Why Do some Girls Go Twice on Vault?


Alicia Sacramone on Vault. Photo credit: Reuters

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.

Let’s Talk Alternates


Many people  have come to consensus on the team, but the alternates still seem to be up for grabs. Most people are choosing alternates based on having girls that can step in on any event. And I understand that philosophy – it is usually who alternates are. But we get to take not one, not two, but three alternates!  And, in my mind, the team that is going already has people who can step in on any event should they need to.

So I am choosing my alternates by having someone that can contribute a team finals worthy score on every event should we loose someone on that event. This approach has led me to a surprising conclusion. For vault, I choose Alicia Sacramone. I could also see Elizabeth Price in this role. But Alicia is my very favorite girl and she could also win a vault medal.  Bars has to be either Anna Li or Rebecca Bross. When it comes to the international judging and bars dependability, I choose Bross. Beam could be Sarah Finnegan or Alicia Sacramone. Finnegan can score higher, but Sacramone is much more dependable and Finnegan has never been tested on a world stage. Beam at Olympic Team Finals is a scary place to start. Last but not least is floor. The only choice for me is Sarah Finnegan.

So this leads to Alicia Sacramone, Elizabeth Price, Anna Li, Rebecca Bross, and Sarah Finnegan. My three would be Sacramone, Bross and Finnegan. What about you and why?

The Christmas Eve of USA Gymnastics


Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

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!

Look forward to a weekend full of incredible gymnastics, dreams being fulfilled and a team being named!

Coming to Clarity: The Simplicity of Picking the Olympic Team


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?

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!