Wednesday, July 2, 2008

And Spot #6 Goes To..............




At the conclusion of the women's U.S. Olympic Trials, it appeared that five girls: Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone, Chellsie Memmel, and Samantha Peszek have all but made the team, thus leaving room for one more spot. Who is going to get it? Well, the five aforementioned names have us covered on really every event in prelims and finals, with the notable exception of a third bars girl to compete in team finals that is not Shawn Johnson. With the final camp set to take place in a few weeks, it appears that the last spot is between three girls: Jana Bieger, Bridget Sloan, and Shayla Worley. The sixth girl will ultimately be going for bars and bars alone, which means it is not likely that the 6th girl will compete anything besides bars even in prelims. (Sloan's DTY and possibly floor are the only exceptions I can think of, Worley is of no use on beam, nor is Bieger on floor) Everyone has suddenly gone to town thinking Jana will get the last spot after getting 3rd on bars at trials while Sloan and Worley had disastrous performances on that event on day two of trials. While those lackluster efforts couldn't have come at a much worse time, the selection camp will be the ultimate deciding factor for everyone's fate. Those decisions not only apply for the last spot on the team, but also for the three girls that are decided to be alternates if an injury is to happen to one of our top gymnasts. Below is my final analysis on the potential makeup of the team:


Jana Bieger


Pros: Jana is consistent and experienced as all get out. She has yet to fall on bars this year, and generally scores in the 15.5-15.6 range on this event internationally. Though scored harshly at nationals, the judges warmed up to Bieger at trials which points good signs toward her political favor with Martha K. Falls from Bridget Sloan and Shayla Worley at the trials have all of a sudden boosted Jana's Olympic chances considerably.

Cons: Jana's potential scores are lower than Sloan (who scored 15.95 at day 2 Nats) and Worley (capable in the 15.7 range). Jana was passed over for the world team entirely last year, despite the fact that Bridget Sloan had a lackluster day two and Samantha Peszek a disastrous day one. Shawn Johnson outscoring Bieger in day one of trials also doesn't point any strong signs that the team can't do without her in Beijing.


Outlook: Jana's bid for the 6th spot is looking strong, but she has by no means sealed the deal yet. I have mentioned before that Johnson competing AA in team finals could prove to be a disastrous decision with all the pressure involved, but Bieger's scores on this event are about even with Johnson's when they both hit, which means Bieger isn't such a huge plus to the team on bars after all. You would think being a former world AA silver medalist would help, but as 2007 proved past reputation will mean next to nothing for Martha K. However, if Jana finishes 3rd on bars at the camp behind Nastia and Chellsie and most importantly ahead of Shawn, Bridget, and Shayla, Martha K. and Co. have no choice but to take her.



Bridget Sloan


Pros: Outscoring Bieger and Johnson at nationals with scores ranging from 15.75-15.95 put Sloan firmly in the mix for the last spot on the team. Bridget has a .1 A-score advantage, in addition to overall better execution than Worley and Bieger (especially), flexed feet on her release moves notwithstanding. Sloan's performed very consistently at the Olympic Test Event in Beijing back in November and is generally a good competitor.


Cons: Sloan's meltdown on day two of the Olympic Trials could prove to be unforgivable in the selection committee's eyes regardless of her performances at the camp. Sloan's decision to compete floor at trials was likely an unwise one; she was shaky there and also on really the only event she is in it to make the squad, bars. Sloan's comparative lack of experience to Bieger and Worley will also hurt her in the grand scheme of things, as will the fact that her highest B-score at the Olympic Test Event in February was an 8.625 for a cleanly hit routine.


Outlook: Sloan has the potential to be a great asset for the U.S. team as a lead-off bar worker, but her regressing from nationals to trials is not a good sign for whether she can hit when needed at the Olympics. Had Sloan repeated her nats bars performances at the trials, I think she would have sewn up that 6th spot already. The committee must realize that Sloan has been very consistent on bars since she became a senior, and day two of trials was hopefully just a "bad night." If Sloan is to hit all of her bars sets at the camp and place 3rd with scores in the 15.8-15.9 range, than I would actually give the last spot to her.



