Things We Learned from Scam Part 3: Actual Implications for the US Team

Leaving aside the prospects of Raisman as a bars specialist and my dream team for a moment, Scam did shake things up in the US camp. The real one, not the one in my head. There were winners and losers emerging from the events of Saturday, and most of them weren’t even there.

The single most significant routine of the day was Gabby’s Amanar:

And the reason for this is that it leaves room for the US to take two bars specialists. Gabby’s bars upgrades were also a treat, of course, but they don’t necessarily change that much. She was the US’s best bars worker before Scam – Bross needs to get through a routine before she gets that accolade back again – and she still is. Only difference is, she’s now an EF medal contender.

This set starts from 6.5, and the version she did on podium training could certainly score 9 or close to it internationally.

That’s comparable to Komova’s world title winning routine. The Russians and Tweddle are upgrading, as Stoi! has previously discussed, but Douglas is in the mix. Her EF chances are irrelevant to the team selection though, really. Marta is more than happy to leave potential individual medallists at home if need be, or even out of the lineup despite there being a big gap in it (Anna Li could easily have taken bronze in Tokyo).

But with Gabby as a killer AAer with particular strength on vault and bars, that may leave Marta’s highest scoring team as 3 AAers plus 2 bars specialists. Wieber and Ross are both AAers with huge potential, great vaults and ok but not ideal bars. Taking those two plus Gabby leaves room for two bars specialists: Bross, Liukin, Caquatto, Sloan, Li, whoever really. Bross is probably the favourite, but it could be any two. Like so:

VT- Douglas, Ross, Wieber (fabulous)

UB- Douglas, bars specialist 1, bars specialist 2

BB- Douglas, Wieber and Ross could do it, or the bars specialist could be used here too

FX- Douglas, Wieber, Ross

Of course, there may not be two bars specialists worth taking. But this leaves room. It’s also bad news for Maroney, which is a damn shame. But she looks less and less like a necessity, Olympic vault champion in waiting though she is. Her Amanar is sumptuous, and makes all others look a big disappointing in comparison, but it’s probably only adding a couple of tenths max. Her floor is fine, but not top notch. Raisman and Wieber can easily outscore her, Ross and Douglas might. And that third pass is trouble waiting to happen. The reality is that, as a one eventer, there are others who’ll have the potential to add more. Maroney is likely to require injuries from others and upgrades on floor to allow her to make the team. Some of both will no doubt happen, though.

Regarding bars, I hope we all noticed Nastia’s expression during Gabby’s routine. The other watching Olympic AA champions were all enchanted. Miss Liukin, less so. She much preferred only having to measure up against 15s, not 15.5s. Again though, I don’t think Gabby’s bars upgrades are necessarily that important in terms of team selection. Liukin won’t be competing with her for a bars specialist slot after all, and the odds were that Gabby was going if healthy anyway.

Gabby wasn’t the only one showing a new Amanar of course, but I don’t think Aly Raisman’s was particularly significant. She wasn’t in the top 3 vaulters in the US before doing it, and she still isn’t.

Fair play to her for getting it round: many people, Stoi! included, doubted whether she’d be able to fully rotate one. And she has. I don’t like some of her Amanar landings though- check out the ones from podium training and warmups too. They look a bit too much like an injury waiting to happen. I watched enough Mustafina to be able to spot those coming.

So with that in mind, I still think Raisman’s route onto the team is the same as it was before: beam and floor. That’s what she should keep working on. They don’t need her on vault and not even Marta is cynical enough to use her as a bars specialist, tempting as that thought is. Don’t get me wrong, she might well end up being chosen, vaulting and throwing an Amanar. We can rule nothing out, not when Marta has a long lineup of fresh talent to squander. I just think I’d be thinking carefully about the risks, if I were Aly.

Her DTY at worlds got 15.233. Most of those Amanars are going to top out at 15.6 internationally, max. I’m not entirely sure that’s worth the injury risk, particularly on an event where the US are already stacked. It doesn’t really even change her place in the US vault ranks either. With or without it, she is their 5th best vaulter- 6th if Sacramone makes it back. Nobody else has a better DTY or a weaker Amanar than she does. Maroney, Ross, Douglas and Wieber are all ahead of her, either way. And the rest are behind.

