Thursday, August 21, 2014

Highlight routines from Day 1 of the 2014 P&G Championships

Photo Credit: Christy Linder

Jazmyn Foberg- Floor (14.4) 
Jazzy concluded a strong day of competition with this incredible floor routine! I was so excited watching this live because she absolutely nailed the first 2 passes! Of course, her recently added double layout was gorgeous as ever and it was nice to see her loosen up and crack a smile after that second pass. She had an outstanding day overall, as one of the only top competitors to hit 4 for 4. I tweeted something earlier during the broadcast that I wanted to mention on here. Last year Jazzy failed to qualify to nationals after a rough meet at the Secret Classic and here she is today...the leader after day 1! So proud of how she performed on every event today and I hope she can keep it up on day 2.

Nia Dennis- Vault (15.1) 
This vault is huge! Although Nia had a bit of a rough day, this vault was definitely the highlight for her (and the highest score of the day!). She gets pretty good height and of course the stick is always a nice little bonus. I'm looking forward to seeing an amanar from Nia in the near future because she certainly has the power to get one around. Nia currently sits in 3rd place with 2 falls already under her belt. Hopefully on day 2 she can turn things around with a stronger performance on bars and beam...where she's capable of scoring much higher!

Sydney Johnson Scharpf- Beam (14.2) 
What impressed me the most about this routine is how confident Sydney presents herself. She's one of the only juniors who can take her eyes off the beam and play to the audience a bit (it was much more apparent in the live stream but she made eye contact with the judges and it was super fierce!). Sydney has really improved on this event and she's much more consistent then in the past. If Sydney can stay on during day 2, she's looking at a possible top 8 finish (maybe even higher!)

Ragan Smith- Floor (14.5)
Fresh off claiming the floor title at the Secret Classic, Ragan looked even better on day 1 of competition. Her landings (while not perfect), where much more solid! Not to mention her dance was cuter than ever! Ragan currently holds the highest score on floor, so with one more solid routine that national title could easily be hers! I know winning floor was her goal, so I'd love to see it happen!

Simone Biles- Beam (15.7)
A 15.7 on beam?? That is absolutely insane. While this beam routine wasn't perfect, Simone was still pretty solid and made everything look easy. Typical Simone. This was her first event of the day and it certainly set her up for a strong all around performance. She'll look to clean up some of the wobbles and missed connections for day 2. Right now, Simone has a comfortable lead over the other competitors. As long as she doesn't implode, you're looking at the 2014 National Champion!


Ashton Locklear- Bars (15.850)
Ashton is really making a strong case for her spot on the worlds team this year! She doesn't have any international experience, but wow is this routine incredible! Ashton has beautiful lines on this event and really floats on her releases. It's beautiful! My mouth literally hung open as I watched this. It kinda makes you wonder, is this routine too good for Marta to pass up? USA could use this routine


Brenna Dowell- Bars (15.4)
Brenna looked so thrilled after this routine and I know I was too! This was exactly what she needed to do in order to prove her case for the worlds team. She can still use a little bit of fine tuning on this event but the fact that she put all her connections together is so exciting! This routine is jam packed with difficulty and I can definitely see if on the world stage if she keeps improving. Certainly one of the highlights of my night was watching her nail this routine! I hope she can do an even stronger routine on day 2!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Juniors to watch for at the 2014 P&G Championships (That you didn't expect!)

With the 2014 P&G Championships less than a week away, I'm excited to share with you some of the routines I'm looking forward to in the junior division. There are so many talented juniors that I feel like a lot of girls can easily be overlooked. That's why I wanted to bring attention to perhaps some of the less popular routines...that are still worth all the hype! Keep your eyes out for these spectacular routines this weekend!

