By Patricia Duffy

Nine U.S. women took center stage on Thursday afternoon at the U.S. women’s 2018 World Team Selection Camp one-day competition, hosted by Evo Athletics in Sarasota, Florida. The five-woman roster plus one traveling alternate is expected to be named by Friday evening.

Feature Photo by Grace Chiu


Pre-Competition Notes

The nine U.S. elites competing warmed up as a crowd built at Evo Athletics in Sarasota, Florida. Simone Biles could be heard asking Shilese Jones, “We’re marching in! Do I put on my grips before or after?” The women laughed with their coaches and looked like a team despite the competition ahead of them.

Only five spots on the 2018 Worlds Team are up for grabs plus one traveling alternate position. Soon after the team is announced, the group will travel to Doha, Qatar, spending next week training and acclimating themselves to the 7+ hour time change before qualifications on Sunday, October 28.

Each of the women sported different U.S. competition leotards from the past couple of years.

The group of nine women, including Biles, Jones, Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker, Grace McCallum, Kara Eaker, Ragan Smith, Jordan Chiles,  and Alyona Shchennikova, were split into two groups and performed the events in order of how the U.S. women will compete during qualifications in Doha.

Uneven Bars (In Order of Performance)

Riley McCusker

McCusker started the women off with a solid set on bars despite having some trouble on her releases during warmups. High-Performance Team Coordinator Tom Forster could be seen talking with McCusker and her MG Elite coach Maggie Haney after the routine. Big score, unshockingly. She has the chance to make the uneven bars final in Doha and will almost certainly compete on the event in team qualifications and finals. 14.95

Shilese Jones

In her first World Team Selection Camp, Jones looked a bit nervous prior to the start of her routine. She opened with a slightly overarched handstand, but she got it back. Beautiful Pak salto. A bit tight in areas and a small step on the dismount, but overall a solid exercise. 13.8

Simone Biles

Gorgeous straddled Tkatchev followed by a big piked Tkatchev. Slight issue with a late handstand. Stuck, super high double-double dismount. Insanely hard, literally and figuratively. She made an impact. Forster was all smiles and only talked with Biles for a short second after her exercise. 14.75

Alyona Shchennikova

Shchennikova had a good showing on bars overall. Slightly flexed feet on her releases but overall great air awareness. A beautiful double layout dismount to finish despite a low chest on the landing. 14.6

Morgan Hurd

Hurd seemed to rush through her bars routine despite having lovely lines and releases. Gorgeous Tkatchev and Pak sequence. Stuck full-twisting double back to finish. 14.3

Jordan Chiles

Not an event she would likely compete for the women if she made the trip to Doha, but Chiles is still solid on bars. Pretty piked Jaeger, just slightly flexed feet, before a stunning Tkatchev to in-bar Gienger combination. 13.6

Kara Eaker

Eaker started strong and clean, flowing through her routine before coming off the bar on her straddled Tkatchev. Disappointing moment for the beam specialist, but she finished strong with a beautiful Pak and piked Jaeger. A bit rushed through her double layout and a small hop. 12.35

Grace McCallum

McCallum had a rough day on bars, opening a bit rushed and with flexed feet, leg separations and a fall, but she finished with a strong full-twisting double back. 12.95

Ragan Smith

Probably the biggest question mark of this competition. Smith has struggled with injuries all year but is a strong all-arounder when she’s healthy. Her performance today will be telling of where she is at with her health (namely ankle and toe injuries).

Beautiful opening straddled Jaeger. An fall on her sky-high pike Tkatchev, but she returned to the bar with a beautiful Pak. Great form on her full-twisting double back to finish.

Despite the fall, Smith looked much improved on bars since 2018 U.S. Championships and more like her normal self. Strong and clean lines. 12.85

Rotation Notes:

The first group had a stronger showing than the second group, which was expected with great bar workers like McCusker and Biles leading off the group. Definitely some areas to clean up, but the U.S. women will almost definitely have a strong bars showing at Worlds.

Uneven Bars Standings:
  1. McCusker – 14.95
  2. Biles – 14.75
  3. Shchennikova – 14.6
  4. Hurd – 14.3
  5. Jones – 13.8
  6. Chiles – 13.6
  7. McCallum – 12.95
  8. Smith – 12.85
  9. Eaker – 12.35

 

Balance Beam (In Order of Performance)

Jones

Jones looked a bit more relaxed in her balance beam routine than on bars. Big balance check on her Arabian, but beautiful flight series. Jones has great, graceful lines in her leaps while also stomping her salto elements. Small step on her double back dismount. Keep in mind Jones was listed as the alternate on the U.S. women’s nominative Worlds roster. 12.65

Biles

Biles seems to be one of the only gymnasts who can make wolf turn series look good. The beam can be heard loud and proud with the acoustics of the gym, so all of her stomped skills are especially loud. A bit low on her Barani; flawless back layout series. Absolutely stunning routine with serious difficulty. Just one mistake on her full-twisting double back dismount: low chest, having to touch the mat to catch herself.

