US Olympic Women's Gymnastics Trials 2012: 5 Truths Revealed About Team USA
The 2012 Team USA women's gymnastics team has been established, and there are high hopes for the five women selected to represent USA in London.
The women will be front-runners for the team gold medal, which could be a first for USA since 1996, and the USA gymnasts are contenders for gold medals on multiple individual events.
Here are the five key story lines that will make or break Team USA come London.
The Dynamic Duo
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Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas are going to be the Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin dynamic duo of this cycle.
Wieber and Douglas, like Liukin and Johnson did in 2008, can motivate each other for team success while competing against one another for the all-around gold medal.
These two are going to be the poster children that lead Team USA to what would be the first women’s gymnastics Olympic gold since 1996.
Douglas narrowly inched out Wieber to win the Olympic Trials, which alludes to a dogfight between the two of them for the Olympic all-around gold.
Douglas wowed the crowd in San Jose with her breathtaking performances on the uneven bars and floor.
Wieber, the defending World Champion, has been a consistent performer throughout Trials. She hardly seems capable of making a mistake.
The Russian stars—Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova—are going to come in behind Wieber and Douglas. They just are not as healthy and have not performed as consistently as Wieber and Douglas.
Bars Needs Work
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Team USA’s weakest event is bars, although someone could make a case for the balance beam.
Many Nastia Liukin fans thought she had an offhand chance of being named to the team if she nailed her bars set. I also thought that Anna Li was going to make the team after hitting her uneven bars set in one of the most stunning performances I have ever seen.
There were some devastating performances on bars during the second night of Trials. Nastia Liukin face-planted in the middle of her routine, and Rebecca Bross fell three times and didn't even finish her routine.
I think Kyla Ross was selected to the team solely for her prowess on the bars.
Jordyn Wieber, who usually doesn't stick out on bars, really nailed her routine at qualifiers.
Gabby Douglas, known as "The Flying Squirrel" because of how high she sails on her bars routine, has the potential to score high. But can she catch all of her release moves?
Team USA has the potential to capitalize on bars with the women who were selected. Let's just hope disaster does not strike.
Lack of Leadership
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Who will stand out as a leader on Team USA? That's the big question.
For a minute, I thought maybe Nastia Liukin would be selected as an alternate because of how much poise and sportsmanship she showed in finishing her routines after face-planting on the uneven bars.
Even though her dreams at a second Olympics were shot, she was still standing with a big smile, congratulating all the other women when they finished their routines.
After her chances at making the team came crumbling down, I was certain Alicia Sacramone would be granted a spot on the roster, at least as an alternate.
Sacramone was not perfect at Trials, but she showed experience and poise. As the 2008 Olympic captain, she would have been the only team member with Olympic experience.
Sacramone's strengths are vault and beam. The committee opted for McKayla Maroney's high vault and other gymnasts who offered depth on the bars.
Aly Raisman is the oldest team member at 18; everybody else is 16 and under. The women have experience at Worlds and other high-profile competitions, but who will step up to keep everybody together when times are tough?
Strong Alternates and Depth
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You can tell that the selection committee put careful consideration into the team members and alternates to make sure there is a lot of depth in case any gymnasts get injured.
Elizabeth Price, a surprise standout at Trials, was a star in San Jose. She finished fourth in the all-around and is a strong competitor. However, she does not have any standout individual events. She will be key if any of the top all-arounders gets injured.
Anna Li is an alternate solely for her uneven bars abilities. This could have even given her a chance for a slot on the official roster. She will be key if any of the bar stars gets injured.
Sarah Finnegan, the youngest athlete who tried out, finished fifth in the all-around and can really step up on the balance beam.
Vaulting to Victory
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I have said this time and time again. Vault is clutch if Team USA wants to win a gold team medal. McKayla Maroney is the key to that, and that is why she was a specialist named to the five-person roster.
As much as it hurts to have a specialist on a team with such a small roster—Elizabeth Price really made a case for herself at Trials—a strong vault roster is what Team USA needs.
Kerri Strug's heroic vault is what pushed Team USA to its last gold in the 1996 game.
McKayla Maroney can easily win the individual gold medal on the vault, and that high score will be a huge boost for Team USA. It will make putting a specialist on the team worth it.
She had a scary injury at Visa Championships last month but seems to have recovered well. The selection committee just could not pass up Maroney's ability to go huge on vault.