McKayla Maroney: Vault Specialist Will Be X-Factor in Team Finals

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2012

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 01:  McKayla Maroney competes on the balance beam during day 4 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on July 1, 2012 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As the United States women's gymnastics team looks to win the gold medal in the team competition, it will need everyone to perform their best, especially McKayla Maroney.

The American squad is full of competitors who can perform well on every apparatus. The defending world champion in the individual all-around, Jordyn Wieber, did not even qualify for the finals because Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman had better scores in the opening round.

Each of those three women will be key as the squad looks to win its first team gold medal since 1996. However, Maroney might be just as important in only one event.

The California native is the 2011 World Vault Champion, and that is the only event that she will participate in during these Olympic Games. So far for the American team, it is working out just fine.

The United States finished with the most points in the qualifying round, mostly thanks to the all-around dominating performances by Douglas, Raisman and Wieber. However, Maroney helped, as she led all athletes with a 15.800 average in her two vault attempts. 

She performs a skill on the vault called the Amanar, a move that few gymnasts in the world can complete successfully. In the team finals, she will need to recreate this impressive feat to give the Americans their best chance to win. 

The problem, however, is that the pressure will squarely be on her during that portion of the competition. Every score is important in the finals, but her teammates have the luxury of knowing they can make up for a poor event with a better one later. Maroney does not have that option.

Instead, the specialist will have to overcome an all-or-nothing mentality with the entire world watching, knowing that a mistake could stay on her resume for a long time. Thankfully, she has been a part of major competitions before and has remained confident throughout the games.

Maroney has already overcome a big toe injury to take part in these Olympics. Now all she needs to do is complete a near-impossible vault to help her team win a gold medal.

If the team does win, she will have certainly earned her place on the squad.