Most would agree that Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, and McKayla Maroney have all but locked up three of the four available spots on the U.S. women’s world championship team. The fourth spot – should Martha Karolyi choose to use it – is certainly up for grabs and will be determined at the upcoming World Team Selection Camp to be held September 12-16.
Two important names missing from the list of camp invitees include Lexie Priessman and Madison Kocian. Priessman, one of the most powerful tumblers and vaulters in the country as well as one of the USA’s top all-around gymnasts, dropped out of last week’s P&G Championships due to a strained Achilles and does not appear to be a candidate for the world team at this point. Madison Kocian had established herself as a legitimate contender for the world team as a bars and beam specialist after putting up strong scores and matching 2nd place finishes on these two events on Day 1 of the P&G Championships – just prior to spraining her ankle during her floor routine and then scratching the rest of the meet.
The battle for the fourth spot will be an interesting one. Since three gymnasts can be used from each team on each event at the world championships, a logical approach to this team would be to use Simone Biles and Kyla Ross in the all-around and McKayla Maroney on floor and vault, which would leave a nice opening for a bars and beam specialist to fill the third spot on these two events.
Below are some of the key routines that will likely be considered in the discussion (in no particular order):
Peyton Ernst would be my first choice at this point. She’s a fantastic competitor, is extremely solid on all four events, and her bars and beam in particular stand out. She’s upgraded her bar routine, and although she had a mistake on Day 2 (which seemed to be judged too harshly in my opinion) and did have a fall on beam on Day 1, she shows excellent tenacity and the ability to bounce back from mistakes. She seems to be rising very quickly and is clearly one of the top all-around gymnasts in the country. Using these world championships as an opportunity to get her some major international experience early in the Olympic cycle would seem like a smart way to use the fourth spot.
Abigail Milliet is a beautiful gymnast, and like Peyton, is a great all-arounder as well. Her toepoint is absolutely exquisite, and she’s upgraded several of her D-scores to be some of the most impressive in the country. The only problem is she had a bit of a meltdown on bars and beam on Day 2 – the very two events she would likely be used if selected to the world team. We’ve seen Martha forgive meltdowns before, but only after a terrific showing at the selection camp. Abigail has the physical abilities to be a player, and in a couple of weeks she’ll have to prove she has the mental toughness to match them.
Kennedy Baker is perhaps a bit overlooked in my opinion. Taking an extra swing on bars both days certainly didn’t help her cause, but many might not have realized how good her beam and floor in particular were on Day 2. She might not have the lines and elegance Martha Karolyi typically likes, but she is strong on all four events and has some outstanding skills like that Patterson dismount on beam, piked double Arabian on floor, and huge release skills on bars. She’d be one who would certainly benefit from a larger-sized world team, but given she does have some strong D-scores on several events (she did downgrade her vault in this meet), she should at least be part of the discussion.
Earlier this year Elizabeth Price looked like she’d be a shoo-in for the world team, and in fact looked so good that “all-around world champion” didn’t seem too unrealistic. A recent hip injury that limited her to just two events at the P&G Championships followed by a missed bar routine on Day 1 initially made it difficult to see where she might fit in. But when she hit this fantastic set on Day 2, she may have put herself back in the mix. While Price is certainly no beam specialist, Martha could potentially use her just on bars to at least get her some world championship experience. When Price fully recovers and gets back to where she was 6-8 months ago, she could be battling for future world all-around medals, and this would be a nice way to introduce her to the world stage.
Brenna Dowell has certainly come on strong this year, with upgraded routines on all four events. She had a strong showing at the P&G Championships, with no falls but just some minor missed connections on bars and beam. To me she is more of a strong all-arounder rather than a bars and beam specialist, but her bars really is great when she hits it. Her beam has not been scoring high at any of her recent competitions (in the 13’s), and thus I’d have a hard time seeing her used on this event at worlds. But given how well she’s been doing and her potential to be used on any event, she may be a good candidate for an alternate spot.
MyKayla Skinner’s routines are worth seeing again, although I don’t see her making this world team because her strengths primarily lie on floor and vault – two events that will definitely be covered with Simone Biles and McKayala Maroney on the team. But her floor routine on Day 2 was one of the highlights of the competition for me – with four nailed landings on one of the hardest floor routines ever done. Her “Cheng” on vault has been judged a bit harshly because she lacks some block, and in some ways almost appears a bit cheated, though technically I don’t believe that it is.
Those are the contenders I see at this point. Feel free to leave comments regarding your picks for the team!