I had to rewatch last night’s women’s competition this morning before finalizing my thoughts on it. There are so many great gymnasts with so many different strengths…and also so many things to consider as we attempt to put together this Olympic team. Overall I thought it was an excellent meet – MILES better than last year’s Visa Championships, which became a survival contest in which Jordyn Wieber looked to be the only gymnast ready to compete on the world stage. This year, we’ve got at least a dozen gymnasts who could realistically contribute to the Olympic team on at least one event. There are a lot of different scenarios to consider, and some of the events from last night simply ended up creating more hypothetical scenarios rather than actually nailing down answers for us…Elizabeth Price nearly breaking a 60 in the all-around, Sarah Finnegan beating the entire field on beam, Alicia Sacramone looking fabulous, Bridget Sloan hitting a killer bars set, and Nastia Liukin turning what looked to be a remarkable Olympic comeback into one huge question mark with a surprisingly rough bars set.
After watching last night’s competition twice, who are my top five Olympians? For me, they are the exact same five I had before the meet began: Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, and McKayla Maroney. The biggest question for me surrounds the alternates, as there are numerous gymnasts to consider here. If I had to pick three at this point, I’d go with Sarah Finnegan, Elizabeth Price, and….Alicia Sacramone. This could easily change, particularly if Nastia comes up with a bars routine she can hit, or, for that matter, if Jordyn Wieber begins to have trouble with bars again. It would probably be ideal to have another 15 on bars amongst one of the alternates, considering the lack of depth here. Elizabeth Price is certainly close, so she will have to suffice for now. Other options to consider, of course, would be Nastia Liukin, Rebecca Bross, Bridget Sloan, and Anna Li. But even Bross, Sloan, and Li are just scoring low 15’s, and to me a mid to high 15 would be much more convincing. Price is a potential contributor on vault, bars, and floor, which makes her more valuable than these other bar workers, and that’s why I’ve got her in an alternate spot right now.
But as for my current five, it hasn’t changed, and I feel all of them are continuing to earn their spots. Wieber, Douglas, Raisman all hit four for four, put up big scores where we need them, and are looking Olympic ready. These three are still locks. Kyla Ross also hit four for four, actually led the all-around after three events, put up the highest bars score of the night (even surpassing Douglas), and was rock solid on beam. I don’t see how in the world we could deny this girl a spot on the Olympic team at this point. The biggest question may be McKayla Maroney, but I’d STILL put her on this team. She continues to show the best vault in the world and consistently nails a massive 16 here, not to mention that her second vault is phenomenal and clearly makes her the front runner for the Olympic gold. Her floor was improved (though I DO NOT understand why they have that third pass in there – see more details below) and scored a solid 14.6 – a potential backup option if we need it. And that girl is just plain TOUGH. She’s confident, and she’s a fighter, and I bet she would do her job under pressure on just about any event you asked her to, simply because she’s that type of competitor. If you look closely, you can see a fire in her eyes that seems to shine the word “Olympian.”
I think the biggest factor in McKayla Maroney making this Olympic team will probably be Jordyn Wieber continuing to hit bars. If Jordyn looks reliable on bars, this team just needs one additional bar worker besides Gabby Douglas, and that will be Kyla Ross. If Jordyn doesn’t look reliable on bars, this team might need two additional bar workers – and that would open up the door for any of the numerous gymnasts I mentioned above. But Jordyn Wieber is the world champion and one of the toughest competitors you’ll find anywhere, so I have a strong suspicion her bars are going to be just fine. Until I see otherwise, McKayla Maroney has already earned her spot in my opinion.
Here a few more thoughts on the meet, gymnast by gymnast:
We’ll start with Nastia Liukin. I think we all were just a little bit shocked…after watching her at the Classic and even in training here, this appeared to be headed for a storybook comeback that would somehow land in London this summer. But after seeing that bar routine, it’s not even clear whether Nastia is currently in the running as an alternate. The skills are there, but to appear that far away from being able to do that dismount and also now showing an even greater tendency to pull that Pak salto in WAY too close to the low bar, she has a lot left to prove. As far as the Pak goes – she was showing this same tendency in 2008 (rewatch her routines in Beijing), but it’s even more pronounced now. She seems to tap WAY too early for the skill, which sends it out way too far forward and close to the low bar. I would love to see her connect the Pak out of a release move – the Gienger perhaps – as it might actually take away some of the excess swing she seems to generate from dropping from the handstand like that.
