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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.