Gymnastics, Olympics

The Consequences of “Cocky”

If you go through my blog archives, you’ll see that Gabby Douglas is probably my most featured individual. First off, I’m a fan. Furthermore, even for all the success other Black gymnasts had before her, Gabby was the first to ascend to the pinnacle of my longtime favorite sport that looks like me. Despite me being older than she is, her experiences resonate with me more than any other gymnast I’ve followed.

2016 was an interesting year if you are/were a Gabby fan. It started off well with her winning all around titles at the American Cup and in Jesolo. However, by Nationals and Olympic Trials you could tell something was off — and that was before a surprising coaching change days before Trials. She seemed listless and not as engaged as you would expect an athlete to be weeks away from the Olympic Games.

Flash forward to July 2017 when, in an interview with Teen Vogue, she pulled back the curtain and crystallized much of what could be called an open secret in 2016: Continue reading “The Consequences of “Cocky””

Gymnastics

Thoughts After 2017 U.S. Classics

Sunisabeam07classics
I love Sunisa Lee’s beam routine.
Well. Classics went like Classics do. The HOPES session gave us a look at the wee ones which may or may not go the elite track. The junior session had 8382934 competitors, and the senior session featured a lot of reintroduction to competition jitters for the gymnasts — and hopefully, the working out of them.

But before I get to the elites…one of the HOPES gymnasts caught my attention. Her name is Kaliya Lincoln.

It always amazes me when younger gymnasts have senior elite level poise on beam. This is great for 10-11 yrs old. Honestly, it’s good for a gymnast of any age.

As for the elites, the beginning of this quad (2017-2020) feels a bit like the 2009-2012 one for the U.S. team, where there were only a few returning gymnasts from the previous season and the gymnasts that would eventually contend the London Olympic team weren’t due to become seniors until the middle of the quad (or, in the case of Alicia Sacramone or Anna Li, not make a comeback to elite until the middle of the quad).

My point is kind of bolstered by a junior, Emma Malabuyo, outscoring the top senior all-arounder Alyona Shchennikova (56.750 to 54.950). Emma also posted the highest score of both elite sessions on floor. Granted Ragan Smith didn’t do all around at Classics, which is customary for the front-running seniors. It underlines the fact that the current women’s U.S. National Team is really young, and fans are going to have to be patient while this group gains the experience and depth the previous National Team had.

Speaking of Ragan, this competition was only confirmation for me that she’s ready to be the leader of the U.S. team. The two events she competed looked great — she even won bars! However, it was her beam that stole the show.

Continue reading “Thoughts After 2017 U.S. Classics”

Gymnastics

4 U.S. Gymnasts I’m Looking Forward to Seeing as Nationals Approach

With Classics happening this upcoming Saturday, the late spring/early summer hiatus is nearly done for U.S. gymnasts. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone compete, but these are the 4 senior elites I’m most curious about as competition picks back up.

Ragan Smith
Since all but a few of the gymnasts who went through the Olympic Trials process last year have moved onto NCAA or are taking a break, the primary spotlight has settled itself on Ragan. It’s always interesting to see how athletes do when the expectations increase. I don’t think it will be an issue for her at all.

Jade Carey
Kinda like what happened with Ashton Locklear a few years ago, Jade is someone who is always on the camp rosters and has a lot of buzz, yet is still a mystery because she hasn’t been in a big competition to-date. If the scores she’s getting at camp materialize at Classics and Nationals, she could pull a Kayla Williams and go from unknown to (possible) World Champ at a lightening-fast speed.

Jordan Chiles
Since Nationals last year, each time Jordan has tried to compete something has come up — be it injury or something else. I’m so hoping her (delayed) senior elite debut goes well. If she competes up to her potential, she’ll make World team selection real interesting.

Margzetta Frazier
I’m also really rooting for Marz. We’ve seen the social media clips of all the skills she’s been training, but it’s been nearly a year since she competed. Hopefully, she’s at full strength. If she hits the upgrades, she could make World team selection interesting too.

Gymnastics

There’s A New Gym Coach at UGA…and It Feels Familiar

Last month, the University of Georgia gymnastics team had a…let’s call it a lackluster performance at Nationals, placing 12th or last of the teams that were competing.

Just days after, then-head coach Danna Durante released 3 gymnasts from the team. Odd because these 3 gymnasts included 2 walk-ons who didn’t compete at all this season and 1 who was out most of the year because of illness/injury.

Notice I said “then-head coach.” In the midst of observers trying to sort out the confusion from the dismissals, Danna and the whole coaching staff was let go, or “not retained” as the release was worded, leading basically everyone engaged with NCAA gym to go: “WTH UGA?”

Jump forward to today, a couple days after the biggest NCAA gym recruitment weekend aka J.O. Nationals, Georgia has hired a new head coach. “New” being the operative word. Who? Courtney Kupets Carter, a former gymnast for the team who is at the very least on the Mount Rushmore of UGA gymnasts all-time.

