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.”

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.

Who’s Who in 2012: Alicia Sacramone

Continuing my series of our Olympic Contenders, here is Alicia Sacramone.

I will admit it. Alicia is my favorite gymnast. She wasn’t always. I was enamored like everyone else with Shawn and Nastia in 2008. But since her comeback, I have come to respect and enjoy her so much. She is such a mature, inspiring, fun person. And her gymnastics is so fun to watch! Her vault is sky high. Her beam is so dynamic. And her new floor routine is one of my all time favorites! It has passion, beauty, great expression of the music and of course, power!

Alicia had such an incredible 2011 year. She was in the best shape of her life. I have never seen her look as good as she did in podium training for worlds. And then…. she tore her achilles tendon two days before prelims. My heart broke! Now she is on the long road of trying to rehab what used to be a career ending injury.

I think Alicia has to upgrade on vault if she is to make the team. Even though Alicia is a world class vaulter, all of our alll-arounders can currently match or come very close to her score. Though her beam is steady and sharp, we have a handful of gymnasts that can fill the bill on beam. It was looking a little ify on if she was going to get her floor down and I wonder if it is worth it for her to train that with her achilles. Alicia is an incredible team leader and brings so much personality to USA gymnastics. But with only five on a team, I just can’t envision her making the team unless she brings in the highest valued USA vault. She was going to debut her handspring laid-out double twist at the 2011 Worlds. So I am really hoping that she can not only come back to her former strength in the short time she has, but to be able to compete that vault as well!

Who’s Who in 2012: McKayla Maroney

Just tuning back in to gymnastics? I am continuing a series introducing the current USA Olympic contenders.

McKayla Maroney is currently the best vaulter in the world. Though the USA has many gymnasts now doing the infamous amanar, NO ONE in the world does it like she does. Perfect form. Unmatched height. Catlike, dead center landings. It is magical watching her do that vault. McKayla also has a beautifully choreographed, graceful floor routine- with the potential for LOADS of difficulty. However, she has to get her landings under control. Her beam and bars are just ok. She looks like she has the body build to be great on both. But they are currently not events the USA would want to use her on in team finals.

McKayla is a confident, dynamic and beautiful girl. She is fun to watch and shows so much potential. However, with Gabby, Aly and Jordyn all throwing great amanars, I think she is going to have to bring more to the table than vault to make the team. There are rumors that she is working hard to upgrade bars. I hope she can! McKayla would bring artistry, grace and those beautiful lines that international judges like to see. Lets hope she can bring those qualities on all her events to make the team!

Here are McKayla’s best routines from 2011.

Here is a fun montage of her from AshleyakaFlipper Montages.

Haven’t really watched gymnastics since the Olympics? Here’s what you need to catch up!

Welcome back!

2008 Olympic Team

Many gymnastics fans (I was one of them!) only watch gymnastics on an Olympic year. It makes sense. Gymnastics is hard to find on TV. But now, thanks to social media and the internet, gymnastics is easier than ever to follow. So, if you are just rejoining the elite gymnastics world, rejoice! It will be much easier to follow gymnastics! In the meantime, here are some things to help you catch up.

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. A routine that looks near perfect to the average viewer will typically score around a 9.1. There is a pattern that these scores get higher in an Olympic year and some are speculating this will raise to about a 9.4. Needless to say, they are lower than your used to.
  • Then you add the two together and get your final score.

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 has atleast 5 contenders that perform it WELL plus another huge vault from Alicia Sacramone. That ends up being a 2.1 advantage over most other countries if they aren’t able to put up Amanars. However, the US has been weak on bars and both Russia an China can make up a lot of ground on this event. The US has great chances. But the competition will be fierce this year.

Who is our competition?

Russia dominated in 2010. Their 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 it will be a battle for gold. China continues to be very strong. Not as strong as they looked in Beijing, but they still factor in to the mix. And you can never, ever count out Romania. They continue to improve, and if all their top players come in healthy, you can bet they will put the pressure on.

Who are the USA’s top gymnasts?

Right now, the list is very, very long! The USA is INCREDIBLY deep and it seems to be anyone’s guess who will actually make the Olympic team. This Olympic cycle, only 5 gymnasts can go to the olympics. The girls in bold are currently favored to make the team, but with only 5 members on this years team, you can see we have enough for 2 or 3 strong teams. The competition will be intense. You can follow the links to their bios or my Who’s Who in 2012 post on each athlete for more info.

Lets start with some names you will remember from 2008.

Nastia Liukin: Nastia has been living the glamourous life of an Olympic AA Champion. She has stayed incredibly connected to the sport but has only been doing light training. After being on the fence for years, she finally announced her plans to try to make the 2012 team at the 2011 World Championships. The US is weakest on bars and as Nastia is incredible on bars, if she can get them back to top form her chances of making the team look good. Nastia’s contribution would most likely be on bars and beam.