Shayla Worley


Pros: Shayla competed in team finals at last year's worlds and finished with a score of 15.5+ even with a shaky dismount landing. Apart from her infamous severely cowboyed inconsistent OMG dismount, Shayla rarely misses a routine on this event. Just finishing her day two trials bar routine after a scary fall on her Hindorff release should also win her some extra brownie points.


Cons: Shayla's back issues are unlikely to get much better by the selection camp, and the USA team doesn't absolutely need her even at peak form with an inconsistent bars dismount and injuries galore coming for the ride.


Outlook: Shayla would be a very likely candidate for the last spot if she were healthy, but even if she has improved by the time the selection camp of hell rolls around her herniated disk issues could flare up at any time. Like I said earlier, Shayla can post a good score for the U.S. on UB, but that score is by no means worth risking an injury and/or fall in team finals over.



Potential Alternates


Ivana Hong
- Ivana has decent work on all four apparatus, but even her personal best bars score of 15.55 on day two of trials won't cut it for a lead-off UB routine in the Olympics. Her DTY is solid enough, but not as good as Samantha Peszek. Looks to be very good material for an alternate at this point, but I think the real question is whether she will be picked as a traveling alternate or the non-traveling alternate.

Mattie Larson
- Mattie's expressive and innovative choreography on floor exercise has won over gymnastics snobs and USAG judges alike. This will help her bid to be an alternate, but Larson's DTY scores have been almost dead-even (mid to high 14's) with Ivana Hong. Her strength on floor is good, but untested internationally and given the fact that the U.S. is stockpiled through the roof with good FX workers (Johnson, Sac, Chellsie, Sam P., Liukin, even Sloan if her knee gets better) we really don't need her there unless if a major emergency is to arise. However, her good consistency makes it pretty unlikely that she will be left off the team entirely.

Corrie Lothrop
- No one knows this girl, but she has an Amanar in the works and could stir things up IF her Amanar is consistent and fully-rotated at the camp. Her DTY isn't fabulous, but it's no worse than that of Larson or Hong. However, risking an Amanar in team finals would be a HUGE gamble, especially if Lothrop were to fall and underotate the vault. Her Amanar would really have to be excellent in order for her to be named, as Sam P. really looks to have earned her spot at this point. Lothrop obviously has shown this vault at some point to Martha K. in the training camps, otherwise why else would she be named to the final camp ahead of Brittany Ranzy, whose vault scores were actually a tad higher than those of Sam P.'s (Lothrop's were lower). I find it incredibly hilarious that Simona Amanar is getting more name recognition eight years after her retirement than she did in her entire career for a vault she only did once, and sloppily. (though she probably could've done it a lot better with the new vaulting table)


Comparison:
Sloan vs. Worley vs. Bieger (UB)

A-scores


Bieger: 6.6


Sloan: 6.7


Worley: 6.7



Personal Best Scores (Nationally)


Bieger: 15.7


Sloan: 15.95


Worley: 15.7



Personal Best Scores (Internationally)


Bieger: 15.575


Sloan: 14.925


Worley: 15.575



Average Bars Scores (Nats/Trials)


Bieger: 15.5875


Sloan: 15.45


Worley: 14.8


Note: Johnson's average bars scores among Nats/Trials was 15.50625, with only one of her four routines being credited with her maximum 6.4 A-score. Her personal best of 15.7 at Nats/Trials is the same as Bieger's.



