Saturday, June 21, 2008

U.S. Olympic Trials Analysis-Women Day One

Quick Note: I am going to be dancing at SAB (School of American Ballet in New York) for the next five weeks and I will be quite busy with classes and such. I do intend to continue blogging, but perhaps not as often as before. I do hope to get in at least two detailed posts in a week and I will do a post rounding up the men after day two of their Olympic Trials is concluded.

The women just competed at the first night of the U.S. Olympic Trials in Philadelphia, continuing in the second stage of the grueling marathon selection procedure to decide who gets to go to Beijing and who will be left aside. The two spots that are awarded after these Olympic Trials look to be unsurprisingly sewn up by Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. With two other spots looking to go to Chellsie Memmel and Alicia Sacramone, the battle for the final two spots got much clearer after day one. Here's a look at the top competitors and how they performed on night one of the Olympic Trials:

Shawn Johnson- My supposed theory that the judges would low ball Shawn a tad bit to ensure a Nastia Liukin win were false; Shawn leads Nastia by a solid .5 after day one with both girls hitting four mostly clean routines (a poor UB dismount from Liukin notwithstanding). Shawn was solid as a rock on Friday, but deductions for incomplete twists could come on her Amanar, whip+triple twist (though improved from Nats), and even her front full+rudi combination. Deductions like these are costly in both the A and B panel scores in international competition. Having the third highest bars score was helped in the fact that she upgraded to a toe-on full on bars (6.4 A), but judges were generous as International Gymnast pointed out with her having 2-3 missed handstands in her bar routine.

Nastia Liukin- Nastia was great on day one with the exception of the dreaded, extremely cowboyed double front 1/2 dismount. A bars dismount which occurs numerous deductions for seperated legs, flexed feet, and low landings makes one wonder that Liukin's decision to change her UB dismount was not a wise one. However, another great floor routine placed Liukin 2nd of the night on that event, and Liukin could end up competing floor in team finals if her newfound consistency on that event continues. Balance beam is continuing to look good and her decision to nix the DTY in favor of one of the best 1.5 Yurchenkos around looks to be working. Her low dismount landing probably cost her .3-.5 (scores all around were inflated, not quite Nats inflated though), which would put her almost dead even with Johnson.

Alicia Sacramone- Missed connections and other downgrades have lowered Alicia's beam start score at Nats and here, where she only had a 6.5 A-score and her chances of competing beam in team finals or making Olympic beam finals look to be slim. Floor was solid, but is possibly saving her rumored triple twist for the camp and also stepped OOB with both feet BARELY, but it was kind of deserved with her OOB on day two of nationals not taken as a penalty. Alicia stuck her Rudi vault on her last event of the night, and with an Amanar Alicia does have an outside chance at Olympic vault gold.

Chellsie Memmel- Chellsie is continuing to prove she belongs on the team with the second highest mark on uneven bars, USA's weakest event, and a third place ranking on beam and finishing fifth on floor. Though Chellsie is a staggering 1.25 away from Liukin to get an automatic birth to the team, Chellsie looks to be fully ready to be contributing some big scores to USA come August. Chellsie's work on bars and beam is looking good, a discredited jam to handstand aside. However, relatively weaker work on vault (yurchenko 1.5) and floor (OOB, 6.1 A on day one) mean that the selection committee still needs a vault/floor girl on the team, thus improving Samantha Peszek's Olympic chances.

Samantha Peszek- Samantha's Olympic chances improved immensely on day one with strong work on all four apparatus. Placing 3rd on floor at Olympic Trials, even without her 1.5 twist-double pike combination which is unlikely to be reinstated into her routine, proves that at top form she can also be used on floor in team finals if USA needs her. An improved DTY vault (15.1, tied Ranzy for third on that event) and the 4th highest mark on beam do more to improve her Olympic chances, but Peszek will need to be this solid again in night two if she is to really solidify her spot on the team. USA needs a good vault/floor performer and Sam P. looks to fit that bill, having much more experience and seasoning than Mattie Larson. My only question is: where are the upgrades? A double-double dismount off UB, a double Arabian off BB, and an Amanar on vault have not been seen in competition to date, and it would be unwise to risk injury with further upgrading. Martha K.'s tactics of naming several athletes to the Trials that have very little shot of making the team in order to scare Sam P. into working harder look to be working; expect vault specialist Britney Ranzy to be named to the final camp even if she doesn't have the Amanar, which she has yet to show in training or competition and likely isn't training it.

Bridget Sloan- Bridget's unspectacular showing could've opened the door for Shayla Worley, but Bridget should be thankful that Shayla didn't step in and close it shut. USA needs to know with Johnson, Liukin, Sacramone, Memmel, and Peszek looking to be on the team, USA has all gaps filled besides a 3rd bar worker. Sloan had a couple issues on day one on that event but pulled in a respectable 15.6, which could go to as high as a 15.9 with a clean routine. Judges can hammer Bieger and Worley more so than Sloan on form, and having Shawn compete AA in team finals is a pressure-filled task that has backfired on the U.S. team twice before. I would still say Bridget is the last girl on the team, and despite her case for being an AA athlete USA looks to really only be using her on bars. Sloan's decision to nix her DTY from Trials entirely opened the door for Peszek to grab herself a ticket to Beijing.

Shayla Worley- Slightly lackluster efforts on bars and beam and failing to beat Bieger or Sloan on bars are looking to do the trick to compete Shayla off the Olympic team, the real question is whether Shayla and hang in there to be an alternate. Shayla (based on the quick hit commentary) seems to be a bit tentative, and with all of the injuries she's had she obviously has reason to be. The question remains whether Shayla has enough time to improve to peak form on bars and thus get the last spot on the team. So far, it doesn't look like it will happen but Worley would be wise to just focus on bars, and maybe beam, onward to the selection camp.

Jana Bieger- Jana was given higher scores here and her bars placed .05 ahead of Bridget and .25 ahead of Shayla. If she continues to have strong bars work on day two and at the camp, Martha K. would be wise to name Jana as an alternate in favor of Shayla. Jana is a consistent competitor who is experienced and would be an ideal substitute if something were to happen to any of our bars girls. Jana has no use contributing on floor, her other strong event, with shaky performances placing behind those of Johnson, Liukin, Sacramone, Larson, Peszek, and Memmel. From now until the selection camp Jana needs to be focused on improving uneven bars and nothing else; what was once proclaimed her weakest event looks to be her last hope for getting a ticket to Beijing.

Mattie Larson- Sam P.'s strong VT/FX scores from night one look to keep Mattie off the Olympic team, but I would still send her as a traveling alternate because of her good consistency and strong execution on those two events making her an ideal alternate. Mattie has expressed desire to go on to London 2012, and the experience of possibly going to Beijing as an alternate should help prepare her immensely when she goes for making the Olympic team again in 2012.

Ivana Hong- Even though Hong finished a solid 5th AA and had a good meet minus some low landing issues on floor, it would be a blessing for Ivana just to be named as an alternate. Sam P. has consistently outscored Ivana on vault, and has been outscored by Larson consistently on floor as well. Al and Armine have not been wise with what Ivana needs to be able to contribute to the team, and being an AA athlete is not going to do the trick. Though Ivana's consistency has improved, there is no gap she is needed to fill really anywhere.

There really isn't much of a chance for any of the girls who competed at trials to make the team apart from those that I mentioned above. I expect all of the aformentioned names plus Britney Ranzy to make the final camp, and Randy Stageberg or even Chelsea Davis might be named if they perform well in day two. Let us look at the holes USA is needed to fill assuming Johnson, Liukin, Sacramone, Memmel, and Peszek are on the team. The first three athletes that I mention in the prelims line-up are expected to be used in team finals.

Prelims (VT): Sacramone, Johnson, Peszek, Liukin, Memmel (?)

Prelims (UB): Liukin, Memmel, ?, Johnson, Peszek

Prelims (BB): Liukin, Johnson, Memmel, Sacramone, Peszek

Prelims (FX): Johnson, Sacramone, Liukin/Memmel/Peszek (all legitimate uses in team final)

So, if Memmel is to get her DTY back she should compete vault in prelims, but it would still help Bridget Sloan's chances if she competes a good DTY at the selection camp, thus making her a legitimate back-up in team finals on that event. With rivals Shayla Worley and Jana Bieger only competing 1.5 Yurchenkos, Sloan is not hurting her Olympic chances by not competing vault at trials. Using Johnson on bars would be a definite administrative error, which is why the 3rd ranked bar worker based on Nats/Oly Trials/Camp results is likely to get the last spot on the team. A strong showing on bars from Sloan on day two and she will be very hard to unseat for the last spot on the team.

Predicted Team:

1. Shawn Johnson
2. Nastia Liukin
3. Alicia Sacramone
4. Chellsie Memmel
5. Samantha Peszek
6. Bridget Sloan


1. Jana Bieger
2. Mattie Larson

3. Shayla Worley (non-traveling)

That is all.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Final Thoughts Prior to the 2008 Olympic Trials

The 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials begin in Philadelphia tonight for the men and tomorrow for the women. (This post is only about the women, but my next post will be about the men's Olympic Team Selection Outlook) For the women, this is the second in three crucial stages in towards of making it to Beijing. Two spots will be officially sewn up in Philly, but the remaining four spots, plus the three alternates, will have to wait another month from now when everything is said and done at the Karolyi ranch. Though no one can really ever know for sure, it seems likely that these trials' results are considered the most amongst the three competitions that make up the marathon selection procedure. This will be the last time these girls compete in a big arena in front of thousands of fan and on national television. At these trials, look very closely at the results for 3rd-5th place on vault, bars, and floor. With four spots look to be sewn up, the remaining two are anyone's to claim.

