Gymnastics

2018 Doha Worlds: Finals Notebook

2018 Worlds are over. As always, it was filled with ups and downs. But I’d say there were more ups than downs overall this year. Here are some notes and observations from the six days of finals. (At least, what I can remember. I forgot to write a lot of stuff down in real time.)

The New Format

Prior to this year, the two teams paired together for the final would compete in blocks  with the three team members from each country competing back-to-back-to-back. For example:

team A, member 1
team A, member 2
team A, member 3

After they went, the first team to perform on the apparatus would be followed by a brief warm-up, then:

team B, member 1
team B, member 2
team B, member 3

Starting at these Worlds, the teams alternated competitors with no 2nd warm-up during the rotation:

team A member 1
team B member 1
team A member 2
team B member 2
team A member 3
team B member 3

There was a little concern about how it would work for certain events, particularly men’s parallel bars and women’s uneven bars, because of the individual preferences gymnasts have for the preparation of these apparatus. From what I can tell, it didn’t cause any major problems during the competition. I noticed that different countries to have to collaborate with each other quite a bit more than normal to make it work, though. For example, I noticed Laurent Landi of the US helping the Russian team set up the bars for their next competitor after a US gymnast had gone.

Men’s Team Final

The medalists for the men’s team final were expected to be (in alpha order): China, Japan and Russia. It ended up that way, but it surely wasn’t straightforward.

At the halfway point Japan appeared to have a decent chance at gold. But a botched parallel bars routine left them concentrating on preserving bronze instead of going for gold.

That left China and Russia battling for the top of the podium. Punctuated by a brilliant vault rotation for both teams, they stayed close through the rest of the meet. Ending on high bar, things were going smoothly until Xiao Routeng, the last Chinese competitor, fell leaving the door open for Russia.

Nikita Nagornyy basically needed the score he received in prelims, but a slight error left him with score 0.049 short of the score needed to win.

But despite coming up short of gold, the Russians had reason to celebrate. The result is Russia’s first worlds medal in 12 years for the guys.

Women’s Team Final

The women’s team final podium ended up in an expected order with the podium being the US, Russia and China, but we had some drama getting there. Four or five teams had a chance at the podium during the last rotation, most notably Brazil and France, but in the end the three usual suspects ended on the podium.

What does the record setting margin of victory by the US say? That despite not being able to trust the organization at present moment, the team members can still trust each other.

A Bit Strange But True: The highest score of the women’s team final was on bars, not vault or floor. And it was by Simone.

Per the new Olympic qualifying procedures, the medalists from both team finals (China, Russia and Japan for the men; the US, Russia and China for the women) are now the first three men’s teams qualified for Tokyo. Continue reading “2018 Doha Worlds: Finals Notebook”

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Gymnastics

2018 Doha Worlds: Caribbean Gymnast Qualifying Results and Some Other Thoughts

This year’s round of qualifications was—thankfully—less hectic and injury-riddled than last year in Montreal. Here are some highlights from the four days of qualifications.

Caribbean Gymnasts Qualifications Summary

Worlds newcomer Raegan Rutty of the Cayman Islands obviously enjoyed her big stage debut. After finishing quals in 81st position, she had some fun taking pictures.

 

 

The delegation from Cuba is probably disappointed with their results. However, the issues started a couple of months ago. It was then that it was uncovered that the federation would not be sending its standout female gymnast Marcia Videaux to Doha because of monetary concerns. In fact, the only reason Randy Leru was able to attend is because Manrique Larduet was able to secure an Olympic scholarship for attendance costs.

Once in Qatar, their fortunes didn’t improve unfortunately. Manrique had to withdraw from from the all-around because of a hand injury, and ended up just outside of the high bar final (he is first reserve in case any of the competitors ahead of him withdraw). Randy missed out on any finals as well, finishing 78th in all-around qualifications.

It was disappointment for Audrys Nin Reyes of the Dominican Republic as well. He struggled on his pet event, vault, ending up completely off the podium (literally) after the landing of his first attempt and almost in the lap of a judge. The Dominican Republic also had to forego sending a woman competitor because of monetary concerns.

