Defending Aly

I promise this is my last Olympics related gymnastics post. I do realize we’re two months past the event and that, for the most part, our readers don’t care anyway. But there’s one more thing I have to get off my chest.

In a lot of ways, my favorite gymnast to come out of the most recent Olympics was Aly Raisman. This is strange enough I felt the need to write a blog post explaining why.

First of all, you might be wondering why it’s strange. Well, generally gymnasts I really like fall into three categories: The uber graceful: Your Svetlana Boguinskayas, your Nastia Liukins, your Anna Pavlovas; the uber charismatics: your Dominique Dawes, or your Mo Huilans; the diva-licious: your Svetlana Khorkinas, your Aliya Mustafinas.

Aly fits into exactly none of these groups.

So why do I like her so much?

I think the first thing is sentimental. She’s been the “solid” one of the team almost since the beginning of the quad, but she’s never been the star. The one only expected to win if everyone else messed up. You kind of have to want her to finally get a moment in the spotlight.

I also appreciate that I don’t think she’s ever had any delusions about who she is. She knows her uneven bars are wretched and she knows she doesn’t have good toe point. She’s never tried to hide or excuse or deflect any of that in interviews. And this leads me to my next point…

She never stops working. It would have been very easy for her to drop uneven bars and focus on the other three events. But she’s never stopped working on that wretched bar routine and it has gotten marginally better. So she was there with a routine ready to go when the team needed her. And her form has gotten better gradually. And amidst all of that she’s also managed to upgrade her floor routine. You have to respect that kind of ethic.

And I think, just to be ornery, I like her because the gymnternet doesn’t. Call me a sentimental sucker, but there’s only so long I can watch a bunch of catty people online made fun of an eighteen year-old before I have to root for her just to piss them off.

And, in the same vein, I like her because NBC doesn’t. You could smell it; from the very beginning of their coverage leading up to the Olympics, they had written her out already. Jordyn Wieber was the reigning world champion. Gabrielle Douglas was the rising star overcoming all sorts of disadvantages with the chance to make history. McKayla Maroney had that vault. I mean seriously, have you seen it? (to be clear, I’m not blaming any of these ladies for NBC’s doucheyness) And I love that in doing better than expected Aly threw their pre-scripted storyline to hell. It was sad for her that they made her success in the prelims all about Jordyn’s lack of success, but I still liked to see them scrambling.

I like that she stays as focused as she does on the success of her whole team. I like her because when ASac went down last year at world’s she jumped right in and took over as leader and inspirational speech giver. And must have done it well since they won while missing a team member.

And finally, I like her because, while she tends to be the overly measured, platitude spouting type of gymnast that USA Gymanstics grooms them all to be, she has some adorable little genuine moments. My favorite of all of these might be her quiet exclamation of “Yes!” when she saw her floor score during event finals. Yes, I’m sure she really did just want to represent her country and go 4 for 4, but she also wanted to nail the fuck out of that floor routine, and it was nice to see her do exactly that.

McKayla Maroney is not Impressed with your TV or Your Peanut Butter

So our summer hiatus mean that I missed the chance to gush to you about memes a week after they became passé. And there were a bunch of good memes I could have belatedly gushed about. The only solution for this seems to be me gushing about memes months after they become passé.

My favorite time vampirey meme of the summer was, naturally, “McKayla Maroney is Not Impressed.” But you knew that already. Because I have a gymnastics obsession and suddenly my sport was getting attention from the nonfan set. It was exciting. And it was hysterical.

Now I’ve known about McKayla Maroney for a while now. I’ve known she had diva tendencies and I thought that was awesome, because, frankly, ever since ASac tore her Achilles, the US women’s gymnastics team has been sadly lacking in personality. Also… she possibly has the only amanar that doesn’t make me hear ACL’s tearing. By the way, unknown to the larger internet, she featured in another meme on the gym-ternets earlier this Summer. It hinged on the fact that the only thing all gymnastics fans could agree on was that she was the best vaulter in the world. (The meme was photoshopping her into pictures to show how she would bring peace/agreement to whatever place/group was in the photo. It wasn’t that funny.)

So anyone who knew anything about McKayla was beyond stunned to see her sit down her second fault. I’m pretty sure that watching the live feed that morning, I said, “Holy Fuck!” loud enough my neighbor’s baby now knows the word. It was shocking and I felt bad for her, even as I felt so happy for the lovely Sandra Izbasa to win. PS. How cute is Maria Paseka? I mean the only way she shocked me was by not sitting down her vault, but she was so freaking happy with her bronze. Good for her.

