Going back about a month, maybe six weeks, I didn’t think there should be an American Cup this year. In the midst of the Larry Nassar trial, the horrors of a predator and those who enabled, covered up, and turned a blind eye, should USA Gymnastics be given any sort of platform, promoted in any way on the world stage when they had clearly failed in their duty of care, and were still at that point seemingly lacking any hint of creditable accountability.
Then I changed my mind as I thought about all of the US elites working for hours and hours behind closed doors while this storm raged through their sport. All of the decent and credible coaches, the antithesis of those to blame. All of the young girls just starting out, in love with this sport, in awe of those at the top, deserving of seeing, learning, and being inspired by what gymnastics is really about.
While the world had to see, had to hear, and had to understand what happened. While we must all stand with every single one of the survivors, and demand permanent change, gymnastics has been publicly ripped to shreds by the actions of those that should never have had access to, or be responsible for children and young adults. With that in mind, on reflection who better than the children and young adults who give everything for the sport they love to take to the stage once more, to represent the sport once more, and show America what gymnastics is, the beautiful sport that we all love, the pinnacle of athleticism and artistry combined.
Other than the home nation who may field two, federations may send one gymnast to a World Cup event, and Dynamo’s Kelly Simm was selected to represent Great Britain. Kelly returned to competition at the end of 2017 at the Cottbus World Cup after a long time away with injury. In 2015 she was part of the history making GB team that took bronze at World Championships, then with the run up to Rio in full swing, Kelly suffered a stress fracture in her back, severely limiting her training. Just making it back in time for the closed Olympic trials of summer 2016, Kelly was named reserved for the Rio team. In October 2016 at her first AA competition back, Kelly won the Rushmoor Rosebowl, but was injured on floor keeping her out of competition completely until last November, and AA competition until three weeks ago when she competed at the English.
Two and a half years from her last major international event, Kelly headed to Chicago to make her mark once more as a British senior international. Just announced as a member of the English Commonwealth Games team, a valuable experience of a being back at a big event on podium, to help her prepare for Australia.
Starting on vault, Kelly hit her Lopez for 13.833 (5.2D, 8.633E). Good vaulting, especially for someone relatively not long back on vault. From the angle we see, her legs are together as she hits the table, she lifts well, and moves through vertical holding the straight shape needed to be awarded the vault. Just in the final phase of the vault she likely had a little deduction for her feet, plus a pike down and a hop, but strong vaulting, and not far from her score at the English where judging was definitely more generous than it was here.
On to bars, and the judges were eagle eyed for everyone today. Kelly went through without major issue for 12.966 (5.3D, 7.666E). Slightly different opening from her routines we saw at Cottbus and the English, using the forward toe half instead of the Endo half, but both have the same value. Kelly missed the Stadler Shap directly from her toe full as she was late getting the turn round today, so 0.1 down on her D score, but other than that, the same routine we have seen from her recently, and she did it well. 7.666 E is tight, but it’s also worth noting that the highest UB E score was only 8.133. A lot of people have been asking abut her score, so to shed a little light, likely the main deductions really came on her turns today, she was a little late on her forward toe half, the late toe full they may have been especially harsh and hit her with the full 0.5 off. A little late again on the top turn at the end, and a little short on a couple of handstands, although the final one was beautifully stretched right on top of the bar. The double straight dismount piked down a bit.
There were other little form faults of course as we see with all gymnasts, and for those that were asking, these are what to bear in mind, and these are what people often don’t see. Make no mistake, this was a good routine, dynamic swing, smooth transitions, flight skills cleanly caught, no major errors at all. A routine of a true international level gymnast. The detail of deduction is so severe though, and that is what to remember if you’re scratching your head over a score. Look again at turns, were they within 10° of handstand? Were the casts within 10° of handstand? Did the gymnast reach horizontal out of her Shap transitions? Was there enough height on the releases, were they caught fully stretched with swing out? Were legs and feet fully stretched throughout all of this difficulty? Were there even the smallest of elbow bends, leg separations ect? It all adds up for all of the gymnasts, and the E score is chipped away at.