Shawn Johnson

Podium Training Report: Looks excellent, and has apparently improved her Amanar (a couple were stuck!) and her whip + triple twist. Had one fall on a standing full on beam, but otherwise faultless.

Outlook: Shawn looks to have done a great job at shaking off the Iowa flood incident, and based on the podium training reports she is the most fit here. Shawn might be the most consistent on the day of the competition, but if Nationals are any indication the judges might be tighter with Shawn's scores to ensure a Nastia win. However, finishing in the top two should happen barring a uncharacteristically poor performance on Shawn's part.

Nastia Liukin

Podium Training Report: No DTY's; it is very safe to say that all of Liukin's routines performed at Nationals are exactly the same as the ones she will be doing for the Olympics. Liukin looked strong with every event, however she still had some issues with her double front on floor.

Outlook: The judges likely want a win for Nastia, so that Shawn won't have to feel the pressure of being America's top gymnast and so that the media will continue to hype up this supposed showdown between power and grace. The message from day two of Nationals was clear; Nastia beat Shawn despite Shawn having a slightly superior day in general. As far as Liukin's gymnastics is concerned, focusing on cleaning up her bars dismount and putting together two clean floor routines should be her top priorities for these Olympic Trials.

Alicia Sacramone

Podium Training Report: Looked good, but isn't doing much on vault and floor besides timers. However, she apparently had a couple of shaky beam sets until Martha came over to look at her and she subsequently nailed a rock solid routine.

Outlook: Martha K. and Sac herself have alluded to upgrades, and it is widely rumored that she will be replacing her front-full side pass with a triple twist on the diagonal, thus bumping her A-score to a 6.4. If everything goes as planned, Alicia may decide to throw her Amanar vault here, though has so far not trained it in Philly. Alicia successfully completing her upgrades on floor and vault, plus showing clean beam sets out of her capable 7.0 A-score, are what she needs to be focused on at these trials. With floor exercise especially, stamina will be a crucial test with a triple twist inserted in as a middle tumbling run.

Chellsie Memmel

Podium Training Report: Chellsie is doing the same bars set and is improving the solidity of her balance beam. Has apparently not upgraded on floor, though there are rumors she will replace her double full pass with a double arabian (6.4 A, not likely to happen until the selection camp). Hasn't shown much on vault.

Outlook: Chellsie's chances of securing a birth in Philly by finishing in the top two are relatively slim, but she is still a lock for the team. Chellsie looks to be pacing herself well, and it looks like she won't be showing too many upgrades here at trials, though we may see a DTY if it is ready or a front aerial + side aerial connection on beam. Chellsie's primary focus is to peek at the selection camp, which for her physical well-being is definitely an intelligent move. Chellsie's top priorities for the Trials are to clean up her execution a bit and to remain consistent, and finishing in the top 3 on floor would be a great relief to the selection committee, who wouldn't have to worry about putting in someone less reliable like Larson or Peszek in team finals.

Samantha Peszek

Podium Training Report: Not a whole lot to report on her, but stepped OOB repeatedly on floor and on her opening double-double. Sam P. is looking OK everywhere else, but isn't producing any routines the U.S. can't do without in Beijing.

Outlook: Martha K.'s political tactics to try to get Sam P. to work harder to maintain her VT/FX specialist spot don't look to be working YET. There's a lot of girls battling for that 3rd place finish on floor including two of the locks (Liukin and Memmel), in addition to Sloan, Bieger, Larson, and obviously Peszek. My money is on Memmel to get 3rd on floor at trials and selection camp, and for Sloan to unveil her apparently fabulous DTY that we still haven't seen. If both scenarios are to come true, Peszek isn't needed at all (Gasp), unless of course she is to be used in case of an injury. Sam P.'s #1 priority for these trials is to bloody well prove the U.S. can't do without her in Beijing, which means: Do good routines on the events your needed on!

Bridget Sloan

Podium Training Report: Surprisingly has not done much in the podium training reports, but has shown good bars sets with not-so-good foot form (still flexing her feet on her tkatchevs).

Outlook: Bridget's results here, particularly on FX and VT, should have a large say as to whether Sam P. will make the team or not. Everyone has been talking about the supposed bars showdown between Shayla and Bridget, but at this point Sloan's bars scores from Boston would be very formidable for Worley to reach even at top form. Bridget is solid, but not stunning, on floor when healthy. However, her DTY is the big mystery of all. Her DTY has been widely rumored to be a very good one, and with Sam P.'s looking to be regressing on that event Bridget could find herself not only making the team, but vaulting in team finals if deemed necessary. Everyone is looking for good bars from Bridget this weekend, but her vault and floor could also decide a lot in terms of the makeup of the team and the alternates. Bridget is a very intelligent and calm competitor, and at this point I think her Olympic chances are better than Shayla and Sam P.

Shayla Worley

Podium Training Report: Shayla is actually looking pretty good on bars and beam, and rumors of withdrawal appear to be untrue. However, floor and vault are another story and appears to be only competing bars and beam this weekend and presumably onward to her quest for making the Olympic team. (sigh-I liked her Jesse Cook FX routine at the '08 American Cup, the girl has taste when it comes to good FX music in my opinion)

Outlook: Shayla needs to finish 3rd on bars, preferably on both days over Bridget if she has any hope of actually competing in Beijing. With floor and vault looking to be out of the question, bars is her money event to make the squad. Shayla could use beam as a possible back-up to contribute on if needed, though we already have Nastia, Shawn, and A-Sac/Chellsie capable of high 15's (at the very least) on this event, and with those four there is already one girl left to fill in if injury is to occur in team finals. Shayla needs to finish in the top three on bars at both trials and at the ranch to secure spot on the team, though Shayla should at least be looking at an alternate position at this point with USA's need for good bar workers.

Mattie Larson

Podium Training Reports: Looking good all-around, even on bars which is not an especially strong event for her.

Outlook: Though Larson looks to be a relative longshot at this point, don't count her out just yet. Larson is inexperienced but in the competitions she has competed in she has looked to be a stable competitor and outscored Jana, Sam P., and Chellsie at Nationals on floor. I'd say if she does that again, she is a lock to be an alternate at the very least. While I don't see Larson on the team, an alternate position could happen for this gymnast who's polished style would be appreciated by the international judges if it were to be needed.

Jana Bieger

Podium Training Report: Looking OK, but is showing low landings on floor and beam especially. Only showing a yurchenko 1.5 on vault, and nothing really different from her on any event since Nationals.

Outlook: Jana could be in danger of even claiming an alternate position with one of the Shayla/Bridget equation likely to be an alternate, in addition to a Sam P./Mattie/Ranzy(?) likely to be an alternate as well. With Shayla and Bridget looking good on bars, there is little need for another back-up bar worker. Same with floor, though in that case USA would actually have even more options if something is to go wrong, and with Larson outscoring Bieger sizably at Nationals on FX, I would say Jana could end up being the third, non-traveling alternate. Jana is going to have to prove herself immensely on bars and floor at trials and at the ranch if she wants to be even one of the two immediate alternates going to Beijing, let alone competing there.

Ivana Hong

Podium Training Report: Ivana is definitely the most hard-working athlete of anyone, and has shown nice DTY's and good beam routines and stuck bars dismounts. However, problems with her double front on floor and missed handstands on bars remain.

Outlook: Ivana's DTY will only be needed if it is gorgeous on both days of competition at trials and at the ranch. With Sam P., Ranzy, Sloan, or even Memmel looking to contribute on that event during team finals, Hong will need to really set herself apart on that one event to make the team. Like Sam P., Ivana (I perhaps should blame her coaches actually) has not been intelligent with specifically what she can contribute to the team. Investing upgrades on one or two events would make her much more of a threat to make the team, but so far we have three events (UB, BB, and FX) that the U.S. can use her in an absolute emergency and one event (VT) which we can use in team finals but isn't necessarily something we don't already have. Ivana could still be an alternate if she proves herself on vault especially to be a necessity, but her chances of competing in Beijing are slim to none.

Brittany Ranzy

Podium Training Reports: Looking good, but no signs of an Amanar YET.

Outlook: Outscoring Sam P. and Ivana on vault at Nats should at least turn some heads. Despite the fact that Martha K. is unlikely to risk taking such an inexperienced competitor, she really doesn't have much to lose by sending her, unless if Sam P. suddenly becomes fabulous on vault and floor and the U.S. can't do without her there. If one of the locks or even Bridget Sloan can be trusted with the third spot on floor, then we're covered everywhere BUT the lead-off spot on vault. With Sam P., Ivana, and Mattie scoring lower than Ranzy's DTYs at Nationals, an Amanar vault could be possible for her and Martha K. could feel it is the last needed piece of the puzzle to be filled. However, a fall and an underotation on an Amanar vault in team finals would be the other end of risking taking such an inexperienced girl to compete in the Olympics. However, I still don't see Ranzy making the team, but it would be the stunning upset of the quad if she were to make the team.

Not much to report on Darling Hill, Randi Stageberg, Mackenzie Caquatto, Corrie Lothrop, Chelsea Davis, Olivia Courtney, or Alaina Johnson. However, Trani apparently looked distraught, as did the Mrs., though she did show some decent DTY's.

That is all.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

All Quiet on the Gymnastics Front (NOT)

Above: Happy Father's Day! Andy Memmel and Valeri Liukin with their respective daughters.

