From Bees to Ants – Simone Biles and the 2015 AT&T American Cup


Everything is different and everything is the same for Simone Biles as she heads into the 2015 AT&T American Cup. The most prestigious international invitational held in the United States will be at the AT&T Stadium (the Dallas Cowboys football stadium) in Arlington, Texas on March 7. Biles and MyKayla Skinner are the two women representing the USA in the competition.

In 2013, Biles competed in this prestigious competition as an unproven senior. Though people knew she had potential, she was far from being a sure thing in the world of gymnastics. In a small, cozy arena in Worcester, Mass, Biles won silver to her American teammate, Katelyn Ohashi. Fast forward two years: a new outlook on her gymnastics, a new training center, and multiple world championship titles behind her, Biles is coming into 2015 not only as the favorite for the American Cup, but as the gymnast to beat.

Everything is different.

“I’m approaching this competition by knowing what I’m capable of doing, knowing what I’ve done in the past. I want to come out with a really strong start to the year” said Biles at a pre-meet phone conference. “I have actually not competed in anything close to as big as this stadium is. I went there earlier this year for a promotion… I think we’re gonna look like ants down there because the stadium is so big, but I guess you need a big stadium for big gymnastics… I watched the board more than the players. It was huge! I don’t know how it’s gonna to turn out, but I’m excited to see it. ”

After her shenanigan’s with the bee at the 2014 World Championships, Biles must have insects on the brain. Her thought that they will look like ants in such a huge stadium is probably right. But no one will bring bigger gymnastics than Biles. Already touting the most difficulty in women’s gymnastics, Biles plans to bring in two more upgrades to the AT&T American Cup. She has added a release combination- a piked Tkatchev into pak on bars, and will be adding yet another twist on floor, upgrading one of her floor passes to a double layout full-out. Check out her latest work:

Competing near home is also something new. “I’m really excited to compete because I know a lot of my friends and family are going to come. They haven’t seen me compete since one of my first years in elite. There are a lot of people coming out to see me and I’m really excited for them to see me.” Biles, who makes friends everywhere she goes, is also excited to see Jessica Lopez of Venezuela, who she connected with earlier in the year at the Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular.

Everything is the same.

And yet, the At&T American Cup is just another competition. “I’ve had competitions where we go one at a time, so I’m kinda used to it,” she said about the format of the competition. She is also used to televised events: “Sometimes they put us on hold…” When all is said and done, she has been training towards this in the same way she has gone into every other competition. “We just want to do what we’ve always done. After Worlds we did dial down a bit and tried to work new skills and plan out routines, but then we started gearing back up with American Cup coming up. It’s been the same…nothing’s really changed.”

Currently focused on hitting her routines at the American Cup, later this year Biles will turn her attention to more upgrades and making the World Championship team. Biles said her goals for the year are “Adding more upgrades for Classics and P&Gs, and then try to make the Worlds team again and at the end of the year I’ll start over again and see what happens.”

In the world of gymnastics, it is impossible to look at one competition on it’s own. How it fits in to the ever present Olympic question is always a part of the equation. But Biles, like many other elite gymnasts, tries to stay focused on the here and now. “I try not think about 2016 yet, I’m going into this year as I have any other year, trying to do what I always do. I just try not to think about it. We have this whole year to think about it. We have to live in the moment, and thinking of next year kindof scares me, so if anyone brings up the Olympics, it’s not me.”

Biles has been unbeatable for the past two years, winning even with falls and mistakes. Many wonder if any gymnast can ever challenge her as long as she stays in the sport. Two people that have yet to try are returning Olympic veterans Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman. But to Biles, who always focuses so much more on how she loves her teammates than on how they might turn out in the ranks, its the more the merrier. “[Gabby and Aly] look really good, really healthy. I am just so excited for them. I know how bad they want to compete, and I know how it feels to be out for a while, after being out last year for a little while, so I am really excited for them. The look really good.”

Don’t miss Biles and any of the action at the AT&T American Cup. Watch podium training live on March 5 (Women – 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET and Men – 2:30-4:30 p.m. ET) and catch the first 90 minutes of competition on March 7 at 11:30 a.m. on attamericancup.com/live and then the rest of the competion from 1-3 p.m. ET Live on NBC (check local listings).

