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Written by dwight normile    Friday, 22 August 2014 20:49    PDF Print
Orozco Takes First Day Lead as Mikulak Struggles
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Last year Sam Mikulak won the P&G Championships by about 3.0, with a couple of falls on his last event. This year he would not have that luxury given the growing depth of the U.S. men's program. So when he spotted the field that amount after his first three events tonight at the P&G Championships in Pittsburgh, a few gymnasts took advantage.

One of them was John Orozco, who posted a 90.750 and the top scores on parallel bars (15.60) and high bar (15.75). He also was the U.S. champion in 2012 and someone who won three consecutive national titles over Mikulak when the two were juniors. The former is not looking to get his title back, while the latter still thinks he has a chance.

"I wasn't even thinking about that," Orozco said of his first senior title in St. Louis two years ago. "The title is great, but it doesn't mean that much to me. I just want to do my best on every event. I know that sounds generic…."

Mikulak started his night with a blown parallel bars set in which he lost his grip after a giant-Suarez. After nailing high bar, he sat down a double front on floor two rotations later. Surprised his 88.40 still ranked fourth, Mikulak was his usual upbeat self afterward. Asked if he still felt like he could defend his national title, he didn't hesitate with his answer.

"Oh yeah," he said. "We're only halfway there."

Jake Dalton (90.250) rallied with the top floor score in the final rotation (15.65) to grab second. But what Dalton was most pleased with was his first, and weakest, event.

"Pommel horse, starting with a clean hit," he said.

And he built off that momentum with five scores from 15.20 on vault to 15.70 on high bar.

Finishing in third was Danell Leyva, who has had his share of disappointments recently. But he was solid from his first event, vault, to his clean effort on rings. His 88.90 total included a share of the top high bar score of 15.75 with Orozco. Leyva said he "trusted himself more" this year, but he knows there is still a lot of work ahead to make the world team.

"As far as the other guys, they look amazing," he said.

Placing fifth was Alex Naddour, who placed second to Mikulak in 2013, thus ending his reputation of a pommel horse specialist. And here, he scored only 14.600, while Mikulak took the top mark on the event with 15.150.

Donnell Whittenburg held the lead for the early part of the meet, and was near the top until he slid off pommel horse in the final rotation. He finished sixth (88.00), but posted the top vault score with an excellent Dragulescu (15.65). Brandon Wynn ranked seventh (87.90) and earned the best rings score (15.50).

The finals will be intense, with each gymnast trying to find a strategy to climb higher in the rankings and get onto the world championship team. Orozco, of course, has nowhere to go but down, but he's determined to stay put. He looked calm throughout a pressure-packed meet, and later revealed why he thought he did so well.

"I felt like [God] guided me through tonight," he said.

Perhaps it's a good omen that the finals are on a Sunday.


• Coming off shoulder surgery and then a torn pectoralis muscle, Jonathan Horton (12th) had not competed since the London Olympics. Prior to the meet he said he felt good but admitted that he had not hit six-for-six in training. He began his meet on parallel bars and looked sensational, showing superb technique and great amplitude. He made it through high bar but struggled to keep his swing going after a couple of his releases. He hit his floor set but went out of bounds twice and appeared to tire at the end. He also got through pommel horse but looked gassed by the dismount. Horton was strong on rings and ended his night with a clean handspring-double front.

Marvin Kimble (13th), who plans to start at Michigan in January, had a few rough spots Friday. One hand slipped off high bar on a regrasp, he fell off pommel horse, and his handspring-double front on vault overrotated and the momentum sent him running off the end of the podium.

• Also coming off a torn pectoralis muscle was Steven Legendre (20th), who began the night on his weakest event, pommel horse. He nailed the set and looked pumped. He had to muscle a front giant on rings but followed with a strong handspring-double front vault. He looked labored on p-bars and then had two falls on high bar and another on floor.


Written by dwight normile    Friday, 22 August 2014 14:11    PDF Print
Baker, Strech Lead Junior Men After Day One
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

The junior men took the floor at the P&G Championships in Pittsburgh Friday afternoon, and the field included 29 in the 15-16 age group and 11 in the 17-18 division.

In the former, Marty Strech (Azarian) edged Anthony McCallum (USOTC), 83.950-83.900, for the midway lead, and WOGA's Tristan Burke scored 82.000 for third.

In the older age group, incoming Illinois freshman Bobby Baker posted 84.450 for a comfortable lead over the 2013 15-16 champ, Hunter Justus (83.40), a freshman at Oklahoma. Kiwan Watts (Above the Bar) sits in third with 82.600.

Strech, who placed second a year ago, had only one fall when he put his right hand down after a Kasamatsu-1.5 twist vault.

