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Now that Liukin is out…

I have to admit I was a bit shocked to read that Nastia pulled out of consideration for the world team.  She seemed so committed and excited to get back out on the world stage.  It reminded me a bit of Paul Hamm’s withdrawal from Beijing…both could have competed, but as Olympic all-around champions, they didn’t see the point if they weren’t ready to win gold.
Don’t get me wrong though – I certainly don’t view them in the same way. I felt Paul Hamm could have still easily helped the U.S. team tremendously in Beijing, even if he wasn’t competing in the all-around. That’s why his withdrawal was especially disappointing. Nastia, on the other hand, knows there isn’t a team competition in London, and thus I see her decision as a more selfless attempt to allow another girl to gain experience in her place. I think it makes sense for her to stay home if she’s not quite ready to do what she’s capable of, when meanwhile a less experienced up-and-comer could benefit from this opportunity tremendously.
So who’s going to take this spot that’s now up for grabs? You may recall that my prior prediction for the world team was:
Bridget Sloan            (AA)
Rebecca Bross          (AA)
Nastia Liukin             (UB, BB)
Kayla Williams          (FX, V)
I think it’s most likely that the girl replacing her will have to be a bars/beam specialist. The only ones I can realistically see in the running are Chellsie Memmel and Samantha Shapiro, although I guess we need to consider Ivana Hong since she did win beam at both the U.S. Classic and U.S. Championships. But let’s face it…Ivana is no bars specialist, and unless there was a gymnast who could do the other three events, I don’t see how that would make sense. Other gymnasts whom I would like to see on the world team include Mattie Larson and Samantha
Peszek, but there would have to be a way to fit in their strengths.
One possible strategy could be to put in simply a bars specialist – like Mackenzie Caquatto or Samantha Shapiro – along with Peszek or Larson, who would compete beam, floor, and vault. But I don’t know that either of them have a second vault, and that’s why I thought we would need either Kayla Williams or Kytra Hunter. Let’s take a look at these two great bar workers to see if they might be worth sending to worlds for this event:
Mackenzie Caquatto Bars 2009 U.S. Championships
Mackenzie Caquatto Bars 2009 USA vs. Germany
Samantha Shapiro Bars 2009 Gymnix
Two very different routines, but awesome stuff from both of them. I really love Caquatto’s release skills and the free swing of the routine, while Shapiro’s razor sharp toe point, beautiful lines, and technical precision would be well received on the world stage.
I’d love to hear your comments about how this team will pan out!