The Latest on Gabby Douglas


Gabby Douglas after winning the all-around final in London. Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty

It would seem that Gabby Douglas has settled in to train at Buckeye Gymnastics in Powell, Ohio in her bid to defend her Olympic title at the 2016 Olympics. With the recent coaching changes, Douglas has pushed back her timeline to return to competition and will not compete in the P&G National Championships later this month. Nor will she petition to the World Team selection camp this fall, focusing on 2015 instead.

Kittia Carpenter is the girls’ team director at Buckeye Gymnastics, Gabby’s new gym. In an interview with USA Today Carpenter said, “She wants to come back looking as strong as she left and she didn’t feel she’s quite there yet.”

In addition to regaining her former skills, Douglas will need to update her routines and combinations to be consistent with the new Code of Points, which changes after each Olympics. And in order to be competitive, she will need to continue to increase her difficulty (start) values. Carpenter said she wants to add new skills on uneven bars and floor exercise to boost her start values.

Douglas assured the Associated Press earlier in the month, “I’m committed to Rio, I’m not going to let anything get in the way of that.” Carpenter echoed her belief in Douglas’ determination to make a run at the 2016 Olympics. “She’s training 30 hours a week, and is limiting her commercial and appearance commitments to one day a week.”

Marta Karolyi shared her opinions with USA Today on the matter saying, “Time will tell. I’m not crazy about lots of changes. I like stability and I know from my times when I was directing coaching gymnasts, I liked to develop a relationship with my gymnast. It takes time to develop those kinds of relationships.”

Karolyi is hopeful but cautious about the future. “I really hope — she is very talented and I was surprised at how well she came back after a big break. Physically, she was very fit. My wish is that she will be consistent in her training. And if that’s what she will do, I think she will be fine. But if she jumps up and down and left and right, it will be much harder.”

Liang Chow, Douglas’ former coach expressed sadness at her departure earlier in the month, but has been supportive of her decision to find new coaching. He commented on the situation to the Des Moines Register saying, “I’ve been coaching the sport for a number of years. And I went through many athletes. Some athletes stay with your program for a long, long period of time. Some athletes, they have a different approach as far as coaching style or your philosophies. I totally respect their own opinions — they have the right to choose their own coach.”

He went on to express his best wishes for her, “Of course, when you work together day in and day out, you’re going to miss her. I want her next chapter to be a successful one.”

Chow reiterated those sentiments on Friday after podium training at the Secret U.S. Classics. “I wish them the best of luck. We all have to move on. She has her dreams to achieve and I have my duties to perform.”

With so many people in her court rooting for her success, hopefully moving on and achieving her dreams of Rio is exactly what she will do.

 

The Latest on The Fierce Five


Exactly two years ago, five young girls made history at the 2012 Olympics. It is hard for any gymnastics fan not to get choked up thinking of that night. And if you are just tuning back into the gymnastics world for the upcoming elite competitions, then undoubtedly the status of each of the Fierce Five gymnasts is on your mind. Coming off of the 2012 Olympics, each gymnast expressed their desire to continue in the sport of gymnastics and make a run at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. And so, the question constantly remains – when are they returning?

Kyla Ross, the youngest member of the Fierce Five has not missed a beat since the 2012 Olympics. She has competed at nearly every major competition since then, and is undeniably one of the USA’s shining stars. Ross is expected to headline both the Secret US Classics and the P&G National Championships this August. She looked great in podium training and well prepared for the season.

McKayla Maroney has also continued to train towards Rio despite four, count them four, leg surgeries since the games. Shortly after successfully defending her World Championship Vault title last year, Maroney took a rest from gymnastics to heal up some knee issues. After having some knee pain at Worlds, she discovered she had tendonitis in one knee and a fracture in the other. Unfortunately rest was not enough and she finally underwent surgery in March. Maroney had six to eight weeks of therapy following surgery, and was released to return to training in late May or early June. She assured people in an interview with International Gymnastics (AWESOME interview that you have to watch!) that she will be working hard to be back for P&G National Championships and World Championships this year. However, she has yet to return to a national team training camp and has not yet released any information about her competition status. Update: In a social media video she made today, Maroney said that she would not be competing this season.“I just want to say how much I appreciate you guys following me, supporting me, being there for me even though I can’t compete this season with my injuries.” She also gave a great interview to USA Gymnastics catching us up on the details of her injuries and her commitment to Rio.

