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3:18 p.m.: Danell Leyva’s new double front dismount off bars is hot. Very well done there.
After doing a couple handspring double fronts onto eight inch mats on vault, Sergio Sasaki does a double Dragulescu timers. It’s possible we might see two Dragulescus: one from Sasaki and one from Verniaiev on Saturday.
32-year-old Jorge Hugo Giraldo of Colombia is doing gymnastics with the ease of a man half his age. He does take care, though — nothing too risky, and he watches his numbers not to burn himself out. You get the idea that every turn he takes counts. He’s a quiet one, but so clean, and wonderful work on parallel bars and pommel horse, especially.
Italian coach Enrico Casella stops by to chat with the media. “I control the media,” he jokes with a big grin on his face. He’s a charming man, talks easily and fluently in English. What does he think about the reality show Giannaste? “I want to train gymnasts, not stars,” he says. So camera time in the gym is strictly restricted.
2:42 p.m.: I’m trying to gauge what sort of shape Danell Leyva is in, and how well it’ll translate into his routines. He’s not in Olympic shape. His first high bar routine attempt was a mess. It’s gotten better since. Still, the reason you can never count Danell out is that he wants it more than anyone else out on the floor. Almost guarenteed.
Man, Marcel Nguyen makes a half in half out on floor look easy.
Oleg Verniaiev, who is very capable of a Dragulescu on vault, does humongous timers but hasn’t stood up a double front yet. The first one was undercooked, the second overcooked.
New tumbling pass for Sergio Sasaki of Brazil, it appears: he’s working a double double layout opening pass, which is cool. Nguyen isn’t what you’d call an elegant tumbler. But so scrappy on that double double tuck! (He’s capable of a triple double.)
2:19 p.m.: Like countless other Olympic athletes, Jake Dalton has had the Olympic rings tattooed between his shoulder blades. Some athletes opt to have it done small, some big, and Dalton is definitely the latter. (You wonder if he and John Geddert went to get theirs together, though Jake’s is the less ostentatious if we’re making that comparison.) Still, you can make it out across the arena.
Dalton is of course not the only tattooed guy here — Marcel Nguyen has his “Pain is temporary, pride is forever” tattooed across the front of his chest in big script. I asked him how long it took to get. “About three hours,” he said. Did it hurt? He smiled. “Yes, a little bit.” (But of course, pain is temporary.)
And the question everyone wants to know: will he be using concealer to cover it up for this meet the way he did with the Olympics? Nope. “Only for the Olympics,” he said. I told him I thought the American crowd would like it. “I hope so,” Marcel said. Another smile.
2:08 p.m.: Oleg Verniaiev really does have some of the most elegant gymnastics out there. Wonderful body shapes and such clean lines. Marcel Nguyen is a wiry, scrappy gymnast with big skills, but you can’t really compare the two.
Kristian Thomas, the tall man of Great Britain, is working timers for his handspring double front on vault, and taking it easy. Jake Dalton says he realizes he needs to improve on pommel horse in order to be a great all-around gymnast, but I’m not seeing tons of improvement so far on this event.
2:05 p.m.: Like every other member of the Japanese men’s team, Hiroki Ishikawa has a fantastic triple twist on floor. He does his as a side pass. He’s also got quite the nice Arabian double pike, it appears. Of everyone in this field, he’s the least known and the biggest question mark.
1:57 p.m.: So, the media got 20 minutes with Nastia Liukin, so we all trooped back to the media room and it’s making me wonder if I missed the burnt of the action of men’s podium training. Unlike the women, the guys never do nearly as much in terms of routines and such, but this afternoon looks especially tame. Ergo, I’m going to work on transcribing some interviews, interspersed with observations from this men’s session.
Hey, Oleg Verniaiev is trying to land his double front off p-bars this afternoon.
1:20 p.m.: OK, women’s podium done, interviews conducted and being transcribed. Stay tuned for notes from men’s podium, starting in about 10 minutes! Say, I hear USA Gymnastics had a live feed. What’d you all think?
12:20 p.m.: Over on beam, Asuka Teramoto is showing off why she nearly made finals on this event in London. That double turn to immediate full turn, crisp and perfect, was just sublime.
Biles is hitting on bars at last, connecting her pike Tkatchev to a Pak salto (oooh!) Good routine. Full in double tuck dismount. Ohashi goes up next and comes off on a low bar inbar stalder pirouette. Nobody’s been perfect on bars today. Which is maybe not a good omen for Saturday…
12:17 p.m.: Biles is having some problems on bars, falling again on her pike Tkatchev and struggling on her toe half. Ohashi, meanwhile, is doing quite well, looking crisper and crisper as this session goes on.
