Alicia Sacramone: US Olympic Gymnastics Team Needed Her Experience in London

Darin Pike@darinpikeContributor IJuly 3, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 10: Alicia Sacramone competes on the beam during the Senior Women's competition on day four of the Visa Championships at Chaifetz Arena on June 10, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Alicia Sacramone knew her days as a member of the U.S. gymnastics team were numbered. Following the U.S. Olympic Trials that number is now zero, but it won't be just Sacramone that feels the sting of being left off the final Olympic roster.

The young American team will be weaker in London without the benefit of Sacramone's experience and leadership.

Sacramone had a difficult route in front of her just to compete in San Jose. She tore her Achilles tendon and needed surgery last October, creating an aggressive timeline to even compete in the trials.

Changes in team structure since the Beijing Olympics created even great odds for Sacramone to overcome.

The women's team now consists of just five gymnasts instead of six, making it harder to keep more than one apparatus specialist.

For Team USA., it came down to a numbers game and Sacramone ended up on the wrong end.

McKayla Maroney grabbed the specialist spot on the team. She excels on the vault and will be a favorite to earn an individual gold medal in the event. 

Sacramone is very good on the vault as well, but Maroney is better.

The balance beam is another area where Sacramone excels, but the separation between her and the other team members on that apparatus is quite small. It became clear Sacramone wouldn't be part of the equation to compile the highest team point total.

However, the U.S. selection committee still made a mistake with leaving her off the squad.

Aly Raisman is the most experienced member of the team at 18-years-old. She is joined by three 16-year-olds (Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber and Maroney) and Kyla Ross, who is only 15.

In addition to the five qualifiers, the team is allowed three alternates. Sarah Finnegan, Elizabeth Price and Anna Li were given those spots.

Price is an obvious choice.

She was fourth overall at the U.S. Olympic Trials and is just 16 years old. She is expected to be a front-runner for the 2016 Olympic team and the experience she'll gain in London will be a valuable component of her growth.

The same can be said for the 15-year-old Finnegan, who had a solid showing at the Trials.

However, Li is 23 and isn't expected to be a factor going forward. She isn't overly experienced in international competition and her only potential contribution to the team is her exceptional skills on the uneven bars.

While the U.S. team is thin on that apparatus, it is even more lacking in Olympics exposure.

None of the members of the 2008 Olympic team made the final roster in 2012.

Sacramone was the team captain in 2008 and was an emotional leader for her squad. She stepped forward and claimed responsibility for the team taking the silver medal instead of gold, as she had falls on the beam and floor exercise.

As an alternate in 2012, she would have still been able to share her experience and leadership skills...a role she has embraced with her young teammates.

While rehabilitating her ankle, she mentioned some of the subtle changes she'd made.

"When I'm upset, it shows on my face—everyone can see it," she said via an article. "I'm surrounded by younger athletes in the sport all day. I don't want to set a bad example for them—oh, this is how you act when you're facing a setback."

Sacramone likely faced the final setback of her gymnastics career in San Jose. She was undoubtedly strong in the eyes of her now former teammates. 

It is unfortunate they won't have that to lean on when it will be needed in London.