I remarked to someone last week when I first heard the rumor that I thought it’d be unlikely. After all, she’s only been coaching club gym for a short period of time. No high level club gym or NCAA coaching experience on the resume. It’s hard, and in my opinion a bit unfair, to ask someone to take on the highest level of job responsibility in most professions, not just coaching, without some apprenticeship. Even she remarked in the press conference, “It’s more than anything I [have] ever done…”

Furthermore, she’s no lower than the #3 SEC Network analyst for gymnastics behind the venerable Kathy Johnson-Clarke and Bart Conner. As Bomani Jones is apt tell you, TV is what you can call a “good a** job” — you don’t just give one up. Why take on the pressure cooker that is the UGA gymnastics head coaching position at this point in time?
Continue reading “There’s A New Gym Coach at UGA…and It Feels Familiar”

Gymnastics

2017 J.O. Nationals Highlights

The 2017 edition of J.O. (Level 10) Nationals for the women was held May 6-7 in Indianapolis.

This year, the age breakdown was those born February 17, 2001 and later competed as juniors; those born before that date competed as seniors. The gymnasts were split up into 12 age groups: 6 junior groups and 6 senior groups arranged A-F for each division, with A denoting the youngest gymnasts and F denoting the oldest.

Each division competes only with itself so you end up with 12 National Champions for each of the 5 individual events: AA = All-Around, VT = Vault, UB = Uneven Bars, BB = Balance Beam, FX = Floor Exercise.

The competing gymnasts also earn points towards team titles for their respective regions in each of the 12 divisions. The regions are:

Region 1 – Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah
Region 2 – Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington
Region 3 – Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming
Region 4 – Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin
Region 5 – Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio
Region 6 – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont
Region 7 – Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
Region 8 – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

The team winners from this year were:

Junior A: Region 1
Senior A: Region 1
Junior B: Region 3
Senior B: Region 1
Junior C: Region 5
Senior C: Region 7
Junior D: Region 1
Senior D: Region 1
Junior E: Region 3
Senior E: Region 3
Junior F: Region 5
Senior F: Region 4

For this year’s J.O. Nationals recap, I’ll start with 5 gymnasts I’m looking forward to seeing in collegiate competition starting in January 2018.

The first incoming freshman I’m looking forward to seeing is Lauren Navarro (Senior D; 2nd – AA, T-4th – VT, T-15th – UB, 1st – BB, T-2nd – FX). Not as heralded during her time as her time as an elite as others, she’ll be a nice addition to Stanford’s roster.
Continue reading “2017 J.O. Nationals Highlights”

Gymnastics

Final Thoughts: The Top 17 Teams of the 2017 Women’s NCAA Gym Season 

Preseason Prediction
Pre-Postseason Update

After 3.5 months, the teams that started as the top 6 in the rankings ended as the Super Six for 2017. But more than a half dozen teams deserve recognition for the freshly completed season. So here are some final thoughts on the teams that finished at the head of the field in women’s NCAA gymnastics this year.

1st – Oklahoma: It was a wire-to-wire season victory. The Sooners are basically a team of anchor performers. There’s no weakness in their lineup. As a result, the team won the championship in record fashion (198.3875 final score during the Super Six final).

2nd – LSU: Like OU, LSU was solid the whole season from the first meet with virtually no busted meets. They were the only team that realistically had a shot to dethrone OU, but wasn’t as sharp in the final as they were in their record-setting semifinal performance. (Having to compete two times in less than 24 hours during Nationals could’ve been a factor.)

3rd – Florida: It went under the radar somewhat, but it was a great season. Plus they don’t have any competition routines to replace for next season (Claire Boyce, who medically retired earlier in the season, was the only senior on the squad), so they have a good chance of improving their finish next season.

4th – UCLA: 4th was probably the ceiling for UCLA this year with the vault issues and run-ins with the inconsistency bug the team faced this year. They definitely have the bars and beam to challenge OU, the task now is to bring the other two events up to the same level.

5th – Utah: Did really well to manage their rash of injuries and display a respectable season-long performance that included a PAC-12 title.

6th – Alabama: In the last 25 years, the team has missed Super Six twice: 1997 and 2007. It was a distinct possibility that the pattern could continue in 2017. However, the team did make Super Six with one of its best meets of the season in semis. That’s the good news. The bad? The inconsistency that marked the team’s season caught up to them in finals.
Continue reading “Final Thoughts: The Top 17 Teams of the 2017 Women’s NCAA Gym Season “

Gymnastics

Some of My Favorite NCAA Leos of the 2017 Season 

I didn’t get around to a favorite leo post last year, so I’m bringing it back for 2017.

This is my favorite leo of the year. It was one Auburn debuted early in the season.

Our routine of the week goes to @emma_engler who crushed this bar set to get a 9.9! #WarEagle

A post shared by Auburn University Gymnastics (@auburngymnastics) on

Note: I posted this before Nationals, so I didn’t get to see the debuts that happened there. I had to come back and add this one from Alabama to the list. It ties with Auburn’s leo above for my fave of 2017.

If you described the leo below to someone without them seeing it, they’d probably say the top and sleeves sound too busy. But it works. To be honest this leo, worn by Michigan, would’ve made a really good LSU leo for Mardi Gras.

Screenshot from Meet

Continue reading “Some of My Favorite NCAA Leos of the 2017 Season “