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: The Vaulting Vixen


McKayla Maroney. Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj, US Presswire

McKayla Maroney: the Vaulting Vixen. (No, not vixen as in a malicious woman. Vixen as in totally gorgeous and amazing human female).

McKayla is undoubtedly the best vaulter in the world. Perfect form. Unmatched height. Catlike, dead center landings. It is magical watching her do that vault. If McKayla makes the US Olympic team, even the most cautious gambler would bet on her as the Olympic vault champion. No one else matches her for difficulty or execution. The crazy part is that making the team is much more difficult for her that winning an Olympic gold medal!

Martha Karolyi has said that McKayla needs to bring an improved floor routine in addition to her world champion vault to make the team. She opens with an incredible 3 1/2 twist and has a beautifully choreographed, graceful routine. However, she has to get her landings under control. She scored a 14.6 at Visa’s with small shuffles on every pass and a huge bounding step on her infamous third pass.

McKayla had a scary fall in warmups for finals at nationals that left her with a concussion and a slightly broken nose. This means that she didn’t get a second chance to show her floor routine. It also means that she is going into these important weeks of training with concussion symptoms. Hopefully this will not derail her training too much. (USAG released an official update here.)

McKayla is a confident, dynamic and beautiful girl. She is fun to watch and shows so much potential. McKayla would bring artistry, grace and those beautiful lines that international judges like to see. Lets hope she can bring those qualities on another event besides vault to make the team!

What is your favorite time McKayla has competed her amanar? What do you think about her chances of making the team?

Maroney the Model


This isn’t strictly gymnastics. But I can’t help but write on it. Has anyone else noticed how absolutely gorgeous McKayla Maroney is? No matter what the situation, the girl takes absolutely breathtaking pictures.

Instagram from Aly Raisman in St. Louis
Instagram McKayla Maroney “after workout hair!!
McKayla Maroney 2011 World Championships
McKayla Maroney 2012 City of Jesolo

I have a concussion and a fractured nose! but don’t worry I’m okay!! McKayla Maroney Instagram

Best of all was McKayla on a stretcher. Only McKayla can look like she is riding on a royal sedan when she is on a stretcher. (See :44 below). aThere just aren’t many that could pull off that look! Here’s to our future model!

What’s your favorite McKayla picture? I saved my favorite pic of McKayla of all for my  “Real” Who’s Who Post on McKayla. Check it out!

Other Scenarios for the 2012 Olympic Team


In a previous post I wrote about who I would take as my team based on what I saw at the Visa National Championships and where people currently are at. That team was Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney.  The first three are widely considered  locks while the last two spots are definitely up for grabs. Now it is time to dream a little bit and ponder different possibilities and scenarios.

Martha has made no bones that she is looking for at least one if not two more high bar scores.  Kyla Ross is the most consistent second score (after Gabby). But Bridget Sloan is right behind her (in terms of averages) and Anna Li is ahead of her in terms of high scores. Anna Li has blogged that she is working on a 7.1 bars routine. If Li can come in and show hit 7.1 routines in podium training and two days of Trials, she could take the bars specialist spot.  Though Bross is doing really well on bars, she has yet to beat Ross in terms of average or high score. She would have to up her game to be considered. And then there is Nastia Liukin, the wild card. Say what we will about Nastia, we have had few people with the bars talent Liukin possesses in the many years of American gymnastics. If Liukin can bring it, no one, not even Douglas can beat her. If she can do it, she has a definite chance. But she has a lot of improving to do in three weeks to show that potential.

I have made no bones about it. My absolute favorite gymnast is Alicia Sacramone. I can’t say enough how much she inspires me and how I admire her candid and authentic approach to gymnastics and life. In all honesty, I WANT her on that team. I know our girls are seasoned veterans, but there is a difference between worlds and the Olympics. I want Alicia to help guide this team and I want her to have the redemption she has been working for these past few years.

There are a few scenarios where I can see Sacramone make the team. One is if our bars/beam specialist ends up being a bars specialist only. For instance, If Anna Li can come and bring +.7 on bars, then putting in Alicia and Anna Li on over Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney might make sense. Li on bars could theoretically add the same advantage as Maroney on vault. Then Sacramone could add an additional advantage on beam AND vault (if she vaults like she used to, potentially another .4 over Aly on vault and consistency and anywhere between 2.0 and .1 over Gabby on beam). Another scenario is if Sacramone shows up with an upgraded vault and/or a solid floor routine. If Sacramone can bring the highest valued vault in America and do it well, she could win out over Maroney. Or if Sacramone can bring a team finals floor routine AND a 15.8 vault she could take that spot as well.

