I love how McKayla loves the people in her life. McKayla’s Instagram is filled with pictures of her loving on her family and her friends. She is affectionate in word and deed, and you can see her genuine delight in and love for her friends and her family. She is the first to say, “We are all best friends” or “I can’t wait to go to camp to see my best friends.”
I love how loyal McKayla is. She is a loyal friend a loyal sister. I think she was as excited that she made the Olympic team with her best friends and her longtime friend and teammate Kyla Ross as that she made the team at all.
I love McKayla’s pride. Pride is often thought of in a negative light, but McKayla is the positive definition of it: a feeling of honor and self-respect; a sense of personal worth; satisfaction or pleasure taken in one’s own or another’s success and achievements. McKayla IS without a doubt one of the best female vaulters of all time. She is confident of this and carries herself with pride in her hard work, her natural talents and her achievements. It is refreshing to see.
I love McKayla’s beauty. I have written a whole post on this before, but seriously, the girl doesn’t take a bad picture. How can you not love this face!
I love McKayla’s combination of beauty and power in her gymnastics. Watching her vault is like watching a piece of art in motion. Her new floor routine is captivating. I hope we have many years to come of falling more in love with McKayla.
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?
As the men’s team was trying to keep the crowd amped up, chanting USA and doing the wave, Steve Penny walked out onto the floor. The moment everyone had been waiting for was at hand. The announcement of our US Women’s Olympic Team. At the same time he was walking out onto the floor, 14 girls were crowded into a room, waiting to hear their fate. Aly Raisman said in an interview with Gymnastike that Martha cried a bit and said it was a really hard decision for her, then got on with naming the team.
Gabby Douglas. Jordyn Wieber. Aly Raisman. McKayla Maroney. Kyla Ross.
Out on the floor, Steve Penny got to it much faster. He announced the names in rapid fire, one after the other. The girls were regrouping, trying to absorb the incredible news that the dream they had worked their whole lives for was coming true. With tears streaming down most of their faces, they grabbed their flowers and ran out onto the floor.
Then the alternates were called. Sarah Finnegan. Anna Li. Elizabeth Price. They bounded out onto the floor, joining the rest of the team. The men’s team, announced minutes earlier, joined them as well. Gold ribbon shot into the air from edges of the floor. Red, white and blue confetti shoot from a cannon in a constant stream like water coming from a fire hose. And the crowd roared. The deafening noise of sold out arena could be felt as much as heard. They all huddled in a circle. USA, USA, USA. They gathered confetti and threw it in the air.
As the celebration continued on the floor, the girls who dreams did not come true trickled out. Bela and Martha Karoyli went around to each one, Martha firmly holding their head and looking straight into their eyes, her trademark as she focuses in on each individual. A touching moment as both Bela and Martha huddled around Nastia. Valeri hugging Rebecca Bross. Nastia and Valeri sharing a brief hug and kiss. Sabrina Vega unable to hold back the tears, crying openly as people one by one came around to comfort her. Rebecca Bross mostly holding back the tears but showing some emotion here and there.
Eventually things died down inside the HP Pavillion, but the partying continued outside at the AT&T block party. First the men were up on stage, talking to the crowd. After they made their way off the stage, music blared as everyone waited for the women to come out. Behind the stage, the men got up on top of their bus and danced to “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” The families were off to the side of the stage celebrating and waiting for the girls to come out along with the crowd.
Rita Wieber was the first to spot them and started cheering and clapping. Jordyn blew cute, excited kisses to her family just before she walked on to the stage. Then she adjusted Aly’s jacket, making them all presentable. They interviewed Gabby for a bit and then the men joined them on the stage. The crowd lit their candles (passed out earlier), and everyone held them up in the air as Kenny Loggins sang “America The Beautiful”.
The girls headed off the stage and some insistent fans convinced Kyla Ross to come sign autographs as everyone else got into the van. An official finally pulled her away from her adoring fans and they drove off. As I walked away from the night, girls were desperately trying to get pictures with Jordyn’s brother Ryan – the original owner of the Wieber Fever moniker.
The live announcement of the Olympic team, the overwhelming emotions of celebrating with those who made it and crying with those who didn’t is a feeling, a moment in time, that I will not soon forget. And one that I am so very grateful I was able to experience. Thanks to USA Gymnastics, San Jose and all the gymnasts, coaches and fans who made it possible.
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!
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?
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).
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.”
Stars are great. They shine brightly, illuminating the sport of gymnastics to the rest of the world. Stars like the fierce competitor Jordyn Wieber, who inspires us with her ability to never give up and come through with high flying skills on floor and vault and incredible difficulty on beam. Stars like the effervescent Gabby Douglas, who entertains us as much with her personality as with her breathtaking bars work. But in a three up three count team finals scenario, you don’t just want stars. You want a rock.
Aly Raisman, donned by NBC’s Alexa Ainsworth “Reliable Raisman” is our rock. She is the one you can depend on to go out and hit time after time. She has an incredible ability to be in the moment – not allowing herself to feel any more pressure when she is competing than when she is training. Since her senior debut in 2010, Aly has proven herself again and again to the gymnastics world and most importantly to Marta. Marta said this weekend of Aly:
“…[Aly] always wants to prove herself to me! She looks in my eyes before competition and I just nod: ‘Everything is perfect, Aly.’ I really love to have this type of gymnast. She’d give her heart to be good.” –Gym Examiner
And she is more than good. She is great! She does one of the hardest floor routines in the world. Her first tumbling pass is absolutely unbelievable in its level of difficulty. And her second pass is so high you wonder if she is ever going to come down. Aly won two national event titles this weekend (Floor and Beam) and placed third in the all around. She continues to gain our trust even as she captures our heart with her humble attitude, sky high tumbling, sweet smile and loyal friendships with the other gymnasts. Check out Aly’s routines and her interview after the first night at the Visa National Championships. (For a more recent post about Aly after the Olympics, check out Aly Raisman Rises to the Top.)