Who’s Who in 2012: The Queen of Clean


Photo Credit USA Gymnastics

Kyla Ross, the Queen of Clean. Kyla Ross has quietly and steadily come onto the center stage in her senior debut year.  She didn’t explode onto the scene or take the gymnastics world by storm.  Though she has plenty of difficulty on three of the four events, there is nothing flashy about her gymnastics or her skills that just jump out at you and demand your attention. But somehow, every time you wonder who is in the running, she is there. And just like she competes her beam routine – steadily, slowly and surely- she is making her way onto this Olympic team.

Much of this is owed to her incredibly clean execution. She doesn’t have breath taking form like a Courtney McCool or a Sarah Finnegan. But she does everything, well, almost perfectly. Beautiful splits, great amplitude, always pointed toes. You just can’t take much off. She squeezes every tenth out of her difficult routines by being… clean.

Though Kyla is still in her first senior year, she has already begun to make a reputation of dependability. It doesn’t make me nervous to put her up on beam in an Olympic team finals. I feel confident that she will do what she always does.

Kyla makes quite a case for herself by being one of our top bar workers and being a high scoring,  dependable beam routine. Unless someone else is able to come along and show higher difficulty with solid routines each day on bars and beam at trials, it is highly likely that Kyla will fill the bars/beam spot on our team. Because you can bet that she will go to trials and be the Queen of Clean each and every time.

Other Scenarios for the 2012 Olympic Team


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. 🙂

Who’s Who in 2012: Feel the Heat of Wieber Fever


Jordyn Wieber at 2012 Pacific Rim. Photo Credit: Steve Mullensky/Quality-of-Light.com

Every gymnast who goes up against her feels the heat of Wieber Fever. Jordyn Wieber is the IT girl going into the Olympics. She is the current All Around World Champion. More impressively, she has won almost every competition she has competed in since her senior debut last year. The glaring exception was the Olympic Trials. Jordyn doesn’t always compete perfectly and doesn’t always have the top difficulty of everyone she is competing against. But her fierce competitive spirit and determined focus always seem to pull her through for the win.

Jordyn is the ultimate combination for a gymnast. She is incredibly strong and fast, launching herself into the air on every event as she turns and twists and flips. She is also fairly flexible for a power gymnast and generally hits all her leaps and jumps. She is fiercely determined. She has incredible focus and work ethic. She is confident, positive and not afraid to to win. One of my favorite attributes is her musicality and performance qualities on floor. If Jordyn stays healthy, she is one of the favorites to win the All Around in London.

Here is one of my favorite montage’s of her by CSaccullo-edits:

Who’s Who in 2012: The Flying Squirrel


Gabrielle Douglas (Gabby) is affectionately known as the flying squirrel. And the girl can FLY! Her bars are definitely the best in the US. She is exciting to watch on bars because instead of gaining difficulty with lots of pirouettes and other things we KNOW are really hard but don’t actually look that impressive, she does high flying release moves.

And it’s not just on bars! She flies high in her leaps, in her tumbling and on vault.

And the girl can be squirrely. (Urban Dictionary:  hyper or energized, goofy or playful; when a skate/snowboarder makes a sketchy landing). You never quite know what to expect. She is full of energy, her playful personality shines through her routines, and she may or may not hit her landings on everything but bars. She has incredible athletic talent on every event. If she is able to focus and keep on track, she is a strong contender for the All Around Gold. Even with a fall, Gabby only trailed Wieber by a few tenths. If she hits, she could take the gold.

Gabby is considered a lock for the Olympic team based on her bars. If she shows consistency at trials and in podium training, she has the difficulty to be used in team finals on any of the events. She is moving in that direction, showing a huge improvement in consistency and hitting routines at Visas (even with a fall, her other 7 routines were great).

Me and Natalie Hawkins (Gabby’s mom) in the stands.

Gabby is really beginning to feel comfortable in the spotlight and let her personality shine through. Instead of the standard interview, Gabby gives answers that really show who she is… and what she is thinking. She gave one of my all time favorite interviews after prelims to Gymnastike.

I ended up sitting behind her mom (who was delightful to chat with) in the stands at Visas on day two. When I mentioned loving the interview and how much Gabby cracks me up, she buried her head in her hands shaking it and said, “She gets that from her brother. She always keeps us laughing.”

June: US Women’s Olympic Team Pick


Back in April I decided to pick a team after each major competition – who I would send if we had to send a team right then. I assumed that team would change each month. That apart from Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas it would shift with different combinations of people. Our field of athletes and potential Olympians is so deep, how could it not?

But, it hasn’t. Competition after competition, these are the girls and the combination that keeps coming out on top. Every which way you arrange the puzzle and do the math, this is your best bet for dependable, high scoring routines. And so, my team remains the same. And here is their introduction, along with the events I would put them on in team finals.

Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney.

  • Vault: GD, JW, MM
  • Bars: JW, KR, GD
  • Beam: AR, KR, JW
  • Floor: GD, JW, AR

Wieber, Douglas and Raisman are considered locks for the team barring injury by most in the gymnastics world.  This seems to include Martha Karolyi as she stated two spots were interchangeable (mean three were basically set). (Gym Examiner) They are the top three all-arounders each having a legitimate chance to make the all around podium in London and bring consistently high scores on each of their specialties for the team competition (Wieber: Vault, Beam and Floor; Douglas: Bars; Raisman: Beam and Floor). With these three in the mix, you need someone who can contribute on bars and beam and then one other gymnast who brings enough value on one or more events to replace the lowest score of the first three.

In contention to contribute on bars are Ross, Rebecca Bross, Bridget Sloan, Anna Li, Elizabeth Price, and Nastia Liukin. Ross can also contribute on beam and Bross, Liukin and Sloan are trying to make a case that they can as well. Price could make a huge contribution on vault in addition to bars. Ross, Price and Sloan are also all arounders, so they can step in at any point if in a pinch. Of this field, Ross is by far the most prepared and consistent. Li has the highest scoring potential but needs to prove that she can hit the routine consistently. Bross is just about even on bars with Ross, but has not shown consistency on beam. Liukin is a wildcard. She did not show bars at Visa’s that would put her on any team. It will really depend on how much she can improve in three weeks. Yes, of this grouping Ross is currently the consistent clear choice.

With these four spots, the fifth spot has to be someone that contribute enough tenths on one or two events to replace some of our lowest scores of the first four gymnasts. If you take the high scores from Visa’s you have McKayla Maroney on vault (+.75), Anna Li on bars (+.5) or Alicia Sacramone on beam (+.2) and vault (+.1). The obvious choice here is Maroney.

As alternates I would send Elizabeth Price, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan. This would cover our all around needs if we lose an all arounder, our bars needs if we loose a bar worker and our beam and vault needs if we loose a vault or beam worker.

Who’s Who in 2012: Raisman the Rock


Aly Raisman, Visa Championships 2012. Photo Credit Heather Maynez

Stars are great. They shine brightly, illuminating the sport of gymnastics to the rest of the world. Stars like the fierce competitor Jordyn Wieber, who inspires us with her ability to never give up and come through with high flying skills on floor and vault and incredible difficulty on beam. Stars like the effervescent Gabby Douglas, who entertains us as much with her personality as with her breathtaking bars work. But in a three up three count team finals scenario, you don’t just want stars. You want a rock.

Aly Raisman, donned by NBC’s Alexa Ainsworth “Reliable Raisman” is our rock. She is the one you can depend on to go out and hit time after time. She has an incredible ability to be in the moment – not allowing herself to feel any more pressure when she is competing than when she is training. Since her senior debut in 2010, Aly has proven herself again and again to the gymnastics world and most importantly to Marta. Marta said this weekend of Aly:

“…[Aly] always wants to prove herself to me! She looks in my eyes before competition and I just nod: ‘Everything is perfect, Aly.’ I really love to have this type of gymnast. She’d give her heart to be good.” –Gym Examiner

And she is more than good. She is great! She does one of the hardest floor routines in the world. Her first tumbling pass is absolutely unbelievable in its level of difficulty. And her second pass is so high you wonder if she is ever going to come down.  Aly won two national event titles this weekend (Floor and Beam) and placed third in the all around. She continues to gain our trust even as she captures our heart with her humble attitude, sky high tumbling, sweet smile and loyal friendships with the other gymnasts. Check out Aly’s routines and her interview after the first night at the Visa National Championships. (For a more recent post about Aly after the Olympics, check out Aly Raisman Rises to the Top.)

Who’s Who in 2012: ASac is Back!


It has been only eight months since Alicia Sacramone tore her achilles tendon on floor, just days before prelims at the 2011 World Championships. It didn’t seem possible that someone could come back so quickly, but if anyone can do it, it’s Sacramone. She doesn’t sugar coat the process, saying again and again that she worked incredibly hard to make it back. And make it she has.

Alicia Sacramone Beam Prelims at the 2012 Visa Championships. Photo Credit: Heather Maynez

Sacramone competed on vault and bars at the 2012 Visa National Championships prelims. She came back looking like she always does: powerful, confident and reliable. Her vaults weren’t quite at the world champion level they  were before her injury, but they are very close. She did the most solid beam routine of the competition, wowing the crowd with her aggressive, fluid style on beam.  She also added a sheep jump – and a very nice one at that!

