Thursday, May 15, 2008

Karolyi Meet and Tianjin World Cup Analysis

Two meets have happened just recently, the Karolyi International meet and the Tianjin World Cup. The Karolyi International meet provided glimpses as to who we will see on the U.S. team in Beijing, and who we won't. The Tianjin World Cup took place right after the Chinese Nationals, and went on despite the devastating earthquake that is affecting much of China.

Thoughts From Karolyi International Meet

  • The internet has been awaiting with eager anticipation of Ivana Hong's upgrades. And we got................ none. Ivana won the AA at the Karolyi meet, but individually speaking she just doesn't bring much to the table. Ivana should've invested in either an Amanar upgrade or significant bar upgrades. Her UB A-score, 6.3, is the same as Shawn's, and her newfound strength on beam (15.8) doesn't help much either, with the fab 3 (Shawn, Nast, and A-Sac) sure to compete on that event in an olympic team final. Ivana looked more consistent with her routines, but this means nothing if they don't have the needed difficulty. Unlikely to be on the team, the U.S. may still need her as an alternate for good VT/BB work.

  • Ashley Priess looks good, with UB scores ranging from 15.75-15.8. Priess should look to improving her A-score (6.6) by a tenth or two to give her the needed edge on that apparatus over Shayla Worley. Ashley will need to capitalize on her known consistency at Nats/Oly Trials/Karolyi Camp to get on the team, but it could happen. If Priess makes the team, she could be somewhat of an Annia Hatch presence at the Olympics as she only contributes majorly on one event.

  • I don't know what to think about Chellsie Memmel's performance. She looked to be playing it safe in the AA, only scoring a 14.5 on bars (6.2 A-score). She only competed an FTY and scored a 15.35 on beam and a 14.55 on floor. Chellsie looked stronger on beam and floor at the Olympic Test Event and Toyota Cup meets she competed in at the closing of 2007, so I am guessing that these were watered-down routines due to the lack of importance of this event. In event finals, Memmel stunned all with a 16.0 in UB finals (6.9 A-score). All I can say is, where did that come from?

  • Away from competition since 2007 Worlds, Alicia Sacramone looked strong. Despite rolling her ankle earlier in the year, Alicia vaulted a handspring Rudi vault with ease (15.65) and was solid on floor (15.25 AA/15.5 EF). She has upgraded her beam set to a potential A-score of 7.0, and scored a 16.15 in AA finals. This may have been a little inflated, but it shows that Alicia is fully ready to compete BB in team finals and can potentially make Olympic BB finals as well. This is even more bad news for Shayla Worley, as Martha K. probably will feel A-Sac will take care of the lead-off spot on BB in team finals with her upgrades over the potentialy high-scoring but inconsistent Shayla.

  • Dark horse olympic threat Mattie Larson is improving, placing 4th AA and 2nd on FX. However, her lack of experience is unlikely to get her on the team but she might be wise to stick around on a potentially dominant USA team en route to London 2012.

  • Darling Hill (BTW I much prefered Darlene as her first name) is unlikely to make the team. The internet has been abuzz with speculation of whether she could make the team, especially after her FX win at the Pacific Rim Championships. Her highest FX score was a 15.1 in event finals, but still only won the bronze. Injuries have kept her from upgrading to a DTY and competing uneven bars, one of her best events. Darlene will need to win floor at Nationals or Olympic Trials, with A-Sac and Shawn hitting. The probability of this scenario is low, and sadly I have to say the same for her Olympic chances.

  • Martha K. and USAG should've let these girls compete at the U.S. Classic at Houston instead of creating this meet especially for them. USAG could've generated much greater revenue that way and the girls would experience even more of a competition-like atmosphere.

  • Not much to report in terms of the international competitors; Paola Galante (ITA) placed a respectable 5th AA behind Hong, Priess, Memmel, and Larson. Alyssa Brown, the Canadian who had a horrific FX fall at the 2008 Scam Cup, won vault finals without A-Sac competing a second vault.

Tianjin World Cup


Gold: Cheng Fei (CHN)-Duh she won. Didn't compete either the Amanar or the Cheng, though she did do an apparently shaky Cheng (15.45) in the prelims. 14.975 average score.

Silver: Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS)-Haven't heard much about her, but a silver on this event and a bronze on UB help out her Beijing cause greatly. 14.350 average score.

Bronze: Kristina Goryunova (RUS)-Like Afanasyeva, a late bloomer looking to peak at the right time. Competed solid A-score vaults, 5.8 and 5.2. 14.062 average score.

Other Notes: Elyse Hofner-Hibbs and Nansy Damianova finished 5th and 6th, respectively. They both earned above the required score to gain points to make the Olympic team, thus adding to my prediction that these two girls will be in Beijing and Kristina Vaculik will not.

Uneven Bars

Gold: Yang Yilin (CHN)- Getting better and better on this apparatus, and with a 7.7 A-score she could possibly win UB gold in Beijing. She definitely appears to be peaking at the right time. 16.925 score.

