I was as saddened as anyone to watch one of America’s most tenacious champions go down with injury in such dramatic fashion on Day 2 of the Visa Championships. I think we all instantly knew when a gymnast as tough as Rebecca Bross was brought to an audible cry in front of a nationwide audience after a short landing like that, it couldn’t possibly be good.
The good news is that it isn’t nearly as bad as the ACL tear that we all feared, but the bad news is that it looks like America will be losing one of its most powerful guns for the world championships two months from now. After all, Bross is a two-time world medalist on the uneven bars, the weakest area for the U.S. when compared directly with Russia and China. She’s also a two-time world medalist in the all-around who was counted on heavily by the team for her beam and floor scores as well. If there’s a gymnast the U.S. really couldn’t have afforded to lose, it was Rebecca Bross.
Some might say Bross’ injury may even be a blessing in disguise, however, as she clearly didn’t look herself at these national championships. From her multiple falls on beam, to her fluke fall on bars, to her extremely labored vaults, to her highly uninspired floor choreography, to the overall tired look in her eyes, Rebecca Bross looked like she either needed a few cups of coffee or a two-week vacation to the beach. Perhaps she can have both now…and be ready to fully kick it in gear for what should be the biggest year of her life.
As far as her Olympic chances go, we should remember that Bross excels on the event the U.S. team needs the most – uneven bars – and a temporarily injured knee isn’t going to change that. The U.S. team needs Bross’ bars so badly that I don’t see her Olympic spot being in jeopardy unless she simply decides she doesn’t want it. If Alicia Sacramone and Chellsie Memmel can come back stronger than ever after taking 2 and 3 years off from competition, I think Rebecca Bross can handle a couple of months of down time.
It’s interesting to see the parallel between the Russian team and the American team heading into these world championships. Both teams will be showcasing their new senior rookies who are expected to contend for the all-around title – Viktoria Komova and Jordyn Wieber – but both will be missing their more seasoned star veterans – Aliya Mustafina and Rebecca Bross. Both Mustafina and Bross were going to be used on multiple events by their respective teams, but both were particularly counted on heavily for bars. I almost expected Mustafina might still be used on bars at these worlds, as the competition in Tokyo will mark six months since her torn ACL in April. And likewise, when I heard the nature of Bross’ injury I envisioned that a role as a bars specialist was still entirely possible. But based on all recent announcements it appears that neither will be competing in Tokyo after all, and their teams will have to find some additional 15+ bars scores without them.
So although Bross looked far from the multiple world medalist we all know from 2009 and 2010, let’s not write off her Olympic chances just yet. As a standard for comparison, remember that Nastia Liukin struggled with ankle injuries tremendously in 2006 and 2007 and landed in more awkward squats and splats than any of us cared to see. Even at the 2008 Visa Championships she didn’t look to have the power to contend for the Olympic all-around title, but when the main event arrived and the Olympic lights turned on, the champion from within her emerged to conquer the world. Let’s hope that this minor setback will give Bross the chance to rediscover that inner champion and prepare to make magic in London 2012…the way both her teammates have done before her.