First, here’s a link to all results from today’s competition at Jesolo:
Kyla Ross’s performance in Jesolo just firmly placed her on this U.S. Olympic team – at least for now. With the top scores on bars, beam, and in the all-around in her second consecutive solid performance at a senior international competition, Kyla left little room for doubt that she’s a perfect fit for the role the U.S. needs on both bars and beam, and she’s a very strong backup option for vault as well. She scored a 15.05 on bars and a huge 15.55 on beam (fabulous 9.3 E-score) – both of which can be used by Team USA in the Olympic team finals in London. She again landed her Amanar on vault, which was much improved from Pacific Rim and scored a strong 15.55. The main area she can still improve upon is floor. Although she has improved the choreography and artistic side with her new “Phantom of the Opera” routine, the difficulty just isn’t quite up to par with her other events, and her relatively weak 13.75 (with a 0.3 out-of-bounds deduction) here supports this. But she has proven herself time and time again at the junior level and now twice at the senior level that she can do exactly what Team USA needs to do at this summer’s Olympic Games – hit under big time pressure. I’d say that with the Olympic selection season rapidly approaching, an Olympic team berth is currently Kyla Ross’s to lose.
Rebecca Bross didn’t do herself many favors in Jesolo by again falling on bars and scoring a mediocre 14.15 on beam. On bars she succumbed to the same skill she missed at January’s WOGA Classic – her Shaposhnikova-half, which she debuted at last year’s nationals. On beam she stayed on and showed a strong D-score of 6.4, but suffered a costly deep landing on her Patterson (double Arabian) dismount, a skill that has repeatedly caused her major problems in competition over the last couple of years. Though I haven’t yet seen the video, her execution score of 7.85 suggests this may have even been a fall, though I can’t say for sure without seeing it. Why Rebecca Bross still has that skill in her routine is quite a mystery to nearly every gymnastics fan out there…including me. She has either fallen or suffered a costly or dangerous landing on this skill more times than most of us can even remember over the last couple of years. We all continue to cringe each time she sets up for it…from the rushed round-off, to the crooked takeoff, to the lack of rotation, to the lock-legged landings, to the repeated falls…VALERI, TAKE IT OUT!!! It’s a G-rated skill, meaning she earns a whopping 0.7 in difficulty for it, and I know how enticing that must be as a coach, particularly considering she used to do the skill quite well. I also know how hard it is as a coach to abandon a skill you have spent hundreds of hours developing and training. But a simple double tuck is worth 0.4, and she could work on sticking it to EASILY make up for the 0.3, 0.5, or even 1.0 she consistently loses on this skill. Even the psychological benefits of removing a skill that has essentially created a competitive mental block for her would be more than worth it. I have a hard time envisioning Martha Karolyi ever putting this routine out in the Olympic team finals with the Patterson still in it, given the number of times she has missed this in competition. And if they don’t think a beam routine with a nice double tuck dismount can still be world class, they should take notes from Kyla Ross. All is not lost for this champion, as she does have both the experience and the ability to be an Olympian, and she does have the U.S. Classic, U.S. Championships, and Olympic Trials still to go. We should also keep in mind the typical “Survivor Game” that often plays out in the months before the worlds and Olympic Games, and the fact that sometimes health becomes even more of an issue than past performance when all is said and done. I’d say for now, though, Rebecca Bross is not on this Olympic team, and she’s got a lot to prove if she wants to change that.
Aly Raisman hit four-for-four, though she was hit quite hard in the execution department on beam and floor. She again stood up her Amanar on vault and scored a solid 15.4 (with a 0.1 out-of-bounds deduction), and her bar routine scored a very solid 14.45 – about the best we have ever seen her score on this event (perhaps she finally cleaned up some of the leg separations we’ve all been nagging her about?). But beam received a curiously low 8.15 execution score (as well as a 0.1 overtime penalty), and a 14.55 final score. As one of America’s likely beam workers in the Olympic team finals, we’d like to see 15+ scores consistently from her on this event, so they’ll need to figure out what happened here. My guess is the judges may have really took notice this time for her lack of split on her leaps, which she opens the door for with her multiple, multiple split leap variations in her routine. Perhaps being on the same team with more flexible and polished beam workers like Kyla Ross, Sarah Finnegan, and even McKayla Maroney may have actually highlighted Aly’s weaknesses a bit more. Finally, her floor routine scored a 14.65 (8.55 E-score and another 0.1 out-of-bounds deduction), which is strong but still not quite what she’s capable of. This is still right in the range to be usable by the Americans, though, and doesn’t change the fact that she is one of the best options this team has for the Olympic team finals on floor. Aly is still on this Olympic team in my opinion, but the fact that Kyla Ross beat her here suggests that Aly, who finished 4th all-around at worlds last year, may have some serious competition for earning a spot in the Olympic all-around finals, where only two per country can advance.
McKayla Maroney again rocked her signature vault in world champion fashion, posting a tremendous 16.0 and the top score of the meet. Her other three events all received mediocre scores right around the 14-mark, with 13.95’s on bars and floor and a 14.05 on beam. At this point, I’d still say that McKayla Maroney is on my Olympic team because of her vault alone, but she likely currently has the 5th and final spot. That vault is simply too good, too consistent, and too valuable to not put on the Olympic stage, especially considering it is still several tenths better than most of the other Amanars this team has and the fact that she’s a potential Olympic champion on this event. If she wants to make her spot more secure, though, she’ll want to boost that floor score up into the high 14’s, because a 13.95 doesn’t help this team at all. We’ll have to wait and see the video to see why this scored that low.
Sarah Finnegan ended up being one of the refreshing bright spots of the entire competition, placing 3rd all-around with a very impressive 58.65. Her four-for-four performance was highlighted by a 15.0 on beam (monstrous 6.8 D-score), a very strong 14.6 on floor, and a 14.9 on vault (DTY, though she is rumored to be training an Amanar). Even her 14.15 on bars is an improvement for her, as this has typically been her weakest event. Though I haven’t seen any of her routines yet, these scores are enough to prove that she was received quite well by these international judges, and also suggest that she is no longer an outsider in this Olympic selection process, but potentially a legitimate contender.
I’ll have more to come once I obtain videos from the competition, and will also discuss more about the Russians, who had several Olympic contenders in this competition as well.