The beauty and peril of gymnastics is the expectation of perfection. Of hitting every single time. Nobody’s perfect right? Oh, except Olympic gymnasts. You can miss a shot in basketball and still win the game, make a poor serve or return in volleyball and still win the game. But not so in gymnastics. Being off even by a centimeter can cost you a medal, cost you your dreams.
And so it was so for McKayla Maroney – both the unrewarded hitting of human perfection and missing it as well. In the team finals, McKayla Maroney performed one of the most spectacular vaults of all time. Superimposed on the same vault as Uchimura (one of the most perfect male gymnasts of all time) was McKayla Maroney’s team vault. It is so much higher than any female gymnast had a right to be, higher than Ushimura’s by far, even though the women’s vault is lower, with perfect form and a stick to boot. A vault that would have earned a perfect 10 in any other gymnastics era, still scored higher than any female vault has in this quad. It was a moment of beauty and perfection. But not of surprise. It is all we expected of McKayla.
Then came the Vault finals. The commentators talked of competing for silver, as it was inevitable that McKayla would win the gold. To all of you that have tuned into gymnastics for the first time since the last Olympics, this may have seemed to be sensationalism by the commentators. But the reality is, that the entire gymnastics community in every country has assumed that IF McKayla made the US team, they would be competing for silver on vault. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she would win the gold.
After all, who could even remember McKayla not performing an incredible vault, much less falling? In today’s world of social media, you have to go all the way back to 2009 to see McKayla fall on vault in practice, warm up or performance. One time in three years. In a time where all of her teammates are as likely to sit down vaults in podium training and warm up as they are to hit them in competition, it is almost unfathomable that McKayla won’t hit vault- in practice, in warm up, in competition. She could do it following a week off for a concussion, she can vault anywhere at any time.
Such dominance and perfection leads us to expect, well perfection. Anything less is a disappointment. And that is exactly what happened to McKayla in Vault Finals. Anything else.
Was it nerves that got to her? We, and probably even she, will never know. McKayla did, for her, a disappointing first vault. She landed in the red and did not achieve her normal level of perfection. So when she went for the second vault, she really wanted to deliver. Did she come in to high? Did she tried to hard to stick? Whatever happened, the unthinkable resulted. McKayla Maroney fell on a vault.
Ahh how the pendulum swings. One vault is the best we had ever seen. The next is sitting on her butt. McKayla Maroney had done the unthinkable. She lost the vault finals.
Maybe it was to remind us that gymnasts are not robots, but they are in fact human. Maybe it was to remind us that nobody, absolutely nobody is perfect. No matter what the reason, the results stand. The best female vaulter of all time (in my and many other”s opinions) would not walk away from the Olympics with a Vault gold.
A fluke of nerves, of tiredness, of trying to achieve perfection? We will never really know. But to those of you just tuning into gymnastics, know that this was a FLUKE. McKayla has not sat down a vault in podium training or warm up that has been shown, or in competition since 2009. In contrast, she has done more perfect vaults, higher, with more perfect form and difficulty than any woman in history. What she did in vault finals was absolutely a fluke.
Sandra Izbasa, who never dreamed she would be competing for a vault gold with Maroney in the mix, laughed often as she received the news of her win, and her medal. We can never know exactly what she was thinking. But I took it like this. LOL! We all know that Maroney is the superior vaulter. Sure, I will take the gold medal today. But is is kind of laughable.
I hope and believe that this “loss” will inspire McKayla to continue on in gymnastics, which will inevitable lead to more great vaulting. Many have looked forward to her introducing the Yurechenko 3/1. I think that will be awesome. But even moreso, I look forward to more beautiful floor routines and inspired interviews from a gymnast who is fast becoming one of my all time favorites – as much for her sincere, spunky, heartfelt interviews as for her out-of-this world vaults.
McKayla Maroney’s perfectly stuck vault will perhaps become as iconic of a moment for the 2012 USA Gold Medal winning women’s gymnastics team as Kerri Strugs was for the Magnificent Seven. A picture of pure perfection, of gymnastics brilliance, McKayla Maroney vaulted herself into history. She is slated to compete five vaults throughout these Olympics, tonight she completed her third. So far, it is the best vault she has ever done in competition. In many people’s opinion, it is possibly the best vault anyone woman has done in competition, ever.
Check out the expression on the judges faces! That pretty much captures it. McKayla scored a 16.233, meaning that she scored a 9.733 execution score. In this season of gymnastics, that is unbelievable. This was the highest score of the entire meet. What is more unbelievable, is that she truly should have had a 10.0.
McKayla only competed on vault in Team Finals. From there, she quickly went from super star to team cheerleader. Making sure the other girls had water and whatever they needed as they moved through the competition. She was there to hug them after they competed and cheered them on through their routines.
McKayla continues to grow into a delightful young woman, well spoken and articulate beyond her years. She has been almost as lovely to watch in her interviews as she is on her vault. It is a shame that the world didn’t get to see her beautiful and expressive floor routine to boot.
Thank You McKayla for your determination, your team spirit and your years of work to get here. You were spectacular!
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
Panic abound on the gymternet earlier this week – “Is that tape I see on McKayla in that picture?” “She seems to be favoring her right foot in every picture.” “McKayla didn’t train today!” After the second day of light training, the panic became more pronounced. It definitely appeared that something was wrong. However, all USA gymnastics would say is that she hurt her toe, but is fine.
Fine is the same word they used to describe Anna Li on July 24 when she took a nasty fall from the uneven bars. It turns out the injury was worse than they thought and she is wearing a neck brace. ”She tore a ligament in her neck, and she has been advised to wear the collar as well as check with a physician upon her return to the States. As a result, she is no longer training as a replacement athlete.” (Gymnastike)
McKayla did vault in podium training like a champ, but did not do floor. Finally, in the first interviews given in London, McKayla revealed that her toe is broken. NBC sheds light on the situation.
