Two tests remain before the 2012 London Olympic gymnastic team is announced live at the Olympic trials in July. Before athletes get to that point, they must prove their mettle at the Visa Nationals June 7-10 in St. Louis, MO.
While most fans have a reasonable grasp on the obvious names headed to London, there remain a few dark horses who can contribute on two or more events. With the number of team members limited to five, it is crucial to choose the most solid candidates.
Indeed, there are a few to consider.
Sarah Finnegan demonstrated at the recent U.S. Secret Classic that she is reliable on floor exercise and balance beam, scoring 15.200 and 14.900 respectively for second and third place. However, in her beam set Finnegan displayed moments of concentration loss that resulted in a number of balance checks.
So, if this 15-year-old can maintain her balance as well as her nerves on beam, Finnegan has an excellent shot of joining the group in London on these two events.
An alternate for the bronze medal World Championships team in 2011, Christopher Brooks has been steadily gaining momentum. His gold all-around performance at the Kellogg’s Pacific Rim Championships illustrates how far he has come in the last year.
A sound floor performer, Brooks’ vulnerability comes on pommel horse, but otherwise posts consistent and effective scores.
Vaulter extraordinaire, McKayla Maroney may be headed to Olympic gold on this event—if she can make it onto the U.S. team. Beyond huge vault scores, Maroney somewhat lacks the chops to contribute heavily on the three other events.
Undoubtedly the selection committee wants her in London, but with little international experience to combat the pressure this Olympic Games will surely bring, Maroney must bring her A game to grab a golden ticket to London and time is running out.
Jonathan Horton wants to go to London—that much is clear. Coming off a foot injury at Worlds last year, Horton, a 17-time Nationals medal winner, will need to go for broke at the upcoming Visa Nationals.
His high bar routine is exciting and his still rings set isn’t shabby either. Still, Horton does need stuck landings and high scores on both apparatuses to sail across the pond this summer.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the name Nastia Liukin was synonymous with gold. This time around, she is struggling to make the U.S. team as a specialist.
Liukin’s recent 14.900 score at the U.S. Secret Classic fell short of the stellar sets judges were used to seeing from her. Then again, it was a worthy exercise for an athlete who has not competed in three years.
At the upcoming Visa Nationals, she plans to add her bar routine in hopes of convincing the selection committee she is worthy of an Olympic berth.
Sam Mikulak had a good showing, taking silver at last month’s Kellogg Pacific Rim Championships with sound performances on high bar and vault. On the down side, he lacks the international experience of, say, a Jake Dalton but makes up for it on the U.S. men’s team albatross—pommel horse.
Mikulak has a chance to make the Olympic team, unless Dalton outscores him across the board.