gymnast’s track record to determine the make up of these teams.

Three seniors and three juniors will be selected to represent the US at the Pacific Rims Gymnastic Championships. At least six juniors and six seniors will be selected to represent the US at the City of Jesolo Trophy. The juniors and seniors attending the camp and vying for spots are listed below. Current national team members are denoted in bold. If a gymnast is selected who is not currently on the national team, they will be added to the national team before competing internationally as well.

Juniors

Abby Paulson, Twin City Twisters
Alexis Vasquez, Chow’s Gymnastics
Ariana Agrapides, MG Elite
Bailie Key, Texas Dreams
Christina Desiderio, Parkettes
Emily Gaskins, Cincinnati Gymnastics
Emily Schild, Everest Gymnastics
Jordan Chiles, Naydenov
Lauren Navarro, Charter Oak
Nia Dennis, Buckeye
Norah Flatley, Chow’s Gymnastics
Olivia Trautman, Twin City Twisters
Ragan Smith, Texas Dreams
Victoria Nguyen, Chow’s Gymnastics

Seniors

Alyssa Baumann, WOGA
Brenna Dowell, GAGE
Elizabeth Price, Parkettes
Kyla Ross, Gym-Max
Madison Desch, GAGE
Madison Kocian, WOGA
Maggie Nichols, Twin City Twisters
MyKayla Skinner, Desert Lights
Peyton Ernst, Texas Dreams
Rachel Gowey, Chow’s Gymnastics
Simone Biles, World Champions Centre
Veronica Hults, Texas Dreams

Lexie Priessman, Amelia Hundley, McKayla Maroney and Laurie Hernandez are the current national team members who are not in attendance.

Kyla Ross Sparkles in Silver


Kyla Ross joins the distinguished company of gymnasts Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin, Jana Bieger and Rebecca Bross as World Championships All Around Silver medalists. Kyla put in an incredible all around performance, counting only small, tiny mistakes in her performance.

Kyla has put a great deal of time and effort into her artistic and dance performance aspects of beam and floor. Not only did this pay off in the scores on these event, but in winning the Longiness Prize for Elegance. This is an incredibly prestigious award that goes to the athlete who demonstrates the most remarkable elegance during the all-around final of an international competition at the world level.  Winning over gymnasts such as Mustafina is quite a feat, and shows just how much Kyla has improved in this area.

Kyla started off the competition with an almost flawlessly executed vault. She didn’t stick it, but it hardly gets better than this. She has a lower difficulty vault than only Simone, but scored the highest execution score of the competition.

She moved on to bars where she once again scored higher than anyone else on the execution score, and posted the third highest bars score of the competition. It was a beautiful, typical Kyla, bar set.

Kyla moved into beam just barely trailing Simone. Simone put up a good set, but not her best. Then two gymnasts before her fell. I was glad to see Kyla turning away from it all, not watching! Kyla went up and did a beautiful beam routine, earning her third consecutive highest E score of the competition, and the highest beam score of the night.

Kyla pulled into the lead heading into floor. She did a beautiful floor routine with an E score beat only by simone. However her difficulty led her to the 7th highest floor score of the night, and ultimately to the silver.

Kyla, like Simone showed incredible sportsmanship and from this unemotional girl, you could really see that she was just enjoying the experience. She was all smiles. What an incredible, consistent all around performance she put on! WHEN she upgrades back to her amanar, she will undoubtedly be in the hunt for the gold.

Kyla Ross has moved from the event specialist to solid USA All Arounder in her second senior year. She has moved from the youngest to the team leader. She is an incredible friend, incredible cheer leader, and incredible gymnast. It is hard not to be impressed with her.

All Photos by John Cheng and Videos by USA Gymnastics

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).

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!

Simone Biles Podium Training


Ramping up the competition, Simone Biles also looked great in podium training.

Simone has so much power, she is great to watch on vault. In her first vault, she took a much bigger step than usual, but the second vault had her normal catlike landing.

No problem on bars, clean with a stuck dismount.

This might be one of the best beam routines I have seen Simone do. She is attacking the beam in Rebecca Bross style, and just hits. And her landing on a very tough dismount is just awesome!

Some people have said that Simone’s floor routine was one of the few things to get a spontaneous round of applause from the audience. It isn’t hard to see why. Smiles galore, sassy dance, hit leaps and jumps and the best landings I have seen in podium training. This girl is on fire!

Cute girl! She is just soaking it all in, loving the experience and having fun. Just what you want to see in a first senior outing. No nerves here.

All photos and videos by USA Gymnastics

Kyla Ross Podium Training


Kyla looked beautiful in podium training, as always. She has one of the most beautiful DTY being performed with just the slightest of little slides of her landing.

