When the news began to spread that Jordyn Wieber might have a stress fracture, the snarky comments about excuses began. Even though they shouldn’t have, they surprised me. After all, when a dominant, consistent gymnast all of a sudden starts putting in uncharacteristically subpar performances, it is more common than not that an injury – usually a stress fracture- is part of the equation. Jordyn is not the first, and as competitive gymnastics continues to get more and more difficult, I am sure she will not be the last.
In fact, the heartbreaking story of a gymnast who shows so much potential to dominate gymnastics who then comes down with a stress fracture before or during a major competition has become so commonplace it is treated as something that is barely newsworthy. Let’s look at the many past American hopefuls who have suffered Jordyn’s fate. Then we will talk about why stress fractures fractures dreams.
Kim Zmeskal was a brilliant world champion in 1991. Everyone expected her to claim all the glory in the Olympics.
Americans had high hopes for Zmeskal and the U.S. team heading the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, with Zmeskal earning the cover of both Time and Newsweekmagazines before the Games. In the U.S. National Championships and Olympic Trials, Zmeskal battled an emergingShannon Miller, with Miller defeating Zmeskal at the Trials.
Zmeskal disappointed at the Games, falling off the balance beam during her compulsory routine on the first night of competition. Although she would rebound with performances on the floor, vault, and bars, Zmeskal was in 32nd place after the compulsories and 5th on the American team. She would further rebound with impressive scores of 9.912 on beam, 9.95 on vault, 9.9 on uneven bars, and a 9.925 on floor during the finals of the team competition, moving Zmeskal into 12th place and into the all-around competition by finishing third among the American women. Her combined score of 39.687 for the night was the highest of any competitor.
Although earning enough points to compete in the all-around competition, Zmeskal would again falter during her first event, the floor exercise, stepping out of bounds. It would later be revealed that Zmeskal was suffering from a stress fracture in her ankle before the Olympics began. (Wikipedia)
Next comes Dominique Moceanu in 1996.
Moceanu’s national and international successes, combined with her plucky, bubbly attitude, earned her attention and a wide fan base both in and out of the gymnastics community. In the months leading up to the Atlanta Olympics, she was one of the most recognizable faces of USA Gymnastics, eclipsing more decorated teammates such as Shannon Miller andDominique Dawes. Before the Olympics, she was featured in Vanity Fairand wrote an autobiography, Dominique Moceanu: An American Champion. The book was highly successful and ranked number seven on the New York Times’ Best Sellers List.
Moceanu was expected to be a major medal threat at the 1996 Olympics. However, following the 1996 U.S. Nationals, where she placed third in the all-around, she was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her right tibia. Her injury forced her to sit out the Olympic Trials, and she was petitioned onto the team on the strength of her Nationals scores.
At the Olympics, still struggling with her injury and sporting a heavily bandaged leg, Moceanu contributed to the team gold medal, turning in strong performances and she qualified for the event finals on balance beam and floor exercise. However, she faltered in the last rotation of team finals, falling on both vaults, a situation which directly resulted in the U.S. chance of a gold medal resting solely on teammate Kerri Strug‘s final vault. Strug injured herself in the successful attempt, and Moceanu only advanced to the all-around finals as her replacement. Mistakes cost Moceanu a medal, and she placed ninth. In the balance beam event final, Moceanu fell when she missed a foot on a layout and crashed into the balance beam on her head. She finished the exercise and went on to a strong performance in the floor finals later that day, finishing fourth and just missing a medal. (Wikipedia)
Next comes Courtney Kupets.
In 2004, there was a fierce battle between Courtney and Carly Patterson for the title of America’s best. But once at the Olympics, the fight seemed to go out of Courtney, who had always been a consistent and fierce competitor up to that point (and after I might add). Uncharacteristic pain in her hip caused her to be replaced by Mohini Bhardwaj on beam during the team finals at the last minute. She went on to “underperform” in the All Around Finals, placing 9th instead of battling for the gold. Though she would say in interviews that she had no excuses and injury was not a big factor, after the Olympics it was revealed that she had a stress fracture in her hip.
The 2008 Olympics passed with other injuries, but no stress fractures.
In 2009, Rebecca Bross took gymnastics by storm, and lost the world championship with a fluke fall. She dominated in 2010 and once again came into the World Championships expected to challenge for gold. After complaining of shin pain throughout the lead up to the competition, and giving in to uncharacteristic weak moments throughout the championships, it was revealed after the fact that she had a stress fracture as well.