Again, the largest delegation from the region came from Jamaica. In fact, it was the first time the country was able to compete as a team on the women’s side.

 

The women’s team finished 42nd of the 42 teams, but as Danusia Francis said it was “a good stepping stone and experience to build on.” The team members were: Danusia (39th all-around), Mackenzie Robinson (68th) and Kiara Richmon (86th).

The Jamaican guys (Reiss Beckford, 86th all-around; Caleb Faulk, 105th; and Stephen Lewis, 92nd) finished team qualifications in 43rd (of 46).

Other Random Thoughts

Lucky 13: It was so nice to see the Romanian women put a lot of federation turmoil to the side and have a solid meet. They hit all of their routines and, while they didn’t make the team final this year, have some positive momentum for next year. And hopefully some more confidence in themselves as well.

Calm in the Middle of the Storm: Speaking of persevering while things are falling apart around you, the US women keep on keeping on. Despite all of the well-documented issues surrounding USA Gymnastics management, the team out-qualified the second place team by nearly nine points and really seem to be enjoying themselves.

Simone: As if there were any doubt before, Simone Biles is definitely a magical being among us. With all due respect to Michael Jordan’s flu game, which is heralded by sports fans, Simone’s performance in qualifications—a 60.965 all-around score at Worlds (a total higher than her title-winning score in 2015), while getting a new vault named after her—after visiting the hospital for a kidney stone the night before is the best performance under adverse conditions I’ve ever seen.

Poise Under Pressure: Morgan Hurd lead the US off on three of the four events. Some fans expressed more than a little discontent with having the reigning World all-around champion lead off events for score-building concerns. On top of her saying she doesn’t mind going first so she can get it out of the way and not overthink her routines, I get why the coaching staff would do it from a strategy perspective as well. She’s the second most-experienced member of the team. You couldn’t put Simone up first. You also couldn’t have put Grace or Riley up first at their first World Championships. And while they did well overall (one beam fall aside), the way their nerves showed on the first event (bars) proved it. The result? Morgan outscored her title-winning score from last year, qualifying to this year’s all-around final with Simone.

Aliya Being Aliya: Russia qualified into the women’s team final in second. They were steadied, of course, by their rock steady star Aliya Mustafina. Aliya, back to the World Championship stage after giving birth less than 17 months ago, said of her decision to balance elite gymnastics with motherhood, “When you become a mother, life doesn’t end. If there’s a thing you can do that gives you pleasure, you do it.” In addition, Aliya qualified into the bars final with the lowest difficulty score of the finalists. Also, shout-out to the other mothers who competed: Marta Pihan-Kulesza (Poland), Goksu Uctas Sanli (Turkey), and the inimitable Oksana Chusovitina (Uzbekistan).

Make It Quick: I need the organizers for this year’s Worlds to give a seminar to other meet organizers. Efficient. That’s the only way to describe it. Most, if not all, of the subdivisions—men and women—took about an hour and 30 minutes to complete each. It’s a shame that the crowds have been sparse so far, they’re missing a great show from what I can see from afar.

Music

Good Mood Music: Best Part

There are some songs that hit you right in the feels, in a good way. “Best Part” is one of those for me. Performed by Daniel Caesar and H.E.R., the song transports me to a place where I just relax and smile–completely taken away in my head. I could try to explain it further, but it probably just be me rambling on and on.

…I just wanna see
I just wanna see how beautiful you are
You know that I see it
I know you’re a star
Where you go I follow
No matter how far
If life is a movie
Oh you’re the best part…

 

Music

Good Mood Music: Me Hace Feliz

A less heralded singer from the 90s is Veronica. She was kind of in the same club/dance music niche as Deborah Cox (before she attained a little more notoriety with her One Wish album).

“Me Hace Feliz,one of the more R&B oriented songs on her second album Rise, is the one I’m going to spotlight. It translates to “You Make Me Happy,” but the English version of the song on the album is called “Inspired Me.” The song is straightforward–a love letter to a lover telling them all the good things that have come her way since they met.

