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.

Lingering Impressions from Secret Classics


After so many months of waiting and wondering, the first of the big three meets to determine our 2012 Olympic team has come and gone. After marinating for a few days, here are my lingering impressions from the 2012 Secret Classics.

Some things are like riding a bike. Once you learn, you never forget (even if you are a little rusty.) 

Such was the case with Nastia Liukin. She was nervous during podium training and looked unsure before she mounted the podium for the beam. I thought, “Sigh, this is gonna be rough.” But the green flag went up and you SAW the change. She transformed in that moment. Nastia prepared to mount the beam with a look in her eyes that said “This, I know how to do.” It was a gymnastics moment I won’t soon forget. She went on to compete a solid, respectable beam routine. Oh, one that just happened to tie as the third highest score. Yes, I continue to have faith in her comeback.

Aly just keeps getting back on each event, each performance with the same consistency. She has learned how to hit. And she just keeps hitting.

Gymnasts CAN have floor routines that give me chills.

I LOVED Anna Li’s dance through. It literally gave me chills. No matter where this venture takes her, I will always be grateful that she gave us that beautiful floor routine. And Sarah Finnegan. WOW. The girl is more breathtaking on floor every time she goes out there. I love her routine and love that she can get in so much difficulty with only three passes. Pass on the boring double back, thank you very much. These two moments were such highlights for me.

Things that have become commonplace that should continue to wow me.

Maroney on vault. Wieber on beam. Douglas on bars. Raisman on beam and floor. These are spectacular performances that should draw praise again and again. But we have become so used to them they often go unmentioned. They were as beautiful to watch as ever. Once again, I am grateful to be in a time where the USA has amazing depth and so very many talented gymnasts.

What I am “Secretly” Looking Forward To


I wonder how many play on words we can use around the Secret U.S. Classics? Corny puns aside, I cannot wait for the competition to begin. Here are some stories to watch and what I am looking forward to.

Debuts

Anna Li will be debuting two new events and competing in the all around. Nastia Liukin will be competing for the first time in three years and will be debuting her beam. Jordyn Wieber will be debuting another upgrade, this time on bars. We will see many gymnasts compete for the first time this year, including Sabrina Vega, Chellsie Memmel and McKenzie Wofford.

Proving Consistency

Gabby Douglas is out to show that she is a serious all around contender for London. She is out to show that her performance at the American Cup was not a fluke and that she can be consistent and hit all four events. Rebecca Bross is out to prove that she can be counted on for bars and beam despite a shaky start at Jesolo. Sarah Finnegan will be out to show that she can seriously contribute on floor and beam. And McKayla Maroney wants to make her contribution on vault hard to ignore with her practically Olympic gold medal lock vaulting.

My Highlights

I very much want Gabby to go out and prove herself! I can’t wait to see Sarah Finnegan’s floor and beam and am hoping that she will have all of her upgrades. I desperately want Rebecca Bross to show who she is on beam and bars and am looking forward to the fierceness of Chellsie Memmel.Regardless of where it takes her, I can’t wait to see Nastia on beam again. And I am really hoping for a good all around battle between Douglas, Raisman, Ross, Li, Memmel, Finnegan and Maroney.

Don’t miss it on Universal Sports or livestreamed on universalsports.com at 5:00 pm!

 

 

Rumors and Previews of the Secret U.S. Classic


There is nothing secret about the Secret US Classic (so named for it’s sponsor). Plenty of bloggers are on site, Gym Examiner is giving live updates, USA Gymnastics and Gymnastike are posting podium training videos and the seniors will be live-streamed and broadcast on Universal Sports. It’s enough to make a gymnastics fan do cartwheels of joy! As we gear up for the competition tomorrow, here are the rumors and things we can expect from the U.S. Secret Classic.

All Around Competitors

After so many gymnasts announcing that they would just be doing a few events, I began to despair about the all around for this meet. But it is looking like it might e a great competition after all. In fact, it might give us a preview of that coveted second all around spot for the Olympic team. Gabby Douglas is apparently doing the all around after all according to an article in the Des Moines Register. Aly Raisman will be competing all around, as will Kyla Ross and Anna Li. Chellsie Memmel still has to qualify to nationals so she will be competing all-around as well. Many others may join in the fray, but we will have to wait and see. Either way, it should be be a great competition!

Upgrades

According to camp videos and podium training videos, we have upgrades galore – and not surprisingly most of them are on bars. Anna Li, Brandie Jay, McKenzie Wofford and Wieber all have upgrades on bars from the last time we have seen them. Sabrina Vega has upgrades on beam, McKayla Maroney has upgraded her second vault and has minor upgrades other places.

