2012 United States Olympic Trials Preview
The 2012 United State Olympic Trials are right around the corner, and following the competition, the 5 Olympic Team members who will head to London will be announced. One has to assume that barring injuries or catastrophic performances, three of those spots will go to the top three finishers from the National Championships less than two weeks ago: Jordyn Wieber, Gabrielle Douglas and Alexandra Raisman. The three gymnasts were all members of the gold medal United States team at the World Championships in Tokyo last year, and have proved their readiness for the games in 2012, each winning at least one national title in Saint Louis.
Assuming that these three gymnasts are going to London, these spots in the team finals lineup are pretty much taken. Names in parentheses mean that the gymnast could perform, but they may not be the best option.
Vault: Douglas/Raisman, Wieber, (Douglas/Raisman)
Bars: Douglas, (Wieber)
Beam: Raisman, Wieber
Floor: Douglas, Wieber, Raisman
That leaves one or two spots open on bars, and one spot open on both beam and vault.
Their teammates from the 2011 World Championships, McKayla Maroney and Sabrina Vega, are also advancing to Trials. If Maroney is performing the way she did the first day of competition in Saint Louis, she will probably punch her ticket to London. Although vault is the only event where she can really help out assuming that Wieber, Douglas and Raisman are all on the team, Maroney’s vault score has not dropped below 16 this year, and as long as she stands up her two vaults in the finals at the Olympics, she is as guaranteed to win a gold medal as anyone ever has been. The question with Maroney is whether she has recovered from the concussion she sustained at the National Championships. Additionally, if Wieber struggles through her bars routine and someone like Anna Li keeps on hitting hers, we could see a different one-event speciallist on the team. Although Vega may have the prettiest floor routine on the national team, she has struggled to hold her own in the Olympic year. She is the kind of gymnast who can step up on any event, but none of her scores make me (or Marta) say WOW!
Five athletes who have never been to a World Championships have qualified to Trials, and all of them are new seniors. Out of those five gymnasts, Kyla Ross seems to be the most likely to earn a spot on the Olympic team. The 2009 and 2010 Junior National Champion has been delivering clean beam sets for years, but recently has begun to stand out on bars, where she was the top scorer day one of nationals and has not scored below 15 this year. Unless another bars specialist is selected, expect her to take the role of a bars and beam specialist in London, despite her all around arsenal, which includes an Amanar. Earlier in the selection process, it seemed that Sarah Finnegan might have a chance to step up into an Olympic Team spot. She is a beautiful gymnast, and her difficulty has greatly increased this year. Unfortunately, her strengths are similar to those of Raisman’s, with more artistry, but less consistency and lower scores. The girl who has really been coming on strong this year is Elizabeth Price, who placed 5th all around at Nationals this year. Her Amanar, although it is a new skill for her, is more consistent than Douglas or Raisman’s, and she combines it with a decent bars routine and some incredible tumbling. If Maroney is unavailable, Price goes from being a likely alternate to a viable option for the 5th team member. Brenna Dowell and Kennedy Baker seem to be in the same boat as Vega- they are obviously very talented and accomplished gymnasts, but they do not have the scores on any event to truly make a run for the team. Still, even making it to trials is the experience of a lifetime for these girls.
The final five qualifiers are veterans, including three of the members of the team that won a silver medal in Beijing four years ago. Three of them, Li, Nastia Liukin and Rebecca Bross, will compete only bars and beam. So far this year, these three have managed, ignoring a few mishaps, to look ready to go on one event, but not the other. While Li’s ticket clearly won’t come from her beam, Bross and Liukin are looking for the beam/bars combination to make the team. Unfortunately, neither 15.2s on bars or 15.1s on beam are going to get them to the Olympics this year. The competition is too tight, and these scores are at most a tenth or two higher than I would expect the third ranked gymnast out of Raisman, Wieber, Douglas and Ross to be scoring on these events. Li, if she continues to hit bars, may be a more viable option, but despite her success in college, she really is unknown on the world stage. Nobody else at trials has never competed internationally before, nor have they been as inconsistent as she has been on the only event where they could possibly contribute. Bridget Sloan, who started off the quad with a world title, has struggled with injuries for years but is back competing all around. Her only real team finals possibility, however, seems to be bars at this point, and she is not scoring better than Bross. Her ability to compete all four events, however, could push her ahead of any of the bars and beam competitors for an alternate spot. Finally, Alicia Sacramone, returning from an Achilles tear, looks like a possible 5th member, especially if Maroney is unavailable. Her Rudi hasn’t scored as high as Douglas and Raisman’s Amanars did at the American Cup, but it is certainly more reliable. She also scored well on beam at nationals, and could contribute there. If someone besides Maroney has to win the gold medal on vault in London, I’m sure that everyone would be happy if it was Sacramone.
As of right now, my olympic team is Wieber, Douglas, Raisman, Ross and Maroney. This is, of course, dependent on how Maroney looks at trials, if she is even able to compete. I would hope that qualifiers for individual finals would be Wieber and Douglas for the all around, Maroney for vault, Douglas and Ross for uneven bars, Wieber and Ross for beam and Wieber and Raisman for floor. From these five gymnasts, I would come up with the following team final lineup:
Vault: Douglas, Wieber, Maroney
Bars: Wieber, Ross, Douglas
Beam: Raisman, Ross, Wieber
Floor: Douglas, Wieber, Raisman