2015 US nationals: contenders for the beam title

Seniors

Top contenders:

Simone Biles: start value 6.7 (potential 7.0)

11796173_10152570306697168_5805813583923258603_nAs expected, the current beam world champion is going to be one of the top contenders for the beam title. During the first years of her elite career, Simone didn’t really show massive potential on this event and it has been great to see her getting better and better every year until she was good enough to earn a gold medal at worlds. Some of her elements could have a bit more amplitude and her extension could be better but there are plenty of great qualities on her routine. Her 2.5 wolf turn is probably the best executed one out there, her leaps are excellent and her full in dismount is simply mind-blowing. She keeps upgrading her routine and this year, she has added a grigoras and a front pike that give her a few extra tenths in difficulty. Biles won the gold medal on beam at the recent Secret Classic and she has one of the highest start values in the world so she has a good chance to win the first beam national title of her career.

11221947_10152570310827168_9113469933732905497_nAly Raisman start value: 6.8

The last time Aly Raisman competed at nationals, she won a gold medal on balance beam, and then she went to win an Olympic bronze on the same event, where she has also been a world finalist. She has always been a very succesful beam worker and her consistency and power on this event helped her be named to lots of major teams. She performs the same skills we saw from her in 2012, but she has rearranged them and she has added some jumps in order to make the most out of the new code. The flexed feet and the bent knees are still there and her switch leap 1/2 is never pretty to watch but it’s hard not to be impressed by her strong front somersaults and her fantastic Patterson dismount.

Gabby Douglas, start value: 6.4

11796433_886045194777034_1040365686594493566_nWho would have thought that the young gymnast who fell multiple times off the beam during 2011 nationals would grow up to be such a strong beam worker. Gabby has never been the most confident athlete out there and beam is where most of her struggles have come from. We’ve seen her making plenty of mistakes, we’ve seen her falling when it mattered the most and we’ve seen her balking on skills more than once. She got it together and hit her routines when it mattered the most, and she earned two gold medals thanks to that but I was extremely nervous to see whether or not she’d be able to stay on the apparatus at Classics and Jesolo and I was pleasantly surprised to see her having excellent routines both times. The highlight of her routine is her standing full. In my opinion she executes that skill better than anyone ever has. It’s so high, so clean and her chest is so high when she lands while most gymnast are bent in half after that. During her comeback, Douglas has looked very clam and confident on this event, and if she continues to perform like that there’s no reason why she won’t be fighting for a gold medal.

Bailie Key

11751963_886043801443840_3924347337132450190_nBailie has been a beautiful beam worker for her entire career. She has always shown confidence, flexibility and lovely execution and she has been able to learn lots of difficult elements, like a switch ring, a layout and a standing arabian. She only had a 6.0 start value during Classics, but she missed a couple of connections and she didn’t perform her arabian. If she goes for all the skills she’s capable of, she could have a massive difficulty score than can challenge athletes like Biles and Raisman. Her layout is questionable, but this is the only flaw in her form. All her other elements are high and clean and her leaps, lines and toe point are fantastic.

Kyla Ross, start value: 6.0

11701174_886048991443321_3439862180272064944_nJust like Bailie, Kyla has always been a beamer. From a very young age, she had a composure and a calmness on this event that other people would kill for and beam was one of the main reasons why she was named to the 2012 Olympic team. She has been very successful, qualifying into two world finals, being 6th during Olympics qualifications, winning a silver world medal and becoming national champion. She doesn’t have the highest start value, but her execution is nearly perfect. She is extremely clean and she typically doesn’t have any wobbles and sticks her dismount so she should not be counted out

The underdogs

Alyssa Baumann, start value 6.2

11745381_10152570307692168_7859810469571539176_nAlyssa saw one of her biggest dreams coming true when she became a world champion last year, and the reason why she was selected to be on that team was her balance beam routine. She doesn’t have the highest start value, but she shows fantastic skills, like a standing arabian and a switch ring and she’s absolutely gorgeous to watch. Her lines are fantastic, her toe point is beautiful, her leaps are great and her onodi is lovely. Alyssa, who won a silver beam medal at the Jesolo trophy, added a couple of new elements this year, like a double pike and a sheep jump but I think she needs more difficulty in order to be competitive beam specialist last year, After a fall during Secret Classics, she desperately needs to prove that she still is one of the country’s best on this event.

Rachel Gowey, start value 6.1

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photo by Grace Chiu

After being injured in 2013 and 2014, Rachel is finally expected to compete at her first national championships. She made a successful comeback at the Pan-American Games, where she was USA’s bars and beam specialist and she won two gold medals. She qualified second into the beam finals, and after the front-runner, Flavia Saraiva had a fall she was expected to challenge for the gold medal but she had one of the worse routines of her career and she ended up last. Hopefully, she has put that behind her and she will be able to perform well because she is gorgeous when she hits. She has some impressive skills and combinations, like a front pike, a front aerial into a sheep jump and a back handspring connected to two layout stepouts, she has beautiful lines and clean execution. I think that if she had stayed healthy in the last couple of years she would be a super star on this event by now, but unfortunately injuries slowed down her progress and she doesn’t quite have the start value she would need in order to fight for the gold medal.

Maddie Desch, 6.1

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photo by Grace Chiu

One of the things that made Maddie famous back in 2012 was her strong beam routine, and especially her very difficult layout full. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to reach her full potential on this event yet. She had one of the hardest routines we saw during the Pan-American Championships but she wasn’t able to make it into finals after a fall in qualifications. And then, it was a major mistake on beam that also cost her the All Around title. Both those errors happened in the same skill, her layout full, so it will be interesting to see if she will keep it in her routine. She is capable of lots of tricky elements but her start value is not that high and she doesn’t make up for it with perfect execution like Kyla Ross does. Her feet are almost always flexed and she has a few bent knees and legs separation so it will be hard for her to challenge for a medal. However, she still needs to prove she can hit her routine and that she’s a reliable athlete that should be considered for the worlds team.

