And the finalists are…

Since women’s gymnastics team selections have become somewhat like a game show or beauty pageant, I figured we might as well treat it as such! Originally we had ten “survivors” of the world selection process, but unfortunately it’s already been reduced to nine since Samantha Peszek has decided to drop out of contention, opting for shoulder surgery instead. I was disappointed to hear this, as I honestly don’t see why a torn labrum (a very common injury for gymnasts that many have without even knowing it) should keep her from doing her best on at least beam and floor. She certainly didn’t seem to be hampered at USA’s in any way, and looked as strong and confident as ever. It sounds as if she’s chosen to have the surgery now to be fully ready to begin her NCAA season at UCLA next fall – and become yet another potential world class all-around gymnast who never got a chance to show what she was capable of. She should be fighting for an all-around medal at the world championships or Olympic Games, not competing in the NCAA with gymnasts half her caliber. Although she’s made comments that she “hasn’t ruled out” the Olympics in 2012, all of us who’ve heard NCAA gymnasts say that time and time and time again know good and well that’s not going to happen. My guess is we will never see Samantha Peszek on the world stage again.
Here are the gymnasts who will be attending the second selection camp September 30th – October 4th and vying for the four available spots on the world team:
  • Bridget Sloan
  • Rebecca Bross
  • Ivana Hong
  • Chellsie Memmel
  • Jana Bieger
  • Kayla Williams
  • Kytra Hunter
  • Cassie Whitcomb
  • Macquenzie Caquatto
Often times it is fairly obvious at this point which gymnasts are likely going to be named to the team, or at the very least, all but one. This time it’s a bit different though…I honestly can’t say for sure which four I think they’re going to take. I originally would have said that every gymnast on the list except for maybe Cassie Whitcomb has a legitimate shot, but now I’ve heard rumors that Cassie was surprisingly good at the first camp. After watching her at USA’s, I really didn’t see what she could possibly offer to a world team, but I’ve learned over the years that rumors about these mysterious camps have a strange way of being true. Although I STILL doubt she will be picked for the team, Marta does seem to have a bit of a bias towards Mary Lee Tracy’s athletes, probably as a result of what they went through together in with the “Mag 7” in 1996.
So who’s going to make it? I do think that two spots are all but secured – Bridget Sloan and Rebecca Bross. Bridget simply has to be a lock – she’s become the leader of the U.S. team this year, is the new national champion, and is stronger and more confident than ever. She deserves a shot to go for an all-around medal at worlds, which is entirely possible if she keeps her cool. And although Bross placed behind Ivana Hong at nationals, I feel sure they would choose Bross as an all-arounder over Hong. She needs this experience, because she is undoubtedly going to be a major player for the U.S. over the next three years. I think she does have a shot at an all-around medal, but even if she goes out and makes some mistakes (as she did at nationals), the experience will be worth it to prepare her for the rest of the quadrennium.
As for Hong, I STILL don’t see it. She’s a clean and polished gymnast, but for me, she still lacks too much. I do like her Yurchenko double full, but as with 99% of the U.S. athletes, she doesn’t have a second vault as far as I know. I’ve never liked her bars. It completely lacks swing. She has one release move that has absolutely no height whatsoever, she still doesn’t know how to pirouette in a handstand, and her double layout dismount is a very poor choice for her. Her beam is good and would certainly be the best argument for placing her on the team, especially considering the fact that her D-score of 6.2 at nationals was three tenths higher than the next highest D-score awarded. And I will admit that since Liukin and Peszek have both dropped out of contention, Ivana’s chances for competing as a beam specialist have gone WAY up. And as for floor, well, it would be a sad day if tumbling as weak as Ivana’s would ever be in contention for medaling on the world stage.
I’m also not convinced that Chellsie Memmel is going to be ready. If anyone could prove that statement wrong, it’s Chellsie, but she was quite a ways away from looking in top shape at USA’s, and that was just on one event. Bars is always questionable for her because of her shoulder, and I don’t know that her body could quickly get into a healthy condition to do a world class floor routine either. I would LOVE to see her make it, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. And as for Jana Bieger, her 5.8 D-score on floor was actually tied with Sloan and Bross for the highest, and a tenth higher than Peszek, Williams, and Hunter. Her bars D-score of 6.1 was the second highest behind Bross, and her beam D-score was the second highest behind Hong. So she DOES have some strong difficulty scores, but of course her execution scores have let a little to be desired in the past couple of years. But since Jana has been received well internationally (2nd AA at 2006 worlds), would Marta consider using these worlds to give Jana one more shot to prove herself? I think that would surprise a lot of people, but I think she may have more of a chance than people realize. She does have THREE events that could at least be considered, and if she could learn to point her toes, she could be right in the mix.
Next let’s take a look at a few videos of some of these contenders from USA’s that you may not have seen…