Sacramone and Raisman have both been injured in training. The actual injuries and the prognosis aren’t clear, but we do know that Alicia was carried out after the punch for her arabian double on floor went wrong. Raisman hurt herself on a beam dismount. This photo is heartbreaking.
USAG are doing damage limitation, and it’s being put about that Aly will be ok. She trained bars sans dismount today. This could of course be reflective of her being tough, rather than her being ok.
This is an all too familiar refrain. The number of athletes injured during podium training on Marta’s watch is astounding, to say nothing of those who broke at needless selection camps, often doing routines they’d never have competed anyway. So what happened was all too predictable (especially as Alicia apparently wasn’t training vault at all yesterday). The incompetence this involved, on so many levels, is as breathtaking as it is multi-layered.
Bronners and I have been working on our pre worlds predictions thread. Last night, before Aly and Alicia’s accidents, I finished drafting mine, and one of the categories I included was ‘Coach most likely to murder someone before the end of the week’. This is what I wrote:
Marta of course. This year has been a particular highlight, in what has been a decade of overtraining, piss poor preparation, failing to protect vulnerable athletes, and just plain fucking stupidity. M.Caquatto getting injured at camp doing a routine the team didn’t even need was like a homage to 2002. Fuck off and retire, bitch.
I take no pleasure in being right. She should be sacked. This is gross incompetence, on a number of levels. Stupid mistake after stupid mistake. For the following reasons:
1. The selection process is far too gruelling.
I realise that the open ended code is part of the reason why athletes are dropping like flies, and the US are the worst rather than the sole example of this. Marta of course doesn’t control the requirements of the code. She does, however, control the requirements of the selection process. This year, there were two selection camps in September, following Nationals in mid August. Gymnasts had to peak three times in six weeks before worlds. They pretty much have to stay at the top of their game for two months. That has consequences.
2. Fragile but essential athletes are not protected
Marta must have known that Sacramone and Bross were both essential to team success, but physically fragile. As such, she should have ensured they were managed properly. She didn’t.
Bross was clearly not 100% at Nationals. But she was still doing AA. She was obviously necessary for the US team on bars and not relevant for vault, yet she was throwing DTYs and a Patterson dismount on beam. Some of this is Valeri’s fault too. He clearly didn’t put his foot down. But word has it that Marta told them Bross needed to do AA at Nationals, in order to be in contention. Obvious bollocks- even if she was only ready on bars, they’d have had to take her to Tokyo. They took Li, who isn’t as good. What she should actually have told them is that Becca must not vault, didn’t have to do floor, and could stick to layout dismounts on bars and beam. That didn’t happen. And Alicia was put through two high octane selection camps too, when she was clearly a bit sore after floor at Nationals.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at this failure though- Marta didn’t protect Alicia in 2008 when she was much more battered. So there’s no reason to expect she’d do it now. I’m still astounded at the way she treated Chellsie, who was 2008’s Becca (clearly carrying an injury but essential on bars). Not only was she allowed to do AA at Olympic Trials, but she vaulted a DTY at camp. With whiplash. Only a fucking moron would’ve allowed that to happen.
3. Stupid choices re alternates
The announced seven this year were Sacramone, Wieber, Maroney, Raisman, Li, Douglas and Vega. USAG didn’t say who the alternate was. The logical assumption was that it would be Vega. The first four were clear locks, and there are only three decent bars routines amongst those seven.
However, unbeknowns to the world, Li was carrying a stomach muscle injury. This was known about at camp, but she continued through it all anyway. Kudos, Marta. On Tuesday, she was named alternate because of this. I mean no disrespect to Anna when I say it’s hard to imagine a less useful sub than an injured one eventer. Well, until today I couldn’t anyway. At least Anna might be capable of doing one event.
So, Marta knew when she named her competing seven that Anna Li was carrying a stomach muscle injury. Maroney’s back has been a concern for months now, and Alicia’s lower limbs can never be counted on. I don’t necessarily blame her for picking the team that she did. It made sense, and would have been fine IF SUFFICIENT ALTERNATES HAD BEEN TAKEN TO TOKYO. There’s no problem with taking a risk and seeing how things go in podium training. But you have to have a Plan B.
Plan B, however, in the form of Shawn Johnson, is sitting at home in the US. Given that she’s usable on 3 events and Marta must have known half of her team were carrying lingering injuries, why wasn’t she brought? The US can bring unofficial alternates if they want to. They’re only allowed to have seven credentialled athletes in podium training, but there was nothing to stop them bringing in more gymnasts and finding them somewhere else to train, just in case. I find it hard to believe there are no gyms in Japan that could’ve accommodated Shawn and perhaps a couple of others. They don’t have to name their final team until 24 hours before prelims. Had Shawn been in Japan, or even in the general vicinity, she could’ve been subbed in right now. But there isn’t enough time for her to get over and get acclimatised now. I am not necessarily Shawn’s greatest fan. But her bars routine at Nationals, however imperfect
… is looking like a much more attractive prospect than whichever of Vega, Maroney or Raisman gets the nod. To say nothing of the US having to use Maroney and Douglas on beam. Solid 14.5s from Miss Johnson, possibly even 14.7s if we assume a reputation bonus, would help the team no end on bars and beam. But they probably won’t be available. I get that taking some more alternates would’ve cost money, but it’s not like there was no chance whatsoever of them being needed.
So well done yet again, Mrs Karolyi. Add this to your list of previous failures: breaking Yim and Tricase at worlds 2002 camp competing events they weren’t even going to do at worlds, decimating 2003, effectively running out of bodies in 2004 despite having the deepest talent pool in the world, naming Nastia Liukin as alternate on 3 events in 2006 when she had a broken foot, failing to protect Chellsie and Alicia in 2008, overtraining and starving the 2010 team to the extent that Larson looked a mess by worlds, and now this. Well played. Are you a secret agent for Mother Russia?
Now, I don’t subscribe to some of the more hysterical (though understandable) panics about whether the US can finish top 8 with just four athletes. Of course they can, and if there was any doubt of that at all, no doubt Li and Raisman would be drafted in to do whatever they can do before collapsing. Hell, they might even get a medal. But if they do, that’ll be a reflection of the the colossal talent pool available to the US and the toughness of all the injured athletes in Tokyo, not Marta. The same is true of other team medals the US have won during her tenure. The medal tally is impressive, yes, but it’s in spite of her not because of her. She can keep breaking athletes and it doesn’t matter because there’s always another one to step in.
I will say though, things are starting to look much better for Team China. And I bet Romania are kicking themselves. With a healthy Izbasa, they could probably have won this.
Get well soon ladies. I seem to remember having said this to some other Americans in the not so distant past…