Guess what

Hi Friends.

Again, it's been over a year since my last post but figure I'll give it a shot again, especially in this time of uncertainty and quarantine. Gymnastics has always been there when I was missing something or needed something so let's try and get that back again.

Lots of things need to be updated here but hope to have my first post up soon!

xoxo APF

Fantasy Gym: Black History Month Edition

It's been just over a year since my last blog post. A lot has changed in my life but I've decided to come back to the world of gymnastics. I have 2 fantasy gym teams this year and figured the best way to get back into the swing of things was to write about my gymnasts. In honor of Black History Month, I'll start by going through a few of my African American athletes. I was supposed to do this throughout the month but here we are on February 28th...

Khazia Hislop is a junior at the University of North Carolina. She is Brestyan's trained and has been a staple for the Tarheels roster on vault, beam, and floor. #BrestyanLegs. Her season highs thus far have been 9.9, 9.925, and 9.950. Hopefully, she can make it to the post season and grace us with her presence!

Drew Aldridge, Hislop's freshman teammate, is also on my roster. She has been in my lineup for bars and in and out on vault. She has also competed floor once so far this season. Aldridge was trained at AOGC.

Shaylah Scott is a freshman at UIC and was a competitor at the Nastia Liukin Cup. She initially was an exhibition athlete on beam but is in the UIC lineup on both beam and floor.

Maya Washington is a junior at University of Washington. She has been a solid 3-eventer on bars, beam, and vault. She is averaging above 9.8 for a great beam with excellent position and heights in her leaps and also on floor where she has an engaging routine. (Unfortunately, I couldn't find any floor videos from this year).

Tia Kiaku is a sophomore at Alabama after transferring from Ball State. She competed once earlier in the season but, unfortunately, didn't do well scoring a 9.675. With the injury of Shea Mahoney, Kiaku was back in the lineup last week and scored a 9.825.

Tiger Showdown

I keep telling myself I want to be a sort of LSU hub and then grow into more of an NCAA hub. To do that, though, I need to post. It's gotten to the point where blogger wasn't even in my URL predictions.  Yikes! I've been busy with my last year of residency and looking for jobs but with a fellowship coming up and a big smile on my face, here I am!

The LSU Tigers have finished Week 6 of the NCAA season in 4th place, first of the SEC teams. They had a win against conference rivals Missouri Tigers in a meet that revealed a few areas that still need a little more work.

The LSU Tigers started the meet on bars. Freshman Sami Durante has been a great asset to the lineup. It has certainly been nice to have a bar worker with an easy swing leading off the lineup (probably with hopes of moving back in later years unless she goes the route of beam Erin Macadaeg). Ashlyn Kirby seemed to be having a great routine but unfortunately had a fall. Kennedi Edney was able to pick up after with a sky high release move. Lexie Priessman was also in the lineup. She had some of her usual form issues on her Tkatchev to Pak but had a nice double layout dismount with a small hop.

On vault, Sarah Edwards had an excellent 1.5 twisting Yurchenko. Cannamela had a great full twisting Yurchenko that just seemed to fall right in the perfect spot. The remaining vaults didn't have the usual landings that we've come to expect from LSU.

Floor, as per usual, has been great for LSU. These routines have grown in their performance quality throughout the season and the lineup truly builds in terms of difficulty and choreography, making for exclamation point routines from the last few athletes. Kirby's routine has grown on me each time she performs along with enjoyable choreography just before her last pass. The highlight was Hambrick. She was in place on her 2.5 punch front but made it through with a superb routine to earn a 9.975.

The final score was LSU 197.150 to Missouri's 196.375. Edney and Hambrick won vault with 9.95s with Priessman and Hambrick scoring 9.875s to win vault. Lead off Macadaeg and anchor Finnegan tied with 9.9 to win beam (with an honorable mention to Missouri's Britney Ward who was 3rd with a 9.85). Hambrick and Finnegan won floor with stellar 9.975. Finally, Hambrick won the AA with a 39.625. Though it was a good score with plenty of things to celebrate from the meet, there were a lot of reminders. Beam has been the downfall of LSU in the past and seems to be their nemesis again. The pieces are there - an excellent and steady lead off in Macadeag, stable veterans in Finnegan and Hambrick, strong newcomers in Desiderio and Campbell. Unfortunately, it is easy for "the wheels to come off the wagon," quoting coach D-D Breaux. This meet will serve as as reminder that LSU can indeed be #LSUnstoppable provided they don't let beam get the best of them.

My World Championships 2017

Photo by Alexandra Leask for

Being able to attend the 2017 World Gymnastics Championships in Montreal will be an experience that I will never forget. This post will be a bit of fan perspective with gym thoughts throughout.