"My plan coming in here was to hit six for six," said Strech, who will start his freshman year at Michigan right after Sunday's finals. "I've been working on [the Kasamatsu-1.5] for two years and it's been on and off … I was landing every one here in training."

McCallum, who used to train at Hayden's Gymnastics, showed immaculate form and great amplitude in places. And like Strech, his only mistake came on vault, where he over rotated a huge Tsukahara-double pike.

Baker, who actually took some classes at Illinois over the summer, hit all six events but realizes the competition is far from over.

"Today I'm happy with where I am," he said. "I just have to do the same thing on Sunday."

The powerful Justus struggled a bit on high bar (12.800) but boomed an incredibly high handspring-double front in the final rotation (15.000). That pushed him 0.80 ahead of Watts, whose long lines and excellent form contributed to solid scores across the board.


• Last night the 2004 U.S. Olympic teams were honored after the meet. Both the men's and women's teams won the silver medal in Athens, and Paul Hamm and Carly Patterson won the all-around golds. Hamm is now a boys' coach at Premier Gymnastics in Chicago. (He will be coaching Alex Diab, a junior, who will compete in the senior session tonight.) Patterson is happily married and living in the Dallas area.

Peter Daggett, son of 1984 Olympic gold medalist Tim Daggett, is in the field. He was named after Peter Vidmar, Daggett's close friend from UCLA. Vidmar has a son named Timothy.

• 1992 Olympic champion Vitaly Scherbo is in the arena, coaching Fabian DeLuna.

• Speaking of great Belarusian gymnasts, Andrei Kan is here as a coach for Swiss Turners, and his son Vitali is in the field.

• Also in the field is David Jessen (TAG USA), son of Czech great Hana Ricna.

Written by dwight normile    Thursday, 21 August 2014 20:27    PDF Print
Biles Miles Ahead After Day One of P&G Championships
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

2013 world champion Simone Biles hit all four events to take a commanding lead at the P&G Championships in Pittsburgh Thursday. Her 61.80 began with a 15.70 on beam, despite a wobble after her layout and a missed connection.

"I wasn't nervous starting on beam, because I start on beam in practice," she said. "I was nervous just because I was last (in the rotation)."

Coached by Aimee Boorman since she started the sport, Biles followed with a 15.650 on floor (see notes for passes), a 15.900 on vault (Amanar) and a 14.550 on uneven bars (Weiler kip, half-in half-out dismount).

Biles seemed to be having great fun throughout the night, especially on floor exercise, which was choreographed by Dominic Zito, who has done routines for several U.S. gymnasts in the past. Biles says she found him in the crowd right before she started her routine tonight. "I flashed him a look to say, 'This is for you, Dominic,'" she said.

Kyla Ross, the 2013 world runner-up, had a rough night, finishing fourth with 57.950. She hit beam but fell on her opening floor pass of whip immediate Arabian double front (sat down).

"That's something I recently added," Ross said. "[On the takeoff] I felt like I went straight up and straight down."

After vaulting a clean Yurchenko-double twist, she hit her 5.9 (D-score) bars routine, only to buckle on the landing of her double layout dismount.

"Bars was a pretty good routine, but unfortunately I couldn't finish the dismount," she said.

With Ross struggling, some new faces leaped into the top three. Maggie Nichols (Twin City Twisters) posted 58.650 and WOGA's Alyssa Baumann earned 58.400 to sit in second and third, respectively.

Both gymnasts proved the value of hitting four routines. Nichols' high score was 15.050 on vault (Yurchenko-double twist), and she scored between 14.450 and 14.600 on the other three events. Baumann shone brightest on beam, where her elegance and strong elements (Arabian front, Onodi) scored 15.150.

"I've been feeling really confident in the gym," said Nichols, who added that she's ready to stay there on Saturday night in the finals. "I want to show people I can get in the top two."

Well behind Ross in fifth was GAGE gymnast Madison Desch with 56.000, while Cincinnati's Amelia Hundley fell on her floor dismount after looking strong elsewhere.

The takeaway from tonight's senior session might be that the retirement of most of the Fierce Five has left the U.S. women's elite program somewhat depleted. It also should make the return of Olympic champion Gabby Douglas, who was in the crowd tonight, all the more probable.

As for the 2014 Nanning World Championships are in October, it is anyone's guess as to how the U.S. women's team will fare. And that was not the case heading into the London Olympics two summers ago.


Slim Pickens: Of the 13 gymnasts in the senior division, five are not doing all four events: Veronica Hults, Brenna Dowell, Madison Kocian, Ashton Locklear and Felicia Hano. Instead of four events going on simultaneously, the gymnasts are divided into two groups, and only one gymnast competes at a time.

