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WHO WILL GET THE LAST SPOTS? A Look at the US and China

So a few of the Olympic teams have been announced. And I know everyone in the gymnastics community is debating over the “who will be number six” for the US. I am also checking everywhere constantly looking for information on the Chinese squad. So one spot for the US Team and in my opinion, two spots left on the Chinese team, I thought I would again take a look at who I think will be in these spots…

BTW- gymnast.com has a great rundown and a “virtual meet” which is definitely worth looking at.

First the US team:

In addition to Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone, Chellsie Memmel, and Samantha Peszek, here is each athlete in the running:

Jana Bieger

Positives- Outside of her routines, Jana has everything you want out of an athlete on the Olympic Team; she is consistent and handles the pressure well. She also is known on the international scene and is a triple silver medalist.

Negatives- She has a lower start value than others do that are competing for this very coveted spot. And she also is questionable in the B-score area in the opinion of many. (Which is the main reason some of that scoring drama irked me, we don’t really know where she stands internationally)

My Overall Opinion- I don’t know if I am being sentimental over my recent encounter with her, but I think she will get the spot if Shayla Worley is still too injured. I think Jana can be counted on to do her very best, which is really important because I believe the US can’t count major mistakes to beat China. (Unless the Chinese count like three falls but that is another story). Furthermore, if Jana were to eek out just two more tenths on her A-score (making it a 6.8) I think she has the spot without a doubt.

Shayla Worley

Postives- Shayla has World Championship experience and we know she can score well internationally. She can also bring in an A-score as high as 7.0. (At least I want to say I heard that).

Negatives- Others have said it and so will I; Shayla may be the Hollie Vise of 2008. Taking a chance with an injured athlete is NOT what the US wants to be doing that this point. Better to have a 15.6ish score from Jana than to count a fall.

My Overall Opinion- If Shayla’s health is in much better condition and she HITS at the Selection Camp, I think she will be taken over Jana. Every tenth counts, and Shayla has the potential to bring in bigger numbers than Jana.

Ivana Hong

Positives- Ivana has very pretty form and extension.

Negatives- Unfortunately, the negatives really outweigh the positives here. Ivana hasn’t been incredibly consistent (when compared to Jana, and has a lower A-score. More importantly though, after her bar routine being ripped to pieces in Stuttgart last year, we don’t want to take those chances again in Beijing with her new routine.

My Overall Opinion- I think Ivana may be an alternate, but I do not see her as part of this team.

Bridget Sloan

Postives- Bridget has a very decent A-score, and when she hits she scores quite well.

Negatives- She doesn’t have a lot of international experience in my opinion. She was the alternate and didn’t compete in Stuttgart. She also had a poorer showing at Trials, scoring lower both nights than she did at Nationals.

My Overall Opinion- She only has a tenth more in A-score than Jana, and her performance I think is a bigger risk than Jana’s will be. However, I think that she is absolutely going to be at least a traveling alternate.

Keep in mind that I believe that this 6th spot is solely based on bars. Whichever athlete gets this spot will only be going to count a good bars score in the Team Final. I really think it all depends on performances between Jana and Shayla at the Camp.

Why I believe Spot #5 is taken by Samantha Peszek:

With super strong floor showings from Chellsie, Samantha, and even Nastia on Floor at Trials, I think this spot is for the 3rd best vaulter. Peszek has that sealed. She is consistent and I really believe the best overall. Although I have heard that Corrie Lothrop is working on an Amanar, I don’t think The Powers That Be want to take that chance. Shawn is one of the most consistent athletes in the world and look how long she has been working to get that vault right. And Lothrop is an unknown and has little experience internationally. Although Ivana and Sloan have DTY’s Peszek is the most consistent. One more note, although I love Mattie Larson, I think she may be a good alternate for her vault and especially floor status. But I just don’t see her getting the spot over Peszek.

And now onto China…

It is assumed that the locks for the Chinese Team are Cheng Fei, He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan, and Yang Yilin, which leaves two spots open. Let’s look at their gaps:

Vault- Cheng, Jiang, Yang/He.