Maroney broke the toe in May, then aggravated the break in June. When she landed her beam dismount last Thursday, she split the bone even further. She did only light training the next few days to protect the toe.
McKayla’s view on the situation?
“Bad things happen you just have to make the best of it,” Maroney told NBCOlympics.com. “It does hurt. It’s broken. How is it not going to hurt? I just try to ignore it and I have worked so hard to be here I can ignore the pain for a little bit.” (For the whole interview, check out NBCOlympics.com)
It is not uncommon for a gymnast to compete on a broken foot. Chellsie Memmel did it in 2008. Rebecca Bross did it in 2010. But I can only imagine how painful it is! Here is hoping that no more injury is sustained to her toe, and that ALL the gymnasts (from all the countries) stay healthy from here on out.
I love how McKayla loves the people in her life. McKayla’s Instagram is filled with pictures of her loving on her family and her friends. She is affectionate in word and deed, and you can see her genuine delight in and love for her friends and her family. She is the first to say, “We are all best friends” or “I can’t wait to go to camp to see my best friends.”
I love how loyal McKayla is. She is a loyal friend a loyal sister. I think she was as excited that she made the Olympic team with her best friends and her longtime friend and teammate Kyla Ross as that she made the team at all.
I love McKayla’s pride. Pride is often thought of in a negative light, but McKayla is the positive definition of it: a feeling of honor and self-respect; a sense of personal worth; satisfaction or pleasure taken in one’s own or another’s success and achievements. McKayla IS without a doubt one of the best female vaulters of all time. She is confident of this and carries herself with pride in her hard work, her natural talents and her achievements. It is refreshing to see.
I love McKayla’s beauty. I have written a whole post on this before, but seriously, the girl doesn’t take a bad picture. How can you not love this face!
I love McKayla’s combination of beauty and power in her gymnastics. Watching her vault is like watching a piece of art in motion. Her new floor routine is captivating. I hope we have many years to come of falling more in love with McKayla.
All Photos from NBCOlympics.com.
In a World Championship or Olympic Vault Finals, gymnasts must show two different types of vaults coming from two different vault “families.” This simply means that they are different types of vaults, not just different variations of the same vault. This is actually very difficult to learn and takes a lot of extra training time. As a result, only gymnasts who are very good on vault tend to train two vaults.
This is why though Jordyn Wieber scores very well on her vault, she will never qualify for vault finals. In the USA, only McKayla Maroney, Alicia Sacramone and Brandie Jay compete two different vaults. With Sacramone retiring and Jay heading off to college gymnastics, the USA will only have the possibility of Maroney representing in the vault finals in the near future.
Though the USA is far and above the best vaulting team in the world, we will be hard pressed to see many vault finals medals in the near future. Gymnasts who make the team tend to be all arounders. And so many of our all arounders have a great first vault. Taking the training time to train a second vault takes away from training other events. And unless you can beat out all the other great all arounders on vault, you just won’t make the team. Unless you are McKayla Maroney. But when you are not only the reigning World Champion, but one of the best vaulters of all time, normalcies don’t really apply.
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.
Today feels like Christmas Eve to me. In my family on Christmas Eve, we always got to open up one present. I’d spend hours that day picking out the perfect present to open, creating lots of anticipation for it. This evening, the women compete the first night of the Olympic Trials. We get to open up the first present, but still have to wait to open up the rest. But this first present, it will be awesome and worth the anticipation!
What should you be looking for over the next two days of women’s gymnastics? First of all, sit back and enjoy. Even at the Olympics, you will not see such an amazing display of gymnastics. If you love watching gymnastics for the sake of the high flying skills, breath taking flips and soaring leaps, graceful dance and lovely lines, then today will be a feast for the eyes.
Look for fierce competition. And deep friendships. These girls love and support each other like no other USA gymnastics group I have seen. They are truly best friends. But that doesn’t mean that each one of them won’t give it everything they have to make that team. Every single one of them will be putting it all out on the floor.
Look for the spots that we need to fill in for the “Big Three”. Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman are locks for the team apart from injury. So the next two spots go to the athletes that can best fill in their weaknesses or contribute a higher-scoring event than one of the “Big Three”. The most glaringly obvious spot is on bars. Raisman is weak on bars. Jordyn can compete on bars as a lead off spot, but we will definitely need another bars star to fill in the third team final spot. But look to see what other events we might need someone on. Both Gabby and Aly have been inconsistent this year on their amanars, sometimes not scoring that much higher than a DTY, the vault most of the rest of the teams will be doing. If we want to take advantage on vault, we need three HIGH scoring vaults. Gabby has also been inconsistent on beam and sometimes floor. We will most likely want to put someone else up on beam. However, if Gabby is inconsistent on floor over the next two days, we might need another floor score as well.
Look for the highest scoring bars specialist. Kyla Ross, Anna Li, Rebecca Bross, Bridget Sloan, Nastia Liukin. This is the score we need most, so start filling in the puzzle with the piece that makes the most difference.
Look for the highest value add after that. Up to this point, it has been McKayla Maroney. She adds .7-.8 over using Aly/Gabby’s vault. Look to see if anyone else can add more than that on one or two events combined. Sarah Finnegan on floor and beam. Alicia Sacramone on vault and beam. Another bars specialist.
Put all that together and we will have a good idea of our Olympic Team.
Look to see the honor that it is to all the girls competing. This is an incredibly tough year of gymnastics in the USA and each girl has accomplished so very much just to make it this far. They have so much to be proud of and we should be so proud of them as well! Revel in the fact that you are seeing some of the best gymnastics in the world!
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?