Prior to the start of the all important U.S. Olympic Trials next week, there have been several Olympic trials or pre-Olympic dual meets going on around the world. Four Chinese gymnasts have participated at the French Olympic Trials in what will likely be their last international meet prior to Beijing, and there has also been the Brazilian Nationals and a dual meet between Romania and Great Britain. Oh and Shawn Johnson's gym got flooded=AAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Without further ado:

French Nationals That Are Really All About the Chinese

  • Yang Yilin had a strong showing, and is more and more beginning to showcase her strengths as a legitimate contender for Olympic AA gold. Posted marks of 15.125 (VT), 16.65 (UB), 15.75 (BB), and 15.175 (FX). In event finals she won gold on UB (16.825), tied for third on BB (15.325), but had a fall on FX (13.75). Yang has the potential to sneak into the AA medal ranks, but winning will be a tall order. Yang's consistency is something to be admired, though stamina required for a two-day competition probably impeded her event final FX and BB efforts. The more I think about it, the Chinese could use Yang on BB in team finals. She can hit, maybe with not a super high mark, but with a respectable mark that the Chinese can count on for consistency.

  • Jiang Yuyuan had a lackluster vault score (14.575), which possibly could have been due to a shaky Amanar that was downgraded to a DTY, though there is no video yet. Has a 7.3 A-score on UB, but handstand deductions for late pirouetting are likely coming into play with scores of 15.8 (8.5 B) and 15.65 (7.2 A, 8.45 B) on that event. Won the floor exercise title but had a low mark on beam in AA finals (15.025). Jiang has the goods to win Olympic AA, but deductions like missed handstands, wobbles on beam, and occasional OOB's on floor will make the difference.

  • Cheng Fei did not do her Amanar in either AA or event finals, but did do her Cheng (apparently successfully) in event finals, vault being the only event final she competed in. Scored a solid but unspectacular 15.55 in AA finals and landed on her head on her double-double on floor, scoring only a 14.275. Not quite the meet she was looking for, but she a very experienced veteran who was probably just treating this as a warm-up meet. It is beginning to look like she will be doing her Cheng vault in Olympic team finals, instead of the Amanar vault which she has done unsuccessfully in world team finals for the last two years.

  • After this meet I seriously cannot see how the Chinese are going to even think of letting Sui Lu step foot into Beijing come August. Landed OOB on floor in AA finals (14.7) and had multiple falls off the balance beam as well (13.725). A score in the 13's would open a huge door for the USA in team finals, though Sui did mark a reasonable 15.35 in event finals. Sui Lu has all the potential to be the missing piece of the puzzle that China has been looking for, I thought after seeing the Chinese Nationals that Sui was a sure lock for the team. But as I said in my Chinese Olympic Team Outlook post back in early May, Sui Lu would be a huge gamble to risk competing in the Olympic Games, and I think the Chinese by now have realized that the risk of sending Sui will outshine the reward.

  • Don't confirm this, but I heard that the French Olympic Team is: Pauline Morel, Marine Petit, Laetitia Dugain, Cassy Vericel, Marine Debauve, and Kathleen Lindor. Severino's Achilles injury from Europeans in April has disallowed this great gymnast from going to a third Olympics. Marine Debauve, who placed 7th AA at the '04 Olympics, has made a successful comeback to go to her 2nd Olympic Games. Cassy Vericel showed a 6.4 A-score on floor in the event finals of these championships, which apparently included a Dos Santos (piked double Arabian).

  • Beth Tweddle was scheduled to compete but withdrew to a foot injury. No word yet on how serious it is.

  • These scores were definitely stingy (comparative to USA and China Nats), and probably more or less around what you will see in Beijing.

Brazilian Nationals

  • Penguin 888 reports that Ana Claudia Silva is the new AA champ of Brazil, not Jade Barbosa (shock horror) Jade had falls on her Amanar (which scored a 14.5 and probably wasn't credited with full rotation, it was a truly splatted vault if there ever was one) and a fall on her acro series on beam, which also gave her trouble at the recent Moscow World Cup.

  • Khiuani Dias withdrew from the competition entirely, and Daiane dos Santos still has a ways to go on floor exercise (14.667 in prelims).

  • Despite Jade's AA trouble, she did manage wins on vault, bars and floor. No word yet on who won beam, but I suspect that top qualifier Daniele Hypolito (15.7 in prelims, rumors of a 7.0 A-score here) won that event.

  • In prelims, Lais Souza was unspectacular, only finishing in the top three on balance beam with a 14.733 there.

  • Jade has looked very skaky this year, although her floor exercise consistency looks to be greatly improving. She did her first Amanar vault of 2008 and it wasn't even close, and the ff+ff+2-foot layout acro series on beam has been giving Barbosa all sorts of trouble. Losing to little known all arounder Ana Claudia Silva will no doubt have a negative affect on Jade's confidence. However, last year Jade looked like an unremarkable gymnast until the Worlds where she easily was in the best condition of her life and was challenging for the World AA title. If she can repeat that concept of peaking at the right time for Beijing, than the top AA girls better watch out. Sadly though, I don't see it happening. Her consistency isn't improving, and if anything it is regressing to the point where hitting 4 for 4 routines in a major championship seems to be very unlikely.

GBR vs. ROM Dual Meet

  • Romania won here (duh), with Steliana Nistor winning the AA. Steliana apparently only did a yurchenko 1.5 (14.6), but was excellent on bars and beam and finished with an AA score of 61.0. Likely fell on floor in the AA (14.2), but adding eight tenths to 61 would make Steliana a very legitimate AA contender, though these scores look to be inflated. Nistor followed up her AA win with a UB win and silvers on BB and FX. Overall, Nistor looks to be close to top shape less than two months prior to the start of the Games.

  • Rebecca Downie is coming into her own for the British team and placed a strong 2nd AA with scores ranging from 14.55 (floor) to 15.8 (bars). Won vault in event finals and also placed 2nd on uneven bars. The emergence of this youngster will hopefully help Great Britain to make Olympic team finals.

  • Sandra Izbasa is still having problems with the dreaded bars (13.55-sat down dismount) which will very likely take her out of the Olympic AA medal hunt in Beijing, unfortunately. Strong work on beam and floor, and a DTY on vault (relatively skaky though) kept Izbasa in the AA medals with a bronze at this meet, and would end up defeating Nistor for gold on both of those events in event finals. Without Ponor competing, Izbasa could make Olympic BB finals as well as challenging for FX gold, now that she won't have to worry about the 2-per country rule.

  • Imogen Cairns improved her Olympic chances by defeating compatriot Marissa King for silver on vault. King, a vault specialist, tied for 5th AA but appeared to be lackluster throughout the competition on her key event to make the British Olympic team.

Thoughts and Rumors on Shawn Johnson's Flooding Situation

If you haven't already heard, there have been floods around much of Iowa and in the process the floods decided to go and invade Shawn Johnson's gym, which ended up being a very unusual roadblock for Shawn's training for the Olympics. There have been rumors that Martha K. is going to let Shawn train at the ranch after the trials until, presumably, when the U.S. team leaves for Beijing. Shawn went to Iowa State to train immediately following the flood, and should be leaving for the trials on Monday. There have been reports suggesting that Johnson left West Des Moines with almost the assumption that she won't be returning until possibly after the Olympics are over. Barring something very unlikely Shawn will get one of the two guaranteed births to the Olympic team in Philly next week. Training at the camp would be an ideal situation for Shawn, as the camp now has Jansen-Fritsen equipment, the same equipment being used in Philly, Beijing, and at Shawn's gym. However, if Shawn feels that Martha K. would not be a positive influence to her training (though Chow and Li will probably both go down with her and still coach her as normal), than Shawn should likely move in with another top gymnast. In this scenario, Chellsie Memmel would come to mind. Shawn and Chellsie's personalities are fairly similar, and having training partners would allow both gymnasts to push each other even more to come to the Olympics in peak condition.

EDIT: Shawn will be going back to Chow's after the Olympic Trials.

That is all.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bubble Girls Analysis

I have previously done my analysis posts on the team outlooks of both China and USA, and I will do a final analysis on the bubble girls of China and USA and how they could impact the outcome of the team result in the upcoming Olympics. On both teams there appear to be four locks, with two gymnasts to decide from among many prospective Olympic hopefuls in both China and the USA. Let's take a look at what holes these two teams have, what the bubble girls can and cannot contribute to the team, and how they concern things like start values and consistency.


Locks: Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel, Alicia Sacramone

Team Final Line-Up

Vault: Sacramone, Johnson, ?

Uneven Bars: Liukin, Memmel, ?

Balance Beam: Johnson, Liukin, Sacramone/Memmel

Floor Exercise: Johnson, Sacramone, ? (possibly Memmel or even Liukin)

Bubble Girls:

Samantha Peszek-VT, FX

Bridget Sloan-UB, possibly FX and VT if knee is fully recovered

Shayla Worley-UB, BB if USA absolutely needs her

Jana Bieger-UB/FX

Ivana Hong-VT/BB/UB if USA absolutely needs her

Mattie Larson-VT/FX if upgrades come on floor

Britney Ranzy- VT (if Amanar shows up at trials)

At this point, I don't expect anyone outside of this list to even have a chance at being an alternate. The UB postition looks to be a battle between two gymnasts, Bridget Sloan and Shayla Worley. Sloan looks to have the edge at this point because of her strong showing at Nationals (3rd place), though various reports have said that Shayla is up and running on bars and her Nats withdrawal was merely a precaution for her health. However, I would still pick Sloan because of her consistency, good execution and the fact that she also competed in the Beijing arena during the Olympic Test Event in November 2007 and performed very consistently. Reliability is something that Martha K. certainly should be looking for when selecting the team, after all Terin Humphrey was picked in '04 largely because of her cool head under pressure. The last spot is where everyone else (besides Sloan/Worley) is gunning for, and will be the most difficult to decide of all. Let's take a look:

Samantha Peszek

Pros: Good political favor, has a pretty solid DTY and a 6.4 A-score on floor, in addition to great improvement on UB and BB.

