London 2012: 5 Bold Predictions for Gymnastics at Olympic Summer Games
One of the most exciting aspects of the Olympics and sport in general is the unexpected turn of events, the random plot twists and the comebacks from nowhere. That is why fans are constantly rooting for the underdog and campaigning for a comeback.
Of course as a sports reporter I am always hoping for the best story because I want there to be something exciting to write about.
A lot of storylines seem pretty locked in place for gymnastics in London: Jordyn Wieber of Team USA is going to win the women's all-around. Japan's Kohei Uchimura is the best men's gymnast in the world and there's no contest that he'll win the gold in the men's all-around.
I'm here to challenge all of that because in a subjectively judged sport where athletes are given just one chance to make it or break it and there's such a high risk of injury, anything can happen. It's not over until they're on the medal stand.
And in Paul Hamm's case, it's not over then either.
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5. Jordyn Wieber Will Be Shut Out
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I’m going to start with my boldest prediction first, which goes against what everyone is saying but is something I strongly believe in.
Jordyn Wieber will not medal in the all-around.
Yes, I know she is the defending world champion. Yes, I know she just won the U.S. Visa Championships even when she made mistakes. Yes, I know she is practically a shoo-in for the Olympic team.
But looking at the depth of Team USA, I think one of her American teammates is going to edge her out when it matters most and end up taking the gold. I’m not sure if it will be Aly Raisman with her tumbling prowess and unstoppable floor routine, or Gabby Douglas with her expert uneven bars skills, but it’s going to be someone and it’s going to be an American.
Then I believe that Russia’s Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova will be in a close fight for silver and bronze. That duo has the consistency and the skills but not quite enough fight and sass to take gold.
And Jordyn Wieber is going to finish fourth, narrowly missing the medal stand and watching in disbelief.
4. No Returning Members on Either U.S. Olympic Team
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Nastia Liukin's time to shine is over and she showed it at the National Championships.
She failed to nail beam and bars, her two best events. A reigning Olympic all-around champion should be able to hit those every single time without fail.
Unless it’s time for her to retire, which it is. Liukin should let her last Olympic experience be Beijing, which was glorious for her.
Alicia Sacramone is also done, though I am convinced she is going to go down giving it everything she has.
She has the skills on vault and has been working on upgrading beam, her worst event. However her best is just not going to be enough to compete with the likes of Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas.
On the men’s side the only competitor with a standing shot at London is Jonathan Horton. Many say that his experience is crucial for leadership on the team, but have you seen the scores of these U.S. men? They don’t need leadership, they need bold, new and breathtaking skills that can push the U.S. above everyone else.
It is time for young and new gymnasts to step up. They may not have Olympic experience, but they have international experience and they have the skills. The leadership will come and there just isn’t room for these veterans on the Olympic teams. The young blood has taken over.
3. U.S. Men Make History
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The U.S. men's gymnastics team has not won a gold medal since 1984. The drought stems from a variety of reasons: The U.S. team being plagued by injury and a lack of depth for the country, the inability to edge out powerhouses Japan and China and a lack of superstars.
That's all going to change in London.
The U.S. won the bronze at the 2008 Olympics with a team full of underdogs. This year, there is so much depth on the team that no one even knows who will make the top five.
Any of the alternates could also be valuable assets to Team USA's success. The U.S. placed fourth at the 2010 worlds and took the bronze at the 2011 worlds. It just keeps moving up.
At the Visa Championships, the top four all-arounders scored above a 90. These are the scores necessary for the U.S. to win a gold, and I am confident that these contenders will perform consistently come crunch time.
This depth and talent is going to result in a meet that goes down to every tenth of the point and concludes with the U.S. gymnasts performing magnificently under the pressure and coming through with the gold.
I am getting excited just thinking about the suspense and craziness that is going to stem from the men's team finals.
2. Romania Rolls onto Podium
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There always has to be a team that's underestimated and this year on the women's side it's Romania.
The former powerhouse was shut out at the 2011 worlds and now nobody expects anything from the country. But what is a better time to shine than when there is no pressure and all the odds are against you?
These Romanians, led by veteran Catalina Ponor, are going to have a chip on their shoulders and they are going to fight their way to the podium.
1. Kohei Uchimura Sweeps the Medal Count
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Kohei Uchimura is hands-down the best men's gymnast in the world.
There is no question about it: He competes well in all types of situations, is a well-rounded gymnast, performs consistently well, has some of the most difficult skills in the world...the list could go on and on.
Uchimura is the three-time defending world champion. He is a two-time Olympic silver medalist—team and all-around—and a nine-time world medalist.
There has never been a question that Uchimura is going to win the all-around title in London.
However, I think he's going to do better than that. Uchimura is going to win seven medals. Yes, seven medals in one Olympics. He is going to come one shy of breaking Michael Phelps' record.
He will take a team medal for Japan, the all-around and then medal on five of the six individual events. I'll leave it up to destiny on which five events he medals on.