Bars- He, Yang, Jiang

Beam- Cheng (I really think she will be used here), GAP, GAP.

Floor- Cheng, Jiang, Yang

Overall Analysis: Look familiar? China’s got almost the same problem on beam that the US has on bars. So with two spots open, I think it is quite likely that these spots will be determined by beam. Here are the possibilities:

Li Shanshan

Postives- Li has the highest start value in the world on beam (or at least as far as I know!) She was on the World Championship Team last year and is won the silver medal in Event Finals WITH A FALL. That is when you know you are good on an apparatus; although there have been AA wins with a fall, she is the only one to medal in EF with a fall.

Negatives- Li is not known for her consistency. A fall is is bad for the morale of the team and with no major errors China will win the Team Final.

My Overall Opinion- They have to take her. Even with a fall she can post one of the highest scores in the world. At this point, I would put her on my team.

Xiao Sha

Postives- She has international experience and has a 6.9 or 7.0 A-score.

Negatives- She is also known to have consistency issues.

My overall Opinion- She is the other athlete I would add. A fall would still put her above a 15 I think.

Sui Lu

Postives- Very high A-score on beam (6.9).

Negatives- Very little international experience and has not been consistent in international competitions.

My Overall Opinion- I wouldn’t take her. Good alternate because she has a great SV on Floor as well.

Deng Linlin

Positives- Deng has a high A-score on beam (6.9-7.1) and she recently did quite well at the Moscow World Cup in May, winning both beam and floor showing that she can be a reasonable backup on floor as well.

Negatives- Doesn’t have as much international experience as some, and isn’t known for her consistency either.

My Overall Opinion- I think this spot is between her and Xiao Sha. I also don’t know whom to pick between the two.

With Pang Panpan and Zhang Nan I am not even sure what their A-scores are on beam right now. Anyone? I really like Zhang because she is a sentimental favorite and she has more international experience for everyone in the running for these two spots. I also think beam is her best event. And overall, I think China just needs decent A-scores and a solid score to stay ahead of the US.

So what does everyone else think? Who would you put in these spots?

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Olympic Trials Conclude With Lots of Surprises

For starters, congratulations to Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin for earning their spots to Beijing. Like we all didn’t see that one coming hehe. But there were numerous surprises to me and here they go…

1. Jana Bieger. First off, Tim Daggett was talking about how the Olympic Team needs at least one female coach. Huh? I DID NOT know about this rule! How crazy is it that someone can get on the team based off the sex of their coach??? Hmmm, notice Jana’s bar scores were a bit higher here for Trials. But honestly, Jana was one of the bigger surprises to me. Before yesterday I had written her off completely. Now it appears as if she can get that final spot. I do really like her. I know she hasn’t got the best form but I still like her.

2. Chellsie Memmel rocks the house AGAIN. She actually beat Nastia’s AA score which was a huge accomplishment for her. Most importantly though, I think she has solidified her spot as the 3rd beam worker for the US, and at this point I would put her in the 3rd floor spot as well. I love how she sticks her landings these days! Bars dismount stuck two days in a row and beam stuck (and just a tiny hop the first day.) I mean, it’s not even that Chellsie finally made her comeback, but in some ways I think she is better than ever.

3. WHO IS GOING TO GET THE 6TH OLYMPIC SPOT? All of the front runners had huge errors. Both Bridget Sloan and Shayla Worley did a poor job today. Bridget’s full-in on floor scared the hell outta me. Is this what could put Jana on the team? Honestly, after Nationals I thought Sloan. Now I am not sure at all. Can hardly speculate.

