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Go Big or Go Home, US World Team Analysis

September 24, 2011

National Champion Jordyn Wieber. Photo: insidegymnastics.com

Some people say that this team is not a gold medal team, but I have to disagree. Some people wonder how this team was chosen, but I find it pretty obvious. This is a gold medal team. In fact, it is the team that could easily win gold for the US with hit routines. This team has the potential to dominate worlds.

It’s a young and inexperienced team. Five of the gymnasts have never been to worlds before and four of them are new seniors. One, in fact, is only old enough for worlds by a single day. It is also probably the most risky team that the US has ever sent to the world championships. There are going to be inconsistent gymnasts in the team final lineup, and more of them in the prelims lineup. This team can melt down easily.

The veterans, who are generally more consistent than this new generation, will be going to pan ams, and this is where some people see a bit of a controversy. If this young, inconsistent, but possibly brilliant team was all that we had, we would all be very happy with it, but it’s not. Shawn Johnson and Chellsie Memmel have both been working hard to come back to the sport, and performed much cleaner, stabler routines at nationals than any of the newcomers (with the exception of one of Memmel’s bars routines and Jordyn Wieber in general). Other countries don’t have that depth that they could chose to rely on. China’s Olympians, for the most part, have been on a continuous downhill slope since Beijing, and Russia’s Olympians have been up and down for years, knocking them out of the top group of contenders. Romania has only one remaining Olympian, Izbasa, who will be at worlds unless her injury is worse than we think it is (she hasn’t competed floor lately).

There were four gymnasts who at least 90% of the gymnastics community thought would be on this team post-nationals: Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Alexandra Raisman and Alicia Sacramone. This group of gymnasts left small holes on beam and floor and a large hole on bars. The beam and floor holes were probably best filled with gymnasts those gymnasts. The gaping hole on bars needed two other gymnasts to fill it.

I expected Mackenzie Caquatto and Chellsie Memmel to take these spots. Caquatto finished second on bars at nationals this year and has been one of the most consistent bar workers on the national team all season. Memmel was planning upgrades on bars and could also be used on beam. Caquatto, however, sprained both of her ankles at camp and Memmel’s injury from nationals was worse than originally expected. It lead her to presumably not train or compete to her full potential at camp, and has recently prompted her to give up her spot on the pan ams team.

Therefore, the two bars spots went to Anna Li and Gabrielle Douglas. Li, who finished her career as a UCLA gymnast in 2010, was a low level elite before college. Now, she only trains bars and beam and has the most difficult bars set in the country. Unfortunately, it’s a routine that she only hit once this season between classics and championships, but she has the potential for a big score. Douglas shows flashes of brilliance all around, but her story at nationals was one of inconsistency. Nobody knows how this gymnast will react to worlds, but I am hoping for the best. Hit routines lead to boosted confidence, which leads to hit routines, etc. If Gabrielle can hit in prelims, she is in contention for the second all around spot for the US.

Sabrina Vega is the seventh gymnast on the team, which I guess is more of a “training squad” at the moment, with no definite alternate. Because of bars, I would guess that she will be the alternate in 2 weeks. If she is on the team, however, I can see her competing for a floor spot with Maroney and Sacramone. She is the only one of the three to hit both floor routines in St. Paul.

When you think about it, only 2 routines that will likely be used in team finals have been inconsistent this summer. One is Anna Li on bars, who presumably was hitting at camp, and one is the third gymnast on floor, Sacramone or Maroney. People label Douglas as inconsistent, but besides a possible all around performance in prelims, she was brought for bars, and she has hit her last three bars routines. That’s the bad part.

The team has the #1 vault lineup in the world, without question, with Sacramone’s Rudi and Maroney and Wieber’s Amanars. The US team may not be at China’s level on bars, but they have passed Russia in difficulty there, with both countries losing their top gymnast on bars. The beam lineup will likely be Raisman, Sacramone and Wieber, all of whom are generally consistent on beam and have difficulty above 6.0. Their floor lineup will include Wieber and Raisman, both favorites for the floor title this year, and either Sacramone, a former world floor champion, or Maroney, who competes a 6.1 difficulty routine.

That is why I think that team USA is not screwed, but if you feel differently, feel free to comment below. I still think that they are the favorites for the world title. And if they don’t win, we have to remember that it is not the end of the world. Post soviet-domination, only one team has won the Olympics the year after winning a world title, and we all know what happened to Russia in 2000 to allow that to happen. Results from this year mean even less than usual when making predictions for next year, because there will be an influx of talented gymnasts born in 1996 next year and the team size will decrease. The new seniors this year will gain experience in a high pressure setting, which will ultimately help them the US if they make the Olympic team.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2011 9:24 AM

    Love your analysis! I agree 100%

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