12:13 p.m.: Artistry award: Vanessa Ferrari is really impressing today in terms of flexibility, toepoint, extension, polish, stuff like that. Very evident on balance beam. Given her gymnastics as a teenager, I wouldn’t have expected her to become a form/presence gymnast. But it’s what she’s needed to stay relevant, and it’s what she’s been able to do.
Victoria Moors was impressive as well on floor. Seitz does an FTY on vault. She’s smiling and talking with her coach. Ooh, nice double layout from Chant on floor there. Pikes down the second flip a tad, but still very well done.
12:11 p.m.: Ooh, Ohashi looks better on bars compared to two weeks ago at the WOGA Classic. Her inverted pirouettes are still giving her some problems, but nothing like they were — the challenge is very subtle.
12:08 p.m.: Biles has all kinds of new tricks on bars: Maloney (missed her first one — it’s still a long way between bars for her!) and a pike Tkatchev (missed the first one) and a Weiler kip with half turn. It’s like she’s taking the best of Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber on bars.
OK, maybe Ross’s growth spurt has hampered her on bars. But just a little.
12:02 p.m.: Of all the places that Kyla Ross’s growth spurt could have hurt her, bars seems like the most likely. But that’s not the case — her swing is as fluid and her moves are unaffected. It’s almost helped. A swing like that, however, is a great influence on someone like Biles, for example, who goes up after her. Bars is the one event that she’s really had to work hard on to get up to the level of the rest of her events, and she’s definitely getting there.
American vault recap: No Amanars. Nothing but FTY timers that I saw.
11:59 a.m.: Asuka Teramoto on bars: Jump to high, inbar stalder, stalder full (small struggle) to Gienger (falls). Stalder blind to Jaeger. Stalder to giant to bail to Ray. Hm. Not bad, not incredibly fluid either. Asuka has done a lot of timers for things but not a whole lot of unassisted gymnastics in this session. That’s not a criticism, just a fact. Obviously the training style is designed to protect her from injury. Brings her legs together late on her stalder pirouettes.
11:53 a.m.: Gabby Jupp’s coach comes over and asks for her floor music to be played, only to find that the person in charge of floor music has gone to the bathroom. So they’re waiting. Her coach was really lovely about it. All right, here we go with that: A very cosmopolitan little piano piece with orchestral accompaniment. Nice choreography too. That will be fun to watch! Her coach says thank you to the music person at the end. Awww, how nice!
11:49 a.m.: Man, aren’t Biles’s vault timers monstrous? Also impressive is Gabby Jupp on floor. We’ve seen a full in tuck from her, and two very good Arabian double fronts, in addition to a 1.5 to front layout.
Maybe I’m not paying enough attention, but Eli Seitz seems to be doing the least numbers of anyone here. It was the same way last year with her teammate Lisa Hill, who stood around a lot in training and then ripped out full difficulty everything on competition day. Seitz has shown a full in double pike and a double pike on floor.
Biles’s FTY timer has so much bounce she nearly rockets as high as the horse on her rebound. Sheesh.
11:46 a.m.: Nice double front off the bat from Ferrari over there on bars. One of the weird little nuances of the new code is something like, it’s a deduction to stand in the corner on floor and wait. It seems like FIG is encouraging the very old school style of doing a quick half turn in the corner and beginning to tumble, a departure from what we’ve seen during the past, like 25 years. (Commenters, do I have that right?)
11:43 a.m.: Well, with women’s podium training half over, I’d say Ohashi is winning it (podium training, that is.) Biles is an incredible talent, but was a tad shaky on beam. You never know what’ll happen in competition, of course. Ohashi and Biles are buddy-buddy, going around the arena with their heads together, smiling and whispering and obviously thrilled to be here. They’re being told at the moment that on their vault timers the mat is really hard and that they shouldn’t go to their backs.
11:39 a.m.: Much better effort from Chant on bars in her last go-round there. Made everything with a lot more fluidity. Maybe all it took was a little warmup. Full twisting double tuck dismount.
None of the Americans did a dance through on floor, so what everyone’s using for music is still a mystery…
11:36 a.m.: On bars, Chant is working a blind sequence. It’s a tad slow, obviously a work in progress. She breaks her shoulder angle before her bail, and maybe looks like she’s trying to control the routine a little too much rather than just letting it swing, which more often than not leads to falls. Moors has a few form breaks on bars — toes, leg separations and the like.
11:32 a.m.: Oh, yes, it is a double double for Biles! Interesting technique. Obviously a new skill for her. She’s definitely got enough power to do it, but the technique looks different somehow from Shawn Johnson or Jordyn Wieber. Then she goes back and does a huge, floated double layout, making it look so easy. How nice it is to have choices!