Juniors

Laurie Hernandez 5.8

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photo by Chirsty Ann Linder

Laurie won a bronze medal on balance beam at Secret Classics with a rather shaky routine so she definitely has a good chance to get away with the gold medal if she does what she’s capable of. All her acrobatic elements are clean and well executed and her leaps are always excellent. She has nice rhythm and fluidity and some beautiful artistry which makes her routine very enjoyable to watch.

Ragan Smith, 6.3

Ragan is the reigning national silver medalist on balance beam and she has one of the most spectacular routines of the competition. She performs a piked standing full, which is a skill that nobody else in the world can do and she’s capable of other difficult elements like a layout and a switch ring. If she avoids having multiple balance checks, like she did at Classics, she is the top contender for the gold medal.

Gabby Perea 6.0

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photo by John Cheng

Gabby surprised lots of people by her impressive fourth place finish at Secret Classics, but nobody should be shocked to see her shining on balance beam, where she has always shown tremendous potential. She has a nice back handsprings + layout combination and she now added one of the best standing fulls I have ever seen. She is very clean and flexible, she has gorgeous lines and toe point and she is the gymnast I want to see on the top of the podium on this event.

Deanne Soza 5.9

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photo by John Cheng

Deanne was the balance beam silver medalist at the recent Secret Classics, where she performed an excellent routine. She is a very clean and graceful gymnast, with beautiful extension, lines and toe point and she always is a joy to watch. My favorite part of her beam routines is her gorgeous switch leap + onodi opening combination. She is both powerful and artistic, the amplitude during her front tuck is very impressive and her leaps are flawless.

Shilese Jones 5.9

Shilese is one of the most improved athletes on balance beam. Last year she didn’t have much difficulty on this event, her execution wasn’t great and she struggled to hit her routine. Now, she has a very respectable 5.9 start value and she is starting to show lots of potential. She starts her routine with a high standing arabian and she’s also capable of a back handspring into two layout step outs. She was quite shaky at Classics but if she manages to clean up her routine she’s right up there with the country’s top beam workers.

Sydney Johnson-Sharpf  6.0

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photo by Christy Ann Linder

An other athlete who has come a long way on beam is Sydney Johnson-Sharpf. She has a very well constructed routine that takes advantage of the code of points and her 6.0 start value is one of the highest ones in the competition. During her beam set, Sydney shows power, elegance and flexibility and she has fantastic artistry and fluidity. She was fifth on the event at Classics and she is capable of finishing even higher than that.

Jazzy Foberg 5.7

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photo by Christy Ann Linder

Jazzy was the balance beam champion at the Secret Classics. Her routine was not the hardest one we saw but she made up for it by posting the highest execution score of the night on this event. She doesn’t have any skills that will take your breath away but she is powerful, flexible, clean and consistent. She seems to be gaining more and more confidence every year and hopefully, she will be able to upgrade as a senior. It’s not uncommon to see an athlete burning out after showing impressive upgrades, but Jazzy seems to be here to stay.

Jordan Chiles 6.1

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photo by John Cheng

Jordan is one of the best beam workers of the competition but a fall kept her away from the podium at Secret Classics. She has some impressive skills, like a back handspring + two layout step outs combination and a tour jete half and she executes them all very well. Her routine is really nicely choreographed and I love her low to the beam work in the beginning. She is very clean, she has nice lines, she’s powerful and flexible. She really has all the qualities an athlete would need and hopefully, her mistakes during classics were the results of the nerves of an athlete who is competing for the first time this year.

Christina Desiderio 6.0

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photo by John Cheng

Christina is famous for her work on beam and she started her year by posting a massive 15.2 on this event at the American Classics. She is a very powerful athlete, capable of difficult acrobatics like a layout and a front tuck as well as hard leaps. During Secret Classics she was having a fantastic routine, nailing all her skills but then she fell on her dismount and only finished 16th. Last year, she also was a top contender for the podium but she ended up having mistakes both days of the competition. This really is her biggest weakness, her inconsistency. She is extremely talented but she is not always able to control her nerves. If she handles the pressure, she’s one of the best beam workers in the country, but can she do that?

Abby Paulson 6.3

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photo by Christy Ann Linder

With all the amazingly talented juniors in the USA right now, Abby did not get the attention she deserved for her beam routine during Classics. Of course, she had an unfortunate fall and there are lots of things she has to work on but the level of difficulty she showed was fantastic. She started her routine with a low standing arabian and then she performed a spectacular side aerial + layout step out + layout step out combination. The position she hit on her sheep jump was also amazing. If she hits her routine both days, Abby should be able to get big scores and challenge for a medal.

Morgan Hurd, start value: 5.8

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photo by Christy Ann Linder

The lovely Morgan Hurd has a very promising routine. Some of her most notable skills are her switch ring and her flight series (bhs + loso + loso). What makes her routine really special is her beautiful style and precision. Her toes are always pointed, her knees are always straight, every single move she does is choreographed and she has lovely flexibility. She was shaky during Secret Classics and only scored a 13.6 but if she delivers a solid routine she’s capable of scoring in the middle 14s.

Other athletes with strong beam routines are Emma Malabuyo (5.7), Maile O’Keefe (5.8), Alyona Shchennikova (5.8) and Olivia Dunne (5.8)

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