Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Olympic Team Outlook- USA Women's Gymnastics

206 days remain until the start of the 2008 Olympic Games. As the US team looks to upset China’s quest to rule the medal count, attention is shifting to Michael Phelps and the women’s gymnastics team. While Phelps’ chances can be measured against times recorded around the world, gymnastics success will be determined by the team that’s selected by Martha Karolyi and the selection committee.

Entering the games as reigning world champions, one would expect an easy road to victory. Unfortunately, although the US women dominated the world from 2002-2004, they lost the gold in Athens due to administrative errors made at the games, due to the politics of the final selection camp, inconsistent judging of routines at the 2004 National Championships, and motivational tactics at the monthly training camps.Team members were assured that the US had ‘three teams that could go and win the gold,” which was a tactic used to pressure the girls into complying with the demands of the National Team Staff. The 2004 squad ultimately lacked prowess and depth, which was all too apparent when Courtney Kupets’ hip flared up before team finals. Similar to the impression in 2004, the 2008 squad is considered the premier world power, but China is a much more dangerous threat than the Romanians were in Athens.

With six months until Olympic trials, it is unlikely that an unknown gymnast will find her way onto the Olympic squad. The 6-3-3 format (six gymnasts per team, three gymnasts per event, three scores count) leaves no margin for error, so it is imperative that the six selected are mental giants. At the 1999 World Championships in Tianjin, China gymnasts competing with the Chinese women for the bronze medal were subjected to booing, banging gongs, a smog-filled arena and overt hostility. With gold on the line, one shouldn’t expect the Chinese crowd to be any nicer this August. Added pressure is likely to come for agents, as gymnastics and swimming will be broadcast live, in prime time on NBC. Highly-anticipated events are almost assured to be subjected to increased media exposure, which could ignite new interest and higher ratings for the summer games.

While the USA does not have enough depth to field three golden teams, several gymnasts offer compelling reasons to be named to the squad.

Shawn Johnson.


The reigning World, American Cup, Pan American and National all-around champion is a virtual lock for the squad (should she remain healthy). Johnson’s planned upgrades (Amanar on vault, Tkatchev on Uneven Bars, Front Pike on Balance Beam, and Whip+ Triple Twist on Floor Exercise) should keep her competitive for the Olympic All-Around crown. Her experience, reputation and scoring potential are assets to the team. Training just 4 ½ hours a day could keep Johnson healthy enough to maintain her world status. While the fifteen-year-old Johnson may be months away from puberty, she should be able to beat the dreaded beast if her confidence, desire and work ethic remain intact.

Next Competition: 2008 American Cup

Experience:
2007 Worlds: 14 routines (Prelims, Team Finals, All-Around and Event Finals)
2007 Pan American Games (Team, All-Around and Event Finals)
2007 American Cup (Prelims and Finals)
2007 USA vs. Great Britain
2006 Junior Pan American Games
2006 Gymnix International (Junior Division)
2006 Pacific Alliance Championships (Junior Division)
2006 USA vs. Japan vs. New Zealand (Junior Division)
2005 Top Gym International

Johnson will likely compete on Vault, Balance Beam and Floor Exercise in Team Finals. Shawn is solid on Uneven Bars, but the US will be in much better shape to defeat the Chinese if three natural bar workers are named to the team and score well during prelims.


Nastia Liukin.

The Olympic year has finally arrived for the nine-time world medalist. Liukin has weathered the spotlight since 2000 and and demonstrated formidable mental toughness along the way. Unmatched prowess on the Uneven Bars in America (and arguably in the world) is reason enough to name her to the squad. Hampered by injuries during the past two seasons, Liukin should be hungrier than ever to dominate the world. Nastia is a fiery competitor who accepts nothing less from herself than gold and perfection. Already a serious contender for three gold medals (Team, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam), Liukin and her father are determined to earn All-Around glory. Both Valeri and Nastia have suffered narrow losses in the All-Around, (Valeri at the 1988 Olympics and 1991 World Championships, Nastia at the 2005 World Championships) and their shared experiences could enable them to balance the urge for upgrades with enough pacing to keep nagging ankle and back injuries at bay.

Next Competition: 2008 American Cup

Experience:

2007 World Championships: 12 routines (Prelims, Team Finals, All-Around, EF)
2006 World Championships: 3 routines (Prelims, Team Finals, EF)
2005 World Championships: 11 routines (Prelims, All-Around, EF)

Liukin is 24/26 at the World Championships and a four-time World Champion (2005 Uneven Bars and Balance Beam, 2007 Team and Balance Beam)

Additional Experience:

2007 Pan American Games (Team and EF)
2006 American Cup (Prelims and Finals)
2006 Pacific Alliance Championships
2005 American Cup (Prelims and Finals)
2005 USA vs. Great Britain
2005 USA vs. Switzerland
2004 Pacific Alliance Championships (Junior Division)
2003 Pan American Games (Team, All-Around and Event Finals)
2002 USA vs. Canada
2002 Junior Pan American Games
2002 USA vs. Japan (Junior Division)

Liukin should earn high scores on the Uneven Bars and Balance Beam in team finals, which should offset high marks from Cheng Fei on Vault and Floor Exercise. Liukin could compete on Floor Exercise if healthy and able to upgrade her A score.