After the promotion of Rise, Veronica took a break from club music and moved into musical theater, portraying another one of my faves, Selena, in a traveling show named Selena Forever.

Not quite as active in the industry nowadays, she has become an advocate for autism research following her son’s diagnosis.

Music

Good Mood Music: The Queen of Soul

On the week The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is laid to rest, I offer a very brief post in memoriam. Brief mostly because no amount of words would ever be able to cover what her music–and her being, but we’ll stick to the music here–has meant.

Aretha could sing ANYTHING. It’s what made trying to pick one song to feature so difficult. The question has been a lot in the past couple of weeks, “Which song would be the song you would introduce her catalog to someone with?” My advice? Go to a streaming site and hit random play. It’s all great.

Of course, you could start off with “Respect,” perhaps her most popular song. But that song, while representative, only scratched the surface of her capabilities. As an aside, did you know Aretha’s version of “Respect” is a cover of an Otis Redding song? Also, here’s a great anecdote from her son Teddy on the little hitch you can hear in the opening line of the album version if you’re listening close.

There are others that pop up as songs I’d play: “Think”, “Amazing Grace”, “A Rose is Still a Rose”, “Freeway of Love”, “Chain of Fools”, “Until You Come Back To Me”, “Natural Woman”, “Say A Little Prayer”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” … (you see how hard this is to pick one?)

But if I had to pick an entry point, I’d choose “A Deeper Love.”

This song is at the top of my pick-me-up playlist. When I’m at my lowest, it pulls me up. When I’m up, it keeps the good vibes going.

…People let me tell you–I work hard everyday
I get up out of bed, I put on my clothes
‘Cause I’ve got bills to pay
Now it ain’t easy, but I don’t need no help
I’ve got a strong will to survive
I’ve got a deeper love, deeper love
Deeper love inside
And I call it
Pride (a deeper love)
Pride (a deeper love)
Pride (a deeper love)
Woah woah woah woah
It’s the power that gives you the strength to survive…

I also highly recommend the live Grammy performance of “Nessun Dorma,”  a performance in which she filled in for opera great Luciano Pavarotti at the last minute.

Pavarotti was being honored that night and was scheduled to perform, but his throat wasn’t cooperating. Doctors advised him not to perform, and the Grammy producers all of a sudden needed a plan B. Fortunately, Aretha had performed at an event in her honor earlier that week and agreed to do the performance.

First, how fortuitous can you be to have Aretha Franklin as your plan B? Secondly, how many popular singers have the range for an aria?

The moment had a feeling that really can’t come through full strength unless you heard it that night, but the impact of most events can’t be felt secondhand. However, it comes through OK in the video clips you see from time-to-time, especially when you see the crowd reactions. Unfortunately, the Grammy organization tends to be a stickler, so the actual performance is hard to find. Instead, enjoy her The Late Show performance of the song.

Rest well, Queen Aretha…

Gymnastics, Olympics

How Tokyo 2020 Olympic Spots Will Be Determined for Women’s Artistic Gymnastics

Up until now, gymnastics qualifying for the Olympic Games largely took place at the World Championships the year prior to the Olympics and at the Olympic Test Event held approximately six months after that World Championships.

Starting with qualifications for the 2020 Olympics, the time frame has stretched to the two years prior to the Olympics. Though, the bulk of qualifications will still be in the latter half of 2019 and the first part of 2020.

Below is an overview on how the 98 women (48 as part of teams and 50 as individuals) who will compete at the Olympics in Tokyo will qualify.

VIA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

– 2018 Worlds: The top 3 teams will qualify for Tokyo. This is by country only, not by name for the gymnasts who competed.

– 2019 Worlds: The top 9 teams, other than the already qualified 3, will qualify for Tokyo. Again, this is by country only, not by name for the gymnasts who competed.

– 2019 Worlds: The top 20 individual all-arounders who are NOT on one of the 12 qualifying teams qualify for Tokyo 2020. These spots go to the individual gymnasts and CANNOT be transferred.