Gabby Douglas made her serious return to training this spring with a return to her former gym in April. After her trial period with coach Chow was over however, she decided that this was not the best training option for her and has set out to find a new gym to make her bid to Rio. She is currently training at Buckeye Gymnastics, however it is not known if she will stay there long-term. Douglas impressed Marta Karolyi at the June National Team Training camp with her level of physical fitness, however Karolyi was hoping to see her compete at the Secret U.S. Classics and the P&G National Championships to help determine if she would be ready to compete at this year’s World Championships according to an interview with NBC Olympic Talk. Douglas is not competing this weekend at Classics, though it has not yet been announced if she will be competing at the national championships later this month. Update: New coach Kittia Carpenter of Buckeye gymnastics confirmed that Douglas will not be attempting to comeback to competition until 2015. Check out the full story here.

Aly Raisman announced earlier this year that she would be pacing her comeback slowly and focusing on attending her first national team training camp after the World Championships in October. A few videos have come out as well as an interview here and there that indicates she is training seriously and working hard, just pacing her return to competition. She will be focusing on 2015.

Jordyn Wieber is the one member of the Fierce Five who has not yet resumed training at the elite competitive level. From all appearances, she thoroughly enjoyed taking a year off from gymnastics and any heavy training to attend her first year of college and be team manager for UCLA gymnastics. Though Wieber has maintained that she is working to stay in shape, she has yet to announce a decision about a serious return to competitive gymnastics. She maintained for the last year that she wanted to try a year of college and then decide what to do. As we are coming up to the start of a new school year, it seems that her decision should be coming soon.

In the current regime of USA Gymnastics, the likelihood of most of these incredible gymnasts being able to represent the USA at two Olympics is slim. The nature of the sport combined with the incredibly successful system that is currently in place makes it difficult for the older gymnasts to compete with the young fresh talent coming up. However, if anyone can do it, the Fierce Five can. With two years to go, there is still time for each of them. Though with the realities of gymnastics, the ticking of the clock is always a loud sound.

The Gabby Douglas Story Roundup


“What’s cooler for you, the multiple gold medals or a movie about your life?”  Emotional Mojo asked Gabby Douglas in an interview about her upcoming movie, “The Gabby Douglas Story.” The movie based on Gabby’s Olympic journey, comes out this Saturday at 8/7c on Lifetime. “Beyond the Headlines: The Gabby Douglas Story” will follow at 10/9c.

Gabby talks about different aspects of her journey with Emotional Mojo as they look at different scenes from the movie. She says that one thing she loves about the movie is that is shows her family’s struggles. She hopes that those inspire people. To hear what’s cooler, watch the end of the interview.

Arsenio Hall sat down with Gabby and the two girls who play her in the film. I was very impressed with the two actresses – Imani Hakim and Sydney Mikayla. Sydney is a precocious, bubbly ten year old who embodies all of the things we loved about Gabby and reminds me so much of interviews with Gabby in the years before the Olympics. Imani talks about how her journey to become an actress has some similarities to Gabby’s story with great poise. They both embody who Gabby is and make me want to see the movie!

Gabby talked with USA Gymnastics about the movie (read the interview here).

“It was a little weird to be on the set because the actors are portraying my family and me,” Douglas admitted. “But it was a really cool process to see how they picked the little Gabby and the older version of me.”

She also talked about how fun it was to see billboards on both sides of the country. McKayla Maroney seems to think so to.

“What a pleasant surprise bumping into one of my “FIERCEST” best friends/my teammate/and TWO TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST Gabby Douglas, on my bike ride today – she was pretty focused!”

http://instagram.com/p/jnLrTNKidg/

There are a number of fun interviews with Gabby surrounding the movie, which tell more about her journey. Here are some of my favorites.

