The 2008 Beijing Olympics were a great success for the likes of many US Olympians, including Michael Phelps and the Men's Basketball team. Some, however, did not live up to lofty expectations.
The US Women's Gymnastic Team was one of the few that ended up having a disappointing go-round in Beijing. Led by Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, the all-around team finished with a silver medal behind China. Although a few gold medals were collected in individual rounds (Nastia Liukin in individual all-around and Shawn Johnson on the balance beam), the showing could be categorized as disappointing at best.
This year, the team hopes to change that. Minus Liukin and Johnson, the USA team still boasts two of the best gymnasts in the world in Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber. Mainly because of those two young gymnasts, the US women's gymnastic team perhaps has some of the biggest pressure to win big than anyone else in the entire London Olympics field.
Dominique Dawes, a three-time Olympian herself, even upped the pressure with a recent quote on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams: "I really do think that the team is going to win gold."
If that's not pressure, I don't know what is.
For the women, Gabby Douglas is the new young and fresh face. Having already achieved Olympic super-stardom on the level of Michael Phelps, there is a lot of pressure riding on the young girl's shoulders to produce.
Already expected to be an incredible threat on the bars, Douglas also is very polished in the all-around category. With Jordyn Wieber expected to be the favorite in that realm (reigning world champion), Douglas still will be tough to beat.
Douglas is essentially the biggest name in Olympic gymnastics in quite a long time and along with that honor comes lots of expectation. She took away the title from Wieber during the July 1st Olympic Trials in San Jose, CA and has lots of momentum going into the games.
The youngster has even impressed the likes of Tim Daggett, who won Olympic gold in 1984.
Just a year ago, she emotionally kind of broke down at the national championships. When you see that happen, often times they really don’t ever come back from that.
It is absolutely amazing. I’ve never seen that level of maturity, in gymnastics and otherwise, in less than a year.
Wieber, perhaps, has even more pressure on her shoulders. The reigning world champion was expected to be the girl to beat in the games, but saw the guaranteed Olympic Trial spot get snatched away by up-and-coming Gabby Douglas.
Having already shrugged it off, Wieber seems to be focused and ready to go. FoxSports.com's Reid Forgrave detailed Wieber brilliantly in a recent column:
On Monday morning, less than 12 hours after she was named to the Olympic team, Wieber just shrugged it all off. Who remembers the winner of an Olympic trials? Nobody. The whole point of the trials is to form an Olympic team, and Wieber made that team. End of story. Now, she’s on to London as reigning world champion.
“I try not to think about the jinx,” Wieber replied to the fact that reigning world champions typically don’t win all-around Olympic gold. “I imagined this moment my whole life, of making the Olympic team.”
Even so, there are a few ladies from contending countries that might spell doom for the US Women. China brings the stiffest competition, mainly on the balance beam with Sui Lui. In the 2011 World Championship, Lui stole the gold medal from Wieber. This will be her Olympic debut.
Other names to watch will be Viktoria Komova from Russia and Catalina Ponor of Romania. Komova most recently won gold in the uneven bars competition. Ponor is a triple Olympic gold medalist.
Needles to say, there is definitely plenty of pressure on Douglas and Wieber, as well as the entire team of Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney, and Aly Raisman. Minus Ross, every member of this team contributed to the world championship team gold a year ago.
The question remains: Will that pressure skyrocket them to Olympic greatness or will it end up tearing them down?
If you ask me, this year is the year for US Women's Gymnastics.