US National Championships 2015This weekend saw one of the highlights of the calendar in American gymnastics. The much coveted title of US National Champion was up for grabs as well those all important spots on the American National Team. Always one to watch, this year was no exception. World Champion Simone Biles was now up against 3 Olympians, with reigning Olympic AA Champion Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman back in competition alongside Kyla Ross. So who would come out on top?
Queen of Gymnastics - Simone Biles
It almost seemed a foregone conclusion that Simone would continue her impressive winning streak and take her third consecutive national title, but even she proved that she was only human this weekend. On day 1 she had a couple of very uncharacteristic wobbles on beam before stunning everyone who was watching by falling on her final tumble on floor. Still, her incredible difficulty and otherwise flawless execution meant that she actually went up one place in the rankings, from 3rd to 2nd. It was her incredible vault though that projected her, with a massive 16.250, into 1st place with a total of 61.100. I mean seriously, 61.100 with a fall! When I said earlier that she was human I may have been lying!
Day 2 saw Simone back to her normal, confident ways and she rocketed through the competition to take her third consecutive national title with a 2 day score of 124.100. She really is the most incredible gymnast and it's hard to see how anyone can ever beat her and yet she still always comes across as the most genuine, down to earth girl. She truly is a joy to watch.
Mags got Swag - Maggie Nichols
Known on Twitter as MagsGotSwag, Maggie Nichols certainly lived up to that this weekend. Always slightly below the radar in the past she really came into her own this weekend and delighted everyone with her excellent gymnastics. Her vault is a very well executed Amanar and she looks confident and elegant on beam and bars. On floor, she combines elegance and drama with her tumbling, leaps and spins and this is where her personality really starts to shine through. I enjoyed watching her on all four apparatus but particularly on floor.
She was one of the few gymnasts who managed to hit all 8 routines over the 2 days and finished second only to her best friend Simone!
Olympic Star - Aly Raisman
After taking time off after London 2012, Aly has started her comeback with Rio 2016 firmly in her sights. Finishing 3rd this weekend she has proved that she is still very definitely a force to be reckoned with in US gymnastics. Heading towards being as strong now as she was back in 2012, Aly has always come across as being very focused and driven and I am sure she will want to keep improving until she is better than she was at the last Olympics. She already has her Amanar vault back, though perhaps not as cleanly as it was back then, and her D score on bars is only marginally down from what it was. On beam she seems to be struggling more. She had a fall on day 1 which shocked everyone who knows just how consistent Aly usually is. In fact when asked when Aly had last fallen in a competition, her coach Mihai replied "never". Not to be deterred though she came back on day 2 with her usual consistency and raised her ranking from 4th (day 1) to 3rd (end of day 2). It is on floor though that Aly really shines through. She took the title of US National Champion on floor after two stunning performances. A dynamic gymnast, she is really able to play to her strengths on this apparatus and show everyone exactly how good she is.
It has been a real delight to see Aly back in the gym, not just because of how good she was in London but how good she is now and no doubt with better yet to come.
Key Player - Bailie Key
After making such a name for herself as a junior, Bailie's last junior year was marred by injury. Moving up to the senior ranks in 2015 saw her back in the spotlight and fighting to be noticed amongst the older girls. For me, she didn't stand out as much this weekend as she did as a junior and on day 1 she had some wobbles and errors which we are not used to seeing from her. By day 2 though, things were looking much better. She seemed more confident in her performances and her improved scores reflected that, finishing the weekend in a solid 4th place.
A lot was expected from Bailie as a junior and it will be nice to watch her grow and improve as she moves through the senior ranks.
Golden Girl - Gabby Douglas
Another London 2012 Olympian making a comeback, but this time the reigning Olympic Champion, Gabby Douglas. It can't have been easy to step back into the gym as Olympic Champion knowing you have to start from the beginning and prove yourself again, yet this is exactly what Gabby has done. Although, finishing in 5th place, she is no doubt not yet where she would want to be, there were still surges of the brilliance that we saw in London. Still working a DTY rather than an Amanar on vault, there were also slight errors throughout the 2 days but I am sure that these are not things we will be seeing for long. It was Gabby's floor routine that particularly stood out for me and really captured her energy and enjoyment. I can't wait to see her continue to improve and shine.
Star of the Bars - Madison Kocian
Madison Kocian seems to be slightly under the radar in terms of US gymnastics, despite being part of the Gold medal winning team at the 2014 World Championships. She is lovely to watch on beam and floor as she is such a beautifully elegant gymnast. Her routines on day 2 were much, much cleaner than day 1 and I particularly enjoyed her floor. With a solid DTY vault, it is nevertheless bars on which Madison truly shines. She posted the two highest bars scores of the weekend to take the bars title easily. She swings so smoothly and makes it look simply effortless. Taking 6th place, Madison was the last girl to qualify automatically for the National Team and this was very well deserved.
The top 6 all around finishers automatically qualify to the national team and so it is these 6 girls who were the first to be named. Keep watching for my 'best of the rest'.