Reigning and oh so worthy world AA champion Jordyn Wieber has, unsurprisingly, gone professional. This means she is no longer eligible to compete in the NCAA. Article about it below:
For those who aren’t familiar with the system, athletes who compete in the NCAA get a full scholarship to the institution they attend. For some of the more expensive universities, this can equate to tens of thousands of dollars. This is more than most international elites can make in a professional career- not all, of course. Nastia, Shawn and Alicia will all have garnered much more than that. But take what you might call an average US worlds team member- Ivana Hong, Ashley Priess, someone like that. It makes a lot of financial sense for them to get the scholarship instead.
Jordyn, however, has decided to follow all the other US world AA champions bar one, and go professional. This is not a great surprise to some of us. She is the eighth American woman to win a world or Olympic AA title, and only Bridget Sloan has stayed amateur. There are obvious reasons for this.
Jordyn’s coach John Geddert is supportive of the decision, and has given a rationale similar to Shawn Johnson’s parents when she did the same thing last quad.
“We still need to keep our eye on the prize,” Geddert said of the London Games. “I’m supportive of the idea in that Jordyn isn’t cut out for college gymnastics. I don’t think the 14 weekends in a row doing watered-down gymnastics, that’s not what she’s all about. When you compete with the best in the world, I don’t see her sinking her teeth into that type of situation.”
This has led to much reaching for smelling salts in some quarters. I don’t think it was the smartest way to phrase things for someone whose gym has historically focused a lot on Level 10s, but can’t argue with the sentiment.
When someone is a world AA champion and gunning for the Olympic title, throwing Yurchenko fulls at Nebraska is a step down. There’s no way round it. Even the big competitions don’t have the same excitement and prestige as worlds. They just don’t. This is true no matter how many of the minor, and sometimes even continental elite competitions are utter disappointments (and Pan Ams was pretty crap).
Additionally, Jordyn, like Shawn before her, is someone who seems to be motivated by working the big skills.
NCAA, on the other hand, tends to be more about consistency and refining difficulty. This is a generalisation, of course, and some athletes do throw more difficulty in college. But, for example, there have only been a couple of dozen DTYs, if that- the focus is more on sticking the FTY. This of course suits some athletes more than others.
Having said that, Jordyn’s current floor routine makes me think the SEC would probably love her.
Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see if she makes any money out of this. I don’t know how much room there is for any more commercial exploitation in the run up to the Olympics. So many big names already. The US could fill two teams with world and Olympic champions, even without Jordyn. It’s possible that we’ll see Liukin, Johnson, Memmel, Sacramone, Sloan, Douglas, Maroney, Raisman, Vega and Li all try for London. To say nothing of the athlete with the US’s largest international medals haul this quad, Rebecca Bross.
I don’t suggest that having a lot of veterans necessarily makes for the strongest team, particularly when most of them are carrying injuries- might be best not to include any of them at all. But it does mean there’ll be hot competition for the McDonalds contract.