US Olympic Gymnastics Team 2012: Who Will Carry on Gold-Medal Tradition?

Emily BayciContributor IIIAugust 8, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08:  (FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE) Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber and Gabrielle Douglas (L-R) of the United States women's Gymnastics team at the adidas Olympic Media Lounge at Westfield Stratford City on August 8, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images for adidas)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

As the 2012 Olympics come to a close and the "Fab Five" establishes themselves as national celebrities, one has to wonder: will the American success in women's gymnastics continue in 2016? Will any members of the "Fab Five" compete again? Who are the next faces of American gymnastics?

The "Fab Five" is a pretty young crew, with Aly Raisman the oldest at 18. Everybody else is about 16 years old. None of them have expressed desire to leave the sport quite yet, and it seems like there's still more success to come from nearly all of them.

Raisman gained unfathomable leadership skills during this games, Gabby Douglas got over her nerves, Jordyn Wieber experienced heartbreak and failure, Kyla Ross gained experience and McKayla Maroney learned what it's like to perform below expectations.

Truth be told, though, it is nearly impossible that the entire gang will get back together come Rio, or even if they will all be competing. Female gymnasts are at their prime around the ages of 14 to 18. The minimum age requirement to compete in the Olympics for gymnastics is 16. 

The last American female gymnasts to compete in two Olympics were Amy Chow and Dominique Dawes, who both returned in the 2000 Olympics after winning gold medals on the 1996 team.

Most recently, two gymnasts—Nastia Liukin and Alicia Sacramone—from the 2008 team attempted comebacks for these games and were not named to the Olympic team.

In a sport where injuries are so common and new talent is always sprouting up, there will be a new group of gymnasts ready to take over in 2016, a group of gymnasts who can carry on the tradition of American gold.

There’s Kyla Ross, the lone member of the “Fab Five” who will be back come Rio. Ross was the youngest member of this year's team and will just grow in skill, power and success over the next four years.

And from the alternates there’s Elizabeth Price, who really started to shine in the U.S. Olympic Trials and could just continue to improve as a powerful force for Team USA. Sarah Finnegan is another young alternate who could emerge in the next few years. 

One thing these gymnasts have to worry about is peaking between the Olympics like Rebecca Bross, who medalled at the World Gymnastics Championships in 2010 and 2011.

The real gymnasts to look at are the current juniors, the young teenagers who are at the fringe of gymnastics success. These are going to be the golden girls of Team USA in Rio.

Madison Desch, a 15-year-old from Kansas, could be America's next big thing on the balance beam. Another 15-year-old, Simone Biles, could replace Maroney as a vault specialist. She posted scores of 15.800 and 16.000 in the junior division of this year's Visa Championships.

Lexie Priessman, who’s also 15, is the top young all-arounder in America who is also a strong vaulter. She missed the age requirements for this year's Games by 23 days. Katelyn Ohashi won the American junior all-around title in 2011. 

There is the worry that these gymnasts will pass their primes by the 2016 games, but I think they'll be ready.

There's also some good not even teenagers under the guidance of Liang Chow, who coached Douglas and Johnson before that. Norah Flatley, Alexis Vasquez and Rachel Gowey could all be the new faces of Team USA.

I think the squad for Rio is going to be an older group with one or two repeats from the “Fab Five” for leadership and young blood for new strength and skill.

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