In the second half of January USA Gymnastics organized their first National camp of the year. An impressive number of athletes attended and the US Federation did an extraordinary job in showing us what they have been up to. No less than 15 clips were made available online, out of which 11 were of the seniors.
So many skills to see, analyze and discuss!
We were overjoyed but also a bit overwhelmed. Whether it was too much info too suddenly or maybe because life happened (I blame Winter Olympics!) it turned out difficult for us to grasp and wrap our heads around.
But in order to make up for the delay we now have a full presentation -one that we hope will be enjoyed by US regular and irregular followers alike. For each gymnast featured we have the clip from the January camp and a little starting point for discussion regarding the gymnast’s progress on one hand and her potential for a prospective future World team on the other. So here we go:
Elizabeth Price (Age: 17 (born in 1996) Coach and club: Bill and Donna Strauss at Parkettes)
In this video from camp we see a large portion of Ebee’s bars routine, then a couple of acro elements on beam, finishing with two passes on floor:
So, what do we think? Unlike other athletes present at camp, Ebee competed very late last season so she didn’t have time for upgrading her routines since. On bars, she continues to look effortless although if we were to be nit-picky we could mention that the full twisting double layout dismount does not look fully stretched (but it’s such a difficult element!). Then, on beam, her standing full looks nice and high, while the back handspring to layout to two feet have good amplitude (but will the judges credit this full value under the new rule?). The two passes on floor – double- double and full twisting double layout – are of such difficulty and Ebee does them like they are a walk in the park.
Her future place in the team: I believe at this point the general consensus for the “team watch” is that Ebee is virtually a lock. This must be her year. She can contribute on all four apparatuses although her big scoring events will still probably be bars and floor. On vault and beam, if she achieves a little bit more consistency, she could bring good scores too.
Madison Kocian (Age: 16 Coach/Club: Laurent Landi / WOGA)
In the video from the latest camp we can see most of Madison’s bars routine followed by a number of beam elements and a couple of passes on floor (on soft surface).
So, what do we think? On bars she has changed the first part of her routine – now doing in a sequence of Komova II to Pak salto to Chow transition to high bar. This appears to have helped her clean up a bit. Given the disaster that happened to her at last year’s US Nationals (when she sprained an ankle and was unable to compete until the end) it’s really good to see Madison not only back but with upgrades and looking improved, even if she showed only bars and beam so far.
Her future place in the team: Madison also competed at WOGA classic last week, on bars and beam. On bars she received a 15.1 despite losing a bit in difficulty mark by not connecting the Pak to Chow. On beam she received a 14.450 for a routine which included all the elements from the camp video. Compared to camp, though, she had some more form breaks- the added competition jitters tend to have that effect on people. So this will be the key for her, cleaning up her best events while also managing to come back to a level that would be of help to the team on the other two events.
(Age: 15 (1998) Team/coach: Kim Zmeskal Burdette & Chris Burdette at Texas Dreams)
Here is the video from camp in which we see a part of her bars routine and some beam work:
So, what do we think? Despite the lack of spectacular new additions, Nica looks clean and polished, all elements shown look secure and easy for her.
Her future place in the team: at this point her only way into a major team would be as a bars/beam speacialist. On both these events she is capable of much more difficulty than featured in the video (she had 6.0 D scores on both last year). But she will still need to upgrade in order to keep up with the other gymnasts who will want to earn the same spot.
Peyton Ernst (Age: 17 (1997) Coach: Kim Zmeskal Burdette & Chris Burdette at Texas Dreams)
One of the few featured on all four events – we get to see her DTY on vault, part of her bars routine (including dismount), a few beam elements (with mount, dismount and most of her leaps) and three floor passes (Double Arabian, DLO, double pike):
So, what do we think? With her it was not really a matter of upgrading, as she already has a lot of difficulty, but more about improving the execution of her skills and presenting clean routines on all four. In the camp video she looks strong and ready to take over the spring meets.
Her future place in the team: As a result of this camp she received an international assignment: to compete AA at Tokyo World Cup in April. Peyton also competed last year in Tokyo (placing second). So a lot of trust is invested in her and her continued development as an all around gymnast. She just needs to learn from these experiences, work hard and become consistent.