Cons: Showing inconsistency with her two necessary events to make the squad on, and form and artistry that is something to be desired on every event.

Outlook: If Peszek solely focused her efforts on either having an Amanar or an excellent floor routine, I would say she would be a shoo-in for the team. However, Sam has not been intelligent with what she needs to focus on to make the Olympic team. It also kind of shocks me that Martha K. didn't stop her from upgrading on bars and beam in hopes of being an AA gymnast, but rather stressing to Sam that the team would need her most on the two events she is strong at. Martha's mystifying choices to send many girls to Olympic Trials with little or no little chance to go are likely to be in direct response to Sam P.'s up-and-down performance at Nats on floor exercise especially. I would say Sam still has a spot on the team, but she better watch out if Britney Ranzy shows up to Philly with an Amanar.

Mattie Larson

Pros: Good, consistent work on floor and vault, not to mention great execution and artistry on floor that the international judges should appreciate.

Cons: Little international experience, low-balled on vault at nationals, lower start value on floor than some of the other floor specialists (6.1 A).

Outlook: Larson looks to be the top rival of Sam P. for the last spot on the team, but I frankly don't see it happening. Her DTY is good, but not something the U.S. can't do without, especially considering the fact that it is untested on a major international stage. With Memmel looking to be the 3rd floor worker on the team, I don't think Larson has much to contribute there unless if her rumored upgrades materialize and are done successfully at the trials. Peszek still looks to be better than Larson on vault, ragged form and all, but Mattie may just hear her name called as an alternate.

Jana Bieger

Pros: Jana has a 6.4 A-score on floor and placed 4th at Nats on uneven bars. Experience and consistency are two of Jana's biggest assets.

Cons: Jana was not scored favorably at this year's Nationals and doesn't look to have scores that the team can't do without. Several form issues on bars and floor degrade her B-score right off the bat, and Jana was shaky on floor on both days of competition, which is her #1 event in terms of importance to make the team.

Outlook: Jana looks to be an alternate unless if injuries are to take several key gymnasts out of the picture entirely. Good strength on bars and floor, plus good consistency, make Jana a good plug-in gymnast if a key performer is to go down. However, Jana's tremendous form deductions leave no room for error, and that is something the U.S. will look to not risk in Beijing.

Ivana Hong

Pros: Hong's good form and experience of competing at last year's worlds are assets to make the squad. Her lack of a glaringly weak event makes her a capable plug-in gymnast on any piece of apparatus.

Cons: Finishing 9th on vault at Nats does not help Ivana's Olympic chances out in the least. Ivana is far too much of a loose cannon to be fired out onto the floor during USA's battle with China, and lack of an individual strength makes her not a necessary commodity for the team.

Outlook: Ivana can still wind up as an alternate if she performs well on vault at trials, but she appears to have a slim chance of even doing that. USA will likely take Jana over Ivana because of Jana's consistency and added strength on floor, Sloan/Worley because of their strength on bars, and if a third alternate is to be picked than Mattie Larson looks to get that position with good VT/FX work. Ivana simply doesn't give the U.S. anything that they don't already have.

Britney Ranzy

Pros: Britney had the 3rd highest vault score at Nats and is said to be planning an Amanar at trials.

Cons: Britney is untested internationally and up until this Amanar rumor no one even thought of her having as much as a remote possibility to go to Beijing. Without an Amanar, there is unlikely to be any use of Ranzy even as an alternate.

Outlook: Ranzy's Amanar could picture an entirely different team outlook than the selection committee had planned on overseeing. If it is clean and consistent at trials and at selection camp, than the USA could actually pick her as the other three events would look to be covered by the other five girls. However, the likelihood of viewers seeing Ranzy's Amanar, let alone her landing it, is lofty at best. Ranzy, with the exception of injury, has nothing to lose to try the vault if she is indeed training it.

As I see it, Peszek still looks to have the 6th spot provided that Ranzy doesn't come to trials with a landed Amanar, or if Larson gets 3rd on floor exercise, like she did at Nats. If Memmel or even Liukin takes 3rd on floor at trials, than USA already has that position filled and all we need then would be a vault specialist. Ranzy could very well get it IF her Amanar is consistent, but Peszek looks to get that spot because she is a potential plug-in girl on any other event if the USA needs her there.


Locks: Cheng Fei, He Kexin, Yang Yilin, Jiang Yuyuan

Team Final Line-Up

Vault: Fei, Yuyuan, Kexin/Yilin

Uneven Bars: Kexin, Yilin, Yuyuan

Balance Beam: Fei, ?, ?

Floor Exercise: Fei, Yuyuan, ? (possibly Yilin)

Bubble Girls:

Deng Linlin-BB, VT and FX if China needs her

Sui Lu-BB, FX

Zhang Nan-BB

Pang PanPan- UB

Xiao Sha-BB

Li Shanshan-BB

China is most in need of two beam specialists, possibly another floor spot if they don't think Yang Yilin is "good enough", and a backup bars worker in case something disastrous happens to any of the three bars workers mentioned above.

Deng Linlin

Pros: Winning beam and floor gold ahead of Sui Lu at the recent Moscow World Cup helps out Deng's Olympic bid. Linlin is generally a consistent competitor who gets solid scores on the events China needs her on.

Cons: Linlin is really more alternate material to the team. The only event they need her on is balance beam, and even there she suffered a fall during the prelims of the Chinese Nationals, thus failing to make event finals.

Outlook: Linlin's strengths on vault and floor really aren't needed, but her balance beam could be. Deng is overall more consistent than beam specialists Xiao Sha and Li Shanshan, but the Chinese may still not use her because of her lower scoring potential. I would predict Deng to be an alternate at this point because of her general consistency and ability to fill a hole while not being an event specialist, which is what the Chinese appear to really be looking for.

Sui Lu

Pros: Sui has the capability of scoring very high on beam and floor, two routines that China would certainly like to use in its quest to beat the United States. Winning Chinese Nationals on those two events and also being scored extremely favorably should mean that Sui is being pushed by the coaches to go to Beijing.

Cons: Sui's meltdown in prelims of the Moscow Russian Cup, her first major international meet, does not bode well for her Olympic chances. In addition to that, the judges were strict in marking Sui in the beam finals for a couple of missed connections and ended up missing the gold on that event by about .4 to Linlin. Sui's inexperience is a huge gamble for China to risk going to Beijing, with the results being either stunning or disastrous.

Outlook: The Chinese can still send Sui Lu with Xiao Sha suffering from falls at both the Chinese Nationals and Tianjin World Cup. Sui should outscore with Yang Yilin with a hit routine, but the Chinese can count on Yang to hit whereas Sui is much more questionable. Still, with the inconsistency coming from Shanshan and Sha on beam, I think they will still risk sending Sui and her high A-scores to the Games because the Chinese are the types that will go all out to win, they are simply not going to go clean and conservative at home.

Zhang Nan

Pros: Zhang Nan has been a rock for the Chinese team on balance beam, posting their top score on that event at the 2006 Worlds when China won its first world title. Zhang is much more experienced than Shanshan, Sha, and Sui combind and the Chinese would look to trust her more than anyone to hit in a team final.

Cons: Zhang Nan has a .5 lower start value on beam than Shanshan, and has performed poorly since the 2006 Worlds. Zhang Nan is only a one-event athlete, and has not been selected to compete in any world cup meets this past year.

Outlook: Zhang Nan showed improvement at the Chinese Nationals, winning the bronze on the beam. However, the fact that Zhang Nan was not sent to a world cup meet at all this year basically means that the Chinese aren't interested. Too bad, because Zhang Nan is the consistent, experienced gymnast making a comeback who I would bet to HIT in team finals when I really can't the same for Li Shanshan, Sui Lu, and Xiao Sha.

Pang PanPan

Pros: With Cheng Fei and the possibility of Li Shanshan, Xiao Sha, Sui Lu, or even Zhang Nan means that China will have no backup on bars in team finals if something catastrophic is to happen to Kexin, Yilin, or Yuyuan. Triple P got bronze at Chinese Nats ahead of Jiang, just prompting that the Chinese might go as far as to trust her with competing UB in team finals. Triple P is also experienced and well-favored internationally amongst the judges.

Cons: Triple P does not contribute much besides bars, and China is much more likely to resort putting two beam specialists on the final two spots for the team when China already has an arsenal of three great bars workers. Triple P also wasn't at the top of her game at the Moscow World Cup, which was important for Triple P because it was the only World Cup meet she had the opportunity to compete this year.

Outlook: Triple P looks to be a relatively unlikely candidate for the team, but keeping her on as an alternate is imperative if one of China's top three bars workers is unable to compete. However, Triple P has really very little contribution on the balance beam, as she failed to make event finals at the Chinese Nationals on that event.

Xiao Sha

Pros: Xiao is a textbook beam worker and hit in the team finals of last year's world championships after falling twice in the prelims. Sha is capable of scoring 16+ easily on that event and is a legitimate backup on any event if China were to absolutely need her.

Cons: Xiao is very inconsistent and suffered falls at the event finals of the recent Chinese Nationals and the Tianjin World Cup. Sha's A-score is only .2 ahead of Zhang Nan, and that is probably not worth the risk when .8 is on the line with a fall.

Outlook: Xiao's beam is too inconsistent for the Chinese to seriously consider sending her to Beijing, and her scores on the other three events aren't necessary unless if China were to suffer multiple injuries prior to the Games. Since Xiao's A-score is .3 lower than that of Li Shanshan, who are basically the two beam specialists battling it out for one spot that all of a sudden looks to be going to Shanshan.