I've been to Montreal twice before, all centered around gymnastics. Once was to go to the 2015 Canadian National Championships and the second was to prepare a documentary on Rose and Victoria Woo. Again, gymnastics brought me to Montreal. Thankfully, I'm driving distance from Montreal. I wasn't able to get the whole week off but I could get a weekend off which gave me the opportunity to attend the event finals. We drove up on Friday night which meant my boyfriend was reading live blogs and twitter feeds to me. [He started slowing down near the end, speaking really slowly, and I've never been so antsy in my life!]

We were lucky enough to stay in the Olympic Village. This now apartment/condo complex was used as the village for the 1976 Olympics, the very Olympics where gymnastics Queen Nadia Comaneci scored her first perfect 10. We had a great view of the Olympic stadium and the way it lights up at night. We were about 2 train stops away or a 20 minute walk.

The first day, we walked there and I was so freakin' excited!! Think my boyfriend thought I was insane but, oh well, now he knows. We got inside and took a picture in front of one of the #MTL2017GYM signs. I wanted to do a handstand but he said he wouldn't support me. Lame... Not sure if we'll make it to this sickness and in health thing...

We got there in time to see some of warmups. Nothing too interesting happened.

Since we were driving the night before and I was working through parts of qualifications, I went into event finals blind, not fully knowing who was in and who was out. For example, I still thought Georgia-Mae Fenton had made it into uneven bars final.

The men started us off on floor. The craziest thing is just how far above the rest Kenzo Shirai is. His twisting form is impeccable and it's like he has this uncanny sense of how exactly to punch the floor to get maximum benefit from it. Yul Muldouer was also super impressive. Crazy that he beat out one of the floor specialists to make the finals and beat out the second one for a medal. He has crazy clean gymnastics and my guess is that he's even more motivated after his first World Championships. With a veteran team, he was the only one to walk away with a medal. Sorry, TWO medals. Manrique is just as beautiful to watch as I had hoped. Sad that he walked away without a medal, same for Leru, but we'll get there.

I was so excited to watch a high level vault finals. Vault and uneven bars are my favorite women's events and the finals didn't disappoint. Giulia Steingruber, my one true love, was first up and I was just as in awe of her as I was before.The height she gets on her Rudi is out of this world. I was nervous before the double twisting Yurchenko because it's not her strongest but she hit it well. And then we waited.

I got on twitter and saw the Shallon Olsen was going to attempt a triple twisting Yurchenko and was so confused on why anyone thought this was a good idea. From what I gathered, she had been training it for sometime and decided to submit it. However, during warmup, she didn't hit any of them so she opted for the Amanar. From what I saw, before she went, she was terrified. She fell forward but, thankfully, wasn't injured. I'm amazed her Cheng went relatively well for how scary the Amanar was and how upset she was afterwards. But Shallon picked herself back up.

Then oh Paseka... The disappointment is real. She seemed relatively comfortable with her Cheng and lo and behold, it's one of the worse Cheng's she's done in awhile. Her Amanar, on the other hand, was one of the best she's done. Paseka, I don't know what to do with you anymore.

I know we talk so much about the #goworld going around this worlds but I truly loved how the athletes AND coaches had such respect for each other. Many of them have been in multiple event finals together but it was really great to see how supportive they were or how they went to every gymnast even if it wasn't their teammate or their own athlete.

When Jade went up, I was truly hoping that she would have enough to knock Paseka from the gold medal position but with the big step on the Amanar, I wasn't sure it would be enough. She gets great height and has good form but I agree with most: imagine what she could do with more time with those vaults. Maroney was competing her Amanar for quite some time before having to hit in a big international competition. Jade literally became an elite for this meet. Her accomplishments are amazing.

Pommels was pommels. Confession. Pommels and still rings are my least favorite so I went to the bathroom, came back, decided to see if the boo was feeling it and he wasn't, so we went to grab food. Thankfully in the area, they had broadcasts throughout the concessions so you were still able to watch even if you weren't at your seat.

Bars finals. So like I mentioned, I went into things a little cold. I think I subconsciously knew Diana Varinska made it more because of the "Ukrainian gymnastics isn't dead!" posts but I was still surprised. I'm glad that she hit. I was so glad to see my girl, Nina D. It was hard watching her wait to see if/what color medal she would get but I'm still so happy for her. Seeing Eremina's routine was great. A NABIEVA IN REAL LIFE!!!! OH MY GOODNESS!!! Then the shocker moment. I really can't believe Fan Yilin won. There was that one pirouette that was super late and muscled. I thought it wouldn't be enough but in true 4-way world champ, she shocked me! I'm sad and don't understand what happened to Ashton. She had one job which was to hit. She's still a beautiful bar worker so we'll see if this affects her for future teams.