– 2019 Worlds: Individual event medalists who are not on one of the qualifying teams –or– one of the additional 20 all-arounders qualify for Tokyo 2020. Like with the all-arounders, these spots go to the individual gymnasts and CANNOT be transferred.

VIA APPARATUS (INDIVIDUAL EVENT) WORLD CUPS

– The overall series winner on each event over the course of the 2018 AND 2019 seasons (November 2018 – March 2020) qualifies for Tokyo 2020.

– The top 3 finishes for each gymnast over the two seasons will be used for the calculation.

– The winner CANNOT have competed at either 2018 Worlds or 2019 Worlds, if the gymnast’s team qualified at either of those competitions. Doing so would mean that the gymnast would’ve technically qualified twice, even though the spots earned for the team are non-nominative and don’t belong to the gymnast.

– If the series winner has already qualified for Tokyo 2020 via a top-12 World Championships team, the next highest in the ranking who wasn’t on a top-12 team gets the qualifying spot.

– The winner of the qualifying spot CAN be from a country of one the top-12 teams, but just couldn’t have been a member of either one of the 2018 or 2019 Worlds teams.

*Special note: Individual event qualifiers will have the option of competing on all 4 events at the Tokyo Olympics.

VIA ALL-AROUND WORLD CUPS

– Only the top-12 qualifying teams will be invited to all-around (AA) World Cups in 2020 (to be held in March and April of that year).

– From those 12 teams, the top 3 countries will earn a Tokyo 2020 qualifying spot. These 3 spots are non-nominative, meaning they don’t belong to a specific gymnast.

– Countries don’t have to send the same gymnast to each of the AA World Cups.

VIA CONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

– Per Olympic rule, two gymnasts from each continent, excluding Antarctica, must be represented.

– In 2020, the top 2 all-arounders from the following meets: African Championships, Asian Championships, European Championships, and the Pan-Am(erican) Championships will earn a qualifying spot to Tokyo 2020. The top all-arounder from the 2020 meet to be held in the region of Oceania will also earn a qualifying spot.

– Gymnasts who are a member of a top-12 team and competed at either 2018 Worlds or 2019 Worlds are NOT eligible to earn one of these spots.

– If the top 2 eligible gymnasts (or the 1 from Oceania) are from a top-12 team, the qualifying spot belongs to the country. If the top 2 eligible gymnasts are not from a top-12 team, the qualifying spot belongs to the gymnast.

ADDITIONAL QUALIFIERS

– It’s also a requirement that the Olympic host nation have at least 1 participant. Making the assumption Japan will qualify as a team, this spot will be opened to the next highest all-arounder from 2019 Worlds who is not already qualified.

– The last spot is the tripartite invitation. This qualifying spot is offered to a gymnast from a country that had an average of less than 8 athletes compete at the previous two Olympic Games (in this case, Rio 2016 and London 2012). If unused, this spot will be opened to the next highest all-arounder from 2019 Worlds who is not already qualified.

The official procedure for qualifying from the FIG can be found here.

Gymnastics

Random Thoughts from 2018 Classics

The late summer competition season is here for women’s artistic gymnastics. European Championships start this week (August 2 thru August 12). In the U.S., the season kicks off with the marathon competition day that is Classics, or more formally the 2018 GK U.S. Classic. Held yesterday, here are some random thoughts.

Let’s start with the juniors (per usual)…

This is the perfect way to describe Zoe Gravier‘s floor routine to me. Some didn’t like it. I couldn’t turn away. I need her to end up on a NCAA team with good choreographers. Not everyone can pull off a routine like this–and she sold it.

Overall, the junior gymnasts were quite impressive on beam. All-around winner Leanne Wong definitely was.

If the names didn’t give it away, you would definitely be able to figure out who Aleah Finnegan and eMjae Frazier are related to. Their styles are very reminiscent of their older sisters Sarah and Margzetta, respectively.

On to the seniors… Continue reading “Random Thoughts from 2018 Classics”