So after a qualifications full of unusual small mistakes and then a floor finals filled with the same, in all honesty I assumed Jordyn had a stress fracture or another similar injury. It seemed the most likely scenario. It surprised me when people started saying they were making excuses.
It is laughable to me that what the normal public would consider a broken hip, leg or ankle gymnasts consider as a “nagging pain.” I find it almost absurd that they consider those injuries as “not an excuse for their performance.” But I know gymnasts and the pain they work through regularly. I guess it is normal. What I find completely absurd is that the fans and the public feel the same way. These athletes are competing on broken limbs! Most people can hardly walk with this type of pain. Not an excuse?
Maybe it is because unlike other major injuries, gymnast are able to actually compete on and train on injuries like stress fractures (and plantar faciitis in the case of Romania’s Larisa Iordache). This gives the impression that they are ok. It is hard to understand why they make all these little mistakes. Of course there is pain. But beyond the pain, lets look at why these nagging injuries seem to affect performances by causing lots of little, uncharacteristic mistakes.
Gymnasts do hundreds if not thousands of repetitions of skills to create “muscle memory.” This is when they are able to perform the skill without actively thinking about it, they just do it. This allows them to perform the skill under the incredible pressure of competition. Gymnasts refer to this as “numbers.” They just need to get in the gym and do more numbers to be consistent. An injury like a stress fracture impedes this process in two ways.
The first, is a decrease in numbers performed during practice. In order to help the injury not turn into something that will absolutely prohibit them from competing, it is necessary to do less numbers so there will be less pounding on the injury. As this is the very heart of elite level training, this without a doubt affects their ability to perform the skills on demand. When an elite gymnast decreases their numbers significantly, their performance almost always diminishes as well.
The second is that gymnasts do these skills over and over again the exact same way to create that muscle memory. But even though they can grit through the pain of the break, their body is responding differently than it usually does. The ever so slight flinch on take off or landing changes the timing they are used to. It is not enough to prevent them from doing the skills, but is enough to make falls and balance checks on beam (where centimeters make all the difference) inevitable and stuck landings much more unlikely.
And don’t get me wrong. Stress fractures, a common injury in the gymnastics world, are very painful. The courage that these gymnasts show to train and compete on these injuries needs to be recognized and not brushed off. The courage of Jordyn Wieber to perform as brilliantly as she did in team finals despite her stress fracture is incredible.
At the end of the day, stress fractures have fractured many gymnasts’ dreams over the years. Let’s celebrate their courage or rail against the sports world that leads teenagers to compete on broken limbs. But let’s not diminish the role that these injuries play and claim that they are no excuse.
For Jordyn Wieber, who fully expected to challenge for the All-Around gold during the 2012 Olympics, these Olympics have not turned out at all as she would have expected. She experienced the most devastating moment in her young life just two days ago. After catapulting toward the All-Around Olympic Gold medal for her entire career, she didn’t even qualify for the opportunity to win the title. Instead, her best friend Aly Raisman, who had the best meet of her life, and teammate Gabby Douglas would be representing the USA in the team finals.
She couldn’t hold back her uncharacteristic emotions and the tears spilled forth. She tried to duck off the floor to compose herself but instead was ushered to the media zone, where NBC kept their camera with her just feet away as they interviewed Aly and Gabby, basically asking how they felt about beating Jordyn.
After such a day, all most people would want is the opportunity to go home, let the pain sink in in private and cry themselves to sleep. Instead, Jordyn had to go home to her shared room with her best friend, one of the teammates who unexpectedly beat her, Aly Raisman. Aly spent these last two years supporting first Jordyn and then Gabby as she quietly sat in their shadows. Could Jordyn do the same?
Even more importantly for team USA, could Jordyn pull her emotions together and turn in solid performances for the team just two days after seeing her lifelong dreams crushed? Could she come out, stand side by side with the teammates who took her dreams away and pursue her other dream – a USA team gold. I had no doubt what-so-ever. She is Jordyn Wieber.
