During this quad, we haven’t spent lots of time wondering who will be the All Around champion of any meet that Simone Biles is planning to attend. When Simone competes, everyone knows that she will only lose if she makes a major mistakes, and she doesn’t often makes mistakes like that. This is also the case for the 2015 nationals where Biles is once again expected to dominate despite competing against a very deep field which includes world and Olympic champions. The 18-years-old world champion has the highest All Around difficulty of the competition and she has shown better execution and consistency than most of her teammates so she will be very hard to beat. However, the battle for silver and bronze should be intense since there plenty of excellent athletes with very similar scoring potential who will be fighting to get on the podium and show that they deserve to be on that worlds team. The first one of them is 2012 Olympic All Around champion, Gabby Douglas who proved that she still is one of the country’s best by winning a silver medal at Secret Classic. She looked extremely confident and solid and earned impressive execution scores on all four events. With the lenient judging we usually see at Nationals, she is capable of scoring over 15 on every single event and posting an All Around total well over 60. She said that she is planning to show some new skills during nationals which is very exciting because there’s definitely room for upgrades on her routines, especially on bars and floor. She is rumoured to be working on her amanar again and having that vault would give her a significant advantage but I’m not sure if she will be ready to compete it.
A strong challenge should come from the second two times Olympic Champion of the competition, Aly Raisman. Aly, who has been back in the gym for almost two years, not only has her difficulty from 2012 back, but she has also added new elements, like a Double Layout on floor and a maloney + tkatcev combination on bars. No words can’t describe how impressed I am with her progress and I expect her to be in the top 3 at nationals. She was only 5th at classics because she had a fall on her new Dos Santos + front tuck combination, but I’m sure she will be able to hit her routine at Nationals. Like always, she has a major disadvantage against some of her competitors: the uneven bars. She has improved on this event, she has added more difficulty and her handstands and pirouettes looked better than ever but she still has a relatively low start value and gives away quite a few tenths on execution with her flexed feet and legs separations. While most of the top All Arounders can score close to 15 on this event, Raisman can only hope for a score in the middle 14s and she needs to make up for that by hitting every single connection on beam and floor.
The third member of the fierce five still competing should also not be counted out. Kyla Ross never had the highest start value of the competition but she somehow always managed to be on the All Around podium by staying clean and consistent when others made mistakes. She has one of the best double twisting yurchenkos on vault, an extremely clean beam routine and a high scoring bars set. Floor has always been her weakness, and it will be interesting to see what tumbling passes she will choose to perform, but she rarely scores below the middle 14s on this event. It seems like lots of people are writing Kyla off after her disappointing performance at Classics but the truth is that one bad meet is not going to end the career of an athlete who has been on top for the entire quad. With opponents like Key, Douglas and Raisman, Ross will have to face a strong challenge but I am sure she will leave any mistakes behind her and show the confident and clean gymnastics we’ve come to expect from her. The question is, will that be enough?
The three returning Olympians will be challenged by the athlete who was hyped to become the new “it girl” of USA gymnastics. After dominating every competition she attended as a junior, Bailie Key is now starting her journey as a senior elite athlete and so far she has been very succesful. She has beaten Kyla, Gabby and Aly in the All Around at Jesolo and she has shown good difficulty and impressive consistency for someone so young. She has also been working on an amanar on vault, but this skill seems to be giving her a fair amount of trouble so maybe it’s better for her to stick with her excellent double twisting yurchenko for the time being. On bars, she shows beautiful lines and clean execution and her beam routine includes difficult elements, like a layout and a switch ring. She said she’s hoping to bring her standing arabian back on beam and she is working on a Downie so I’m excited to see if any of those skills are competition ready. She is also a powerful tumbler, capable of a double layout and an 1.5 + triple combination. In a good day, Bailie can score over 15 on each and every event and that makes her a strong contender for the podium. (AA total: 24.3)
An other athlete who has proven she is one of USA’s best gymnasts is Maggie Nichols. Unlike Bailie, Maggie never was a star as a junior and she took a bit more time before she became a top contender, but it looks like she’s here to stay. During Classics she debuted her amanar on vault as well as a maloney + pak + van leeuwen on bars and a double double on floor. During nationals, she’s also planning on performing a full in beam dismount for the first time so we haven’t even seen her best yet. Maggie is much improved and she has some huge skills but she doesn’t really have any massive start values yet and her execution could be cleaner in lots of areas so there is still room for improvement on her gymnastics. Of course, that doesn’t mean she can’t challenge for the podium right now. Her amanar gives her a significant advantage over Douglas and Key and she is capable of posting big scores on the other events too. After getting injured right before worlds last year, Maggie is determined to finally become a world team members and this aggressiveness is obvious every time she performs. She really is a completely different gymnast than she was two years ago and she will hopefully have much better results. (24.2)
There are some other athletes who are strong All Arounders. MyKayla Skinner gets an impressive advantage from her Cheng on vault and her powerful floor routine while the elegant Alyssa Baumann is a balanced athlete with good start values on every event. First year senior Nia Dennis has had a rough year but she has shown fantastic difficulty as a junior and if she regains most of those elements back by nationals she will definitely be one to watch. The same can be said for Rachel Gowey. She is still recovering from injuries, but if she still has all her difficulty from 2014 she could be one of the surprises of the competition. Brenna Dowell, who has been a national bronze medalist in the past, is in a similar situation. We don’t know what she’s capable of, we have not seen her competing on all four events but we know she has the potential to be great. It’s unlikely to see her having her 2013 difficulty back, but if she did, she would have nothing to envy from other gymnasts. Her teammate Madison Desch has improved a lot on her weakest event, the uneven bars and she is showing upgrades on beam and fantastic tumbling on floor and 17-years-old Amelia Hundley is finally living up to the potential she showed as a junior while Megan Skaggs has been extremely consistent this year so far. I don’t think that any of those gymnasts are top medal contenders. Some of them don’t quite have the necessary start values, others have weak events that hold them back and others don’t seem to be well prepared enough to show their best but they are all fantastic athletes who deserve recognition for their beautiful gymnastics. They have all been training hard all year in order to shine at nationals and hopefully they will be able to surprise us.
All Around start values based on the American Cup, the Secret Classic, the Panamerican Games and the Jesolo trophy
Simone Biles: 6.3+6.2+6.7+6.9 = 26.2
Aly Raisman: 6.3+5.8+6.6+6.7 = 25.4
MyKayla Skinner: 6.5+6+5.7+6.5 = 24.7
Gabby Douglas: 5.8+6.4+6.4+5.9 = 24.5 (she is expected to upgrade)
Bailie Key: 5.8 + 6.2 + 6.0 + 6.3 = 24.3 (she is expected to upgrade)
Maggie Nichols: 6.3+6+5.9+6 = 24.2 (she will probably show more difficulty on beam)
Madison Desch: 5.8+6.2+6+6.2 = 24.2
Kyla Ross: 5.8+6.5+6+5.6= 23.9 (there’s a chance she’ll downgrade bars and hopefully upgrade floor)
Alyssa Baumann: 5.8+5.9+6.1+5.7 23.5
Amelia Hundley: 5.8 + 6.1 + 5.7 + 5.7 = 23.3
Megan Skaggs: 5.8+5.7+5.7+5.5 = 22.7
Brenna Dowell, Rachel Gowey and Nia Dennis have not competed on all four events this year and therefore their AA start value is unknown right now.
All photos are by Chirsty Ann Linder, unless stated otherwise