Kelly has more difficulty planned for this routine, but again has come out and hit her bars, looking secure, confident, cleaner in her swing than we’ve seen her, and most importantly reliable, and ready to go for Commonwealths.
On to beam, and if you thought bars judging was severe, well beam is all about doing a routine that goes well, then getting your score and feeling like you’ve been repeatedly punched in the face for your efforts. Remember World Championships, 151 beam routines two E scores over 8.000? This is now beam scoring. Particularly viscous are the rules for awarding connections. I’m all for smooth flowing connections, but the recent FIG video pretty much announced that your connection better be faster than Usain and sharper than Mustafina’s side eye, then if you do get it awarded, you’re going to be hit by a rhythm connection removing 0.1 anyway.
7.9 the highest E score today, 8.0 is the new 9.0.
Kelly did really well on beam, it is the mark of an experienced gymnast to be out of high level competition for so long, and be able to perform as if you’ve been regularly at big podium events. She looked calm and steady, another hit routine from her. Flick to chest stand mount, solid back tuck to open. Free walkover, she kept the foot lifted ready to go, but just paused for balance, then went into the change to change to side leaps. Flick straight it looks as though she wasn’t awarded today looking at her D score, jump full side on, nice double tuck with a pace to finish.
12.633 (4.9D, 7.733 E) this routine goes from a 5.2 with everything awarded, so with the flick straight, she’d lose 0.2 if not awarded taking it from an E to a C, then lose the 0.1 bonus taking her to the 4.9 she got today.
Looking at the routine, if she brought back her standing full, and turned the double tuck into a double pike it would give her her a 5.7 D, or if the full in dismount were ever to return, it would be a big 6.0.
That’s all speculative for the future though, today a strong routine, again very stable, confidently worked, looking good.
Finally on floor, and Kelly finished her AA with another strong performance. Stuck double straight to open, full in with a pace out second tumble. Nice range and extension in the change leap, then through to the split full. One and a half through to double tuck third tumble, she was short today on the landing, but saved it well. Lovely Popa jump, and finishing with a punch front through to double pike. As with her other pieces, Kelly looked more polished and extended that she has previously, performing well throughout. Good to see her back on floor, and again I think we may well see her build more here, as thinking back to her past routines there is more to go back in when she’s ready.
12.466 (5.1D, 7.466E)
Fifth place for Kelly on the day, she’s had two AA competitions back, and no major errors. She’ll head to the British next week hoping to challenge for the AA podium, then on to Australia as one of the most experienced members of the English team. Great to see her back, she’s still building, but as I say she looks a lot cleaner, and has difficulty to add from here, making her another of the GB seniors adding their name to the list of those challenging for spots on the major teams later this year. Well done Kelly.
Congratulations too go to James Hall who took silver in the MAG event. I slightly jinxed him by mentioning at the halfway point how consistent he is, so of course he fell on Pbars, but still a very good AA, and enough to finish in second place.
World AA Champion Morgan Hurd took the title, with Word Floor Champion Mai Murakami taking silver. New senior Maile O’Keefe took bronze, she had errors today, and is definitely one to be looking out for later this year. Neither US gymnast was completely error free, and it was refreshing to see them looking more philosophical and relaxed about errors early in their season, as opposed to glancing nervously to just behind the barriers for judgement from the team coordinatior.
Congratulations to all gymnasts, hopefully everyone will go on to have a successful year. A word of sympathy for Brazil’s Fabiane Brito who completed her DTY on vault, but was injured and unable to carry on.
Healing wishes to China’s Yi Mao who had an absolutely awful landing on vault and has broken her femur, not easily done, and it will have been excruciatingly painful. She has had surgery, and will begin her recovery. A devastating start to her year, may her recovery be as smooth as possible.