Li Shanshan

Pros: Li Shanshan won the silver medal on balance beam at last year's worlds with a fall and recently won the Barcelona World Cup on balance beam and took out her split-leg full turn for an easier 90 degree leg-up full turn which actually has the same value as the aforementioned skill. Li Shanshan's start value of 7.3 is the highest being done on balance beam in the world.

Cons: Inconsistency, including falls at Chinese Nationals and the Cottbus Cup. Shanshan contributes little besides beam, and gave a golden opportunity to the USA women when she fell out of bounds at last year's worlds in the team final.

Outlook: Hit beam routines in prelims and finals at the recent Barcelona World Cup look to seal the deal for Shanshan's Olympic bid. China will look to use a great team final score for her balance beam, and it should be at least mid-15 even with a fall. My only question is: Why didn't Shanshan take out the godforsaken split-leg full turn which cost her not one, but two major beam titles (Chinese Nats/Worlds) when the comparatively easier 90 degree leg-up full turn is worth the same?

So, this was just a quick little analysis on the bubble girls and what they contribute to China and USA prior to the final Olympic trials of both nations. If I were to pick today, I would say Samantha Peszek and Bridget Sloan are the bubble girls whose bubbles will not burst, and as for China I would say the same for Sui Lu and Li Shanshan.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Olympic UB Final Outlook

The apparatus final to watch at these summer Olympics in Beijing, China, is the women's uneven bars final. All of the medal contenders on this apparatus have been upgrading their uneven bar routines over the past year like crazy to provide you with a thrilling showdown between several different styles of bar work. Bars queen Svetlana Khorkina of Russia may have retired, but that doesn't mean you should miss this battle between gymnasts from countries such as China, USA, Russia, Great Britain, and even Romania and Germany likely to have athletes taking part in this final. Among all the apparatus finals being contested in the Olympics, the uneven bars final in Beijing is one event NOT to be missed.

Predicted Bars Finalists:

Marie Sophie-Hindermann (Germany)
He Kexin (China)
Nastia Liukin (USA)
Chellsie Memmel (USA)
Steliana Nistor (Romania)
Ksenia Semionova (Russia)
Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)
Yang Yilin (China)

Predicted Reserves:

Anja Brinker (Germany)
Hong Su Jong (PRK)
Dariya Zgoba (Ukraine)

The Contenders (Note: The A-scores I have listed are for what athletes have either competed or have publicly stated that they plan on competing)

Marie-Sophie Hindermann (Germany)

Results: 2008 German Nationals-3rd place, 2008 Europeans-9th place(qualifying), 2007 Worlds-5th place

A-score: 7.3

Pros: Hindermann is appreciated for her very clean, correct style on the uneven bars. Form deductions that others suffer from do not apply to Hindermann, especially when it comes to not cowboying her double front dismount. Marie has upgraded her set to potentially .5 over where it was last year.

Cons: Hindermann is very consistent with NOT hitting her bar set. Hindermann would've challenged for the European title on bars earlier this year, but a failed dismount in prelims took away her chances of competing in the finals. She also had issues at the recent German Nationals, and only placed 3rd on this event in a competition she could've easily won.

Outlook: I predicted Hindermann would make bars finals because her A-score is higher than all of my predicted bars reserve gymnasts. Hindermann has yet to really put it all together on this event since last year's worlds. However, upgrades and good form could make Hindermann an outside medal threat at the Olympics if she hits her routine.

He Kexin (China)

Results: 2008 Chinese Nationals Bars Champion, 2008 Cottbus World Cup champion, 2008 Doha World Cup champion

A-score: 7.7 (rumored upgrades)

Pros: He Kexin is the solid favorite for uneven bars gold at these Olympics. Her consistency is remarkable, given the fact that she has yet to miss her extraordinarily difficult routine at a major competition. He Kexin's reliance on pirouettes is less so than her main rivals Nastia Liukin and Yang Yilin, which means there is less room for potential handstand deductions for Kexin. Stamina has not appeared to be an issue at all for Kexin's set, which is something that top bars challenger Liukin cannot say.

Cons: He Kexin's underage rumors could end up backfiring on the Chinese, with the judges having the option of giving a tight execution score to Kexin in order to prevent her from winning gold. Kexin withdrew from the recent Barcelona World Cup for reasons unknown, and also withdrew from the finals of the Tianjin World Cup due to "exhaustion." These recent occurrences could mean that Kexin is not as physically and mentally prepared for the Olympics as she would like.

Outlook: He Kexin has dominated bars throughout the entire year and will be tough to beat in Beijing. Consistency, lack of deductions, and incredible difficulty look to be the right combination for gold. The only things that are standing in the way are He Kexin dealing with the pressure herself and possible political disfavortism from the judges who are known to be relatively tight with the Chinese gymnasts' scores.

Nastia Liukin (USA)

Results: 2005-2008 USA Bars Champion, 2008 Pacific Rim-2nd place(tie), 2007 Worlds-2nd place, 2006 Worlds-2nd place, 2005 World Bars Champion

A-score: 7.7 (though unlikely, if Liukin connects Tkatchev + Pak she would have a maximum A-score of 7.9)

Pros: Nastia is a formidable challenger on this event because of her exquisite body line, good form and high difficulty. Nastia showed improvement in her bar work at the recent U.S. Nationals, especially when it came to hitting handstands. Judges are generally inclined to score tall girls favorably on this event, and Liukin is no exception. Nastia has also competed in three world bars finals, medaling in all of them, and her top rival He Kexin doesn't even have the experience of a world championship under her belt.

Cons: Nastia occurs deductions right off the bat for cowboyed form on her double front 1/2 dismount, in addition is usually a bit off handstand in her Ono 1.5 pirouette. Liukin has been struggling with maintaining her stamina throughout the routine and generally has less-than-desired landings on her dismount. Liukin has also been on the losing end twice during close bars races at the last two world championships.

Outlook: Nastia's #1 priority prior to the Olympics is cleaning up her dismount, which has about a .3 form deduction and additional deductions if she were to have a faulty landing. Liukin shouldn't be subject to another questionable loss of a bars gold medal, as the bars winners at the last two world championships (Elizabeth Tweddle and Ksenia Semionova) were from countries that had yet to win a medal in the competition. With Liukin's top rivals likely to be the two Chinese, Nastia shouldn't be subject to a loss due to the judges wanting to award the gold medal to someone who not from an especially dominant gymnastics nation. However, Nastia's scores and domestic and international competition have yet to match those of He Kexin, and might need a sizable error on her part to win the gold.

Chellsie Memmel (USA)

Results: 2008 U.S. Nationals-2nd place, 2006 Worlds-2nd place (qualifying), 2005 Worlds-2nd place, 2003 Co-World Bars Champion

A-score: 7.0 (stated it could be as high as 7.2)

Pros: Chellsie has strong uneven bar work and her competitive spirit has always made her a favorite of the international judges, which should continue due to the fact that Memmel has even upgraded since her shoulder injury of doom. Chellsie's extremely consistent bar work and amplitude with her releases are also assets to contend for a bars medal.

Cons: Even at top form, Chellsie is .5 behind the top A-scores on this event. This means that Chellsie would really need to rely on a big mistake from at least one of the top bars gymnasts to get a medal, and so far this year Kexin, Yilin, and Liukin have all looked pretty consistent on this event.

Outlook: Chellsie's upgrades make her a very likely candidate to get into bars finals, but medaling is a different story. However, Memmel's competitive nature would make her likely to do a great routine in bars finals and if another top challenger falls under the pressure Chellsie would be right there to snatch a spot on the podium. Because of a lower start score, any podium finish will likely come by default for Memmel, unfortunately.

Steliana Nistor (Romania)

Results: 2008 Europeans-2nd place, 2007 Worlds-6th place, 2006 Worlds-7th place

A-score: 7.3

Pros: Steliana is a very well-trained athlete, and in typical Romanian fashion can cover up a mistake like no other. Steliana is quick thinking enough to save any pirouette that is not completed and rearrange her routine accordingly. Steliana is also a very consistent gymnast, especially on this event, and often sticks her landings cold which is not something many other gymnasts can do here.

Cons: Steliana's form is something to be desired and at the Europeans in April she lost the bars title to Ksenia Semionova despite hitting the routine with a .3 A-score advantage over Semionova. Nistor also tends to suffer from deductions from missed handstands for her multiple pirouetting skills in her routine. Lagging behind Liukin, Yilin, Kexin, and others with her start value also doesn't help Nistor's bid for a bars medal.

Outlook: Steliana is a consistent gymnast but doesn't have the finest quality bar work like that of the other top bar workers. As a competitor she is a very reliable gymnast and is able to work through errors efficiently in her routine, but like Memmel a medal on bars for Nistor will likely come at the expense of other gymnasts' errors.

Ksenia Semionova (Russia)

Results: 2008 Moscow World Cup Bars Champion, 2008 European Bars Champion, 2007 World Bars Champion

A-score: 7.2 (potentially 7.6 if she connects tkatchev + 1.5 pirouette + jaegar but has yet to show this combo)

Pros: One of the lone bright spots for the Russian team in this entire quad, Ksenia has strong political favor from the eastern-bloc nations to score her well as one of their best hopes for an individual medal of any gymnastics event for the women. Ksenia is generally a consistent bars worker and could be a top challenger for UB gold if she adds the aformentioned connection, thus only putting her .1 behind Liukin, Kexin, and Yilin in terms of A-scores.