Sacramone knows that to make the team, she has to bring even more. She hopes to add her connections back in and hit her vaults perfectly. She is also trying to upgrade her vault for Olympic Trials. She reportedly was going to do an upgraded vault in vault finals at the World Championships last year before she was injured. She is contemplating bringing floor back for Trials as well. She says she has the skills but just is not quite yet able to put them all together.

Sacramone is an incredibly talented athlete and an inspiring personality. She speaks her mind and always gives authentic, candid interviews, making her a well loved gymnast. Here are some of her routines and interview from Prelims.

2012 Visa National Championships Sr. Women’s Prelims


What a night! After last year’s disastrous prelims, I wasn’t sure what tonight would bring. What it brought was a real competition. Things are heating up in the USA and these girls mean business. Make it easier on the selection committee? No thank you.

Jordyn Wieber Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

Let’s Start At the End

Gone are the days of Jordyn Wieber’s easy wins. Jordyn had a decent vault and a solid bar routine, but wobbled quite a bit on beam. Gabby had an awesome bars set, and put up mostly solid performances on the other events. It came down to the last routine where Jordyn needed over a 15.25 to win. She went out and hit a solid floor routine. The announcer announced the end of night and people began to file out while the rest of us sat with baited breath waiting for the score.  And they TIED! I don’t know why it shocked me so much, but it did. What a finish. Gabby and Jordyn both had decent nights, but they both can do better. Things are getting interesting.

Things that make you go Hmmm…

Nastia did a bar routine. Her swing is still there. It is still beautiful. But she didn’t do a dismount and it was definitely not a “hit” routine. Then she went and nailed beam. Hmmm…

Rebecca Bross hit a GREAT bar routine! Looked just like her old self. She went to beam, looked strong and agressive, and then sat down her dismount. Again. She has not made that dismount in competition in over a year. Hmmm…

Our Amanar factory seems to have a hold on production. Jordyn and McKayla seem to be the only ones who consistently land their amanar well. And most of the girls are scoring in the mid/low 15.0’s. Not much higher than they would with a DTY with a lot more risk. Hmmmm….

Alicia Sacramone's New Sheep Jump. Photo Credit Heather Maynex

Standout Gymnasts

Well, there is the obvious Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman (who finished third). Then there’s Alicia Sacramone. What injury? She looks just like she always did, and came back with an awesome vault and the most solid beam routine of the night. Elizabeth Price quietly came out and did her job with little fanfare. But she definitely made her bid.

Standout Routines

Douglas on bars. Maroney on vault. Raisman on floor. Nuff said. But can you really ever say enough about those awesome pieces of gymnastics? Sarah Finnegan on beam. WOW. She came out and hit her skills. It was a delight to watch. In my opinion, she does the wolf turn better than anyone has ever done it.

Some of My Favorites

I loved seeing Sacramone go out and nail it. I loved Sarah Finnegan’s floor routine. And her beam routine. I loved Jordyn’s floor routine and waiting for the score. I loved watching Bridget compete again. I loved watching Nastia do bars. I loved the energy in the arena.

Women’s All-Around:

1. Jordyn Wieber, DeWitt, Mich., 60.650
1. Gabrielle Douglas, Virginia Beach, Va., 60.650
3. Alexandra Raisman, Needham, Mass., 60.200
4. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 59.750
5. Elizabeth Price, Coopersburg, Pa., 59.600
6. Sarah Finnegan, St. Louis, Mo., 59.150
7. McKayla Maroney, Long Beach, Calif., 58.700
8. Kennedy Baker, Flower Mound, Texas, 58.050

Women’s Vault:

1. McKayla Maroney, Long Beach, Calif., 15.925
2. Alicia Sacramone, Winchester, Mass., 15.025
3. Brandie Jay, Ft Collins, Colo., 14.750

Women’s Bars:

1. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 15.500
2. Gabrielle Douglas, Virginia Beach, Va., 15.450
3. Rebecca Bross, Plano, Texas, 15.200
4. Anna Li, Aurora, Ill., 15.150
5. Bridget Sloan, Pittsboro, Ind., 15.100
6. Jordyn Wieber, DeWitt, Mich., 15.050

Women’s Beam:

1. Sarah Finnegan, St. Louis, Mo., 15.350
2. Alicia Sacramone, Winchester, Mass., 15.200
2. Alexandra Raisman, Needham, Mass., 15.200
4. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 15.100
4. Nastia Liukin, Parker, Texas, 15.100
6. Gabrielle Douglas, Virginia Beach, Va., 14.800

Women’s Floor:

1. Alexandra Raisman, Needham, Mass., 15.450
2. Jordyn Wieber, DeWitt, Mich., 15.250
3. Gabrielle Douglas, Virginia Beach, Va., 15.050
4. Sarah Finnegan, St. Louis, Mo., 14.800
5. McKayla Maroney, Long Beach, Calif., 14.600
6. Elizabeth Price, Coopersburg, Pa., 14.550

 

2012 Women’s Prelims are so close I can taste it!


I have been waiting for this for so long – for the 2012 Visa’s to finally start! I can’t believe it is almost here. To be honest, I never thought I would see it live…. I am like a little kid waiting to go to Disney World!

