Tuesday 3 July 2012

Team Tuesday

Team USA!

Jordyn Wieber . . Gabrielle Douglas . . Alexandra Raisman . . Kyla Ross . . McKayla Maroney

The team has been chosen after weeks of waiting, speculation and nervous anticipation. After a spectacular showdown at the 2012 Olympic Trials five girls' dreams were realised as they were named to the 2012 USA Olympic Team. So what can we expect to see from these girls in London in a few weeks time?

Jordyn Wieber
Jordyn is the reigning National Champion and the the reigning World Champion. She is hoping to do what no female gymnast has done since Lilia Podkopayeva did in 1996 - win the all around Olympic title as the reigning World Champion. Do I think she can do it? Absolutely. Since Jordyn burst on to the scene as a senior in 2011, she has achieved what most gymnasts could only dream of in a lifetime. She has become two time back-to-back National Champion, World All Around Champion and has now been named to the 2012 Olympic Team. Her mental strength is amazing, seeming to shut out all distractions and concentrate only on her own performances which are, in a word, fantastic. She has won every all around title she has competed in since turning senior in 2011 except for the recent Olympic Trials which she lost to Gabby Douglas. From what I know of Jordyn I can only imagine that this will make her fight harder and try to take the win next time. Her physical strength is equal to her mental strength, meaning she has a solid, very difficult vault, fast, spectacular tumbling and a strong, consistent beam routine. Her one weakness is bars - but when you're weakest apparatus earns you a 4th place in the event final at the 2011 World Championships things can't be bad! I have found Jordyn an absolute delight to watch over the last two years, especially her dynamic and expressive floor routine.

Gabrielle Douglas
After watching her at the 2011 Visa National Championships, most people would have to admit that there was no way they could have seen Gabby Douglas being not only a key member of the 2012 Olympic Team but actually winning the Olympic Trials. In 2011, Gabby had problems on beam and floor and finished Day 1 down in 12th place. Day 2 was better but not without its problems and she finished the competition down in 7th place. Marta Karolyi (national team coordinator) however, must have seen the talent behind the struggles and Gabby was picked for the 2012 World Championship Team. Her job in the team finals was to do a good bars routine which she did, helping the team to the Gold medal. She did not compete in the all around though because of the two gymnasts per country rule as she qualified behind both Jordyn and Aly Raisman. She did make the bars final, but did not medal due to hitting the low bar with her feet and missing a connection. She did do incredibly well to cover up the mistake and finish the routine and came out in 5th place. At this point it did still seem that Gabby found it hard to cope under pressure and I still had my doubts about her consistency. But then in March 2012, Gabby was chosen to exhibition at the American Cup. Not under any pressure as her scores would not count, Gabby not only performed beautifully but actually out-performed the whole of the rest of the field. From then on, Gabby seems to have gone from strength to strength. It seemed to give her the confidence and belief in herself to keep achieving. And she certainly has. She finished the 2012 National Championships in 2nd place a mere 0.200 behind Jordyn Wieber. But she did not stop there. Just 3 weeks later Gabby upped her game again, beating Jordyn Wieber at the Olympic Trials and earning the guaranteed spot on the Olympic Team. Well done Gabby.

Alexandra Raisman
Aly Raisman has become known as the 'rock' of the team. It is hardly surprising when you look back at her consistency. When you watch Aly perform, on any apparatus, it is never with that nervous, on the edge of your seat feeling. You simply believe that she will stay on the apparatus. And she does. It could easily be thought that perhaps Aly's routines must be simpler if she performs them with so few errors but that just is not the case. She continues to upgrade and improve her routines, consistently scoring within the top three gymnasts all around in the USA and at this year's National Championships she took both the beam and the floor title. You can tell that she is a hard worker, keen to improve herself but also to help and encourage her team mates. One of the most moving bits of footage for me from the 2011 World Championships was Aly leading the team members who were about to go up on floor, the last piece of apparatus, and take the gold medal. Aly has increased her difficulty in many ways since 2011, most notably on vault where she now competes the Amanar, her determination driving her to compete and perfect the skill. But it is on floor where Aly really stands out. She has some of the most complex tumbling in the world at the current time and presents the exercise superbly. She will no doubt be called upon for many events for the team final, but floor is where we are most likely to see her in the event finals.

Kyla Ross
As a first year senior, Kyla is the new kid on the block. At only 15 years old, she has impressed everyone over the last few months. With her graceful lines and excellent bars work it should perhaps be little surprise that Kyla has made it on to the Olympic Team. She has performed consistently throughout the year, particularly on bars and beam which are her specialities. She is very graceful and lovely to watch when she performs. You occasionally feel that she is suffering from nerves, but her determination keeps her going and she always seems to strive to improve on her performances. She is definitely deserving of this spot on the team.

McKayla Maroney
I was literally on the edge of my seat as they announced the Olympic team and McKayla Maroney was the main reason why. With her graceful lines and phenomenal vaulting I have to admit that McKayla is one of my favourite gymnasts. Her vault and floor exercise helped the USA to win the Gold medal in the 2011 World Championships and she also took home an individual Gold medal from the vault final. But would this be enough to take her through to the Olympics? Just 3 weeks ago, whist warming up for Day 2 of the National Championships, McKayla fell out of one of her tumbles resulting in a fracture to her nose and concussion. Unable to compete, McKayla was taken straight off to hospital and had to petition for her place at the Olympic Trials. With a week out of training so close to trials, would it be enough to give her the scores she would need to take the team? Although nobody would ever doubt her ability to return and vault better than everyone else, Marta Karolyi had firmly stated that anyone wanting to make the team had to be strong on at least two apparatus. So the race was on for McKayla to get back into training and compete at her absolute best. I was willing her on through the screen for the entire two days, hoping that she had done enough, Of course I felt that it was obvious that she deserved a place, but then again I might be slightly biased! I think I may have actually jumped for joy when I heard McKayla's name called out as a member of the Olympic Team. I am so pleased that she has overcome everything to make it to London and I am thoroughly looking forward to watching her Olympic performances.

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