After watching Alicia perform solidly for the past three years on beam and vault, winning a World Championship title on vault in 2010, and turning in the second highest beam score average at both the Visa National Championships and the US Olympic Trials this year, it came as quite a surprise to many that she did not make the US Olympic team, even as an alternate. Alicia has shown such a consistent presence, and has been a leader to this younger generation of gymnasts. She is also a crowd favorite, as she has learned the art of interviewing and competing authentically and with personality.
After tearing her Achilles tendon last year at the World Championships, many people doubted that she would have enough time to come back. She proved her doubters wrong and came back with a vengeance, regaining her prior level of consistency, difficulty and aggressive performance on beam, and almost reaching her top level of vaulting in just a few short months.
However, coming back from the injury robbed her from doing the thing she needed to do most to make this Olympic team. Upgrade on vault. Alicia was working on upgrading her first vault to a vault that would have been the most difficult, highly valued vault on the American team. She felt confident she would be able to debut it at the World Championships in 2011. With another year to work on it, it seems highly likely that she would have had it perfected by this year.
Surrounded by a gaggle of young girls doing a more difficult vault that she was doing, trying for a spot on a team that desperately needed bars specialists, Alicia just was not able to contribute numerically the way that others were. It could definitely be argued that she could have contributed more than Sarah Finnegan as an alternate on beam. But that conversation really could go either way. It depends on if you look at high scores and difficulty or averages and consistency.
The intangible value that Alicia brings is one of leadership and Olympic experience. Having someone to walk through the Olympics with you who has been there before is arguably a strong advantage that every other team will have. However, Martha does not believe that there should be a role of team leader or team captain. She thinks that every gymnast has to come in and do their own job. And she has confidence that these girls are experienced enough on the international scene and will be just fine on their own. Last year, most of these same girls turned in one of the most consistent, dominant performances imaginable in the world of gymnastics as rookies. There is no reason to doubt that they cannot do so again.
All of our hearts ached for Alicia. She has been a dominant, well-loved force in USA gymnastics for almost a decade. Her wit, her smile and her determination will be sorely missed. Seeing her have the opportunity to redeem herself at the Olympics is something many gymnastics fans have wanted for her. But Alicia has had a long and glorious career. She leaves the elite level as an incredibly well respected gymnast who will be fondly remembered for many years to come.