Now I do want to be fair and say that McKayla’s reaction wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. I watched the medal ceremony; she didn’t wear that face the whole time. Which is kinda sad, honestly. Because honestly?

That face is awesome and the meme is fairly hysterical. And I can feel good about liking it because in real life she does find the meme amusing. The good news is I’ve stopped checking it every day. They bad news is that means I now am way behind and when I do check it, it eats up more of my time.

My favorite of the moment is “McKayla is not impressed with Mo Farah running away from a laser wielding curiosity rover” . Because … it has an awesome wordy name. And Mo Farah running away from a laser wielding curiosity rover. Come on! I also love any that include Hillary Clinton because 1. She’s awesome and 2. They are generally in reference to the also delightful “Texts from Hillary” meme. I know of two such images. The more recent and the even more awesome (I have also seen a tweet about “Hillary/McKayla 2016: An Immaculately Manicured Iron Fist”.

The All Four Years Fan

Well our blog was on hiatus during the Olympics. This means you all missed the chance to read my insightful commentary on the gymnastics competition. You also missed my commentary and predictions on the US Olympic Trials. (Well, Mary got half of them). Sad for you.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to subject you to them now. (Except to reiterate once more for the record that that was NOT a handstand Mr. Uchimura!) No, this post is more about what it’s like to be a gymnastics fan in an Olympic year. I’m still not sure yet, but being an every year gymnastics fan either makes you the cool kid or the kid who thinks she’s cool but isn’t during the Olympics. (regardless as the only one among my friends with cable I was totally  the cool kid this year.)

Being an every year gymnastics fan means you can explain the wacky new (not exactly new since it’s been in place for two quads now) scoring system. NBC’s dumbass way of displaying the scores meant they made even less sense, so I feel I was extra valuable in this sense. Honestly, I can’t decide what was more useless and patronizing, the red-yellow-green color coding in gymnastics or the “splash-o-meter” they used in diving. It also means you can rattle off difficulty values for certain skill off the top of your head and amaze your friends. (I cannot code entire routines off the top of my head and while I kind of wish I could, I take the fact that I can’t as proof my obsession has not reached dangerous levels.)

It also means you can throw out random back story at regular intervals: Jonathan Horton may be past his prime, but he seems to be good at motivating the team. Aly Raisman is always fourth. Jordyn Weiber has a hot brother. Really important, relevant information that NBC failed to include in their broadcasts.

Since I was getting up early to watch the live feed online I could fill in all sorts of gaps created by the shoddy NBC primetime coverage (“Yeah… it’s a shame they didn’t show her beam routine because…”). That also allows you to counter the conspiracy theory your friend found on some website about them not showing Ksenia Afanaseyva’s floor routine in team finals. (Supposedly NBC did this to build suspense, but if that was the case it seems they would have cut Anastasia Grishina’s much more disastrous routine.) And, though it’s sad that I take any pleasure in this, when your friend/viewing partner counters a commentator’s criticism of his favorite gymnast with the statement, “Whatever, she’s doing awesome,” you can smugly point out, “Except… she’s flubbed all of her landings.”

Coffee with Vera Caslavska

Admit it: You’ve missed getting to drink a Monday cup of Joe with us and a random historical or contemporary celebrity. Well have no fear, this is back too!

Would we drink coffee with Vera Caslavska?

Kristy: Yes. Absolutely.
Now I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know who Vera Caslavska was until about a month and a half ago. I know. Me. The one who makes all the posts about gymnastics. I had seen clips of the girl with the blonde bouffant in montages and stuff, but I didn’t really know her story until I saw a BBC documentary about the history of gymnastics in the lead up to the Olympics. (I’d link it, but I can’t remember what it was called.) There is something so moving about her simply looking away during the Soviet anthem that just epitomizes so many things: the power of peaceful protest, the importance of international sport, and exactly how brave one tiny person can be. I can’t imagine what it took for her as a very public person to openly speak out against the Soviet government. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to train for the Olympics in the freaking woods. And to find out what this was like I’d like to have coffee with her. The massive support of the Mexican people for the Czechoslovak delegation is particularly interesting to me when compared with the political situation in Mexico at the time (on the heels of the Tlatelolco massacre). I’m interested to hear if she had any idea about any of that. I’d also like to talk with her about the changes in her sport. Her style of gymnastics is barely recognizable as the crazy acrobatic sport it is now. I’d like to see what she thinks about all that and what she thinks the sport can do to continue to improve.

