I’ve done enough venting about the women’s age restrictions over the last few years. This year, instead of providing my opinions regarding how nonsensical these restrictions are, not to mention how destructive they are for our sport, our fans, and for the world and Olympic aspirations of some of the most talented female athletes in America, I’ve decided to simply provide some interesting facts.
Here are some very curious statistics I noticed regarding the women’s competition at this year’s Visa Championships:
- More total gymnasts competed in the junior competition than in the senior competition (25 vs. 20)
- TWICE as many junior gymnasts competed eight full routines compared to senior gymnasts: 24 juniors vs. 12 seniors (didn’t count Chellsie Memmel since she didn’t finish bars on Day 2 and didn’t count Rebecca Bross since she didn’t compete bars on Day 2).
- If we combined the individual event standings between the juniors and seniors, a junior gymnast would have had the top score on three out of the four events, including the top TWO scores on beam. They also would have had at least one gymnast in the top three on all four events.
- If we combined the all-around standings between the juniors and seniors, the juniors would have had three of the top four all-arounders, and five of the top ten all-arounders.
- The top three all-around scores among the junior gymnasts totaled nearly three points higher than the top three all-around scores among the senior gymnasts (353.9 vs. 351.05). If we count the top SIX all-arounders in each group, this difference increases to over five-and-a-half points (692.65 vs. 687.1).
- If we combined the all-around and event results between the juniors and seniors, the hypothetical world team that would have likely resulted would have included three juniors and three seniors.
Let’s take a look at what the hypothetical event and all-around results would have been had the juniors and seniors been combined (top six on each event and top ten all-arounders shown; junior gymnasts listed in bold):
|1. Jordyn Wieber||31.80|
|2. McKayla Maroney||31.75|
|3. Lexie Priessman||31.55|
|3. Alicia Sacramone||31.55|
|5. Mykayla Skinner||30.45|
|6. Aly Raisman||30.15|
|1. Katelyn Ohashi||30.15|
|2. Jordyn Wieber||29.75|
|3. Mackenzie Caquatto||29.70|
|4. Kyla Ross||29.60|
|5. Anna Li||29.45|
|5. Gabrielle Douglas||29.45|
|1. Katelyn Ohashi||31.05|
|2. Kyla Ross||30.45|
|3. Alicia Sacramone||30.10|
|4. Chellsie Memmel||30.00|
|5. Jordyn Wieber||29.90|
|6. Shawn Johnson||29.40|
|1. Katelyn Ohashi||30.05|
|2. Jordyn Wieber||29.90|
|3. Rebecca Bross||29.50|
|4. Lexie Priessman||29.15|
|4. Aly Raisman||29.15|
|6. Sarah Finnegan||29.10|
|1. Jordyn Wieber||121.30|
|2. Katelyn Ohashi||120.95|
|3. Kyla Ross||117.65|
|4. Sarah Finnegan||115.30|
|5. McKayla Maroney||115.15|
|6. Lexie Priessman||115.10|
|7. Aly Raisman||114.60|
|8. Mackenzie Caquatto||112.50|
|9. Sabrina Vega||112.05|
|9. Amelia Hundley||112.05|
If we were to have made a “Dream Team” for the world championships from these results, we would have likely come up with something like this:
USA Hypothetical “Dream Team”
This team would literally include the top three scorers on every event except for one – Mackenzie Caquatto, who would have been third on bars but would have likely been replaced by Kyla Ross, who scored just one tenth lower but was also second on beam. Note Rebecca Bross was third on floor but obviously couldn’t be used due to injury. Lexie Priessman, the next highest scorer on floor, would be the logical replacement, particularly considering Priessman also tied for third on vault.
Of course we could begin theorizing what kind of team Russia and China could come up with if allowed to use junior gymnasts, but I would feel quite confident in saying that this American Dream Team would dominate them, largely due to vault. Note this team would have FOUR of the best Amanars in the world as well as a laid-out rudi from Sacramone, while a combined team from Russia or China would have nowhere near this kind of vaulting arsenal.
I believe these facts speak for themselves, but I wanted to leave this topic with just a few rhetorical questions:
- If gymnasts under age 16 aren’t “mentally ready” for big-time competition, why are they outscoring their elder counterparts?
- Aren’t the world championships, by definition, supposed to represent the very best gymnasts a country has to offer?
- If more total gymnasts are participating and twice as many gymnasts competing in the all-around in the junior division compared to the senior division, doesn’t this suggest something about when the gymnasts are peaking in terms of physical ability and health?
- If the junior gymnasts, as a group, are showing greater scoring potential and depth than the senior gymnasts, doesn’t this provide further evidence that the cutoff age is simply off the mark?
- If the total number of all-arounders between the juniors and seniors was just 36 and the total participants just 45 (which could easily be adjusted if necessary), wouldn’t it make sense to simply combine them into one incredible elite competition, and leave “junior gymnastics” to the Junior Olympic Nationals?