You’ve seen the training footage (and if you haven’t, it’s archived on USA Gymnastics’s Youtube channel) but more secrets came out during the podium training session at Friday’s U.S. Classic in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Here are five major skills you might not have known the U.S. women had up their sleeves:
1. A double layout half out from Simone Biles on floor. The biggest surprise of the day was this skill from Biles, which nobody except London Phillips (thanks, Rafael!) has ever done before, at least, not the way Biles is doing it. Reigning American Cup champion Jake Dalton and other men also do this skill, but with the half twist coming after the first somersault.
Biles, meanwhile, effectuates the half twist almost as an afterthought when she’s completed both somersaults. It’s just one of the things she’s playing around with in her gym (she’s also very close to a triple twisting double tuck on a hard surface), and the first of many skills upgrades we’ll be seeing from her in the coming years.
2. A Humphrey turn from Kennedy Baker on beam. In post-training interviews, Florida-bound Baker noted that one of her new skills is a triple turn on beam. In wolf position. It’s a rare, rare skill. Other than double Olympic silver medalist Terin Humphrey herself, it’s been most notably mastered by Australia’s Lauren Mitchell, because, in the words of Aussie head coach Peggy Liddick, they needed to find a turn that Mitchell could do “without falling over.”
3. Big things from Mykayla Skinner. The 2012 U.S. Championships competitor has always been known as a total powerhouse, and proved it earlier this year by becoming the first woman anyone can remember to land a double twisting double layout on floor in competition. Skinner, who has also competed a standing layout full on beam, Amanar and Cheng on vault, has also apparently added a double twisting double back off bars. That skill is like a cherry on top of a really complicated gymnastics sundae.
4. An Amanar from McKayla Maroney on vault. OK, so you probably knew about that one. Maroney’s Amanar has been the talk of the gymnastics world for the past two years, and since she missed out on an Olympic gold on her best event last summer in London, her biggest goal has been getting back to an Olympic Games and getting some redemption.
So it’s no surprise that in spite of numerous leg surgeries to repair a broken fibula and fractured tibia in her left leg, Maroney is back in action. In Illinois, she’s expected to compete on her best events (floor and vault), although she also trained on beam during Friday’s training session. From what the training videos show, her Amanar does not seem to have suffered. (Check out her latest here.)
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