We are now three months away from Olympic selection. If Marta’s reign teaches us anything, it’s that nobody is too good to be wasted by overtraining. For this reason, it’s stupid to say there are any definites now, or to rule anyone out. Nonetheless, I think Scam shook things up a bit. As always, it functions best as a US intrasquad rather than pretending to be a legitimate international competition. 2012 was no different.

Stoi! readers, what implications do you think last weekend had for the US?


18 responses to “Things We Learned from Scam Part 3: Actual Implications for the US Team

  • Stoi!

    Hi Andrew

    Thanks for that very comprehensive comment! I broadly agree with what you say, but would add a few thoughts about bars.

    Firstly, I think you overestimate what Wieber and Ross can score- Wieber is several tenths below low 15s even with a hit routine at the moment. There are rumours of upgrades, but I wouldn’t like to comment until I see them. And the problem is that she’s quite risky. When that routine goes wrong, it can be a real mess. It’s cleverly designed, in that the composition is unusual and it allows her to power through. but as she has so little natural swing, she only needs to be a bit off on something and the whole flow of the exercise is ruined. The ideal would be to not use her at all.

    In terms of potential bars specialists, I think we can rule out Anna Li and aren’t the Caquattos injured? If Chellsie isn’t, she will be. Her body can’t do it anymore, though I acknowledge she’d fill the hole very well if she were healthy. Really it would have to be someone who can reliably clear at least 15 and ideally more. It’s possible nobody will fit into that category though. Bross needs to hit every bars set at Nationals and Trials. Liukin actually has a fairly easy path to the team- she just needs to hit her 2009 set and she’s on- but as you say, it remains to be seen.

    Sacramone probably doesn’t add anything at this point, but it’s highly likely that there’ll be injuries. The US have essentially been routine ready since Scam, which is asking for trouble. She needs to stay away from floor though. She can no longer physically cope with 3 events.

    Ultimately, the best option all round would be for Maroney to improve her floor. That would bolster the current lineup, and if it happens alongside Liukin or Bross hitting bars, might also spell bye bye for Raisman.

    There’s also Sarah Finnegan. Longish shot, but it’s possible she’ll add more on floor than Maroney does on vault.


  • Andrew c

    I think, and I am no expert opinion, that if the team were to be chosen now it would be Wieber, Maroney, Douglas, Ross, Raisman… this may be because this is who we have seen compete this year but I believe this is the base team Marta may be working with and people will be added or taken off during the process. The obvious problem with this line up is UB, where we would have Ross, Wieber, and Douglas. I would believe in order to justify replacing Maroney wih a Bars specialist is that they would have to add more to the team total that maroney adds on vault alone… (Maroney seems to b in the 16,00 for vault now and I would say the third vaulter for the usa whether it be raisman ross or douglas will be about 15.4/5 – so we are looking at about a .6 advantage maroney has). Therefore lets say the lower of Ross and Wiebers bars will be low 15s they will be looking for an UB score of about 15.6/7?!?!!?; Is there a Bars specialist out there that has that sort of potential?? – so far doesn’t seem likely as lets look at the options:-
    Anna Li – high start value but if Marta didn’t even trust her at worlds last yr with Sacramone out then she’s not going to be on this team
    Caq. Sisters:- decent bar workers but not enough and don’t add value anywhere else
    Liukin:- at this point seems highly unlikely as no signs of her being ready BUT if she was to be by then she would be the only one I believe who would be able o bring in a large enough score on bars alone to justify removing Moroney.
    Now another way of justifying removing Maroney is by having someone who can add the extra value on a combination of the events (bars/beam/and or floor) as the USA could do with another option on both floor and beam as I think in TF the locks for beam and floor are Wieber/ Ross and Wieber/Raisman respectively… however that third spot is a bit in the air as with the above team we would have raisman/douglas on beam and any of douglas/ross.maroney on floor (not the most comforting of choices).
    This is where Bross comes in as if she is at her best she potentially adds a few tenths potentially on all three BUT judging from what she has beem showing for a while I cant see her Arabian dismount being used in TF off beam and her bars dont seem to be too reliable either. So unless she really gets her act together and upgrades cleanly she won’t be on this team.
    I think the only two other who may have a shot at this team and this is iffy due to their injuries are:-
    Shawn Johnson – I just read the article where she is talking about her comeback and she is excited to show her beam and floor. These are her two strongest events so I believe she can have a considerably better score than the third option for both events. Also while not a natural bars worker, she is capable and prob capable of scoring the same as Wieber if she upgrades and her rack record on bars seems to be a bit steadier so she could be the US lead off in TF. Also she says that they are going for the Amanar and while her Amanar was always a bit questionable it would be quite something for the US to go with 5 Amanars to the Olympics.
    Chellsie Memmel:- this may be a bit biased BUT Chellsie can swing bars, is rock solid on beam and potentially will have a high SV, and has some of the biggest tumbling passes (BUT SHE NEEDS TO ADD DIFFICULTY IN LEAPS/SPINS/DANCE etc) … the main problem here is her shoulder and is she recovered enough and has enough time to upgrade her bars enough to help ?!?!?! You never know we might see a repeat of 2008 visas and trials where she came back and surprised everyone.
    Also another option would be Alicia Sacramone, assuming she will have all her skills back, as her vault is just below Maroneys and she can post highscores on beam and floor BUT I really would not be confident with her on Beam in TF or Floor (can she stay inbounds?) (2008 anyone???)
    Of course they have others theoretically in the hunt but I cannot see anyone else being viable options.
    We all know that Wieber and Douglas (Bars) are locks at this point so will be interesting to see how his all unfolds.

