Names to Know: USA Team


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 WieberJordyn 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 DouglasGabby 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 RaismanAly 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 MaroneyMcKayla 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 RossKyla 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

Video

Getting Your Tear Ducts Warmed Up


My Favorite Olympic Commercial Yet. Getting you ready for all the NBC Fluff.

Being a mom is the hardest job in the world. But it’s also the best.

This Procter & Gamble commercial honors everything that all moms do to help their children succeed by showcasing the amazing moms behind Olympic athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The hardest job in the world is truly the best job in the world.

Names to Know: Aliya Mustafina


In 2010, Aliya was a star. In fact, it seemed she was on her way to becoming one of the gymnastics greats. Had we ever seen someone who could vault with the power and amplitude she attained and dance like a prima ballerina on floor? Someone who’s beautiful swing on bars was only outdone by her lightness and sureness on beam. Aliya won the all-around. She led the Russian team to gold. She qualified in EVERY event finals and placed on the podium in all but beam, where she had her only mistake of the entire competition. She looked unstoppable.

Unfortunately, an injury has put a serious roadblock in her path to glory. In 2011, she tore her ACL at the European Championships while performing her famous amanar. Her recovery has been difficult. She has grown. But she has continued to train hard.

Aliya has yet to show the level of gymnastics and performance she attained in 2010 this year.  But Aliya has a competitive drive, a fierceness and focus on the competition floor like few others. She has that undefinable quality and mental drive that propels her to the front. I would not be surprised at all if she ends up on the podium.

Format and Scoring for Women’s Gymnastics


I’m still confused by the scoring system!

Many people are. Here’s how it works.

  • First you have the D Score– D is for difficulty. The judges add up the value of the elements done in the routine. This includes basic requirements, the value of the skills in their routine and bonus points for connecting skills together. The D scores tend to be between 5.5 and 6.5 (ish) at the Olympic level. Of course you have some lower and some higher.
  • Then there’s the E score– E is for execution. This is like the perfect 10 of old. You start at a 10 and are deducted for mistakes. These deductions are larger than they used to be, so this is why these scores are much lower than they used to be.
  • Then you add the two together and get your final score.

What’s the format of the competition?

Things will kick off on Sunday with Qualifications. As the title implies, this round of competition qualifies gymnasts and teams on finals. This year only five members are allowed on each Olympic gymnastics team. Four of those five members will compete on each event, and the scores obtained at prelims will qualify them on for the rest of the competitions.

Team Qualifications

Twelve teams have qualified to compete at the Olympics from either last year’s World Championships or the 2012 London Test Event. Each 5 member team will put up four gymnasts on each event and the top three scores will count. Those teams are:

Team Finals

The top eight teams from qualifications will advance on the team finals on Tuesday. In the team finals, each team will put up three gymnasts and all three scores will count (often referred to as 3-up 3-count). Here’s more on the contenders.

All-Around Finals

The top 24 gymnasts will advance on to the finals with the exception that only two gymnasts per country can advance on. The finals will be on Thursday 8/2. Here’s more on the medal hopefuls!

Event Finals

The top eight from each apparatus will qualify into the Event Finals held next Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Once again, only two gymnasts per country are allowed on to each of the individual competitions. Follow the link for the hopefuls on each event: Vault, Bars, Beam and Floor.

Names to Know: Viktoria Komova


Viktoria Komova (Russia)

Gymnastics fans all over the world anticipate Viktoria’s entrance to the senior ranks last year. However, an ankle injury prohibited her training for much of the year, and she came into last year’s World Championships looking tired and was not up to performing with the level of difficulty and precision that she showed as a junior. Even so, she battled to the end with Jordyn Wieber and lost the gold by the smallest fraction.

This year, Viktoria has grown and gained in muscle. But her slight form still hides the incredible power underneath. She dances like a ballerina, vaults with power and grace, swings bars like she was meant to live life in the trees and tumbles on the beam as if she was light as a feather. If Viktoria is able to do her amanar vault as is rumored (which she has yet to do as a senior), she will come in with the highest theoretical start value. However, she will have to have a more consistent performance on all events than she has yet shown as a senior. This very well may happen, as injury has kept her from performing at the level she is capable of.

McKayla Maroney Mystery Solved


McKayla Maroney in Podium Training. Photo Credit: NBCOlympics

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.

USA: Perform. Hit. Repeat.


These girls looked just like last years World Championship team during podium training. Moving calmly from event to event, hitting routine after routine. Oh wait, they basically ARE the same team, plus Kyla who fits in like she has been there all along.

They trained in Olympic order, starting on vault. The live stream was not up, but according to twitter, they put on quite a show- “The Amazing Amanar Stars.” They hit vault after vault, with an almost stuck and then a stuck vault from Jordyn, the best Amanar Aly has ever done on the world stage, two vaults with a small step from Gabby and business as usual for McKayla (big step out, higher than should be possible). Kyla did beautiful DTYs that would anchor most teams’ vault rotations but won’t even be used in qualifications on this vaulting team.

Then they moved on to bars. Gabby was a flying squirrel, Kyla was the queen of clean, Jordyn muscled through but made it just fine. Business as usual. However, Aly came out strong! Blythe from the Gym Examiner said “She looks pretty good up there. Normally that’s prefaced with “for Aly” but I mean that as a general statement.” 

The girls moved on to beam. In what has become true USA all business fashion, someone is mounting the beam while the previous gymnast is still in the air from their dismount. This gives the USA time for two routines per gymnast. Craziness. Some bobbles here and there, a few missed connections and a split the beam fall from Kyla. Overall though, a decent beam rotation with lots of shining moments. Kyla hit her front tuck sheep jump on the second set, Jordyn’s second pass is more closely connected than ever, and Aly almost stuck two Pattersons. Everyone did a great second set, with lots of stuck landings.

