The 2016 AT&T American Cup took place on Saturday, March 5th in Newark New Jersey and saw 18 MAG and WAG competitors from 11 different nations compete for the title of American Cup Champion.
A marquee event in the USA Gymnastics calendar, being the first competition of the year for US WAG gymnasts usually, and also an important competition for the FIG calendar, being the first leg of the World Cup circuit containing this competition, the Glasgow World Cup and the Stuttgart World Cup.
This year had a special significance being an Olympic year and allowed us to see the future stars of Rio in action.
The story of the night was of course Gabby Douglas who triumphed on the womens side, this being her first AA victory since her win at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Also, interestingly, this is officially only her second International AA win in her career, the first being her Olympic triumph in London.Notably however, this is disputed as despite having the highest AA score at the 2012 American Cup, officially she was only performing an exhibition and Jordyn Wieber officially won the title. Maggie Nichols shone and took the silver medal on the womens side and smiled throughout the competition, clearly delighted to be there. Ellie Black of Canada had an impressive performance, taking the bronze medal with solid performances throughout. Ryohei Kato took top honours on the mens side beating out competition from American, Donnell Whittenburg and China’s Wei Sun.
There was many falls during the comoetition, particularly in the men’s side however on the WAG side, there was also many falls and the top three was a testament to whoever didn’t fall:
Gabby Douglas (USA):
VT: 15.100 UB: 15.266 BB: 14.966 FX: 14.833
Gabby Douglas was of course, the story of the night, shining bright in a leotard that’s brighter than Simone Biles’ smile. On Vault, whilst Gabby was expected to perform her Amanar in preparation for the Olympic year, she performed a DTY. In training, her vault was less than impressive with a piked landing and not a lot of distance. On competition day, it improved however still showed a lack of amplitude and distance and was simply not an Olympic level vault. However the Flying Squirrel still managed to score an impressive 15.100, the highest score on Vault that night. On Uneven Bars, Gabby upped her difficulty by one tenth from her performance at the last years Uneven Bars final at the World Championships and score a huge 15.266, performing her trademark huge piked Tkachev connected to Pak Salto and capping off her routine with a high and flighty double layout. On beam, Gabby performed possibly the best beam routine of her elite career or at least the best she has performed in a long time. Each skill was absolutely solid, even her standing full which was responded to by rapturous applause by the audience who screamed with delight after every stuck skill performed by the Olympic Champion. Despite her chest being low on landing her double back pike dismount and slightly questionable form on her switch ring leap, Gabby got the highest score of the night once again and score a 14.966. Her floor did not change from last year and we were once again treated to the Ohio interpretation of Rio complete with ‘lalalas’, techno music and a few added winks and facial expressions. Whilst it was great to see Gabby put effort into the performance, it seemed quite forced as opposed to the Gabby of 2012 who naturally lit up on stage and smiled with glee throughout her routine, when all was going well of course. Despite my dislike of the music and presentation of the routine which is wooden to say the least, her routine was absolutely solid, performing a double arabian to stag leap, tucked full in, double pike and ending with a high double tuck. Her dance elements were equally as solid, nailing her connected double spin to single spin with her leg at horizontal to score a respectable 14.833, to clinch the American Cup title for her.
Maggie Nichols (USA):
VT: 15.033 UB: 14.633 BB: 14.833 FX: 15.200
Maggie, for me was the standout of the night. Evidently delighted just to be there, she was greeted by the crowd with huge applause, as were each of the American gymnasts. However Maggie smiled with glee as she was introduced and was shining bright, along with her leo. Her competition started well with a 15.033 on Vault, scoring the second highest on Vault for the night behind teammate, Gabby Douglas. Notably, she did not perform her Amanar which we saw her perform throughout the season last year, sometimes with slight difficulty. However I do think that it will be back later in the season as I’m sure she is still training it. On Uneven Bars Maggie again was solid and scored a 14.633, displaying wonderful handstand positions on her pirouettes and flighty release moves. On Beam, Maggie, impressively upped her difficulty from last year by five tenths to 6.3 and scored an impressive 14.833, which would have not only qualified her to Balance Beam event finals but won her a silver medal on that event at last years World Championships, behind none other than the incredible Simone Biles. I know I mustn’t get ahead of myself, it is SCAM scoring after all. However it certainly is impressive when you think about it. Despite her double wolf turn at the beginning of the routine it was an impressive routine from Maggie, even will a downgraded dismount from a full in to a double pike. On Floor Exercise, Maggie debuted a new routine, complete with smiling, clapping and of course some fanning. She performed a double double to open the routine, followed by a high and flighty full in, a double pike and a double tuck to cap things off. Although I love Maggie and her Floor Exercise, SCAM scoring was in full effect for this routine. Despite having very questionable form on each tumbling pass, where we saw her legs apart during the skill and each landing with one leg in front of the other, in a effort I presume to protect the knee she injured in 2014 she scored a massive 15.200, the highest score of the night on the event and a higher score that earned her the bronze medal on the event at last years World Championships. Regardless, however, I do love Maggie and believe she was absolutely the standout of this competition and cemented herself as a leading figure in the road to Rio.
