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Championships Preview! Who Will Come Out on Top?

Nationals are almost here!

As USA Gymnastics so blatantly put it, it's like Christmastime for gymnastics fans. Two years out from the Olympics and the competition is just getting more fierce. This year, the world championships will have a team competition so there will be more places to compete for.

So who is in and who is out? Who will prosper and who will falter?

The Seniors:

Headlining (if you can call it that) the competition is Simone Biles and Kyla Ross. Last year's all-around gold and silver medalists at the World Championships. Simone had been dealing with an injury that kept her out of the American Cup and the Pacific Rim Championships earlier in the year. She was back in full force at the Secret Classic and in true Simone style, won the whole thing. Simone was last year's senior national champion. Could she pull a repeat performance? It's certainly possible. Simone is on fire and she and Kyla are the closest to being locks for that Worlds team. Kyla had been dealing with a back injury that's forced her to scale back difficulty in her routines. She's still consistent and reliable as ever. Lucky for Kyla, huge D scores weren't her thing. Perfection, execution and elegance is Kyla's style and that's how she'll make the worlds team.

MyKayla Skinner is itching to make that worlds team this year. Her ticket to China is for floor and vault. She's improved greatly in the all-around and has made an effort to improve her execution scores. She fell on her last pass at the Secret Classic on floor. If she hopes to make worlds, she needs to not only keep improving her execution, but her consistency. MyKayla has big skills, but she needs to be able to hit them consistently for them to count. If she get's full credit for all of her skills on floor, she has a potential start value of 6.8 (The All-Around has her credited with a 6.5 at Jesolo) I'm pretty sure that's even higher than Simone.

Sadly, Lexie Priessman's injury means she sits out another world championship year. Her BFF and former teammate, Amelia Hundley will forge her journey sans Lexie. At the Classic, she looked really timid. Of course, she has been dealing with injuries to her ankle, so that could explain her tentativeness. She's a very consistent all-around gymnast that can contribute on any event, so if Amelia can dig up her inner fire, she could be an integral part of that worlds team.

Rachel Gowey, one of many of Chow's newest proteges'. Gorgeous long lines, beautiful extension. She's beautiful to watch, especially on bars and beam. Most likely, if she made worlds, that's where she'd contribute, probably more for bars since Team USA has a slight shortage of good bar workers (or they have in the past).

After last year's world's kerfuffle, Brenna Dowell will be really looking to prove herself. She has been  dealing with an injury too, or at least that's the word on the gymternet.  Injury or no injury, Classics did not go well for Brenna. She only competed on bars, but she hit her feet on the mat while doing a Pak salto and bent her legs on that skill. She didn't even complete the full routine. Unfortunately, that means the pressure will really be on at Championships for Brenna.

Peyton Ernst has been a part of Team USA's team gold medals at Jesolo and at Pac Rims, when she was flown in at the last minute to replace Simone Biles.  More than likely, Peyton is feeling a fire in her belly and she's going to want to show that she is an integral part of the team. She's a strong all-around and she can definitely contribute on any event, easily. She's going to want to put her best foot forward at Championships and really show the selection committee what she is made of.

After missing out last year because of injury, Madison Kocian is not wanting to miss out on Worlds this year.  Like Rachel Gowey and Brenna Dowell, she's a strong bar worker and that's probably where she'll be able to contribute to team USA the most. Although the USA has been weak on the bars in the past, there seems to be a plethora of bar workers, so Madison's competition is incredibly stiff. She wound up re-aggravating her injury from last year, Madison had to withdraw from classics after falling on beam. What will happen at Championships? Well, first, the question is whether or not she'll be healthy enough to compete. The gap between Classics and Championships could be what she needs to rest and be healthy. She's got the beautiful lines that makes international judges pee their pants with joy. Last year, Madison could have won the whole thing if she hadn't sprained her ankle on the first day after crunching it under her while landing a triple twist. Maybe she'll usurp Simone and win the whole thing.

Ashton Locklear is probably one of the better bar workers I've seen this quad. Maybe on comparison with Anna Li. She was a senior last year, but didn't compete for reasons I cannot remember. (Injury maybe). Ashton is miss "I came out of the woodworks and here, look at my ridiculously awesome bar routine." She has a 6.6 start value (6.5 according to the All Around's handy dandy rankings) and currently has the highest bar score in the world at 15.600, which is only 0.10 higher than Beckie Downie's score at Euros. I'm looking forward to seeing what else she has up her leo sleeve.

The Juniors -

Since Bailie Key withdrew, we won't see her again until next year when she turns senior. As heartbreaking as it is to think of not seeing Bailie at Championships this year, Kim Zmeskal and Chris Burdette have the right idea, keep her healthy through to Rio. Bailie doesn't need to compete this year, as sad as that sounds.

Also missing out on Championships this year is Laurie Hernandez. Last year, Bailie and Laurie went one-two at Championships, then at the Junior Japan International (Correction, they went 1-3 with Yan Wang of China taking silver. Thanks to Cordelia Price!) and then at the Mexican Open in November. According to Laurie's coach, Maggie Haney, Laurie had knee surgery in June and is working on building muscle in her leg again.

 Of course, with Laurie out, that gives her teammates a chance to shine, especially one Miss Jazmyn "Jazzy" Foberg. Jazzy was one of nine juniors to compete with in the senior session at the Secret Classic. Jazzy looked like a seasoned pro. She hit her routines and improved her all-around total from last year by a whopping five points. She placed fourth in the juniors, just outside of the podium. If she improves at Championships and hits her routines, hopefully she'll be on the podium. There is also Ari Agripides, the third MG Elite musketeer, who is as cute as a button and has a huge double twisting yurchenko.

Jordan Chiles - the question is can she pull a repeat performance and win national championship title and the Secret Classic title, ala Bailie Key. She's definitely got it. She has poise, confidence, great routines, etc etc. Jordan may not be age eligible for Rio, but she is on the right track for Tokyo.

A junior to keep an eye on is Delanie Harkness, who is John Geddart's latest elite protege, Delanie was the Junior Olympic all around champion this year. She even looks a little like a baby Jordyn Wieber, especially on floor and beam.

Nia Dennis is on my list of favorites. Her amazing perfect standing Arabian on beam and Universal Sports showed her on bars and not on beam. Not that there is anything wrong with her bars, but her beam is what makes you fall in love with her gymnastics, everything else is the frosting on the proverbial cake. She looked like she was standing a little taller and straighter, perhaps the influence of one Gabby Douglas as her training partner?

While they only showed Nia Dennis on bars, Universal Sports showed Norah Flately on every event BUT beam. What's up with that NBC and affiliates? Really? What is up with that? Talking about both Nia and Norah, makes me wish that they were both age eligible right now, and I could take them and put them on my fantasy World's team and they could both win gold. But alas... they are not. Hmmmpph.

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