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?

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: The Flying Squirrel


Gabrielle Douglas (Gabby) is affectionately known as the flying squirrel. And the girl can FLY! Her bars are definitely the best in the US. She is exciting to watch on bars because instead of gaining difficulty with lots of pirouettes and other things we KNOW are really hard but don’t actually look that impressive, she does high flying release moves.

And it’s not just on bars! She flies high in her leaps, in her tumbling and on vault.

And the girl can be squirrely. (Urban Dictionary:  hyper or energized, goofy or playful; when a skate/snowboarder makes a sketchy landing). You never quite know what to expect. She is full of energy, her playful personality shines through her routines, and she may or may not hit her landings on everything but bars. She has incredible athletic talent on every event. If she is able to focus and keep on track, she is a strong contender for the All Around Gold. Even with a fall, Gabby only trailed Wieber by a few tenths. If she hits, she could take the gold.

Gabby is considered a lock for the Olympic team based on her bars. If she shows consistency at trials and in podium training, she has the difficulty to be used in team finals on any of the events. She is moving in that direction, showing a huge improvement in consistency and hitting routines at Visas (even with a fall, her other 7 routines were great).

Me and Natalie Hawkins (Gabby’s mom) in the stands.

Gabby is really beginning to feel comfortable in the spotlight and let her personality shine through. Instead of the standard interview, Gabby gives answers that really show who she is… and what she is thinking. She gave one of my all time favorite interviews after prelims to Gymnastike.

I ended up sitting behind her mom (who was delightful to chat with) in the stands at Visas on day two. When I mentioned loving the interview and how much Gabby cracks me up, she buried her head in her hands shaking it and said, “She gets that from her brother. She always keeps us laughing.”

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.

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.