Above: Happy Father's Day! Andy Memmel and Valeri Liukin with their respective daughters.
Prior to the start of the all important U.S. Olympic Trials next week, there have been several Olympic trials or pre-Olympic dual meets going on around the world. Four Chinese gymnasts have participated at the French Olympic Trials in what will likely be their last international meet prior to Beijing, and there has also been the Brazilian Nationals and a dual meet between Romania and Great Britain. Oh and Shawn Johnson's gym got flooded=AAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Without further ado:
French Nationals That Are Really All About the Chinese
- Yang Yilin had a strong showing, and is more and more beginning to showcase her strengths as a legitimate contender for Olympic AA gold. Posted marks of 15.125 (VT), 16.65 (UB), 15.75 (BB), and 15.175 (FX). In event finals she won gold on UB (16.825), tied for third on BB (15.325), but had a fall on FX (13.75). Yang has the potential to sneak into the AA medal ranks, but winning will be a tall order. Yang's consistency is something to be admired, though stamina required for a two-day competition probably impeded her event final FX and BB efforts. The more I think about it, the Chinese could use Yang on BB in team finals. She can hit, maybe with not a super high mark, but with a respectable mark that the Chinese can count on for consistency.
- Jiang Yuyuan had a lackluster vault score (14.575), which possibly could have been due to a shaky Amanar that was downgraded to a DTY, though there is no video yet. Has a 7.3 A-score on UB, but handstand deductions for late pirouetting are likely coming into play with scores of 15.8 (8.5 B) and 15.65 (7.2 A, 8.45 B) on that event. Won the floor exercise title but had a low mark on beam in AA finals (15.025). Jiang has the goods to win Olympic AA, but deductions like missed handstands, wobbles on beam, and occasional OOB's on floor will make the difference.
- Cheng Fei did not do her Amanar in either AA or event finals, but did do her Cheng (apparently successfully) in event finals, vault being the only event final she competed in. Scored a solid but unspectacular 15.55 in AA finals and landed on her head on her double-double on floor, scoring only a 14.275. Not quite the meet she was looking for, but she a very experienced veteran who was probably just treating this as a warm-up meet. It is beginning to look like she will be doing her Cheng vault in Olympic team finals, instead of the Amanar vault which she has done unsuccessfully in world team finals for the last two years.
- After this meet I seriously cannot see how the Chinese are going to even think of letting Sui Lu step foot into Beijing come August. Landed OOB on floor in AA finals (14.7) and had multiple falls off the balance beam as well (13.725). A score in the 13's would open a huge door for the USA in team finals, though Sui did mark a reasonable 15.35 in event finals. Sui Lu has all the potential to be the missing piece of the puzzle that China has been looking for, I thought after seeing the Chinese Nationals that Sui was a sure lock for the team. But as I said in my Chinese Olympic Team Outlook post back in early May, Sui Lu would be a huge gamble to risk competing in the Olympic Games, and I think the Chinese by now have realized that the risk of sending Sui will outshine the reward.
- Don't confirm this, but I heard that the French Olympic Team is: Pauline Morel, Marine Petit, Laetitia Dugain, Cassy Vericel, Marine Debauve, and Kathleen Lindor. Severino's Achilles injury from Europeans in April has disallowed this great gymnast from going to a third Olympics. Marine Debauve, who placed 7th AA at the '04 Olympics, has made a successful comeback to go to her 2nd Olympic Games. Cassy Vericel showed a 6.4 A-score on floor in the event finals of these championships, which apparently included a Dos Santos (piked double Arabian).
- Beth Tweddle was scheduled to compete but withdrew to a foot injury. No word yet on how serious it is.
- These scores were definitely stingy (comparative to USA and China Nats), and probably more or less around what you will see in Beijing.
- Penguin 888 reports that Ana Claudia Silva is the new AA champ of Brazil, not Jade Barbosa (shock horror) Jade had falls on her Amanar (which scored a 14.5 and probably wasn't credited with full rotation, it was a truly splatted vault if there ever was one) and a fall on her acro series on beam, which also gave her trouble at the recent Moscow World Cup.
- Khiuani Dias withdrew from the competition entirely, and Daiane dos Santos still has a ways to go on floor exercise (14.667 in prelims).
- Despite Jade's AA trouble, she did manage wins on vault, bars and floor. No word yet on who won beam, but I suspect that top qualifier Daniele Hypolito (15.7 in prelims, rumors of a 7.0 A-score here) won that event.
- In prelims, Lais Souza was unspectacular, only finishing in the top three on balance beam with a 14.733 there.
- Jade has looked very skaky this year, although her floor exercise consistency looks to be greatly improving. She did her first Amanar vault of 2008 and it wasn't even close, and the ff+ff+2-foot layout acro series on beam has been giving Barbosa all sorts of trouble. Losing to little known all arounder Ana Claudia Silva will no doubt have a negative affect on Jade's confidence. However, last year Jade looked like an unremarkable gymnast until the Worlds where she easily was in the best condition of her life and was challenging for the World AA title. If she can repeat that concept of peaking at the right time for Beijing, than the top AA girls better watch out. Sadly though, I don't see it happening. Her consistency isn't improving, and if anything it is regressing to the point where hitting 4 for 4 routines in a major championship seems to be very unlikely.
GBR vs. ROM Dual Meet
- Romania won here (duh), with Steliana Nistor winning the AA. Steliana apparently only did a yurchenko 1.5 (14.6), but was excellent on bars and beam and finished with an AA score of 61.0. Likely fell on floor in the AA (14.2), but adding eight tenths to 61 would make Steliana a very legitimate AA contender, though these scores look to be inflated. Nistor followed up her AA win with a UB win and silvers on BB and FX. Overall, Nistor looks to be close to top shape less than two months prior to the start of the Games.
- Rebecca Downie is coming into her own for the British team and placed a strong 2nd AA with scores ranging from 14.55 (floor) to 15.8 (bars). Won vault in event finals and also placed 2nd on uneven bars. The emergence of this youngster will hopefully help Great Britain to make Olympic team finals.
- Sandra Izbasa is still having problems with the dreaded bars (13.55-sat down dismount) which will very likely take her out of the Olympic AA medal hunt in Beijing, unfortunately. Strong work on beam and floor, and a DTY on vault (relatively skaky though) kept Izbasa in the AA medals with a bronze at this meet, and would end up defeating Nistor for gold on both of those events in event finals. Without Ponor competing, Izbasa could make Olympic BB finals as well as challenging for FX gold, now that she won't have to worry about the 2-per country rule.
- Imogen Cairns improved her Olympic chances by defeating compatriot Marissa King for silver on vault. King, a vault specialist, tied for 5th AA but appeared to be lackluster throughout the competition on her key event to make the British Olympic team.
Thoughts and Rumors on Shawn Johnson's Flooding Situation
If you haven't already heard, there have been floods around much of Iowa and in the process the floods decided to go and invade Shawn Johnson's gym, which ended up being a very unusual roadblock for Shawn's training for the Olympics. There have been rumors that Martha K. is going to let Shawn train at the ranch after the trials until, presumably, when the U.S. team leaves for Beijing. Shawn went to Iowa State to train immediately following the flood, and should be leaving for the trials on Monday. There have been reports suggesting that Johnson left West Des Moines with almost the assumption that she won't be returning until possibly after the Olympics are over. Barring something very unlikely Shawn will get one of the two guaranteed births to the Olympic team in Philly next week. Training at the camp would be an ideal situation for Shawn, as the camp now has Jansen-Fritsen equipment, the same equipment being used in Philly, Beijing, and at Shawn's gym. However, if Shawn feels that Martha K. would not be a positive influence to her training (though Chow and Li will probably both go down with her and still coach her as normal), than Shawn should likely move in with another top gymnast. In this scenario, Chellsie Memmel would come to mind. Shawn and Chellsie's personalities are fairly similar, and having training partners would allow both gymnasts to push each other even more to come to the Olympics in peak condition.
EDIT: Shawn will be going back to Chow's after the Olympic Trials.
That is all.