All the members of USA’s gold medal winning world team are expected to compete at the 2015 Secret Classic. The only exception is the team alternate, Madison Desch, who recently competed at the Pan-American Games.
I don’t know what I could possibly say about this girl, that could do her justice. She is only 18 years old, and she’s already a legend. She is a two times world All Around champion, she has become one of America’s most decorated athletes after only two years as a senior, she is one of the best vaulters and tumblers this world has ever seen, she has some of the most difficult routines out there, she has a skill named after her and the best thing: this doesn’t event seem to be her best possible shape. Simone was a junior with a fantastic amanar and mediocre routines on the other events. And in one year, she became the absolute best gymnast on the planet. 2015 has been extremely succesful for her so far, since she dominated the American Cup and the Jesolo Trophy and there’s no doubt she is the top contender for the All Around, vault, floor exercise and balance beam title at nationals. She said she is planning to compete All Around and she is simply unbeatable. There’s no other gymnast in the entire country who comes even close to her scoring potential and she could easily win this meet even with mistakes. The fact that she had some of the highest start values in 2014 doesn’t discourage her from continuing to upgrade. Now, she has added a full twisting double layout on floor and she’s been working on plenty of new elements, like a Moors, a Cheng, a grigoras, a khorkina and a mustafina on bars. I don’t think adding the Moors to her routine would be worthy, but I’d love to see some of the other skills in her routines. She is also expected to debut her new choreography and I’m beyond excited for that.
In the beginning of the quad, it seemed like most people thought Kyla would have a hard time competing against her teammates unless she upgraded. Two years and zero upgrades later, Kyla had already won plenty of world medals and she never stopped being USA’s second best All Arounder. Now, we already are in the year before the Olympics and she seems to be one of the front runners for the worlds team once again. Kyla’s coaches have been smart. They saw she was growing and she was struggling and they did not push too hard. Instead of having her perform difficult elements she would miss half the time, they decided to go with easier but clean and consistent routines she would hit every time and this has been the key to Kyla’s success. It seems like she finally stopped getting taller and all the problems she had last year have healed so maybe, it’s time to add some more difficulty. She already showed a reworked bars routine at Jesolo. She now connects her pak to her van leeuwen and she replaced the double layout dismount that gave her some trouble with a great double front. She is rumoured to have shown a 6.6 bars set, a 6.3 beam routine and a 6.0 floor routine at camps. That would give her an absolutely competitive 14.7 All Around difficulty. On bars she is working on an exciting chow + bharwaj combination and she executes the full twisting pak salto better than most people who have attempted it in the past. I have no doubt that Kyla will be at worlds if she stays healthy, but with Bailie Key being a senior and Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas coming back, there will be much more competition for her. It will be very interesting to see if she can still be USA’s second best All Arounder.
MyKayla has come a long way since her senior debut in 2012. Back then, it looked like she would be an other promising junior who never managed to live up to her full potential as a senior. However, she got over her struggles and she came back strong, showing an incredible skill level during this quad. She wasn’t quite ready to be considered a contender in 2013, but in 2014 she showed much more consistency and she proved that she deserved to be part of the discussion. Her performance at worlds was absolutely fantastic. She hit every single routine she competed, she made it to two event finals and she won a bronze medal on vault as well as her team gold. Her gymnastics are obviously far from perfect but I don’t think I can say anything about he block on vault, her form on bars, her leaps or her bent knees that hasn’t been said multiple times already. MyKayla didn’t have the best competition of her life in the American Cup, where she had to downgrade her vault and was a bit shaky throughout the competition but she seems to be working hard on upgrading her routines. She has been training a 1.5 + triple, a full in + back tuck, a full in beam dismount and a double double bars dismount. Right now, USA has plenty of All Arounders who have all the events covered, so I could see them selecting the last member of the team based on their medal potential in individual finals and Skinner is a top contender for vault. That means that getting her amanar back and proving she still is one of the world’s best on vault and floor would significantly improve her chances to get a ticket for Glasgow. Floor will be a particularly challenging event, since she will be competing against the reigning world champion, Simone Biles and the reigning Olympic champion, Aly Raisman.
