There’s no question that the Visa Championships left a bit of a sour taste in our mouths with regards to the U.S. women’s team. Day 2 of the competition essentially unfolded any team’s worst nightmare – a sudden season-ending injury to one of its stars (Rebecca Bross) and a possible aggravated injury to another (Chellsie Memmel). And these two major insults occurred on top of the sting of inconsistency that plagued the entire competition from start to finish. We saw more falls in a single national championship than we’ve ever seen from the American team – and just two months out from the biggest world championships of the quadrennial and just one year out from the Olympic Games in London. Quite frankly, I think many of us have needed a little time for the dust to settle from this somewhat unnerving competition to see what additional information surfaced before making any judgments regarding the future of this team. Part of that future includes the world championships, which are now just three weeks away in Tokyo.
As those dark clouds have begun to dissipate, the positive aspects of the competition and of this team have become a bit more visible and are important for us all to keep in mind in the coming weeks. This team does still have a healthy Jordyn Wieber, who hit eight-for-eight in Hartford and is likely the very best gymnast in the world right now. Alicia Sacramone is also still healthy and continues to show world class beam and vault as well as the potential for a strong floor routine. Aly Raisman is still a very solid competitor and has upgraded her tumbing on floor. McKayla Maroney had a stellar Day 2 at Visa’s and could potentially be an all-around contender. Mackenzie Caquatto had a solid competition and has shown she can still hit a very strong bar routine under pressure. The Americans now have several great bar workers who could potentially help them defeat the Chinese and Russians. Shawn Johnson has been looking better and better and hit five-for-five at Visa’s, showing she may in fact be ready for a return to world competition sooner than we initially expected. And Chellsie Memmel, despite her strange hiccup on bars in the final moments of her competition, has overall made an incredible comeback and appeared to at least not be seriously injured as some of us initially feared. Despite what most would consider a dismal national championships, that’s an awful lot to be excited about.
The announcement of the U.S. women’s world team is expected to be made sometime in the coming week, as the final selection camp has been taking place over the last several days. The typical rumor mill has been churning, and as is always the case regarding these selection camps, fact and fiction become easily muddled. It’s been widely know that Shawn Johnson had a minor injury to her foot just prior to this camp, and I’ve heard tidbits that she’s added back her standing full on beam. But aside from these details, I can’t say for sure what has been going on behind those Karolyi Camp doors these last few days.
Without knowing many details of the camp, I really can’t make a full prediction for the team at this point, but I do believe that four gymnasts are quite secure – Jordyn Wieber, Alicia Sacramone, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney. I also believe that both Chellsie Memmel and Shawn Johnson are still in the mix, though at the same time I’m not completely confident we’ll see either of them in Tokyo. I believe Anna Li and Gabrielle Douglas were given legitimate chances to redeem themselves of their mistakes in Hartford. And I believe that MacKenzie Caquatto has a very strong chance to make a second world team.
I also believe the U.S. women can put the recent events completely behind them and field one of the very best teams in world – if not the best team in the world – in Tokyo in just a few weeks. Maintaining the health of the gymnasts who remain in contention is absolutely paramount, as we’ve seen time after time after time a very strong tendency for some of the best American gymnasts to get injured just prior to major competition. I really hope these athletes will be given the chance for some genuine rest and healing after this selection camp to preserve their health, strength, and physical and mental energy levels. These will be the factors that will allow them to beat the powerful teams they’ll be facing from Russia, China, and Romania.