Ellie Black (CAN):
VT: 14.800 UB: 13.866 BB: 14.400 FX: 14.066
Whilst NBC may have wanted us to believe that Great Britain’s Amy Tinkler was the third place finisher by posting premature scores and announcing them as the final results, before Ellie Black’s score on Floor Exercise had been announced, the truth is that Ellie Black did indeed earn the bronze medal. I, myself took a quick glance at the scores and got unbelievably excited to see Amy’s name in 3rd, only to realise that Ellie’s score hadn’t been released yet. Aaanyway Ellie started her competition with a powerful Vault, scoring a 14.800. Whilst not her best event, Ellie was solid on bars scoring a 13. 866. Deductions taken for obvious form breaks including legs separated on her Pak and questionable handstands among other things, however finished strong with a solid dismount which showed her impressive power. On Beam, Ellie scored an impressive 14.400 and stayed on the beam (THANK YOU SOCKS!). She faultered slightly on her first skill, a double spin and on her incredibly difficult bhs, full twisting back tuck however held on and finished strong with a 2 1/2 twist dismount. The Floor routine that caused so much controversy after NBC refused to acknowledge its existence was performed beautifully by Ellie, showing her incredible power throughout mixed with beautiful dance and sky high leaps. She faultered slightly on her first pass a 1 1/2 to double tuck by going out of bounds however came back strong to receive a score of 14.066. Overall, Ellie had a great performance and was completely deserving of the bronze medal, being the only non U.S gymnast to not fall on an event and after having a slightly rough competition at the start of February at Elite Canada where she scored only a 54.725, it was good to see Ellie back to normal.
Other strong performances came from Great Britain’s Amy Tinkler, who placed 4th with a score of 55.932. She impressed with upgrades on both Beam and Bars, however just ran out of steam on Floor, with a fall on her 3rd pass, a double tuck. Carlotta Ferlito of Italy who placed 5th also came on strong and was a crowd favourite, debuting a brand new floor routine. complete with Christina Aguilera vocals, pushing the limit on the ‘no lyrics in your music’ rule. It scored the third highest score on Floor of the night, a 14.233, a testament to her three almost stuck passes and the clever choreography performed brilliantly with smiles throughout and had many wishing Carlotta could compete in the NCAA.
Mai Murakami of Japan who placed 6th and Lorranne Oliveira of Brazil who placed 9th were the biggest disappointments of the night. Mai fell on beam and had downgraded quite significantly since last years World Championships where she placed 6th in All-Around finals. 2015 Brazilian AA Champion, Lorrane Oliveira was also quite a disappointment, who just let nerves get to her and had several falls, including a scary fall on her piked Jaeger on Bars, which left the crowd gasping. However her form was excellent throughout and she was really a standout in that respect with perfect handstands throughout on Bars, gorgeous leaps and a beautiful flight series on Beam. Notably, also getting the third highest Vault score of the night, behind Gabby Douglas and Maggie Nichols.
Full Results (WAG):
- Gabby Douglas (USA) 60.150
- Maggie Nichols (USA) 59.699
- Ellie Black (CAN) 57.132
- Amy Tinkler (GBR) 55.932
- Carlotta Ferlito (ITA) 55.598
- Mai Murakami (JPN) 54.431
- Tabea Alt (GER) 54.399
- Tisha Volleman (NED) 52.666
- Lorrane Oliveira (BRA) 50.298