4. I felt bad for Nastia. She looked sad a couple of times. But I still think she will be totally prepared by Beijing. I mean, she can FALL off bars in prelims and still qualify to finals. Also, I think she was scored completely fair minus floor. She got credit for that double turn again which she didn’t complete. Interesting note on over scoring: Last year before World’s Liukin and Johnson both took the double turns out of their floor routines (I can’t remember if this was BEFORE prelims though) because they weren’t getting the turn all the way round. So judges, please don’t give Shawn and Nastia credit for skills that are incomplete! I know both girls/coaches are smart enough to know if the skill is incomplete, but I still think it takes away from how important these skills are to overall scores when it comes to training. Maybe I am wrong.

5. Shawn was her usual awesome self. I love that kid.

6. Samantha Peszek is totally spot number 5 for Beijing. I really can’t see that not happening. Filling the vault gap is more important than the floor gap because I think we have that spot covered between Memmel or Liukin. And Sam shows the strongest DTY in the field.

7. Ouch Ivana Hong. You’re the alternate. You, Mattie Larson, and I think one of Bieger, Worley, or Sloan.

8. When NBC said that they might announce a third spot, I was so hoping for that! It would have been cool to see Alicia Sacramone get her moment. Her fluff piece totally made me cry yesterday.

So who is going to be in that last spot? Here is how I would shape up the team for Beijing:

Prelims-

VT- Johnson, Sacramone, Peszek, Liukin, Memmel

UB- Liukin, Memmel, ??????, Johnson, Pezsek

BB- Johnson, Liukin, Memmel, Sacramone, Peszek and or ?????

FX- Johnson, Sacramone, Memmel, Pezsek, Liukin

Team Finals:

VT- Johnson, Sacramone, Peszek

UB- Liukin, Memmel, ??????

BB- Johnson, Liukin, Memmel

FX- Johnson, Sacramone, Memmel

We shall see what happens. I will listen out for the rumors on how Shayla, Bridget, Ivana, and Jana are doing at camp. By the way, NBC already has videos up of tonight.

Next stop Beijing!

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Olympic Trials: Pondering, Predicting, Hoping

So I was really pleased with NBC’s live trials coverage for Men’s Artistic Gymnastics and am wondering if they are airing Women’s live tomorrow night.  More fun than awating the live scores on USAG.  But here is what I am thinking about coming into Trials…

How Performance is Effecting Each Spot for the Olympic Team:

With spots one two and three occupied by Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, and Alicia Sacramone first we need to consider that we are using the three remaining spots to fill four gaps in the Team Final; 1 VT, 2 UB, and 1 FX.

Which next brings us to Chellsie Memmel, who is also in my opinion a lock now.  Chellsie’s first priority is filling in one spot on UB.  And next, I think she may be the 3rd spot on floor.  I would put her in over everyone available.  She is capable of a high SV, and can bring a high score.  So Chellsie with this I believe Chellsie makes hte VT/FX team member to simply a vault specialist position.  Even if Chellsie has a reliable DTY, we can have one that is cleaner via Samantha Peszek, Ivana Hong, Bridget Sloan, Mattie Larson and a few other key names we all know of.  Chellsie is also capable of taking the 3rd beam spot away from Sacramone; she has a high SV (granted she makes all the connections) and who else has landed a punch front with one foot off the beam and doesn’t wobble? (Aarhus 2006, Team Final).  But all of that won’t be decided until prelims Beijing, as Chellsie will definitely preform beam in Qualifications.

So Memmel’s addition to the team now leaves (again in my opinion) 1 VT and 1UB Gap, and two spots left to fill.

Spot number one is between Bridget Sloan and Shayla Worley.  There are pros and cons to both.  Bridget is healthier than Shayla currently.  Shayla however, has world championship experience and we know that she can score decently in the international field.   Shayla REALLY needs to NOT WITHDRAW and compete this whole weekend.  Though she only may do bars and beam, her spot on the team is based soley on bars and nothing else.  Same with Bridget.  I do not believe Bridget’s DTY on vault is a factor; that is the final spot to be established on the team and that is for the remaining vault position.  If Shayla stays healty enough to compete only bars, and performs GREAT during Trials then I think she will get the spot over Bridget.

