USA vs. USSR and ITC
Some commenters have been asking me why the Americans doesn’t compete much internationally, and it has been a bit difficult for me to come up with answers that make complete sense, since honestly it doesn’t make much sense to me at all. There were two meets in the 1980s and 1990s that I think the USA (and other teams who attended) would benefit from bringing back. Those are the USA vs. USSR (Russia) and the International Team Competition.
USA vs. USSR was a competition held in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. It showcased what you would expect: A team from the USA vs. a team from the USSR in a dual meet. Because of their dominance in the sport, the Soviets always won the team competition, but the USA generally did well, even taking the all around three times in 1897, 1989 and 1990. I think that with they way this quadrennium is looking, USA vs. Russia would be a great meet to bring back. I would love to see it with a team competition format of 6-6-4 giving everybody a chance to compete for the all around, with teams consisting of at least two seniors and at least two juniors. It would give the fans a great opportunity to see rising stars in the sport in a nice televised meet, along with giving some B team gymnasts and juniors a chance to compete internationally under the pressure of a team competition.
ITC or the International Team Competition was held five times from 1997-2001. It consisted of teams from the USA, China, Romania and in 1999, Australia. In 1997-1999, there were both junior and senior competitions but in 2000-2001, juniors and seniors competed together. For basically the same reasons as I believe a USA vs. Russia meet would be valuable, I would love to see ITC return, with the same format that I have proposed for USA vs. USSR. In fact, they could event be combined into the same meet and become a huge ITC.
Russia and Romania competed in some dual meets this year, but they have competed against teams such as the Netherlands, Great Britain and France. I am not trying to take anything away from those very talented teams, but they simply aren’t great match ups for the powerhouses, except perhaps Great Britain.
Here are some currently existing meets that the USA either does or can compete in:
The Pacific Rim Championships could probably be on par with the ITC, but it unfortunately isn’t. The first issue is that it is usually held during or close to the European Championships, so the Russians send a B team. The second is who the USA choses to send to it. This year, for example, they sent their top 3 juniors and top 3 seniors at the time. Pacific Rims, in my opinion, would have been a great place to give some gymnasts with little international experience a chance to compete under pressure. The US team won the meet by approximately 15 points over China. They also competed at the Jesolo Grand Prix this year, which they won by approximately 2 points over Russia. They did not send a full junior team, but to be fair they didn’t really have enough healthy juniors to make one at the time. Judging by the scores and the gymnasts on each of the teams, the USA sends its A team to Pacific Rims and its B team to Jesolo, which is fine, but I think that they may have gone a little overboard with their pacific rim team. Why did they have Sloan compete, who was injured? And why did Alexandra Raisman compete three times internationally in a very short period of time? Those girls had already proved themselves in pressure situations internationally, so I would say go with someone less experienced, like Mackenzie Caquatto or Cassie Whitcomb. Perhaps the margin of victory would be less, but the experience for those gymnasts and the knowledge about their ability to hit under pressure would be an enormous help when it came to choosing the team for the World Championships.
The USA could also take advantage of certain meets like World Cups. Would it really kill them to send a girl to one of these competitions? I hope that at the very least, they will give the opportunity to some of the gymnasts who are turning senior in 2012, because they will need experience if they want to make the olympic team. The competition isn’t always great, but it is sometimes decent. These competitions would be one more place to do what is so important for all US gymnasts: prove themselves to Marta. Also, I suspect that they are invited to the Japan Cup, since the men go. Why not attend? They lose a lot of opportunities to test out gymnasts throughout the year. And despite the long travel time, who would refuse taking a trip to Japan, France, Germany, Great Britain or Russia?