Her bars today weren’t quite as effortless and fluid as usual. In Gymnastike’s Beyond the Routine with Kyla done just before World’s Selection camp, Kyla was having a little trouble on bars and actually said that it was her hardest event. Should we be concerned? Nah. Kyla has been the most consistent bar’s performer of all the gymnasts going for the bar’s title. I am sure that she will put up the same beautiful routine she always does.

Kyla’s beam looked like always- like she is dancing in the clouds. So light and effortless. A small wobble and a bigger step than normal on her dismount. But she looks great.

Every time I watch this routine, I just CANNOT believe how far she has come in her performance this year. This routine is interesting, beautiful, has great musicality and expression of the music. In all honesty, I love it. I never thought I would say that. I LOVE Kyla Ross on floor. She needs to clean up her landings to save on those precious points. But it is as likely for her to stick her first two/three passes as not.

The highlight. Who would have thought that shy little Kyla could become so incredibly comfortable, herself, and fun in front of the camera. Love this girl.

All photos and videos from USA Gymnastics

From Flying Squirrel to Golden Girl


Gabby Douglas has been known as the Flying Squirrel for her high flying antics on the bars. Undoubtedly  the best bar worker the USA currently has in their arsenal, Gabby began to make her bid as a true All Around threat at the US National Championships back in June. She had shown a flash of brilliance earlier in the season in the American Cup but had not maintained that brilliance through the rest of the spring. It was in St. Louis that she challenged Jordyn Wieber for the National Title and almost won. Her next foray came at the Olympic Trials where she earned the only automatic spot of the USA team by scoring the highest All-Around total over two days. Even so, Gabby had never put together four hit routines in one night.
As we pondered the All Around gold possibilities, Blythe from The Gym Examiner said, “You only have to put it all together once. It just has to be on the right night.” That Gabby had the talent was never a question. But could she hold up under the intensity of the Olympic spotlight? Could she put it all together that one time, the night of the All Around finals?

In qualifications, it seemed that she would do it. She held it together, performing incredibly on vault, bars and beam. When it came to floor however, her old nerves crept in. Gabby had a major mistake on her second pass and literally bounded out of bounds. Doubt may have crept back in to others minds, but not into hers.

Gabby came out into team finals and gave the performance of her life. She cleanly hit every routine with nary a bobble. Her All-Around score was easily the highest that had yet been put up in the games. She did it! Four incredible hit routines in one night! She had put it all together!

Was it possible that she could do it back to back? Watching her cool, collected demeanor would say that it was. And as it turned out, Gabby put it all together twice. On the two nights of nights.

Gabby led from start to finish. Opening up with one of the best vaults she has done, she emphatically said that she meant business. She continued on throughout the night, hitting her high flying beam routine, sailing through her complex beam routine and tumbling her way to Olympic gold. It was a beautiful, incredible, performance. Scoring the highest All-Around score of the entire quad (four years between Olympics) Gabby truly won gold.

But it is not only the gold medal around her neck that earns her the newly donned Golden Gabby nickname. It is her golden personality. Gabby’s smile is impossible to resist. She has that bounce in her step, that spark in her eye that hint at her bubbly, positive personality. The only thing that comes more quickly than her brilliant smile is her infectious laugh.

Gabby has stolen our hearts with more than her dazzling performance. Her true grasp of the honor it is to represent her country oozes through every word. The responsibility and maturity she feels as a role model to the gymnasts – especially the African American gymnasts – she has inspired is beyond her years. And her playful personality warms our hearts. She will be a beloved gymnast for years to come.

Gabby Douglas, you were extraordinary. Thanks for making some incredible sacrifices to make your dreams – and ours- come true. You truly are a star.

USA: Perform. Hit. CELEBRATE! Repeat.


(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

In the world of gymnastics, the days of perfect 10s are long gone. As the difficulty of the routines has continued to rise, it is rare to see a competition without a number of falls and major mistakes. In fact, that has become common place. But not so, it seems for the USA Women’s Gymnastics Team.

In 2011 the USA women came out and rocked podium training, qualifications and team finals. In all those performances, they didn’t have even one routine with major mistakes. It was the most dominant performance in women’s gymnastics recent history. The USA women were often referred to as a well oiled machine that went out and couldn’t miss. They won by over four points.

McKayla Maroney (Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics)

What is exceptional, is not only their consistency, but their consistency doing some of the most difficult routines in the world. In past years, Romania has earned an incredible reputation for consistency. But though they do incredible gymnastics, they often choose not to go for the highest difficulty. Teams like Russia and China have usually gone for broke, bringing some of the most difficult gymnastics in the world. They depend on the fact that though they might fall, their difficulty will carry the day. What was incredible about the USA is that they brought some of the highest difficulty AND did it with incredible consistency.