Jordyn has the ability to focus in the moment and not allow emotions to affect her like few people I have watched compete. It is why we have a hard time connecting with her. She goes out and competes, showing little emotion and allows little to affect her. She is singularly focused on going out and performing her best. She would want nothing more than to redeem herself with perfect performances. Tim and Elfi said on the Today Show:
What I would bet on is that Jordyn Wieber will come out for these team finals and she will be unbelievable. That will be her moment. She is a tremendous champion, has won just about every single title and I firmly believe that she will anchor the team in the team finals. -Tim Dagget
She does not want her moment to end like it did the other night. -Elfi Schlegel
Today, Jordyn Wieber went out onto the competition for and showed her class. She hit two of her best performances ever- vault and floor and gave a clean bars set. But more than that, she cheered her heart out for her teammates. She was always the first to give Aly a hug, could be heard giving running commentary throughout the routines in the background and was the most expressive in celebrating her teams achievements.
Maybe this dissapointment has brought out the real Jordyn. The Jordyn we saw in younger days and behind the scenes – fiery, emotional and fiercely loyal. Every time the camera was on her, she was either fiercely cheering on a teammate or giving the performance of her life.
In the end, no one was happier to win the Team Gold. With her best friends.
And so, Jordyn will be remembered as more than an All-around champion. She will be remembered as Best Friend and Class Act. As one who can put aside her own dreams and ambitions to be a part of the team.
Jordyn Wieber, you have been tried. you have been tested. And you have been proven a true champion. True friend. True Competitor. An All-Around medal could never prove so much. Sometimes it is what we lose, not what we win, that proves our real mettle.
There has been quite a bit of publicity given to the two gymnasts per country rule after that rule kept the reigning World Champion Jordyn Wieber out of the All-Around Finals. First let me say, that though this scenario has brought the reality of this rule home to the public, this is by no means the first time gymnastics fans have expressed disagreement. This rule has kept many a legitimate medal contender over the past eight years from even competing for a medal. Jordyn is by far not the first. But watching the reigning World Champion make no major mistakes, put up an incredible All-Around score above 60 points and finish fourth in the qualification round and then finding out that she won’t be able to compete fires up the emotion of the casual and serious gymnastics fan alike.
Let me start out with explaining the official reason behind this rule. The idea was to give countries with less gymnastics resources more chances to both have the honor of competing and representing their country as well as to actually win a medal. Usually having a winner in a final sparks fire for the sport in a country (think Mary Lou Retton in the USA or Beth Tweddle for Great Britain) thereby spreading the sport of gymnastics around the world.
In America, it is almost impossible to understand this rule. In the USA, we value the contributions and the success of the individual. Finding the best performance means finding the best individual. To win but not be pitted against everyone else who might have beat you is not a real win at all. Finding the TRUE best is the highest value. In other cultures the honor of representing your country is the greatest achievement, not the individual winning. Allowing as many as possible to attain that achievement is a higher goal that finding the best.
I think what it really comes down to is if you believe that the “point” of the Olympics or World competition it to celebrate sport across the world and bring all the nations together to compete or if it is an opportunity to find the best individuals in each sport and in the various events of that sport. The medals awarded would say that it is about finding the best. The Olympic spirit would say that it is about brining all nations together. And therein is where you find fans divided around the subject.
Also, they have added rules to limit the number of gymnasts competing from each country (five per team) to allow more individuals from countries that could not qualify a team, again with the idea of spreading gymnastics and allowing more the chance to compete.
For me, it is the results that speak as to the success of these rules. In 2000 there were gymnasts competing in the AA final from 3 countries not fielding a full team. In 04 there were still only 3, 08 there were 4.(TheCouchGymnast) This year there were 4. So in the end, only allowing two gymnasts per country and five gymnasts per team has not really increased the number or countries represented in the All-Around Finals. No gymnast from a non “powerhouse” country has ended up on the podium. It has just meant that no one country can “sweep” the medals. And it has kept many gymnasts that legitimately could have won a medal from even competing.
I will concede however that the same is not true in event finals. Many gymnasts from non powerhouse countries have medaled in the different event finals. Those gymnasts HAVE spurred a spark for gymnastics in their country.
I am American. Though I understand the challenges in many countries of finding the resources and training to compete in a sport like gymnastics, and the desire to have our wonderful sport spread across the world, in the end I think the best should have the opportunity to compete for a medal. No matter what country they are from – or how many are from that country. Before the Olympics started, I counted 13 (ish?) people that had put up one of the top 8 scores in the all-around or on an event this year that did not make their team because of the five per team rule. Some that would have almost surely medaled and did not even have a chance.