Silver: Elyse Hofner-Hibbs (CAN)-Competing a 6.8 A-score, but apparenty had an error and scored only a 15.35. This however is enough to earn her even more points to represent Canada in Beijing.

Bronze: Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS)-Only a 6.1 A-score on this event and beat her compatriot Svetlana Klyukina, who finished 4th.

Other Notes: Daiane Dos Santos finished 6th with a 6.4 A-score. Koko Tsurumi of Japan and Vaculik apparently struggled and finished 7th and 8th, respectively.

Shock Horror: He Kexin won preliminaries with a whooping 17.2, the highest international score of any kind to date. However, she withdrew from finals due to "exhaustion." I don't think this is serious or that it will affect Kexin's spot on the Olympic team, but it could mean that she may be ill-prepared when it comes to dealing with the pressure of the Olympics and may be peaking too soon.

Balance Beam

Gold: Cheng Fei (China) Without the triple full dismount, Cheng's routine is worth a maximum of 6.7. It seems as though we won't see this dismount in Beijing (her 2.5 twist just barely got around in Tianjin), thus weakening her chances of making Olympic beam finals. Beam has looked a tad shaky from Cheng so far this year but her performance in event finals at this meet was strong even without the dismount. 15.925 score.

Silver: Kristina Goryunova (Russia)- A strong performance in a meet in China bodes well for her olympic chances, though the Russians probably still don't need her with European beam champions Semionova and Lozechko in tow. However, a 15.675 is hard to overlook.

Bronze: Irina Krasnianska (Ukaraine)- A 6.9 A-score means that Krasnianska is back and looks to be on the Ukranian Olympic team after being left off the European team in favor of Zgoba competing bars only. Krasnianksa had a steady set with a couple wobbles; slightly underscored 15.525.

Other Notes: Xiao Sha apparently fell in the beam final, finishing 4th after easily winning prelims. Xiao blew her last shot to make the team, and I am thus officially changing my Chinese Olympic Team prediction by replacing her with Li Shanshan.

Floor Exercise

Gold: Cheng Fei (CHN)- Cheng Fei only competed a 6.2 difficulty score here. 15.550 score.

Silver: Yang Yilin (CHN)- Like I mentioned earlier she is really improving her strength on the power events, thus greatly increasing her AA medal chances. 15.275 score.

Bronze: Kristina Goryunova (RUS)- Another good showing from this unknown Russian. 14.400 score

Other Notes: Daiane dos Santos is STILL struggling on floor and I have many doubts as to whether she will have her full difficulty back for Beijing. She may be pacing herself, but she will certainly need a few competitions prior to the Olympics to get her full difficulty consistent. Finished 4th here with a 14.375.

Other News-Olympic Draw

The Chinese women drew the worst qualifying position imaginable for them, competing in the first subdivision and starting on the balance beam. China's consistency has improved, but it will take a lot of good preparation on China's part to do well while competing in this most undesirable position. China's first subdivision can make politically biased judges have an "excuse" to mark down the Chinese girls as they are known to do. Romania competes in the first subdivision, but starts on vault. The U.S. competes in the 2nd subdivision, which is just fine for them. However, ending on balance beam will be a tough task, but the girls performed very well while starting on beam at the 2007 Worlds. Russia competes in the 3rd subdivision, thus giving the team more opportunity for coveted event finals spots. Japan, Great Britain, and Italy will compete in the 2nd subdivision, which puts all of these teams at some risk for making team finals even though Italy should qualify barring a disastrous performance. Germany, Ukaraine, and Australia will compete in the 3rd subdivision. Brazil and France will compete in the last subdivision, providing these two bubble teams a huge advantage to make team finals and win AA and event finals spots as well. At this point I expect all the finalists at the 2007 Worlds-team finals to compete in team finals in Beijing, though I am predicting that Australia will steal Great Britain's former spot in qualifying for that competition.

Also, check out the Martha Karolyi interview at Inside Gymnastics. I was pretty dissapointed at Martha K's lack of knowledge of what is going on outside the U.S. You would think someone coming from an ex-Communist country would be tempted to follow the rest of the world's every move. After all, Chinese head coach Lu Shanzhen commented to International Gymnast Magazine how she is eagerly awaiting the U.S. Nationals and how they upgraded He Kexin's UB routine (and presumably Yang Yilin's also) to 7.7 start values after seeing that Nastia Liukin had this start value in her arsenal. What is she doing at the ranch all that time that she is not pushing zee gurlies to zee limit? She even referred to He Kexin as "some Chinese girl." And apparently she just heard that Kexin has a 7.7 A-score on bars, like Liukin. Well guess what, Martha? Double the pleasure, Yang Yilin now has a 7.7 UB A-score too. However, I was happy that she wasn't quick to point out that the U.S. is the huge favorite for team gold or anything like that.

One final note: Giulyx14 reported that Carlotta Giovannini (ITA) is planning on upgrading to an Amanar and also plans on adding an extra hald-twist to her 2nd vault, thus making it a RO 1/2 on tucked Rudi off vault. These upgrades, if done successfully, will boost Giovannini's vault medal chances considerably.

Next Post: Olympic FX Finals Outlook

That is all.

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