Saturday’s much-awaited US Secret Classic proved those hunting a London 2012 spot in women’s gymnastics need more than great routines. They need nerves of steel to withstand the pressures. Aly Raisman did just that.
Raisman was awarded gold for her all-around (AA) performance, winning with a 60.350 over silver medalist Kyla Ross and Kennedy Baker, who took bronze. Raisman attacked each apparatus with the fervor of a woman on a mission possible.
However, those who did not compete AA also made US Olympic Team Coordinator and selection committee member Marta Karolyi take notice, at times not in a good way.
Balance beam is notorious for making or breaking a gymnast. Saturday endorsed that belief. Major body checks and bobbles abounded and from the most unlikely sources.
A member of the 2008 silver medal Olympic Team, Chellsie Memmel fell not once, but twice on beam. She had been battling her way back from a shoulder injury, but nothing could save her aspirations, not even a petition to the selection committee. Memmel will not be a contender to make the 2012 Olympic team. Politics anyone?
Gabby Douglas also had her share of trouble on the four-inch wide contraption. She clutched the beam on her first flight series to combat a fall—still a major deduction. Douglas rallied, however, and finished with a 14.400.
Notables on beam included Nastia Liukin, the 2008 Olympic AA champion. Liukin has not competed in three years but proved she still has the stuff to contribute. She is moving forward. Her experience will be vital in a leadership role.
Newcomer Sarah Finnegan may have also raised Karolyi’s eyebrows. Her triple turn in wolf position is one of the most difficult to rotate without faltering. Overall, it was a sturdy exercise.
Jordyn Weiber ended up with a so-so day. Already qualified for Nationals, as are all 2011 World team members, this meet was a chance to work under pressure without a major risk of injury. She chose to compete on bars and beam. Bars may be her weakest event, as evidenced by Saturday’s performance. She did not complete one move and stalled out on a handstand on the low bar—just got stuck there. Still she received a 14.250 for her effort and heads to Nationals regardless.
The top performances of the evening revolved around McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas. Maroney’s Amanar vault was as always outstanding, though she lost .3 for a large step on the landing. Nonetheless she scored 16.100, the highest score of the meet and a threat to other Olympians who perform the same vault.
Douglas’ bar routine had fan’s hearts fluttering. Karolyi nicknamed her the “flying squirrel,” which is fitting considering how she soars over the apparatus. Her compensation this night was a 15.700.
All told, the U.S. Secret Classic revealed nothing new, but perhaps for Kyla Ross. Her scores may have impressed the selection committee. Then again, it’s not over til Karolyi sings.
Next up is the Visa National Championships in St. Louis, MO, June 7 through June 10, where the pressure will be even greater as the stakes rise another notch.