MyKayla Skinner (Age: 17 (1996) Coach/Club: Lisa Spini at Desert Lights)
We see MyKayla featured only on her pet events: two vaults (Cheng and Amanar) and floor with three impressive passes: double twisting double layout, double arabian to stag, 1 ½ to 2 ½ to stag, tuck double-double:
So, what do we think? Her elements didn’t look any better or any worse than last year at the P&G Championships. But, hey, I thought her big skills looked amazing last summer so this is not to take anything from MyKayla…
Her future place in the team: It is true that she has less scoring potential on bars and beam so this could seriously affect her chances of making a major team. But I think she can succeed despite these circumstances. The deciding factor will be whether she manages to clean up her vaults so that she can be a contender for international medals on this event. A lot will also depend on how much she will fight for her spot and if she manages to constantly hit in high pressure situations.
Polina Shchennikova (Age: 16 (1998) /Coach and Club: Alex & Katia Shchennikova at Tigar)
In the video from camp we see Polina doing half of her bars routine and a few skills or series from her beam routine:
So, what do we think? On bars she presented the beginning of her regular routine, which looks tight and pretty clean; the skills she does on beam were already in her technical “vault” last summer but they are tricky connections (and by that I mean difficult and original) so she couldn’t quite hit everything in competition last year, it’s good to see that she is working towards achieving this;
Her future place in the team: She is lovely to watch, but is this any guarantee? I will say this: anything is possible for her if she continues to improve and clean up. She has always had the potential of becoming a favorite for fans and judges alike.
Kyla Ross (Age: 17 (1996) / Coach and Club: Jenny Liang at Gym-Max)
In the video from camp we see parts of her uneven bars routine, followed by some beam work and two passes on floor:
So, what do we think? This is the first time we see Kyla since Worlds in Antwerp. She is not in the same kind of shape, obviously, but that would be physically impossible. She looks good, strong, even though she is not doing full routines yet. Also, no new elements are shown but upgrades have been rumored so maybe they are just kept under wraps.
On her future place in the team: her assets have remained the same that have put her in the Olympic team: a good balance of difficulty and execution on bars, very clean beam work and consistency. Add to that the fact that she is now a Worlds all around, bars and beam medalist, so prestige. A healthy Kyla will be a lock for USA.
Lexie Priessman (Age: 17 (1997) / Team and coach: Mary Lee Tracy at Cincinnati Gymnastics)
In the video from camp we see a strong vault (DTY), bits of Lexie’s bars and a few tumbling passes:
So, what do we think? First, let’s just say it’s good to see Lexie going strong and healthy after the scare at P&G Championships last year (Achilles tendon strain). There was not much time for upgrades, but then again on these events she already have a ton of difficulty: her bars looks good (though a bit watered down compared to US classic, most noticeably the full twisting double layout dismount is gone); on floor she does all her difficult passes (including full DLO and double double).
Her future place in the team: at this point is really early to say, it will depend on how consistent she will be when she starts doing full routines again. Her very difficult floor routine and good bars work will put her in contention for a spot.
Brenna Dowell (Age: (almost) 18 – born on 4th of March 1996/ Team and coach: Al Fong and Armine Barutyan at GAGE)
She is featured on all four events: we see her doing an Amanar, parts of her bars, a little bit of beam and her pike Arabian on floor.
So, what do we think? Much like Ross, she piked at Worlds so it wouldn’t make much sense for her to be on a new high so soon. But in general she seems to be doing very well in her preparation. It will be interesting to see how her bars set will evolve this year. But unfortunately we have no hint in the video about her Tweddle or other big skills on this event.
Her future place in the team: Despite recent controversies (I am referring to Worlds and then her declining a World Cup spot afterwards), I think Brenna has become one of the more reliable athletes team USA has. She can always contribute on vault, floor and even bars and beam so she will be one of the favorites to make the cut this year.
