The final chance for these poor vagrants and wandering hobos to impress the WATCHFUL EYES OF MARTHA KAROLYI (not Martha, just her disembodied, sentient pair of eyes floating around the arena) before the team is…oh, wait. There’s still a selection camp after this. And then a prep camp. What fun. My legs aren’t bedazzled kindling wrapped in Shayla’s Little Orphan Annie ribbon. What are you talking about?
The fact that those reclaimed bird limbs that Nastia charitably calls her joints stayed intact through this whole process and into the Olympics remains a miracle to me. Praise be to Prod’s shaved eyebrow stripe.
BUT IT’S STILL THE LAST CHANCE.
Incomplete sentence. To prove what? To prove a theorem? To prove bread? Never explained. No other words are used. Just “TO PROVE.”
“Earning a spot on the Olympic team is one of the most important things these girls have to accomplish.”
One of? Martha, I’m disappointed in you. We all know it’s the only important thing. That’s how you can tell Martha did not have script approval here. I suppose it is an improvement over the original draft, “If Alicia falls on beam, I will burn her family.”
“If you’re not able to perform under these situations, then you obviously would not be the right player.” PLAYER? Martha. Come on. You’re falling apart around here. You’re not some mouth-breathing NCAA bro-mmentator named Chert who usually does lacrosse games. You know they’re called gymnasts.
We’re treated to the highlights of night one, which include Nastia and Shawn hugging each other and that’s all. You know, the important part.
Much like a TGIF program of the 90s, an opening credit sequence is used reintroduce us to the cast of characters in case our small child brains have forgotten who they are since yesterday.
Shayla wishes she were just flinging that menu down anywhere like Aunt Rachel. This is why no one ever ate at Rachel’s Place.
The “players” are even broken up into helpful categories: On The Cusp, As Expected, and The Comeback. You know, the three categories. Like when political pollsters call and ask you to rate a candidate’s favorability on a scale of On The Cusp to The Comeback.
Shayla, Sam, Bridget, and Ivana are all shown doing various levels of terribly to reinforce that they’re on the cusp because of sucking and being not special like Nastia. After the tenor of night one, I’m kind of surprised Ivana got On The Cusp, instead of being placed in her own YOU SUCK AND WE HATE YOU, IVANA category.
Nastia’s wedgie…AS EXPECTED. “Yep, that’s the one. Use that shot.”
Russian DNA and Cereal Box continue being part of a balanced breakfast, but they’ll also be joined on the team by THE COMEBACK, meaning Alicia and Chellsie.
Remember that time I decided to relive recent US Olympic Trials history and then abruptly stopped after two cycles? Well, I do. Sort of. Now. With the 2016 Trials suddenly just two months away (wait, what???), it’s time to get back to business.
Youtube’s offerings for NBC’s 2008 Trials broadcast are sporadic and wildly unhelpful, so we already feel right at home. The scene has been set.
You can watch some of the meet following part one here, but for the rest you may simply have to rely on me to walk you through the action with my brilliantly poetic and definitely true-to-life account of the broadcast. That is, unless you remember it minute-for-minute, which is also possible.
Gather ‘round, children, for it’s time to begin. Once upon a time, many iOS updates ago, there was a quadrennium called 2008.
Frigid and starving, we were forced to abandon the homeland we knew and strike off into the new world, leaving behind our various Bhardwajs and McCools and Pattersons and ultimately just agreeing to disagree with Kupets’s floor routine by accepting it as part of life’s varied and colorful experiences.
Who can sayyyyyyy if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been chaaaaaanged…for gooooood.
What luck, then, to learn that this new world was full of lush beauty, and soon we were introduced to all two of the gymnasts who competed during the year 2008, Iowa’s very own sentient pair of American flag pants, Shawndolyn Johnson, and some frrrreigner who seems like she’s probably a bitch. We truly are home.
Welcoming us to 2008 is the jaded, eternally half-sarcastic whirr of Costasbot 3000, who has been exhumed from his regeneration capsule and de-gooped for the occasion.
Discussion question: What do we think Costas did to get plopped in the dunce corner and saddled with Bela-herding duty for the 2008 Olympics? I can only assume he waterboarded an intern or whipped a pork tenderloin at Ann Curry again because little else would merit such public indignity and corporal punishment.
The first routine of the evening is Shawn Johnson taping her foot. 16.800.
Aww, isn’t she just the wholesomest all-American sweetheart Iowa smile corn-fed Wheaties butter sculpture?
Aaaabove the fruuuuuited plainnnnn. Amerrrrrrrica. Amerrrrrrrica.
2016 Outlook Last season, Stanford did usual Stanford things: Start horrifyingly, slowly improve throughout the season, and then smack everyone in the face with bars and beam pretty once nationals roll around. I wouldn’t put it past Stanford to do the same thing this year—with the Ivie/Ebee dynamic duo anything is possible—but without Shapiro, Vaculik, and Wing, the dynamic has shifted away from bars and beam to an extent, putting more pressure on vault and floor to be competitive scores. It will be interesting to see if the team can adjust. As always, the primary obstacle will be depth. There aren’t a lot of backups on these events, so everyone + 3 other people have to stay healthy all season long. This is a clear nationals team, unless there’s a real injury implosion, but Super Six will be a more challenging prospect this time around without some of those stars. And by stars, I mean Kristina Vaculik’s gienger, the true meaning of Christmas. Expect the usual game of “197 or 194” roulette.
Key Competitor The rest of them. The first and second person in each lineup. We know Price can get 9.9s on every event. Hong can get 9.9s on every event she’s healthy enough to compete. Rice and Nicolette McNair can go 9.850+ on all their pieces. That’s an excellent foundation with Super Six-level scores (if it were four up, four count, Stanford would be among the favorites), but Stanford’s success will be determined by who is able to fill out the rest of the lineups. Are there at least two consistent 9.8+ scores per event coming from the likes of Daum, Chuang, Danielle McNair, Maxwell, Fitzgerald, and Spector? Those six gymnasts will determine Stanford’s fate this season. The Cardinal got twelve 9.9s in Super Six last year (and eight of them have returned this year). You know who else got twelve 9.9s? Florida. Every other school got fewer. The only thing holding this team back was the contingent of supporting scores. There’s even more pressure on them this year to be not a 9.6.
The new vault values shouldn’t be particularly devastating to Stanford, mostly because of a little gem named Elizabeth Price. She vaulted a full last season coming back from injury, and because there was no incentive to do more, but obviously she can do more difficulty than that in her sleep. She’s probably the best bet for #1 vaulter in the nation this year, and her weekly 9.9s will take a lot of pressure off the rest of the lineup. It will be worth watching who else pulls out a 1.5 this year, with Danielle McNair and Taryn Fitzgerald both capable of it, but to varying degrees of success. It’s not the sure scoring boon it is for Price, so we’ll see if it ends up being worth it. Still, the options exist to be worked on. It’s a shame Pauline Hanset missed out by a year. Maybe she would have actually been rewarded for her handspring pike 1/2 this year instead of consistently underscored.
Rice and Nicolette McNair will also return to the lineup and should be able to continue scoring in the 9.8s. The critical factor in filling out this event will be the potential refreshing injury comebacks of Rachel Daum and Melissa Chuang. Back when they were healthy, in the late 60s, Chuang could go 9.800 and Daum could go 9.850. Daum actually had a very strong 1.5 back in JO/elite days as well. Having those two back would be magnificent for filling out the lineup with enough believable options to allow the team to take it easy with Ivana Hong as needed and not feel the pressure to shove her out there on vault every week. I can’t imagine they’d push Hong to vault more than a full at this point (because when hasn’t she suffered serious knee injuries on vault?), but she still has a glorious full that can be trotted later in the year for big scores. Ideally, she’d vault the whole year, but let’s be realistic with our Hong-leg expectations. Because of Price, this lineup should still get into the 49.2s with the occasional 49.3.
Bars should be the most…transformed event from last season because the team will no longer have Vaculik Gienger and Shapiro Toe Point to rely on to bolster the collection of 9.9s. Several 9.9s still exist (so the potential for high scores remains intact), but the problem is a fundamental lack of routines. By that, I mean there are exactly six of them. That makes it pretty easy to come up with a lineup but also puts the team in a really precarious position. No injuries, no falls, no margin whatsoever. Hong and Price are the go-to women, obviously, and are both supremely capable of scoring weekly 9.9s that will be necessary to protect against depth travesties. Nicolette McNair is also quite good on bars and should consistently be pecking around 9.9. After that, hold onto your giant novelty cowboy hats because it could be a rough ride. Dare Maxwell is on the team now, and bars is both her best and most important event. Let’s hope she’s ready to go because her work is pretty and can save the day. Taylor Rice was in and out of the bars lineup last year, but she’ll need to be in every week this time around. When she hits, her routine is good for a 9.850, but she can also suffer from a chronic case of the fallsies. Similarly, Danielle McNair can be a worthwhile 9.850 on bars, but she lost her spot at the end of 2014 because of consecutive falls and didn’t get it back last season. Without Vaculik, Shapiro, and Wing around, they’ll both need to be consistently influential members of the lineup instead of just possibilities.
