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.


inna said...

i am really happy for Nastia she really has been proving herself this year. Her floor and vault has improved soo much. But i do agree with you about that UB dismount. I am wondering why they are keeping it i would think they would change it...but i guess not

Audrey said...

That's who I would pick for the team at this point too.

Ashley said...

That is my team pick too, assuming Bridget can keep/improve on her UB scores. The only difference I have is Ivana as the non-traveling alternate instead of Shayla.

Giulyx14 said...

astia was overscored!!!She did a perfect vault, good floor and beam but an ugly bars's exercise!!She fall in the dismount but the judges have't given the fall...16.700???Given....

Rachel said...

I just wanted to leave a note to say, your blog is great! You write incredibly well and I love reading your thoughts.

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