Shawn Johnson: Shawn took a few years off without really planning on returning to gymnastics. After tearing everything in her knee on a skiing accident and she thought she might not ever do gymnastics again, she realized she really wanted to return to the sport. She has been working hard and showing incredible improvement but has continued to have difficulty with her knee. Shawn could be an all around contributor if she is able to get her difficulty back. She has also improved tremendously on bars in this comeback.

Alicia Sacramone: Alicia made her comeback in 2010. She actually looked better in 2010 and 2011 than she looked in her former years of glory. She won the world vault title in 2010 and just kept getting better and better. She was in the best shape of her life and has been the definite leader of the US for the past two years. However, days before prelims at 2011 Worlds she tore her Achilles tendon. She is recovering well and recently returned to training.  Alicia is a world class vaulter and had been working on upgrading her vault. She could be an Olympic champion on vault. She is also a rock on the beam and overall is an incredible team leader.

Chelsie Memmell: Chelsie made her comeback in 2011. She was looking great, especially on beam and floor. Her bars and vault have been slower to comeback. However, she looked great until injuring her bicep at the 2011 Visa Championships. She is rehabilitating and training for this year. Chelsie has the worst luck in timing of injuries. If she can get and stay healthy, there is no other competitor like her.

Bridget Sloan: Bridget never quit training the sport and was the 2009 World Champion. In 2010 she only competed bars at the world championships and she been behind the scenes now for the past couple of years with injuries. She competed for the first time in a long while at the 2011 Pan American games. It is a bit unknown where she stands.

And now for some of the names you might not know:

Some of the 2010 World Championship Team Members (Silver):

Rebecca Bross: Rebecca took the gymnastics world by storm in 2009 and 2010. She was incredible dominant in all her competitions but failed to take a world championship title with uncharacteristic falls in both years. Even so, she was definitely the top american gymnast both years. She competed 2010 Worlds with hairline fracture in her foot and afterward took time off to have surgery. She competed for the first time in 2011 at the Visa Championships where she had a knee injury that took her out the rest of the year. Rebecca is a force to be reckoned with. As well as being a top all arounder, Rebecca is also great on bars. However in all her time of injuries, she has not looked like the former rock of a gymnast she was. It will be interesting to see how she comes out this year.

Mackenzie Caquatto: Mackenzie was on the 2010 team mostly for her great work on bars. She was expected to be on the 2011 team for the same reason, but was injured at the 2011 training camp before worlds. She is competing both NCAA and elite gymnastics at the same time, which is almost unheard of. She has a great contribution on bars, however may need to upgrade her difficulty to make the team as a bars specialist.

Alexandra Raisman: Aly 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 worldAly’s dependability make her a favorite for the team this year, but her weakness on bars does make her a bit on the bubble. If some of the other strong all arounders come through, they might bump her off.

2011 World Championship Team Members (Gold):

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.

Jordyn Wieber: Jordyn 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.

Gabrielle Douglas: Gabby is really great 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 at the recent American Cup. She upgraded every event, and came in with new confidence and poise.

McKayla Maroney: McKayla 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.  With so many other gymnasts that can do amanars well in the US, she is going to have to up her game in another event as well (in my opinion) if she wants to make the team.

Sabrina Vega: Sabrina competes floor with such grace, fluidity and great choreography. She is a solid, consistent gymnast who really came through for USA last year. She is also a sweet darling personality! She will have to come out with much more difficulty and dynamism to make this years team.

Anna Li: Anna Li is a former NCAA star. After her NCAA career, she has been training as a bar specialist. She has one of the highest start values in the US. She was injured before prelims at the World Championships so did not get to compete bars for the US. As team USA needs a bar specialist, Anna has a chance to be on this team. However with Nastia and Gabby as well as Rebecca Bross in the mix, it will be an uphill battle for her.

New Seniors this year:

Kyla Ross: Kyla comes into her senior year as the Jr. National Champion. She is a top all arounder and has a great Amanar. It will be interesting to see how her gymnastics lines up with our current senior all-arounders, but she is expected to do well and have a legitimate chance at making the team.

This year looks to be one of the most exciting years in a long time in gymnastics history. Stay tuned!

Who’s Who in 2012 – Shawn Johnson

I am starting a series highlighting Who’s Who in 2012. A short piece on each gymnast I think is a contender for the Olympic team. First up, Shawn Johnson.

Shawn is one of my all time favorite gymnasts. Who doesn’t love her bubbly personality, beaming smile and fierce determination. I was so excited to see her training again. I have been very impressed with the amount of progress she has shown throughout the 2011 year, especially in light of how far she had to come back. I was really hopeful before the season started, but now I will go out on a limb and say I am a believer. I think Shawn has the talent and the drive to get herself back into world class competition. I am really hoping she will make it!

Here’s a video highlighting her training and comeback hopes.

Here are all the routines from the 2011 season with voiceover interviews from various interviews throughout the season. (If this one is too long for you, skip to the next one).

Last but not least, here is a shortened version with her routines as they progressed throughout the season.