In summary, I agree that Jordyn is one of many victims of this rule. And I even agree that this backlash would not have happened had Aly been the one who did not make it. But Aly is not the reigning World Champion, and in fact has not placed in the all-around at all on the world stage. And many, many fans have been complaining these rules for years. This situation just highlights why it is so frustrating. I am hoping that the backlash from it will actually bring some change. If the change had been more gymnasts to compete, a wider variety of countries to medal, then keeping it might make sense. But it was a well intended attempt that has not worked. It is time to put it to rest and allow those who have scored in the the top the opportunity to fight for a medal.
The outrage of Nastia Liukin getting silver instead of gold on bars in 2008 even though she scored the exact same D score and E score as the gold medalist He Kexin led to a rule change for this Olympics. And though it will never give Nastia a gold on bars, it at least will keep others from the same fate. And though Jordyn Wieber will never get to compete in the 2012 All-Around finals, hopefully she will be the last gymnast to experience that fate.
It’s like Sam throwing the One Ring into the fire, Ron Weasley fighting Lord Voldemort, Robin saving the day. Sidekicks have their own incredible strengths but in the end, they are the sidekick. They are there to provide backup, encouragement and a helping hand. They are appreciated, but they are never the main focus. We identify with them, we love them but still we know, they are not the star. It is the Ringbearer, the Chosen One, the Superhero who is the star in the last battle.
Jordyn and Aly. It is rare that you see one without the other. Aly was listed as one of the four most influential women in Jordyn’s life. Twitter and Instagram attest to the fact that they are the best of friends. But out on the competition floor, Jordyn is the star and Aly is the sidekick. Meet after meet for the last two years, you see them together supporting each other and cheering each other on as Jordyn wins the title and Aly plays a supporting role.
I adore Aly. She is a wonderful girl, an incredible gymnast. But I, along with the rest of the gymnastics world need a little time to absorb this role reversal. Imagine watching a movie where Robin, Ron or Sam were the main character. It would take a while to stop asking where Batman, Harry or Frodo were. That is a bit what the next few days will be like.
I am so excited for Aly. I have been sad that she would not have an opportunity to try for an all-around medal. I identify with Aly more, respect her so much and can’t wait for her to go out and do her best. I have thought for a long while that consistency and mental toughness will rule the day in the pressure filled Olympics over difficulty and past high scores. And though I was not thinking of Aly, truly no one fits that description more than she.
But for today and tomorrow, I mourn the loss of my star. I will spend them readjusting their roles in my brain. Then I will pick myself back up and cheer like crazy for Aly and Gabby. Just as I know Jordyn will.
Earlier this year, I wrote that it was great to have stars like Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber on your team, but that you also needed a rock. Aly Raisman has been that rock for team USA since her senior debut in 2010. She has gone out routine after routine, meet after meet, year after year and hit her routines. Over those years, she has always been in her teammates’ shadows. In the 2010 World Championships, she qualified into the All-Around Finals in third, just behind the current USA “It Girl”, Rebecca Bross. A disasterous mistake on bars, her nemesis, left her 13th. In the 2011 World Championships, she qualified into the All-Around Finals in fourth, also behind the current USA “It Girl”, this time Jordyn Wieber. Another mistake on bars left her fourth.
This year, Aly came in with upgrades on every event, and has even improved on bars. But her lower difficulty on bars usually left her about a point behind Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber. She continued to be the rock, they continued to be the stars.
I often mused with friends about how Aly could legitimately challenge for the All-Around podium if it wasn’t for that awful two per country rule. I lamented the fact that after all her consistency and team leadership, she wouldn’t even get to compete in the All-Around Finals. After all, it was inconceivable that Jordyn wouldn’t qualify, and Gabby has looked stronger than ever in training.
But the inconceivable became reality today as Aly was the highest US All-Around qualifier over BOTH Gabby and Jordyn. With the two per country rule, this means that Jordyn Wieber, the reigning Word Champion will not get to compete in the All-Around Finals. In my All-Around Hopefuls post I wrote: Aly would need someone else to make a mistake to make it into the finals and onto the podium. But her rock solid, consistent performances make her a gymnast you should not count out. After all, anything can happen in the pressure of the Olympic spotlight.
There was no one more surprised than Aly herself in qualifying in first. Over the years she has captured our heart with her humble attitude, sky high tumbling, sweet smile and loyal friendships with the other gymnasts. She continued to do so today, with a response of concern for her teammate and best friend Jordyn Wieber.
