Highest Difficulty To Watch For At The 2017 P&G Gymnastics Championships

As we look forward to the 2017 P&G Gymnastics Championships this weekend in Anaheim, California, we're eager to see where the USA's top elite gymnasts stand in terms of difficulty level at this point in the year. Many of the gymnasts who are slotted to compete are relatively new to the elite scene, while others, such as Ashton Locklear and Ragan Smith, are returning after breaks and working to get their difficulty back. 

We have taken a look at the roster and noted the highest D-scores that have been recorded so far this year in domestic competitions (such as the U.S. Classic) as well as international competitions (such as Jesolo). Several gymnasts may upgrade this weekend or hit a skill they haven't hit previously, so our analysis is based mostly on previous performance this year. Check out our list below, which takes into account both juniors and seniors.

HIGHEST DIFFICULTY ON VAULT


The majority of the U.S. gymnasts perform Yurchenko doubles, with a few exceptions. The most notable exception is Jade Carey, who emerged on the elite scene this year with two vaults she is training. Carey won the vault title at the U.S. Classic and is currently the only U.S. gymnast competing two vaults. She competes the Amanar (5.8 D-score) and a Kasamatsu full (5.6 D-score). She should capture the vault title this weekend without question.

HIGHEST DIFFICULTY ON BARS


Riley McCusker is capable of hitting a 6.2 D-score, which she achieved in Jesolo during the all-around final. Her routine includes some big combinations, such as a stalder full to Maloney to Tkatchev, as well as a Ricna to Pak salto. McCusker has been injured recently and had only just started her recovery a few weeks prior to the U.S. Classic, so she wasn't at 100 percent at that competition and tucked on one of her release moves on bars. Amazingly, she still managed to hit a 6.0 D-score for that routine. Although it's not her highest, it's still one of the higher D-scores across the U.S. team on bars.

Alyona Shchennikova, the U.S. Classic all-around champion, is also capable of hitting a 6.2 D-score. Shchennikova achieved this at the U.S. Classic after hitting all of her major connections. She competes an inbar 1/1 to Komova II to Tkatchev, in addition to a Ricna to Pak salto to Chow 1/2. Check out her routine from Classics, on which she scored a 14.5:

Video via USA Gymnastics

On the junior side, Sunisa Lee is one of the stand-outs. She has been training a huge combination of Nabieva to Pak salto to Maloney to Gienger. She sometimes misses the Pak to Maloney connection, but if she can make the entire thing, it adds +0.50 in bonus. If she hits the entire routine as it is intended, her D-score would be a 6.1. Check out Lee's routine below from training at the U.S. Classic, where she hits everything except the Pak to Maloney combo:


Gabby Perea is also expected to put up a huge routine at P&Gs, with potential for a 6.7 D-score. Perea's routine includes a huge combo of a stalder 1/1 to Maloney to Tkatchev to Pak salto, as well as a stalder 1/2 to piked Jaeger. Check out this video of her podium training at Classics a few weeks ago. She performed this routine during competition and received a 5.7 D-score, but she left out a dismount due to a recent ankle injury.

Video via Region 5 Gymnastics Insider


Notable mentions: 
Ashton Locklear

HIGHEST DIFFICULTY ON BEAM


Ragan Smith, an alternate of the 2016 Olympic team, had taken some time off following the American Cup in March to recover from an injury. She made her first appearance in months at the U.S. Classic and put up a spectacular performance on beam, where she achieved a 6.2 D-score and scored a 15.35. Smith changed up her routine from the one she performed at American Cup, upgrading from a front tuck to a front pike, and including new jumps (a straddle 1/2 and split 1/2 from side position). It's possible her routine may go up in difficulty even more if she competes the Patterson dismount that she competed last year. If she includes the Patterson, her routine will go up to a 6.4.

Video via USA Gymnastics

On the junior side, Sunisa Lee makes our list again. She is up at the same level as Smith on beam, capable of a 6.2 D-score, which she competed at the U.S. Classic. Lee competes two triple series on beam - two back-handsprings to a layout to two feet, and aerial cartwheel to two layout step outs. Check out her routine from Classics below:

Video via USA Gymnastics

Notable mentions:
Olivia Dunne
Adeline Kenlin
Victoria Nguyen
Maile O'Keefe
Gabby Perea

HIGHEST DIFFICULTY ON FLOOR


Jade Carey makes our list once again, this time on floor. Carey competed a 5.7 D-score routine at the U.S. Classic. Her difficulty is largely due to huge tumbling -- her passes include a double double, full twisting double layout, front double full and full twisting double tuck. Although Carey has some form issues in her routine that she'll no doubt be working to clean up, her tumbling is on par with what Simone Biles was competing at the 2013 Classic, just to put it into perspective.

On the junior side, Jay Jay Marshall is one to watch on floor. At the U.S. Classic, she tied Carey for difficulty and competed a 5.7 D-score routine. She had similar huge tumbling as well -- her passes included a full twisting double layout, piked double Arabian, double layout, and 1.5 through to triple twist. Her form needs some work (she fell on her double layout at Classics and landed short on her triple), but the potential is definitely there. Check out her routine from Classics:

Video via USA Gymnastics


Notable mentions:
Emma Malabuyo
Trinity Thomas
Ragan Smith

Related:
P&G CHAMPS WATCH GUIDE
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