The final spot is for vault only, though I think this position is also the offical backup on floor as well.  Peszek and Larson I believe are the two this spot comes down to.  POSSIBLY Hong.  Peszek is the one with international experience and I think she will prevail.  Going clean and consistent on floor I think would lock her in place on that team.  But she has endurance/consistency issues with floor.  IF and only IF Peszek bombs vault then do I see one of the super dark horses being included.  This is where gymnasts like Brittany Ranzy and Amber Trani come in.  We can’t forget Mohini Bhardwaj‘s performance at Trials in 04’!

This is what I predict, and the alternates will follow this pattern:  Whoever doesn’t make it in the Worley/Sloan and Peszek/Larson spot is who will be the alternates…maybe Jana Bieger but I don’t know.

On another note, Chellsie is filling in the awesome spot of sentimental faves that make the competitions so exciting.  I am really hoping she will do AA in Beijing.  I would love to see her and Shawn in it.  I am wondering if she would purposely be sat out of vault in prelims to keep the AA Shawn/Nastia.  Even if either of them fell, they would still qualify, but with Chellsie in there a mistake could put her in.  It would be so cool though.  Would that happen?  In my opinion that would be an awful thing to do to her.  First off, even if Chellsie has only a 1.5 yurchenko it shouldn’t matter for prelims.  And Chellsie has been around the longest.  She has the best story to tell and has come back from the most issues (injuries).  She very well may not qualify to AA Finals but she has earned her right to be able to try.

Well that is all for now with the random thoughts.

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Olympic Trials: More Podium Training Reports

There is more detailed information available from an Anonymous Source on what is going on with our favorite gymnasts. I have a feeling this report is from last night’s training. Here is what is going on….

Shawn Johnson is reported to be very,very solid. She supposedly stuck three Amanars, and is the only one throwing them. (Meaning Alicia Sacramone and Brittany Ranzy upgrades are not happening quite yet, though I think Sacramone will save hers until later.)

Nastia Liukin looked a lot better tonight. She did about 4 beam sets and was SOLID. Including the dismount. On floor she only did a dance through. Vault she stuck like three 1.5ers. Bars was also very solid.

Shayla Worley looks good on bars and beam, floor is VERY shaky and no one is sure if she did any vaulting. I think Shayla should ditch FX/VT because they aren’t necessary for her. We all know that bars is really the only thing that matters. I would say do beam too because it looks better to be competing half the events instead of one.

Alicia was just doing some timers on floor. Looks good but wobbly on beam. Then Martha Karolyi came over to watch a set and she didn’t wobble.

Speaking of Martha, she supposedly had private meetings with Valeri Liukin and Liang Chow, no one else.

Ivana Hong is having trouble. Sat down a few double fronts, misses handstands on bars, etc. The outlook just doesn’t seem good for her.

No word on Bridget Sloan, though I want to say I read she was doing okay, I think she is still on only bars/beam but I am not sure.

Chellsie Memmel looks good. Beam is a little more consistent.

That is all for now, I will update later!

Also, for more GREAT commentary please visit this blog.

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Olympic Trials: Podium Training Reports

Okay, so here is what I am going to do as news trickles in; I will continously update this post with anything new during the day. Tomorrow will be a new post (if there are more podium training notes circulating) and I will do the same thing for tomorrow’s post as more news becomes available. So anything I find out tonight, I will come back and edit this post…

So what’s been reported so far:

  • Nastia Liukin– Beam looks amazing, very soild. Trouble on floor though, sitting down or landing in a deep squat with her double front.
  • Shawn Johnson– Rocked beam like her life depended on it.
  • Shayla Worley– In back pain, did little tumbling, a rumor has been reported that she may pull out of the meet and petition into the selection camp. Is this true? Don’t know, but that would destroy her spot on the team pretty badly I think.
  • Samantha Peszek was reported to be doing same old same old. Nothing spectacular.
  • Chellsie Memmel was one of the only people to do more than a dance through on floor, she looks to be having a lot of fun. I also heard an insider report that her shoulder has been great over the last few weeks and has been working quite hard on her jam to double front. Yay. I have so much emotionally invested in Chellsie.

