Six male and female gymnasts will be selected for the upcoming world championships to be held in Glasgow, Scotland Oct 23- Nov 2, 2015. Tonight represents the final opportunity for the women’s contenders to prove themselves in major competition before the team is selected. At this point in time, it looks like we have four front runners who are all but shoo-ins for the team, and in my opinion, eight legitimate contenders for the last two spots. Here’s a look at the 12 gymnasts who seem to be in the mix:
The Front Runners
Barring injury, two-time world all-around champion Simone Biles will lead this American team at the upcoming world championships, where she’ll be favored to win her third consecutive world all-around crown, and the U.S. will be favored to win its third consecutive world team title. In addition to Biles, I would call 2012 Olympic champions Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman essentially shoo-ins for this world team as well. Gabby has shown fantastic poise overall at the Secret U.S. Classic and first day of the U.S. Championships, and her high bars scores and consistency she has shown on balance beam will be very valuable to this team. Aly Raisman currently appears to be the 2nd best tumbler in the world behind Simone Biles, and will likely be one of the three chosen to compete on balance beam and vault in the team finals at the world championships as well. If these two stay healthy, I’d say their spots are pretty secure. Finally, I believe Maggie Nichols has at this point all but secured her spot on this team. She has stood up two fantastic Amanars on vault (one of only three being competed amongst the U.S. seniors right now), and has shown very solid scores two meets in a row on the other three events. Floor is the most likely other event I could see her being used on in the team finals, but realistically she could be put up on any event and do a great job for this team. Of course anything can still happen, but I would feel comfortable saying she is on this team at this point.
On The Bubble
If we put the above four gymnasts on the world team, that leaves two spots available. The four front runners could easily put up strong enough scores on all four events to win the world team title, but with two additional spots available, this team has the luxury of trying to add a few more tenths to the team total, and also provide strong backup options everywhere. Since Aly Raisman would ideally not be used on bars in the world team final and it’s also Simone Biles’ weakest event, it makes sense to make sure to add a gymnast who can put up a really high bars score consistently. The good news is the U.S. has quite a few gymnasts who could fill this role; the bad news is it’s going to be hard to pick just one. Kyla Ross has been a world medalist on bars and competed in the Olympic team final in London on this event. But she’s fallen here in the last two competitions and no longer does some of the in-bar elements that gave her a lot of difficult points in the past (though she has added a unique and difficult full twisting Pak salto). Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear have been scoring extremely well on this event and have both shown remarkable consistency here in the last couple of years – and both proved themselves at the 2014 world championships with very strong bars scores as well (Locklear nearly medaled in the event finals). Brenna Dowell has an exciting, high flying routine and actually posted the highest difficulty score (6.7) on Day 1 here in Indianapolis, with a strong hit set. Her issue has been consistency, so she will need to repeat this performance on Day 2 and continue to show she can hit this routine reliably in the world selection camp to realistically be put on this team. Rachel Gowey put up the second highest difficulty score and third highest overall bars score on Day 1, so she is certainly capable of contributing on this event as well. And Bailie Key, one of the most well-rounded all-around gymnasts in the meet, scored a strong 15.2 on bars here in Indianapolis and has shown great consistency on this event in the last couple of years.
It’s always important to have strong backup on balance beam in a world team situation, and of the above named gymnasts on the bubble, Kyla Ross, Rachel Gowey, and Bailie Key would be most usable on this event if the need arose. Gowey and Key are also strong on floor, and Gowey can do an Amanar on vault as well (though she is only competing bars and beam this week in Indianapolis). Having multiple strong events like this can certainly give these three gymnasts an edge over the other “bubble” gymnasts. Another name to watch for is Alyssa Baumann, who has one of the sharpest and best looking beam routines in the entire world and competed very well on this event in the 2014 world championship team final. She’s also strong on all four events and could be at least a good backup option on bars and floor. And finally, MyKayla Skinner is a powerhouse gymnast with some of the hardest tumbling in the world; she nearly medaled on floor at the 2014 worlds and earned world bronze. What’s hurting her right now, in my opinion, is that her current music and choreography don’t match up with her tumbling and might not be received well on the world stage. She hit her routine pretty well on Day 1 at these championships but only scored a 14.35, due to a low 8.15 in execution. She’ll need much more than that to be put up in the world team finals. Having Aly Raisman back in top form doesn’t help MyKayla Skinner’s chances, considering Aly’s more well rounded floor routine and her Amanar on vault. But Skinner did hit four events here in Indianapolis and certainly has the skills to be in the mix.
In summary, I would rank the top 12 contenders for the world team currently like this:
1. Simone Biles
2. Gabby Douglas
3. Aly Raisman
4. Maggie Nichols
On The Bubble:
5. Kyla Ross (UB, BB)
6. Madison Kocian (UB)
7. Ashton Locklear (UB)
8. Rachel Gowey (UB, BB, possibly FX and V)
9. Bailie Key (UB, BB, possibly FX)
10. Alyssa Baumann (UB, BB, possibly FX)
11. MyKayla Skinner (FX, V)
12. Brenna Dowell (UB)
This ranking could certainly change based on what happens tonight. For tonight’s finals, I would pay special attention to which gymnast in this last group puts up the highest bars score – that will give her a huge advantage to making this team. And I would also pay special attention to a gymnast I would call the dark horse in this race – the one whom I could see surprising a lot of people by being named to this team – and that is Rachel Gowey.
Let’s see what happens tonight! I’ll reassess the contenders after we get some more numbers next to their names.