Today Aly becomes a star herself. The last two years, the only routines she ever missed on a world stage were bars in All-Around competition. If she can go out in All-Around Finals and be the rock for herself that she always is for her team, she will no longer be Aly the Rock. She will be Aly the Rock Star.
This American generation is incredibly strong and the five member team is made up of young gymnasts. However, they all have a lot of international experience and four of the five were part of last years World Championship team. This team of rookies took Worlds by storm. Even with the last minute loss of their team leader, they had one of the most dominate performances in a long time, hitting every single routine in prelims and in team finals. All but one of the 2008 team made a run for this Olympics, but with the strength and depth of these young gymnasts, were not able to make the team. Follow the link for a more in depth write up on each gymnast.
Jordyn Wieber: Jordyn is in her second season as a senior and is the current World Champion. She competes some of the most difficult skills in the world with dynamic precision and impeccable form. Her weakest event is bars, if you can call an event where you make world finals weak. Jordyn is mentally tough and focused. Her biggest challenge this year will be the pressure of being the one everyone is trying to beat. She will compete all-around in Prelims and Team Finals and will be looking to win the all-around gold. She might make a few event finals as well.
Gabrielle Douglas: Gabby is also in her second year as a senior. She is phenomenal on bars. She SWINGS bars with incredible fluidity, beautiful lines and high flying tricks. Gabby was a bit unpredictable on the other events last year, but really came into her own this year, upgrading on every event, and competing with a new confidence and poise. She capped off the season by winning the Olympic Trials. Gabby will compete all-around in Prelims and will be looking to win the all around gold. She will definitely be competing bars in the Team Finals, and the other events will most likely be decided depending on how Prelims go.
Alexandra Raisman: Aly is in her third season as a senior and is our USA rock. She is so steady and comes through with performances that look just like she practices. She is phenomenal on floor and great on vault and beam. Bars is her nemesis and keeps her from fighting for the gold. Aly continues to improve her form and has some major upgrades on floor- doing some of the most difficult tumbling in the world. She will do all around in the prelims and will most likely be used on beam and floor in Team Finals and possibly vault. Aly will also be looking to challenge for a gold on floor.
McKayla Maroney: McKayla is another second year senior and is the current World Vault Champion. She does the infamous amanar with such ease, grace and an explosion of power, it is in a class of its own. She also has a beautiful, artistic floor routine with lots of difficulty. However, her landings have been fairly inconsistent. She is on the team for one reason, vault. She will compete vault and floor in Prelims and will be looking to win the vault gold. She will compete vault in Team Finals and floor will most likely depend on how Prelims goes.
Kyla Ross: Kyla comes into her senior year as the Jr. National Champion. She was a top all arounder and particularly shines on bars and beam. She is also great on vault. Though Kyla can hold her own in the all-around and on vault in most places, she comes in fourth in the all around and fifth on vault on this team. She will be competing bars and beam in the Prelims and undoubtedly in the Team Finals. She will be hoping to qualify for event finals on those two events as well.
All Athlete Pictures Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
One week ago today the seleciton committee holed themselves up in a room and chose our 2012 US Olympic Gymnastics team. The team and the replacement athletes were introduced with much ceremony and celebration. But did they get it right?
For the most part, I believe they did. This is the team that has risen to the top at every point over the last few months. After each major performance, I have added up the numbers and looked at the mental strength and performances of the main contenders. And though I didn’t expect it, each time these were the girls I chose. They were the most common team on the “gymternet”. In fact, by the second day of competition, they were so widely acknowledged as the likely team that predictions and discussions turned to the alternates instead. But here are a few sticking points.
Elizabeth Price had the meet of her career at the Olympic Trials. In fact, she beat Kyla Ross in the All Around. Many have asked why Kyla was chosen over her. In the end, when you look at the make up of the different teams and the different ways you can mix and match scores, the 5th spot did not need to be a strong all-arounder. Instead, this gymnast needed to be able to score high and contribute on bars and beam in the team finals. Elizabeth is good on bars, but her highest score of the season was a 15.3 on the night of finals. Kyla has been scoring between 15.3 and 15.65 all season. Elizabeth’s weakest event is beam. Kyla is a strong, steady beam worker who has scored between a 14.7 and 15.5 this season. For the hole that needed to be filled, Kyla fit the bill. Elizabeth is a fabulous replacement for vault should she be needed.