That is all for now, but I will update this post tonight around 10pm if there is anything new being reported.

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Results from the French Nationals Event Finals

First off, how excited is everyone that there will be FOUR HOURS of Olympic Trials coverage this week? Actually there is more if you include Men’s Artistic. Before we get to the subject of the post here is a schedule of Olympic Trials on NBC (Eastern Time. And I always check tvguide.com).

Saturday, June 21st. Men’s Trials; 4:30-6:00pm. Women’s; 8:00-10:00pm.

Sunday, June 22nd. Women’s Trials; 7:00-9:00pm. Uhhh, did I miss another Men’s?

And now to the conclusion of the French Nationals! Here are the scores from Event Finals…

Vault- Cheng Fei was first with a 15.275, this includes a DTY and the Cheng. Jiang Yuyuan was 3rd with a 13. (???) Both vaults appeared to be a 5.8 SV. I have no idea what is going on with that. EDIT- She performed two DTY’s thus earning a deduction, she did score around a 15.

Bars- Of course the awesome Yang Yilin won this event with a score of 16.825. Jiang Yuyuan was second with a 15.275 (according to the source, this was a 7.2 A-score, a tenth lower than yesterday.)

Beam- Marine Petit won with a 15.350 (6.3) and Sui Lu followed with a the same score (6.9). Marine Debauve, making a comeback was in 3rd with a 15.325 (6.4). Way to go for her. Yang Yilin produced the same score with a 6.5 A-score.

Floor- Jiang Yuyuan won the event with a 15.425 (6.3). Cassy Vericel followed with a 15.000 (6.4) and I hear she is doing some great tumbling, including the piked double arabian. Yang Yilin must have had a fall as she ended up 6th with a 13.000.

So what does this mean for the shape of the Chinese Team? I would say that Sui Lu is putting herself out. She just doesn’t seem to be consistent enough. Yang Yilin is not really affected (but I would say to the AAers of the world LOOK OUT!) Assuming everyone is back to full difficulty (notably Cheng and Jiang), then here’s what we have for the Team Final:

VT- Cheng, Jiang, Yang, He Kexin

UB- Kexin, Yang, Jiang

BB-???? Cheng. Who else?

FX- Cheng, Jiang, Yang?

China’s hole appears to be balance beam. Assuming Cheng, Jiang, He, Yang are all going, they need two beamers. Isn’t this getting ironic? The US team was looking to fill their last two spots for bars and now the Chinese appear to be doing the same thing. The US has a 6.6-6.7, a 6.9-7.0, and 6.8-7.0 for beam. THis may be the spot where the US can gain some ground on China. Who can fill in these beam spots for China? For all of you who comment and have continuously stated that Li Shanshan will be on that team, you may be right. China will need some good scores there. So I think those last two spots will be between Li, Xiao Sha, Pang Panpan, Deng Linlin, and yes oh yes, Zhang Nan. How awesome would it be to have Zhang Nan on the team? That would make my day because she was one of my favorites.

What does everyone else think? I REALLY think beam is the short spot on the Chinese team, and I think the last two spots will be determined by that event. Who do you think will get those spots?

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Post Nationals Thoughts about Overscoring and Underscoring

So I have been moving for the last few days with no time to blog, but on my LONG drive I was really thinking about the score inflating at Nationals, and after reading a wonderful article that I am sure everyone has read on International Gymnast (click here for it) I have a few concerns for the US Team…

First off, I am concerned because of the obvious; what if the gymnasts are receiving false hopes about their routines? For instance, in 2006 Alicia Sacramone went to Worlds with a floor routine that was docked for missing one of her Element Groups Requirements which kept her out of Event Finals. This sucked for her! And it was unfair. Now I can’t say this happened due to score inflation at Nationals because really I don’t know. The code was SO new at that point. There were a couple of scores at 2006 Nationals that were questionable, but again I feel that maybe the problem was the newness of the code. But the point is that we don’t want this to happen to any of our favorite gymnasts! Here is a look at what I have been thinking about individually:

