London 2012: 5 American Gymnasts We Can't Wait to See at the Secret US Classic
As Olympic fever rises in anticipation of London 2012, U.S. gymnasts face a final opportunity to move forward to the Visa Nationals and U.S. Trials at the Secret U.S. Classic.
This Saturday, Chicago holds the key for those women with dreams of Olympic glory.
Here are five gymnasts to take note of at the Secret U.S. Classic.
Nastia Liukin: The Return of the Queen
The winner of five medals including the coveted all-around at the Beijing Games, Nastia Liukin is one of the most highly decorated gymnasts the U.S. has ever produced. Everyone believed her when she announced her retirement after the 2008 Olympics.
Oh how time changes one's perspective.
After a brief comeback in 2009, Liukin chose to take a familiar path of champions before her. She changed her focus to the business world and working at the gym alongside her father and coach, Valeri Liukin. She even has a major event in her name, no small feat in the world of retirement.
Then suddenly last summer, she rethought her decision and prospects for competing in London 2012.
So with only one year to reestablish herself as queen of the beam, she is back and fighting for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team on this sole event where even at 23, she excels – shoulder problems notwithstanding.
Liukin is a pro at handling pressure, so that is not a concern. We can’t wait to see if her body can handle it.
Rebecca Bross: The Darling of Non-Olympic Seasons
In 2010, Rebecca Bross was flying high. Everything she touched seemed to turn to gold, silver or bronze. Hopes were raised that this national champion and six-time world medalist would be the new darling for London 2012.
Then at the Visa National Championships in 2011, Bross erred on her Yurchenko vault, landing low while still twisting. Fears included torn ligaments, but she avoided any major damage. Still, surgery was required to stabilize her right patella.
With her pedigree, Bross deserves to be evaluated by the U.S. Olympic selection committee, headed by Marta Karolyi and for now she remains in the running.
Gabby Douglas: The New Kid on the Block
As the youngest of potential U.S. Olympic team members, Douglas’ powerful routines surely belie her youth.
Despite her age Douglas is generally considered by many, NBC analyst and Olympic gold medalist Tim Daggett included, the best bar worker the U.S. has to offer.
A member of the 2011 gold medal World Championships team, she is fortunate to be injury free and full of spunk.
This year, Douglas competed in the AT&T American Cup where at the end of the competition she had the highest all-around score, defeating U.S. wonder woman Jordyn Wieber. However, as Douglas competed as an alternate, her scores did not count. Bummer.
If she hits her routines cleanly, Douglas will give everyone vying for an all-around Olympic spot a run for their money.
McKayla Maroney: USA’s Not so Secret Weapon
Sixteen-year old McKayla Maroney was a member of the U.S. 2011 World Championships gold-medal team. An excellent all-arounder, this teen not only performs the most difficult vault in the FIG code of points today, she knows how to nail it.
Few gymnasts can handle an Amanar. The vault has the most difficulty start value of any being performed today (6.5), but Maroney has come as close to perfecting the skill as humanly possible.
While Maroney would make an excellent choice to compete all-around, the U.S. would be crazy to deny her the opportunity to do what she does best. It's truly something to see.
Kyla Ross – the Real Deal
Not much attention has been lavished on Kyla Ross. After all, Wieber, Raisman and a handful of others are considered media gold. But don’t count this young lady out folks. Her resume may not be lengthy, but it is impressive.
The past two years have been very good to Ross, who keeps proving her mettle as an elite all-around gymnast. She consistently places near the top on each apparatus and is a lioness when it comes to uneven bars and balance beam. Her determination to stick landings on the floor exhibit a personal demand for perfection.
The Secret U.S. Classic has the ability to catapult her toward her Olympic ambitions and compel the media to scurry a 50-yard dash down the vaulting lane in an effort to get the first post-meet interview.