So what to do? Well for starters, I think it might be smart for her to take out the Tcatchev – at least for this meet – because it’s simply making the routine unnecessarily longer. She’s not going to impress anyone with that Tcatchev anyway, so I would just take it out. She could eventually replace it with just an inbar stalder – also a D skill (which she used to do) – and which would require much less energy and fewer cast handstands. And finally, does she really HAVE to do that double front half dismount? Considering she even had so much trouble with that dismount at the end of her routine in 2008 – when she was at her best – it’s hard to imagine this is going to work well now. That dismount is just so extremely difficult, particularly out of inverts, and I can’t IMAGINE she couldn’t find another dismount to do instead. I know she got a little too tall for the double layout she used to do, but what about a nice, easy half-in-half-out? SURELY she could do this.
Jordyn Wieber came on just slightly high onto the vaulting table, giving her just a little less height on that Amanar. She has some strong quad muscles that protected her knee in that situation. Many gymnasts would have ended up dropping out of the meet after a landing like that…but not Jordyn Wieber. That was the best bar routine we’ve seen from her in quite some time, and very important to show for this team. Beam was slightly shaky but she held it together in her typical world champion fashion. I think the front handspring, back full, back handpspring sequence is really cool, but I do wonder if it would be smarter to focus on connecting just one side of the full rather than both. Floor was one of her best ever, and you could tell she sensed the challenge from some of the other all-arounders. I love the fact that we have a real race here.
Gabby Douglas could easily win this thing – and what a huge statement that would be for her to beat the world champion this close to the Olympics. It was great to see the huge smile on her face throughout the competition – I think she is finally realizing she is one of the best gymnasts in the world and also is settling in to the fact that she’s about to go to the Olympic Games. She continues to fight through beam just a bit, and I don’t see her being used in the team finals in London here, but it also wouldn’t surprise me to see her hit this event there either – just like she did in Tokyo. Her vault didn’t quite have the height (still twisting slightly early), but standing that up was HUGE for her confidence. I still don’t particularly like her floor routine, but it looks like we’re stuck with if for London. I’m sure I’ll like it much better if it helps secure Olympic gold for this team on the final event.
Aly Raisman was Aly Raisman – there’s nothing more to say. She could possibly win Olympic gold on floor, and beam was rock solid as always. Bars was par for the course for Aly – she’s definitely just not as confident here as she is on the other events, and I think that’s why she still has the form breaks (some suggested she looked slightly cleaner here…perhaps marginally so). Why does she always pull that Tcatchev in too close?
Kyla Ross did exactly what she needed to do to prove she’s ready to make this Olympic team – beam was much more confident than at the Classic, and bars was excellent with just a couple of small form breaks. It’s a shame they just never found a better D-score on floor for her, because this could keep her from making the all-around finals in London. Throwing just a DTY on vault was a smart move. Does this gymnast ever miss?
Elizabeth Price’s floor was underscored…she had the bounce back on the double layout, but an 8.55 E-score for that world class routine was definitely too harsh, especially considering Gabby Douglas received an 8.95, and Kyla Ross received an 8.65 with several steps on two of her landings. I really thought after Price’s mistakes at the U.S. Classic she would be a long shot for London, but after hitting four for four last night she is back in this race. I think an alternate spot is highly possible as I mentioned above. If Jordyn Wieber were to begin having trouble on bars again, Price could be one of the first to replace McKayla Maroney, because she’d offer nearly the same vault (without the gold in event finals, however) and a strong bar routine to the team lineup.
