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 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!

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:

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!

 

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!

Romania Upsets Russia to Win 2012 European Team Championships


BRUSSELS, May 12, 2012 — Romania stood on the top of the podium, receiving a well deserved standing ovation as they were presented with team gold medals at the 2012 European Championship. For the first time in this quadrennium, Romania came through as a shining, dominant team. They started off with a substantial lead, and managed to hold off Russia’s charge to win the gold in an incredibly exciting team finals.

Romania came into the finals first, after a strong performance in qualifications. Russia had their worst showing in years with three falls on floor and weak performances on many other events. Could Romania put in another top performance? And even if they did, could they hold off Russia if Russia put up the type of competition we have come to expect from them?

The order was set for high drama. Russia was to start on beam and finish on their best event, bars. Russia started out of the gate with a fall on beam from Anastasia Sidorova. Anastasia Grishina was up next and came through with a strong routine. Viktoria Komova finished the rotation with a wobbly but stuck beam routine.

Romania started on vault with three solid double-twisting yurchenko vaults all scoring above a 15.0. Sandra Izbasa scored a 15.2, the highest vault score in the competition. Romania led after the first rotation while Russia was in fifth by almost 4 points.

Next stop, floor for Russia and bars for Romania. Bars are not just Romania’s weakest event, Romania is incredibly weak on bars. Russia is usually brilliant on floor, but in qualifications every one of their gymnasts fell. Russia got through floor without any falls. Aliya Mustafina put up a better routine than in qualifications, but it is still a long way from her former glory. Grishna was the stand out once again for Russia with a beautiful routine.

Romania got through bars as well. No falls, and a great routine from Larissa Lordache. Russia inched up about half a point on Romania and finished the second rotation in fourth while Romania continued their lead.

Romania moved on to the beam, an apparatus they have ruled for decades. Russia was on vault. Russia put up a respectable performance on vault with three double-twisting yurchenkos. However, only Mustafina put up a score above a 15.0.

Romania came through beam with a mixed performance. Diana Bulimar led off with a good routine, but Lordache came up short with a fall! I wasn’t sure it was possible for Romania to fall on beam in a team final. Even with a fall, Lordache’s routine was so magnificent that she basically equalled Russia’s highest beam score. Catalina Ponor anchored with a brilliant routine, scoring a 15.4. Russia had whittled away at Romania’s lead and was just over three points behind them, sitting in second.

It would seem that Romania should have had it all locked up going into the last rotation with over a three point lead. But Russia was on bars. Without a doubt, Russia currently rules the world with their top three bars routines. Romania was on floor, which is notoriously the lowest scoring event in women’s gymnastics. Russia knocked routine after routine out of the park, scoring a 15.3, 15.7 and 15.8.

Romania’s first routine by Bulimar was great and Ponor followed up with a solid routine as well. But their scores could not come even close to keeping up with Russia on bars. After having a commanding lead throughout the competition, it came down to the very last routine. The most retweeted tweet throughout the championship was a simple “Iordache needs 14.281 to give ROM the title…” from GymExaminer. Even through the computer, you could feel the tension!

Lordache put everything she had into it and it seemed like it would be enough. Everyone stood anxiously waiting for the score to be posted. Russia looked worried and a bit frustrated, Ponor and Izbasa held hands as they waited for the news.  Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner captured to moment best in her quick hits (which are fabulous, read them for a thorough experience of the championship).

“Really nice dance, putting everything she’s got into it. Double tuck, just a small movement — I think that does it for Romania! 15.033 — yes! Romania will beat Russia! ROM ends with 176.288, RUS 175.536 in a thriller!” – Blythe Lawrence

What an incredible moment for Romania. Italy and Great Britain battled it out for bronze. Great Britain placed second on bars and third on vault but counted two falls on beam to finish fourth. Italy took the bronze, finishing second on beam and floor and third on bars.

A week ago, it felt highly unlikely that Romania would beat Russia. But as it is said again and again in gymnastics. You can never, ever count Romania out. What a wonderful upset as we lead up to the Olympic games. Russia is far from out of the picture. They still have time to get things together before the Olympics. But then again, so does Romania. Maybe we will have a four way battle for the gold in London after all.