Photo Credit: John Cheng

Deanne Soza- Bars (Arete Gymnastics)
Fresh off a 2nd place finish on bars at the U.S Secret Classic (as well as 3rd all around!) little Deanne Soza has made immense improvements to her uneven bar routine this year. In 2013, Deanne was a bit of a mess on this event, falling at both Classics and Nationals while racking up deductions for missed handstands and iffy landings. However at the Secret Classic this year, she showed no signs of struggle! Soza has added a beautiful Ezhova to her routine (straddle back with a half twist) and really cleaned up her execution. Deanne is already proving herself to be one of the top bar workers in the US! Deanne is also great on vault and beam, so keep your eye out for her there too!

Bailey Ferrer- Floor (Orlando Metro) 
Bailey is a powerhouse on this event! She opens up with a huge full in (she gets so much height it could easily become a double double in the near future) as well as a double arabian for her second pass. Not many first year junior elites do back to back E passes! It's incredible considering those are both major upgrades for her. She didn't compete either of those elements during the level 10 season, so it was nicely executed for her first time out of the gate! Bailey also has really nice presentation on this event, which I think makes for a great combination. If she can hit a clean set both days of competition, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bailey sitting among the top 10 on this event!

Christina Desiderio- Floor (Parkettes) 
While Christina is mainly known by gym fans for her superb beam work, I couldn't help but notice how much she's improved on floor! She added a beautiful double layout as her opening pass and moved the full in to her second pass- making her routine much more difficult than most of her competitors! She's super powerful on this event and the choreography is much more mature then last season! Christina placed 8th on this event at the Secret Classic and is hoping to improve her ranking at Nationals. With a solid routine, I think a top 5 finish on this event is definitely within reach for Christina!

Shilese Jones- Floor (Auburn Gymnastics) 
Shilese is outstanding on this event! She opens with a full in- half out, making her the only gymnast in the US (maybe even the world?) to compete this skill! I think for being a first year elite, Shilese shows so much potential on this event and while she may not be a top contender at Nationals this time around, watch out for her in the future!

Megan Skaggs- Bars (Gym Academy Atlanta) 
Megan has really nice lines on this event and beautiful extended toe point. While her form can be a tad messy on things like her pac salto and shaposh, she's actually cleaned up quite a bit from last season. She placed 4th on this event at the Secret Classic. The only upgrade she's added this year is a jaeger, but I see room for more possible connections/upgrades in the future. This routine definitely shows potential!

Ariana Agrapides- Floor (MG Elite) 
Although she withdrew from the Secret Classic (to rest a minor toe injury), Ariana is expected to be back in the all around competition this weekend and I'm super excited! She's best known for her incredible vaulting skills, however I've always seen her as a powerhouse on floor as well. She's added a double layout to her routine this year (I'm assuming in place of either the piked full in or double arabian) so it'll be interesting to see what she decide's to perform. Ari only resumed full training a week ago, so I'm honestly not expecting too much from her at this point. I just hope she can keep it together because she is a joy to watch on this event and she really shows a lot of potential!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

P&G Championships- Who Will Take The Title? (Juniors)

The P&G Championships are just a week away and I'm most excited for the junior competition because we are guaranteed a new national champion! With the reigning junior national champion Bailie Key out with an injury, the door is wide open for a new face to step in and claim the title. There are a few candidates who have the potential to do it, so it's bound to be a real showdown!

Nia Dennis (Buckeye) 
Maximum AA scoring potential: 63.3

Nia enters these Championships as one of the automatic favorites to win. Her gymnastics is really big and powerful, and her scoring potential is really high- so it's no surprise that many people are pointing at her to win. The good thing about Nia is that she can post a score in the high/mid 14's on any event, even if she's not perfect. At last years Championships, Nia didn't have her best meet but still managed to place 4th all around! At Classics a few weeks ago, she placed 1st on bars and 2nd all around after counting a fall on floor. She also placed 2nd on vault and beam. If Nia can hit eight for eight next week, she has a very good chance of taking home the title.

