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Senior Preview 2011 Visa Championships

August 17, 2011
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The Visa Championships will start tomorrow, and for many gymnasts it means a chance to make the national team. I expect at least 14 seniors to be named to the senior national team, enough for the World Championships team, the Pan American Games team, and alternates for each competition. The top 6 all around will make the national team immediately.

As expected, Jordyn Wieber looked good during podium training. She was not perfect; she seems to be struggling a bit with her Amanar, her tkachev and her 2 ½-front layout combination. Two of those are skills that she has had trouble with in the past, so perhaps she is not as confident with them as she needs to be. Still, I expect her to compete well. Her handstands on bars looked better, and her new floor choreography is more mature. Vault and beam have both been very strong events for her this year, with high 14s to low 15s on beam and high 15s on vault.
Podium training videos: Vault (Amanar), Vault (another Amanar), Bars, Beam (in the background), Floor

Rebecca Bross is in a very different position. She has come into nationals for the past two years as the overwhelming gold medal favorite, winning by over three points in 2010 and losing by less than one point in 2009 with many large errors. We have not seen her compete since last year, and Wieber, as expected, has taken over the spotlight. Last year, Bross was called the “it girl” by NBC, but this year, it will likely be Wieber. Still, Bross is not somebody to count out. This girl is going to fight to defend her title. She looked a lot better than I expected during podium training. Her routines are the same as last year, with the exception of a new transition on bars and new choreography on floor. I do think that Wieber needs to make a mistake for Bross to win, but Wieber has not gone 4/4 this year.
Podium training videos: Bars, BeamFloor

With an Amanar, I would have said that Gabrielle Douglas could shock everybody and win a national title. Without the Amanar, she has a good shot at bronze. What she needs to focus on is hitting every routine she does. She is a bars girl who has a lot of potential in the all around, and that could be very valuable at worlds.
Podium training videos: Floor 

Chellsie Memmel is doing solid routines and slowly adding difficulty. She added a backhandspring out of her barani on beam, has been training the hindorff-pak salto combination and said in an interview that she is hoping to compete a double (yurchenko?) and a double layout at least on of the two days. She is probably looking for the same spot as Douglas, but is almost the opposite of Douglas as a gymnast. She does not have the huge start values, but you can count on her to hit under pressure. With these new skills, that makes her a serious contender for the world championships.
Podium training videos: BarsBeam

McKayla Maroney has not scored any lower than 15.8 on vault since 2010. She stuck an Amanar during podium training, and did another with some small steps. Marta is going to have a very hard time not taking her to worlds when she can do this, especially if Raisman’s Amanar continues to look scary and Douglas does not compete it prior to worlds. From what I have seen, taking Maroney is a .5+ boost to the team’s vault score. She is also doing a second vault, which should score well enough for her to challenge Sacramone for the vault title both here and at worlds if she makes the team. Floor is coming along very nicely with potential 6.2 difficulty and very clean tumbling. Bars and beam are weaker but also much improved. This is a girl who was 27th all around as a junior in 2009, changed gyms and hasn’t stopped improving.
Podium training videos: Vault (Amanar 1)Vault (Amanar 2), Vault (Layout Podkopayeva)Bars, Floor
Bridgette Caquatto is another one of those girls who is an all arounder with strong bars. She has a nice double twisting yurchenko, which could have been useful last year but we’re really looking for Amanars this year. Floor is good, but just not enough for team finals. She does have a front 2/1-rudi combination, I have never seen performed before. I have not seen a video of her on beam since 2009, but she has not scored above 13.4 this year. Her hopes for a world team pretty much depend on bars, where she does have a high 6.5 difficulty score, but it may not be enough with other slightly cleaner gymnasts hovering around 6.5 who can contribute high scores on other events.
Podium training videos: Vault, Bars, Floor

Alexandra Raisman is a strong contender for the all around bronze that she received last year. What she needs to do to make worlds is probably keep on hitting that floor routine. She has been doing it very well all year, and it is the place where she is definitely top 3 in the country. It would also be nice if she could hit an Amanar that can score somewhere near Maroney’s, but I’m not sure how possible that is. Beam will hopefully be solid as usual. I do not think that bars will have an impact on her selection to the world team (although a team with Sacramone, Raisman and Maroney would be scary if there was an injury), but she does need to at least hit her routine to have the all around score she is hoping for. She finished first at classics with a missed routine, but Maroney, Bross, Wieber, M. Caquatto and Doulgas did not compete all around and B. Caquatto and Memmel watered down their routines.
Podium training videos: Vault (Amanar), Vault (double), BarsFloor (first pass)