Meanwhile, Gabby Jupp is doing a nice, nice two layout stepouts on beam. Way to bring it back! I’d like to see more of those combinations on beam. The front layout to bhs, layout is so last quad. Very solid work from this young Brit, with a double pike dismount as well.
11:27 a.m.: Asuka Teramoto hasn’t done too much aside from Yurchenko timers on vault. She’s so small and doesn’t have great block on the horse — I wouldn’t expect a huge vault from her here.
Biles is doing a timer for…a double double, maybe? She just did a full in and rolled out of it…Ferrari, meanwhile, appears to be working up to a Yurchenko 1.5.
11:25 a.m.: Ooh, Ohashi’s tumbling is gorgeous! Beautiful 2.5 to front layout to begin with today warming up. Followed by a 2.5 to front layout full. She’s lost nothing on those skills during the past year. Ross is tumbling too, but working up to things more slowly (that is to say, doing timers.)
11:21 a.m.: Hey, there’s Nastia! She’s in a white jacket and talking and laughing with USA Gymnastics staff. The Americans are done on beam, and Gabby Jupp takes advantage to get right up and work. Double turn. Roundoff, layout dismount.
11:17 a.m.: Ross finally throws a double tuck dismount on beam. Solid. She’s being talked to by Martha Karolyi, who is making some ape-like movements, throwing her arms over her head and the like, instructing her. Martha is very interested in what Ohashi is doing on beam, and leaves Jenny Zhang to finish the lecture and goes to watch Katelyn. Katelyn’s added a little bit, it appears: switch half to back tuck. That double pike off is solid.
11:15 a.m.: Asuka Teramoto on floor is competing her 2012 routine, I believe.
On vault, Victoria Moors is doing a DTY (some landing problems but nothing severe), while Maegan Chant worked a handspring layout half, I believe. Elvira Saadi could give supermodels a run for their money in a thinness contest.
11:12 a.m.: Dvora and I are in awe of Vanessa Ferrari on floor. We agree her she should have been the 2010 World Champion on floor.
Ohashi is two for two on her layout fulls on beam. Dvora remarks that it’s not as stretched as it once was, but it is more controlled.
11:06 a.m.: Interesting: For Kyla Ross’s punch front on beam, coach Jenny Zhang puts up a carpet on the beam. Not a pad. Literally, a small carpet. Pretty much a full routine from Kyla there, sans dismount.
Ohashi’s killing it during her full routine. Very nice set, no big problems anywhere, all her big skills in.
Simone Biles on beam: Double turn in wolf position. A bit wild on her front aerial, but some cool stuff in here choreography-wise. Off on bhs, bhs to two feet, layout to two feet, which is something new for her this year. Wobbles here and there. Full turn with leg up to back pike. Bhs, bhs to full in double tuck timer! Ooooh, Simone!
11:00 a.m.: The U.S. goes to beam, the Canadians begin on vault, Britain and Germany on bars, Japan and Italy on floor. As usual, the Americans are all business on beam, though the intensity of, say, a World Championships isn’t quite there. At Worlds it’s routine after routine after routine. Here they’re taking time to work individual elements and series. Ohashi looks calm and controlled up there.
Vanessa Ferrari on floor: It’s powerful and elegant, which I realize describes a lot of floorwork. The second half at least looks the same, to “Last of the Mohecians.” It’s a wonder how far she’s come in her artistry and expression on this event. She does no tumbling. I really approve of whoever’s doing the choreography for the Italians. If you haven’t seen it yet, Youtube Enus Mariani’s new floor routine. Now that’s artistry.
Kyla Ross is doing real stuff on beam. Her right ankle is wrapped, but the heel guards are gone and she looks more or less ready. Suffice to say she could look less ready.
10:59 a.m.: Simone Biles’s appearance here is a big moment for her coaches, Amy Poorman and Luis Brasesco, owner of Bannons Gymnastix in Texas. As far as I know, she’s their first high-profile elite. There’s a story about Simone at age six that she would do standing back tucks while waiting in line for things in the gym. Talk about energy.
10:55 a.m.: Ohashi is working Onodi to immediate front aerial, front aerial on floor. And her layout full series, of course. They’re very interesting to see all together, these three very different Americans: Biles the powerhouse — you can see it in her walk. Ross the tall, fluid one, and Ohashi, who’s somewhere in between.
10:51 a.m.: You can’t forget about Elisabeth Seitz in the all-around race. The young German, who has said she’ll skip the European Championships this year to focus on school, is here and blonde as ever.
