With just a week and a half remaining before the 2011 Visa U.S. Championships, spots on the women’s squad for the world championships in October are still very much up for grabs. Defending national all-around champion and 2010 world all-around bronze medalist Rebecca Bross, if healthy, will be a sure bet for the team, as will 2011 American Cup champion Jordyn Wieber. World vault champion and 2008 Olympian Alicia Sacramone appeared as strong and confident as ever at the recent Covergirl Classic, and teammate and fellow 2010 world team member Aly Raisman won the all-around at the same competition and will be a likely candidate as well.
Of those four top contenders, however, only two of them could be realistically used on uneven bars in the team finals if the U.S. hopes to fend off China and Russia for the world team title – Rebecca Bross and Jordyn Wieber. With the 3-up-3-count world team finals format, that leaves a perfect opportunity for a great bars worker to swoop in and steal a spot on the final world championship team of the quadrennial – and just in time to establish herself as a legitimate contender for the Olympics next summer.
Let’s take a look at seven gymnasts who will be looking to do just that at the upcoming nationals in St. Paul:
Anna Li 2011 Covergirl Classic
Bridgette Caquatto 2011 Covergirl Classic (later in video)
Anna, a 2010 UCLA graduate, has exciting connections, big release moves, and the competitive confidence of a collegiate veteran. If she hits both days in St. Paul, she may well make her first world team at age 22.
With a recently revamped routine, Mackenzie’s younger sister Bridgette now has one of the highest D-scores in the country. With less competitive experience than some of the other bars contenders, she’ll need to hit both days and likely break the 15-mark to truly make her case.
Mackenzie Caquatto 2011 Covergirl Classic
This same event catapulted Mackenzie onto her first world team last year in Rotterdam, where she performed solidly throughout the competition and hit this critical event in the team finals. With one year of college under her belt, Mackenzie is proving her international elite career may be far from over.
Gabrielle Douglas 2011 Covergirl Classic
With the skills and power of a young Dominique Dawes, this first-year senior has been on a rapid rise in 2011, making an impressive senior international debut this spring and unveiling a world class bar routine with loads of potential. She nailed it in Chicago, but is Gabby mentally ready to make her first world team?
McKenzie Wofford 2011 Covergirl Classic
A surprise all-around leader after two rotations in Chicago, Wofford’s bar work is exquisite to watch – and perhaps less risky than some of the other routines with bigger release skills. Particularly if others falter, Wofford could be a dark-horse pick for the world team.
Chellsie Memmel 2011 Covergirl Classic
The veteran warrior shocked the gymnastics world when she showed up at the recent Covergirl Classic looking not too far off from her 2008 form. With the potential to contribute to the U.S. team effort on beam and floor as well, this former world all-around champion and world bars champion may be the perfect piece that Team USA has been looking for.
Bridget Sloan 2010 World Championships
Sneaking onto major teams at the last minute is nothing new for this 2008 Olympian who faltered at the ’08 Olympic Trials and then got it together at the Selection Camp just in time to grab the last spot on the Beijing squad. After winning the 2009 world all-around title and then battling injury for a year, she again found her way onto the 2010 squad in Rotterdam, essentially as a bars specialist. Though we haven’t seen her compete since she placed 4th in the world bars finals last year, Bridget’s international reputation will be very hard to ignore.
Which one of these “lucky seven” will grab the last ticket to Tokyo?