Speaking of replacement gymnasts, the biggest argument is if Alicia Sacramone should have been put in over Sarah Finnegan or Anna Li. When it comes down to it, we had to have a replacement athlete for bars. So Anna Li (or Bross or Liukin) had to go as replacements. Alicia obviously doesn’t fill this spot. I actually would have put her in over Sarah Finnegan. Sarah has still not had a meet without a lot of scary wobbles on beam. I would much rather have Alicia as a replacement for beam, and think that with four strong floor workers already on the team, as well as Elizabeth as a possible floor replacement, that Alicia was a stronger choice. However, in my previous article I noted that Sarah has a much higher start value, and her high scores and potential high scores are higher than Alicia. So I can understand the committee’s decision, even though it broke my heart not to see Alicia go.
All in all, I do think the selection committee got it right! What about you?
A Night I Will Not Soon Forget – A Firsthand Account of the Announcement of the US Women’s Olympic Team
As the men’s team was trying to keep the crowd amped up, chanting USA and doing the wave, Steve Penny walked out onto the floor. The moment everyone had been waiting for was at hand. The announcement of our US Women’s Olympic Team. At the same time he was walking out onto the floor, 14 girls were crowded into a room, waiting to hear their fate. Aly Raisman said in an interview with Gymnastike that Martha cried a bit and said it was a really hard decision for her, then got on with naming the team.
Gabby Douglas. Jordyn Wieber. Aly Raisman. McKayla Maroney. Kyla Ross.
Out on the floor, Steve Penny got to it much faster. He announced the names in rapid fire, one after the other. The girls were regrouping, trying to absorb the incredible news that the dream they had worked their whole lives for was coming true. With tears streaming down most of their faces, they grabbed their flowers and ran out onto the floor.
Then the alternates were called. Sarah Finnegan. Anna Li. Elizabeth Price. They bounded out onto the floor, joining the rest of the team. The men’s team, announced minutes earlier, joined them as well. Gold ribbon shot into the air from edges of the floor. Red, white and blue confetti shoot from a cannon in a constant stream like water coming from a fire hose. And the crowd roared. The deafening noise of sold out arena could be felt as much as heard. They all huddled in a circle. USA, USA, USA. They gathered confetti and threw it in the air.
As the celebration continued on the floor, the girls who dreams did not come true trickled out. Bela and Martha Karoyli went around to each one, Martha firmly holding their head and looking straight into their eyes, her trademark as she focuses in on each individual. A touching moment as both Bela and Martha huddled around Nastia. Valeri hugging Rebecca Bross. Nastia and Valeri sharing a brief hug and kiss. Sabrina Vega unable to hold back the tears, crying openly as people one by one came around to comfort her. Rebecca Bross mostly holding back the tears but showing some emotion here and there.
Eventually things died down inside the HP Pavillion, but the partying continued outside at the AT&T block party. First the men were up on stage, talking to the crowd. After they made their way off the stage, music blared as everyone waited for the women to come out. Behind the stage, the men got up on top of their bus and danced to “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” The families were off to the side of the stage celebrating and waiting for the girls to come out along with the crowd.
Rita Wieber was the first to spot them and started cheering and clapping. Jordyn blew cute, excited kisses to her family just before she walked on to the stage. Then she adjusted Aly’s jacket, making them all presentable. They interviewed Gabby for a bit and then the men joined them on the stage. The crowd lit their candles (passed out earlier), and everyone held them up in the air as Kenny Loggins sang “America The Beautiful”.
The girls headed off the stage and some insistent fans convinced Kyla Ross to come sign autographs as everyone else got into the van. An official finally pulled her away from her adoring fans and they drove off. As I walked away from the night, girls were desperately trying to get pictures with Jordyn’s brother Ryan – the original owner of the Wieber Fever moniker.
The live announcement of the Olympic team, the overwhelming emotions of celebrating with those who made it and crying with those who didn’t is a feeling, a moment in time, that I will not soon forget. And one that I am so very grateful I was able to experience. Thanks to USA Gymnastics, San Jose and all the gymnasts, coaches and fans who made it possible.
Through a fun twitter discussion, I realized that I have a formula for picking my Olympic team. It seems very obvious to me, but just in case Martha isn’t aware, I will spell it out.
The Big Three: Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman. Enough said.