Cons: Ksenia has been noted to have a stock routine, i.e. a routine that really doesn't have anything truly original. Semionova suffers form deductions for her Deltchev release, as well as her piked double arabian dismount, the latter of which she is sometimes downgraded on because she tucks her legs in the second salto. Also, if Semionova were to not upgrade to the aformentioned combination (which she so far happens), her start value would be sizably behind the other top bars workers.

Outlook: Semionova's technique looks to make her capable of adding the 1.5 turn into an immediate jaegar, and the Russians should know that such an upgrade is necessary for a UB medal of any color. Still, Semionova's bar work might not be on par with Tweddle, Liukin, Yilin, and Kexin because of form and other deductions, however Semionova always seems to be scored favorably on this event in any major competition.

Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)

Results: 2008 Europeans-4th place, 2007 Worlds-4th place, 2006 World Bars Champion, 2005 Worlds-3rd place, 2003 Worlds-3rd place

A-score: 7.4 (rumored upgrades)

Pros: Tweddle has a very consistent bars routine and has had the highest B-score at the last two world championship bars finals because of her good form and lack of handstand deductions (she is more reliant on releases than pirouettes). Tweddle has a very innovative bar routine and has her own element, a toe-on tkatchev 1/2, which she is hoping to have named after her. An upgraded start value of 7.4 and even more potential upgrades to come will boost Tweddle's bar medal chances considerably.

Cons: A failed connection between a toe-on tkatchev and a pak salto lost Tweddle a medal at last year's world championships. Beth has been inconsistent with getting her toe-on full prior to her dismount to the handstand, and also lost credit for her new release skill when she failed to make her straddle back to handtand afterward (though she has since changed the combo to an Ezhova transition). Tweddle has never finished lower than 4th in a world bars final, but all of these little errors seem to plague Beth in bars finals, as does an older body which tends to be more prone to injury.

Outlook: Everyone is thinking about the He Kexin vs. Nastia Liukin showdown, but don't count out Elizabeth Tweddle. She needs to upgrade from her already high 7.4 A-score about .2 to really be in the hunt and thus won't have to rely on other's mistakes to get on the podium. With Beth's good technique and experience she could go as far as taking everyone by surprise by winning gold, but she will need to be flawless in order to do so.

Yang Yilin (China)

Results: 2008 Tianjin World Cup Bars Champion, 2008 Chinese Nationals-2nd place, 2007 Worlds-3rd place

A-score: 7.7 (rumored upgrades)

Pros: Yang Yilin is an extremely consistent competitor who has upgraded her bar routine a whooping .7 in the last year and is currently competing her 7.7 A-score bar routine cleanly. Yang has excellent form and has a good combination of high release moves with beautiful pirouetting. Yang also won't have to deal with the pressure of her teammate, He Kexin, who will have to take far more pressure on her shoulders when competing in Olympic bars finals.

Cons: Yang Yilin was given relatively tight execution marks throughout the competition on bars at last year's worlds, and has yet to beat He Kexin on this event. Yang is not as much of a well-known name as Liukin, Kexin, Tweddle, and Semionova and thus judges might not be as inclined to score her highly. Like Liukin, Yang Yilin earns a lot of her start value in her pirouetting and a few missed handstands here and there will make the difference in such a tight field.

Outlook: Yang Yilin could be a huge surprise on this event, with the potential to upset the favorites and win the gold. However, judges will likely be more inclined to score Kexin and Liukin more favorably than Yilin, and Yang cannot afford any short handstands or dismount steps or hops if she wants gold. A medal is very possible on this event, but like Tweddle Yang will likely need close to a flawless routine if she is going for the top spot on the podium.

Reserve Athletes

Anja Brinker (Germany)- Has a 7.1 A-score and has a very clean and mostly consistent work on this apparatus, though an apparent fall at the recent German Nationals took her out of the medals there. However, I would say that if one of the above predicted bars finalists were to not make it to bars finals due to a fall/injury (mainly Hindermann because of her recent bars issues), I would predict Brinker to sneak in there if she hits her prelims routine.

Hong Su Jong (PRK)- Very consistent and clean bar worker, but as of last year's worlds only has a 6.6 A-score. I don't actually predict many upgrades for Su Jong on bars at the Olympics because of the Koreans likely turning their focus toward Su Jong's vault efforts.

Dariya Zgoba (Ukraine)- Zgoba is an excellent bar worker but it will be hard, though certainly possible, task to make it in to Olympic bars finals. Zgoba has a potential 7.0 A-score but often suffers from form deductions and (correct me if I'm wrong) a compostition deduction for standing on the low bar to transition to the high bar. I would predict Zgoba to get into bars finals if Hindermann and Brinker make mistakes, enough so that Zgoba could compete in the biggest meet of her career.

Predicted Podium:

Gold: He Kexin (China)

Silver: Yang Yilin (China)

Bronze: Nastia Liukin (USA)

With Kexin and Yilin more likely to upgrade than Liukin and with them being more consistent than Liukin, I do predict that these two Chinese girls will finish 1-2 and Nastia will have to settle for bronze. As far as Tweddle and Semionova are concerned, Tweddle I would actually predict to be battling for a medal more so than Semionova because of her experience, good execution and difficulty, and generally good scoring from the judges. Semionova's scoring favor will likely depend on whether Russia gets its team medal back that they so heartbreakingly lost last year. Even with a tkatchev + 1.5 turn immediate jaegar upgrade, I don't see Semionova being able to put together a competitive effort for the finals when she has yet to compete her full difficulty this year and with form that can be a big reason for deduction.

Next Post: USA/China Bubble Girls Analysis

That is all.

Friday, June 6, 2008

25th post=2008 U.S. Nationals Extravaganza

Above: The all-around podium finish at the 2008 U.S. Nationals. Shawn Johnson defended her title by one point over Nastia Liukin, and Chellsie Memmel had a strong comeback meet finishing 3rd.

Kicking off the much anticipated marathon selection procedure for the U.S. women's team was the Visa Championships that began in Boston on June 5th. However, much of the drama was firing up before the event even began. Ashley Priess withdrew from Nationals and from her Olympic quest entirely which apparently even her coach, Mary Lee Tracy, didn't know the reasons behind. Shayla Worley's shaky practise sessions persuaded her to bow out of Nationals as well, though we should expect to see Worley at trials. Chelsea Davis, the politically favored dark horse I have mentioned before, did not compete at all despite originally contemplating competing bars. By the time the competition arrived, the stage was set as to who has what the U.S. needs in Beijing, and who doesn't. Some confirmed what we already knew, some came out of nowhere with a bang, and others fell short of what they were able to live up to. Without further ado:

Please note that the vault rankings are based on both days of one-vault scores, NOT on the athletes that competed two vaults. (where A-Sac finished 1st, Ranzy finished 2nd)

Shawn Johnson

Results: 1st-AA, 1st-VT, 5th-UB, 2nd-BB, 1st FX

Report: Shawn had a strong meet here, hitting 8 for 8 routines. Landing her Amanar successfully should be a huge boost for Shawn's confidence, but the U.S. will need even better landings from her in Olympic team finals. Shawn took out her toe-on full on bars, which was probably a wise move because it is only worth .1 more than her regular toe-on handstand. Balance beam was solid both days, though her dismount was underotated in day one and overotated in day two. Shawn's leg-up full turn was apparently downgraded both days (her start value was a 6.9 instead of a 7.0) and thus she should take that skill out of her repertoire immediately. Shawn's new and improved 6.6 A-score on floor makes her a very formidable contender for Olympic FX gold, but her whip + triple twist needs to be cleaned up, especially when it comes to getting the full revolutions of the twist completed prior to landing.

Scoring: Shawn was scored generously on vault and floor, and definitely shouldn't have gotten her whip + triple credited in night one especially. Beam was overall pretty fair, though her 16.0 in night one was undermarked while her 16.3 in night two was overmarked. She was scored generously on bars, though her scores there were consistent in comparison with the other gymnasts.

Olympic Status: Lock

Outlook: Shawn is perhaps still the leading contender for Olympic AA gold, but Nastia and Jiang Yuyuan (China) are not too far behind. Improvements to be made before Beijing include getting full revolutions on her triple twist, improving Amanar landings and getting her leg-up full turn completed. Shawn was a far more focused and less-smiley competitor than last year; which is likely an indication she is feeling the pressure but IS mentally equipped to handle it. Without the FX fall from Nastia Liukin on night one, Shawn theoretically would've finished 2nd, but given the outrageous day two scores given to Liukin I would still say Shawn would have a slight scoring advantage in an international competition as an AA gymnast if both girls were to hit. These Nationals were easily Shawn's strongest competition so far in 2008 and has yet to score under a 16 on balance beam this year.

Nastia Liukin

Results: 2nd-AA, 5th-VT, 1st-UB, 1st-BB, 8th-FX

Report: Nastia had a stuck vault in night one and while she did take a large step in night two, her power and quickness has considerably improved this year. Liukin hit her high bar difficult combinations on uneven bars, but needs to clean up her dismount form and landings if she has any hope of beating He Kexin on that apparatus. I was a bit confused with her beam score of 6.7 when she has been marking a 6.6 A-score all year long; perhaps they haven't been crediting her full turn or her front somi to scale. Suffered a fall on her double front on floor during night one, a skill which she never misses and went on to nail it on day two. Liukin's floor exercise in day two was the best floor routine I have yet to see from her.

Scoring: Night one scoring was pretty fair, despite a somewhat generous 16.1 on beam. However, night two was a completely different story. Scoring the same on vault during both days of competition when one vault was stuck and the other wasn't was absolutely ridiculous, as was a 17.1 on bars with a near-fall on her dismount. A 15.85 on floor just added to the outrageous scoring inflation given to Liukin, which I hope doesn't persuade Martha to believe that Liukin will be our floor lead-off girl in Beijing. (though she certainly could if she were to prove that she could HIT consistently like she did on day two).