Now let’s talk Sarah Finnegan. After the Secret Classics, I really thought Finnegan had a legitimate chance. Hello 15.2 on floor!  Up until Visa’s, the highest Douglas had brought in on floor was a 14.85. So the +3.5 on floor and the potential on beam made Finnegan a definite contender. Sarah’s first night beam score  of 15.35 was the second highest of the Visa National Championships. However, Finnegan was not consistent on beam or floor at Nationals. Finnegan will need two things to happen. She will need to go out and do the two beam and two floor routines of her life. And she will need Douglas and Maroney to show that they are not able to bring in a high floor score.

The only other person I see sneaking onto the team is Elizabeth Price. I think that both Maroney and Sacramone would have to fall short for Price to take their place. Though Price has more events to offer in the case of an injury, in the end, others have stronger ones.

There are others in the mix, but I just don’t think any of them bring a high enough specialist routine OR a high enough all around to challenge for the remaining spots.  So here are the teams I think could happen.

  • Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Anna Li, Alicia Sacramone
  • Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Nastia Liukin, McKayla Maroney
  • Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Rebecca Bross, Alicia Sacramone
  • Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross, Alicia Sacramone
  • Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, top two bars specialists (Li, Liukin, Ross, Bross)
  • Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross/Anna Li/Nastia Liukin/Rebecca Bross, Sarah Finnegan.
  • Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross, Elizabeth Price/Alicia Sacramone

And who is the team I really want to send?

Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Alicia Sacramone, Nastia Liukin.

Just my heart’s desire. 🙂

June: US Women’s Olympic Team Pick


Back in April I decided to pick a team after each major competition – who I would send if we had to send a team right then. I assumed that team would change each month. That apart from Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas it would shift with different combinations of people. Our field of athletes and potential Olympians is so deep, how could it not?

But, it hasn’t. Competition after competition, these are the girls and the combination that keeps coming out on top. Every which way you arrange the puzzle and do the math, this is your best bet for dependable, high scoring routines. And so, my team remains the same. And here is their introduction, along with the events I would put them on in team finals.

Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney.

  • Vault: GD, JW, MM
  • Bars: JW, KR, GD
  • Beam: AR, KR, JW
  • Floor: GD, JW, AR

Wieber, Douglas and Raisman are considered locks for the team barring injury by most in the gymnastics world.  This seems to include Martha Karolyi as she stated two spots were interchangeable (mean three were basically set). (Gym Examiner) They are the top three all-arounders each having a legitimate chance to make the all around podium in London and bring consistently high scores on each of their specialties for the team competition (Wieber: Vault, Beam and Floor; Douglas: Bars; Raisman: Beam and Floor). With these three in the mix, you need someone who can contribute on bars and beam and then one other gymnast who brings enough value on one or more events to replace the lowest score of the first three.

In contention to contribute on bars are Ross, Rebecca Bross, Bridget Sloan, Anna Li, Elizabeth Price, and Nastia Liukin. Ross can also contribute on beam and Bross, Liukin and Sloan are trying to make a case that they can as well. Price could make a huge contribution on vault in addition to bars. Ross, Price and Sloan are also all arounders, so they can step in at any point if in a pinch. Of this field, Ross is by far the most prepared and consistent. Li has the highest scoring potential but needs to prove that she can hit the routine consistently. Bross is just about even on bars with Ross, but has not shown consistency on beam. Liukin is a wildcard. She did not show bars at Visa’s that would put her on any team. It will really depend on how much she can improve in three weeks. Yes, of this grouping Ross is currently the consistent clear choice.

With these four spots, the fifth spot has to be someone that contribute enough tenths on one or two events to replace some of our lowest scores of the first four gymnasts. If you take the high scores from Visa’s you have McKayla Maroney on vault (+.75), Anna Li on bars (+.5) or Alicia Sacramone on beam (+.2) and vault (+.1). The obvious choice here is Maroney.

As alternates I would send Elizabeth Price, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan. This would cover our all around needs if we lose an all arounder, our bars needs if we loose a bar worker and our beam and vault needs if we loose a vault or beam worker.

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!