Consistency/Health


1.) Bieger


2.) Sloan


3.) Worley


Considering all of this criteria, Bieger is the obvious candidate for the last spot, especially if Martha K. chooses as she has in the past with experience/consistency favoring scoring potential. Worley is far too broken to be named for the last spot in my opinion, even though Martha K. should give Worley every opportunity to prove herself at the camp before making any final decisions. Shayla is far too big of a gamble to choose even if healthy, with an inconsistent dismount awaiting to warrant big deductions that USA cannot afford. Thus it comes to down to Bieger and Sloan, with Bieger being heavily favored at this point. However, against popular opinion I will still hand the last spot over to Bridget. Bieger's score of a 15.7 on day two of trials (which would probably go to about a 15.55 internationally) is pretty much the best she's capable of. That mark of 15.7 matched Shawn Johnson's highest mark among Nats/Trials as well, and the whole point of the 6th girl is that we don't bloody have to use Johnson in team finals on bars. So when it comes down to scores is Jana Bieger really needed? So far I would actually say no.


Let's go to Bridget Sloan. Though not a headcase, she is certainly not a Jana Bieger when it comes to reliability and experience and as Olympic Trials may have proven, competing in the Olympics may be too much, too soon. However, despite low B-scores at the Olympic Test Event, I've noticed much improvement (particularly in her handstands) which should make for a high score for a hit routine. Her main deduction, flexed feet on her releases, would be a maximum .3 deduction and after that there isn't a whole lot more you can take from her routine execution-wise. A 15.95 on day 2 nats was likely a tad inflated and probably close to the best she's capable of on that event, but proving she can outscore what Johnson or Bieger can bring to the table by a couple of tenths makes me think Sloan is still worth sending. Though I have said more times than I can remember that Johnson shouldn't be allowed to compete AA in Olympic Team Finals, she has only missed one routine (her Amanar at SCAM) throughout the entire year and she can certainly be relied upon to hit bars if absolutely needed. With Bieger and Johnson looking to have similar scoring potential, I feel Bridget Sloan is our last option. And if the Olympics are really too much too soon for her, than Johnson can compete UB in TF and getting a similar score to what we would have gotten had we just sent Bieger. Unfortunately, I cannot help but think when speculating over who will get the last spot that this last spot has Courtney Kupets' name written all over it. Experience, reliability, great execution and a potential A-score around 7.0 would have Martha K. and Co. bowing down to her in a second. But sadly there is no Kupets, with the final decision will come at the camp. There, Sloan will need to hit all of her bar routines like she did at Nationals to get that last spot. If that mission is accomplished, I would have to say the same for her lifelong dream of going to the Olympics.


The Extremely Confusing Race for the Alternates

With five spots looking to be sewn up and the last one coming down to Bieger/Sloan with Worley also having a fighting chance, the decision for the three alternate positions is far less clear. The aformentioned alternate contenders bring to the table the following:

Bieger/Sloan: Much needed 3rd UB girl, potentially FX as well

Hong: Decent on every event

Larson: Good VT/FX

Lothrop: Possible Amanar, but I doubt it will really be a good one

Worley: Possible 3rd UB girl

Davis: UB, though her chances are very slim.


Predicted Olympic Line-Up

VT

Prelims: Johnson, Sacramone, Peszek, Liukin, Memmel
Finals: Johnson, Sacramone, Peszek

UB

Prelims: Liukin, Memmel, Sloan/Bieger, Johnson, Peszek
Finals: Liukin, Memmel, Sloan/Bieger

BB

Prelims: Liukin, Johnson, Memmel, Sacramone, Peszek
Finals: Liukin, Johnson, Memmel

FX

Prelims: Johnson, Sacramone, Memmel, Peszek, Liukin
Finals: Johnson, Sacramone, Memmel


The basis of the alternate decisions should come down to mostly bars and vault, we are already more than covered on beam and floor if any emergencies are to arise. If Johnson, Sac, or Peszek is to get injured, USA would be most in need of a cover on vault and possibly floor. Larson fits that bill the best, but Hong also has the added strength of bars which is FINALLY materializing (15.55 on day two of trials). If Liukin or Memmel is to get injured, there would be a great need for another UB girl. It is likely that the other end of the Bieger/Sloan equation that doesn't make the team will be one of the two traveling alternates. A major decision that will be taken into account and is still largely unknown is how ready Shayla Worley will be in time for the camp and onward to Beijing. Improvement from hear on in could make her a traveling alternate, or in the best-case scenario the final team member. However, Martha K. and co. might be willing to not take a risk on another bar alternate if Worley is not healthy, especially with Johnson being right there if USA were to absolutely need her bars score in team finals. It so far looks like Bieger will get the last spot, Sloan and Larson the traveling alternates, and Hong the non-traveling alternate. However, a lot can change in a short period of time, and there are still many questions that will finally be answered at the U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team announcement on July 20th, 2008.