Olympic Status: Lock

Outlook: Nastia's improved vaulting power looks to be en route to a DTY upgrade. However an upgrade there would just be for her AA chances; allowing Liukin to vault in team finals is far too large of a risk for the U.S. Improvements to be made prior to the Olympics include increasing stamina with her uneven bars set, and perhaps get back her triple full off beam IF and only IF she can get the revolutions around consistently. Maintaining the solidity on floor exercise that she demonstrated in night two will not only be necessary for her AA medal chances, but also for the make-up of the U.S. Olympic team and the alternates. Like Shawn, Nastia has yet to score lower than a 16 on balance beam in 2008.

Alicia Sacramone

Results: 2nd-VT, 3rd-BB, 2nd-FX

Report: Overall a fairly disappointing comeback meet for Alicia. At home in Boston, Alicia failed to make her potential A-score of 7.0 on beam either day. Several wobbles, despite generous scoring, do not make her as reliable a competitor there as the U.S. will need. Floor Exercise was pretty solid, despite an OOB on night one and an OOB that would've likely been taken in an international competition on day two. Vault was strong from Alicia night one, but I was very disappointed that she had an almost mental breakdown after her handspring Rudi on day two (could've been due to her calf though) and bailing out of her DTY afterwards.

Scoring: Generous throughout the entire event, though her vault scores were fair. A 15.95 on day two beam was absolutely outrageous, with the judges giving her credit for (what I assume) her tour jete 1/2 which wasn't fully rotated and her leg-up full turn which had a large wobble. Probably should've gotten an OOB penalty after her Arabian double front on FX during night two. Reputation, not solidity, was what saved the day for Alicia.

Olympic Status: Lock

Outlook: Alicia had an apparently strong meet at the Karolyi International meet prior to these championships, especially on beam where she struggled here. I think Alicia is getting too sassy for her own good, she can be outspoken but there is a fine line between being outspoken yet focused and when words are not backed up with actions. However, I am confident that she was shaky here due to memories of 2004, when she didn't even make trials, and also due to the fact that her calf was acting up (she only trains leg events). Alicia definitely peaked at last year's worlds (among her performances that year) and she should be able to do so at the Games as long as she trains and competes intelligently with focus and confidence.

Chellsie Memmel

Results: 3rd-AA, 16th-VT, 2nd-UB, 4th-BB, 4th-FX

Report: Chellsie looked like the champion she is here with 8 out of 8 routines and finishing with a stuck cold yurchenko 1.5 which she struggled on a lot in the podium training sessions. That last vault was easily my favorite part of the competition; it showed how tough a competitor she is. In addition to that Chellsie hit two clean bars sets, which scored 16.0 and 16.3 respectively on the two days of competition. Chellsie was a tad shaky on beam during day two (15.45) and really needs to make sure all of her skills are fully rotated and connections are without pauses. With a strong floor exercise on day two (15.6), Chellsie could be seen during team finals on three events, and she has become too much of an asset to be left off the team.

Scoring: A 15.45 for balance beam on day two was low comparative to some of the other scores being handed out despite similarly executed routines, notably Sacramone. The judges didn't credit one of her skills in night one where she had a 6.8 A-score (I have no clue what it was, possibly her jam to handstand?) but had a 7.0 A-score with the same exercise. Vault was perhaps the only fairly scored event of the competition, and with a stuck yurchenko 1.5 Chellsie got a 14.75 there.

Olympic Status: Lock (Being the 2nd ranked UB worker alone provides the U.S. no choice but to send her in my opinion).

Outlook: Chellsie is still the most reliable girl to hit of anyone, and has the potential to contribute on any event in Olympic team finals (even vault if she gets her DTY back and consistent). Memmel is needed on bars, and can be used on beam if Sacramone doesn't get back her consistency or floor if USA feels she is most reliable to get a good score there. Remaining healthy and consistent is what Memmel needs to be concentrating on. But with two months left and even further room for improvement to be made, Chellsie should be the missing piece of the puzzle that the U.S. has been struggling to find.

Samantha Peszek

Results: 4th-AA, 4th-VT, 6th-UB, 5th-BB, 10th-FX

Report: Sam had a good but unspectacular meet at Nationals to finish 4th AA. Sam has a potential, but not necessarily needed, score on vault. The reason why I say this is if gymnasts like Liukin or Memmel, or even vault specialists such as Brittany Ranzy or Mattie Larson can be trusted for a good score here, than Peszek isn't needed. Same thing on floor, having a 6.4 A-score there is good IF and only IF she can hit the routine. Had good routines on bars and beam (16.0 in day two) but isn't doing herself any favors by hitting on events that will be considered very little on her part to make the team.

Scoring: Scored pretty fairly throughout the entire meet, which is surprising given her apparent political favor with her mom working for USAG and liking from Martha K. Adding the presumed .8 to the fall of her floor routine on day two, she would have a 15.55, which is .05 lower than Memmel and .3 lower than Liukin. Though Liukin in particular was scored generously, it is just a picture of actually how we could use Sam on floor, but she is by no means a necessity.

Olympic Status: In the mix

Outlook: Samantha really needs to step it up on the power events if she wants to go to Beijing. The selection committee really couldn't care less if Sam P. can even do a cast handstand on bars, but what they do care about are her scores on vault and floor. Floor will be the deciding factor of whether she goes or not, in my opinion. If she can hit two clean sets at trials, finish 3rd and ahead of Nastia and Chellsie, than she's going. Sam has the potential to be an asset for the team, but there are a lot of ifs to be taken into consideration.

Jana Bieger

Results: 6th AA, 13th-VT, 4th-UB, 8th-BB, 6thT-FX

Report: Jana was harshly scored throughout the entire meet, and tying for 6th on floor doesn't help out her Olympic bid, which was partly because of stepping out of bounds on both days of competition. Finishing 4th on uneven bars does keep Bieger in the hunt, however. Jana does not bring anything really golden in terms of scores to the team, just solid work that is there if the U.S. absolutely needs it.

Scoring: Jana was somewhat of the 2008 version of Natasha Kelley, though Kelley was definitely underscored more at last year's Nationals. Scores were tight for Jana ironically the most on beam where everyone knows she is not needed. In contrast, her bars and floor scores were relatively tight but she didn't receive anything totally out of line on either event.

Olympic Status: In the mix/longshot

Outlook: It is now turning out to be that Jana won't be on the U.S. Olympic team and should've at least considered competing on Germany's Olympic team; they would select her in a heartbeat. The writing was on the wall way back last year when Jana had a sloppy, but not disastrous, meet at Nationals and was passed over in favor of the inconsistent Samantha Peszek and the then inexperienced Bridget Sloan. Jana is close to being back at her top form, but she has yet to raise her standards of gymnastics to meet up with the rest of the improving USA gymnasts and gymnasts from around the world. Jana is likely to be an alternate, as she is a great back-up option if injury occurs to a bars or floor worker.

Ivana Hong

Results: 5th-AA, 9th-VT, 7th-UB, 6th-BB, 6thT-FX

Report: Ivana's dead even and solid but unremarkable scores surprised no one, and Hong will need a miracle to get on the Olympic team. Failing to make a case for her DTY on either day, scoring lower than Sam P. and Nastia there on both days of competition, means that Ivana has no immediate qualities that U.S. can't do without. A strong meet on day two got Ivana a good 5th place finish in the AA, but these days AA standings amongst the bubble girls mean next to nothing when it comes to deciding the make-up of a team.

Scoring: Fairly scored throughout the entire meet, with nothing being surprisingly high or low. This new code of points has not been a good thing for Ivana at all. Ivana's clean form, lines, and artistry are hardly rewarded when her weaknesses include missed handstands, lack of amplitude and difficulty. The aforementioned errors are often deducted far more severely on Ivana than deductions for a gymnast who lacks good lines or artistry.

Olympic Status: In the mix/longshot

Outlook: The gymnast who is cursed with a bad birthday is not Mattie Larson (as Tim Daggett so inaccurately mentioned, she just didn't decide to compete seniors last year) but it is in fact Ivana. Not because she's not had enough time to prepare for the Olympics or anything obvious like that. The reason I say this is because Ivana would've been an a great team asset had she competed around 12-15+ years back. This was when gymnasts competed compulsories when form and artistry were musts to get a good score, and even in optional routines where artistry and form were stressed to some degree. Ivana's strength as an AA athlete, and not a specialist, would've also helped her had she competed during that time. However, in today's time, Ivana will be blessed just to be an alternate on the Olympic team, which is a real shame.

Bridget Sloan

Results: 3rd-UB, 7th-BB

Report: Bridget only competed two events at these championships due to being cautionary of her knee injury which she sustained in training back in March. However, significant improvement on bars came afterwards, and the withdraws from bars specialists Ashley Priess (not going to trials) and Shayla Worley (going to trials) have opened the door significantly for Bridget to make the team. A 7th place on balance beam means nothing to the already packed balance beam team we will be sending, but a 3rd place on uneven bars and finishing solidly ahead of Jana Bieger on USA's weakest event were both necessary tasks in trying to get on the Olympic team.

Scoring: Scored a bit generously, I haven't seen her day two bars routine but it scored a likely inflated 15.95. Also got the same execution mark on beam for both days despite a significant (IMO .5 deduction) wobble on day two.

Olympic Status: In the mix

Outlook: Bridget Sloan, the once longshot who chose to compete seniors in '07 right before Nationals, could be peaking at the right time. Getting back to full strength and possibly competing a DTY at trials could seal the deal for Sloan to go to Beijing. The selection committee has to factor in how consistent Sloan is, and how much she can potentially contribute to the team. However, Bridget's Olympic chances will most likely come down to the health of Shayla Worley, and with both being strong on bars it will likely be a showdown for one spot. At this point in time, though, Sloan definitely has a big advantage over Worley with her strong bars showing at Nats.

