The 2011 Covergirl Classic might not have had an abundance of all-arounders, but it wasn’t lacking in world and Olympic contenders. Highlighted by a unique clash between three of the 2008 Olympic team members, several NCAA event specialists, and some world class senior rookies, this year’s Covergirl was one of the most intriguing we’ve ever seen. Let’s take a look back at twelve gymnasts from the meet who will be vying for a world team spot in just a couple of months.
Chellsie Memmel. One of the biggest surprises in all of gymnastics right now, Chellsie proved she’s not only one of the toughest competitors in USA Gymnastics history, but she’s also suddenly a real threat for the 2011 world team and 2012 Olympic team. Let’s hope this incredibly talented but often unfortunate gymnast might finally enjoy the Olympic journey she truly deserves.
Alicia Sacramone. After a lengthy break from competition following her golden world championships in 2010, Sacramone showed that same sizzling confidence that highlighted her comeback to the sport last year. Though she struggled with the boundaries on floor, adding this event to her arsenal has made her far more valuable to Team USA, and her new music and choreography were a hit with the fans.
Shawn Johnson. It may not have been a picture-perfect first outing, but Shawn Johnson is now officially back. Aside from a few nerves and a little self-doubt, the overall look of her gymnastics on bars and beam was essentially unchanged from the Olympic champion we saw in Beijing. I wasn’t completely convinced we’ll see her in the world championships this year, but I also wasn’t convinced we won’t. Getting that first comeback meet out of the way can work magic for a gymnast’s motivation and confidence. I expect we’ll see her take several steps forward at the Visa’s in a few weeks, where we’ll get a much bigger picture of where she’s headed.
Jordyn Wieber. We’ve come to expect greatness from America’s rising covergirl, and this meet was certainly no exception. The fact that she scored matching 15.2’s on her weakest event (bars) and strongest event (beam) says something about this gymnast’s growing consistency as an all-arounder. With American Rebecca Bross and Russia’s top stars currently battling injury, Jorydn is arguably the best gymnast in the world and will have a chance to prove it in just a couple of months.
Aly Raisman. She may have started the meet with some serious struggles, but perhaps the best quality Aly demonstrated in Chicago was her competitive tenacity and ability to shake off a rough performance. Though she still lacks a little polish, her trademark solid beam routine, upgraded first tumbling pass on floor, and successful Amanar on vault will keep Aly right in the mix as one of America’s most valuable assets. Winning the all-around was a nice bonus as well.
Gabrielle Douglas. Though she only competed one event in Chicago, it couldn’t have possibly turned out better for this first-year senior. Nailing one of the most difficult bar routines in the country with exquisite lines, beautiful form, and a stuck landing has to place this gymnast high on Marta’s list for Tokyo this year.
Sabrina Vega. Also in her first year as a senior, Sabrina Vega has artistry, beauty, and maturity beyond her years. Her well-balanced all-around and solid scores on three events in Chicago will keep her on Marta’s radar, but she’ll need to make up for her mental lapse on bars here at the Visa Championships next month. Otherwise she may simply end up being a convenient alternate for the world team.
Bridgette Caquatto. Her fall on floor certainly didn’t help her cause, but Bridgette’s bar routine has become one of the best the USA has. Scores on this event will be absolutely critical in St. Paul next month, and Bridgette may be battling with her sister Mackenzie, teammate Anna Li, Gabrielle Douglas, and perhaps even McKenzie Wofford for a possible spot as a bars specialist in Tokyo.
Mackenzie Caquatto. Although her younger sister outscored her by a 0.15 on the event where both particularly excel (bars), Mackenzie’s performance at worlds last year and competitive experience in college this year will likely make her the more marketable of the two. Her solid beam routine in Chicago also speaks to her growing confidence and maturity.
Anna Li. It’s tough to say how much this former UCLA star’s fluke fall on bars will affect her chances for the world team. Her huge 6.5 D-score on this event and competitive experience could be a tremendous asset for Team USA on the world stage against Russia and China this fall. She’ll need to hit both routines at Visa’s next month to have a chance, but if she does, she’ll give that selection committee something to seriously consider.
McKenzie Wofford. She’s Marta Karolyi’s dream…a gorgeous gymnast who’s very strong on both bars and beam. Wofford probably raised a few eyebrows when she turned in the most difficult beam routine of the entire field with a 6.3, 14.8 score as well as a very strong 5.9, 14.6 score on bars. If she adds just a little bit of difficulty to that bar routine, she has the look and execution to be a surprise player for the U.S.
Makayla Maroney. Although vault is her biggest asset, Maroney used this meet to show off her beautiful elegance on beam and revamped tumbling on floor. She came up short on her new double Arabian dismount on floor, but make no mistake that this gymnast will be right in the hunt for a spot in both Tokyo and London.
Next stop…Visa U.S. Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota August 17-20th , where these twelve along with Rebecca Bross and Bridget Sloan will vie for national titles and spots on the U.S. world championship team.