London 2012: 10 Things You Need to Know About US Gymnast Jordyn Wieber
You'll be seeing a lot of Jordyn Wieber at this summer's Olympics in London.
The 16-year-old gymnast from DeWitt, MI, is considered one of the favorites for the all-around gold medal in women's gymnastics, thanks to her victory at the 2011 World Championships.
NBC is expected to center its gymnastics coverage on the telegenic teenager, who will try to follow Mary Lou Retton (1984), Carly Patterson (2004) and Nastia Liukin (2008) as American gold medalists.
So what do you need to know about Jordyn Wieber?
The World Is Catching Wieber Fever
Wieber has been campaigning for the past year to meet pop star Justin Bieber, which makes her pretty much like any 16-year-old girl in the U.S.
Bieber, meantime, was last seen entering a Las Vegas boxing ring carrying Floyd Mayweather's belts. Wieber has talked about it on Ellen as well as in several post-meet interviews.
At a press event in May, she lamented (per The Detroit News), “It hasn't happened. Yet.” In a Q&A with NBCOlympics.com, she posited that, “We'll just have to see if fate brings us together. An Olympic all-around title would definitely help.”
Fans of Wieber have seized on her desire and have begun wearing T-shirts that say, “Wieber Fever.” The potential meeting has been the subject of tons of chat room speculation. If the two ever do get together, the Internet will probably explode.
She's the World Champion
At the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, Wieber put forth a solid performance to claim the gold medal in her first attempt at the senior level. She edged out Russia's Viktoria Komova.
Wieber's performance wasn't perfect. She almost stopped on a swing during her performance on the uneven bars and stepped out of bounds during her final event, the floor exercise.
Wieber buried her head on coach John Geddert's shoulder after that, thinking she had cost herself first place. However, Komova also committed errors, and Wieber squeaked out a win by just 0.033 points.
“I was so surprised to see my name up on the top,” Wieber told the Los Angeles Times, “but I was so happy at the same time. It was an amazing feeling.”
We Knew This Was Coming
Wieber has been on the gymnastics radar for at least six years. In 2006, she competed in her first Visa Championships as an 11-year old.
She won a junior national title, a senior national championship and two America's Cup victories before moving up to the senior level in 2011.
In fact, Wieber's gift was noticed by her parents when she was just two or three.
David and Rita Wieber took young Jordyn to a local gym because they thought she looked like a gymnast and because they were “amazed” at how long she could balance on one foot. "A little fun class where I could run around and play and stuff and just have fun,” Wieber told NBCOlympics.com.
Some people just have God-given talent.
She Met FLOTUS
Wieber got to meet First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this year when Mrs. Obama came to a media event with Olympians in Dallas.
Mrs. Obama spoke with several hopefuls for London including Wieber and swimmer Michael Phelps.
The First Lady then appeared with the athletes as part of her “Let's Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity.
Michelle Obama will lead the presidential delegation at the Olympics in London.
She Has Exercise-Induced Asthma
Wieber suffers from “athlete-induced” asthma, according to her coach John Geddert, and sometimes needs to use an inhaler during competitions.
After this year's America's Cup, Geddert said (from Examiner.com):
"She was having asthma issues. Not that I ever like to give her excuses, but her legs were done by the end of beam. They were gone. And I said, 'What's wrong?' and she goes, 'I can't breathe.'
She has severe athlete-induced asthma, and when you're up there trying to do three beam routines in 15 minutes, that catches up to you. And I think that had a lot to do with it. That's another thing we've got to train through.”
She Comes from an Athletic Family
Wieber's sister Lindsay, 25, ran the Boston Marathon in April, finishing the race.
After the race, Wieber tweeted that Lindsay is, “Such an inspiration.”
Her brother Ryan played quarterback at DeWitt High School last fall and will attend Central Michigan University this fall.
The family is holding fundraisers to pay for the trip to London to watch Jordyn compete.
She'll Be Facing Top Competition
Getting to the top and staying on top of the gymnastics world is extremely difficult. Careers can be shortened to injury and even healthy gymnasts can have a short shelf life. And one mistake can dash the dreams of the top athletes.
Just look at Russia's Aliya Mustafina. She won the World Championship in 2010, before Wieber competed at the senior level. Mustafina dominated that competition.
However, when Mustafina faced Wieber at the 2011 America's Cup, the Russian flubbed her floor exercise, opening the door for Wieber.
Mustafina then tore her anterior cruciate ligament at the 2011 European Championships and missed the World Championships.
Mustafina has been working her way back from the injury and is considered the top competition for Wieber (per ESPN). Others to watch include U.S. teammate Gabrielle Douglas and Russia's Viktoria Komova.
She'll Try to Avoid the Curse of the World Championship
Wieber became the sixth American to win the World Championship, joining Kim Zmeskal, Shannon Miller, Chellsie Memmel, Shawn Johnson and Bridget Sloan.
However, of the previous five, none won the Olympic gold medal.
She's in Good Company
Wieber is one of two gymnasts to win the America's Cup three times. The other is Mary Lou Retton.
She Coming of a "Loss"
At the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials in San Jose a month ago, Gabby Douglas took first in the individual all-around competition. Wieber was second, but not by much. The final scores were 123.450 for Douglas and 123.350 for Wieber.
Wieber seemed pretty happy just to have secured her first Olympic berth. Here's how she was quoted in a USA Gymnastics article.
"It feels amazing to be an Olympian. This is definitely the best day of my life and knowing that all of my hard work has paid off is amazing. I'm just so proud of each and every girl who competed here today."