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The Importance of the First Worlds


Here’s something: We’ve now limped through pleasantly experienced three full Olympic quads under the Martha camp system, and over those years, 17 gymnasts have made Olympic teams.

Of those 17 gymnasts, just four competed in the first World Championships of the quad during which they eventually made the Olympics – Mohini Bhardwaj in 2001 and Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone, and Chellsie Memmel in 2005. That’s less than a quarter of the total team members.

No other eventual Olympians even competed at the senior level in the first year of the quad.

2012: None of the Olympic team members were age eligible in 2009.
2008: Sacramone, Liukin, and Memmel made the 2005 World team, while Johnson, Peszek, and Sloan were not old enough.
2004: Kupets, Patterson, Humphrey, and McCool were not old enough for the 2001 team, Bhardwaj made it, and Hatch was not US eligible at that point.

Conclusion: If you’re competing at senior nationals this year and want to go to the Olympics in 2016, you kind of need to make the World team. No eligible US gymnast has missed out on the first World team of the quad and gone on to make the Olympic team.

In fact, over this period, only one competing gymnast has missed the first World team of the quad and gone on to make another World team – Mackenzie Caquatto. She competed at US Championships (now that we have rid ourselves of the Visa Championships label, I’m retroactively applying that to previous competitions and making them all US Championships) in 2009, finished fifth, and was not selected for the team that year. She then made the 2010 World team on the strength of increasing her bars difficultly. 

Staying healthy as a senior for four straight years is difficult enough, but withstanding the onslaught of comebacks and new seniors is challenging even for those at the top of the heap during that first season, let alone those who are trying to gain ground.

This year seems to have the potential to be fairly deep, especially in the vault and floor department (shock!), and several top gymnasts with Olympic aspirations are going to miss out on the World team this year because they will be, perhaps, third best on those events. These gymnasts are currently being referred to as “better in a team scenario” types who will have a stronger chance in years with team finals. That’s only very rarely the case. If a gymnast can’t make the individual Worlds, it’s just as challenging to make the next team Worlds from a larger crop of gymnasts. “Better in a team scenario” in 2013 probably means “really good alternate” in 2014.

The best option? Caquatto yourself and become undeniable on bars. 

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