Next Post: Who gets the last spot for the Chinese women?

That is all.






9 comments:

lkr said...

MRR:

I think that Bridget Sloan is going to be the 6th member of the team. While she doesn't have the same all around experience as Bieger or Worley and she did melt down at the trials, I think Marta is looking for someone who can really outshine everyone at the right moment. And that's Sloan. When she is on, she is hot. Marta will want to take that risk given the strength of the rest of the team.

Emily said...

I completely agree with your analysis. I think it most likely will be/ should be Sloan, but one can never be sure with Marta. Who would have thought she would have taken Mohini and Annia four years ago?

September_cake said...

I hope Shayla gets it, closely followed by Bridget. To be honest I think that Marta will be looking for any excuse to have Jana as the alternate if the 07 teamselection is anything to go by so its certainly not over yet.
I had almost forgotten about Kupets! OMG I wish she had tried out for 08, and not got injured. The spot is, as you said, made for her!
P.S. Thanks for the comment on my blog!

Christi9103 said...

Your post failed to address what bieger, sloan, and shayla have scored recently in international competition.

in the beijing test event, sloan got a 8.4 execution score with a HIT routine; at jesolo, bieger got like an 8.5 with a HIT routine and a STUCK landing. But last year in stuttgart, shayla got an 8.8 in execution with a relatively good routine and with a not so good landing.

at this point they have about the same difficulty scores but shayla is MILES ahead of the rest of them in execution. she is the only one in that group that knows how to point her toes.

i believe they underscored shayla in trials because at worlds she was getting high scores on bars and beam but in trials she got significantly lower numbers. and if you compare her bars/beam from worlds and trials, they are not much different...

MRR said...

christi9103: You make a good point, but the B-scores at last year's Worlds were (oddly) more generous than the Italy Grand Prix meet and the Olympic Test Event especially. Though Shayla's execution minus the dismount is definitely better than Sloan and Bieger, at trials she got lower marks for a hit routine on day one primarily because her toe-on full and free-hip full pirouettes were way short of handstand, which I assume these errors are a result of her back issues. Martha should definitely tell Shayla (if she hasn't already) to train bars only for the camp. Whether she and Jeff like it or not, bars is her ONLY ticket to Beijing and she is of absolutely no use on vault or beam.

Christi9103 said...

yea she was short of many handstands at worlds too..

and how the hell did jana score higher than shayla!!! we should not be going by the scores at trials

Audrey said...

Your analysis is great

duck1988 said...

Very good analysis.. I would have included Davis in the Potential Alternate Analysis though. Only having Hong, Larson, and Lothrop isn't right when Davis may have as good a chance or better to make an alternate slot. We just haven't heard about what Davis is working on yet in contrast to the news about Lothrop's amanar.

afj15 said...

I definitely believe that it will not be Worley. They don't want to take the risk of her injuries and meltdowns, and she's not all-around strong enough to be an alternate. She peaked too soon and now she's not good enough.

I'm torn between Bieger and Sloan, but I'm going with Sloan because Bieger is a picture-perfect alternate - A standard all-arounder, nothing amazing that you need on the team but good enough to compete if she's needed. Sloan would probably only be used on UB, anyway, maybe beam? Probably not.

Maybe Bieger should have attempted to be on the German team. She would certainly be an asset to them.


As for alternates, I'm going with Bieger, Larson, and Hong, with Ivana being left at home, as much as I hate that.

Lothrop, Larson, and Hong should all press toward 2012. Those three would be great anchors for the next couple years of Worlds and even Olympics.