• After the backswing following her Maloney on bars, Brenna Dowell swung right into a giant-full pirouette. Nice transition.

• Has anyone ever seen Kyla Ross (Gym-Max) fall off beam at a major competition?

• The last two competitors on floor in Rotation 2 were Simone Biles (World Champions) and MyKayla Skinner (Desert Lights), which means the crowd was treated to quite a tumbling show. Here are the eight passes they saw: tucked double-double, double layout-half, double layout, tucked full-in (Biles, 6.5 D-score); layout double-double, tucked double-double, tucked full-in, 1.5 twist through to 2.5 twist (Skinner, 6.6 D-score).

Simone Biles actually drops out of her Amanar vault. Amazing.

MyKayla Skinner vaulted a Cheng Fei, worth 6.4 (roundoff, half-on, layout rudi). It looked a lot like her layout double-double on floor, because she barely touched the vault table with both hands; in slow motion, it looked almost like a one-handed vault.

Written by dwight normile    Thursday, 21 August 2014 14:03    PDF Print
Newcomer Foberg Grabs First-Day Lead at P&G Junior Championships
(3 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)

With balanced consistency, Jazmyn Foberg claimed the first-day lead at the P&G Championships in Pittsburgh. With four scores ranging from 14.20 (beam) to 14.60 (vault), Foberg, coached by Maggie Haney at MG Elite, posted a 57.600 at the midway point of the junior all-around competition, which concludes Saturday afternoon.

Foberg had some help from her pursuers. Buckeye star Nia Dennis followed her high-flying bars set with a fall to all fours on her double layout dismount. And she also fell off beam in the final rotation (Arabian). Chow's Norah Flatley slid down the side of the beam when her feet missed their spot on a sheep jump. And U.S. Classic winner Jordan Chiles (Naydenov) made two errors on her first event, bars (see notes below).

Still, Foberg, who did not qualify to the P&G Championships last year, has as good a chance as anyone in the field to win the gold in two days. But was she surprised to be in first place?

"Yes, because I've never been here before," she said. "It feels great and I feel confident in myself."

Cincinnati's Emily Gaskins went four-for-four to grab second with 57.00, and in spite of her two falls, Dennis sits in third with 56.80.

"Mary Lee's (Tracy) been pushing me, and I've been working really hard," Gaskins said. "I want to make national team this year; I was so close last year."

Said Dennis of her mistakes: "Just have to let it slide. I think it was my nerves … I just love [gymnastics] so much I try to do it the best I can."

Flatley finished fourth with 56.550, a full point ahead of Ragan Smith (Texas Dreams) and Alexis Vasquez (Chow's), who tied for fifth.

"I think it happens to everyone every once in a while," Flatley said of her beam fall.

On day one of the junior P&G Championships, falls tarnished the all-around aspirations of numerous gymnasts, all of whom will vow to fix those mistakes in two days.

Junior Women's Notes:

• With the junior field missing defending champion Bailie Key (elbow), 2013 runner-up Lauren Hernandez (knee) and bronze-medalist Amelia Hundley (a senior), the 2014 U.S. junior title is up for grabs. That points to Nia Dennis, fourth in 2013, and Norah Flatley, fifth, as obvious contenders, but don't forget 2014 U.S. Classic champion Jordan Chiles (11th in 2013). Oops, as first up on bars, Chiles came up short on a blind change and later had to jump off after a cast handstand that went over the top (11.40). And after day one concluded, Jazmyn Foberg and Emily Gaskins add their names to the mix.

• The junior women's field comprises 35 gymnasts compared with 13 in the senior division. And a few of the seniors are not doing all four events. What do we make of this? Burnout? Over-training? The lure of dropping down to Level 10 and going the NCAA route?

• The home-state Parkettes have the most juniors in the meet at five. Chow's is next with three.

• The uneven bars judging panel includes mom-to-be Chellsie Memmel. As the 2003 world co-champion on the event (with Hollie Vise), she knows what she's doing.

Lauren Navarro (Gliders) mounted beam with a jump to a split from the side of the beam. Catchy.

Ragan Smith (Texas Dreams, formerly of Northwind), is still one of the tiniest gymnasts in the field, but her floor choreography was big. She danced effectively to a jazzy version of "Puttin' on the Ritz," which was the music of Texas Dreams coach Kim Zmeskal at one point.

Adriana Popp (Girls Co-Op) performed an excellent floor exercise. Don't think it was choreographed by the venerable Adriana Pop, however.

Shilese Jones (Auburn) mounted floor with a high tucked full-in, half-out, and ended with a tucked full-in.

Lexy Ramler (KidSport) included a Bhardwaj (full-twisting Pak) and a Comaneci in her bars routine. Two tough tricks.