Alicia Sacramone.


Martha Karolyi and the National Team Staff have written her off countless times, but they are proven otherwise again and again by the USA’s team captain. Sacramone is the pulse of the American team and is looked-upon as the team leader. Her impromptu team huddle at the 2007 Worlds refocused and reinvigorated the Americans after Johnson and Liukin suffered uncharacteristic falls on balance beam. Consistently one of the best in the world on Vault and Floor Exercise, Sacramone has nailed balance beam during the last two team finals at Worlds.

Experience:

2007 World Championships: 8 routines (Prelims, Team Finals, EF)
2006 World Championships: 7 routines (Prelims, Team Finals, EF)
2005 World Championships: 5 routines (Prelims, EF)

Additional Experience:

2006 World Cup- Ghent, Belgium
2005 Pan American Games
2005 World Cup-Paris, France
2005 World Cup-Ghent, Belgium
2005 USA vs. Great Britain
2005 American Cup (Prelims and Finals)
2004 World Cup Finals
2004 World Cup-Ghent, Belgium
2004 Individual Pan American Games
2004 Pacific Alliance Championships
2003 Trophee Masilla
2002 USA vs. Japan (Junior Division)

Sacramone is needed for high scores on Vault and Floor Exercise in Team Finals and will likely be used on Balance Beam unless Shayla Worley’s consistency and upgrades make her a definitive top three performer.


Shayla Worley


Already a contributing member of the 2007 World Team, Worley’s list of planned upgrades could make her a formidable challenger for the Olympic All-Around crown. If her DTY is as stylish as the rest of her gymnastics, Worley may find herself vaulting in team finals. This is bad news for Sam Peszek and Amber Trani, whose comparative advantage will be significantly weakened. Shayla is one on Martha Karolyi’s favorites and the National Team Staff has invested a great deal in the charismatic performer. With enough international assignments in 2008, Worley could be an A-list competitor in Beijing. Being assigned to the 2008 American Cup bodes well for Worley’s Olympic chances.

Next Competition: 2008 American Cup

Experience:

2007 World Championships: 6 routines (Prelims, Team Finals)

Additional Experience:

2007 American Cup (Prelims)
2007 USA vs. Great Britain
2006 Pacific Alliance Championships
2006 American Cup (Prelims and Finals)
2005 Trophee Masilla
2005 USA vs. Switzerland
2005 USA vs. Great Britain
2005 International Team Challenge
2004 Pacific Alliance Championships (Junior Division)
2004 USA vs. Canada (Junior Division)
2004 USA vs. Japan (Junior Division)

Worley should see action on the Uneven Bars and Floor Exercise in Team Finals, with Vault and Balance Beam being strong possibilities as well.


Chellsie Memmel


One of the most experienced members on the squad, Chellsie Memmel needs to upgrade, improve her form, and remain healthy to be named to the team. Nastia Liukin’s repeated insistence of team chemistry being the key to the team’s victory at 2007 World Championships was likely aimed at Memmel. The two are known rivals, as are their fathers. Chellsie and Andy Memmel stood apart from the rest of the national team at the 2007 U.S. Classic, which does help her case to be a team leader. Her chronic shoulder problems could prevent Memmel from achieving a competitive advantage on the Uneven Bars, her key to being named to the squad. The USA is deep enough on Balance Beam and Floor Exercise to leave the 2005 World All-Around Champion at home. Memmel’s recent comeback performances weren’t overwhelmingly impressive, but one should never count her out of the Olympic mix. While she is capable of a DTY, her form has never been impressive on the vault. Her experience in pressure situations is an asset that cannot be ignored by the selection committee.

Next Competition: T.B.A.

Experience:

2006 World Championships: 8 routines (Prelims, Team Finals)
2005 World Championships: 10 routines (Prelims, All-Around, Event Finals)
2003 World Championships: 14 routines (Prelims, Team Finals, All-Around, Event Finals)

Additional Experience:

2007 Olympic Test Event
2007 Toyota Cup
2006 Pacific Alliance Championships
2005 Pan American Games
2005 USA vs. Great Britain
2005 USA vs. Switzerland
2005 American Cup (Prelims and Finals)
2004 World Cup Final
2004 Individual Pan American Games
2004 Olympic Alternate
2004 American Cup
2003 Pan American Games
2003 Pacific Challenge
2002 International Competition in Brazil
2002 Pacific Alliance Championships (Junior Division)
2002 USA vs. Belgium
2000 USA vs. France
2000 Puerto Rico Cup

Memmel is capable of contributing on all four apparatus during team finals. After injuring her shoulder on the uneven finals during the 2006 World Championship Team Finals, Memmel was able to save the team a fall off the balance beam by managing to hang on with one foot. She then stuck all five of her tumbling passes to secure the team’s silver medal.