Gabby Douglas (Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics)

But that was Worlds and this is the Olympics. No matter what we try to pretend, the pressure of the Olympics is an entirely different story. And the USA competitors came in with a much stronger challenge. Russia is on the way to being back on their game and Romania is stronger than ever. Though the USA was still expected to win, the expectation was winning by tenths not points.

Jordyn Wieber (Photo Credit USA Gymnastics)

But try telling that to the women’s team. Though they are actually 15-18 year old girls, they do indeed seem to perform like machines in a team finals. They came out and hit every single difficult routine without exception. A few small wobbles were the only ground they gave throughout the entire competition. They did seem to be programmed robots. Just like last year, just like podium training and qualifications – perform, hit, repeat.

Kyla Ross (Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics)

But in team finals, they added in one ingredient to their former performances. Celebration. The otherwise stoic American women burst into cheers, smiles and celebration after each hit routine. They were a snowball rolling toward the final prize. Gaining momentum and excitement as they went along. Breaking out into unrestrained celebration when seeing the final scoreboard. The won by five points. A total blowout in the world of gymnastics.

Aly Raisman (Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics)

There really are not words to capture the emotions of the night and the incredible joy that the US women – and all their fans- felt. So instead, I will put the night in pictures. Congratulations Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney for one of the most difficult, consistent performances in women’s gymnastics in recent memory. You were amazing.

USA’s Reaction to Aly Raisman’s Floor Routine (Photo Credit USA Gymnastics)

USA Gymnastics

USA Gymnastics

Jordyn Wieber in a Class of Her Own


For Jordyn Wieber, who fully expected to challenge for the All-Around gold during the 2012 Olympics, these Olympics have not turned out at all as she would have expected. She experienced the most devastating moment in her young life just two days ago. After catapulting toward the All-Around Olympic Gold medal for her entire career, she didn’t even qualify for the opportunity to win the title. Instead, her best friend Aly Raisman, who had the best meet of her life, and teammate Gabby Douglas  would be representing the USA in the team finals.

She couldn’t hold back her uncharacteristic emotions and the tears spilled forth. She tried to duck off the floor to compose herself but instead was ushered to the media zone, where NBC kept their camera with her just feet away as they interviewed Aly and Gabby, basically asking how they felt about beating Jordyn.

After such a day, all most people would want is the opportunity to go home, let the pain sink in in private and cry themselves to sleep. Instead, Jordyn had to go home to her shared room with her best friend, one of the teammates who unexpectedly beat her, Aly Raisman. Aly spent these last two years supporting first Jordyn and then Gabby as she quietly sat in their shadows. Could Jordyn do the same?

Even more importantly for team USA, could Jordyn pull her emotions together and turn in solid performances for the team just two days after seeing her lifelong dreams crushed? Could she come out, stand side by side with the teammates who took her dreams away and pursue her other dream – a USA team gold. I had no doubt what-so-ever. She is Jordyn Wieber.

Jordyn has the ability to focus in the moment and not allow emotions to affect her like few people I have watched compete. It is why we have a hard time connecting with her. She goes out and competes, showing little emotion and allows little to affect her. She is singularly focused on going out and performing her best. She would want nothing more than to redeem herself with perfect performances. Tim and Elfi said on the Today Show:

What I would bet on is that Jordyn Wieber will come out for these team finals and she will be unbelievable. That will be her moment. She is a tremendous champion, has won just about every single title and I firmly believe that she will anchor the team in the team finals. -Tim Dagget

She does not want her moment to end like it did the other night. -Elfi Schlegel

Today, Jordyn Wieber went out onto the competition for and showed her class. She hit two of her best performances ever- vault and floor and gave a clean bars set. But more than that, she cheered her heart out for her teammates. She was always the first to give Aly a hug, could be heard giving running commentary throughout the routines in the background and was the most expressive in celebrating her teams achievements.

Maybe this dissapointment has brought out the real Jordyn. The Jordyn we saw in younger days and behind the scenes – fiery, emotional and fiercely loyal. Every time the camera was on her, she was either fiercely cheering on a teammate or giving the performance of her life.

In the end, no one was happier to win the Team Gold. With her best friends.

And so, Jordyn will be remembered as more than an All-around champion. She will be remembered as Best Friend and Class Act. As one who can put aside her own dreams and ambitions to be a part of the team.

Jordyn Wieber, you have been tried. you have been tested. And you have been proven a true champion. True friend. True Competitor. An All-Around medal could never prove so much. Sometimes it is what we lose, not what we win, that proves our real mettle.