June 28, 2012

Trials Eve

Are there times when you wish you were a only a casual gymnastics fan? I do right now. Then, I would be going into Trials not knowing who the team might be and wondering what kind of exciting gymnastics I'm going to see. We spoil it for ourselves sometimes.

Examiner Blythe quotes Martha as saying what we already know. "Really, very honestly, I have one ideal team in my head. I still have the same team in my mind as I did two months ago." So do we, Martha. So do we.

I don't follow MAG as closely, but it seems like that race is a little more open, at least for the last spot. People who follow it obsessively may already know the team, but I don't, so I have that exciting, casual feeling going into those Trials.

Women's podium training yielding nothing much new. Nastia completed a bar routine that looks like it's going to be 50/50 for hitting in competition. Regardless of the hitting, the difficulty is just 6.5, which is not high enough for a specialist.

Many of the veterans are going through the motions when it comes to interviews about how they fit into the team, but you can tell that they know the game. I don't see a ton of delusion from those on the outside, which is nice. They can go out and enjoy their final elite competition, and we can enjoy watching them for the last time.

As we turn to evaluating how the group might fare in London, we need to look at a few specific routines. Unfortunately, the necessities of the five-member team leave few questions as to who will compete what in Team Finals (except perhaps floor), but the decision as to who will be the All-Around gymnasts could be made based on performances this weekend, so that will be fun to watch. The team is brimming with Amanars, but how people hit them at Trials will help determine lineups, so watch that. Martha loves Aly Raisman's sturdiness, which makes me think Aly is still in it for an AA spot, but the tide certainly is moving the other direction. If she scores lowest of the main group on vault and bars (quite possible), how can she be kept in the AA? Expect Douglas and Wieber to go 1-2, but watch the fight for third. Ross beating Raisman could seal that.

June 24, 2012

Olympic Trials: The Wishers and the Hopers

One of my concerns over limiting the teams to five members was that it would make the Trials process anticlimactic if a clear five had already emerged. This appears to be the case this year. However, sitting back and accepting the preordained Olympic team of Douglas, Wieber, Raisman, Ross, and Maroney would be no fun. So here's a look at the three things that anyone with a conceivable shot at the team (besides the total locks) needs to do next weekend to stay on the current "team"/make the actual team/get into the conversation.

McKayla Maroney

1) Be less concussion-y.
2) Start getting rid of that .3 step on vault. She won't score a 16 at the Olympics otherwise.
3) Keep that double tuck in bounds. There's no hope now that they will change the pass, so she just needs to keep it traveling forward and not land 15 feet OOB like she should. She's way to talented to be a 1.25 event gymnast.

Kyla Ross

1) No falls. With her lack of senior experience, she will be dealt the "can she handle the pressure?" card at Trials. She has to prove that she can. Her position is the most susceptible to crumbling with a  poor performance.  
2) Outscore the other 15ers on beam. There's a bushel of Sacramones and Finnegans and Liukins who can also score 15 on beam. Ross needs to beat them to maintain the status quo.
3) Send Martha some flowers with a card reading, "International look. Love, Kyla."

Rebecca Bross

1) Obviously, fix the Splatterson. Imagine if she were hitting that dismount like she did in 2010. It would legitimately be a close contest between her and Kyla for that UB/BB spot. We should all root for that beam routine to come together because it will make Trials more fun.
2) Perfect execution on bars. If she's going to knock off Ross, she has to match her for execution. She's at a legs disadvantage, so everything else has to be pristine.
3) Repair broken brain. Thinking about the dismount has taken a toll on the rest of her beam routine as it looks more tentative than it ever has before. Watch for the connection between the walkover and the bhs+layout. Performing that fluidly is a good indicator of her confidence.

June 17, 2012

From Championships to Trials

Visa Championships came and went last weekend, and ultimately we leaned little that we didn't already know about the potential makeup of the US Olympic team. No one who isn't named Wieber, Douglas, Raisman, Ross, and Maroney did enough to put themselves into serious consideration. But we're gym fans, so we'll find a way to make Trials not boring. We always do. Can Nastia dismount? Will Martha pretend to consider taking Anna Li? Will Alicia magically have an upgraded vault and a floor routine? Will Maroney recover from her nose concussion? Will Kupets come back? 

The US is in an interesting position because, while all the other major contenders are doing the Amanar Scramble (a new option at Denny's), the US is doing the "Sweet Lord, is that your bars composition?" Two-Step. Other teams are trying to find the best vault options while the US is trying to find the least horrible bars option. It has become obvious that Jordyn Wieber will do bars in Team Finals, and she will go over on a handstand and get a 14.100, and everyone will just need to deal with it.

I still have a feeling that Martha will try to go out of her way to put Nastia on the team if she looks at all believable (meaning she hits two bar routines at Trials and outscores Ross), but the realistic storyline I'm most interested in is the Wieber/Douglas AA battle. It's irrelevant to team selection, but it will be great to see how it plays out. John Geddert will likely win Best Supporting Actress in an Olympic Trials. Well, it will be either him or Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey. It will be difficult for Geddert to cope if Wieber loses. We'll hear a lot of "National Championships is the one that matters." Maggie Smith will be fine is she doesn't win. She'll throw a double layout at the Olympics anyway.