Shawn Johnson probably is just looking to hit 6 routines here. I personally do not think that she is going to be in contention for worlds based on her current difficulty scores, even though that seemed to be her goal earlier this year. I think that she is definitely in contention for pan ams, but needs more time to get her difficulty up. She is adding vault, which looked good during podium training.
Podium training videos: Vault, BarsBeam

Alicia Sacramone is one of the gymnasts who are pretty much a lock for worlds because she is so solid on vault and beam. Maybe her rudi is not as difficult as Raisman’s Amanar, but it should receive a higher execution score. It looks huge in the podium training video. She hardly ever even wobbles on beam. She needs to continue to do that, and work on her floor. Her tumbling is very clean, but she really needs to work on her landings if her strategy is execution and dance over highly rated tumbling.
Podium training videos: Beam

Anna Li is the ultimate bars specialist. She has a 6.7 routine now, and she still hasn’t used the tkachev or jaeger 1/2 she was training earlier this year. For the most part, everything in her routine is very clean. She has changed the composition of her routine since classics so that it no longer includes the skill she fell on. She really needs to hit this routine both days and at camps to be taken to worlds as essentially a one-event gymnast. Preferably, she would also win the bars title at nationals. Her beam is not bad, but the difficulty is not high enough for a team finals situation.
Podium training videos: Bars 1, Bars 2

Mackenzie Caquatto is in a very similar position to her sister. Her vault and bars were (obviously) useful to the team last year, but may not be this year. Her sister does have the difficulty advantage on bars, but Mackenzie has more experience, especially from NCAA. She will be competing all around as well, and could finish well there. I don’t think her difficulty is high enough to be a true bars specialist anymore, but we’ll see.
Podium training videos: VaultBars

Sabrina Vega did very well at classics, finishing third, but I personally do not think that she is a standout on one event as she would need to be to make it to worlds. She is pretty good all around, but I can’t see her finishing top three anywhere. She should be very fun to watch, however, and is one of the most artistic gymnasts in the competition. I can definitely see her going to pan ams.

McKenzie Wofford did very well at classics and hopefully she can keep up the consistency here. She is a very clean bars and beam girl, but often struggles under pressure. I would love to see her beautiful gymnastics internationally. Because of her lack of power on vault and floor, I do not think she will factor into the all around.

There are thirteen gymnasts, all of which I think will probably make the national team. Amanda Jetter probably will probably make it, as will Bridget Sloan, even though she is not competing. Out of the others, I don’t see any that stand out as definite national team members, but it is definitely possible. I would love to see Casey Jo Magee make it for her beam. It may also make sense to have another vault specialist to medal on the event at pan ams if Maroney and Sacramone both go to worlds, in which case Brandie Jay could step up. Jessie DeZiel is another possibility- she has stated that she wants to compete at pan ams and is training an Amanar, although I’m not sure about a second vault. The rest are good all arounders without a stand out event.
Podium training videos:  Amanda Jetter (Bars)

Here’s one more training video, a montage from Inside Gymnastics. It includes skills from lots of gymnasts.

I’m sure I will re-do this after the competition is over, but for now, my world team prediction (team finals events in bold) is as follows.

Jordyn Wieber- VT UB BB FX
Rebecca Bross- VT UB BB FX
Alicia Sacramone- VT BB FX
Alexandra Raisman- VT UB BB FX
McKayla Maroney- VT UB BB FX (can be used on floor in place of anybody else)
Anna Li- UB (maybe beam in prelims) or Chellsie Memmel- UB BB (take Maroney off beam in prelims)

Alternate: Gabrielle Douglas (probably top 4-5 on every event)

After writing this, it has become very apparent that Raisman must be beating Maroney and Sacramone on floor at nationals. This should not be a problem because she has been very consistent on floor this year, but if there is a strong alternative, her spot could definitely be taken. If she can improve her vault enough, though, Maroney could be out. The bars situation is a bit scary with Raisman or Maroney being the alternate to compete in team finals if somebody is injured. Hopefully they would be able to pull in an alternate. Additionally, taking two bars specialists could prevent Wieber from having to compete all around in team finals.

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