Some news of low consequence if you need a palate cleanser for today.
The women’s qualifying round at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships is underway, and the US has finished its rotation obviously in first place at 12 points ahead of second-standing Japan. Still to come are powerhouses China and Russia, as well as France, Brazil, Canada, and Great Britain. Because all of these teams have event-finals-worthy individuals, some of the individual qualifiers are not yet secure, but it was a doozy of a competition anyway. Mainly due to, of course, the legendary Simone Biles.
In spite of spending last night in the hospital with a kidney stone, Simone has thus far posted the highest scores on every event except for bars, and is obviously first in the individual all-around by over two points. In second place is last year’s champion Morgan Hurd, who hit all of her routines to nudge the US’s third AA contender, Riley McCusker, out of the AA finals, since only two per country can advance to any individual final.
Simone also topped every event except bars, where Belgium’s Nina Derwael presently reigns supreme for the time being. Morgan Hurd has also qualified fourth into the bars final, again nudging out Riley McCusker. Barring unforeseen consequences, Morgan should stay in the top 8 to reach the final; although both China and Russia boast some excellent bar workers, they are also subject to the two-per-country restriction. However, France and Great Britain will also pose a few threats there, so she may yet get knocked out of the top 8.
On balance beam, Simone looked powerful, with the skill she most struggles with (in Biles terms) giving her no trouble at all. She definitely had resting kidney stone face though. Qualifying in behind her in second was the US’s Kara Eaker, who has a really unusual and beautiful routine that combines the difficulty characteristic of the US with the fluidity and grace you more often see from Dutch gymnasts. Speaking of, Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands, your 2016 Olympic gold medalist, is qualified to the final as well and sits in third place. This is a relief, since last year she did not make beam finals largely due to some hiccups in constructing her routine to meet the requirements of this quad’s Code of Points.
On floor, Simone Simoned the shit out of things, doing a Moors (double twisting double layout) for her first tumbling pass, a Biles (double layout half out) to stag jump for her second tumbling pass, a front layout stepout to full-twisting double back to split jump for her third pass, and a Silivas (double twisting double tuck) for her fourth pass. Not bad, seeing as most people can’t pull out a Silivas for their first pass. Even less bad, seeing as she kept all of this ridiculousness in bounds, a major improvement from Nationals where she bounced out a number of times. Qualifying behind her was again Morgan Hurd, who edged first-year senior Grace McCallum to get the second US spot in the final listing by qualifying in third behind Japan’s Mai Murakami (who is last year’s floor gold medalist). I have to say that Morgan looked wonderful - she was clearly nervous as hell before opening the US’s round on floor, and you could see her breathing hard while she waited for the green light to go. Then once she got her first pass or two out of the way, she got the HAPPIEST grin on her face and finished her routine strong, looking like the world was her oyster. I hope she stays in this final as well, but see above, re other countries.
On vault... this is where we got the real treat. Simone served up a brand new vault, now officially named for her. It’s a Yurchenko half-on double twisting layout off for a blind landing, and comes with a 6.4 difficulty value, the highest presently in the women’s code of points. Obviously, she casually nailed it, then did an Amanar (2.5 twisting Yurchenko) as her second vault like she was bored. Grace McCallum also qualified into the vaulting final with a double-twisting Yurchenko and a relatively easy Yurcheno half-on full-twisting tuck off, and presently sits in fifth place. She may get bumped out during the last few qualifying rotations but it’s not inconceivable that she’ll hold on to a top 8 spot for the final.
Here’s the Biles:
I think she has room for another half twist in there... which is insane, since if you watch everyone doing the vault one half-twist behind this (called the Cheng), they all land it low, hard, and with their chests down, like they’ve JUST eaked out the twists before crashing to the ground. Simone lands it like she’s jumping off the kitchen table.
No thanks, of course, to the USAG staff for any of this, since they continue to shit everywhere and shoot their own feet. Simone is a 21-year-old phenom and possibly-retired Aly Raisman is a force of nature, but neither of them should have to publicly tell ostensibly professional adults how to do their jobs on a weekly basis. The saga of fixing USAG continues offstage... for now. I fully expect them to step on their dicks and be back in the news as soon as the Championships are over. Empowering.**
The women’s team finals take place on Tuesday 30 Oct at 9 ET. The women’s all-around finals are on Thursday 1 Nov at 9 ET. Event finals are on Nov 2 and 3. More details here:
*This was semi-unexpected to the world at large, since Riley has an overall higher difficulty and is often touted as the US’s next big thing on bars, but I can’t say I’m that surprised. She seems a bit prone to both injuries and nerves, and her coach doesn’t have the best history at getting her athletes to peak at the right time. That is, I think Riley may have been at her physical peak in late summer and may not have enough gas in the tank to sustain that level for several months without incurring injuries or starting to backslide. When she hits, she’s beautiful on this event, but it always looks like she’s working really hard to hit rather than having all of her skills nailed down and secure, which is what you really want. IMHO, if this turns out to be the case, it’s on her coach, whom I’m not shy about disliking.
**Ask me what I think about the new “High Performance Team Coordinator” or whatever the hell his new dumb title is.