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Who will be the second American woman at the American Cup?

As usual, Marta is waiting until the very last minute to tell a gymnast she’s going to compete in a major competition.  While I know Marta likes to pick gymnasts who seem to be “hot” at the exact right time – sometimes almost down to the day – I really don’t agree with the way she does this.  I think one reason she also may do it is to force competition among the girls as long as possible to push them to be their very best.  But the downsides include toying with the girls’ emotions far too long and then dropping their hopes dramatically at the last minute – likely making many of them feel like they have failed.  I also think it’s just WAY too controlling on the part of Marta, and precisely symbolizes what I have come to despise in our sport…taking competitions and drama out of our sport and replacing it with mysterious series of selections that none of us fans will ever see or understand.  It’s happened on both the men’s and women’s sides, but I believe it’s worse for the women.

So who’s going to be this still-unannounced second competitor for the USA women at the American Cup in just two weeks?  Personally, I would LOVE to see a Jordyn Wieber-Rebecca Bross battle, but I did read somewhere that juniors were no longer allowed to compete in the American Cup (can anyone confirm this??).  That’s too bad, because I also read that she is relatively healthy again and competed all four events (and won) at a recent national camp.  If she were allowed to compete, she would have been the most logical choice.

I think an important thing for Marta to consider is putting a gymnast in the American Cup who will likely be in contention for this year’s world championships in October.  The American Cup is a great experience and has typically been used to “test” gymnasts under that kind of pressure and also prepare them for upcoming world or Olympic teams they are likely to make.  Of course Ivana Hong is certainly an option, but I’d like to see a different name since she already has quite a bit of experience and also just competed with Bross in the world championships.

The first name that comes to my mind is MATTIE LARSON.  I remember reading in December that she MIGHT be ready to compete the all-around in March or April, but seemed unsure if she’d be fully recovered.  The reason I think she’d be a perfect choice is because she will certainly be in contention for worlds this year, and she is one of the few gymnasts who recently committed to postponing college until after 2012.  After missing an opportunity at the 2009 worlds, the American Cup would be the perfect opportunity to throw her back out there and get her a taste of international competition again in front of a live TV audience.  She could also probably challenge Bross if she is in top shape…I love her gymnastics.

Samantha Shapiro would be a great choice for the very same reasons, although I feel that Larson is a better all-arounder.  I’m also not sure how Shapiro’s ankles are doing at this point either, but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing her out there as well.  Similarly, Olivia Courtney has likely not recovered from her fractured ankle, and besides, she will be starting college gymnastics at UCLA this fall, and will likely not be vying for a world team spot.

What about Mackenzie Caquatto or Kytra Hunter?  Well the problem there is that BOTH of them have committed to beginning college at the University of Florida in the fall of this year.  Interestingly, in a recent interview Caquatto stated that the American Cup was her first major goal for this year, and that the world championships was another one.  I really like Mackenzie’s gymnastics and would love to see her out there too, but the world championships are in October, and college starts in August.  How often do we see gymnasts actually follow through and try for a world team after starting college?  Not likely I’m afraid.  I’m not sure what Kytra Hunter’s plans are, but I’d have to overlook her for the same reason.

Cassie Whitcomb might be another option.  Although I don’t think she’s nearly as good as Larson or Shapiro, she may be healthier right now.  She’s more of a solid all-around gymnast rather than a specialist, which does make her well suited for an event like the American Cup.  In contrast, although Kayla Williams is the world champion on vault, a super tumbler, and not bad on beam, her bars is better suited for a Level 10 meet than a major elite international event like the American Cup.  I’d save her for some other specialist-oriented international competitions, and of course the worlds in October.

In summary, I’d love to see Mattie Larson receive that second spot at the American Cup.  Assuming that juniors aren’t eligible (eliminating Wieber, Kyla Ross, and others), I’d have to say that Ivana Hong, Samantha Shapiro, Cassie Whitcomb, and possibly Mackenzie Caquatto or Kytra Hunter are the other contenders.

Anyone else have any guesses?