Jazmyn Foberg (MG Elite)
Maximum AA scoring potential: 63.0

Jazmyn is the only candidate on the list who is vying for the title while also making her first National Championships appearance! Don't let that fool you though. With a maximum scoring potential just 3 tenths less than Nia Dennis, it's just as likely that she could take the title if she hits eight for eight. Jazzy comes into these Championships as the American Classic champion and with several upgrades from last year. (Her bar routine currently has the highest start value in the junior division.) At the Secret Classic, Jazzy had a strong showing placing 5th in the all around and 3rd on vault. I'm so impressed with how much she's improved since last season! Don't be surprised to see Foberg's name atop the standings if she does what she's capable of this weekend!

Ragan Smith (Texas Dreams)
Maximum AA scoring potential: 62.8

The gym switch seems to have worked in Ragan's favor. Not only has her difficulty raised by two full points, but she looks much more clean and confident when she competes. Ragan sometimes struggles with consistency (and there is little room for error if you want to win) so she's really going to have hit all her routines if she wants a chance at the title. Ragan's strongest events are beam and floor, so she's going to look towards those two events to boost her score.

Deanne Soza (Arete)
Maximum AA scoring potential: 62.7

Deanne's name wasn't really in the conversation until she surprised everyone at the Secret Classic with her 3rd place all around finish. Like Ragan, her difficulty has improved significantly since last year and when she hits she can be right up there with the best. Deanne also has really nice lines and good form, so she can use that to help boost her execution score.

Jordan Chiles (Naydenov) 
Maximum AA scoring potential: 62.5

Jordan Chiles comes into these Championships fresh off a win at the Secret Classic. However if she wants to take the national title too, she needs to be better then she was at Classics in my opinion. She can be a little inconsistent at times, which is something she would need to improve on in order to stay at the top. But she looked much more confident then she did last season and she has excellent technique. Her all around potential is huge when she keeps it together.

Norah Flatley (Chow's) 
Maximum AA scoring potential: 62.4

A long time fan favorite, Norah Flatley has all the goods to be a superstar. While she may lack in difficulty on vault and floor, Norah can really make up some ground on bars and beam. Norah is also known for her clean gymnastics and consistency, so she still has a good chance of winning despite not having the highest all around scoring potential. If Norah competes how she normally does in competition I don't think she'll have any problem staying in the top 3!

The first day of competition begins on Thursday, August 21st at 1 p.m EST! Good luck to all the gymnasts competing! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Soza Ready To Soar

As the years go by, the pool of rising talent for USA Gymnastics continues to grow. With many of the top elite gymnasts preparing for the 2016 Olympics, there is another group of young girls waiting in the wings for their time to shine. Deanne Soza from Arete is one of those girls, and she has all the qualities to be the next big thing!

Photo Credit: Christy Linder

In 2012, at just 10 years old, Deanne started her journey down the elite path with a clean sweep at the US Challenge. She took home the gold in the all around and on all four events, a feat that is anything but easy! At that point Deanne was well prepared to move into the elite ranks, however in January of 2013 she was faced with an obstacle to overcome- a broken foot. Deanne took four months off in order to recover, leaving her with only two months to train and qualify for elite. (Watch this video of how Deanne kept in shape during her time off.) Despite the short time frame for preparation, Deanne managed to qualify to junior elite at a developmental camp in June. At the age of 11, Deanne was officially the youngest competitor on the elite stage. As you could imagine, qualifying to elite when you are just 11 years old is a pretty big deal! "The coolest part of being an elite gymnast is having the opportunity to compete among the best gymnasts in the world!" Soza said.

Photo Credit: Gymnastike

In her first elite meet- the American Classic, Deanne won 1st on beam and finished 6th all around. Her score of 53.150 was good enough to qualify her straight to the P&G Championships! But first came the Secret Classic, her first major elite meet. Despite some mistakes, she finished 15th all around and 9th on vault! Deanne concluded her first year of elite at the P&G Championships. She didn't have the best meet- she placed 26th all around, but given the fact that she had little time to train coming off her injury, it's fair to say Deanne had a great year!