I'm writing the rest of this way later so it will just be bullet points. I apologize. I'll take notes next time! But still rings was impressive to have such a star studded final. There was also a very knowledgeable group. everyone was ecstatic for Samir Ait Said when he landed. And I blame Zanetti, I think, for the crosses with the hand out (or is it Petrounias?). But then Liu went further with his little neck game. Way to try and make still rings more interesting.

Boo thang and I walked around for a bit. I wanted to look for the mini olympic Museum (that's not what it's called). But I know last time I was there, there was info on the stadium and it's design and previous Olympics. As we went to fnd it, turned out we were in the area where the athletes got on the bus to their various hotels. So I got a picture with Tutya, told her I loved her and her Olympic beam and how amazing it was. I got a picture with Nagornyy and then a group of like 20 8 year old girls bombarded him after haha. Whoops. Sorry! Before we left the area, Khorkina was there and we got a picture with her too! Cray!

Oh yeah, then we were walking around town and bumped into eventual floor world champ on our way to exchange some money. More cray!!

Man vaults are cool. Crazy to see Dragulescu vaulting the Dragulescu in person. There were some real judging issues - your knees almost touch, maybe could be counted as a fall, and your E is like 8+. Alrighty then.

I don't have much to say about beam other than I'm very happy for Alt and Schafer, her little voodoo skill is cool. Obviously, I'm happy for Morgan too but I think these days, as long as the American hits, they'll medal. Beam scoring was still weird with only Schafer getting the only 8.0 E but still.

PBars. Heart broken for manrique. Again. Oleg is beautiful to watch.

Mai was up first for floor and I didn't know she was seeded first. She hit her routine beautifully with excellent difficulty and clean skills. Brookyln Moors was just as amazing to watch as you would expect. Jade Carey reminds me SO much of Brenna Dowell. Excellent tumbling but with some work to do on the dance. The biggest surprise was how excellent Claudia Fragapane was. Honestly. Her presentation was great. When Tyra walks about H2T, head to toe, modeling, Fragapane embodies H2T dancing. It truly was a joy to watch.

Also, sad times to ending with Ferrari's injury. That was heartbreaking.

High bar. What a freakin hilarious mess. Bart goes up. So so routine. Epke has his huge ass error. We were shocked the first time. Shocked with every slow mo. Then the way the scores went up, shocked to see him pass the medals and for so long. SO SO sad for Leru!! The only thing that made it tolerable was the fact that adding the point back didn't get him a medal. More mistakes. The one hit routine! Goodness gracious it's enough for gold. That final was a wild ride. The skills are enough to make it crazy. High bar is truly a great way to finish meets. The releases are heart stopping. You're constantly on your toes wondering if people will catch releases, how many can be connected, crazy German giants, crazy dismounts. It's just non stop excitement!

I have to mention the scoring. I should've mentioned this earlier. On the board, they would show Bart Duerloo, let's say. He was on first and they'd put his score on a sort of bar graph. then on the right was Epke Zonderland. And as his score went in the bar would raise. So there were quite a few things where you stood with bated breath (Jade vs Paseka for example) waiting to see if the bar would surpass the other person. It added to the crowd's anticipation, excitement, and involvement. We screamed a lot haha.

It was my first World Championships and was such an amazing experience. Hope I get to go to another major international meet again!

Team USA: More Questions Than Answers

I will be attending my first World Championships in Montreal and I am beyond excited. This is the first worlds in a long time where most of the medals are up for grabs and quite a few top level teams have a few question marks in their lineups. One of those teams is the US, the defending world and Olympic champions. US Nationals created more question than answers. Ten women were invited to the worlds selection camp that will take place September 18-22: Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles, Margzetta Frazier, Emily Gaskins, Morgan Hurd, Ashton Locklear, Riley McCusker, Alyona Shchennikova, Ragan Smith, and Trinity Thomas.

The only obvious part to this story is that Ragan Smith is going and that she will compete in the all around. After winning the American Cup earlier this year and as a 2016 Olympic alternate, all eyes have been on Smith for big things this quadrennium. Though she didn't perform all around at US Classics, she competed well on uneven bars and balance beam. At the 2017 US Gymnastics Championships, Ragan easily won the all around by over 3 points and finished top 3 on every event. Barring injury, Smith is an all around lock for the team.

