Olympic Gymnastics 2012: Having McKayla Maroney on US Team Is Big Gamble

Avi Wolfman-Arent@@awolfmancomethCorrespondent IIJuly 10, 2012

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

When USA Gymnastics announced its five-woman team for the 2012 London Olympics, four of the five names went largely unquestioned.

Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross were all various shades of shoe-ins based on the results at U.S. Olympic Trials in San Jose.

Then there was the fifth, young McKayla Maroney.

Maroney finished just seventh in the all-around competition at the trials, many paces behind her main competition for the fifth spot, Elizabeth Price.

Upon seeing Maroney's name in the starting five, you could hear a collective "What Gives?" rise up from the Price partisans.

Indeed, there is plenty to question about Maroney's inclusion.

National Team Director Martha Karolyi is essentially betting that Maroney can do two things for the U.S. team in London:

1) Post a big score on vault during the team competition.

2) Win an individual gold medal on the vault apparatus as she did at last year's World Championships.

That's it.

If Maroney fails to deliver on both—particularly the first, since Karolyi's primary purpose is to construct a gold-medal-winning team—her selection will have been in vain.

To those who have followed women's gymnastics at past Olympiads, that might not sound like such a crazy wager.

Apparatus specialists are commonplace in a sport where the slightest misstep or difficulty rating can separate gold from silver.

Or at least they were.

You might remember that the famous 1996 American team had seven members (hence the nickname, "Magnificent Seven"). That number dropped to six in 2000.

London will mark the first Olympics where each team is allowed just five scoring members.

The effect of those rule changes has been to squeeze out specialists like Maroney.

Prevailing wisdom tells us that teams can't afford to retain a gymnast who does just one thing well. It puts too large an onus on the rest of the four team members, who must together fill all three spots in each of the other three rotations.

And if one wants to counter that wisdom as Karolyi has done?

Well, one better be right.


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