A cute “Gabby on Gabby” with Gabby and Imani

Gabby and Natalie Hawkins talk about their thoughts and differing perspectives on competition.

Gabby and Natalie talk about confidence and finding that confidence and the hard work in her journey.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk-sobAb_dY

And finally, here is the preview. Don’t forget to watch it tomorrow or set your DVRs!

Fierce Five- Hall of Fame and Future Twitter Roundup


Today the Fierce Five were inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Though we don’t have any official press releases or coverage yet, here is a twitter round-up of the event.
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Standing in The Hall Of Fame!!!!

AND the name “Fierce Five” is officially trademarked!!! WOW

Can’t believe we are in the Hall of Fame!! Such an amazing honor to share with my team mates. love them to death.

Being inducted into the hall of fame tonight with @kyla_ross96 @gabrielledoug @jordyn_wieber
@McKaylaMaroney ahhhhhhhhhh
Didn’t expect to get so emotional while being inducted into the hall of fame… Feel so lucky to have the best teammates, coaches & family

Is this real life? http://instagram.com/p/dF57LiPuc9/ 

Reunited ❤ #FierceFiveforlife

Being inducted into the Hall of Fame today!!! 🙂 https://vine.co/v/hMl7XE5Y5bv 

Loved sharing that moment with my teammates! #Fierce5

We are now in the gymnastics Hall of Fame! @gabrielledoug @McKaylaMaroney @Aly_Raisman @jordyn_wieber

We are more than just a team! Love u girls 😘 http://instagram.com/p/dF6IyVu4oO/ 

And here are a few tidbits about the futures of some of the Fierce Five.

Inside Gymnastics: Do you see yourself competing through the next Olympics? Gabrielle Douglas: “I do. Yes!”… http://fb.me/1QjK2m6i9 

  • Jordyn Wieber similar but plans on starting UCLA in the fall. Will train out there, see how it goes then maybe _ maybe _ head back to MI.
  • Aly says she’s going to get back into training soon. Not sure when. Had only brief chats with Mihai about plan.
  • Gabby says she’s still w/Chow. Says they’re working on skills. Pointed to next year’s nationals as her return if everything goes well.

From Flying Squirrel to Golden Girl


Gabby Douglas has been known as the Flying Squirrel for her high flying antics on the bars. Undoubtedly  the best bar worker the USA currently has in their arsenal, Gabby began to make her bid as a true All Around threat at the US National Championships back in June. She had shown a flash of brilliance earlier in the season in the American Cup but had not maintained that brilliance through the rest of the spring. It was in St. Louis that she challenged Jordyn Wieber for the National Title and almost won. Her next foray came at the Olympic Trials where she earned the only automatic spot of the USA team by scoring the highest All-Around total over two days. Even so, Gabby had never put together four hit routines in one night.
As we pondered the All Around gold possibilities, Blythe from The Gym Examiner said, “You only have to put it all together once. It just has to be on the right night.” That Gabby had the talent was never a question. But could she hold up under the intensity of the Olympic spotlight? Could she put it all together that one time, the night of the All Around finals?

In qualifications, it seemed that she would do it. She held it together, performing incredibly on vault, bars and beam. When it came to floor however, her old nerves crept in. Gabby had a major mistake on her second pass and literally bounded out of bounds. Doubt may have crept back in to others minds, but not into hers.

Gabby came out into team finals and gave the performance of her life. She cleanly hit every routine with nary a bobble. Her All-Around score was easily the highest that had yet been put up in the games. She did it! Four incredible hit routines in one night! She had put it all together!

Was it possible that she could do it back to back? Watching her cool, collected demeanor would say that it was. And as it turned out, Gabby put it all together twice. On the two nights of nights.

Gabby led from start to finish. Opening up with one of the best vaults she has done, she emphatically said that she meant business. She continued on throughout the night, hitting her high flying beam routine, sailing through her complex beam routine and tumbling her way to Olympic gold. It was a beautiful, incredible, performance. Scoring the highest All-Around score of the entire quad (four years between Olympics) Gabby truly won gold.

