Here are some general thoughts on the competition. Mind you I only saw the NBC coverage of the women’s competition which consisted of 2 hours & only 4 gymnasts. That being said, I still have a few impressions to share…

In no particular order:

Jana Bieger: She was quite impressive and lived up to the hype that was hers after the American Classic Competition earlier this summer. After reading an editorial piece about the classics (on the Inside Gymnastics website – but when looking for the article to link, I was unable to find it on their site), I was eager to see her perform and I was not disappointed. She has a unique repertoire of skills. I especially liked her combination of back tuck to one leg, front tuck from one leg to one leg on the Balance Beam. I had heard of her combination but just couldn’t picture it. It’s quite something.

Another bonus for Bieger – she’s equally strong on all four of the apparatus. She doesn’t appear to have a weak event. And up until her last event of the two-day competition, she seemed completely at ease and unrattled by the competition, which bodes well for her in the future. The main area I saw for improvement with her gymnastics was presentation. She would do well to work on the overall presentation of her performances. This would round her out as a gymnast and make her routines all the more pleasing to the eye. With a bit of polish and crispness, Jana Bieger will be a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.

Chellsie Memmell: I was excited to see her compete on all four events. I am a big fan of the all-around gymnast (one who competes on every event as opposed to specializing on just one or two) and I was worried that Chellsie was turning into a 2-event specialist after she performed almost exclusively on Bars & Beam for the last 9 months. After leading the field after day 1, it was sad to see her relinquish her lead after Beam on day 2. I had been rooting for her.

While her double-twisting yurchenko needs improvement, I was pleased to see that she upgraded her vault. With a bit more height and tighter form, she will be a factor in any all-around competition she enters. Bars continues to be her strongest event and I thought that she was scored a tad low at Nationals – particularly on day 2. Beam… while she is still a top contender on this event, I do not like the looks of her piked barani. The fact that she fell on this move on day 2 only fueled the fire in me that believes she should take the skill out of her routine. Although a barani is never the most beautiful of skills, I preferred her tucked barani to immediate backhandspring. It was more unique and pleasing to behold. She has also taken out her Y-scale, which was a trademark of hers and really added some originality to her routine. I enjoyed her new floor routine and was, as always, impressed by her tumbling.

Nastia Liukin: This was the first time I saw Nastia compete on all four events. I saw her perform on Bars & Beam at the American Cup last winter and found her to be absolutely exquisite but wondered how well she would execute on Vault & Floor. Needless to say I was duly impressed with her all around abilities. While her vault is mediocre when it comes to start value, there is nothing mediocre about her vault itself. Her form is stupendous and her height is good. And she landed her vaults well on both days of the competition.

Nastia’s choreography and presentation on Floor are in a class of it’s own. She is expressive and interprets the music well. While she relies heavily on twisting elements in her tumbling, she maintains perfect form and excellent height and power in each of her passes. I am eager to see her much-discussed quadruple twist.

While I believe Liukin to be one of the most aesthetic and beautiful gymnasts I have ever seen, there are a few things that need some work:

  1. Her twists (triple dismount off the Beam, Randi on Floor) tend to be incomplete at times. Because she depends on these twisting elements and prefers them over double saltos, it is vital that they be complete.
  2. Her double layout dismount off Bars appears to be technically unsound. Perhaps her recent surge in height has caused the difficulty with this skill but it is one of the few elements she performs that is not beautiful and therefore it stands out – particularly because her Bars are so superior.

Alicia Sacramone:
Vault: WOW! She has the outstanding combination of outrageous power & perfect form. I was impressed by her height, distance, & perfect form. Absolutely incredible.

Floor: Equally impressive. Her tumbling is high and her form is great. She is also very expressive in her dance. Like the judges, I found no reason to deduct from her 9.900 routine on Day 2 at Nationals, but I think her routine would be much improved if she would smile while performing. It would be the finishing touch on her routine and rank her among the absolute best in the world.

Beam & Bars: While she has lacked consistency on Balance Beam, she is capable of performing a world class routine on this event. With more consistency, she could be a top contender. Sacramone’s deepest lack is on the Bars. She wants to be an all around gymnast but without improvement on Bars, this desire will not be realized. I am of the opinion that her ability on Bars could be much improved. Her swing is not bad, her form is good, and she is strong. Perhaps if she spent some time with a top notch Bars coach, like Kelly Hill or Don Peters, she might be able to come up with a routine that would work for her. Her current coaches are obviously tremendous coaches but sometimes getting an outside opinion is helpful when one is stuck in a rut. I would very much enjoy seeing her improve on this event and become a true all around athlete.

So those are my thoughts. What are yours?

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