Maddie Desch (Age: 17 (1997) / Coach and Club: Al Fong and Armine Barutyan at GAGE)
We see her on all four apparatuses – a DTY on vault, the beginning of her bars routine, some beam work and a couple of passes on floor:
So, what do we think? The DTY looks improved compared to P&G Championships, while on bars the flashy addition is the Khorkina-type transition from low to high (we can’t tell what it is exactly). On beam she looks lovely, although despite her past health trouble she never looked bad on this event. She does a layout to two feet, with good amplitude, but she is capable of a layout full.
On her future place in the team: She is cleaning-up upgrading working on all four events. If Worlds were tomorrow, she may not be a favorite for a top spot, but Worlds are not until 8 months from now so it really depends on her.
Alyssa Baumann (Age: 15 (born in 1998) / Coach and Club: Laurent and Cecile Landi at WOGA)
In the footage from camp we see Baumann doing the first part of her bars routine followed by parts of her beam routine. In the end we have two of her floor passes.
So, what do we think? She has been working on bars a lot – toe-on full to Maloney to Pak are new. On beam, the three aerials in a row continued with artistic jumps look really nice. On the more obvious note, the DLO and the full in were not present in her floor routine last summer, and although not really ready yet, they both look promising.
Her future place in the team: Beam is where she shines at this point and a lot of hard work on this event on which USA doesn’t have many routines of high difficulty ( meaning 6+ D score), could go a long way. If she finds the key to consistency…
Simone Biles (Age: (almost 17) born on 14th of March 1997 Team and coach: Aimee Boorman at Bannon’s)
In the video from camp we see her on all four events – Cheng on vault, a brief part of her bars routine and then some acrobatics from her beam and floor respectively:
Improvements and upgrades: the Cheng vault is new and it looks really good; it was one of her most “predicted” upgrades but it’s still really nice to see it materialize. On bars, the Khorkina transition from low to high is new (she had a Maloney transition from low to high). On beam she does a new acro series – bhs-loso-loso while on floor she does her “old” (yet massively difficult) passes – with the exception of some added leaps.
Her future place in the team: It looks like this year’s Worlds team will be built around Simone. With her newly gained confidence she looks unstoppable – of course her amazing athletic prowess does help a lot as well.
First, let’s take a moment and celebrate the sheer depth US have at this time of year. They have at least eleven healthy seniors. Although they may be in different stages of their preparation, even if some have shown more or less potential for development than others, we are still talking about an impressive number of top class athletes. Add to that people like Sarah Finnegan (who was invited to camp but a video of her routines was not posted), McKayla Maroney (who was at camp too), Maggie Nichols (National team member, not present at camp) and first year senior Amelia Hundley (also not present at camp), who are also in contention for a place in the US Worlds Team.
Back to the videos – one of the more obvious conclusions is at least five gymnasts are obviously targeting that spot of the bars/beam specialist. Also, we can’t help noticing that a large number of the people featured are focusing at this point on just two or three strong events (most notably bars and beam) so most gymnasts are not opting for competing all around at this point. But should this be worrisome?
Far from it, because all has not been established yet: for full routines on floor it’s still quite early in the season as Nanning Worlds are at least eight months away. So it’s little wonder that only the ones in contention for World Cup assignments this spring (Ernst, Biles, Price) or the event specialists (Priessman, Skinner) showed impressive shape on this apparatus.
As for vault, while there are not that many Amanars featured, we know that team USA has all the Amanars they need (and then some). Plus, a safe pace for throwing this vault is crucial – doing it too often has been proven to take its toll on gymnasts’ health, unfortunately.
Coming back to the increased focus on bars and beam: it could have been the option of the editors of the clips (you can only cram so many elements in one minute videos), or it could have been a directive that came from the National team coordinators. Obviously, however, a lot of effort was put in these two events and if the development continues in this direction, the national titles on these events will be extremely disputed this year at the P&G Championships.
There is one more selection camp in March which will determine the team travelling to Jesolo (usually 8-9 gymnasts) and Pacific Rim (which will be three seniors and three juniors if I am correct). So a lot can change by then. But still, let us know who impressed you the most? Who would you put in your teams if you were in charge of the selection?
Article: Bea Gheorghisor
Cover Photo Source: USA Gymnastics
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