Madison has spent the biggest part of her career being injured. She was an elite athlete for a long time, but we barely saw her competing during the previous quad because she was never healthy enough. She made a strong senior debut in 2013, earning big scores on bars and beam but an ankle injury took her out of contention again. Her ankles were still bothering in 2014 but for the first time, she was healthy enough to shine and it was absolutely delightful to see her being healthy enough to compete at worlds. She didn’t have the performance she would have wanted during qualifications and she missed on bars finals, but she was still able to deliver a strong routine, help team USA finish in the first place and returned home with a gold medal. Unfortunately, 2015 started with an other injury that forced her to miss many training camps and competitions so far. Because of that, the level of gymnastics she’s capable of right now is a complete mystery. Bars were her ticket to worlds last year, but this time around, with Bailie Key being a senior, Gabby Douglas coming back and Simone Biles getting back all her difficulty on this event, a bars specialist is not as needed. I think she needs to prove she is team finals worthy on at least one more event in order to be considered. She has always been promising on balance beam and now would be the right time to show a strong upgraded routine on this event. Last year, she had an incredibly difficult bars set, which included a komova 2 + pak salto since chow 1/2 combination and a standing arabian on beam and I hope she is still capable of performing world class gymnastics.
Maddie’s WOGA teammate, Alyssa Baumann, has also had a fair amount of injuries during her career. Thankfully, that didn’t stop her from earning a spot to the worlds team and winning a gold medal. Just like Maddie, Alyssa made the team thanks to one event. In her case this was balance beam. But as mentioned above, it’s going to be very hard for someone to make the team this time based on one event, especially when they are not a top medal contender for event finals. That means that Baumann needs to prove herself as an All Arounder and as a floor worker. She started the year with a disappointing meltdown on the uneven bars at WOGA classics, but thankfully, she didn’t let that affect her. She has done very well at the training camps and she had a very good competition at Jesolo, where she was 5th in the All Around and 2nd on balance beam. Her beam set, which includes a standing arabian, an onodi, a switch ring and a switch leap + switch half combination, earned a massive 15 during team finals. Some of the upgrades she has shown are a ricna on bars, a sheep jump and a double pike dismount on beam and a piked full in on floor. She has been training some massive skills, like a Dos Santos and an Amanar but I would be very surprised to see those in this competition. She has always been promising on floor and she has competed an impressive variety of tumbling passes through the years (double layout, piked full in, whips + triple, whips + double tuck, 2.5 + front full, 1.5 + rudi, double pike) but she always had problems staying consistent. At last year’s worlds, Kyla was injured and yet, Marta didn’t trust Alyssa to compete on vault or floor instead of her. Only a year away from Rio, she needs to find a routine that works for her and prove to Marta and to the rest of the world that she is a reliable athlete who can be used on multiple events.
Ashton was one of the biggest surprises of 2014. She was pretty much unknown as a junior and then, in one year, she managed to become the secret classic and national champion on bars. She made it to the Pan-American Championships, where she won two gold medals (TF, UB) and she was named to USA’s world team. She had an excellent competition during Nanning, hitting every routine she performed and helping her team win a gold medal. During the January camp, she showed impressive upgrades, like a Galanta + pak + maloney + bail combination on bars and a gorgeous standing arabian on balance beam. Unfortunately, we never got to see those skills in a competition because she needed shoulder surgery and had to miss the first half of the year. Before getting injured, she was planning to start competing on vault and floor again but her health problems got in the way of that. She said that she will be showing basic routines on bars and beam, just to get back into competition. I don’t know how much difficulty she’s planning to show and whether or not she will be in a good shape to compete for a spot in worlds but I am very curious to see how she does. If she is not ready to compete difficult routines this year, I hope she takes it slow so she can be at the best possible shape and fight for a spot on the Olympic team next year.
Maggie was not a part of the gold medal winning world team last year, but she is hoping to make it this time around. She really had a fantastic competition season in 2014, being top 3 All Around at Classics and Nationals and being named to the team for the Pan-american championships. This is where it all went wrong for her, since she dislocated her knee and could not compete at the selection camp for worlds. This was extremely disappointing because she had a very realistic chance to make it. In fact, I am sure that if she was healthy she would have travelled to Nanning at least as an alternate. All this is in the past now, and Maggie made her comeback to competition at the Jesolo Trophy. She wasn’t one of the super stars of this meet and she had an uncharacteristic fall during a leap on floor, but she showed that she has most of her skills back and that she is on the right track. We haven’t seen her competing since then, but it looks like she’s killing it during training camps and she is rumoured to have a pretty good amanar. She is also becoming a very good bars worker and she upgraded her routine with a spectacular toe on full + chow + pak + maloney + bail + toe on half + van leeuwen combination. On beam, she performs a back handpsring connected to two layout step outs, a grigoras and a tour jete half and she has been working on a double double on floor. She doesn’t really have a stand out event, but she is world class and could deliver solid scores for the team on every apparatus and this makes her a strong contender.
All pictures are from USA gymnastics’ facebook page