This competition initially looked to promise a bit of a shake up. Wieber seemed a bit ropey in podium training, rumours abounding about Liukin, plus Sloan and Sacramone were back in the game. People thought we might be partying like it was 2004. It didn’t really deliver.
The team was evidently Wieber, Raisman, Maroney, Douglas and Ross before start of play. For our money, and assuming Maroney’s broken nose doesn’t fuck things up too much for her, it still is. There are a number of reasons for this. The main one is that the five locks did pretty well, and the pretenders not well enough.
We probably don’t need to spell this out to anyone who likes gym enough to find our blog, but let’s do it anyway:
VT- Douglas/Raisman, Wieber, Maroney
UB- Wieber, Ross, Douglas
BB- Wieber, Raisman, Ross
FX- Douglas, Wieber, Raisman
Let’s now discuss the reasons why this remains the case.
Wieber is a hella tough competitor. Yes, her growth spurt is happening at just the wrong time. Yes, her absolutely massive bellend of a coach needs to not tweet during competitions, given that use of mobile devices could lead to her being disqualified. And yes, she got more help than Douglas and as such should probably have finished second rather than first.
But none of this particularly matters. Jordyn went 8 for 8 in a high pressure scenario, and we think she’ll make like Shawn Johnson and manage to just squeeze through the Olympics before the puberty fairy really bites.
Douglas was, for our money, better. But she can’t complain too much, it’s her own fault she fell off beam. Clearly the US can’t trust her to hit this event and she won’t be an option for TFs, but she made a good case for herself as the 3rd floor worker.
Gabby’s tendency to silly OOBs seems to have waned somewhat as the season has progressed, and she’s looking more like someone who’ll repeatedly break 14.5 in London. Good good, especially as Maroney still hasn’t done anything about that disaster of a third pass yet.
Elsewhere amongst the locks, Raisman was Raisman. Maroney’s Amanar remains sumptuous, and Kyla Ross made the smart decision to sod the Amanar and live to fight another day.
Now, it isn’t that there aren’t weak spots in the proposed TF lineup. Wieber on bars is the most glaring, and as such there were several athletes all gunning for a bars specialist slot. Nastia Liukin, Rebecca Bross, Anna Li and Bridget Sloan were all, we thought, in the mix. None of them made a sufficiently compelling case for herself, though.
Liukin simply didn’t show a full routine. Though she’s coached by a master of peaking, it’s hard to believe there’s sufficient time left for her to do so. Sloan and Bross hit and hit well. One of them would be the obvious choice for the 6th spot on the team, if only there was one. As there isn’t, both of them are shit out of luck. One wonders what might have been if Valeri had had the sense and balls to tell Marta to fuck off to the far side of fuck when she insisted on Becca doing AA at Nationals last year.
Following her nail in the coffin Classics fuck up, Li treated us to an Olympic medal worthy set. She doesn’t have a chance in hell, but we’ve enjoyed her elite comeback and hope for one final thrilling set at Trials.
If the best elements of all three were to combine, perhaps Maroney should then be worried. But as it is, nobody is combining the necessary consistency with a big enough score to justify dropping a guaranteed gold medal winner.
The major point in favour of a bars specialist is Wieber’s inconsistency. While her score for a hit routine isn’t brilliant, she can get 14.7 internationally and that would be just fine if it could be relied on. It can’t. She fucks up about a quarter of the time. Even if she hits every set between now and Olympic podium training, a sub 14 set will still be a fair possibility.
This is nothing to do with headgame, and not something that can be solved by removing a particular skill like eg Ross doing a DTY instead of an Amanar, or Grishina cutting out the Shap transition. So this is simply a problem that the US have to carry into London, particularly as Raisman is nearly as inconsistent and will score a few tenths lower.
With that in mind, there’d be an arguable justification for taking a bars specialist instead of Maroney, even if she didn’t add as much to the team score as McKayla does. A reliable 15.4 routine, perhaps. It would be a safety thing. The bars specialist might add only 0.5 compared to Maroney’s 0.8 and guaranteed gold medal. But she’d also stop the US having to use a potentially gold medal losing routine. And make no mistake, one of Wieber’s banana backed muscled through efforts could do just that.
The problem is, no such bars specialist exists. Bross and Sloan don’t score well enough to make it worthwhile. Yes, both are quite safe pairs of hands on the event, but they’re not far ahead enough of Jordyn to make it worth giving up a guaranteed vault gold. They’d get about 15.2 internationally, and ideally one would want a bars specialist to be at 15.5 or more. Li can do that, on a good day, but she’s just as likely to fuck up as Jordyn is. Possibly more so.
It also struck me that things aren’t quite as rosy for the US on vault as they previously seemed. Don’t get me wrong, they’re the best in the world by some distance and may yet sit out an Amanar in prelims. But Maroney aside, none of them are particularly reliable. We can probably remove Kyla’s vault from the equation, but the other three have all thrown at least two Amanars this year that made me fear for their knees. Or in Gabby’s case, general health.
We all felt this one, from Jordyn on Night 1.
Raisman wasn’t a lot better, either. Those two are going to have the joints of octagenarians by Olympic prelims if they carry on like this.
With that in mind, we’re not entirely ruling out either Sacramone or possible Best Parkette Ever Elizabeth Price yet. Not because either has a realistic chance of breaking into the team as things stand. But because even with a newly minted, not as mortally dangerous selection process, things can still go wrong. Especially with a homicidal, cruel, manipulative bullshitter like Marta at the helm.
Obviously not trying to jinx anyone here, but Maroney’s broken conk is a reminder to us all of how easy it is for a random accident to come out of nowhere in this sport. And we’ll be pleasantly surprised if none of the locks throw another Amanar that’s asking for trouble between now and London prelims.
So, after several months, the team for London looks pretty much the same as it did back in March. We’re not calling it just yet, but there isn’t a lot of time left for anyone to shove anyone else off the team based on cold hard merit alone.
Over to Mother Russia for the next installment. We’re off to open up a Twitter account to needle John Geddert.