Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships- Who to Watch
The Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships start this Saturday in Everett, Washington. This competition typically has a strong field with top-notch American competitors in the Olympic year, and this year is no exception. Teams consist of three seniors and three juniors, and if the format is the same as it was in 2010, all of the gymnasts can compete all around.
While the US, Russia and China are the three podium favorites for the Olympics, this competition will probably not be much of an indication of where the teams stand heading into London. The US is sending their three top senior all arounders, while China is sending three bubble girls for the Olympics and Russia is sending three relative unknowns with almost no shot at making the Olympic team. Although two of Russia’s juniors are likely junior European team members, I would not be surprised to see Canada finish ahead of them. Canada has chosen to send the three gymnasts who I, probably along with most of the gymnastics community, consider locks for their Olympic team. Australia, 3rd in 2010, and Japan, a team that has been steadily improving in WAG, although I am unfamiliar with many of their gymnasts here, will also be in the medal hunt.
In the individual competition, nothing but the two per country rule should be able to stop the American trio of Jordyn Wieber, Kyla Ross and Gabrielle Douglas from finishing 1-2-3.
Wieber, the defending world champion, unofficially lost to Douglas at the American Cup. She will want a win here, but no matter what the results are here, it is important that Jordyn hits four for four the way we know she can. While she has not fallen in competition since early 2010, Wieber has yet to be the steady competitor that she typically is in an international competition with the all around gold medal at stake.
It is obvious that Douglas is on her way up, but to really impress Marta Karolyi, she needs to continue her upwards trend here. Even if she does not manage to officially beat Wieber, or even Ross, hitting four for four twice in as many weeks would be a gigantic achievement for her. A bars gold is also a strong possibility.
This will be Ross’ first senior competition after being somewhat dominant as a junior for three years, winning two junior national titles and two covergirl classics. Ross is probably the cleanest gymnast and the calmest competitor in the US right now, and has the all-important Amanar vault. Ross needs some upgrades on bars and floor to be a 61+ gymnast, but she should not be counted out in this all around race or in the Olympic team race.
After a somewhat disastrous world debut in Tokyo, it will be important for 17-year-old Tan Sixin to redeem herself here. Tan is capable of contributing to team China on almost all events, but she needs to show some consistency if she wants to go to London. Tan won beam as a junior at the Pacific Rim Championships in 2010, and should be in contention for medals on bars, beam and in the all around here.
The other Chinese seniors, Luo Peiru and Shang Chunsong, are competing as seniors for the first time in the biggest competition of their lives. The Olympics are not out of question for these gymnasts, but they are not the frontrunners. Luo and Shang complement each other- Luo is strong on vault and bars, while Shang is strong on beam and floor.
Australia’s Lauren Mitchell will contend for medals on beam and floor, her specialties. Lauren is a lock for Australia’s olympic team barring injuries, and has a legitimate shot at becoming Australia’s first Olympic medallist in Gymnastics.
Christine Lee of Canada competed at Pacific Rims in 2008 as a junior, and returns in 2012 as Canada’s top all around gymnast heading into the London games. Christine, or Peng Peng, is an exciting, original, artistic gymnast, and winning a medal here would really help her reputation as she tries to achieve her lifelong goal of winning an Olympic medal.
Lee’s teammate, Victoria Moors, was the youngest Canadian on the team that qualified Canada to the Olympics at the test event in January. She had the most impressive individual finish of anyone on the team, winning the silver on floor. Moors will try to fight for a spot in the Olympic floor final in London with her impressive tumbling and elegant choreography.
In the Junior competition, the US is again expected to dominate. This will be Katelyn Ohashi‘s first televised event, something that I have been waiting for for years. Ohashi is an amazing all around gymnast, and yet another WOGA prodigy who misses the Olympics by a few months. She could probably fall a few times and win here, but I hope that she regains the consistency that she showed when she won the national title in August.
She will be joined by the CGA duo of Lexie Priessman and Amelia Hundley. Priessman has doing well nationally for a few years and won the Japan Junior International in late 2011. She competes an Amanar on vault, and her power transfers nicely to beam, where she competes a standing full and a full in dismount, and floor, where she competes a double double and dismounts with a full in. Hundley has been in Priessman’s shadow in the past, but looks like the top gymnast from 1998 and on at the moment.
Those three are by far the most well known (world-wide) of the junior competitors, but the gymnasts from Russia, China and Canada are also pretty strong.
The Pacific Rim Championships will be on NBC at 1:00 PM eastern on Saturday. For live coverage, check The Couch Gymnast and Gymnastics Examiner. For more information, visit the USA Gymnastics website.