  • Stoi!

    The problem is Jamie that we can’t guarantee that one of Liukin or Bross will hit the floor. Far from it. I do think that if the team were chosen tomorrow, Maroney would be on it. Along with Wieber, Ross, Raisman and Douglas. A good team, but Ross and Wieber on bars in TFs isn’t ideal. Douglas and Maroney are both one eventers in that scenario, but Maroney is the more vulnerable because she adds less to the team total: Douglas is unassailable on bars at the moment. Unless Maroney improves on floor, and she hadn’t in Jesolo, there’s potential for other one eventers to add more to the team total than her. But yes, there are other issues like Douglas and Raisman’s consistency with their vaults, and Maroney’s EF chances.

    Don’t really agree that an EF medal is the same as team gold either. USAG and indeed the other top teams want the team title, so Marta prioritises that above everything. She’s been happy to drop EF contenders in the past, although admittedly none of them quite so dominant as Maroney.

    In practice though, there’s a fair chance it will come down to last 5 standing, again. If I had to call it now, I’d say a healthy Maroney will make the team, but there’ll be plenty of water under the bridge between now and then.

  • jamiemcgann

    Love your blog. But am really frightened/disappointed to see a case for leaving Maroney behind :/

    I know it’s quite insular if you are a gymnastics powerhouse, but outside of USA/CHN/RUS/ROM, a Gold medal in the vault is the same as a gold medal in the team. I mean, there are only 6 golds on offer in the ladies competition, why the fook would a team choose to throw one away (leave Maroney behind) in favour of *maybe* having a *slightly* better chance at winning another??? Gold is GOLD!

    Let’s be honest, they could bring Bross/Li or Liukin for one event and …I guarantee, one of those bitches will eat the floor. Then you’ve wasted 2 gold medals!! Team and Maroney!

    By taking Maroney, you’re only slightly, risking one!

    Come on people, work with the odds. 😉

    Finally, relying on Gabby Douglas to land an Amanar at the olympics, or even entertain the idea that she won’t have multiple falls in the AA should she qualify…’s about as realistic as expecting Gina Gogean to fooking smile.

    • Stoi!


      I’d like to agree with you that “gold is gold”, and in most other countries this way of thinking is true.

      However, team comes first and foremost to Marta. It comes before individual medals, and before broken toes and dislocated elbows.

      I won’t believe Nastia’s “comeback” until I see her on a piece of equipment, but they’re going to need one of her or Bross for a bars lineup that isn’t completely stank.

      A 14.7 from Wieber just isn’t going to cut it, even if Maroney Amanar’s out of the arena.

      I’d like to see Maroney make the team, and I don’t think it’s completely out of the question. She could help her cause by being slightly more usable on 1 other event. She’s decent on floor, but I’m not even sure if I’d call her top 3.


  • Stoi!

    I just pray it involves the beam D panel. Useless fuckers.

  • Stoi!

    Hi Diane

    Sadly I won’t be at the US trials as I’m on the other side of the pond. Not sure about Bronwyn. There’s a bit more information about us in the ‘About Stoi!’ page, but we’re not insiders or anything. We offer nothing more than fourth hand gossip, over-analysis, and a deep love for Eurotrash and Mo Huilan’s chicken dance.