Deanne Soza (Arete) does many things right, despite her ranking after day one (17th). With all the flexed feet on double somersaults, Soza tumbled a gorgeous tucked full-in with perfectly pointed toes, and her Yurchenko-double twist was high and elegant. A little more seasoning will push her near the top of the all-around.

Nia Dennis recently got a new training mate. After Olympic champion Gabby Douglas left Chow's in July, she joined Dennis at Buckeye Gymnastics. "It's been really good," Dennis told IG. "She pushes me … I try to do everything as good as she does. She's a really hard worker."

For quick hits of the competition, go the IG Facebook page.

For complete results, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 20 August 2014 11:05    PDF Print
Tutkhalyan Takes Youth Olympic Games Title
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Russia's Seda Tutkhalyan won the women's all-around final Wednesday as the 2014 Youth Olympic Games continued in Nanjing, China.

Russia's Seda Tutkhalyan won the women's all-around final Wednesday as the 2014 Youth Olympic Games continued in Nanjing, China.

Tutkhalyan built up a hefty lead going into the final event, but a mistake on her final floor exercise pass left her squeaking by Brazil's Flavia Saraiva for the gold medal, 54.900-54.700. Great Britain's Ellie Downie, who also fell on floor exercise, won the bronze with 54.150.

Tutkhalyan competed steadily scores 14.00 or higher on vault (high but messy double-twisting Yurchenko); uneven bars (Maloney to Pak; Maloney-half; Tkatchev; elgrip front giant to double front dismount); and balance beam, where her only major mistake was a step on her dismount (round off two-foot layout; front aerial; sheep jump; switch ring; round off ff 2 1/2 twist). She led by 1.2 points going into the final event, where she was the final competitor. Needing only 12.250 to take the title, Tutkhalyan tumbled three clean passes of whip, whip, ff double pike; 1 1/2 front full; and 2 1/2 punch front before sitting down her double tuck dismount. She scored 12.450 to give Russia its second Youth Olympic all-around title after Viktoria Komova, who won the inaugural event four years ago in Singapore.

Saraiva was the most consistent gymnast of the top group but had the weakest vault with just a simple Yurchenko full. The tiny Saraiva had the best scores of the day on both balance beam (14.050) and floor exercise (13.800).

Downie grabbed the early lead on vault and hit uneven bars, where she had fallen during qualification. She had one of the most difficult routines of the day on balance beam (punch front; standing Arabian; double turn; side somi; ff layout; 2 1/2 twist) but wobbles kept her score to 13.150. She sat down her piked Arabian double front mount on floor exercise, but continued well (1 1/2 to 2 1/2; tucked Arabian double front) to pass China's Wang Yan for the bronze.

Wang began well on vault with a double-twisting Tsukahara, but peeled off uneven bars on her first skill (Weiler kip). She also fell off balance beam on her tucked barani. After falling twice on floor exercise in qualification, Wang rallied to tie Saraiva for the high score of the day (13.800) for floor routine (1 1/2 to triple twist and tucked full-in opening passes).

Japan's Sae Miyakawa rounded out the top five. Miyakawa had a chance to win a medal in the final event, but also fell on floor exercise on her opening pass of layout front, double front. Sae, who dismounted floor exercise with a double layout, also impressed on vault (nearly stuck double-twisting Yurchenko).

Competition continues Saturday in Nanjing with the first day of apparatus finals. The competition will be shown live and on demand at

External Link: Official Website

2014 Youth Olympic Games
Aug. 20, Nanjing

Women's All-Around FinalVTUBBBFXTotal
1.Seda Tutkhalyan14.40014.05014.00012.45054.900
2.Flavia Saraiva13.90012.95014.05013.80054.700
3.Ellie Downie14.75013.35013.15012.90054.150
4.Wang Yan14.65011.95013.40013.80053.800
5.Sae Miyakawa14.70012.65013.40012.55053.300
6.Iosra Abdelaziz13.75013.35012.50012.95052.550
7.Laura Jurca14.60012.30013.00012.20052.100
8.Camille Bahl13.65012.10012.30012.70050.750
9.Antonia Alicke13.47512.35012.60012.25050.675
10.Tutya Yilmaz13.75011.55012.05012.95050.300
11.Ava Verdeflor12.90012.45012.85011.60049.800
12.Sydney Townsend13.60012.60011.95011.65049.800
13.Gaia Nesurini13.65012.40011.35012.35049.750
14.Veronika Cenkova12.75011.75012.60012.50049.600
15.Stephanie Hernandez13.35012.15011.40012.55049.450
16.Boglarka Devai13.40011.55010.40012.10047.450
17.Natalia Yakubava12.15012.40011.20011.60047.350
18.Nadine Joy Nathan13.60010.20011.65010.85046.300

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