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Thoughts on the women’s U.S. (“Covergirl”) Classic…

This weekend’s “Covergirl” Classic (formerly the U.S. Classic) answered several key questions regarding the current condition of Olympians Nastia Liukin and Samantha Peszek as well as Olympic alternates Ivana Hong and Jana Bieger. It also provided an exciting preview of the upcoming U.S. Championships, which is rapidly approaching (August 12-15th in Dallas, TX), and debuted some new stars to watch out for over the next few years – and possibly much sooner than that.
As with most U.S. competitions on the women’s side nowadays, unless you have an exciting battle like Shawn vs. Nastia, the all-around tends to be somewhat of a bore. Not only is it simply not as big of a deal as it used to be because of the current specialist-favored world and Olympic selection procedures, but fewer and fewer girls actually even participate in it! It always amazes me how quickly so many of our best female gymnasts (and their coaches) run from the opportunity to show four routines in front of a panel of judges. Obviously, sometimes there are injuries. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen girls do plenty of routines in practice, and when it comes time for the competition, they start scratching so fast – from one or two events or from the whole meet altogether – that winning the all-around becomes more about simply showing up for all four events than anything else. Sometimes I honestly wonder what these girls and their coaches are actually training for, because it often doesn’t appear to be competition!
So in a field where less than half of the 21 senior competitors performed all four events, Olivia Courtney put up the highest total with a solid 57.4 Ivana Hong, now training alongside Nastia and the rest of the WOGA regime, finished about a point behind in 2nd. A fall on her uneven bars dismount cost her the lead she held throughout the first three events.
But the story wasn’t really the all-around. Although Courtney and Hong are both great gymnasts, the story here was more about who’s in shape, who’s planning on competing at the upcoming U.S. Championships, and which new stars – if any – might challenge them for spots on the world team. Let’s take a look at a few videos from the competition, and I’ll include some of my thoughts:
Nastia Liukin BB 2009 Covergirl Classic
Not bad at all! I was very impressed with this routine. She isn’t quite working with the same body she was last year, but she’s certainly in very good shape and will likely trim up closer to her Olympic form over the next couple of months. The layout dismount is really the reason why she was outscored by Hong by .1. I do think she needs to show more arch on that sheep jump and switch ring, although I felt this was the case in her routine last year as well. I was a bit surprised to see how nervous she looked before her routine…not exactly the Olympic all-around finals, but she looked as if it were. She’s supposedly planning on competing bars and beam at USA’s, but is training all four events and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of competing the all-around.
Ivana Hong BB 2009 Covergirl Classic
I wasn’t too impressed here. Some huge wobbles at the beginning, and lack of extension on some of her leaps in my opinion. It’s interesting to see the similarities to Nastia’s routine now that they’re training at the same club. As I said, the dismount is really the only reason she outscored Nastia, because Nastia’s routine was certainly better. The good thing, though, is that Ivana has a more well developed physique now compared to the “child-like” body she had last year. This was a much needed development for her. I think she’ll probably be one of our top AA’s at USA’s, but I’m still not seeing where she would fit in as a specialist just yet.
Ivana Hong FX 2009 Covergirl Classic
Again, her improved musculature gives her a more mature look here. I miss the double front though! That 1 ½ to rudi was nice, but overall the tumbling didn’t impress me too much. She does still have beautiful presentation and a very clean overall look – I need more difficulty though! Hopefully she’s planning on it for USA’s, because otherwise this isn’t going to cut it.
Samantha Peszek Vault 2009 Covergirl Classic
Awesome vault…pretty much right where she left off last year before the ankle injury in Beijing. Still her patented step back and a little to the side, which I think results from her not quite setting it up and completing the twist fast enough. This is very clean and powerful with a nice straight body though. I think she’ll be in the mix for worlds this year, although it may be as an all-arounder or as a specialist on beam and/or floor.
Stay tuned for a look at a new star from this meet whom you may not have heard of, but who may just find herself at the world championships this year if she keeps it up!