The AT&T American Cup wrapped up in Arlington, Texas on Saturday afternoon, giving 2-time World Champion Simone Biles another trophy for her shelf. Coming in second was USA’s McKayla Skinner, who successfully overcame some podium training jitters and doubts from observers and rallied for the occasion. Nabbing the third spot somewhat surprisingly but delightfully was Italy’s Erika Fasana.
The first rotation went very smoothly, especially compared to the next three. Most everyone performed a clean DTY, the highest execution score posted by MyKayla Skinner, who wisely decided to forego the Cheng after crashing it during podium training. Vanessa Ferrari opted for a 1.5 twisting yurenchenko, Natsumi Sasada performed an FTY, Elsabeth Black shook things up with a beautifully executed and stuck 1.5 Tsukuhara, and Simone Biles brought the house to its first roar with her typically awesome Amanar.
Going into the second rotation, Jessica Lopez was in third position behind Biles and Skinner, a great spot to occupy while competing with Americans who vault big. She capitalized on that position with a beautifully performed uneven bars routine, posting the second highest execution score after Biles and the highest D Score (a 6.500). She looked a bit rushed and not fully in control of her full pirouette but she got it together in time to connect it to a tkatchev and then a geinger, eliciting a cheer from the crowd. Add in a high jaegar and piked tchatchev, and a double front with the slightest shuffle of the feet, and it made for a world class bar routine.
Finishing third on her weakest event, MyKayla Skinner gave a rather impressive performance. Catching her Van Leeuwen by the fingertips, she nevertheless rallied with pretty good form, throwing a Ray release in addition to a tkatchev before her full twisting double dismount, stuck. Her routine earned a 14. 266.
Holding on to first (where she would stay for the rest of the competition), Simone Biles gave a gutsy routine, bringing back her piked tkatchev after toe-on full to straddled tkatchev, and finishing with a nailed full twisting double dismount for a final score of 15.200. We’ve seen that a Mustafina is in the works, but it was not debuted here.
A 13.966 moved Vanessa Ferrari from an 8th place finish on vault to a fourth place finish on bars, and a 13. 900 moved Erika Fasana from a seventh place finish into fifth, a middle position she would hold until the final rotation and her best event. Ferrari performed her standard bar routine with L grip to ono to jaegar and a full twisting dismount, and Fasana performed a lot of pirouetting, a bail to toe-on shoot, and a DLO dismount. It looked like she tried to connec her toe-on circle to Maloney, but after missing her feet she casted to handstand before attempting (and completing) the transition.
Natsumi Sasada performed an inbar stalder full in reverse grip to jaeager; a tkatchev, and a bail to Ray; She didn’t display as much ease as I remember her showcasing before, muscling through and finding herself in close-to-dead hangs, which was reflected in an E score (8.2) that didn’t count any major errors.
Emily Little, Elsabeth Black, and Claudia Fragapane all struggled here, Little having to muscle through quite dramatically to save a handstand, Black falling on her Shang (piked hindorf), and Fragapane falling on her Church (toe-on Tkatchev), the beginning of a very rough meet for her. For both Black and Fragapane, the skills that undid them were newly added to their routines.
Heading into the third rotation, it looked like Jessica Lopez might have been on her way to sealing a top-three finish on what’s usually a good event for her, but she suffered a fall on her layout. I say “suffered” intentionally as that it what it feels like every time this athlete steps off the balance beam. You really don’t see it coming. She floats until she falls.
MyKayla had her roughest outing here, placing seventh overall. Though she looked rather determined, perhaps responding directly to teammate Simone’s encouragement from the sidelines to “be confident,” she missed her splits and almost came off the beam after her BHS to full twisting back tuck.
Natsumi Sasada posted her competition high on this event (a 14.200/6.0 D with a beautiful, floaty BHS to layout) and Elsabeth Black came back from a fall on the uneven bars to place second in this rotation, posting a final score of 14.266 with a 6.2 D Score. She had to save a double turn and front tuck, but a hit pike front and BHS to layout, a pretty solid full twisting back tuck, and a 2.5 twist dismount packed in the difficulty and put her out and ahead of the field.
Vanessa Ferrari looked a little rusty here, especially on her acrobatic series and ring leaps, but a 5.7 D Score kept her in the thick of things heading into floor, and Erika Fasana posted a respectable 13.800, keeping her in roughly the same striking distance heading into the final rotation and her best event, floor exercise.
Emily Little had a lowest D score of the beam rotation, but a nicely executed routine kept her looking fresh in this competition, confirming that she belonged in the company of these world championship all-arounders.
Claudia Fragapane had another less-than-expected outing on beam, taking a major wobble after her free cartwheel. It was a real shame after hitting a solid BHS to layout and putting a full twisting back tuck to her feet.
And Simone, mounting the four-inch piece of wood as the stadium went wild again, delivered a splendid routine that nevertheless earned her lowest score of the day, a 15.066. She sent a shiver through the arena with a balance check on her switch-half, but everything else was smooth sailing. Her BHS to LOSO to LOSO is a class act.
The final rotation brought few surprises other than Claudia Fragapane’s final performance which seemed to efficiently summarize the last three rotations considered together: coming up short on two passes and sitting one down, most toes and ankles in the arena were throbbing empathetically by the end of her routine. This was just not her meet.
Nastsumi Sasada had a similar outing, sitting down her 1.5 to full and then running out of steam again at the end, landing her double pike very low.
Performing respectably but ultimately not boldly or cleanly enough to move back into third after her fall on beam, Jessica Lopez finished her competition with a 13.266 on floor exercise. She seemed to be experimenting a little, as the last time we saw her on the World Cup circuit she was performing three passes (a whip to triple, a 2.5 twist, and a double pike). This time she performed four: a BHS to triple, BHS to double pike, BHS to double twist, and BHS to 2.5 twist. She also had new music.
Emily Little and Vanessa Ferrari finished fifth and sixth on the event, for sixth and seventh finishes overall. Little opened with a nice piked full-in followed by a tucked full-in, and Ferrari opened with a DLO (out of bounds) followed closely by a full-in, followed closely again by a double tuck.
Finishing 3-2-1 on floor, in the same positions they would occupy overall, were Erika Fasana, MyKayla Skinner, and Simone Biles.
Fasana rose to the occasion after hanging near the center of the majority of the meet, throwing a solid DLO to begin, followed by a stuck full-in, a Memmel turn, and a double pike to finish. The crowd knew good gymnastics when they saw it, nodding and applauding in polite approval.
Skinner gave a gutsy performance to clench second place in front of the domestic crowd, beginning with bent-legged but well landed Moors, followed by a double twisting double, followed by a 2.5 to 1.5 twist, and dismounted with a full-in, a bit short.
And Biles, with the trophy practically already packed in her suitcase, unveiled a new and improved floor composition, opening with a nailed full twisting double layout, followed by the Biles to a split jump, double twisting double, and a full-in to finish.
In conclusion, we got a little of everything at this meet: veterans making their way back, specialists given the opportunity to compete all-around, skills on their trial run, and a leading lady who makes it all look all too easy while working incredibly hard.
American Cup, 2015, that’s a wrap!
Full results, via USAG: https://usagym.org/PDFs/Results/w_15ac.pdf
Article: Sara Dorrien
Photo Cover: Nadia Boyce