News, Notes and Quotes from the 2018 American Cup.

By Gina Pongetti Angeletti

Feature Photo By Lloyd Smith

• Early-season difficulty for Japan’s Kenzo Shirai was not an issue. Seven tumbling passes. A D-score of 7.1. Passes that included opening with a triple twist and closing with an attempted quad, just short of fully rotated—after the other six passes. Rounding out the middle of the routine was a tucked double-double, a back 3.5 to a Rudi, front tuck full to a triple twist and a back 2.5 to a Barani. Adding in his execution score of 7.866, he totaled 14.966. Shirai peaked last year at the 2017 World Championships in Montreal, scoring a 15.633, including the addition of another namesake skill, the “Shirai 3,” which is a triple-twisting double layout.  Twisting is his game, as his first skill, the “Shirai” is a quad twisting back layout, and his second is the “Shirai 2,” a triple-twisting front layout. Not to mention Shirai has the 1, 2 and 3 on vault as well—of course, twisting. His Shirai 3 on floor, the triple-double, earns an H-value. Possibly the most amazing factor to point out is that it seems as though he does not need a rest phase each year. He was able to pull off this packed routine in March when many gymnasts are performing watered down routines.

Hurd is the Word. Morgan Hurd looked poised and purposeful today, winning her second international all-around title in a five-month span. She is leading by example for the other national team members, many of whom are preparing for their own debuts during the 2018 elite season. She handled the pressure of being chased by O’Keefe and other world stars and the heaviness of the task that being a defending champion gives. Winning the all-around with a 56.599, and taking first on three of four events (tying on floor with Japan’s Mai Murakami), Hurd is settling in to the “favorite” spot quite nicely.

U.S. on Pommels! It’s historically a very difficult event for the U.S. men to conquer, with the exception of the success of Alex Naddour, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist on the event. Hitting two for two on pommel horse is a good first international showing for 2018. Yul Moldauer went first, performing a routine with a 6.0 D-score. What was most impressive was his 7.733 E-score, with a final score of 13.733. Allan Bower topped that with a 13.966; one-tenth higher in difficulty with a 6.1, and his execution was also .133 above with 7.866. Moldauer says that he thinks strong pommels routines are becoming more prevalent in the U.S. “Just because everyone in the country’s working so hard,” he says. “We know we’re weak on certain events, so I think that we’re all collectively working on [pommels].”

Smiley Maile! Starting vault with a first-place 14.600, Maile O’Keefe came out strong and with a statement to make. Ending with a 13.466 on floor, O’Keefe’s difficulty is just not quite there. Her cleanliness the past two years as a junior (2016 and 2017 U.S. Jr. Champion) got her through. However, in the senior international division, she is going to have to step up her game. Her third-place finish here is to be commended since it is only her first senior international outing. “I feel like I had a decent showing,” says O’Keefe. “You know, there’s still things that I can work on, but I did good.”

Men’s Vault. Moldauer posted a 14.733 on a tucked Tsukahara 2 ½. Bower presented the same vault, earning a 14.533 with a landing stuck like glue.

Mai Murakami from Japan was being cheered on during her floor routine by teammate Shirai, who was videotaping her performance on his iPhone with a smile. Her tumbling never fails to impress, performed with a dominating energy about her.

Shirai on the Shirai. At the 2013 World Championships, Shirai debuted his first namesake vault, a triple-twisting yurchenko. Here, he performed it well, earning a 15.066. He also posted the meet’s only difficulty score in the 7’s, with a 7.1 on floor.

Canada’s Brooklyn Moors recovered from a shaky day on bars and beam by performing a beautifully artistic floor routine with stunning choreography and elegant dance skills.

Beam. The event that always shakes up the day was won by Hurd. Scores fell as low as the 11s. Again, proving why being both an all-around champion and an individual event specialist is so difficult.

D-scores for the Women. The average D-score for Hurd, the eventual 2018 American Cup Champion, was a 5.75. Compare this to that of 2016 Olympic all-around champion Simone Biles’ 6.425, there is some work to be done. It is early in the season, and we cannot wait to see what is to come during peak season.

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