Monday, February 24, 2014

14 Routines to Watch from the 2014 Winter Cup

via USAGym

Generally speaking, gym nerds were not impressed with the 2014 Winter Cup. That is, they were Maroney-ed about the whole situation. Many left the Riviera Royale Pavilion feeling somewhat ambivalent about the routines. They were hoping for huge skills, but big skills were few and far between. And if they couldn't get big skills, they were hoping for perfection, but Kohei Uchimura sublimity was missing.

At times, the meet was a comedy of errors. Especially pommel horse on day 1, where it seemed like no one could make it through the meet without falling.

As you'll see below, I haven't included any pommel horse routines in my list of must-watch routines. Sadly, no one broke a 15 on the event. The highest score was Ellis Mannon's 14.500 for this routine with some old school flair work:

But Ellis Mannon wasn't named to the U.S. National Team, and neither was Penn State's Craig Hernandez, who mustered a 14.350.

Let's face it. The United States continues to struggle on pommel horse. Sure, Fabian Hambuechen won a World bronze medal with a 13.333 on pommels, but 2014 isn't just about individual results. It's about the team. And if the American men want to contend for a team medal at the 2014 World Championships, they can't have a lineup that consistently averages a 13.

:::Remove finger from Team USA's gaping wound:::

All that said, I don't want to make it seem like the Winter Cup was a giant vortex of suckage. There were some great moments in Las Vegas over the weekend!!! And there were some cool skills being competed!!! Let's discuss a few of them…

1. Eddie Penev on Floor

Eddie Penev first competed internationally for Bulgaria, but as a full-time student, Eddie struggled to meet the demands of the Bulgarian Gymnastics Federation. It was hard to find time to travel back and forth between Bulgaria and the United States for training camps and other events. So, he switched his nationality in 2012, and in 2013, he became part of the U.S. National Team.

I'm guessing that USAGym is happy with this switch, especially after the Men's Technical Committee watched Eddie's floor routine during finals at the Winter Cup. Eddie was the only American gymnast to break 16 at the meet. Granted, he broke 16 only because the United States has a funky bonus system. But even without the stick bonus in effect, Eddie's routine would have scored a 15.950, which still would have been the highest score of the weekend.

By the way, Eddie's capable of doing a 2.5 punch front double full. It's not quite as impressive as Kenzo's 3.5 punch front double full. But are we sure that Kenzo Shirai's human?

2. Marvin Kimble on Floor

Marvin Kimble is a little like Simone Biles, in that his talent seems limitless. Marvin still has to learn how to use that talent and control his energy, but compared to 2013, Marvin's improvement is quite noticeable. Personally, I loved his front layout to double pike. He made that look way too easy.

3. John Orozco on Floor

On day 1 of competition, John Orozco attempted a skill that could be named after him. It's a Lou Yun with an extra half twist. Many gymterneters were quick to poo-poo it. "It's not ready!" "What is that even supposed to be?"

As they say, haters gonna hate. I, for one, am happy to see John Orozco trying to do something different. After a major knee injury, it's easy to become a chicken-bock-bock and to play it safe. Attempting a new skill is anything but safe, and bonus: I didn't think he was going to die while he was doing it!

4. Donnell Whittenburg on Rings

Beef Incarnated got a 15.700 for this routine. It's 5000x better than his routine at the Mexican Open in 2012.

Typically, male gymnasts struggle with the strength elements, and they have an easier time with the swinging elements on rings. For Donnell, the opposite is true. The strength elements come easily for him, but he had to work hard on the swinging elements. Well, I'd say that his hard work seems to be paying off.

With Brandon Wynn and Donnell Whittenburg, the U.S. has a formidable duo on rings.

5. Brandon Wynn on Rings

Brandon Wynn received a 15.750 with stick bonus. It's not as big as his 16.250 at the Houston National Invitational, but I'm guessing that a 15.650 is a more accurate assessment of Wynn's routine.

P.S. I love, love, love tight things…

…like a good tight arch after a full-twisting double layout.

6. Josh Dixon on Vault

Josh Dixon finished third on vault, but I think that his form is better than that of Eddie Penev (who tied for first). Josh's knees look just a little bit straighter.

That said, if you watch Josh's vault frame-by-frame, you can see that the timing of the pre-flight is off. There's still some work to be done on this vault.

But you know what doesn't need work? His abs. New mandate: U.S. men must wear white leotards.

7. Eddie Penev on Vault

A few of the top U.S. men are chasing a 6.2 vault called a Li Xiao Peng. (Yurchenko half-on + Randi off).

Paul Ruggeri is one of them. Unfortunately, that vault resulted in knee surgery for Paul.

The other is Eddie Penev, and according to Eddie, the Li Xiao Peng is coming along nicely. We shall see if he competes it in the near future.

8. Chandler Eggleston and Jake Martin on Vault

I like me a good Shewfelt…

…and I like good execution. And Chandler Eggleston and Jake Martin did both of those things. Woot!

During prelims, Jake Martin received a 9.650 in execution on his Shewfelt, and during finals, Chandler Eggleston matched that execution score. As far as I know, their 9.650s were the highest execution scores at the meet. Yay!

9. Danell Leyva on Parallel Bars

Danell Leyva had a rough weekend in Las Vegas, and as a result, he was not named to the U.S. National Team. I don't know anything about the politics behind that decision, but I'm guessing that Danell Leyva was shocked. It's the first time that he hasn't been on the National Team in how many years? Hopefully, the snubbing was the motivational wake-up call that Danell needs. Because quite frankly, he has not been performing like an Olympic bronze medalist.

At any rate, I digress. Let's discuss the matter at hand. Danell's p-bar routine. Yes, the routine was not perfect, but generally speaking, I like the composition of Danell's routine. The peach-basket stage and the giant stage have a nice rhythm to them. When I watch those sections, I feel like I'm watching a Chinese uneven bar routine.

The last part of the routine, however, needs a little reworking. It's so clunky compared to the first two parts. Any ideas on how to fix that part?

10. Adrian de los Angeles on Parallel Bars

Adrian de los Angeles would be so good at elite compulsory routines. He has the lines and tightness required.

(FYI: Unfortunately, Adrian hurt himself on floor during the Winter Cup Finals. I haven't heard any word about the nature of the injury. I just know that he was in a wheelchair at the airport on Sunday, and he had a big ol' brace strapped to his leg.)

11. Donnell Whittenburg on Parallel Bars

I like one specific part of this routine: the Moy into the immediate double front at the 0:36-mark. Most p-bar routines consist of handstand after handstand after handstand after handstand. It's nice to see a more dynamic combination on the rails.

12. Akash Modi on Parallel Bars

Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato. It's coming. Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato, Kato. YESSSSSS! KAAAATOOOOO!!!!!

^^^^^That's what goes through my mind whenever I watch this routine.

13. John Orozco on High Bar

As Blythe Lawrence has pointed out, the Kovacs combination is all the rage in men's gymnastics right now. While I like the latest daredevil trend on men's high bar, the non-Kovacs releases will always have a special place in my heart. Mostly because I remember seeing Ivan Ivankov catch a piked Kovacs with his ribs, and I decided that Kovacs were not for me.

For instance, I like Liukins (full-twisting stretched Tkatchevs). Heck, a Liukin is even harder than a Kovacs. It's an F, while a Kovacs is a D.

14. Josh Dixon on High Bar

Like John Orozco, Josh Dixon isn't a Kovacs guy, but he does perform a cool Jaeger release. It's called a Winkler-Pogorelev. It's an E, which, I might add, is harder than a Kovacs.

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  1. I don't understand why USA Gymnastics continues to accept petition after petition for Jonathan Horton. I like the guy but he is injured and can't compete so granting his petitions just takes away a spot from a qualified gymnast who can.

  2. A couple things... Dixon's release is a Pogorolev because it starts in el-grip. (I love it!) Also, I agree that Leyva's Pbar routine is weird at the end. Part of the problem is that he has a junior-level upper-arm group skill. It needs to be replaced with a big boy skill. Once that is done, then they can play with the composition.

  3. I for one is happy that Danell Leyva was striked out. He's been slacking off since last year, nay, since London even. I say USAGym has been patient enough with him. He's been going down the hill, his prime has passed. Better make room for Penev or de los Angeles.

  4. I agree about Leyva. As a single competitor he's fine but he clearly isn't a team guy. The proof of this is all the shots of him hiding under that stupid towel during the team competition at the Olympic Games. The team was clearly lacking excitement when things went wrong and his teammates could have used a boost or at the very least a little support. I won't be mad if he's never included on another USA Men's Team.