McKayla Maroney Mystery Solved


McKayla Maroney in Podium Training. Photo Credit: NBCOlympics

Panic abound on the gymternet earlier this week – “Is that tape I see on McKayla in that picture?” “She seems to be favoring her right foot in every picture.” “McKayla didn’t train today!” After the second day of light training, the panic became more pronounced. It definitely appeared that something was wrong. However, all USA gymnastics would say is that she hurt her toe, but is fine.

Fine is the same word they used to describe Anna Li on July 24 when she took a nasty fall from the uneven bars. It turns out the injury was worse than they thought   and she is wearing a neck brace.  “She tore a ligament in her neck, and she has been advised to wear the collar as well as check with a physician upon her return to the States.  As a result, she is no longer training as a replacement athlete.” (Gymnastike)

McKayla did vault in podium training like a champ, but did not do floor. Finally, in the first interviews given in London, McKayla revealed that her toe is broken. NBC sheds light on the situation.

Maroney broke the toe in May, then aggravated the break in June. When she landed her beam dismount last Thursday, she split the bone even further. She did only light training the next few days to protect the toe.

McKayla’s view on the situation?

“Bad things happen you just have to make the best of it,” Maroney told NBCOlympics.com. “It does hurt. It’s broken. How is it not going to hurt? I just try to ignore it and I have worked so hard to be here I can ignore the pain for a little bit.” (For the whole interview, check out NBCOlympics.com)

It is not uncommon for a gymnast to compete on a broken foot. Chellsie Memmel did it in 2008. Rebecca Bross did it in 2010. But I can only imagine how painful it is! Here is hoping that no more injury is sustained to her toe, and that ALL the gymnasts (from all the countries) stay healthy from here on out.

USA: Perform. Hit. Repeat.


These girls looked just like last years World Championship team during podium training. Moving calmly from event to event, hitting routine after routine. Oh wait, they basically ARE the same team, plus Kyla who fits in like she has been there all along.

They trained in Olympic order, starting on vault. The live stream was not up, but according to twitter, they put on quite a show- “The Amazing Amanar Stars.” They hit vault after vault, with an almost stuck and then a stuck vault from Jordyn, the best Amanar Aly has ever done on the world stage, two vaults with a small step from Gabby and business as usual for McKayla (big step out, higher than should be possible). Kyla did beautiful DTYs that would anchor most teams’ vault rotations but won’t even be used in qualifications on this vaulting team.

Then they moved on to bars. Gabby was a flying squirrel, Kyla was the queen of clean, Jordyn muscled through but made it just fine. Business as usual. However, Aly came out strong! Blythe from the Gym Examiner said “She looks pretty good up there. Normally that’s prefaced with “for Aly” but I mean that as a general statement.” 

The girls moved on to beam. In what has become true USA all business fashion, someone is mounting the beam while the previous gymnast is still in the air from their dismount. This gives the USA time for two routines per gymnast. Craziness. Some bobbles here and there, a few missed connections and a split the beam fall from Kyla. Overall though, a decent beam rotation with lots of shining moments. Kyla hit her front tuck sheep jump on the second set, Jordyn’s second pass is more closely connected than ever, and Aly almost stuck two Pattersons. Everyone did a great second set, with lots of stuck landings.

The big news on floor is that it appears McKayla is not doing it. Kyla is in instead. This is assumedly because of whatever is bothering her about her toe. McKayla’s routine is more difficult than Kyla’s and more beautiful than the rest of the teams’, but it isn’t vital for the team and she is not going to make floor finals. But her vault is. So they are resting and protecting her toe, saving her for vault.

The floor rotation went well. Gabby and Jordyn looked great. Jordyn stuck or connected her first three passes. Aly was not quite up to her normal tumbling par, but nothing to cause concern.

Overall, it was a dominant, hit performance, boding good things to come. They look just like the machine of last year. Perform, Hit, Repeat.

To watch the whole podium training, follow this link and start at 44 minutes.

gymnastics-podium-training-u-s-women.html

USA Team Chances in London


What are our chances in London?

The US won the 2011 World Championships by a huge margin. We have incredible depth in the all around as well as a large advantage on vault. There’s this magical vault called the Amanar that has an extra 1/2 twist than the vault most gymnasts are competing. It adds .7 to the start value (the D Score of vault). Most countries are struggling to have any gymnasts that can currently perform the vault. The US will perform an amanar for every vault counted during the Olympics.  That ends up being a 2.1 advantage over most other countries in Team Finals if they aren’t able to put up Amanars. But there are a lot of Amanar rumors going on from other countries. In addition, the US has been weak on bars. The US has great chances. But the competition will be fierce this year.

Who is our team competition?

For a deeper run down, check out my post Who’s Who in 2012: The Team Contenders.

Russia was incredibly strong in 2010. The USA dominated in 2011. Russia’s amazingly fierce and talented Aliya Mustifani was out last year and their other top gymnast was not at her peak. With both of them back, plus a strong new senior there is every expectation that they can bring a battle for gold. Romania has come from behind and is putting the pressure on. They beat Russia at the European Championships this year and just keep getting better. China continues to be strong. Not as strong as they looked in Beijing, but they still factor in to the mix.

Check out these posts if you are interested in Who’s Who in the all-around or on vaultbarsbeam or floor.

 

What I Love About Kyla Ross


I love Kyla’s smile. Hunting through her pictures, it is a reoccurring theme – this broad beaming smile that just makes you smile back. You don’t see it as often in her competitions, where she is more focused and serious. Or in her interviews. But a picture speaks 1,000 words. I think Kyla’s personality is summed up through her smile.