Remember: Biles put her hands down on an element during the beam final in Rio, and it cost her gold (she finished with the bronze). Qualifying to the beam final is basically guaranteed for Biles if she hits, even with small mistakes, during qualifications, but the real question is if she’ll get her redemption during event finals. 13.85

Shchennikova

Shchennikova started with her own wolf series but has a major bobble and opts to redo it before rolling into her solid backhandspring LOSO to LOSO series. Good leaps and lines. Stunning Onodi. Looked a bit nervous, but finished strong with a double back dismount, just a couple steps back. Big smile after the fact. 12.9

Hurd

The 2017 World silver medalist on balance beam, Hurd opened with her signature, beautiful standing full. Bobble before going into her flight series. Great leaps. Looked a bit hesitant throughout after the early bobble, but she finished strong with a double pike dismount, slight hop. Did not look happy after the fact. She knows she can do much better. 13.55

McCusker

Double wolf turn series before her BHS LOSO LOSO series. Big balance check, almost came off the beam but saved it. Pretty leaps and a great aerial. Finished with a good double back, just a slight step on the dismount. 14.1

Eaker

Eaker attacked the beam–in the most graceful way you can attack a beam–from the get go. Besides being slightly low on her layouts, Eaker’s leaps and turns are out of this world. Solid 2 1/2 twist to dismount. Her beam is a stunningly artistic addition to the U.S. women’s repertoire, and international judges would love her routine if she went to Doha. Even the judges here love it. A big 15.15 for Eaker that puts her in first on beam. There’s a good chance she will win beam for the camp competition since Biles had the dismount error. 15.15

McCallum

McCallum counted a rough fall during the uneven bars rotation, so she’s looking for redemption on beam, where she is typically extremely consistent.

McCallum’s candle mount never gets old. Her accuracy and gracefulness is impeccable. Exquisite wolf turns. Definitely being careful. Great aerial to layout. Low on her front tuck. High double tuck but low chest with a couple steps forward.

Room to improve, but a good way to rebound after that early fall on bars! She received a big applause from the audience after her routine. 13.65

Smith

Smith opened with a double wolf series, slightly wobbly. BHS to two-footed layout series with a balance check. Great standing full. Stomped front tuck. Balance check on her leap series, but she pulls it together. Double pike dismount–low chest and small step forward, but an overall good exercise from Smith. 13.95

Chiles

First off, Chiles is the only gymnast wearing the gradient blue U.S. leo, and it is a stunner! Beautiful choice, and she seems extremely confident today (and always).

Great full turn to full turn series into a solid BHS LOSO LOSO. Flawless side aerial. Small hop out of her front tuck. Double pike with a small step to finish. Overall a solid routine from Chiles with a whole lot of confidence. 13.2

Rotation Notes:

Overall, the first group had an uncharacteristically rough showing on beam. “Rough” as in rough for the U.S. women, but still, the scores were not where they needed to be, especially since the international judges in Doha will nitpick even the most minor things.

Balance Beam Standings:
  1. Eaker – 15.15
  2. McCusker – 14.1
  3. Smith – 13.95
  4. Biles – 13.85
  5. McCallum – 13.65
  6. Hurd – 13.55
  7. Chiles – 13.2
  8. Shchennikova – 12.9
  9. Jones – 12.65

 

Floor Exercise (In Order of Performance)

Biles

Great full-twisting double layout to start. Good control on her namesake skill, the Biles. Overall looking a lot less bouncy and more controlled than at championships. Slightly out of bounds on her front full to full-twisting double back. Seems a bit fatigued but finished beautifully with a great double-double, just a small step.

The floor title is hers to lose at Worlds, but if there’s any routine she is going to hit, seemingly always, it’s floor. 15.1

Shchennikova

Shchennikova had an unfortunate fall on her opening front layout to double front. Just couldn’t get the rotation around in time to land it. Low landing on her second pass and out of bounds on her double pike dismount. Not the routine she wanted. 11.95

Hurd

Basically everyone is a fan of Hurd’s floor. Low chest on her opening double-double. Out of bounds on her double layout. Solid front layout to front full. Love the balletic elements of her routine. Slight wobble on her double pike dismount, but overall a good routine. Not her best, but if she cleans it up, this is another routine the international judges will love because of its artistry. 12.9

McCusker

Another routine that will score well with the international judges, McCusker opened with a good piked full-in. Her lines are impeccable, even her wolf turn looks great on floor. Looked like she went out of bounds on her double pike, but it was very close. Low chest on her double back dismount and small step. Overall a lovely routine from McCusker. She’s come a long way in the past two seasons as a senior elite. 13.85

