I’ll definitely be in an “American Cup” mood this week, as I’m very excited to be heading down to Jacksonville to see the meet live next weekend.
The American Cup has always been one of my favorite competitions. I think this meet will always hold a special place in my heart, as watching the 1991 and 1992 American Cups as a kid was a big reason why I got hooked on the sport to begin with. Not only has the American Cup always been one of the few gymnastics competitions to be consistently televised live, but it has provided us with some of the most historic and magical moments in USA gymnastics history. There’s just something about this meet that has always tended to bring out stunning performances from our American men and women. It might have something to do with the energy of springtime and the fact that it’s typically the first major international event of the year. Or of course it may have to do with the home court advantage, the screaming American fans, and the live television cameras everywhere. Or perhaps it has to do with the incredible history of the event and its tradition of serving as almost an uncanny foreshadowing of world and Olympic greatness. Say what you will about the Americans being traditionally overscored at this competition, but there’s no denying the fact that they have rightfully generated the hype and expectations that have come to surround them at this annual event.
This is why I’m so excited that the American Cup has finally earned the respect that it deserves, becoming an official FIG World Cup event that invites the top 8 ranked male and female gymnasts in the entire world. Although this meet has certainly featured some of the world’s top stars here and there, its foreign invitees have always seemed somewhat random and unpredictable. Some have provided memorable performances and of course have even won the competition, but in general many of the foreign athletes have tended to show up looking like party poopers at an American bash…often appearing a bit tired, jetlagged, or simply out of shape, particularly in comparison to the normally sharp and pumped up Americans. It seems that criticism of the competition has grown considerably over the years, to the point that no matter how great a performance is given by an American winner, his or her championship is often chalked up to “home-cooking.” With its new official status, this competition can now be viewed as not only on the same level as the European World Cup events, but one of the premier events in the world.
This year the top 8 men and women from the worlds in Rotterdam were invited to compete in Jacksonville, and despite several recent dropouts, it’s still going to be one of the very best fields the competition has ever featured, showcasing a stunning 7 of the top 10 men in the world and 5 of the top 10 women in the world.
Check back for a look at some past great American Cup moments as well as a detailed preview of next weekend’s competition over the next several days!