The Olympic year, anything can happen. Dreams are made and dreams are crushed. Everyone has their “perfect” team, but one woman is clearly in charge of naming those five gymnasts who will represent our country in the biggest games ever. Hmmm……Welcome to the hunger games.
If we look back on teams before this one, it is safe to say, the gymnasts who represented the United States at the World Championships just a year before are likely to make up most of the Olympic team. With the fourth and fifth spots always fluctuating a little bit, there’s so many different scenarios that could come out of these trials. Remember, no one is a sure thing! Except Simone Biles…..she wins at life period.
Looking back at Martha’s reign, every four years she has slowly taken the World Championships as a huge stepping stone in announcing her final Olympic team. In 2004, four of the six Olympians competed at Worlds the year before the Olympics. In 2008 this was the same scenario again with four out the six making the Olympic team. In 2012 the World team almost mirrored the Olympic team, with the breakout first year senior Kyla Ross taking the last spot. This was also the year that brought us the biggest disappointment of Alicia Sacramone not going! The Worlds seems to be one of the major competitions that Martha picks her team from. Yes, she does look at training camps and the other meets, but if history repeats itself, the team would consist of Simone, Maggie, Gabby, Aly, and Madison. Oh, but this time there is so much more to consider with injuries, surprise missed routines, and inconsistencies. All of this is making this team one of the hardest to choose and being her last year Martha is probably not going to take any chances. Let’s see who and where the gymnasts are.
Lauren is proving that being a first year senior is no reason to be left behind. She is peaking at the right time and is full of energy and consistency. She could help the team on beam and vault, but she can put up a decent bar routine, and actually placed third on floor at the recent P&Gs. She is capable of getting low 15’s on vault, middle 15’s on beam, and high 14’s on floor. I think she has that international gymnastics package and the judges will probably love her. She is my pick for the 2016 “Kyla Ross” spot.
Six months ago it appeared that Maggie Nichols was right on track to help the Olympic team on floor and vault. Another knee injury has unfortunately held her back on the two events she could help the team on the most. I think if we don’t see her do an Amanar vault and a high difficulty floor routine she probably won’t be on the team. I do question why she would not have tried to upgrade her bars a bit more during her recuperation period?
Aly Raisman, my favorite gymnast out there right now. She is humble and realistic and sounds like she sleeps as much as me so she gets a spot for that alone. In reality, consistency is her ticket, along with high vault, beam, and floor scores. She ranks right behind Simone. Fingers crossed and all goes well… she will be on the team. She posted a huge 15.6/15.7 on day 1 and 2 at the P&G’s. Reigning Olympic champion on floor and bronze on the beam- she will be fighting to do the same this summer.
At the recent P&G’s Gabby looked lack-luster at best and her fans were asking the question, what’s wrong with Gabby?” There were few smiles, little comradery with other athletes, and very few words from the athlete herself. I found this disheartening. At a meet where every score counts she appeared unconcerned about her routines. In 2012, Gabby put up huge scores to help the team win and individually she did even better. Now, we would not have to use her on beam since she has only scored above 15 in 2 meets. Her bar routine has not been rewarded the way it was in 2012. (15.733) She has also taken out a big release element and combination leaving her with a consistent 15.1 to 15.3. We needed to use her in 2012 and even at the worlds in 2015, but her score now, would be ranked around 4-5th place. If her chance for the Olympics is based on the last competition, on her overall consistency, and based on the international competition she would not go.
I do not want to leave out the huge debate of “Team Ashton”/”Team Madison”
Ashton has won bars in the last four competitions she’s participated in. Her difficulty score is 6.4/6.5 and the majority of her execution scores are in the 9’s. Madison has scored behind Ashton in the two competitions they were in together this year. Madison did tie for first place on bars with a 15.366 at the 2015 Worlds. Her difficulty score is higher than Ashton’s at 6.600/6.700. But her execution scores at P&G were lower.
They both can be used for beam if needed although neither scores very high. Again, Ashton does score a little higher than Madison. They both have execution scores in the 8’s.
Madison does top off the debate by doing all around at the P&G.
Ashton—- (bars) 15.25 Jeselo, 15.625 Pacific Rim, 15.850 Secret Classic, 15.600/15.700 P&G with difficulty 6.4/6.5 with execution scores ranging from 8.75-9.45 (beam) 14.450 Pacific Rim, 14.750 Secret Classic, 14.450/14.150 P&G with difficulty of 5.800 with execution scores ranging from 8.350- 8.950
Madison—- (bars) 15.700 Secret Classic, 15.450/15.700 P&G with difficulty of 6.6/67 and execution scores of 9.000 and 8.850/9.000 (beam) 13.650 Secret Classic, 14.400/14.250 P&G with execution scores ranging from 7.650- 8.600
Let’s include Gabby into this debate. (bars) 15.05 Jeselo, 15.266 AT&T Cup, 15.650 Secret Classic, 15.100/14.500 P&G with difficulty ranging from 6.1-6.6 with execution scores in the 8’s. Her beam scores are comparable to Madison’s and Ashton’s.
If you think about Lauren again, her last three bar scores have been in the low 15’s. Her difficulty scores are in the low 6’s and her execution scores are in the 8’s also. She has higher beam scores than the other three. And her floor score is equal or higher than Gabby’s.
What about McKayla Skinner? Could we use her on vault and floor— absolutely? We know that bars is our weakness. If necessary, we can always capitalize on the events that we are strongest on. If we are up five tenths higher on vault that would help the team gain a little cushion going into bars. McKayla can also pull a 14.7/14.8 on floor exercise giving us an edge on an event that is very hard to come up with high difficulty.
There are still other gymnasts to consider. We have Brenna Dowell, Regan Smith, and Amelia Hundley. I think these three are going to be considered as our alternates. Again, don’t count them out- anything can happen.
If we look at our opponents we are not a sure thing. I still would like to believe that we are going to be able to see a solid and strong competitive event and not a huge blow out. I have watched some of the Chinese routines during their recent National Championships. They excel on the uneven bars and the balance beam, but I don’t think they’re strong on vault. Russia, again, has some big scores but I haven’t seen them really come together and as a team. I think the event finals will be the highlight of these games.
This weekend is about watching the best gymnastics in the country. These girls have sacrificed so much to get here. And, they all say it’s worth it. People have said that we have so much talent within our program that we could take three teams that could compete for a medal. However, we only take five. Martha can only choose five, just five gymnasts looking to make history. There are so many choices, so many scenarios, and so many combinations to get the maximum scores. There’s the all arounders, bar specialists, and vault, beam, and floor combinations. To me, Gabby, McKayla, Ashton, and Madison are in contention for the last two spots behind Simone, Aly, and Lauren. Who would you choose?
Is Martha going to take the gymnasts who have peaked right now, or is she looking at scores back from last year to this year?
Will it be the 2015 gold winning team from the World Championships?
Who is going to make the cut?
Does she take Gabby?
Is Maggie in or out?
Who is going on the uneven bars?
Final thought’s while we wait for the competition? Feel free to comment, ask questions, or just give your team. I would love to hear from you.