The Bar Specialist: Replace Aly Raisman’s bar score. Kyla Ross is the most consistent. Then Rebecca Bross. Then Bridget Sloan. Anna Li currently has the most potential for the highest score. Then there is the wildcard Nastia Liukin. Basically, it will depend on who performs best for podium training and the two days of trials. Right now, Ross has proven herself. Everyone else will have to prove that they can consistently score higher (or much higher) than Ross
The Fifth Spot: If you choose Sloan, Li, or Ross, you need a beamer. This means Finnegan or ASac. If you choose Ross or Liukin then you just need the person who adds the most tenths to ANY area. Maroney on vault. Anna Li on bars. ASac on vault and beam. Finnegan on beam and floor. In that order. Also weighing in is Douglas’ consistency on floor and beam, and if we will need a score to replace hers. Or maybe a second bars specialist to replace Wieber. It will all come down to the math -averages and highs.
Now that we are all blue in the face with proclaiming our teams, the Olympic Trials need to arrive already so we can sanely go back to our normal lives. But really, who wants to?
In a previous post I wrote about who I would take as my team based on what I saw at the Visa National Championships and where people currently are at. That team was Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney. The first three are widely considered locks while the last two spots are definitely up for grabs. Now it is time to dream a little bit and ponder different possibilities and scenarios.
Martha has made no bones that she is looking for at least one if not two more high bar scores. Kyla Ross is the most consistent second score (after Gabby). But Bridget Sloan is right behind her (in terms of averages) and Anna Li is ahead of her in terms of high scores. Anna Li has blogged that she is working on a 7.1 bars routine. If Li can come in and show hit 7.1 routines in podium training and two days of Trials, she could take the bars specialist spot. Though Bross is doing really well on bars, she has yet to beat Ross in terms of average or high score. She would have to up her game to be considered. And then there is Nastia Liukin, the wild card. Say what we will about Nastia, we have had few people with the bars talent Liukin possesses in the many years of American gymnastics. If Liukin can bring it, no one, not even Douglas can beat her. If she can do it, she has a definite chance. But she has a lot of improving to do in three weeks to show that potential.
I have made no bones about it. My absolute favorite gymnast is Alicia Sacramone. I can’t say enough how much she inspires me and how I admire her candid and authentic approach to gymnastics and life. In all honesty, I WANT her on that team. I know our girls are seasoned veterans, but there is a difference between worlds and the Olympics. I want Alicia to help guide this team and I want her to have the redemption she has been working for these past few years.
There are a few scenarios where I can see Sacramone make the team. One is if our bars/beam specialist ends up being a bars specialist only. For instance, If Anna Li can come and bring +.7 on bars, then putting in Alicia and Anna Li on over Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney might make sense. Li on bars could theoretically add the same advantage as Maroney on vault. Then Sacramone could add an additional advantage on beam AND vault (if she vaults like she used to, potentially another .4 over Aly on vault and consistency and anywhere between 2.0 and .1 over Gabby on beam). Another scenario is if Sacramone shows up with an upgraded vault and/or a solid floor routine. If Sacramone can bring the highest valued vault in America and do it well, she could win out over Maroney. Or if Sacramone can bring a team finals floor routine AND a 15.8 vault she could take that spot as well.
Now let’s talk Sarah Finnegan. After the Secret Classics, I really thought Finnegan had a legitimate chance. Hello 15.2 on floor! Up until Visa’s, the highest Douglas had brought in on floor was a 14.85. So the +3.5 on floor and the potential on beam made Finnegan a definite contender. Sarah’s first night beam score of 15.35 was the second highest of the Visa National Championships. However, Finnegan was not consistent on beam or floor at Nationals. Finnegan will need two things to happen. She will need to go out and do the two beam and two floor routines of her life. And she will need Douglas and Maroney to show that they are not able to bring in a high floor score.
The only other person I see sneaking onto the team is Elizabeth Price. I think that both Maroney and Sacramone would have to fall short for Price to take their place. Though Price has more events to offer in the case of an injury, in the end, others have stronger ones.
There are others in the mix, but I just don’t think any of them bring a high enough specialist routine OR a high enough all around to challenge for the remaining spots. So here are the teams I think could happen.
- Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Anna Li, Alicia Sacramone
- Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Nastia Liukin, McKayla Maroney
- Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Rebecca Bross, Alicia Sacramone
- Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross, Alicia Sacramone
- Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, top two bars specialists (Li, Liukin, Ross, Bross)
- Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross/Anna Li/Nastia Liukin/Rebecca Bross, Sarah Finnegan.
- Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross, Elizabeth Price/Alicia Sacramone
And who is the team I really want to send?
Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Alicia Sacramone, Nastia Liukin.
Just my heart’s desire.