Pretty pink and black leos from the Americans today! Sleeveless of course. Kyla Ross looks like she’s warming up to me. Back tucks across the floor, and now she’s working her beam series. She’s definitely taller, very long lines. I do have to wonder if they might not exhibition her after all….
10:48 a.m.: The Americans fan out. Kyla Ross does standing back tucks off beam, working on sticking her dismounts. Simone Biles and Katelyn Ohashi are doing timer runs on vault. Ohashi then goes over to bars and is working upper body strength stuff under the watchful eye of Valeri Liukin. Biles comes over and does some cast handstands.
10:45 a.m.: Holy leg muscles, Vanessa Ferrari! Very toned.
10:42 a.m.: I saw the tail end of the men’s podium training morning session (they’ll have an afternoon session later on.) Both Marcel Nguyen and Oleg Verniaiev looked good, even if they seemed to be saving their bodies for actual landings later on. Verniaiev did about five double front dismounts off pbars and seemed to deliberately land them all on his bottom.
Hm — Britain’s Gabrielle Jupp may have a bhs, layout, layout on beam. That’s the series she’s prepping on floor.
10:40 a.m.: Maegan Chant, the last gymnast to be added to the lineup (when you need an extra, count on the Canadians!) is one of the gymnasts I’m most excited to see compete here. She’s got great tumbling (Youtube it) and in the past two years, she’s landed a Tsuk double full on vault at least once. (I don’t remember the competition, but she looked like Yelena Zamolodchikova doing it. With better form!)
10:33 a.m.: The women have begun their general stretch. Vanessa Ferrari, in black and thick white socks, looks oh-so Italian. Her warmup jacket, while not made of leather, certainly looks like it is!
The Japanese are still wearing marshmallow-puffy white jackets. That’s coaches and athletes, by the way…
10:30 a.m.: Kyla Ross is here in Worcester, though she is not scheduled to compete. USA Gymnastics was hoping that Kyla, Simone Biles and Katelyn Ohashi would be able to compete, with one of them in the alternate role that Gabby Douglas so famously held last year, but Kyla’s bruised heel has held her back from doing the numbers needed, in spite of the fact that she verified all four events at the last national team camp.
I wonder whether Kyla will be training today. She’s dressed in USA team sweats, and on first impression has definitely grown a few inches since last summer. She almost towers over Simone Biles and Katelyn Ohashi.
Before women’s podium training began, a chipper-looking Martha Karolyi gathered the U.S. coaches around her and had a little meeting. Funny how the coaches standing around her at attention resemble how the athletes stand in line at the national team camps!
USA warmups: Black and hot pink, with hot pink socks. #hotpink lives! I guess they figure if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
WORCESTER, 10:29 a.m.: Olympic hangover? What Olympic hangover?
Two weeks ago, the 2013 American Cup looked an awful lot like the two big competitions that preceded it, the 2012 Stuttgart and Glasgow World Cups. Both were won by the U.S.’s Elizabeth Price and Olympic all-around silver medalist Marcel Nguyen of Germany, as both gymnasts enjoyed a well-deserved run of strength while a lot of their competition was off touring, relaxing or doing whatever it is one does right after the biggest sporting event of their lives.
When the lineups were announced, the American Cup looked like more of the same. That made it easy to predict another Price victory over Olympic team gold medalist Kyla Ross based on her superior Amanar vault and high start values on the other three events. So long as she didn’t fall, Price would take it, it seemed. Ditto Nguyen, though the competition would be closer between himself and Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev, the U.S.’s Danell Leyva and Brazil’s Sergio Sasaki.
But then Price scratched after a sustaining a strained hip muscle in January and it looked like it would be a walk in the park for Ross, who after all is an American star in a women’s competition that hasn’t been lost by an American since 2001. But earlier this week, she too dropped out, to be replaced by two gymnasts who will make their senior World Cup debuts here in Worcester: 2011 Junior U.S. champion Katelyn Ohashi and 2012 U.S. bronze medalist Simone Biles. They are chalk and cheese: Ohashi is a finesse gymnast with an extraordinary aptitude on bars and beam; Biles is an energetic powerhouse with terrific capacity on vault and floor.
Add in the senior international debuts of Gabrielle Jupp of Great Britain and Maegan Chant of Canada, as well as the force of Olympians Victoria Moors (CAN) and Asuka Teramoto (JPN), both of whom were impressive young talents in London, and the experience of Germany’s Elisabeth Seitz and Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari, and ladies and gentleman, we have a real competition.
Today, men’s and women’s podium training. Tomorrow, the annual Nastia Liukin Cup, a showcase for on-the-rise level 10 gymnasts that made stars of Gabby Douglas and Lexie Priessman, among others. Saturday, the American Cup. Quick hits begin now. Enjoy!
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