|Jordyn Wieber, the reigning world champion in all-around gymnastics, performs on the floor exercise. The women's U.S. national gymnastics team will begin competing on July 28 in London. (US Presswire)|
Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber, two gymnasts now considered by many to be the best all-around in the world, cruised their way to Olympic bids Sunday night at the final go-round of the U.S. trials in San Jose, Calif.
Dozens of girls began the competition last week, aiming for five rotation spots and the chance to get the overall team gold back on United States soil. Just after 11 p.m. Eastern Time, we found out who the five were.
Douglas -- who awkwardly/adorably did this once it was confirmed she'd made the team -- and Wieber will be joined by McKayla Maroney, Alexandra Raisman and Kyla Ross. Remember, these are the "starters," if you will. They're the ones who'll compete and dominate your primetime TV coverage in between swimming and track events. If any should get hurt, or can't go for another reason, there are three reserve gymnasts who will travel to London to cheer on/be on call for their teammates.
Douglas earned the auto bid by finishing with a 15.300 score, barely besting Wieber.
This women's team will definitely have a chance at the gold overall, but there's much less certainty to American gymnasts' chances in their events like Usain Bolt in his or Michael Phelps/Ryan Lochte in theirs. The U.S. has not dominated in this arena as of late, but experts do like this team's chances.
The subhead to Sunday night's news was the absence of America's two most recognizable female faces/names in gymnastics. The all-around individual gold medal-winner of the 2008 Games, Nastia Liukin, and the captain of the '08 squad in Beijing, Alicia Sacramone, failed to make the team. It makes this group a little harder to sell, but in no time we'll be familiar with their bubbly personalities. (And Douglas is no joke; I watched some of these trials with friends and we were audibly wowed by her ability.)
Sacramone had been battling injuries but showed well at the trials this week. Being older than her colleagues (24), you really get the sense of how gymnastics, even more than tennis, has such a fertile, short-lived prime.
Liukin reinforces that. The 22-year-old star of the '08 Games for the U.S. had struggled big-time in the weeks and days leading up to selection. She was considered a long shot all the while after taking time away from the sport after her dazzling showing four years ago.
Unfortunately for Liukin, she provided the highlight of the night, which was startling to see in real-time. While going through her routine on the uneven bars, Liukin missed her grip coming back down from the top bar and landed parallel to the mat, slapping violently into it.
I'm confused as to why her coach, which apparently is her father/former Olympian gymnast, did not catch her. Not only is it embarrassing, it seems unnecessarily dangerous.
The best -- and only -- good part to this? Liukin fought off the tears, composed herself and finished the routine. Her career, basically, ends on that thud there. A regrettable performance, but one to have some pride in, too. American spirit defined, basically, in that she didn't refuse to get back on the bars. Also, Liukin continued her program, working the balance beam -- an event she was a world champion in back in 2005 and 2007 -- before likely taking her last competitive steps off the talc-stained equipment. Afterward, she waved to the crowd, eyes welling up, as some gave her a standing ovation.
“It was an emotional but amazing way to end my career,” Liukin said on NBC. “I understand that my time is up and I'm so excited to cheer these girls on."
Earlier on Sunday, the men's team was announced. The primary selections, a team considered in the race for bronze, maybe even silver, were:
- Jake Dalton
- Jonathan Horton
- Danell Leyva
- Sam Mikulak
- John Orozco