The second all around spot is a bit trickier. The spot most likely will go to one of Riley McCusker or Jordan Chiles (should they choose to do two all around gymnasts). McCusker was anointed as the new "chosen one" - excellent uneven bar work, performance capacity on floor much like her former teammate Laurie Hernandez. Like Smith, McCusker competed at the American Cup but that performance left quite a bit to be desired. She has since competed at Classics and Championships though clearly not at 100% as she has been coming back from injuries. Her performance at Championships was much improved and reminded us why she has the potential to be the new it girl. She finished third at Championships and the meet could have been closer if she was able to vault her double twisting Yurchenko. She finished first on bars, ahead of specialist and Olympic alternate Ashton Locklear, second on beam and fourth on floor.

Jordan Chiles career reminds be a bit of her (semi) namesake, Jordyn Wieber. We have known about Chiles for quite some time with her incredible Amanar vault as a junior. She's had quite a few international competitions under her belt. She had an injury and some coaching changes that kept her more in the background over the past few months. To be quite honest, I was about to erase her from my list of gymnasts to watch but then she had a good enough performance over 2 days to end up second in the all around. She, unfortunately, fell on her Amanar but is reportedly training a Lopez. The second vault makes her a medal asset which is going to be important to consider when figuring out the final team.

The next obvious choice is Jade Carey. She vaulted onto the scene out of nowhere (cliche, I know). She vaulted a tucked Tsuk double twist during the JO season and was tapped by National Team staff. Carey was then invited to camp and has progressed from there. She now vaults a laidout Tsuk 2/1 (technically a Kasamatsu 1/1 but WAG Code of Points doesn't differentiate) and an Amanar. The Amanar gave her quite a bit of trouble during Nationals. Her vaults are valued at a 5.6 and 5.8 respectively. Chiles' theoretical vaults are valued at a 5.8 and 5.2. On D score alone, Carey has the edge, however, the questionable landing on the Amanar leaves a few questions. Carey also has the fact that she is an excellent floor worker going for her. She finished 2nd behind Ragan Smith and boasts explosive but clean tumbling passes.

Could that be a team of 4? It gets a bit odd having 2 VT/FX girls as it would force McCusker out of the AA (only 3 can compete on one event). Smith would do AA. McCusker UB/BB. Carey and Chiles VT/FX with one of them able to do BB. Carey has the potential to be Kayla Williams, stellar vaulter that medals at a World Championships but then goes on to do great things in NCAA. I'm not sure what Carey's long term plans are if she doesn't make the worlds team (she is committed to Oregon State for 2018) but would it be more worthwhile to invest in Chiles? Though very few athletes are the same as they transition from the junior to senior ranks, Chiles is one that we've been waiting on for quite some time to wow us. Is now that time?

So let's go back to only taking one VT/FX girl. McCusker will do AA and that leaves an UB/BB spot available. Morgan Hurd has previously been hand picked by Valeri Liukin as an athlete to watch. Hurd has also been one that we've watched thrive in front of our eyes from the Nastia Liukin Cup now to US Nationals as a senior. She had a recent injury that prevented her from being her very best at Championships. She finished 6th in the all around not showing full difficulty and with a few errors. If she's back at 100%, she is absolutely someone that could fill that UB/BB role but the question is will she be back in time.

Trinity Thomas finished third on BB and can also fill the BB role. She's incredibly steady there and also has a solid uneven bar.

Alyona Shchennikova is an interesting one. She's been making a name for herself over the past few years. She won the US Classic but went from being a talked about girl to being forgotten in the shuffle. I have a hard time calling her a true bar worker because of her flexed feet and dangerous dismount but she does have excellent swing. Will the fact that she's a stronger reincarnation of Nastia Liukin change anything? Her floor is literally Nastia 2.0.

Ashton Locklear seemed to be an easy and obvious choice except for the fact that she is not, at the moment, the number one uneven bar worker in the US. Locklear took some time off after Rio and has been working hard getting back in shape. She's yet another gymnast not quite at 100%. Locklear has room to improve her UB D by adding back her in bar skills. She is still training balance beam though I don't think that changes much, especially since this isn't a team worlds. I can't tell if she's injured or has a lot of pressure on her shoulders as the new grandma of the team but she seems a little worn down. She's still my favorite American bar worker but she's not quite giving that exclamation mark that she used to give.

The last 2 are Emily Gaskins and Margzetta Frazier. I don't think Gaskins has much of a shot of making the team barring injury from others. She finished 4th on floor exercise. Frazier, on the other hand, finished just outside of the medals at Championships. She is another one that boasts an Amanar vault but didn't compete it due to a recent injury. Should she rise up in the AA competitions at camps, there's a chance that she could be the second all arounder with McCusker UB/BB and Chiles OR Carey as VT/FX. If she's not on the team, she'd make an excellent alternate.

My final pick for the team... I can't quite make. I think Ragan Smith and Riley McCusker are locks. I think in the end, McCusker will do all around leaving specialist spots open. What are your thoughts?