So far 2014 has been a good year for Soza. At the American Classic she placed 3rd all around, 2nd on vault, and 3rd on floor. Overall it was a very strong performance for her! Then just a few weeks ago at the Secret Classic, Deanne wowed the crowd with some big routines that look much improved from last year. Don't let her size or age fool you, Deanne has quite the repertoire and competes well beyond her years. On vault she now does a very clean yurchenko double, which earned her the bronze at Classics with a score of 14.400. On bars, she has a beautiful toe-on tkatchev, straddle-back with a half twist, and a full twisting double layout dismount. Deanne hits all her handstands and has great form throughout which is impressive for someone so young! Her solid routine at Classics earned her a 14.200 and the silver medal! On beam Deanne shows lots of potential! She has some awesome connections including a switch leap-onodi and a front aerial-front aerial-side-aerial down the length of the beam. Deanne already has a 15.8 start value on this event, so within the next few years she could be one of the best beam workers in the United States. Lastly on floor, Deanne opens with a full-in which looks fantastic and she shows lots of potential for future upgrades. In conclusion, Deanne tied for 3rd all around with Norah Flatley and is using her recent results at both the American and Secret Classic as a confidence boost going into the P&G Championships.

With one week to go until Championships, Soza is working hard in the gym to improve upon her performance at Classics. "I am working on consistency." Soza told us. "I need to work on precision, execution, and to refine my routines." Although Deanne is working on plenty of new tricks in the gym, she doesn't plan on adding any upgrades for Championships. The key is to be clean, consistent, and confident; which Soza will need to be in order to achieve the goals she has set for herself at these Championships. "My goal is to keep improving my scores, especially on beam and floor. I want to remain in the top five places and make the US junior national team!"

Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

Unfortunately for Deanne, she will miss the cutoff for the 2016 Olympics by nine months, but that hasn't stopped her from dreaming big. "My long term goals are to get international assignments and represent the United States!" Deanne said "I want to compete at Worlds and make the 2020 Olympic team." Deanne has a long list of golden idols that include Jordyn Wieber, Carly Patterson, and Nastia Liukin. She also looks up to fellow competitors Kyla Ross and Simone Biles. "They are all great athletes that I admire. They have shown their love and passion for the sport through their performances." Deanne said. Right now World or Olympic gold is still just a dream, but who knows, someday it just might be reality for Deanne Soza.

Check out some of the awesome skills Deanne was working on last summer. (Click here) We can't wait to hopefully see some of these skills in the future! 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

2010 Youth Olympic Competitors- Where Are They Now? (Top 7 All Around)

Viktoria Komova- Russia 
Age Now: 19
Results From YOG: 1st All Around, 1st Vault, 1st Bars, 7th Beam, 3rd Floor

Following her success at the Youth Olympics, Viktoria went on to become the 2011 World Champion on bars in her first year as a senior. She also took home a silver medal in the all around and in the team finals after coming off an ankle injury she sustained during training early that year. In 2012 she became the European uneven bar champion and helped the Russian team to another silver medal. At the 2012 Olympics she finished 2nd in the all around and as well as 2nd with the Russian team. Mistakes in the bar and beam final kept her from winning a medal there. In 2013, Komova sat out of competition with a back injury. She returned to competition earlier this year at the Russian Championships where she placed 8th on bars and competed an exhibition routine on beam. She was named to the 2014 European Championships team but withdrew to have surgery on her right ankle. Komova is currently training to make the 2014 World Championship team.

Tan Sixin- China 

Age Now: 19
Results From YOG: 2nd All Around, 2nd Bars, 1st Beam, 1st Floor

In 2011, Tan turned senior and won gold on bars and beam at the Doha World Cup. She also helped the Chinese team to a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships. In 2012, she won a bronze medal on beam at the Pacific Rim Championships but unfortunately was named an alternate to the Olympic Team. Tan continued to compete after the Olympics, winning gold with her team, bronze on balance beam, and placing seventh on floor exercise at the Chinese Nationals. At the 2013 East Asian Games she took home four gold medals- team, all-around, balance beam, and floor exercise. In 2014 she placed 4th with her team at the Chinese Nationals and retired shortly after.