Jana Bieger


A poor showing at Nationals left the three-time world silver medalist off of the 2007 World Team, but Jana Bieger’s strength on all four events makes her an attractive candidate. If her full twisting double layout on floor is ready, Bieger could easily find herself competing on Uneven Bars and Floor Exercise in team finals. Her experience is noteworthy, but like Memmel, Bieger’s form leaves something to be desired.

Experience:

2006 World Championships: 14 routines (Prelims, Team Finals, All-Around, EF)
2005 World Championships: 1 routine

Additional Experience:

2006 World Cup- Stuttgart, Germany
2006 Pacific Alliance Championships
2006 World Cup- Cottbus, Germany
2005 Pam American Games
2005 USA vs. Great Britain
2005 USA vs. Switzerland
2004 International Competition in Mexico
2004 Pacific Alliance Championships (Junior Division)


Ashley Preiss


CGA’s Olympic hopeful earned valuable experience when she was called-upon to replaced Chellsie Memmel in the 2006 World All-Around Finals. A fall on floor exercise dropped her out of the medals, but the experience competing in a World All-Around Final is something only Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel, Jana Bieger, Ashley Preiss and Shawn Johnson are familiar with. Although she missed the 2007 National Championships with a back injury, Preiss has been healthy and training full speed for the last two months. Mary Lee Tracy has named 3 team members and 1 alternate to Olympic Squads and compares Preiss’ personality with Amanda Borden. Tracy’s experience is an invaluable asset to Preiss’ Olympic bid, as is her deftness on the Uneven Bars. Preiss is a bubbly team player who is capable of performing on all four events in Team Prelims and could score considerably higher than Shawn Johnson on bars. Strength on bars, an effervescent personality, a consistent competitive record, and upgraded routines could be the right mix of ingredients for Martha to name her to the squad.

Experience:

2006 World Championships: 8 routines (Team Prelims, All-Around Finals)

Additional Experience:

2007 Houston International
2006 World Cup- Ghent, Belgium
2006 World Cup- Lyon, France
2005 Trophee Masilla
2005 USA vs. Great Britain
2005 USA vs. Switzerland
2004 Pacific Alliance Championships (Junior Division)
2003 USA vs. Japan (Junior Division)
2002 USA vs. Japan (Junior Division)

Preiss’ consistent reputation keeps her in favor with Martha Karolyi. Preiss is expected to compete at the Pacific Alliance Selection Camp and is likely to be given the opportunity for international exposure. Her consistency will come in handy during the marathon selection procedure.


Bridget Sloan


Impressive performances throughout 2007 leave fans feeling as though Sloan should’ve competed at the 2007 Worlds over Ivana Hong. If she can upgrade and remain healthy and consistent, Sloan will be seriously considered by Martha. While there are limited spots available for the Pacific Alliance Team, Sloan could benefit from being sent to Gymnix and/or a World Cup event this spring.

Experience:

2007 World Championships Alternate
2007 Olympic Test Event
2007 Toyota Cup
2007 Houston International
2007 USA vs. Great Britain
2006 Gymnix

Sloan’s recent performances scored higher than Chellsie Memmel and much higher than anything achieved by Hong in Stuttgart.


Sam Peszek


Peszek’s biggest assets for being named to the team are a powerful DTY, upbeat personality, and significant political favor with her mother being a USAG employee since the pre-Mag 7 days. Unfortunately, Peszek is average on the other three events and may be better suited for NCAA competition. Peszek failed to impress internationally when given international assignments in 2007 and was inconsistent at best.

Experience:

2007 Worlds: 4 routines
2007 Pan American Games
2007 American Cup (Prelims)
2007 USA vs. Great Britain
2006 Junior Pan American Games
2006 Gymnix
2005 International Competition in Mexico
2004 USA vs. Canada (Junior Division)


Ivana Hong


Failing to earn a score in the 15’s at the 2007 World Championships does not help Hong’s Olympic Bid. Like former teammate Courtney McCool at the 2004 Olympics, Hong was left off the team finals roster at Worlds. While she showed a spectacular DTY on day 1 of nationals, she was inconsistent on Day 2 and didn’t make the vault lineup at Worlds. Suspected to be more injured than was realized last season, Hong may have difficulty upgrading, healing, and getting consistent in time for Olympic Trials. While she performs intricate German giants into a tkatchev on bars, Hong’s B-score was typically in the low 8’s all year.