Jones

Jones’ opening double-double is huge. Follows it up with another big Arabian double front. Seemed slightly hesitant on her full-in and goes out of bounds. Lovely on her double back dismount. Great power from Jones on floor. 12.8

McCallum

Big double-double for McCallum to start. Great front series. McCallum is a lovely twister, and her triple twist is nothing short of stunning! Stuck double back to finish. Great routine from McCallum. Very clean. 14.3

Smith

Great double layout even though she went out of bounds. Lovely front full to triple twist. Big Arabian double front but another out of bounds step. Finished strong with a stuck double pike dismount. She seems to be getting stronger with each and every routine. 13.65

Chiles

Front 1.5 into a huge Arabian double front to start. Very clean. Great piked Arabian double front with just a slight step. Out of bounds but stuck double layout. Solid leaps. Stuck double pike dismount.

Overall, Chiles looked a lot more controlled than at championships and has a shot at making this team, especially if Eaker is selected as a beam specialist. They would balance each other well. It will come down to her performance on vault. 13.2

Eaker

Lovely 2.5 to front layout, steps out of bounds. A bit short on her signature triple twist but still great to watch. Low on her double pike to finish. Has a few things to clean up, but overall a very stylish, artistic performance. 13.55

Rotation Notes:

Basically everyone went out of bounds on floor. Either the floor was smaller than usual, or it was just one of those days, but the floor scores weren’t particularly reflective of some of the great routines because of that. The team will definitely be working on control throughout training in Doha.

As far as question marks go for the team, McCallum had a great performance on floor after a rough start to the day. She’s definitely still in the mix, but Eaker and Chiles are making cases for themselves as well. Vault will be telling.

Floor Exercise Standings:
  1. Biles – 15.1
  2. McCallum – 14.3
  3. McCusker – 13.85
  4. Smith – 13.65
  5. Eaker – 13.55
  6. Chiles – 13.2
  7. Hurd – 12.9
  8. Jones – 12.8
  9. Shchennikova – 11.95

 

 Vault (In Order of Performance)

Shchennikova

DTY. Low chest. Doesn’t seem to complete the rotation fully. 13.9

Hurd

Beautiful DTY. Small hop. Clean, consistent vault for USA. 14.5

McCusker

Good DTY through the air. Seems to cross her legs. Big hop on the landing and slightly off to the side with some steps. 14.35

Jones

Another stunning DTY through air. She travels far and gets great height. 14.75

Biles

Biles. Goes. BIG. It’s not her normal Cheng though… she adds a 1/2 twist, and lands with a small hop. The half on, double twist off will be named “The Biles” if she lands it at Worlds! 16.0

Smith

Stuck DTY. Leg separation through the air, but overall a strong vault from Smith. 14.6

Chiles

Chiles hits a DTY. A bit high on the block. Small step. 14.7

Eaker

Eaker does a lovely, clean Yurchenko 1.5. 13.95

McCallum

Good DTY. A bit slow on her twists. Small step. Still a clean vault. 14.5

Rotation Notes:

The U.S. has what it needs on vault and that is The Biles plus a ton of clean DTYs. No concerns here.

Chiles decided to stick with the DTY instead of going for the Amanar, which will likely keep her off the Worlds team. The U.S. has Biles for the vault final and plenty of clean DTYs to make for a huge team score.

Vault Standings:
  1. Biles – 16.0
  2. Jones – 14.75
  3. Chiles – 14.7
  4. Smith – 14.6
  5. Tie: Hurd + McCallum – 14.5
  6. McCusker – 14.35
  7. Eaker – 13.95
  8. Shchennikova – 13.9

 

Post-Meet Notes

The women saluted the audience before Chiles broke out in dance and everyone started laughing, likely happy to be done with the competition.

Final All-Around Standings:
  1. Biles – 59.7*
  2. McCusker – 57.25
  3. McCallum – 55.4
  4. Hurd – 55.25
  5. Smith – 55.05
  6. Eaker – 55.00
  7. Chiles – 54.7
  8. Jones – 54.0
  9. Shchennikova – 53.35

*Biles clinched her spot on the Worlds team with her all-around win.

 

Worlds Team Prediction

The nominative roster for Worlds was: Biles, Hurd, McCusker, McCallum and Eaker with Jones as the alternate.

After today’s competition, it is clear Smith is on the mend from the injuries she struggled with earlier this year and at championships. With Smith finishing fifth in the all-around, it would make since to take Smith instead of Jones as the alternate. Otherwise, the nominative roster should probably stick.

Prediction: Simone Biles, Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker, Grace McCallum & Kara Eaker

Traveling Alternate: Ragan Smith

The official team announcement is expected by Friday evening, if not sooner. Follow @insidegym to stay up to date on the latest with the U.S. women and more on the road to Doha!


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