1. Nastia Liukin

Overscoring at Nationals: She performs bars Night One and receives a 17.050. Okay. But Night Two she perfroms a routine with a dismount ending with a near hands down and gets a 17.100. Futhermore, Night Two on Floor was a inflated as well. Nastia is not going to get a 15.850 on floor in Beijing unless she brings a beefed up A-score of like, 6.5. I don’t think anyone under that score will receive a total of 15.850. I think Nastia’s score will max out in the 15.200ish range.

In a way, I am least concerned about Nastia. I think she is one of the best prepared gymnasts ever, and YOU KNOW she is doing everything she can to prepare for Beijing! She always states how there is always something to improve on, she strives for perfection, and I don’t think too big of a score will stop her from clean up her dismount on bars, or perfecting floor.

Why inflated? I can understand wanting to keep her up with the Chinese on bars, we needed the world to know she can score a 17. But why floor? So that the Nationals AA competition can be closer? To boost Nastia’s confidence on the event? I have know idea but I think it is wrong though to give a gymnast false hopes.

2. Shawn Johnson

Overscoring at Nationals: Well, vault was one thing. A couple of tenths there. But what was up with floor? She performs Night One and gets an inflated score, then Night Two, again like Nastia, gets a HIGHER score for a worse performance. WTF? I think it is really, really, unlikely that we will see a 16 on floor in Beijing. Maybe, but I really think you have to have a 6.6 or greater. And I think Cheng Fei is the only one that will be able to do that. (We will see though, depends what she and Sandra Izbasa bring to the table in difficulty, and how Shawn hits her routine.) But what I am concerned about is why they are telling Shawn she is going to get a 6.6 with incomplete passes. That whip-triple IS NOT completed. Surely her and her coach must be aware that the pass is incomplete.

Why Inflated? With vault, I can sort of understand. Maybe they just want to encourage her on a skill she has nerves with. But I don’t feel the same with floor. That was brutally overscored, but maybe they did that to encourage the high amount of difficulty. Whatever the case is, I think it again is giving a gymnast false hopes if she performs her routine that way.

3. Alicia Sacramone

Overscoring at Nationals: Beam on day two was overscored by only a couple of tenths. I felt a little that way over floor as well. She stepped out of bounds, but I have seen that not get docked before. (Hollie Vise 2003 Nationals.)

Why Inflated? No idea.

4. Bridget Sloan

Overscoring at Nationals: I can’t actually say if there was any! I haven’t seen her Day Two performance on bars, so I don’t know. But my only concern would be IF she was overscored. We need the best possible bars team, and right now I REALLY think that Bridget and Shayla Worley are fighting over that last spot on the Olympic Team. And let’s hypothetically say that come Trials Bridget is overscored and Shalya is not, and Bridget gets a place on the team. Then say the international judges score her much harsher come Beijing, and the US Team is out of a few very valuable tenths that they can’t afford to lose.

Why Inflated? I have no idea again.

Underscoring:

Jana Bieger was hammered by the judges. I had heard rumors prior to Nationals that this was going to happen to her, and obviously it did. I realize Jana has some form issues, but I think it is so awful what they did to her and Natasha Kelley last year. If you don’t want people on the team, DON’T SELECT THEM. Don’t bash their scores. Same thing with Ivana Hong. (Who I think has the most beautiful double front on floor that I have ever seen.) I feel like it sends the wrong message to gymnasts, and furthermore makes an even worse mockery of the new code. The new code is supposed to eliminate favortism and subjective scoring, and harshly underscoring tells me that nothing is changed. So if you are in the “IN” Club, (Nastia and Shawn) we will give you phenomenal execution scores whether or not you deserved them. But if you are in the “OUT” Club, we tell you that you did poorly. It’s just not right.

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