    Regarding Nastia’s beam and bars, take a look at ‘Things We Learned From Scam Part 2’. She’s on my dream team! There’s a way to go yet though- she doesn’t have any upcoming assignments and if she’s doing full sets yet, news hasn’t leaked out. We can but hope!

    Javi, I think Shawn is another one with a lot of work to do. She’s said herself she can’t do the big difficulty anymore. I wonder if she’ll end up in Allyse Ishino territory- perfect alternate. She was pretty much that last year. A shame she didn’t take the Pan Ams beam title that was offered to her on a plate.

  • JAVI

    Probably Weiber,Raisman and Douglas are going to london …..Gabys couch said her routine on the american cup had a 6.5 start value and she plans to add another four-tenths of difficulty so she’ll be among best barworkers in the world….now the 4th spot probably will go to Bross if shes healthy thanks to her bars and 5th spot can go to anybody,Martha said this past weekend that she wants the old Shawn Jhonson back able to do great beam,hard tumbling on floor and that she has a decent bars set to be an opener so maybe she could fulfill the team.

    • Diane Bolin Kelley

      Good morning C and B, I have to say you two are my favorites! I look forward to your e-mails when I see that little squirrel hugging the tree. Keep us up with your ideas. I enjoy that you make me think of the possibilities! Two questions, are you going to the Olympic Trials? And if I may ask, who are you two? You certainly are fun! As I reread your reply of course a third question comes to mind, what about Nastia for beam and bars?

  • Stoi!

    Diane, thank you for your comments. For future reference, we allow all sensible comments, even if they disagree with us, and non-sensible ones if sufficiently entertaining. So no need to worry about whether your comment will go through!

    The problem with selecting based on Trials placements is that the five best AAers don’t necessarily make the best 5-3-3 lineup. Marta historically has not been as good at using specialists as some other coaches, and has relied more on AAers. But even so, she’s presumably aware that it may be to her advantage to use the 12th placed AAer who is top 3 on 1 event.

    Lastly, Kyla Ross isn’t my favourite, but she has potential. Apparently she had a growth spurt, hence no Test Event or Scam, but expect her to look strong in Jesolo.


  • Diane Kelley

    Okay, I can accept what you have to say about Kyla Ross! Now you do need to answer me about your feelings about the Olympic Trials as the final selection. When all the deep analysis is done, (which I do think is really cool that you have done this and expressed your point of view,) this seems very scary. And yes it is also scary to have an Olympic Trials and it really isn’t the final trials! I know, I was one of the lucky ones.

    • Stoi!

      I think there’s pros and cons to the selection process. I don’t especially like having to wait until a week before the Olympics to know the team (after 1/2 of them have been broken at camp).

      But I agree with what you said about one of the top girls having an off day at trials and being left at home. I don’t think that’s going to happen though. When there’s ony 5 girls on a team, it takes some form of strategy in selection. Marta is not going to take whoever finishes 1-5 at Trials. It just isn’t going to happen. If Wieber falls on every event, she’s still going to be on the Olympic team. So the actual “final” results from trials don’t actually mean all that much. I’m sure Marta already has a team in her head, and I highly doubt that it’s going to change very much.

      Depending on who doesn’t need crutches by then, of course.

      – B

  • Diane Kelley

    Okay, it worked. The gymnasts are going to be selected at these actual Olympic Trials. After reading your Parts 1-3, how in the world is this going to be possible? This is like one giant puzzle! In the actual trials they are not going to finish exactly the way Martha wants them to. I do understand the controversy of not picking the actual team from the Olympic Trials, going back to myself in 1968. What if the best clearly do have a small stumble and are one place out? Don’t we want to send our very best team? Alas I know I am opening up that can of worms again but, there is some truth to what I say. Also you seem very high on Kyla Ross. You haven’t talked about her too much before so I feel a little bit of at a loss to why she is so highly placed. Correct me if I’m wrong, didn’t she win juniors last year at Championships? Thanks, I truly do enjoy your analysis of what is going on!

    • Stoi!

      I’ve always been very high on the Kyla Ross crack, I just have yet to do an entire post on her. We don’t usually focus on the juniors too much.

      A lot of people think she has no shot of making the team because she doesn’t have a ton of international experience as a senior. But really, I think she’s (at least) the third best gymnast on every event, and I’d have her as the second All-Arounder to Wieber. I say take a chance on her.

      – B

  • Diane Kelley

    Before I write much I need to see if this will really go through.

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