Cammy:  Czechs + Mexico + bouffant hair?  Um, are you sure we’re not talking West, Texas?  Even though I’m ignorant on gymnastics (I depend on Kristy to tell me everything I need to know and I’ve not watched gymnastics since, let’s see, three Olympics ago?)*.  The political aspects of her life intrigue me though.  I think the experiences of those behind the iron curtain but NOT in the USSR proper are often the most interesting takes on what life under the communist regime was really like–both controlled by that central hierarchy, and yet separated from it.  So close to the west, and  yet so far from its freedoms…The Mexico tie is also intriguing, if only because I’ve been boning up on my Latin American history.  How did the rebellion against a “communist” authority color ones view of arguable communist rebellions in different areas?  As to her opinions on the sport, I’m happy to listen, but I’m sure the bulk of that interaction is better left to Kristy and Ms. Caslavska.

*Kristy would like to point out she forced Cammy to watch the 2011 CoverGirl Classic. Though Cammy may be referencing only voluntary viewing here. Or she may have blocked that competition out of her mind due to the horrific leotard Shawn Johnson was wearing.

First Gymnastics Post of the Year

It’s an Olympic year. It’s a Summer Olympic year which means that it’s that one year in four when some of you might actually watch gymnastics. As your resident somewhat more than casual gymnastics fan I feel like it’s therefore my duty to keep you informed so that when the Olympics do roll around you can act all knowledgeable when you’re watching with your friends who aren’t informed because they don’t read this blog.

One of the first major competitions of the year took place yesterday: The American Cup. While the commentators always go on and on about what a prestigious competition it is, it only rates as anything at all prestigious if you’re American. If you’re not American it’s sort of a joke. There’s a reason the fan communities on the interwebs refer to it as the “Scamerican Cup” or just “Scam Cup.” Americans are always over scored. For years only C list international competitors were invited; now they invite higher ranked gymnasts, they just don’t come.

Regardless, it does give us our first glimpse at many gymnasts for the season. And perhaps most importantly it gives the online gymnastics communities something to talk about. Because for months they’ve been making conversation about which gymnasts follow each other on Twitter and it’s gotten a little stalkerish.

As for what we learned:

American men tend towards some head case-ish-ness. (Don’t worry, one of them still won after magically coming from behind.)

The American women’s contingent is deep. The top three scorers in the women’s competition were all American. This is especially interesting since each country is only allowed to send two gymnasts.

Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas can both do Amanar vaults (round off on, two and a half twists off). Since conventional wisdom stated that Raisman could not make the team without one, this is big news for her. Also, she does insane tumbling.

Jordyn Weiber is not someone I would like to meet it a dark alley—seriously, girl is ripped. Even for a gymnast.

We need better uneven bars coaches in the US.

The Romanian women are making strides towards erasing the disaster they had at last year’s world championships, but they aren’t there yet.

And yeah… we don’t know much more than we knew last week. As far as who will make the Olympic teams, it’s way too early to tell. At least half the contenders will be injured by then. But message boards will be filled with daily posts of people analyzing the issue, saying who they’d put on their team, etc, etc. Fortunately they won’t have to obsess over this meet for too long as Pacific Rims are in two weeks and it will have much more to obsess over. (Don’t worry, you’ll probably get another blog post around then.)

Cartwheeling Time Vampire

Longtime readers are more than aware of my fervent gymnastics obsession.  Normally, one of the good and bad things about this is that the sport gets very little air time in the US. Unlike football aficionados who have several games to watch each week during the season, gymnastics fans get to see a handful of meets per year. In a non-Olympic year you generally get the American Cup, Nationals, and highlights from Worlds (I’m not sure why there tends to more coverage of Nationals than Worlds, but I suspect it has to do with what other sports are going on in those seasons). In an Olympic year you also get Olympic trials, and generally a good amount of airtime during the Olympics. Every now and then a random college meet will pop up in a slow sports week. I think if you get those paid sports packages you get a bit more, but… I don’t. This is frustrating because it means you have to get the results of most competitions off the internet. But on the other hand, it means your sports obsession isn’t too time costly.

Until now.

