For years, gymnastics has been one of the most popular sports among fans of the Olympics in the United States. The eyes of those fans will be pointed towards San Jose, California this week when the men's and women's gymnastics teams for the 2012 London Olympic Games are selected at the U.S. gymnastics trials beginning Thursday.
As we gear up for the beginning of Olympic gymnastic competition on July 28, here's a look at some of the young women who, with a solid showing this week in San Jose, will move on to represent their country in London in an attempt to join the "magnificent seven" from the Atlanta Games in 1996 as the only U.S. teams to win the women's team competition at the Games.
As the two-time defending United States and reigning world's all-around champion, there wouldn't seem to be a tremendous amount of pressure on young Jordyn Wieber this weekend in California. The 16-year-old from DeWitt, Michigan is all but insured a spot on the women's team, barring a catastrophe.
For her part, the youngster is doing an awfully good job of disguising any butterflies she might have, as fresh off her recent win at the nationals in St. Louis, Wieber recently told The Detroit Free Press that she just wants to get the proverbial show on the road.
“I am looking forward to just going out there and performing my routines and also to see the crowd cheering me on,” she said. “I know it’s going to be sold out, so I am really excited for that."
Wieber's strong suits (as she herself recently explained in a blog for ESPN) are the floor exercise and the vault, events where, in Wieber's words, she can "put everything I have into them." Be sure to watch the vault, where Wieber's ability to execute difficult maneuvers such as a 2.5 twisting Yurchenko are what sets her apart.
(After reading what that was for several minutes, I'm still not entirely sure, but I am sure if I try one, it would result in me fracturing bones I didn't know I had.)
The young lady who lost to Wieber at nationals, a fall on the balance beam was the deciding factor that cost Gabrielle Douglas a shot at being crowned U.S. Champion. Even with that misstep, Douglas lost the all-around competition by a mere two-tenths of a point.
If Douglas can recover from that mistake in Missouri, then the 16-year-old from Des Moines, Iowa is a real threat to unseat Wieber and claim the automatic spot on the women's team that winning the trials affords.
According to The Indianapolis Star, Douglas, who has been battling discomfort in her right hip lately, still has nationals fresh in her mind, and Douglas is chomping at the bit for her shot at redemption.
“I want to make sure that I’m going to go out there on beam and perform and show everyone that I am very strong on beam,” she said. “And just don’t count me out.”
While Douglas may be eager to display her prowess on the beam, it's the uneven bars where she truly shines. Her power and ability to execute incredibly difficult release moves make Douglas arguably the best in the world at the event.
While Wieber and Douglas will likely lead the American women into London, the rest of the spots on the team are up for grabs, and if there's a sentimental favorite to snag one of those spots, it would likely be Alicia Sacramone, who was a member of the 2008 women's team that won silver in Beijing.
Not only is Sacramone, at 24, a dinosaur by women's gymnastics standards, but she is also trying to bounce back from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last October.
Given these factors, Sacramone herself knows she's something of a long shot to make the team, but as Sacramone recently relayed to The Boston Herald, she hopes that experience may help give her the boost she needs to find her way onto the squad.
“I think this is my last hurrah,” the Winchester native said last week at Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club. “If I make another Olympics, that would be phenomenal and I would be so happy, but if not, I had a really good run and I think it would be a nice point to bow out.”
Two-hundred and fifty pound professional football players are sidelined by a torn Achilles longer than Sacramone has been, and I don't think you'll see any of them trying any Yurichenkos soon.
Age and injury may well cost her one more shot at Olympic glory, but Sacramone is well worth watching this week just to see her try, because that sort of courage is what the Olympics are all about.