Carlotta Ferlito- Italy
Age Now: 19
Results From YOG: 3rd All Around, 3rd Vault, 6th Bars, 2nd Beam, 8th Floor

After competing in the Youth Olympics, Carlotta turned senior and placed 8th All Around and 2nd on beam at the 2011 European Championships. She also became the Italian beam and floor national champion, while placing 2nd All Around. Later that year at the World Championships she helped the Italian team to a 6th place finish and placed 14th in the All Around. At the 2012 Olympics, Carlotta placed 7th with her team and 21st all around. She continued to compete after the Olympics placing 11th all around and 5th on beam at the 2013 World Championships. She most recently competed at the 2014 American Cup where she placed 8th all around. Ferlito is now the star of a reality MTV show called  "Ginnaste - Vite Parallele" and is currently training for the 2014 World Championships.

Natsumi Sasada- Japan
Age Now: 18
Results From YOG: 4th All Around, 4th Vault

Natsumi made her senior debut at the 2011 Cottbus World Cup, placing 8th on uneven bars and 4th on beam. She went on to win silver in the all around at the Japanese Nationals. Despite missing out on an Olympic team spot, Sasada continued to train and represented Japan at the 2013 World Championships where she placed 23rd all around and was 3rd reserve for the uneven bar final. This summer Natsumi defended her national all around title and was named to the 2014 World Championship team.


Ana Sofia Gomez- Guatemala
Age Now: 18
Results From YOG: 5th All Around, 4th Beam, 4th Floor

Ana went on to win a silver medal in the all around and gold on beam at the 2011 Pan American Games. She represented Guatemala at the 2012 Olympics where she qualified in 16th to the all around final- an amazing feat! She went on to place 22nd. In 2013 she won beam again at the Pan American Games. She did not compete at the World Championships that year, however she is currently still competing and aiming for the upcoming World Championships.

Diana Bulimar-Romania
Age Now: 18
Results From YOG: 6th All Around, 7th Vault, 7th Bars, 2nd Floor

Unfortunately most of Diana's senior career has been plagued by injury. She missed the beginning of the 2011 season due to a foot injury, however she was back in time to help the Romanian team to a 4th place finish at the World Championships. Individually she qualified to the floor event finals but had to withdraw due to another foot injury. She bounced back strong in 2012 helping the Romanian team win the European Championships as well as a bronze medal at the Olympics. She qualified to the beam event finals but was replaced by her teammate Larissa Iordache. In 2013, Diana won gold on floor at the Doha World Cup. At the European Championships she placed 4th all around, 2nd on beam, and 3rd on floor. She missed the rest of the season due to a knee injury. This year she won silver on floor and placed 4th on beam at the Doha World Cup. She also helped the Romanian team to a gold medal at the European Championships. Unfortunately, Diana will miss the 2014 World Championships due to another knee injury.

Angela Donald-Australia 

Age Now: 18
Results From YOG: 7th all around, 4th Bars, 3rd Beam

After her success at the Youth Olympics, Angela quietly slipped away from the international scene. She did not compete during the 2011 season (not sure why, I'm assuming because of injury?) and she returned only to compete at the 2012 Australian Nationals where she failed to make the Olympic team.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Dear Gymternet- Journals from Elena Arenas (Entry #3 August 2014)

Dear Gymternet,

I just finished competing at the Secret US Classic and had a great time. It was one of the coolest weekends of my life! I had podium training on Friday morning and afternoon. During the afternoon workout the seniors were there getting ready to train and they were cheering us on. All at once they shouted "Go Juniors!" That was so cool!

Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

On competition day I was a little intimidated by all the people that were there to watch, but once I started competing I felt a lot better. The meet went well and I qualified for P&Gs again! (I already qualified at the American Classic.) This weekend I was most happy with vault and bars. Floor was pretty good and on beam I grabbed the beam on my side aerial and had a couple of wobbles, so I hope to make improvements on those two events at P&Gs.

After the meet people wanted me to sign autographs and take pictures with them, it was so much fun! I also had a bunch of family that came to watch me and support me. Now I'm going to go back to the gym and will train hard for the P&G Championships!

~ Elena

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Chiles and Biles Show (Plus highlights from the Secret Classic)

Now that the 2014 Secret Classic has come to a close, it's time to look back at some of the most memorable performances. First we take a look at the champions, Biles and Chiles, who easily sole the show here in Chicago.

Simone Biles took the title in a dominating fashion in her first competition since becoming the World Champion last October. Her score of 61.7 is easily the highest all around score of the quad so far and it will likely stay that way considering not many people can top a score like that. (Besides for Simone!)  Simone continues to be a super human and not only throw all the big tricks, but do them well too, making it almost impossible to beat her. For me, the highlight of Simone's night was definitely her floor routine. Not only was the new choreography great but her tumbling was outrageous. Simone has been working hard to stick those landings and it showed!

In the junior division, Jordan Chiles took the title with a score of 57.350. That score would have been good enough for 4th place if she was competing amongst the seniors.  At the age of thirteen and in only her second year at the elite level, I'm very impressed with how confident and mature Jordan is as a competitor. In may ways, Chiles resembles Biles. Both are natural born athletes who are powerful yet clean. Their best events are easily vault and floor, but they are also great on beam and decent on bars. If anyone can follow in the footsteps of Simone, it's Chiles! Jordan has also been seen throwing some big skills in training (like an amanar vault) and like Simone it's done very well. Although she won't be eligible for the 2016 Olympics, she will definitely be one to keep our eyes on for 2020.

Jazmyn Foberg was very impressive this weekend. Last year she placed 26th at the US Classic and didn't even qualify to the P&G Championships. But this year has been a whole different ball game. After having several strong showings at the national team camps and winning the all around title at the American Classic, Jazzy was selected as one of nine juniors to compete during the senior session of the meet. (What a great opportunity for her!) Jazmyn managed to keep it together on all four events and finished 5th overall and 3rd on vault. Since last year she has made big strides, not only with upgraded routines, but she looks more polished and confident then she was last year! I look forward to seeing how she does at Nationals.

In the senior division, Maggie Nichols finally made it onto the all around medal stand. She took home the bronze in the all around and on floor! Maggie is one of those girls who is great and is willing to work hard, but doesn't typically have the results to back up her case for making the worlds team. However her performance at Classics should definitely catch Marta's attention.

Mykayla Skinner has been known as the one who chucks all the big skills lets her form and execution suffer, however I can see big improvements already. I have to say I'm impressed with her! She still has a ways to go if she wants to maintain her spot on the US team, but she is heading in the right direction. She managed to finish 5th all around, which was good given her performance. She scored a 15.000 on vault and a 14.250 on beam which is not bad for her. Again she has lots of room to improve, so it will be interesting to see what she will do in the next two years.

Some other quick highlights of the meet were Amelia Hundley who made her long awaited senior debut! She rocked her new floor routine and proved once again that she's a solid all around gymnast. Felicia Hano, another first year senior, also nailed a beautiful yurchenko double and debuted a double layout as her opening floor pass.

In unexpected news, Deanne Soza tied with Norah Flatley for 3rd all around in the junior division. Deanne also placed 2nd on bars and 3rd on vault. In the senior division Ashton Locklear took the title on bars with a huge score of 15.700 and also placed 4th on beam. While I'm very impressed with her performance, I would like to see more of her before I start predicting her for any world team spots. Ashton is a second year elite, however she missed last season due to injury. If Ashton can hit at Nationals she could definitely be in contention for a spot on the Worlds team this fall.