Forecast: Visa Championships
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Near Future Forecast: American Gymnastics
As reported by someone who has no authority in the gymnastics world, but has observed long enough to know a thing or two.
By Evan Heiter
It’s 2012 and gymnastics has become relevant to Joe Plumber and Suzie Q yet again. As is customary, gymnastics in an Olympic year comes with a certain amount of necessary turmoil, tribulation and tradition. I’d like to take a moment to give my personal outlook on a few matters directly facing the sport in the U.S. right now.
Tornado Warning- As unfortunate as the Chellsie Memmel situation is, I won’t be indulging in a, “Well, THIS! But, THIS! And, THIS!”discussion. Chellsie is an amazing champion of gymnastics. There’s no debate over that. Her accomplishments will keep her in the record books and hearts of fans and athletes alike for a long time. However, just as every single Olympic sport, a governing body must oversee the sport. USA Gymnastics and its representatives are given the nearly insurmountable task of keeping members and fans happy, especially in an Olympic year. Unfortunately, full-satisfaction is not possible and probably never will be—for anyone involved.
Now that that’s out of the way…gymnastics, for the most part, is comprised of small-statured people, with large hearts filled with gymnastics love, larger mouths to speak about all the sport’s goings-on and even larger ears to catch all that’s being said. Tell me that’s a crazy observation… I dare you.
VISA: Forecast of Good… With a Chance of Great.
Everyone- men, women, even rhythmic- well, maybe not rhythmic, but nearly everyone will need to pace themselves in Olympic fashion at this year’s Visa Championships. The domestic gymnastics community is buzzing after last weekend’s Secret U.S. Classic that showed shades of greatness from many athletes. However, there are still four possible days of all around competition blocking these athletes from walking down the jetway to board a plane to London.
Personally, I’d almost rather see some hiccups at Visa Championships and—dare I say it—the Olympic Trials. These errors, I feel, fuel the fire and keep athletes on their toes a bit before the Olympic Games. Take, for example, Carly Patterson’s two beam gaffs at 2004’s Olympic Trials. Those seemed to serve her well in the long run.
Let’s all take a collective ‘woo-sa’, centering inhale, exhale moment and remember that this whole Olympic thing is a journey.
Finnegan: Polished, Difficult Front Gathering Near St. Louis
Here’s the thing about Sarah Finnegan that pulls at my gymnastics-appreciation heart strings: my critical gymnast mind forgets to look for what’s wrong when I watch her do gymnastics. Essentially, I’m just waiting for the next aesthetically pleasing thing she does. To her credit, this happens often. Though Finnegan lacks huge international experience, she has an international look that judges have already appreciated (3rd AA Jesolo 2012). I feel that Sarah Finnegan’s ticket to London rests with Aly Raisman… and her own performance, of course. If she can beat Raisman in the all around and/or floor exercise, her case for a trip to the Olympics becomes much stronger. I know, I know, Aly is the rock of the U.S. scene right now. But as far-off and recent history remind us, stranger things have happened.
Looking for Leaders: Radar Malfunction
From the 2004 Olympics to the 2008 Olympics, there were zero repeat team members on the men’s or women’s side, so this point might be negated before I actually get to it. However, if I’m choosing an Olympic team, I would want to try to have someone there who knows what’s up. Try. On the women’s side, this is narrowed to Nastia Liukin and Alicia Sacramone. Sacramone was adamant in 2011 about being a leader on the World Championship team, providing guidance and a calming influence to the rest of the team; entirely Worlds first-timers. She’s not like other teammates, she’s a cool teammate. I think this bodes well for Alicia’s case independent of performance. Her quest to return to Olympic form twice this quaddrenium speaks volumes to her mental toughness. Liukin also has this going for her, only she bolsters it with probable prowess on uneven bars—that darned event that everyone is desperately trying to get better at, still. Psst. Don’t forget about Bridget Sloan… she’s a former-World Champ and boasts big bars, with a forward sole circle to boot! Add her double layout on floor and she’s sleeper favorite for filling a specialist and leadership role on the ’12 squad.
On the men’s side, Jonathan Horton is the only member of the 2008 bronze medal-winning team on the road to London. Horton’s honest swagger and big tricks have kept him near the top of U.S. men’s gymnastics for quite some time now. Recovering from foot surgery earlier this year, Horton’s actual competitive performance is in the most doubt it’s been in since I can remember. However, to his credit, I admire that Horton speaks about his dedication to his team and his country at nearly every opportunity he gets. He gains motivation by wanting to lead a new generation of American men even higher on the Olympic podium.
Close your eyes. Imagine you’re on the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, waiting to march out in your preliminary session. Your knees are weak, palms are sweaty—oh wait, that’s Lose Yourself by Eminem... Anyways, your nerves are at an uncomfortably heightened level. You need reassurance…guidance…anything! You turn around to talk to your teammate. Who do you want next to you in this moment? I choose Olympian.
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