Just got back from the women’s finals and wanted to post some immediate thoughts…
First I’d say that overall this was a much better meet than Day 1. Although I wasn’t in the arena the first day, the sense I got was there was more positive energy in today’s finals and fewer overall falls. The top gymnasts in particular looked more solid and confident. Simone Biles’ performance and her unheard of 63.0 all-around score clearly speaks for itself, and I will say it was an honor to witness that display of gymnastics in person. From start to finish she appeared more confident than Day 1 and looked like she was having more fun. The highlights from Simone for me included her stuck full twisting double back off beam that capped off her first routine of the night, her effortless double layout full out on floor which literally floated through the air, and of course her two consecutive stuck vaults – two of the best she has ever done. Her Amanar was given a 9.9 execution score – when was the last time we saw that?
Maggie Nichols continued her streak, and I’d say even more certainly that she earned a spot on the world team for Glasgow. Her only real error came on her double-double on floor which she overcooked slightly and took an out of bounds deduction, but otherwise her meet was every bit as good as Day 1. Standing up a great Amanar on vault for the third meet in a row solidies her reliability to be used on this event, and she once again showed very clean and solid routines on bars and beam (albeit without the full-in beam dismount this time, but still with the newly added barani). Finishing second place at the U.S. Championships is the highlight of this gymnast’s career to this point, and defeating two Olympic champions in the process has to do wonders for this gymnast’s confidence heading into the Olympic year.
Aly Raisman was fantastic tonight. I could see a spark in her during her first warm-up before her floor routine – she looked crisp, energetic, and extra bouncy. The double pike to split jump half actually looked really cool in the warm-up when she did it with good amplitude, though unfortunately in the meet the timing was slightly off. I’ll be interested to see if she keeps that in there – it can look really good when done well, and really awkward if the punch doesn’t go just right. I would imagine that is incredibly difficult to do at the end of the routine. Personally I would love to see her twist the double layout in the third pass, and the cool thing is if she did that, she could then dismount with a double layout. Her double layout looks so easy for her that I bet she could do it. Imagine the difficulty that routine would have – I bet she could give Simone a serious run for her money on floor if she had those two passes in there. Her vault landing was a little scary with the locked legs, but luckily she looked totally fine and hopefully learned not to let that happen again. Bars was pretty par for the course for her – solid routine with some improved handstands but just a little rough in the beginning. I wonder if it would be smarter for her to put the toe-on full turn later in the routine, like before the overshoot, rather than at the beginning. It might allow her to connect that Shaposhnikova into the Tcatchev more smoothly. It was awesome to see her finish the competition with a very strong beam routine. Although she skipped some of the connections, it was clean, solid, and exactly what she needed to allow her to leave Indianapolis on a positive note.
I did enjoy watching Gabby Douglas. Her bar routine in the first rotation was dead on up until the slightly short dismount. She’s never really done that double layout very well, and I wish they’d either change the technique on it or try something else. It always seems to be a step down from the rest of her world class routine. Her beam was obviously off (missed pretty much all her connections), but it wasn’t a disaster and she was able to put that behind her and really turn it on for floor. I could sense her determination to nail that routine tonight as she stepped on the floor. Her presentation was much better than Day 1, her turns were WAY more controlled (I loved how well she controlled that double L turn at the beginning), and her tumbling was right on. The crowd got into her routine and overall you could feel the positive energy in the arena building off her routine. At that moment I got the feeling that Gabby’s night had officially become a good one. I think she’ll leave Indianapolis feeling very good about what she did, but also motivated to improve on her mistakes before the world championships.
I’d say those four are still essentially locks for the world team, and the last two spots are still a bit up in the air. At this point, I’d say Madison Kocian has the upperhand for one of those spots after winning bars two days in a row here in Indianapolis. She hit at the U.S. Classic as well, not to mention at last year’s world championships. She’s shown she can do that routine very cleanly and consistently, and it has a high start value and excellent international look. If we go by numbers and competitive performance, I think she’s earned it. I don’t see her being used in the world team finals on any other events, but that event alone should give the team at least five tenths. Ashton Locklear’s routine was fabulous, but since she’s changed some of her in-bar elements to toe-on elements, the start value is lower and was again outscored slightly by Kocian. If she adds back in the in-bar skills it might be different, but as for what we have seen in the competition, it would make more sense to me to give it to Kocian.
So what about the 6th spot? I think it’s a tough call still. Bailie Key had a great meet and almost broke a 60.0 in the all-around (she scored 59.75) – including a very strong 15.2 on bars. She could be put up on any event if needed – but would she be used in the world team finals on any event? I do think the team is going to want to have another 15 on beam in their lineup, especially with Gabby Douglas faltering on beam today. In that case, Alyssa Baumann was the only gymnast in the meet to put up 15+ scores on beam both days (15.15 and 15.05). She’s absolutely beautiful to watch and has world championship experience on this event. Should she make the team for this beam performance alone, even though she had some short landings on floor both days and probably wouldn’t be used on vault or bars in a world team finals? I do think it’s possible, because a beam routine as good s hers is so valuable to have. And what about Kyla Ross? My heart sank for her when she fell again on her bars dismount. It felt like her chances might be over, because after all, that was three falls in a row on her best event. She just isn’t rotating her flipping elements fast enough right now and is coming up with a lot of short landings. But then she went to beam and put up a 15.25, looking similar to the Kyla Ross we all remember. Could she make the team just for beam, like I suggested for Baumann? I also think this is possible.
Rachel Gowey hit both bars and beam, but put up 14’s on both and thus didn’t quite stand out as much as she is capable of (bars she missed a couple possible connections, and her beam appeared a bit underscored to be honest). She’s still a contender, but will have more to prove at the selection camp before taking a spot from one of the gymnasts above. Brenna Dowell had a very unfortunate miss on bars – getting a bit off on the low bar a couple times, then clipping her foot before her dismount and touching her hands. Although Brenna had a pretty good meet otherwise and has a phenomenal bar routine, I really feel she needed to hit tonight to stay in the world team mix. And MyKayla Skinner hit all four events tonight and showed a better floor routine (14.8) along with two hit vaults, but I’m just not sure that a floor and vault specialist is what the team needs the most right now. She’s still a contender, but I feel like the gymnasts with potential to compete on bars and beam may have an edge over her.
So I’d say the world team prospects at this point look like:
1. Simone Biles
2. Gabby Douglas
3. Aly Raisman
4. Maggie Nichols
5. Madison Kocian or possibly Ashton Locklear
6. Bailie Key, Kyla Ross, or Alyssa Baumann
I’ll be there for the men’s meet finals tomorrow afternoon and will post my thoughts on that sometime tomorrow night!