 

Current Considerations for Choosing the Olympic Team


May is almost over and it is time for everyone to do another round of who would I choose for the Olympic team at this juncture. Here are my current thoughts – my team choice (s) is at the end.

Our Amanar Club isn’t as consistent as we would hope.

My stock for McKayla Maroney or Alicia Sacramone making the team has gone up. Though we do have many other girls that can do Amanars, they don’t yet look solid. The scoring differences between Maroney and the others at this point are much greater than I was thinking. Aly Raisman has competed the Amanar 3 times and was awarded a 16.1,15.5 and 15.6; Kyla Ross received 14.85 , 15.5 and 15.3 on her vaults and Gabby Douglas received a 15.8 at the American Cup but has not managed to compete it since. Apart from Raisman’s 16.1, these scores are a far cry from Maroney’s CONSISTENT 16+ score. Though we keep saying that we “Have plenty of Amanars, we don’t need a vaulting specialist,” that .5 advantage or more is a big deal. A much bigger deal than I had been letting myself remember. Maroney’s spot is definitely looking better. And depending on how everyone else’s beam shapes up, so does Sacramone’s.

We are looking better on bars than I ever would have believed to be possible.

Gabby Douglas’ bars have basically made her a lock for the team. Even a definite possibility for a medal. Sure, everyone is hoping she will be a great all-arounder as well, but even if she is not, Douglas can make the team easily as the top bars specialist. Ross continues to put in some great routines as well. Nastia Liukin showed that she has the mental game of competing well under control (which most people say is harder to regain than the physical) and shows promise of a great bar routine to come. Anna Li and others also show definite potential. This hardly adds up to a killer bars rotation, but it definitely doesn’t look as bleak as it did this time last year for the USA on bars.

Beam might be a deciding factor between many bubble gymnasts.

Ahhh, the ever formidable event. We know we have two solid beam workers in Wieber and Raisman. As we are still waiting to see what Liukin, Sacramone and Johnson might really bring to the table on beam, who might fill the third spot is definitely a mystery. Ross and Douglas have shown beautiful routines before but haven’t been totally consistent up to this point on beam. In fact, Douglas still has a ways to go to prove that she could handle the pressure of team finals on beam. Sarah Finnegan has an incredibly beautiful and difficult routine as well but has yet to compete it without a lot of wobbles. I think that in the end when deciding between two bars specialists or vaulters, beam will definitely be a deciding factor.

Oh yeah, What about Floor?

Wieber, Raisman, Bross, Sacramone, Memmel, Liukin, Johnson, have all been incredible on floor in the past. Surely between them all we will have many floor routines to choose between. But wait! Only two of those routines – Wieber and Raisman- are for sure now, and Johnson looks like a slim possibility. Bross, Sacramone and Liukin have all stopped training floor and Memmel is no longer in the running for the team (Oh the travesty of that sentence!).  All of a sudden, we need some great floor routines. This reality has greatly strengthened our need for Raisman and all but locked her on the team in my mind (which has never been the case for me before). It also greatly strengthens Sarah Finnegan’s chances of possibly beating a third bars specialist or a vault specialist on to the team. As I see it right now, we absolutely have to have Raisman’s score on floor. In addition, the hit we would take on floor putting in someone like Ross or even Douglas/Maroney instead of Finnegan on floor is greater than the hit we would take putting on a third bars specialist over Wieber.

So what does all this add up to you might ask? Here is how I see our team choice(s) shaping up.

Here is my most likely team:

Jordyn Wieber: V/BB/FX/UB
Aly Raisman: V/BB/FX (UB in prelims)
Gabby Douglas: UB (V/BB/FX in prelims)
McKayla Maroney: V/FX
Ross/Bross/Liukin: BB/UB

I was actually surprise that this team pick hasn’t changed since last month, though my reasoning is different. This team still leaves us a bit vulnerable on FX but gives us huge advantage on vault, a decent score on bars and a great score/great consistency on beam. The only way to shore up our floor score at this point is to sub Finnegan for Maroney. I only think that would be wise if Ross is our BB/UB specialist and she is showing a consistent Amanar, if Douglas is showing a consistent Amanar, or if Finnegan herself is showing a consisten Amanar.

As we saw with Chellsie Memmel, the first of many heartbreaks and many controversies has just begun. The next few months will be full of more. But they will also be full of incredible gymnastics, and the answers we have all been waiting for.