I decided this year I was going to keep up with college gymnastics a bit more. The season was starting right around the time my soap was ending, so I thought maybe it could help fill the void. There are a lot of things I like about college gymnastics versus the elite scene. And I thought it would just mean reading reports and watching some youtube clips here and there, since the broadcast so little.

Well… they broadcast so little on television. Apparently a lot of colleges have live streaming coverage of all home meets and some post the videos on websites afterwards. Which means that for the next few months on any given Saturday or Sunday there are anywhere between one and three meets I can watch.

The end result? Last Saturday and Sunday I got about half the things done I was planning to. I know I don’t have to watch, but knowing it’s out there, so easily clickable… it’s hard to resist. And so it just keeps sucking away my time.

Gymanstics Update

I’ve been good.  I’ve been so good.  I have not blogged about my strange gymnastics obsession once this year!  But I’m jumping off the wagon.

I feel it’s my duty.  After all, the London Olympics are next year, marking that once every four year occasion in which everyone suddenly watches gymnastics.  And if I don’t update you, how will you know what’s going on next year?

General things you need to know:

Remember how in 2008 the scoring system was all weird and the perfect 10 was gone?  And because of the way difficulty is valued it’s possible for someone to fall and still win because they were doing a harder skill?  Yeah, they haven’t fixed that.  They said they were going to fix that.  They’ve done some things aimed at fixing that.  But they haven’t fixed that.

Teams are down to five members this year instead of the six we had last Olympiad and seven we had the last time USA won a gold medal.  The idea is to make it easier for smaller countries to compete.  Every year they seem to institute some new policy aimed at making it easier for smaller (and by “smaller” they really mean countries with less wealthy gymnastics programs—Romania is fairly tiny and is always in the top tier) countries to compete.  I’m not sure any of it helps.  What it does mean is that it’s going to be harder for event specialists to make it onto the team since out of those five at least three have to have good scores on each event.

Team USA:

Half our gymnasts are broken.  The run down: Alicia Sacramone (ruptured Achilles), Chellsie Memmel (bicep surgery), Mackenzie Caquatto (ankle injury), Rebecca Bross (dislocated knee), Bridget Sloan (recently recovered from bicep tear, now nursing a gashed foot that required something like 15 stiches).  And this doesn’t even include all those little injuries gymnasts compete with all the time.  A lot of people are quick to blame Marta Karolyi for the injuries, but I personally place more blame on the code which pushes girls to perform difficult skills even when maybe they shouldn’t.

At present all members of the 2008 women’s team except Samantha Pezcek are planning to try to make the 2012 team.  Chances don’t necessarily look great for any of them.  A-Sac and Memmel are battling bodies that have been doing the sport for a very long time and are consequently falling apart.  Shawn Johnson fell twice on beam at Pan-Americans and seems to be struggling to deal with nerves and old injuries she didn’t have to face so much as a wide-eyed sixteen year old.  Nastia Liukin just announced her comeback and no one’s seen her compete yet, so it’s hard to say.  (I’ll confess that all I care about at this point is that Travis Wall of So You think you Can Dance fame may be choreographing her floor routine)  Sloan seems to be a procrastinator—she barely competed this year and clearly is not in top competitive form at the moment.  On the other hand, no one thought she was going to be ready in 2008 and she was.  She and Liukin are giant question marks.

And probably the biggest obstacle for the ’08 girls is that Team USA just won the 2011 World Title without help from any of them.  That torch may have been passed.  Watch for newly crowned All-around champion Jordyn Weiber.  Her gymnastics might not be as pretty to watch as Liukin’s or the Russians’, but she does a lot of it and does it well.  It’s important to note that USA won the world championships in the last two pre-Olympic years, only to come in second at the Olympics.  Let’s hope the curse does not repeat.

On the men’s side (no, I haven’t been following it as closely.  No, I don’t feel that guilty about it.): The biggest thing to watch for is Yin Alvarez.  No, he’s not an athlete; he’s the coach and step father of US Champion Danell Leyva and his antics are perhaps even more entertaining to watch than Bella Karolyi’s.  The men’s team looks solid over all and poised for a potential medal.  Paul Hamm had announced yet another comeback attempt, but this will likely be hampered by his recent arrest.

Other teams:

Russia looked almost asleep in world team finals (where they came in second), but they were without defending All Around champion Aliya Mustafina (ACL tear).  They also came back for several individual medals, but not the gold in the All Around. (There is some controversy over whether silver medalist Viktoria Komova actually deserved to win—I’ll spare you the details.)  They might be hungry next year.