Sarah Finnegan appeared to lose a little bit of Olympic momentum when she stumbled on floor, but the judges still showed her a lot of appreciation here with a strong 14.8. Posting another 15+ score like she did at Classic would do a lot to at least solidify an alternate spot, and she’s obviously capable of doing this. Beam was excellent, and posting the highest score of the meet here certainly raises some eyebrows, but considering there were several scores in the 15-15.2 range, it’s not a slam dunk. Her triple wolf turn was fabulous, and she showed a lot of maturity by disguising some slightly “off” connections such as the Arabian to Korbut and the front aerial to back pike. She obviously didn’t throw an Amanar this week, but if you watch her DTY from this meet, it’s actually really good. An Amanar isn’t impossible to imagine.
Can someone please explain to me why in the world McKayla Maroney is doing that third pass on floor? First of all, she already has a combination pass to fulfill that requirement (2 1/2 to front full) and she could easily put another single skill here worth just as much, like a double arabian (which she used to dismount with) or even a triple full. Second of all, why is she still running so far into a simple 1 1/2? She was landing this pass right in the corner last year, and even then it was only because she completely gainers the double back and practically lands back in the same spot she took off from – not exactly impressive technique. Can they please change this? She is beautiful to watch though, and potentially a contributor on floor if they would just get rid of this silly pass.
Alicia Sacramone’s beam was fantastic – one of the best she has ever done, in my opinion. The new sheep jump is one of the best around! The fact that her beam looked better than Nastia’s is interesting, and in my mind currently places her above Nastia until Nastia shows an Olympic-ready bars set. Alicia’s vault wasn’t quite as powerful as she is capable of, but still a very viable backup option on this event. It’s really tough to know where to put Alicia right now, but I would certainly say she surprised some people here and is not out of the picture.
Bridget Sloan is another mystery…a world class bars set but 13’s on the other three events. Her beam and floor are potentially very good, but on both of these events it appeared she could have used a couple of competitions to prepare for this. It was great to see her smiling, enjoying herself, and speaking so positively and confidently in interviews, but overall it appeared that Bridget looked more “happy to be there” rather than “ready to make the Olympics.” I expect Bridget will be chosen for the Trials, though, and she will be one to continue to make this whole process very interesting, particularly if she can put up a near 15 on beam or floor. I never liked that low-bar sequence she does, and I still don’t. I would love to see her take this out and possibly add a more impressive sequence in its place – what about a stalder full to a straddled Tcatchev, which she used to do?
Rebecca Bross…oh boy. I’m somewhat at a loss for words for this gymnast. Bars were still very good but slightly sloppier than she can do, and I’m not even going to comment on beam. It’s already been said – NUMEROUS TIMES. At this point I wonder if she should simply drop beam as well and be strictly a bars specialist – if Martha will allow that. Can you think of ANY scenario at this point where Rebecca would be used in London on balance beam, especially over a gymnast like Kyla Ross? I can’t either, so I don’t really see the need for her to continue to do it. It probably just messes with her head at this point and changes her overall mindset to a negative one. Not to mention it just makes her look like a head case and distracts from what she could actually contribute on bars. I fear she is losing an alternate position by continuing to fall on beam. If she doesn’t start showing some more spark to her gymnastics, she may not be invited to Trials. None of us want to see that happen.
Anna Li is in a similar position as Bross – she’s a great bar worker who would never be used on beam. Li’s bar routine was great, and I felt was underscored in fact (8.45 execution for a very clean routine). Aside from catching the Jaeger a little close and being slightly short of handstand on that first full pirouette, there wasn’t much wrong with it (and don’t tell me a Rybalko has to finish right in handstand!). If she hits bars on Day 2, I think we could see Anna at the Olympic Trials, but she’ll need to put up a high-15 to go beyond that I believe.
Sabrina Vega was lacking a bit of a spark, but her beam was definitely underscored. That routine was essentially flawless until the dismount, and she received an 8.2 E-score. NO WAY! I know she’s not a front runner at this point, but at least give the girl what she deserves. Scoring under a 14 on floor hurt her the most, and that one was due to multiple landing deductions. It will be interesting to see if she gets invited to Trials – she might need a much better meet on Day 2 for that to happen.
That’s enough for now! Getting ready for the men’s finals. Did they get enough rest for today’s meet? I’m still feeling a bit of a hangover from their meet on Thursday night, so I can’t imagine how they feel!