Beautiful  Routines

Despite a US reputation, we might be in for a real treat on floor. Sarah Finnegan is absolutely delightful to watch on floor – her poise and style are light, elegant and refreshing to see. Anna Li will be debuting her new routine as well. Is it a floor routine or a heart pulling, dramatic and breathtaking dance piece? I am not sure! It is incredible though and a treat to watch. And of course we will be treated to the beautiful lines of Nastia Liukin as she returns to competition on beam and Kyla Ross.

We will finally see a few more pieces toward completing the puzzle of our US Olympic team. It should be a great weekend!

April National Team Training Camp


April National Team Camp Line Up courtesy of USA Gymnastics

Gymnasts making a bid for a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team attended the last national team training camp at the Karolyi Ranch April 20-30, before the series of U.S. based competitions to select the team begin. The camp schedule started with media time, conditioning and a short workout on Saturday followed by two days of verifications. Sunday, the gymnasts verified their current progress on vault and bars to Martha Karolyi and the rest of the national team staff. Then on Monday, they showed their readiness on beam and floor. Photos from the camp can be seen on the USA Gymnastics Facebook page. Looks like the girls had fun.

2011 World team champions Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Sabrina Vega, Alicia Sacramone, Alexandra Raisman, Gabrielle Douglas and alternate Anna Li all attended the camp.  2009 World all-around champion Bridget Sloan, 2009 World silver medalist Rebecca Bross, and 2012 City of Jesolo Trophy all-around champion Kyla Ross were also present. Other senior gymnasts vying for a spot on the Olympic team in attendance were Amanda Jetter, Brandie Jay, Elizabeth Price, Brenna Dowell, Briana Brown, Grace McLaughlin, Sarah Finnegan, Mykayla Skinner and McKenzie Wofford.

Gymnasts were expected to verify at least two full events at camp. This requirement led to the noticeable absence of 2012 Olympic hopefuls Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin and Chellsie Memmel.  USA Gymnastics released the following statement regarding their absence on Facebook:

“At this stage of their training, they were unable to fulfill camp expectations, which were to verify at least two full events. They have decided to continue their training at their respective clubs in order to participate at the 2012 Secret U.S. Classic.” (USAGymnastics)

The process to determine the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team will continue with monthly training/verification camps and three major competitions. The first competition, the 2012 Secret U.S. Classic is just 3 1/2 short weeks away. It will be held in Chicago, Ill. on May 26, 2012. This will be the last qualifier to the 2012 Visa Championships, which will be in St. Louis, Mo., June 7-10, 2012. The top 8 all-round finishers from these championships along with any other gymnasts the Selection Committee chooses will advance on to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials-Gymnastics held June 28-July 1, 2012 in San Jose, Calif. The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team will be named at the end of the competition.

Why I Love Our Comeback Queens.


You dont see a lot of successful comebacks in women’s gymnastics. Once someone leaves the sport, it is incredibly difficult to make it back. Especially after they have left the teenage years behind. I have been struck with just how hard comebacks are in recent interviews with Nastia and Shawn. The ever positive girls all sound a bit frustrated, a bit tired. There is a reason not many women make comebacks to gymnastics in their 20s. It is HARD.

Here is a compilation of some recent interviews:

Some people say that these girls have had their time, its time to let the next generation of gymnasts take over. After all, look at 2011 Worlds. A team full of rookies dominated. They looked like the most calm, collected, seasoned veterans out there. They hit routine after routine. We don’t need the veterans to win. And I agree. I think that we can win without them. But I think that we can win with them as well! And there is something else they bring that should not be underestimated. Maturity.

The maturity that Alicia, Nastia, Shawn and Chelsie bring to gymnastics is so good for the sport. These young women are incredible role models and they are so inspiring. They inspire ME! And if I had a daughter in gymnastics, they are the people I would want her to look up to. I love watch interviews with our older girls.  They bring depth and personality to their interviews learned from years of being in the spotlight. And there is just something beautiful about their gymnastics. It is seasoned. Mature. Their movement is more graceful, more “full.” Look at the difference between ALL of their artistry and dance from their teenage years to now. I would so much rather watch their current routines. And I hope that I get to see Jordyn, Aly and many of the others as mature gymnasts in the future as well! Creating a normalcy of older gymnasts in the US would do nothing but improve the sport in my opinion.

I, for one, am really hoping that our olympic team is a blend of young and mature. Of superstar young girls and seasoned veterans. Only time will tell if any of them can make it back in time AND stay injury free in our incredibly demanding selection process. But I am rooting for them!