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Thoughts on the men’s world team…

It was just announced that Wesley Haagensen and Jake Dalton will be replacing Sasha Artemev and David Sender on the U.S. men’s world team. This is big news! I think most fans (including me) assumed that Artemev would be ready to compete on pommel horse and parallel bars at worlds, especially considering these events would definitely put the least amount of stress on his back (he’s been recovering from some fractured vertebrae from earlier this year). Honestly, I had assumed that even if just his pommel horse looked reasonably good, he would still go. After all, although our men’s team is showing a whole lot of promise right now, we don’t exactly have a whole lot of potential world medalists to replace him. But it sounded from one of his interviews that, like Nastia Liukin, Sasha would rather allow someone who needs the experience to step in and replace him if he’s not 100%.
Wesley Haagensen and Jake Dalton certainly fit the bill for guys who could really use this experience. At first I was a little unsure about Jake Dalton’s chances as a vault specialist because I wasn’t sure what his second vault was, but apparently he’s doing a handspring front double full, which has a strong 6.6 D score. Combine that with his 7.0-valued Kasamatsu double full (which he stood up both days at USA’s), and his spot on the world team becomes quite justifiable. I don’t know much about his floor routine, so at this point I’d assume he just may be competing on vault. As you may have seen on one of my previous blogs, there are several guys doing two 7.0 vaults, but if he can land both of his vaults really well, a medal isn’t impossible to imagine. The crazy thing is that he just turned 18 years old! It’s very unusual for a junior gymnast to be that strong on vault…even the best vaulters in the world don’t typically develop that power until well into their 20’s. If we exclude David Sender, Dalton is competing the most highly rated vault in the United States. It’s difficult for me to even picture an American male in a world or Olympic vault final, because I think the last time that happened was Blaine Wilson in 2000 (he placed 6th). American men just DON’T make vault finals – much less win vault medals! That would be a really awesome feat if Dalton even just made the finals, especially at his age.
My first thought when I heard Wesley Haagensen would be on the team was that this decision was probably less about winning medals and more about giving some great experience to a gymnast who will likely be in the mix over the next three years. I was really impressed with Haagensen at USA’s, but saw him more as a clean and solid all-around gymnast rather than a “specialist” (Haagensen placed 3rd all-around there). And since we already have three guys who could easily compete in the all-around (Horton, Leyva, and McNeill), I wasn’t sure what events we were going to compete Haagensen on. But after looking at his individual scores from USA’s, I realized he actually had the second highest D-score on p-bars (6.2 behind Leyva’s 6.5), and if we take out David Sender, he actually had the second highest D-score on rings (6.7 behind Brandon Wynn’s 6.9). I know the committee looks very closely not only at final scores, but at the gymnasts’ potential scores; i.e., their D-scores. The funny thing is that Haagensen doesn’t really look like a rings specialist at all, but let’s take a look again at his routine from USA’s:
Wesley Haagensen Rings Visa USA Championships
Pretty darn strong! He ended up third on rings overall, scoring a 15.4 and 15.45. But let’s look at some of the other stuff he’s been working:
Wesley Haagensen Rings Workout
Wow!!! Now he’s looking like a rings specialist! And he does have a lot of potential on high bar as well…
Wesley Haagensen High Bar Workout
What a beautiful Covacs that was…he didn’t compete that at USA’s. He’s also very good at all of the jam-type skills, and he could use some of those in combinations and get his D-score much higher than the 6.0 he received at USA’s.
Haagensen and Dalton have definitely been given the opportunity of a lifetime by being placed on their first world championship team. And let’s not forget this will also be the first world championships for THREE of the other members – Legendre, McNeill, and Leyva! It will be interesting to see how all of these youngsters hold up.