But it is not only the gold medal around her neck that earns her the newly donned Golden Gabby nickname. It is her golden personality. Gabby’s smile is impossible to resist. She has that bounce in her step, that spark in her eye that hint at her bubbly, positive personality. The only thing that comes more quickly than her brilliant smile is her infectious laugh.

Gabby has stolen our hearts with more than her dazzling performance. Her true grasp of the honor it is to represent her country oozes through every word. The responsibility and maturity she feels as a role model to the gymnasts – especially the African American gymnasts – she has inspired is beyond her years. And her playful personality warms our hearts. She will be a beloved gymnast for years to come.

Gabby Douglas, you were extraordinary. Thanks for making some incredible sacrifices to make your dreams – and ours- come true. You truly are a star.

The All Around Finalists


The all-around gold medal is the most coveted individual gymnastics achievement. When people refer to the champion, they mean the all-around champion. This Olympic year has an EXCITING all-around competition in store! Most years in women’s gymnastics there is a battle between two, maybe three gymnasts for the gold medal. This year, that is not the case. This all-around final will have five gymnasts who could win the gold medal.

There are twenty- four gymnasts in all who qualified into the All-Around finals. Here are the top five who will be vying for the podium. Who will end up on top is anyone’s guess. Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be a wild ride!

Viktoria Komova (60.632/25.7 Qualification)

After losing the gold to Jordyn Wieber last year by the smallest of margins, Viktoria comes into these Olympics ready to do battle – and win.  Her slight form 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.

Viktoria debuted her amanar for the first time in her senior career during qualifications. Adding that to her arsenal along with one of the most difficult, perfectly executed bar routines in the world right now gave her the edge she needed to qualify in first. Her beam and floor routines are both exquisite, but not very consistent. She tends to either hit or miss on beam and is often plagued with low landings on floor.  She will have to bring her best to keep her place at the top of the podium.

Alexandra Raisman (60.391/25.3 Qualification)

Aly is known to be one of the most calm, consistent competitors there is. Long overshadowed by higher scoring teammates, Aly shocked the world and herself by qualifying in as the top American. She comes in with the highest difficulty and most consistency on vault, beam and floor. However, her lower difficulty on bars, along with her poor form on this even is what keeps her from the top of the podium. She was fourth at last years world championships with a horrible mistake on bars.

Aly did the best vault of her career in qualifications, cleaning up her form issues and landing with just a small hop.  She did the best bars routine she has ever done by far during podium training, seemingly to finally overcome her form breaks.  She is generally rock solid on beam, and has scored the highest floor scores in both the team and qualifications.  Overall, Aly does not have high enough difficulty to win gold without mistakes from both Gabby and Viktoria. But her rock solid, consistent performances make her a gymnast you should not count out. After all, as we have seen, anything can happen in the pressure of the Olympic spotlight.

Gabrielle Douglas, USA (60.265/25.3 Qualification)

Gabrielle, or Gabby, has been a rising star this year. Last year, she was known for her high flying bar routine, but her mental game was just not strong enough for her to be an all-around threat. This all changed when she came roaring out of the gate as an exhibitionist at the AT&T American cup. She unofficially (her scores did not count as an alternate) ran away with the gold. Since then, Gabby has been inching away at Jordyn Wieber’s lead in every meet until she finally overtook her by .1 at the Olympic Trials.

Gabby comes in with one of the highest potential start values of the group. She has the physical ability to blow away the competition. What remains to be seen is if she can continue improving her mental game and hit the routines when they count. She qualified in third because of a large error on floor. However, she hit four for four during team finals, and her All-Around score there would have easily won the title.  If everyone brings out their best and they all hit, Gabby most likely wins. She will have to keep control of her nerves to stand on top of the podium.

Aliya Mustafina RUS (59.966/24.7 Qualification)

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 and is still not used to her new body. But she has continued to train hard.

Aliya has yet to show the level of gymnastics and performance she attained in 2010 this year. She is not competing with the level of difficulty she formerly attained.  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. Her team loss will only drive her more. I would not be surprised at all if she ends up on the podium.

