The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

From Championships to Trials

Visa Championships came and went last weekend, and ultimately we leaned little that we didn’t already know about the potential makeup of the US Olympic team. No one who isn’t named Wieber, Douglas, Raisman, Ross, and Maroney did enough to put themselves into serious consideration. But we’re gym fans, so we’ll find a way to make Trials not boring. We always do. Can Nastia dismount? Will Martha pretend to consider taking Anna Li? Will Alicia magically have an upgraded vault and a floor routine? Will Maroney recover from her nose concussion? Will Kupets come back? 

The US is in an interesting position because, while all the other major contenders are doing the Amanar Scramble (a new option at Denny’s), the US is doing the “Sweet Lord, is that your bars composition?” Two-Step. Other teams are trying to find the best vault options while the US is trying to find the least horrible bars option. It has become obvious that Jordyn Wieber will do bars in Team Finals, and she will go over on a handstand and get a 14.100, and everyone will just need to deal with it.

I still have a feeling that Martha will try to go out of her way to put Nastia on the team if she looks at all believable (meaning she hits two bar routines at Trials and outscores Ross), but the realistic storyline I’m most interested in is the Wieber/Douglas AA battle. It’s irrelevant to team selection, but it will be great to see how it plays out. John Geddert will likely win Best Supporting Actress in an Olympic Trials. Well, it will be either him or Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey. It will be difficult for Geddert to cope if Wieber loses. We’ll hear a lot of “National Championships is the one that matters.” Maggie Smith will be fine is she doesn’t win. She’ll throw a double layout at the Olympics anyway.

The second day of Visa Championships showed us that four for four hit routines from Douglas will outscore four for four from Wieber even at a domestic meet. Wieber is the preordained golden child after winning worlds last year with the NBC packages to prove it, so it’s not inconceivable that we could see her propped up at Trials, maintaining the narrative. Douglas, however, has the potential to be an Olympic star both in and out of the O2 Arena, so I can’t imagine them trying to hold her down. Both (along with Raisman) received very unrealistic scores at Visa Championships, and I expect everyone to be swamped with gifts yet again at Trials.

Even though Douglas hit her Amanar both days at Championships, that vault is still not a given. We need to see two more hits from her so that Raisman doesn’t have to vault in Team Finals, and she certainly needs it to pass Wieber. She also needs to, you know, stay on the beam, but we’re going to be dying internally with each of her Olympic beam routines anyway.

Wieber is going to have a deficit to Douglas because of bars, so she needs to get some kind of help on beam either in the form of a Douglas fall or the judges deciding that those combinations are real. I’m not in favor of either of these eventualities. The judges at Trials need to stop living in a fantasy world where Aly Raisman gets a 97.300 on floor. Otherwise, when she gets a 14.750 at the Olympics, there will be an unnecessary uproar. Same with Wieber’s Hate Sandwich (front walkover + back full + back handspring). No credit, or I’m walking.

“No credit, or I’m walking” should be the slogan for Trials. No good?

Right now, I give the edge to Douglas on potential, but Wieber is the more solid choice. Unless some of those non-American Amanars materialize (Maria Paseka, we need to talk about your reliability) the All-Around with Komova, Douglas, Wieber, Iordache, Yao(?), and Mustafina will be the much more fun battle. Being an NCAA devotee, I usually buy into the ALL ABOUT THE TEAM rhetoric, but this Olympic season may be all about the individual.

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