2012 Olympics: Dogfight for US Women's Gymnastics Team Begins at US Nationals
The Visa National Championships proved nothing short of a girl-style dog-fight.
NBC televised the event live, and it came down to the last event for all-around queen bee status. Jordyn Wieber led the parade with twists and turns, yet fractions separating first and second were apparent on day two, with a span of only 3.350 between first and sixth after two rotations.
Just when you thought you knew who was headed to London, expectations flew out the window. This weekend’s competition was filled with joy and heartbreak. Let’s take a look at the top contenders and how they fared.
Pre-Competition Injury Could Hurt McKayla Maroney
McKayla Maroney was escorted out of the building on a stretcher after a complete blank out on a tumbling run during floor warmups. Over-rotating a double twist, which may have been a watered-down setup for her opening triple twist, Maroney landed flat on her back. She also hit her head as a residual effect of her landing.
Not only was she out for the remainder of this competition as a hospital team searched for a concussion, according to the live Sunday coverage by NBC, Maroney’s coach has petitioned entry to the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Steve Penny, USA Gymnastics President, responded immediately after the meet live on NBC that Maroney's request has been granted. Beyond vault, Maroney will need to prove herself on at least one of the remaining three apparatuses.
Maroney is not out of the woods yet.
Gabby Douglas Is Showing Some Signs of Fear
Most armchair aficionados realize Gabby Douglas is an uneven bars expert. The rest of what she does is just to get her through a meet. Douglas fell from beam on a basic layout step out, an inexcusable faux pas. She rebounded, but is the pressure beginning to take hold on this young gymnast? Every half-tenth is the difference between winning and losing.
Moving to floor exercise, Douglas fought like a tigress for every stuck landing. She was awarded with a 15.300. Going forward, keeping her wits remains her biggest challenge. Fortunately, beyond her 15.850 on bars, silver medalist Douglas is also a great vaulter. Welcome to the team, Ms. Douglas.
The need to rise above international pressure is her demon to conquer .
Jordyn Wieber Deserves Repeat National U.S. Champion Title, Bars Won't Interfere
Jordyn Wieber is once again the U.S. national champion. She put up a good score on bars Sunday with a 15.050, encountering only one major body-position error. Wieber connected all her skills and stuck her landing.
On beam, the Michigan teen was less than her best. Her tentative approach cost her big-time in terms of tenths of deductions. Those little puppies add up. If Wieber is dreaming of the Olympic all-around gold, she needs to rethink her mental approach.
Her 15.900 vault definitely helped her reclaim the U.S. title. Regardless of anything that went wrong on Sunday, this young woman is on her way to the Olympic Games.
Nastia Liukin May End Up Watching from Home
Nastia Liukin's balance-beam routine was fraught with little bobbles and major confidence checks. OK, any civilian should try walking a straight line with only four inches of wiggle room. Most would fall over, but as reigning Olympic all-around champion, Liukin should be able to accomplish this with eyes sealed shut.
Liukin didn’t fall, but she grabbed the beam after a low-level difficulty side aerial, a skill she has most likely performed since she was a young child. Faltering on such a fundamental flight skill is unheard of from an elite perspective.
Liukin did no better on bars, making many errors and bailing on her dismount for the second day in a row, perhaps due to exhaustion. She will receive one more shot at trials, but unless she nails both her bar and beam set in San Jose, she will be relegated to watching the Olympics from the sidelines.
It may be time to go back to calling the action alongside television commentators Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlegel at the annual Nastia Liukin Cup competition.
Kyla Ross Will Not Be Denied
Avoiding media pressure and savvy fan scrutiny until now, Kyla Ross has been able to work out without distraction while quietly demanding attention from the Olympic selection committee.
Placing fourth in the all-around, this young lady, despite newfound media attention, confirmed experience is not the primary requisite to a place on the Olympic team.
However, Ross does need to improve her floor score if she wants to medal in London. She has the time and the drive to accomplish the task.
Aly Raisman's Plan Should Be in Search of Gold
If for no other reason, Aly Raisman belongs on the Olympic team for her beam effort alone. Under extraordinary pressure, the 18-year-old waltzed through the routine like a walk in the park. With rare bobbles, Raisman gave up very little as deductions go, scoring 15.450, the highest mark on the event.
Raisman isn't kidding around. She is in it to win it. Her bronze medal will be more than enough to carry her through to the big time: London 2012.
Sarah Finnegan May Be Young, but She’s Not Without Heart
Ripping off bars during a Gienger did nothing to stem the determination of this young gymnast. Finnegan stepped back, sprayed her grips and forged onward cleanly with what remained of her routine. Still, losing a full point could be enough to destroy her Olympic dreams. The U.S. is seeking perfection in its search for pure gold.
On floor, Finnegan may be wise enough to wear rhythmic slippers to help facilitate her turns, but without hip and shoulder technique, shoes won’t save you as she proved by falling out of her pirouettes. Finnegan placed sixth and will head to trials with hopes of improving enough to take the journey across the Atlantic.
Fix those turns.
Alicia Sacramone Is Not Going Down Without a Fight
Beam will make or break Sacramone’s visions of Olympic grandeur. Marta Karolyi already knows this woman is top-notch on vault, but Sacramone’s Achilles’ heel has been beam, where she fell on her mount in the 2008 Olympics and has been trying to redeem herself ever since. Scoring a 15.050 on day two is an excellent start.
Still, Sacramone will need to pull out all stops to make the grade come late June. For now, she has the best shot at returning as a veteran to this 2012 Olympics.
Elizabeth Price, the Undetected Gymnast
Wake up, gymnastic fans: Elizabeth Price is not going quietly into the night. For the most part, this girl has strong routines. Her weak point is balance beam, where nerves often overtake talent.
Price placed fifth in this weekend’s Visa National Championships—no small feat. If she can get a grip on beam and improve on bars, she may very well be a member of the team. Even as an alternate, Price would be valuable.
Make no mistake, alternates are vital to the overall welfare of any Olympic team.
Bridget Sloan Did What She Could
Failing to break a 15.000 score on any event but bars at the Visa Nationals this weekend, Sloan can do nothing but hope to impress the selection committee at the U.S. Olympic Trials beginning June 28.
Placing 10th, Sloan has been issued an invitation to trials, thus giving her the opportunity to shake off the nerves and come out swinging.
To make it onto the Olympic team, Sloan will need to improve her scores to the 15.000 range on each apparatus, a task she has yet to accomplish this year. Still, she, like all other past Olympians, deserves the chance to prove her mettle.
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