US Women's Gymnastics Olympic Team 2012: Each Gymnast's Key Role in Final
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With the qualifying round completed, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team now has a better focus on what will be the keys to winning the team final, which begins tomorrow at 4:30 pm ET.
Are the "Fab Five" as good as advertised? The all-around strong and deep performance during the individual qualifying showed that they are. The U.S. finished the qualifying round alone at the top with a score of 181.863. Russia (180.429) and China (176.637) are in second and third place, respectively.
While the U.S. has been able to put some distance between itself and the competition, it is now crucial that each cog of the Team USA machine performs its job if the team is going to earn gold.
In the final team format, each team will have three individuals compete on each apparatus. While we don’t yet know what the U.S. rotation will be, some predictions can be made based on what we've seen so far.
Let’s take a look at each gymnast’s projected key role in the final.
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The nerves of Gabby Douglas were a major concern heading into these Olympic Games. Yet in qualifying, Douglas came across as one of the more steady and confident performers.
It will be key for Douglas to maintain this poise. Additionally, the U.S. will need her to have a stronger performance on the uneven bars than she did in the qualifying round. Douglas finished sixth on bars, the apparatus that earned her the nickname “The Flying Squirrel” for how much air she gets on her releases.
Ironically, Douglas’ strongest performance happened on beam, which is the discipline in which she had been most inconsistent as of late, including at the Olympic trials.
A third-place finish from Douglas on this apparatus shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s exactly the kind of redeeming performance she needed to boost her confidence and forget about the struggles she’s had.
Improvement in bars and another steady performance on beam is what the U.S. team needs from Douglas to get the gold.
McKayla Maroney talks through how to stick the perfect vault.
McKayla Maroney came to London to vault, and boy did she do it in the qualifying round—right to the top.
Maroney, who announced just a few days before competition began that she would be competing with a broken toe, crushed the competition, taking first in the qualifying round ahead of her biggest competition, Sandra Izbasa of Romania.
It goes without saying that this is where Maroney will need to shine in the team final. And there’s no doubt she’s ready to anchor a team that was super-strong on this apparatus in the qualifying round.
“Vault is what I’m here for,” Maroney told the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). “I was going to do vault no matter what.”
The two who accompany Maroney will also be able to perform the highly difficult Amanar vault, giving the U.S. a huge point advantage over other countries.
Maroney will also be key in a more subtle way.
If you watched the qualifying round, you probably noticed Maroney’s strong presence in supporting her teammates before, after and between events. She could provide the x-factor that this team needs—moral support.
Because she’s only participating in the vault, Maroney has the advantage of seeing everything that goes on in-between and being there for her teammates when they need it.
Aly Raisman will be the one to tell her teammates, "Keep calm and carry on."
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Tough and talented, yet often in the shadow of Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman will now have a shot at gold as an individual in the all-around.
Raisman has been prepared all along to help the U.S. as a team, and the way she came through in the clutch in floor exercise during the qualifying round shows that she is ready to do that in the final.
"Aly had the meet of her life today," U.S. coach John Geddert told ESPN.com. "What a time to have it."
Steady while teammates became a little sloppy during floor exercise, Raisman made beautiful passes and stuck landings convincingly. This is how it went for Raisman all day - she scored a 15.1 in every event except for one Sunday.
Her teammates will need that second-nature response to pressure situations, not just on floor but also on beam.
Because Raisman now has the all-around competition after the team final, she may be even more relaxed for the team final, knowing that she has another chance for gold afterward.
Raisman is also good friends with Wieber, so there’s no doubt she will also want to make it a mission to help her good friend get her shot at gold.
Raisman can be the quiet and steady leader who bolsters the U.S. on Tuesday.
The U.S. will need a solid performance from Kyla Ross on the uneven bars.
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Ross may be the youngest of the Fab Five, but that doesn’t really mean anything.
Though young, Ross has proven that she’s a valuable supporting member of the team who is able to keep it together under pressure.
Team USA needs another strong performer on uneven bars, and this could be Ross in the finals. The 15-year-old from Hawaii tied high-flying Gabby Douglas in the Olympic trials, so we know she has the ability.
Look for Ross to be the steady presence who benefits from being off the radar and a youngster. Remember, Ross was a surprise qualifier for this Olympic team and hasn’t been in the pressure cooker like many of her teammates.
Easier said than done: Jordyn Wieber will have to put her individual disappointment aside so that the team can win gold.
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We know Jordyn Wieber suffered a huge disappointment when she failed to qualify for the individual all-around final. What we don’t know is how this will affect her performance in the team finals.
If we go by what Wieber has tweeted, you could say she’s ready for it:
Thank you all for your love and support. I am so proud of our team today and I can't wait for team finals!! 💗— Jordyn Wieber (@jordyn_wieber) July 29, 2012
We all know that getting over heartache is not as simple as that. However, this unfortunate situation could make Wieber even more determined to lead her teammates to gold. A team gold will mean even more to Wieber now.
How Wieber handles herself will be what sets the tone for the rest of the squad. They’re going to be following her lead and if she can tell them—and show them through strong early performances—that everything is going to be OK, it will.
Former national team coach Bela Karolyi revealed a more negative outlook to Kelly Whiteside of USA Today on how Wieber missing out on the all-around will affect the team in the final.
“I’m afraid, to be honest,” he said.
Who am I to disagree with Karolyi, but I’m going to. His response is just too dramatic (surprise, surprise) and he’s not giving Wieber enough credit.
Yes, this will be very difficult for Wieber to bounce back from, but like all elite gymnasts, she has had to bounce back from poor performances before. Wieber needs put up a couple solid scores at the start of the finals competition, and once she does, the U.S. will feel comfortable to continue to occupy the top spot.
Additionally, Wieber needs to turn off her TV and lay off the Internet until the team final is over. The debate about how unfair it is that the U.S. could only send their top two individuals to the final due to the new format is going to rage on, but listening to that right now is not going to help Wieber lead her team.