By Anna Rose Johnson
Ten years ago, the best gymnasts in the United States gathered in Boston, Massachusetts, for the 2008 U.S. Championships, a key competition on the road to the Beijing Olympics. In August, U.S. gymnasts will return to Boston for U.S. Championships once again! Today, we’re reliving that unforgettable 2008 competition and the noteworthy performances we saw!
Feature Photo by Lloyd Smith
The 2006-2008 Code of Points produced some of the highest scores of the post-Perfect 10 era. Before the FIG smoothed out the open-ended scoring system, we regularly saw scores in the 15.500-16.500 range, with a handful of top routines cracking 17.000 (such as the top uneven bars routines).
One of the future stars of Beijing, Iowa’s Shawn Johnson, performed beautifully in Boston, showcasing her strong and steady beam routine on her way to the all-around gold medal. Her highest score came on floor exercise, where she received a massive 16.200. (She received only four tenths of execution deductions!) Johnson’s mastery on this apparatus was definitely evident in this performance — take a look at the crisp, clean tumbling. Look at that unhurried L-turn! (Has anyone ever performed full turns better than her?) Brushing off a music glitch at the beginning of her routine and an uncontrolled landing on her second pass, Johnson proved her ability to focus and move past mistakes — a gift that helped to mold her into one of the best U.S. gymnasts of all-time.
Of course, we just love this routine because it’s classic 2008 Shawn Johnson and brings back all the memories of Beijing!
We could watch this performance all day long. Nastia Liukin’s story in 2008 was one of redemption and revitalization. Looking to return to top form after a severe ankle injury in late 2006, Liukin wowed the world with her American Cup victory in March and her silver-medal performance in Boston. Her textbook lines on bars, intricate pirouettes, and flawless Pak and Gienger are just a few of the reasons she was such an amazing bars worker. Liukin would ultimately tie with China’s He Kexin on bars in Beijing, narrowly missing the gold due to a complex tiebreaker. Although her dismount was low in this particular routine, we love the innovation of this skill: a daring double front half-out!
Noted for her unique skills on balance beam — her trademark Barani and illusion turn immediately come to mind! — Chellsie Memmel was at her best on this event in the summer of 2008. Not only did this routine boast a massive D-score of 6.9, but she stuck her double pike and made beam look easy (an incredible feat in itself!) Memmel won the all-around bronze in Boston, securing her highest scores on bars and beam.
Fourth-place finisher in the all-around, Samantha Peszek, then 16 years old, was another incredible beamer with tons of power and polish. Her best score came on day two, where she kicked off her routine with a stunning standing full, followed up by an impressive set of tough skills for a 16.000 (6.6 D-score). The combination starting at 1:21 is particularly magnificent!
Alicia Sacramone won the vault title at 2008 U.S. Championships, hitting two beautiful vaults for an average of 15.650 on day two. Her handspring-rudi, shown here, is a great example of the noteworthy power Sacramone was always able to deliver. Even more remarkable than her explosive air and distance is her near-perfect form! Her lovely double-twisting Yurchenko was also a highlight of the meet!
Recovering from a meniscus injury sustained in early 2008, Bridget Sloan competed on two events in Boston: bars and beam. Her bars routine from day one scored a huge 15.750 and demonstrated her flexibility and poise on this apparatus. (And her double-twisting layout had so much power!) The youngest member of the Beijing Olympic team, Sloan performed only on vault in the team final, but her solid DTY was an important piece of Team USA’s puzzle and helped them win the silver medal behind China!
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Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com