I love Kyla’s attitude. “I am a contender.” She has said this many times in interviews.   Not arrogant  and assuming, but quietly confident. She knows what she can contribute to the team, and keeps plugging away, practice after practice, meet after meet to prove it.

I love that Kyla is still a teenager. She has had plenty of international experience, but not yet enough travel and media attention to mature her beyond her years. Kyla seems like a normal teenage girl. It helps us remember that these girls are still just that – girls.

Gymnastics wise, I love Kyla’s lightness. Every move she makes looks effortless, airy, like she tumbling or dancing through clouds. She is the Queen of Clean. She is dependable and it is easy to feel confident that she will deliver.

Good Luck Kyla! Thank you for your years of hard work and sacrifice to bring us your beautiful gymnastics. May the Olympics be more than you ever dreamed it would be!

What do you love about Kyla? Do share!

All Photos Credit NBC Olympics

Did The Selection Committee Get it Right?


The 2012 US Olympic WAG Team. Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

One week ago today the seleciton committee holed themselves up in a room and chose our 2012 US Olympic Gymnastics team. The team and the replacement athletes were introduced with much ceremony and celebration. But did they get it right?

For the most part, I believe they did. This is the team that has risen to the top at every point over the last few months. After each major performance, I have added up the numbers and looked at the mental strength and performances of the main contenders. And though I didn’t expect it, each time these were the girls I chose. They were the most common team on the “gymternet”. In fact, by the second day of competition, they were so widely acknowledged as the likely team that predictions and discussions turned to the alternates instead. But here are a few sticking points.

Elizabeth Price had the meet of her career at the Olympic Trials. In fact, she beat Kyla Ross in the All Around. Many have asked why Kyla was chosen over her. In the end, when you look at the make up of the different teams and the different ways you can mix and match scores, the 5th spot did not need to be a strong all-arounder. Instead, this gymnast needed to be able to score high and contribute on bars and beam in the team finals. Elizabeth is good on bars, but her highest score of the season was a 15.3 on the night of finals. Kyla has been scoring between 15.3 and 15.65 all season. Elizabeth’s weakest event is beam. Kyla is a strong, steady beam worker who has scored between a 14.7 and 15.5 this season. For the hole that needed to be filled, Kyla fit the bill. Elizabeth is a fabulous replacement for vault should she be needed.

Speaking of replacement gymnasts, the biggest argument is if Alicia Sacramone should have been put in over Sarah Finnegan or Anna Li. When it comes down to it, we had to have a replacement athlete for bars. So Anna Li (or Bross or Liukin) had to go as replacements. Alicia obviously doesn’t fill this spot. I actually would have put her in over Sarah Finnegan. Sarah has still not had a meet without a lot of scary wobbles on beam. I would much rather have Alicia as a replacement for beam, and think that with four strong floor workers already on the team, as well as Elizabeth as a possible floor replacement, that Alicia was a stronger choice. However, in my previous article I noted that Sarah has a much higher start value, and her high scores and potential high scores are higher than Alicia. So I can understand the committee’s decision, even though it broke my heart not to see Alicia go.

All in all, I do think the selection committee got it right! What about you?

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: The Lovely Liukin


Continuing on with our Bars/Beam specialists, we have our bars star from 2008. For even the most casual gymnastics fan, Nastia Liukin needs no introduction. After all, she is the reigning Olympic All-Around Champion. Nastia has some of the most lovely balletic lines of any American gymnast in recent times. Her beautiful lines on all events combined with her incredible difficulty on beam and bars and her perfectionistic competitive spirit led to her all around gold in 2008.

Liukin announced her official comeback bid for the 2012 Olympic team at the World Championships in 2011. From that time until the US Secret Classics in May, fans anxiously awaited any word of her progress. At that competition, she showed a very respectable beam routine and podium training on bars that brought hope of things to come.

Then came Nationals. Nastia showed some great portions of bars routines during training, but had quite a lot of spotting and never put together a full routine. When she went to compete, she just didn’t have the endurance to do a full bars routine. With the ok of Marta Karolyi, she planned to not do a dismount on either day and brought in two very low scores. The first day of Nationals, she did an improved beam routine from Classics and tied for 3rd. However, on the second day, she put her hand down on the beam and was much further down the results list.

Liukin is a fan favorite (with many) and brings prestige, artistry and experience to the US team. There is something to be said when you have the reigning All Around champion on the floor. Watching her even on beam and bars is like going to the ballet – effortless, exquisite and mesmerizing. It is hard to realize just how difficult the skills she is doing are. She has the potential to be an incredible assest to the US team.

Liukin will have a lot to prove at the Olympic Trials. She will be trying to win the spot of a bars/beam specialist. Currently her top competition seems to be Kyla Ross who has averaged a 15.32 on bars with a high score of 15.5 and a 15.06 on beam with a high score of a 15.5. There is rumor of Martha wanting Nastia to show a 16.0 bars routine. But honestly, if she is able to beat Kyla’s average and high score (and the other bars/beam specialists), I think she has a good chance of going. After all, we know that with more time, Nastia can do more. For the others, they are probably at their peak for this year.

Here’s hoping that no matter what happens, Nastia continues to bring us the beautiful combination of athleticism and grace she has always shown.

Check out my other article on Nastia: Nastia Liukin’s Return – An Unfair Response?