Gymnastics

Quick hits: 2019 American Cup podium training

12:34 p.m.: The most anticipated matchup of the weekend on the women's side is Grace McCallum vs. Leanne Wong, the team player who's a budding star in her own right vs. the extremely elegant and poised junior national champion.

12:36 p.m.: Will also be interesting to see whether Mai Murakami (JPN) and Ellie Black (CAN) or someone else will be able to beat one or both of the Americans here. It's never a given at the #AmericanCup, but the U.S. women have 18 years of history going for them...

12:38 p.m.: Both the Americans have upgrades in their pockets, though both expressed some doubt they'd do everything. McCallum has a new FX to "Hava Nagila" and has been working a new pass and new series on beam and bars.

12:40 p.m: France's new senior Celia Serber makes quite a nice impression with her form on beam. Great lines but also looks very athletic. A little wobbly on some things, but great potential.

12:42 p.m.: Grace McCallum on floor: Oh my, that is some epic music! Like, film with 10,000 extras that spans history of a nation epic. Lawrence of Arabia epic. It's "Hava Nagila" all right, and a very dramatic cut of it. Hands down on triple full third pass, but she's still getting warm, it seems.

12:45 p.m.: McCallum's last floor set was from when she was 13, so she was very excited to get a new one. Choreographed by Dominic Zito. McCallum and coach Sarah Jantzi listened to a lot of music in choosing her new set, and this piece was the one that made Grace light up, according to Sarah.

12:46 p.m.: Also, there's a part where Grace does a wolf turn to the sound of a lone horn. Not so easy to actually choreograph a wolf turn into a floor routine -- Zito did well. Also a couple moments in the corner before her last pass where she's definitely channeling Aly Raisman there.

12:47 p.m.: Over on beam, Kim Bui and Murakami are doing battle with particular skills. For Bui it's her bhs, layout stepout series. Murakami takes a few tries to get her wolf spin in order, but then delivers a beautiful Humphrey.

12:49 p.m.: Leanne Wong's vault regime today consists of Yurchenko layout timer after Yurchenko layout timer. Over on bars, Ellie Black is looking a bit frustrated with her release skills. Great swing and big air, but hard to control.

12:55 p.m: Murakami looks strong and focused on beam -- except for that wolf turn, which continues to give her problems. She's done about seven now and has made one well.

12:57 p.m.: Seeing ambitious routines from Sanna Veerman (NED) on bars and beam. Nice full set from McCallum on bars, ending with toe full to immediate full twisting double back. Confidently performed all the way through.

1:03 p.m.: Very good bars set from Wong follows: Stalder, Stalder Shoposh to Pak to immediate toe Khorkina II to a bunch of other stuff and that gorgeous floated double layout.

1:06 p.m.: McCallum UB: Wieler to Shaposh to uprise Tkatchev, Pak to stalder Khorkina II to toe stalder, toe full to full twisting double back with a small hop. Two in a row.

1:10 p.m.: Murakami FX: She's kept her 2017-2018 routine. Double double tuck, no problem. Double layout, very nice. 2.5 to front full, very nice as well. Double pike. Sharp stuff all the way through.

1:12 p.m.: Seeing gorgeous things on beam from Lu Yufei. The typical China beamwork (switch ring, etc) but done with a lightness and extension rare even for a Chinese gymnast. Wonderful to watch.

1:16 p.m.: Wong UB: Inbar stalder to Shaposh to Pak to Khorkina II. That or some variation of that is the combination a la mode on bars today, but Wong's having trouble with it so far here -- two falls so far and some problems on high bar too before turning in a good routine.

1:17 p.m: That being said, one thing Al Fong was adamant about in conversation a couple weeks ago was what a competitor Wong is. She's quiet and reserved, he said. But make no mistake -- she wants to win, he said. And she does.

1:20 p.m.: Bui FX: Same stylish routine as 2018. Double layout, well done. Double tuck. Wonderful piece of music that suits her well. Double full. Didn't see the final pass.

1:24 p.m.: McCallum BB: Back dive mount, two wolf turns back to back, straddle jump half turn. Side aerial, layout stepout, nicely done! Punch front. Reminds me little of Alicia Sacramone up there. Timer for double back.

1:25 p.m.: Serber (UB): Second half - Toe Khorkina II, blind to pike Jaeger, full turn, full twisting double layout.

1:30 p.m.: McCallum sticks her double tuck dismount after her second beam routine. The way things have gone here is she's done one routine and it's been good -- and then a second that's been better.

1:35 p.m.: Wong BB: Middle splits mount. Bhs, layout, layout, solid! Turn with leg up in combination with second turn. Switch ring. Front aerial to ring jump. Side aerial. Side somi. Timer dismount. Doesn't get lots of height on her layouts but you can't argue with solidity. After a couple more timers, she shows a lovely triple full dismount.

1:38 p.m.: Lu on floor: Well. Stylishly choreographed routine with layout tumbling passes.

1:40 p.m.: Veerman FX: Music is one of those lovely Russian folk songs that gets faster and faster, meaning the audience is exhilarated and the gymnast exhausted at the end of it. Arabian double front. Form on a turn. Double tuck. 1.5 to front layout full. Double full.

1:41 p.m.: Black’s go to vault is usually a handspring front pike full, which she performed beautifully at Elite Canada a few weeks ago. Today she’s having troubles just doing a handspring front pike half. Sitting deep in conversation with coach Dave Kikuchi. This hasn’t really been her day, but it’s training, not competition.

1:45 p.m.: This podium training has left no questions about Murakami's preparation for this meet. She looks great and is a real contender for the title. Her floor difficulty is likely higher than both Americans, which could be critical.

1:46 p.m.: Veerman VT: Powerful Yurchenko 1.5. Slightly bent legs in the air but great height/distance.

1:48 p.m.: Curse of the liveblogger (and, according to Olly Hogben, the commentator): you need only write/say something like "Boy does [gymnast] look solid!" than said gymnast falls, or does something to prove you wrong. Murakami/Bui presently on the struggle bus on bars.

1:50 p.m: Thing is, both have solid technique and oodles of experience. They start doing their skills, swing efficiently and well, and then just lose it somewhere. Elite gymnastics is hard, guys.

1:52 p.m.: Women's podium training is nonstop action. Men's podium training is, uh, decidedly slower paced. Props to Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), who just did an honest to goodness tumbling pass (Randi) and then bent over to examine the dust on the carpet for the next 90 seconds.