Experience:

2007 World Championships: 2 routines (Team Prelims)
2007 Pan American Games
2007 Houston International
2007 USA vs. Great Britain
2006 USA vs. Japan vs. New Zealand (Junior Division)
2005 Top Gym International

Hong’s international success may have to wait until 2009.



Shantessa Pama


Hong’s former training partner may have limited international experience, but Pama is rumored to have upgraded all events. Resting 2007 may have been a smart decision by her coaches, because Pama is rumored to have impressed Bela Karolyi at the recent non-national team training camp. It has been speculated that Pama is adding a DTY on vault and Patterson dismount off balance beam. Should Pama seek an Olympic Team berth, being assigned to the 2008 Pacific Alliance Championships and/or World Cup competition is imperative in order to gain experience. Pama scored well under the new code at the 2006 Pacific Alliance Championships and the 2006 Gymnix International, and could contribute on any of the four apparatus in team finals. Youthful energy and an international look good be just the right assets for being named to an Olympic Team; it certainly worked for Michelle Campi.



Amber Trani and Geralen Stack-Eaton




The Parkettes have never been favored politically and 2007 was no exception. Trani and Stack-Eaton were both passed over for the world team despite performing well all year. Things are likely to be far worse for the Parkettes in 2008 after Jennifer Sey’s explosive well-written memoir hits book shelves on May 1st. Harper Collins is launching an extensive promotion tour, which should see Sey making countless radio and television appearances. CNN still shows 2003’s “Pursuing the Perfect Ten” from time to time and is likely to air it again once Sey’s book is released.



Courtney Kupets and Ashley Postell






Less we repeat the mistakes of 2004, Martha Karolyi should keep all doors open for Kupets and Postell to return to elite competition. Although she says she won’t try, Kupets is in fantastic shape and has upgraded bars, beam and floor. Prior to her announcement, Kupets was training routines with 7+ A-scores on bars and beam that were designed by Kelli Hill. If NCAAs are successful, don’t be shocked if either makes a late bid. Kupets would only have to add her toe on+ tkatchev to her NCAA bar routine. Her bid is more likely than Postell’s because of her long history of good favor with USAG, her mental toughness, competitive consistency, leadership, and prowess on the Uneven Bars—USA’s weakest event. Both girls are hesitant to try, which is likely due to wariness about their political standing with USAG. Sacramone was discouraged from competing in the NCAA and the national team staff is unlikely to name two team members who have forgone the traditional camp system. Kupets’ bid was curtailed after she was unable to secure an academic waiver for a lightened course load. In 2004, Kate Richardson benefited from UCLA’s quarter system, which allowed her to withdraw from her courses after the NCAA Championships.

6 comments:

missjess said...

"Nastia Liukin’s repeated insistence of team chemistry being the key to the team’s victory at 2007 World Championships was likely aimed at Memmel."

Do you think they still have a rivarly going? It seems like they put that behind them.

I'd argue that Lou did not preform well at the World Cup assingment Marta gave her. I don't think she'd get annother big chance.

Rick said...

Excellent post.

Subscribed to your blog too. Thanks for putting it up.

Rick McCharles
editor GymnasticsCoaching.com

GymFan92 said...

I doubt Nastia's comments were aimed at Chellsie but if they were then she has issues.

All these little girls follow Alicia Sacramone around like a puppy Nastia included.

Chellsie is one of the nicest kids I have ever come across working a gymnastics event and I cannot say the same about Nastia or her father

Don said...

Hello,

May I suggest a link related to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?

Our site:

URL: http://www.2008chinaolympics.com
Title: Beijing Olympics

Please let me know if you want a link back.
Many thanks for your reply.

Best Regards,

Don
chinaolympics8@gmail.com

Don said...

Hello,

May I suggest a link related to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?

Our site:

URL: http://www.2008chinaolympics.com
Title: Beijing Olympics

Please let me know if you want a link back.
Many thanks for your reply.

Best Regards,

Don
chinaolympics8@gmail.com

DaveGymnastics said...

Hello,

I’m writing to you because I run a site that links to other gymnastics sites called Links to Gymnastics (http://www.linkstogymnastics.com) The goal of my site is to make it easier for gymnastics fans to find gymnastics sites.

I found your blog when I was searching the web for gymnastics and wanted to ask you if you’d like a link to your site from Links to Gymnastics.

Either way I wish you all the best!

Sorry for having to use a comment to send the message along. (Feel free to delete it) but I did not know any other way to send the message.

If you’ve gotten a message like this I apologize for the duplication. The internet is a pretty big place and hard to keep track of sometimes.

David F.P.
davegymnastics at yahoo.com