The USA men’s team has a real dilemma. Despite several guys having an awesome competition at the Visa Championships – especially the second night – things just aren’t fitting together very smoothly. I’m talking about the formation of this year’s world championship team.
The men’s selection committee will literally hand-pick the world championship team that will represent the USA in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in just two months. They’re supposedly going to announce the national team tonight and the world team tomorrow (August 14th). The world team will consist of exactly six gymnasts, and there’s some serious strategy involved in the selection of these six gymnasts. There are two days of team competition at the world championships – the preliminaries and the team finals. In the preliminaries, each team can put up five gymnasts on each event, and the top four scores count. In the team finals, only three gymnasts can compete on each event, and all three scores have to count.
Thus, the real strategy in selecting the team centers around trying to get your top three gymnasts on each of six events onto one six-member team. In most cases, taking the top three gymnasts on each event ends up producing far more than six gymnasts, and so compromises have to be made. The goal of the committee is to figure out where the smartest places are to make these compromises, and to come up with the six gymnasts whom they feel will produce the best team score in the “three-up, three-count” format. And they must take into consideration factors that might not be so obvious from looking at a scoresheet, such as the likelihood each gymnast will hit under intense pressure, how well the team will “gel” together, and how healthy each gymnast is.
To emphasize the current dilemma of the selection committee, let’s take a look at how many gymnasts result when we take the top three on each event:
Yikes…fourteen gymnasts! And this isn’t to suggest that these fourteen are the only gymnasts the committee could choose from. For example, if a guy placed 4th or 5th on multiple events and these events happened to be needed by the team, that gymnast may actually be a better alternative than a gymnast who placed 3rd on events where the team is already strong. As you can see, the job of the selection committee is a very tricky one (imagine four hardcore gymnastics experts trying to come to a unanimous agreement on this), and this year in particular presents some very, very difficult decisions.
After tonight’s competition, I feel there are nine gymnasts who are truly still in contention to be named to the world team:
1. Jonathan Horton
2. Danell Leyva
3. Brandon Wynn
4. Chris Brooks
5. Steven Legendre
6. Paul Ruggeri
7. Kevin Tan
8. Chris Cameron
9. Daniel Ribeiro
Had Wesley Haagensen done better on pommel horse, he’d still be on my list. And although Glen Ishino had a great all-around performance and even placed 3rd on pommel horse, it wouldn’t make sense to choose him over Ribeiro – who won pommel horse – or Cameron, who placed 2nd on pommel horse and also could be used on rings.
So who among these nine will be named to the six-member team? Tomorrow I’ll list some possible teams, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each!