Larisa Iordache (57.8/24 Qualification)

Larisa’s junior showings made her highly anticipated as the Romanian all-around contender at the Olympics.  She has a charming floor routine, one of the most difficult beam routines being performed at the Olympics, a solid vault and a very decent bar routine.  Her achilles heel at these Olympics has in fact been her heel. She has plantar faciitis in her left heel and has not been able to put in a great deal of training over the past week.

This has definitely shown in bother her qualification and team performances. She has not been on her game. Hopefully the additional days of rest and training will allow her to continue on the trajectory she has been on her entire career – a place on the Olympic All-Around podium.

In addition, Deng Linlin from China qualified into the top group. This group will all compete together, starting on vault.  It should be noted that Larissa did not qualify in this group and will start on bars. Once again, we all want these women to go out and have incredible, hit competitions!

 

 

 

 

Gabby Douglas: The One Hit Wonder Becomes The All Around Rock


There was never any question on if Gabby Douglas would make the Olympic team. With the best bar routine in the country on a team with a deficit on bars, she was a lock. But the idea that she would be used on every single event in Team Finals would only have crossed the minds of her greatest and most loyal fans. After all, before the Olympic Trials, she had only had one all-around performance in her entire senior career without a fall, and even that performance had a major wobble. Up until Olympic qualifications, she had only performed one beam routine in her entire senior career that could be considered team finals worthy, and that was when she was an alternate. The talent and skill were undeniably there, but the nerves always seemed to get the best of her.

However, throughout this year, she seemed to get a little more in control of her nerves with every meet. A slow but steady growth of mental consistency to pair up with her incredible athletic abilities. A shining moment of mental strength came at her last American performance. She stood up on the podium as Jordyn Wieber performed her final vault. Jordyn’s score flashed just before Gabby saluted. Gabby knew in order to win, she had to absolutely hit her floor routine. Normally this would have amped her up, and she would fly out of her landings. But not this time. Calm and collected, Gabby nailed it.

Martha Karolyi told the press that Gabby thrives in the regimented training structure that is the USA’s way of preparing for the Olympics. She felt confident that a month without distractions between the Olympic Trials and the Olympics, Gabby would grow in mental strength. Gabby would come into the Olympics stronger than ever.

In qualifications, Gabby held it together, performing incredibly on vault, bars and beam. When it came to floor however, her old nerves crept in. She had a major mistake on her second pass and literally bounded out of bounds.

So, when it came to deciding the line up for team finals, the question of Gabby’s ability to put up four strong routines in one night crossed many people’s minds. It made absolute sense to put Gabby in on vault and of course, bars. On floor with McKayla Maroney’s injury and Kyla Ross’s low start value, there really was no other choice. But when it came to beam things got a little more murky.

Looking at qualifications, Gabby had the second highest beam score. To many, this was a no brainer. But to those that had watched Gabby wobble and fall on beam time after time, putting her up in a team finals seemed very risky. What’s more so, putting her up on all four events seemed even riskier. Like I said, there was only one time in her career she had ever hit all four events in the same night.

But if we have learned anything from last year’s dominant performance of untested rookies, when it comes to knowing the mental state of her athletes and the likely scoring in international competition, Martha knows best. And so, Gabby was the only American gymnast to be used in all four events in the team finals.  Gabby rose to the occasion and performed brilliantly. She didn’t just make it through cleanly. She put up four of the best routines she has ever done.

And so, in the competition that really counted, Gabby came into her own. No longer the one hit wonder bars start, Gabby has transformed into the all around team rock. Longtime “Dougie” fans would say they knew she could do it all along. I say, the proof is in the pudding. And it is pudding that I very happily eat.

Gabby Douglas, you were extraordinary. Thanks for making some incredible sacrifices to make your dreams – and ours- come true. You truly are a star.

