By John Roethlisberger
It’s an exciting time of the year for gymnastics with predictions, changes, and debates happening everywhere, so let’s take a walk around the gym world with some news and notes across the competition floor.
Photo by Grace Chiu
U.S. Championships is upon us and the two favorites are poised to win it all again. For the men, Sam Mikulak looks better than ever. Health is the only thing that could keep him off the upcoming World Team or the 2020 Olympic team. He’s got everything you want to see in a great gymnast, and I would be surprised if he didn’t win his sixth U.S. all-around title, putting him in the record books as the only man ever to do that. The only threat to that sixth title is Yul Moldauer. If Yul is 100%, we’ll see a great battle for the top.
For the women, it’s not who will win, it’s by how much. Even more interesting, is what new skills Simone Biles might put on display. As good as Simone is, she makes her gymnastics look easier than anyone else on the floor. Which leads me to the question, how much more can she do? We’ve seen some glimpses on social media, most notably her Biles to front layout (which I personally think should be a double front). Throw in the rest of a very strong women’s field and we have MUST SEE TV!
Road to Worlds
Titles will be on the line again this fall when the gymnastics world once again turns its attention towards Stuttgart, Germany. The last time Worlds were held in Stuttgart, the U.S. men finished fourth and the women took home gold. It’s hard to see a scenario where the women don’t win. They’re too good at the top and at the same time, still deeper than any country in the world. I think the biggest question is, who will be joining Simone on the team?
The men were fourth in Doha and gave Japan a run for the bronze. That should give them confidence heading into this year, however, the top three teams (China, Russia and Japan) seem like the teams to make it a three-team race. One thing I loved about the U.S. men last year is they competed like they had a chip on their shoulder, and showed they can be consistent. If they want to be on the medal podium, they are going to have to show that determination and grit again this year.
The talk around changing men’s gymnastics continues. Many changes have been debated, but why does it seem like very little will change? Maybe it doesn’t need to, but it sure feels like it does. Men’s collegiate gymnastics has been shrinking for decades, and I think it’s fair to say, it’s hanging on by a thread. The University of Illinois Chicago was the latest to drop their program. I say take some chances, do something radical, or a few things radical – it’s too great a sport not to!
On the women’s side, maybe the biggest changes are on the coaching side. Most notably, Chris Waller moved into the head coaching position at UCLA following Miss Val’s retirement. Meanwhile, Jordyn Wieber goes from volunteer coach at UCLA to head coach at the University of Arkansas. For Utah, Megan Marsden retired but Tom Farden remains at the helm with a new assistant coaching staff including Garrett Griffeth and Courtney McCool-Griffeth. As the dust settles one has to ask, can Waller maintain success at UCLA? Can Wieber return the Razorbacks to a top-ten team? Will the new faces at Utah be the difference in the Utes being a perennial top six team or THE top team? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, I know it will be a wild ride!