Monday, May 19, 2008

Was Chellsie Memmel's Injury Worth It?

Above: Chellsie winning her 2003 World title on Uneven Bars. Three years later, she substained a devastating shoulder injury at the 2006 Worlds. Can Chellsie fight back and be recovered in time to make the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team?

This is the question burning among many gymnastics fans: Was Chellsie Memmel's shoulder injury of doom and going on to compete with it at the 2006 World Championships-team finals worth all the pain and suffering that she has been through in the last year and a half? We will soon find out in about two months, when the U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team is officially announced at the Karolyi Ranch. As many of you probably know, a foot injury hindered Memmel's 2004 efforts and thus had to settle for an alternate position. It is widely considered by gymnastics fans that Memmel has stuck around another four years to make the Olympic Team, this time to actually compete and represent her country in Beijing. Chellsie's career has been filled with tremendous ups and downs:

2003- An injured Chellsie has a sub par performance at the U.S. Nationals in her home state of Wisconsin. Passed over entirely for the World Championship team, she was given a lesser assignment to compete at the 2003 Pan American Games. By that time she was fully recovered and won the AA and UB golds at the Games. Meanwhile the U.S. was having a nightmare prior to the beginning of the World Championships in Anaheim. From Courtney Kupets' Achilles injury to Ashley Postell's flu to Annia Hatch's knee injury left the U.S. staff no choice but to call Chellsie over immediately from Santo Damingo to Anaheim for the World Championships. There, Chellsie turned in a stunning performance, LEADING the USA girls to a team gold and winning individual gold on the bars. With this incredible performance at such short notice Chellsie was considered a lock for the U.S. Olympic team set to go to Athens.

2004- Chellsie started off the Olympic year pretty strong with a 3rd place finish at the Scam Cup. However, disaster struck in April when Chellsie broke the metatarsal in her foot. This injury kept her out of Pacific Alliance Championships, Nationals, and Olympic Trials. Despite Chellsie's heroic effort in 2003, the selection committee was not persuaded to put her on the team with her only competing in one major meet that year. Chellsie later won the 2004 World Cup final on uneven bars after the games.

2005- After missing a potential first U.S. title to Nastia Liukin, Memmel was better than ever at the 2005 Worlds. There, she won the AA by .001 of a point and took silver on uneven bars and balance beam as well. Success here also prompted Memmel to stick around in hopes of finally making an Olympic team in 2008.

2006- Chellsie opened up the year with a tie at the Pacific Alliance Championships with Liukin. While training an overshoot on bars in practise Memmel injured her shoulder, but it didn't appear serious and came back to U.S. Nationals, finishing a solid 4th AA and hitting two clean bar sets despite only beginning to practice full bar routines one week prior to the competition. Chellsie still had shoulder problems by Worlds but due to ongoing pressure from Martha K. withdrawing was simply not an option. Chellsie was strong in preliminaries, qualifying 1st AA and also making bars and floor finals. USA trounced the field in preliminaries and the team was considered a shoo-in for the gold. However, Chellsie fell on uneven bars in team finals and aggravated her shoulder injury even further. Going on to compete beam and floor to ensure the silver medal for the U.S., the next day she couldn't lift her arm above her head.

2007- Chellsie finally started competing at the last part of the year, winning bronze on beam and floor at the Olympic Test Event and winning gold on floor and silver on beam at the Toyota Cup in Japan. Chellsie was still struggling on once her strongest event, uneven bars.

2008- ?

My Thoughts on the Subject Matter

  • Chellsie's father, Andy, commented that Chellsie finishing the competition at the 2006 Worlds team finals with a severe injury was "gutsy and stupid". Gutsy, yes. Stupid? Chellsie is a tough ass competitor and probably knew right when she injured her shoulder that no matter what the cost she had to finish and get a medal for the team. Chellsie not competing beam or floor would've meant using a girl that wouldn't have been at all prepared to compete; Natasha Kelley and Ashley Priess were unwisely sidelined from the team finals lineup entirely. This would've seriously put USA's medal chances at stake in a competition they should've easily won. Had Chellsie not finished the meet, she would be in Martha K.'s dog house for the rest of her career for what likely would've been a lost team medal for the U.S.

  • I hope this injury proves to be a blessing in disguise. Not competing in most of 2007 hopefully allowed Chellsie's body to rest somewhat and give her a renewed intensity for her quest to make the '08 Olympic team. Chellsie is not one of those girls that needed 2007 performances to make her case to Martha; she's done that already. For Chellsie, it is about proving that she is in shape and can contribute scores to USA, especially on uneven bars.

  • When Martha K. decides her Olympic team, she has to consider how the international judges would love to see Chellsie again. Chellsie has had strong political favor amongst the international judges at each of the three world championships she has competed in. Judges may not love Chellsie's form and artistry, but what they do love is her unwavering competitive spirit.

  • If Chellsie keeps up, or even improves upon, her 16.0 performance that she marked at the recent Karolyi International Meet, she is on the team even if it is just for bars. Martha K. can rely on Chellsie to hit and score well a hell of a lot more than she can rely on Shayla to do so, and plus Chellsie has the international recognition that Shayla doesn't have.

  • Chellsie is the toughest competitor out there. Period. Shawn Johnson won everything in sight in 2007, but could people rely on her to severely hurt her shoulder and finish her routine AND THEN go to beam and land on a punch front on one leg and STILL STAY ON. Oh yeah, and nail a floor routine on top of that. ALL of this Chellsie and Chellsie ONLY has done.

  • I, like mostly everybody else, is gunning for Chellsie Memmel to make the team. Please, Chellsie, just prove your undeniable competitive spirit one more time.

That is all.


Jmanda86 said...

So glad you're rooting for Chellsie. There's so many Chellsie haters out there. I want her to make the team sooooooo sooooooo bad. The girl deserves it. She's a rock, she has awesome skills, she's put in the time to USAG, judges love her, tons of experience...the list goes on and on. I'm hoping she can have a good showing at Nats and Trials, I don't even care if it's not great. Everyone knows she should be on that team.

Audrey said...

Wow what a wonderful thing you just wrote. All of it so true. I am rooting so hard for her as well. I really think if she maintains that 6.9 and goes clean through June, they have got to pick her.