All Photos Credit USA Gymnastics

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

Who’s Who in 2012: Floor Hopefuls


2008 Floor Medalists (Photo Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Aly Raisman (USA) 15.8/6.5

Aly has the most difficult floor routine in the world. This is due to her incredible tumbling. She has an original and creative routine representing her Jewish roots. Aly’s downfall is that she doesn’t have the balletic style and form that the international judges look for. It is unlikely that she will score a 15.8 at the Olympics (though I saw that routine in person, it was AMAZING! She is so, so high in the air,  it is unbelievable). Last year she qualified first into the floor finals, but finished third. She comes in with an upgraded routine, and her difficulty and sky high tumbling and leaps will help her challenge for the gold.

Jordyn Wieber (USA) 15.6/6.2 or Gabby Douglas (USA) 15.45/6.2

Jordyn Wieber has, in my opinion, one of the most fun to watch floor routines. She brings energy to the floor, performs with her entire being (including her eyes and her smile) and has incredible musicality. She has a lot of difficult tumbling and leaps with a lot of amplitude. However, like Aly she does not have a balletic style. Her toes are pointed, her fingers graceful, but it is not the style international judges appreciate. She too is unlikely to score this high in the Olympics. However, she will definitely be a challenger for the podium – if she makes the finals.

Why might Jordyn not make the finals? A little problem called the two per country rule. Gabby Douglas has been improving on floor each and every meet. She has the difficulty, the form, the amplitude and the flexibility to score well. However, her nerves often get to her, leading to lots of bounces out of landings. Her groovin’ beats also are not likely to win a lot of points with international judges. But if she scores over Jordyn and makes the finals, she will definitely be in the mix.

Larisa Iordache (ROU) 15.3/6.4

Larisa brings a brand new floor routine to the Olympics that is full of energy and incredible difficulty. She is second only to Aly in that department. She performs with a delightful air of freedom and abandon that brings a smile to your face. She doesn’t have the perfect form or the perfectly stuck landings of her other Romanian teammates, but she will without a doubt challenge for the gold.

Catalina Ponor (ROU) 15.275/6.2 or Sandra Izbasa (ROU) 15.1/6.1

Catalina is a worldwide favorite. She performs with a dynamic and aggressive grace that is all her own. In her new floor routine, she plays to the crowd with a swankiness that only she can pull off. Oh, and did I mention she was the 2004 Floor champion? After taking a number of years off, Catalina has come back with a vengeance and looks better than ever.

Sandra Izbasa is the reigning Olympic floor champion. She also brings a new routine to the Olympics, which I happen to love. She has beautiful form and generally sticks all her landings. It will be interesting to see if she make her way into the finals.

Lauren Mitchell (AUS) 15.25/6.3

Lauren brings a very unique style of dance, music and presentation to the floor. She has a highly difficult routine to boot. Though she does not dance with grace and beauty, the judges and fans alike seem to appreciate her originality. Lauren has a hard time with many of her landing/jump combinations, which can make or break her routine. If she hits, she will be challenging for the gold.

Vanessa Ferrari (ITA) 15.1/6.2

Vanessa won a bronze on floor way back in 2006. All these years later, she continues to bring difficult tumbling and has even upgraded.  If Vanessa stays healthy, it is likely you will see her in the event finals.

Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS) 15.067/

Ksenia comes in as the 2011 World Champion on Floor. Her floor routine was without a doubt, one of the highlights of the entire championships, and remains as one of my all time favorites. The Russian team has been battling injuries this year and have put in lackluster floor performances. However, that is not likely to be the case at the Olympics. Four of the five gymnasts could easily qualify for finals. Which two will come out on top is anyone’s guess.

Anastasiya Grishina (RUS) 14.933

Anastasiya is the most classical of classical gymnastics. She has perfect form, perfect execution and is mesmerizing to watch as she floats through her floor routine. As I said before, her main barrier to event finals will be her other teammates. So make sure and see her routine in qualifications. You won’t want to miss it!

Victoria Moors (CAN) 14.9/6.1

Victoria currently holds the title for beam dreams all time favorite floor routine. She does one of the best double twisting double tucks there is. She PERFORMS her floor routine as if she is on a stage. And she does it all with beautiful form. She brings an energy to her routine that doesn’t translate through the television, but let me assure you, it is captivating.