What I am Excited For:

I can’t wait to see Alicia Sacramone compete in person. She is my favorite gymnast and I am a huge fan of her as a person and love watching her gymnastics. I am excited to see what Nastia brings to the bars. I am jumping up and down with anticipation to see McKayla Maroney’s Amanar and Mustafina.

What’s at Stake:

The top six all around finishers of tonight and the finals put together, plus six – eight other gymnasts of the selection committee’s choosing will move on to the Olympic Trials based on their performances here and at camps and meets from this year. In addition, the national team will be named, which allows gymnasts to compete internationally for the USA for the next year.

My Predictions:

Though I think Gabby Douglas (talent and start value wise) could upset Jordyn  Wieber and finish first, I think Wieber will do it. She is a tough competitor who doesn’t go down without a heck of a fight. I think Douglas will bobble here and there, but won’t have any major disasters and will come in second. The ever solid Aly Raisman will delight on floor and be solid everywhere else, rounding out the podium in third. I also think Alicia Sacramone and Nastia Liukin will kill it tonight, with solid starts to their Olympic bid.

I am hoping that McKayla Maroney will show improvement on bars and a fantastic floor routine. I am also hoping that Sarah Finnegan will do the beam routine we know she has in her and continue to wow us on floor. I am crossing my fingers for Anna Li to hit her bar routine as well.

Most of all, I am hoping that no one gets injured! But I have a feeling, that tonight’s going to be a good, good night!

 

Sparkles Galore – Junior Women’s Prelims 2012 Visa National Championships


The first thing I noticed when I walked in was all the sparkles. Really, it is hard to miss! But the second thing was how much more businesslike the women are. Even these little juniors. There were definitely some stand outs and the future of USA gymnastics is looking great. For a full effect, read through Gym Examiners quick hits and check out all the routines on USAGymnastics youtube.

Overall Impressions

I think that US gymnastics has heard the complaints of no artistry. There were so many beautiful, well danced, polished floor routines out there today! It was a delight for this floor lover’s heart. Also, Texas Dreams is a force to be reckoned with. Kim Zemeskal’s girls look awesome on every event. Polished, with great attention to detail. She is also delightful to watch with her girls.

Standout Gymnasts

Of course, you can’t ignore Lexie Priessman with her almost 2 point lead after night one. Her floor routine was on fire- she REALLY danced it up and did some incredible tumbling to boot. Her 15.25 outclassed the rest of the field by over half a point!   Priessman, Amelia Hundley and Katelyn Ohashi all look like seniors out there. They just have a different quality to their competition and will be ready for next year without missing a hitch. And then there is Bailie Key. It is hard to believe she is only 13. She competes with the finish and professionalism of a senior, and has the difficulty to match her poise. It is hard to imagine how incredible she will be by the time she finally becomes a senior if she continues on this pace.

Three other gymnasts must be mentioned. First up, Simone Biles.  She is just a little bundle of dynamite! What power! Even when she is just walking across the floor she looks like she could combust. She is a delight to watch on every event. Second is Nia Dennis. This little girl is a young Awesome Dawsome.  She has beautiful dance and tumbles and does release moves on bars up in the rafters. Last but not least is Lauren Hernandez. I must say, she is my new favorite junior. The girl can dance! And every movement is finished with precision and grace. I love watching this one! She didn’t have the best day, but I can’t wait to see her again.

Standout Routines

Current Standings

All-around:
1. Lexie Priessman, Cincinnati, Ohio, 59.200
2. Bailie Key, Coppell, Texas, 57.550
3. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 57.400
4. Madison Desch, Lenexa, Kan., 57.200
5. Amelia Hundley, Hamilton, Ohio, 56.750
6. Katelyn Ohashi, Plano, Texas, 56.650

Women’s Vault:
1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 15.800
2. Lexie Priessman, Cincinnati, Ohio, 15.700
3. Bailie Key, Coppell, Texas, 15.000

Women’s Bars:

1. Polina Shchennikova, Arvada, Colo., 14.650
2. Katelyn Ohashi, Plano, Texas, 14.350
3. Lexie Priessman, Cincinnati, Ohio, 14.150

Women’s Beam:
1. Amelia Hundley, Hamilton, Ohio, 14.300
1. Madison Desch, Lenexa, Kan., 14.300
3. Bailie Key, Coppell, Texas, 14.250

Women’s Floor:
1. Lexie Priessman, Cincinnati, Ohio, 15.250
2. Bailie Key, Coppell, Texas, 14.700
3. Katelyn Ohashi, Plano, Texas, 14.400