The big news on floor is that it appears McKayla is not doing it. Kyla is in instead. This is assumedly because of whatever is bothering her about her toe. McKayla’s routine is more difficult than Kyla’s and more beautiful than the rest of the teams’, but it isn’t vital for the team and she is not going to make floor finals. But her vault is. So they are resting and protecting her toe, saving her for vault.

The floor rotation went well. Gabby and Jordyn looked great. Jordyn stuck or connected her first three passes. Aly was not quite up to her normal tumbling par, but nothing to cause concern.

Overall, it was a dominant, hit performance, boding good things to come. They look just like the machine of last year. Perform, Hit, Repeat.

To watch the whole podium training, follow this link and start at 44 minutes.

gymnastics-podium-training-u-s-women.html

Larisa Iordache Injured


Larisa Iordache talking to her coach. Photo Credit Gymnastike

UPDATE: The lastest reports say that she will compete in the All-Around in qualifications. 

There has been a buzz this week on the gymternet surrounding Larisa Iordache, Romania’s young star. Many sources reported that she was not training much and seemed upset yesterday. Here are excerpts from Gymnastike.

In observing training today in the North Greenwich Academy, Larisa Iordache’s status is in question. The Romanians began their training on floor where Iordache warmed up tumbling passes with her teammates…  Then, every Romanian gymnast except for Iordache practiced one full floor routine. She sat on the sidelines opposite of the rest of her team. She did not appear to be injured. She just sat quietly as her the rest of her teammates continued to train floor.

This is shocking because Iordache is one of the team’s best floor workers, could contend for a spot in the floor final, and is one of the favorites for the Olympic all around title. After missing World team medals the past two years, many consider the Romanians strong contenders for a medal here in London with an outside shot at gold. Larisa Iordache is a big factor in that.
The team then went to vault, again without their young star. Iordache instead got ready for bars and tried to stay busy stretching. She had a talk with the assistant coach and teared up. After vault, head coach Octavian Belu talked with Iorache for a few minutes. She looked upset, he appeared frustrated.

Today, The Couch Gymnast confirmed that she has a foot injury and will not be doing the All-Around in qualifications.

 As you wrote, it’s [plantar] fasciitis. Now she feels better because the doctors applied an elastic bandage which is more dense and managed to balance the way in which forces are applied in that area. But she will not be able to compete in the all around and we will see on podium training if she will be able to compete on uneven bars and maybe on balance beam for her to qualify for the event finals. – Mariana Bitang

Read the entire interview on The Couch Gymnast

A huge part of the frustration here (at least what I read in between the lines) is that plantar fasciitis is not something that happens overnight. The pain builds. Had Larisa come forward earlier that she was in pain, some therapy and the elastic brace plus a few days of rest probably would have allowed her to compete on Sunday.

At this point, I think they are thinking of the team. Letting her compete in qualifications will allow her to qualify for a few event finals. Not doing floor or vault will allow her recovery time to help the team on Tuesday’s team finals. She could still compete on every event during team finals and help her team to a medal. However, as Larisa had a legitimate shot at the all-around gold, not being able to compete all-around in qualifications – and therefore not qualifying for all-around finals must be devastating.

This is a huge blow for Romania, who desperately needs her to challenge for team gold and who would have loved the all-around medal she could have won. Hopefully the rest time will allow her to come back strong. It is also a huge blow for the gymnastics world, who were really looking forward to seeing this dynamic, spirited gymnast challenge for gold in the all-around. It won’t be the same without her.

USA Team Chances in London


What are our chances in London?

The US won the 2011 World Championships by a huge margin. We have incredible depth in the all around as well as a large advantage on vault. There’s this magical vault called the Amanar that has an extra 1/2 twist than the vault most gymnasts are competing. It adds .7 to the start value (the D Score of vault). Most countries are struggling to have any gymnasts that can currently perform the vault. The US will perform an amanar for every vault counted during the Olympics.  That ends up being a 2.1 advantage over most other countries in Team Finals if they aren’t able to put up Amanars. But there are a lot of Amanar rumors going on from other countries. In addition, the US has been weak on bars. The US has great chances. But the competition will be fierce this year.

Who is our team competition?

For a deeper run down, check out my post Who’s Who in 2012: The Team Contenders.

Russia was incredibly strong in 2010. The USA dominated in 2011. Russia’s amazingly fierce and talented Aliya Mustifani was out last year and their other top gymnast was not at her peak. With both of them back, plus a strong new senior there is every expectation that they can bring a battle for gold. Romania has come from behind and is putting the pressure on. They beat Russia at the European Championships this year and just keep getting better. China continues to be strong. Not as strong as they looked in Beijing, but they still factor in to the mix.

Check out these posts if you are interested in Who’s Who in the all-around or on vaultbarsbeam or floor.

 

Names to Know: Larisa Iordache


Larisa Iordache – Romania

Larisa made her senior debut this year at the AT&T American Cup. Her junior showings made her highly anticipated as the Romanian all-around contender at the Olympics and she has not disappointed. Each meet she goes out and gets better, more consistent and more polished.

Larisa has a charming floor routine, the most difficult beam routine that will be performed at the Olympics, a solid vault and a very decent bar routine. She has been shown doing Amanars in training videos, which would increase her standings. She competes with a delightful childlike air about her and if she continues on the trajectory she has been on her entire career, she will easily be in the mix for the gold.