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!

Who’s Who in 2012: Can She Prove that Bross is Still Boss


Rebecca Bross. Photo Credit: Heather Maynez

In 2009 Rebecca Bross burst onto the senior gymnastics scene after missing her opportunity to go to the Olympics due to her birthdate. Bross is Boss was a common slogan back then. She was a fierce competitor who attacked every apparatus with incredible difficulty, amplitude and her steely glare. She lost the World All Around title to Bridget Sloan on her last flip on her last event with a surprising fall on floor.

In 2010 Rebecca dominated where ever she went. She won the American Cup and then the Pacific Rim Championships. She went on to win the 2010 National Championships by 3.3 points. Not quite the margin of Jordyn Wieber in 2011, but  you get the picture.  She crushed the competition. Then came Worlds.

You know how we have all talked about the incredible feat of Chellsie Memmel competing bars with a broken foot in 2008? Well, Rebecca had been battling pain in her foot/shin leading up to Worlds. Sometime during Worlds, it turned into a hairline fracture in her ankle. She competed four routines in prelims, four in team finals, four in all around finals and two in event finals, not to mention training with a broken foot. After qualifying into the all arounds in first, she fell on beam and seemed to have lost any chance at a medal.  She went out on floor, the downfall of her previous World Title. She did the routine of her life and brought the highest scoring floor routine of the entire competition to pull herself back on to the podium with a bronze. It was legendary, especially later knowing she did all of that on a broken ankle.

Rebecca had surgery on her ankle and was out of competition until 2011 Nationals. At this competition, Rebecca didn’t look like herself. The confidence and drive she had before seemed to be missing. She had three falls throughout the weekend and ended up dislocating her kneecap in a heart wrenching bad vault landing. This took her out for the rest of the season.

Rebecca has spent this season fighting her way back, trying to prove that Bross is Still Boss. She continues to show fierce determination but just can’t quite master the events she goes after so aggressively. Her particular achilles heel is her beam dismount. Even up to last year’s Visa National Championships, it was almost unfathomable to imagine that Rebecca Bross would not make the 2012 Olympic Team. But that may just be the case.

Rebecca will need to beat out all the other bars specialists and overcome her beam dismount to make the team. She has continued to improve her bars and shows her high flying releases and sharp, right on top pirouettes. She continues to do a world class difficulty beam routine. Two Patterson dismounts could be what’s between her and London.

Who’s Who in 2012: Anna Li, the Baroness of the Bars


And now it is time to take a look at our different bars specialists. First up, Anna Li. After an enormously successful NCAA career, Anna Li returned to elite gymnastics. She made the World Team in 2011, but after an abdominal injury became to painful, she was relegated to alternate. Her upbeat attitude and constant smiling support of the team as an alternate at the 2011 World Championships was as impressive as her incredible bars routines.  At the 2012 Visa National Championships, Anna Li posted a difficulty of 6.7 and 6.9. This is by far the most difficult bar routine in the US.  For comparison, Gabby Douglas posted a 6.5 and 6.6. She has recently blogged that she is working on her 7.1 routine. The only other gymnast posting that high of difficulty is China’s He Kexin (who may or may not be at the 2012 Olympics).

Anna Li also competes beam. But her difficulty scores are way too low to be used in a team finals situation. If Anna Li can upgrade her bars difficulty to a 7.1 AND improve her E score to be in the 8.9 range, she will make an incredibly strong case for herself as a bars specialist. This, along with another gymnast who can bring a high vault score and beam score might get her on the team.

Anna Li impresses me as a team leader, an incredibly sweet spirit and someone who can score the high bars scores we would need to keep a minimal gap with Russia on bars. She will need to bring her very best to Trials and compete two well-executed, high difficulty, hit routines.

Anna Li has also choreographed on of my very favorite floor routines with her mother. It is still to be seen if she will ever compete this routine again after a rough start at the US Secret Classics, but even the dance through was worth it. It gave me chills!

Floor

And just for fun…

Me and Anna Li after Visa’s

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 Artistic American


Sarah Finnegan. Photo Credit Heather Maynez

American gymnasts are often accused of lacking artistry. But such is not the case of the sublime Sarah Finnegan. Finnegan commands the floor as if it was her stage. She is mesmerizing from her triple wolf turn, through her exquisite front tumbling to her dazzling finish.

Finnegan has top difficulty on floor and beam. She can compete this difficulty with incredible form, beautiful artistry and attention to detail. Others have done the triple wolf turn on beam and floor, but no one makes it look like she does. Finnegan is a true joy to watch.

Finnegan has had flashes of brilliance on both floor and beam this year. She has the highest start value of any senior on beam in the world! She has a .4 advantage over the next highest Americans. On floor, she has the second highest start value  of all the other Americans and the third highest in the world.  But right now she hasn’t been consistent enough on either floor or beam to put her up in team finals over other gymnasts. Her highest floor score is .1 lower than Gabby’s highest floor score, and her average score is just below Gabby’s. On beam she has basically the same average as Kayla but Kayla has put up a higher score.  Right now she just doesn’t bring the advantage over other gymnasts competing with her for that 5th spot on the team.

However, I think she COULD! She has perfect form and execution. If she goes out and really hits two beam routines and two floor routines without wobbles and bobbles and steps, she has the difficulty to bring in very high scores. In addition to that,  she has the beautiful lines and artistry that international judges love. If Sarah could add .7-.8 to her combined floor/beam scores from Visa’s by sticking her landings and going wobble free on beam, she could really make a case for herself.  Or if Gabrielle Douglas does not show consistency on floor at Trials, or our bars/beam specialist ends up being a bars specialist only (like Anna Li) someone like Sarah becomes much more valuable to the team score. She will have to bring her best!

Here is a great montage of her. One of my favorites! by 13Shifter

Which do you like better, Sarah’s floor or beam? What do you think about her chances of making the team?

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. 🙂

Who’s Who in 2012: Feel the Heat of Wieber Fever


Jordyn Wieber at 2012 Pacific Rim. Photo Credit: Steve Mullensky/Quality-of-Light.com

Every gymnast who goes up against her feels the heat of Wieber Fever. Jordyn Wieber is the IT girl going into the Olympics. She is the current All Around World Champion. More impressively, she has won almost every competition she has competed in since her senior debut last year. The glaring exception was the Olympic Trials. Jordyn doesn’t always compete perfectly and doesn’t always have the top difficulty of everyone she is competing against. But her fierce competitive spirit and determined focus always seem to pull her through for the win.

Jordyn is the ultimate combination for a gymnast. She is incredibly strong and fast, launching herself into the air on every event as she turns and twists and flips. She is also fairly flexible for a power gymnast and generally hits all her leaps and jumps. She is fiercely determined. She has incredible focus and work ethic. She is confident, positive and not afraid to to win. One of my favorite attributes is her musicality and performance qualities on floor. If Jordyn stays healthy, she is one of the favorites to win the All Around in London.

Here is one of my favorite montage’s of her by CSaccullo-edits: