Thursday, September 17, 2009


A commenter on this blog asked me the other day why I had been so quiet about my opinions on who should make the USA Worlds Team. 

I guess there are a few reasons I haven't put any real opinions forth (which I know, me not having an opinion is strange!).

For one thing, I don't really do scoring math, not having been a real gymnast or a code-decoder at any point. I know enough, but I couldn't work out who should be on a team based on that sort of thing without a calculator, some scrap paper, the Code of Points and about forty-eight hours on my hands!

I tend to just have certain gymnasts I would like to see on a team because I want to see them perform well, or because I think they are amazing, because I want to see them perform one particular event or move I love, or even sometimes to redeem themselves from another competition. For example, although I think she is too wildly inconsistent for her beautiful gymnastics to be much use to a Russian team score (though not a problem this year) I would still wish Afanasyeva on a team so she could have the chance to- for once- nail a four-for-four and do well.  But team construction based on the reality of points and difficulty is a little beyond me!

There are some countries where I just don't think I am familiar enough with the pond of elites from which they have to dip, so I don't feel I can form a truly informed opinion. Others I do know, like Romania, and had/have a very fixed idea of who I want to go (and am still not sure I am entirely pleased with the team as it stands, but lets wait for Nationals to see how Chelaru is doing these days).  But when it comes to the US, picking a team is a whole new kettle of fish for me.

There are several reasons why I don't bother constructing the team I think should go. And it is mostly because I am so torn.

Because of the intense media scrutiny and coverage (within gymnastics media) we witness of the US girls, I feel so much more invested in their team decision than other international teams, because I feel like I know the girls and their gymnastics and their power to perform so well. It makes it that much harder because I want so many of them on that team for so many reasons.

The main factors that make feel so divided between several gymnasts are;

New vs Old

Of course this is a big factor. Sentimentality versus new hopes. In one way, I would like to see all those Beijing girls back to see how they are all doing this year and enjoy watching some of my favorite girls and their routines again. I mean there is nothing like the sport of gymnastics to make you feel old. You have to move on so quickly. Aside from the longevity of careers like those of the  Chusos and the Zammos and the Nans, there are seemingly new gymnasts to acquaint yourself with EVERY FIVE MINUTES!

Look at some of our recent World and Olympic champions. Both Patterson and Johnson turned ut to be one quad wonders. And some gymnasts end up only being a one US Nationals wonder. No wonder it is so hard to keep up!

It is hard to accept newbies like Bross and Caquatto and Wiliams, whose gymnastics and personality is less known in the wider arena of an international competition when I am still attached to those of the last quad. Especially when I have no idea how long they'll be around. It's almost like I am scared to form an attachment to them! Then on the other hand, it is exciting to see what these new girls are capable of.  I was pleased as punch to see that Caquatto did so well in the camp comp, but another part of me was going 'uh oh, where's Ivana?'

And it is going to be hard, particularly on a sentimental level, to see someone new out-vault Sacramone if she does indeed return, and it is already hard to watch an upstart like Bross beat out Bridgey in AA.
I know this is how the sport works- it is how life works- but it doesn't make it any easier. Part of me wants to embrace the new generation, and part of me wants to prod them back in line and say "wait your turn. It's not here yet".

Power vs Grace

Yes, this old nutshell keeps coming up for me. Especially now that we have lost Nastia, who is certainly one of the most elegant US gymnasts.  The US will be looking more old school power-pack than ever, no matter who they pick. I am compelled by powerful and precise gymnasts like Peszek and Memmel but part of me does love to watch Hong be bendy. But do I think the 'beautiful' gymnast should be selected over the 'powerful' gymnast? I am just not sure.

The tragedy of the Missed Opportunity
Not making the Grade

This is a big, bad one for me. It is particularly relevant to a gymnast like Hong, who, if she doesn't make this Worlds, may have lost her chances altogether to be part of another major Worlds competition. There are too many talented young junior coming up behind her, I fear.

Now it is obvious Ivana has really come on since going to WOGA and her gymnastics is lovely and definitely desirable among the range of less-than-graceful gymnasts adorning the big guns of the National Team (come on, Bridget Sloan is precise, and perhaps mildly elegant, but you cant say she is graceful) but is Ivana GOOD enough for the Worlds?

I am simply not sure. It's not like Jana Bieger, another gymnast whose career has been one of lost opportunities, where it is clear that she is not going to cut the mustard. With Ivana, I hope, for the sake of her sense of self-worth that she makes it and doesn't become the next Hollie Vise, but I am still not terribly sure she deserves a spot either over some of the other girls.

Bross is another problem here. It is obvious she has been something of a Wunderkind in US gym lately, but if Nats showed anything, it is that consistency isn't always her finer point. She clearly makes the grade in difficulty, but does she make it in maturity and ability to perform under pressure? It is a little telling that she crashed at the Nationals, but behind the closed doors of camp, she can pull it off.

With age comes consciousness, and I think Bross is starting to become fully conscious of what is expected of her (something i feel Shawn Johnson was miraculously protected from for a long time) and it is affecting her performances as well as the obvious factor of trying to rush back from injury.

But then on the other hand, with her tricks threatening to break down her body at any given moment, and the fleetingness of gym careers these days,perhaps they should shoo her into this Worlds as it may be the only one she gets. Which brings me to......

Injury vs Opportunity

Well I guess the Sam problem is solved here, but I was torn over wether I wanted to see what the judges made of her at Worlds, since I haven't had much opportunity to see how she is judged internationally, and wondering if her shoulder would hold.

I mean, given the USA's history of taking along injured gymnasts- risk be damned- and getting bit in the proverbial parts for doing so ( a-la-Beijing), I didn't think she would necessarily be ruled out just for her injury.

Same goes for Chellsie. History dictates that she will probably wind up injured before she even gets on the floor, but sentimentality dictates that I want her to go out their and TAKE IT ALL one last time!

Anyway, lets face facts, USA gymnastics pushes the girls soooo hard before international competitions that you might as well not pin your hopes too hard because there is a much higher probability than anywhere that your favorites will end up hurt before they even get on a plane.
I swear these days I feel a compelling urge to fling a blanket around some of my favorite young gymnasts (Chelsea Davis as an example) and smuggle them away from elite gymnastics to a safe place where they can train and wait for a much safer, more secure college career! I just wish I'd got to Ivana in time!

And besides, we all know Marta will do whatever she wants to do, and frankly, it's rarely what I want her to do so it's seems, in some ways, to me, futile to even try and hope for what I want in this case!! Not that it stops me!

But as for an opinion, as opposed to a wish of who should be on the team, I couldn't begin to guess.


  1. Thank you for putting a white background! So so so much easier to read.

  2. Did Ivana turn professional? I've never heard anything indicating either way, but I've never heard anyone talk about her potentially doing NCAA, either.

  3. I love the white background also but the size is too I know. Everyone is a critic.

    I think you kept quiet about who should make the world team because you must know deep inside that not a sing;le gymnast of teh last 5 years can live up to the 80's and 90's gymnasts in complete quality. NO ONE. Not even Nastia.

  4. The size of what? The blog? Or the writing? Wha?

  5. You have become my number one gymnastics site. I usually view several a day. Yours is now my first to look at.

  6. With the way elite womens gymnastics is run In the US can you really blame anyone for only being a one quad gymnast?

  7. I am certainly not blaming anyone for being a one-quad gymnast. All I am saying is that it means that we are constantly getting used to new gymnasts.