Mattie Larson

Results: 7th-AA, 8th-VT, 8th-UB, 13th-BB, 3rd-FX

Report: Mattie Larson, the proclaimed unofficial dark horse to the team, was strong here and has definitely improved her chances towards making the Olympic team. A 3rd place finish on floor exercise, where the U.S. are looking to fill a whole on, makes a strong statement for Larson. However, somewhat shaky DTY's (which were underscored) mean that improvement needs to be made there prior to trials if Larson has any hope of getting a spot on the team.

Scoring: Mattie only averaged a 14.725 on vault (scores of both days) comparative to Sam P.'s 14.975 average despite similarly executed vaults with Sam P.'s being slightly better. However, the judges were generous to Mattie on floor, having the third highest execution score on both days of the competition. However, Mattie's 6.1 A-score is lower than what Peszek and Bieger have (6.4) and with the rumored upgrades from Memmel.

Olympic Status: In the mix/longshot

Outlook: Going for floor alone is too small a contribution for Larson to make the team. At trials, it is imperative that Larson place 3rd on vault and floor to be seriously considered to make the team. It can happen, though, if politically biased judges decide to score her favorably and if Larson performs to her potential. Chellsie Memmel's father/coach Andy hinted upgrades on floor for Chellsie, and if Chellsie were to solidly finish 3rd on floor at trials than it will be probably be game over for Larson because of her lack of experience and for her necessity on just one event.

Others Going to Trials Who Competed at Nationals

(The Following are all Longshots, but Shayla Worley is "In the mix.")

Corrie Lothrop

Results: 8th-AA, 6th-VT, 9th-UB, 10thT-BB, 11th-FX

Outlook: Not going to Beijing, but good for her for making Olympic Trials.

Randi Stageberg

Results: 9th-AA, 6th-VT, 15th-UB, 10thT-BB, 9th-FX

Outlook: Randi's lack of an international name caused the judges to low-ball her throughout the competition on her strengths on vault and floor and is thus very unlikely to be named even as an alternate.

Mackenzie Caquatto

Results: 10th-AA, 10thT-VT, 10th-UB, 15th-BB, 19th-FX

Outlook: Well she certainly likes the #10! (see above). Anyway, Mackenzie reminds me of two gymnasts. One, Hilary Grivich, for their similar body types and faces. The other is Jade Barbosa, and as I mentioned in my U.S. Classic post I noticed that Mackenzie looked like she was on the verge of tears before and after a good routine and out of nowhere unveiled this beautiful smile on the floor exercise. Despite her not likely going to Beijing, I think this girl has a fairly elegant and clean style and I wish her all of the best in the future.

Olivia Courtney

Results: 11th-AA, 10thT-VT, 17th-UB, 12th-BB, 15th-FX

Outlook: Another supposed dark horse to the team, but finishing 10th on vault and 15th on floor mean that she is too inexperienced and unpolished to be trusted to compete in the Olympics.

Alaina Johnson

Results: 12th-AA, 20th-VT, 12th-UB, 16th-BB, 14th-FX

Outlook: The "other" Johnson beat out WOGA gymnast Christa Tanella to get the last spot on the National team by .2 of a point. She will go to the Olympic trials, which is a great accomplishment even if Beijing is not in her immediate future.

Amber Trani

Results: 14th-VT, 9th-BB, 18th-FX

Outlook: Why on earth did Martha K. even let Amber go to trials given the fact that Amber did poorly at both the U.S. Classic and here at Nationals as well. Martha K. probably felt that the Mrs. would lose all hope for the future if she didn't have at least one girl at trials with Geralen now out of the picture. I'm sure the Mrs. thinks that Amber has a legitimate shot at going to Beijing, when everyone else knows she won't be. For Amber's sake it would probably be better for her to not have advanced trials so she could rest her body prior to NCAA.

Darling Hill

Results: 15th-VT, 20th-BB, 5th-FX

Outlook: Darling is consistent on floor, but failing to get above a 15.25 on floor on either day of competition and failing to make top 3 on floor basically means game over for Hill's Olympic bid. However, Darling has done herself and her grandmother who passed on earlier this year proud by making the Olympic Trials.

The Injured Few

Chelsea Davis

Outlook: Chelsea is being used as a psychological ploy by Martha K., scaring the girls with a gymnast very few people have heard about outside the diehard circle of gymnastics fans and others in the know. As I have said before, Kim Zmeskal is the only reason I believe she is even going to Olympic trials. Despite political favor, Davis is unlikely to be needing her passport anytime soon due to lack of experience and individual strengths that the U.S. needs.

Shayla Worley

Outlook: Shayla's back injuries have left a spot on the team up for grabs for several gymnasts, including her. Having bars as a strength is good for Worley's Olympic chances, but Bridget Sloan's consistency and improved difficulty on that event will make it hard for Worley to make the team. Look at the trials for who finishes 3rd on bars, as this one finish is crucial for Sloan and Worley's Olympic chances, as well as the make-up of the alternates. Shayla is doubtful to be left off the team entirely, unless if she is going to come back at very subpar form. At this point in time, I would predict that Shayla will be an alternate.

And We Shouldn't Forget This One

Brittany Ranzy

Results: 14th-AA, 3rd VT, 13thT-UB, 21st-BB, 13th-FX

Outlook: Ok, now I doubt any of you have even taken as much as a second's worth of thought that this girl could be on the Olympic team. I certainly haven't. However, Ranzy finished 3rd on vault at Nats ahead of Sam P., Ivana, and Mattie. But what really got me going was a rumor that she is planning an Amanar for trials. Since the U.S. has no other girl that does an Amanar besides Shawn, (Alicia is unlikely to compete the vault in team finals even if it is consistent), another Amanar vault could be an additional great asset for the team. If Chellsie finishes 3rd on floor, this could further improve Ranzy's chances as there would be not be a great need for an additional floor specialist, like Sam P. or Jana. If Ranzy comes to trials with a DTY and does it cleanly, can she go to Beijing? Not a chance. But if she has an Amanar and lands it on both days, than they have to at least pick her as an alternate, lack of experience aside. Ranzy making the Olympic team is unlikely at best, but an Amanar vault from this young lady would be an interesting development in the Olympic race for the last two spots on the team.

2008 U.S. Nationals Longines Awards

(mocking the "Longines Prize for Elegance" that is handed out every year at Worlds)

The Longines Award for the Halloween/Chocolate Leo Disaster of the Century:

Shawn Johnson

The Longines Prize for Most Visually Appealing Leo:

Nastia Liukin, Day Two (This one was somewhat like Olesia Dudnik's at BB/FX finals at the 1989 Worlds, except Nastia's was more purple than Olesia's was)

The Longines Prize for Favorite Among Older Men

Three-Way tie between Samantha Peszek, Shawn Johnson, and Alicia Sacramone. Don't ask, these gymnasts are who my father (who knows NOTHING about gymnastics) liked the most.

The Longines Prize for Sorry You're Not Going to Olympic Trials

Ashley Stott, who won the U.S. Classic but had several issues here and finished behind several gymnasts who she beat at Classic.

The Longines Prize for Underscoring/Martha K. Doesn't Want You to go to Beijing:

Jana Bieger

The Longines Prize for Overscoring/USAG Loves You:

Nastia Liukin

The Longines Prize for Why the Hell Did You Retire?

Ashley Priess

The Longines Prize for Polish:

Samantha Shapiro

The Longines Prize for Followers:

Samantha Peszek. Wherever A-Sac is, Sam P. is always within a few feet's radius of Alicia. Though that's not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to team chemistry.

The Longines Prize for Outstanding Comeback:

Chellsie Memmel. Chellsie even has room for improvement onward to Beijing, and her bars strengths alone are a huge relief to the U.S. team.

The Longines Prize for Best Overall Gymnastics:

Shawn Johnson

The Longines Prize for Please God Let Your Calf Be OK:

Alicia Sacramone. We need her in top form for Beijing.

The Longines Prize for Elegance:

Nastia Liukin. Had a great meet aside from her double front FX fall in day one, and FINALLY hit a clean FX set in day two for the first time in years. Go Nastia!

Things to Look Out For at Olympic Trials

  • Politically biased scores and inflated marks for top gymnasts are likely to continue. Expect inflated marks for the four locks plus Peszek, Sloan, and Worley. Bieger, Hong, Larson, and the other bubble girls will likely be scored fairly harshly throughout the meet like they were at these championships.

  • Despite the fact that Shawn Johnson won Nationals, Liukin could steal the top spot at Trials due to strong political favor from USAG and possible upgrades to come. This would actually be a blessing in disguise for Shawn Johnson, who wouldn't have to deal with as much pressure going into Beijing. Chellsie Memmel likely won't break into the top two at trials unless if Liukin and/or Johnson suffer falls.

  • AA and Beam placements are irrelevant at trials, instead pay close attention to who finishes 3rd on bars, vault, and floor. If Bridget Sloan is to finish 3rd on bars at trials with a sizable lead over Worley, I honestly think they have to pick her regardless of Sloan and Worley's placements on the other apparatus.

  • Brittany Ranzy's Amanar vault, if done successfully, could make her somewhat of the Annia Hatch of this year's Olympic team. However, the only way this can happen is if Memmel and Liukin finish ahead of Peszek, Bieger and Larson on floor, thus degrading the need for a floor specialist.

Next Post: Olympic UB Final Outlook

That is all.