2012 Olympic Gymnastics: What's Next for the U.S. Women's Team?
Now that it's officially over for arguably the most successful United States gymnastics team of all time, we can sit back and look at the incredibly accomplishments that these girls had.
It's also not too early to speculate, at least a little bit, about the future of these girls and the U.S. national gymnastics team leading up to the 2016 Rio Games.
Sure, there hasn't been a repeat Olympian in women's gymnastics for the United States since Dominique Dawes and Amy Chow in 2000. But with the youth and talent of this team, it is hard to believe that that streak will continue for another Olympic Games.
AP Writer Will Graves talked to the girls today (h/t Star Tribune), giving us a better sense of what the girls themselves think about their futures both in and out of the gym. This article will go through, athlete by athlete, who to expect to see competing for a spot on the team in four years.
In a way, the Olympic story of Jordyn Wieber is quite sad.
It's hard to imagine that an athlete can be past their prime at the mere age of 17, but in Jordyn Wieber's case, she appeared to have peaked a year or two earlier.
Jordyn had been heralded as the next big thing in American gymnastics from the early age of 11 or 12, as a member of the U.S. Junior National Elite team, and her victory in the 2011 World Championship all-around competition helped feed the hype.
She was supposed to become the third American in a row to win the all-around gold. Instead she left London without a single individual medal.
She may make another run at Worlds in the next couple years in order to end her brilliant gymnastics career on a higher note, but it's hard to imagine that Jordyn's body will allow her to still be competitive in 2016.
Rio Chances: 5%
Despite the fact that Gabby Douglas is the individual all-around gold medal winner, as well as one of the younger competitors in the competition, we have every reason to believe that this will be the last we see of the "Flying Squirrel" in the Olympic Games.
After winning the gold medal in the all-around Thursday, Gabby admittedly lost focus in her individual events, not even coming close to the medal stand in either of them.
With all of the massive endorsement deals and celebrity appearances that will be thrown her way in the upcoming months and years, it's hard to think that Gabby will be able to maintain the focus needed to contend for a spot on the Olympic team.
Both of the big stars to emerge from the 2008 games, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, both fell short of the 2012 Games largely in part due to time taken off due to their celebrity status. Most likely Gabby Douglas will follow the same path.
Rio Chances: 10%
At first thought, I believed Aly Raisman, the oldest member of the team this year at 18, would be too far past her prime to compete for a spot on the Olympic team in 2016.
But after her phenomenal performance throughout the Olympic Games both as a performer and natural leader, I think there's reason to believe that Raisman could have a chance to make another magical Olympic run.
Aly told Will Graves that she was set on going to Worlds next year and is intent on working hard enough to make the team in 2016. Her close friend and mentor, Alicia Sacramone, will serve as an example of how to keep her body in Olympic shape into her early 20's.
If she can stay in shape and continue training hard in the gym over the next four years, Aly could be considered for the 2016 team. In fact, the committee may consider taking her mainly based on her incredible leadership qualities, even if her gymnastics take a slight step back. But, with the depth of the U.S. gymnastics program, it isn't hard to believe that there may be five more gymnasts that are simply better than Aly.
Rio Chances: 40%
There's no reason to believe that McKayla Maroney, if she stays focused in the gym, will lose her title of best vaulter in the world by 2016.
In fact, she mentioned today that she has ambitions of adding a new, more difficult vault to her repertoire. Most speculation leads us to believe that she will be trying to perfect a triple twisting Yurchenko, which has never been done before. If she can start to consistently land a vault this difficult in competitions, it will be most likely renamed the "Maroney."
After her stunning fall in the vault final this year, the motivation for Maroney to stay focused enough to win gold on that event in 2016 should be there.
The only thing potentially keeping McKayla from Rio as an athlete in 2016 is the beaming star quality that leads many to think she could be just as successful out of the gym. Maroney has stated she wants to try acting, but at the very least, McKayla would be a tremendously entertaining reality TV star.
Rio Chances: 65%
Kyla Ross is the only amateur on this "Fierce Five" team, and she plans on staying an amateur despite the big money she could make on endorsements and appearances after the game.
Instead of taking time off and going on tour with the rest of the elite gymnasts, relishing the new celebrity status that she has, Kyla plans on getting right back into the classroom and gym after London.
She is the quietest of the group, and draws the least amount of attention to herself, but that may help her in her quest to be a part of the team in Rio.
Being the youngest on the team right now, Kyla will be right in the prime of her career at age 19 in 2016. Barring injury, we will most likely see Kyla Ross on the United States team four years from now, ready to defend her team gold. She may improve enough to contend for some individual medals as well.
Rio Chances: 75%
So you may be thinking, if at least two or three of the "Fierce Five" will not make the Olympic team in 2016, who will?
Being four whole years down the line, it's really impossible to tell. Gymnasts who are currently 11 or 12 will be in contention for spots on the team, and many of them haven't even advanced to level 10 yet.
That being said, here are some of the names that have potential to be on the Rio team.
Sarah Finnegan: 15-year-old who was the first alternate to the London team this year. Finnegan is a master at the balance beam, who could potentially medal in that event if added to the team for Rio.
Lexie Preissman: The winner of the junior all-around competition at the Visa Championships, Lexie will progress to a senior next year and contend for a spot on the team at Worlds. She also won gold at the floor exercise at the Visa Nationals and performs the two-and-a-half twisting Amanar vault that the rest of the team made famous this year.
Bailie Key: At 13, Bailie is the youngest member of the Junior National team right now, and looks to have potential to become a world class all-around gymnast in time for Rio.
Madison Desch: A teammate of Finnegan's at GAGE gymnastics in Missouri, Desch finished second in the junior all-around at the Visa Championships. With an all-American look and sweetness that will take America's hearts, hopefully 14-year-old Desch can continue to improve her all-around gymnastics and compete for a spot in Rio, right in the prime of her career.
Simone Biles: Simone is a high flying vault specialist, who may become Maroney's biggest competition on vault. She has potential to medal on vault at the Rio Games if she continues to improve.
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