And then that’s pretty much it. Those are the six. The three other freshmen will probably be called upon to put together backup routines, but bars was a weakness for all of them in JO (like a 9.1-career-high kind of weakness). This coaching staff is famous for creating bars routines and greatly improving skills (watch Hong’s elite DLO, followed by her college DLO for evidence), and they’ll have to get to work this year to give the team real bars options given that there are only nine people listed on the team’s own roster as even potentially doing bars this season. When the main six compete, this could be a seriously 49.400 bars team. Three 9.900s and three 9.850s is completely doable on any old day. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end up being more 39.400 than 49.400.
As on bars, Price and Hong will lead the beam rotation with 9.9s. I say 9.9s. We all know Ivana Hong should be getting a 16 every time. Price is training double pike dismounts, which I usually question from a cynical scoring perspective just because it’s so tough to stick compared to the people who are like, “gainer full, 9.950, I’m the winner,” but with Ebee…sure. Why not? Do a layout full in. Because probably.
Stanford stands out for impressive and extended beam work that doesn’t give away the form nasties that many other teams do, meaning 9.900 is always an attainable goal for every member of the lineup. This year’s roster should be able to continue that tradition. Taylor Rice has really worked out her beam consistency over the last year or so after having to fight for her spot early in her Stanford career. Now she can be counted on as a total Solid Sandra. Nicolette McNair is the fourth and final returning stalwart from last season, though I’m less concerned about depth on beam than on bars because most people on a college team can throw together a beam routine if desperately needed (at least more than bars), even if it’s not their event. That may not even be necessary, however, because there are also comfortable options for the remaining spots that were not available last season. Rachel Daum should return to the lineup. I’ve always enjoyed her beam work and thought she should have scored higher than the mid-range 9.8s she was getting in 2014. Among the freshmen, Dare Maxwell should be able to put together something very Stanfordy, and Fitzgerald has a walkover to two feet, which is fun. I’d like to see that. Without Vaculik and Wing, this lineup may not be quite the same 49.550 IN SUPER SIX BITCHES, but 49.300 should remain an expected score.
Oh, Stanford on floor. Wherefore art thou getting 9.6s? For most teams, floor is the big event that can pad the meet total with a 49.4 to make it look relatively impressive even if it was a little 9.825 before that. For Stanford, floor is more of a nemesis to be slain than an asset to be used. Thankfully, Price and Rice exist to give Stanford two whole gymnasts who are 9.900-comfortable. Price can bring the smoothly, easily landed difficulty, and Rice is among those who can realistically and frequently get a 9.900 for a double pike routine, even if she doesn’t bust out her DLO. Also, if Taylor Rice doesn’t include the man-wipe in every floor routine she does this year, we’re rioting, agreed? Agreed. Taylor, you have been warned.
Haley Spector was also an extraordinarily necessary development on floor last season for 9.850s, competing in every meet and saving the team from falling into the clutches of the depth monster on more than one occasion. She’ll be back. Do we dare hope that Nicolette McNair is actually able to do floor this year? It was always one of her best events, if not her best, with a double arabian that could boost the team’s difficulty quotient, but she has been very missing on floor throughout her Stanford career. I’m not waiting at the altar for this routine; I’m just saying it would be nice to see at some point. Speaking of double arabians, Fitzgerald has one, and of the newbies, she seems the most likely to figure on floor. I haven’t mentioned the Hoffmans yet, who are shrouded with injury question marks, but if either of them is going to be a contributor, floor seems the most likely place. Though particularly important will be Daum and Chuang. It’s the same story as vault. They could make this lineup so much healthier and more complete with their 9.8s, giving the team a near panoply of options, which we don’t normally expect from Stanford on floor. A panoply that also includes Frowein, who competed last year for 9.7s but may not be needed this time if everything pans out.
The biggest difference between this year and last should be having Price all year long instead of rushing her back into the lineup at the very end so that floor isn’t horrifying. While it still may not be the big 49.4+ that other teams will boast, I like this floor lineup to improve on the 49.185 RQS from last season.