As the first of three competitions to determine the Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Team, the US Classic promised drama and disappointment. And the competition delivered both, showcasing the best and worst of American gymnastics. The Secret US Classic also produced winners beyond the medalists and several unfortunate losers.
With another consistent all around performance, Aly Raisman didn’t just win gold at the Classic. She all but secured her position as the second best American gymnast behind Jordyn Wieber. She even wowed the audience with an upgraded first pass on floor exercise. Raisman’s unshakable focus and sky-high difficulty on vault, beam and floor make her a no-brainer for the 2012 Olympic team.
Nastia Liukin proved the seriousness of her comeback by producing a confident balance beam routine and the third highest score on the apparatus. While most of the athletes suffered large mistakes and heavy penalties on the event, Liukin impressed with a score of 14.900. The Olympic Champion is also training uneven bars but did not compete the apparatus at Classic. With her scoring potential on America’s weakness event, Liukin has a legitimate shot of making her second Olympic team. That is IF she can demonstrate a difficult and consistent routine at Nationals next weekend. Time is running out for the reigning Olympic silver medallist on the uneven bars. But if anyone can pull out a world class routine at the last minute, it’s Liukin.
At just 15 years old, Sarah Finnegan handled the pressure of competition with grace and elegance beyond her years. The first year senior from GAGE out-classed and out-danced the competition on balance beam and floor. Finnegan posted the second highest score on floor and tied Liukin for third on balance beam. Her confidence, artistry and difficulty values undoubtedly caught the attention of Marta Karolyi and the Olympic Selection Committee. If Finnegan can manage a top three finish at Nationals and outperform Kyla Ross, she has an excellent chance of making the Olympic team.
Several athletes did not qualify to the national championships based on their performance at this competition. Two falls off the balance beam cost Chellsie Memmel the opportunity to compete at the Visa Championships. That means she cannot advance from Nationals to the Olympic Trials and is no longer eligible to make the Olympic team. Former Arkansas Gymback Casey Jo Magee also failed to qualify to Nationals based on her three event performance.
The official list of Nationals qualifiers will posted here after it is published by USA Gymnastics.
Several athletes who have already qualified to Nationals still need to demonstrate strong performances next weekend if they hope to remain in contention for the Olympic team.
Sabrina Vega has one of the most gorgeous floor routines on the national team. Her floor exercise at Classic was well executed and produced the third highest score on the event, tying with Gabby Douglas. But she underperformed on her three other events, severely damaging her chances of making the Olympic team. She downgraded her vault, performing only a Yurchenko 1 1/2. With a low uneven bars score and her struggles on the balance beam, Vega’s chances of making the Olympic team are diminishing.
Uneven bars specialist Anna Li debuted a new bars combination (hop full and a half to Jeager) but unfortunately fell on the release skill. Li also had a costly error during her floor routine, only performing a single tuck back as her first pass. Like Liukin, Li has an increased chance of making the Olympic team because of her difficult uneven bars routine. Her inconsistent performance on the apparatus definitely puts a damper on her Olympic dream. But she still has at least one more opportunity to show her consistency and her new combination.
WOGA gymnast Rebecca Bross had a mixed competition, excelling on the uneven bars but floundering on beam. The six time world medalist recorded the third highest score on the uneven bars with a high 6.5 start value. She then moved on to balance beam where she suffered two large wobbles and sat down her double arabian dismount. Bross’ well executed uneven bars routine keeps her in the running for a spot on the Olympic team but her chances of making the team are slim. Bross could easily be replaced by an all arounder with a good bars score or an uneven bars specialists who also does beam. Considering that Bross has struggled on her Patterson dismount in the past, she’ll likely need divine intervention to make the team.
The 2012 Visa National Championships are June 7-10 in St. Louis, Missouri. The competition will be the final opportunity for gymnasts to make the national team and move on to the Olympic Trials.
Who do you think were the real winners and losers of the Secret US Classic? Leave a comment below!