Speaking of hungry: Romania failed to medal at all at the World Championships.  Expect them to be pissed and out for blood next year.

China’s always one to watch for, but it’s hard to say who will be on their team (I’ll spare you jokes about how next year’s team is still in nursery school).  They have a couple up-and-comers and could be very competitive.

England qualified a women’s team for the Olympics (and men will likely get in at the Olympic test event next year).  They probably won’t challenge for a team medal, but they have several gymnasts who could be in the hunt for individual medals.

Sadly my other team Mexico will not be sending a team to the Olympics, but they have several exciting gymnasts with beautiful, elegant styles.  They’re still a team to watch for, even if it’s not for next year.

A Second Hand Update: World Gymnastics Championships

It’s Sunday night.  If you’re like me, this means you’re mentally rolling your eyes at yourself and cataloguing all the things you meant to get done this weekend that you didn’t get done.  And you’re dreading tomorrow morning.  I like to believe, although I’m fairly certain it’s not true, you’re also thinking to yourself, “Aren’t the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships going on?  Why hasn’t Kristy updated us?”

Yeah, I know.  You didn’t know they were going on and you weren’t wondering.  Won’t stop me from updating you.

The first important thing you need to know is that the line up for the US women’s team wound up being exactly what I predicted in my last gymnastics post.  Sadly, this is, in part, because poor Chelsea Davis was injured again and thus became the alternate by default.  (They had traveled with seven girls without specifying which one was the alternate)

The other thing you need to know is I haven’t really gotten to watch much of anything yet.  Sadly, my profs don’t see this as a legitimate reason for not completing my work and my body doesn’t see this as a legitimate reason for not sleeping.  So this coverage is all brought to you second hand, mostly courtesy The Gymnastics Examiner, The Couch Gymnast, Gymnastike and Aunt Joyce’s Ice Cream Stand.

In the team competitions:  The Russian women won the gold medal as they were widely expected to, followed by the United States and China.  Since there were a lot of whispers that the US women wouldn’t even medal this year, they should be pleased if not satisfied.  In the men’s competition China won the gold followed by Japan and Germany.

In the all around:  Russian diva-in-training Aliya Mustafina won the gold (she was so heavily favored that if she hadn’t I think she might have considered emigrating to Ukraine), followed by Jiang Yuyuan of China and Rebecca Bross of the US (give the commentators five minutes and they’ll remind you she seems destined to win the gold in 2012).  Kohei Uchimura of Japan won the men’s gold followed by Philipp Boy of Germany (who wins for best name) and Jonathan Horton of the US (The US’s first men’s all around medal since 2003).

Rather than running through the rest of the medal count from here, I’m just going to focus on a couple of big stories:

Aunt Joyce is declaring that US diva-in-training Mattie Larson’s Olympic dream is over after she made errors which seem to be mostly mental during the team competition.  Though AJ can rattle of stats and facts better than I can, making me hesitant to challenge him, I say it’s a little early for this.  Yes, he’s correct, gymnastics can be an unforgiving sport, except when it’s not (ask Alicia Sacramone:  Marta was done with her in 2004, and begging her to come back by 2009).  Does she now have a lot to prove?  Sure.  Am I ruling her out?  Not yet.  People were starting to say similar things about Nastia Liukin in 2006 and look how that turned out.

Speaking of Queen Nastia, she announced she’s leaning towards a comeback.  My translation is that this means she’s aiming for one, but isn’t going to commit until she sees how her body holds up/adjusts.  She won’t come back publicly unless she thinks she can win.   For this reason I doubt we’ll see her come back as an all arounder.

Speaking of ASac, meet the new World Vault champion!  Kristy’s a happy, shameless fangirl.

In other grown-ups-can-do-women’s-gymnastics news, Britain’s Beth Tweddle, aged 25, won her second gold in uneven bars.

And in one of the other great feel good moments of championships, Lauren Mitchell of Australia won her country’s first gold in women’s gymnastics ever.  She’s also adorable.  I feel that needed to be said.

Jessica Lopez of Venezuela finished tenth in the all around, which I believe is the highest finish for a Venezuelan ever.

Jade Barbosa (who despite what you’d think based on her name is neither a pirate nor a stripper) came back from what was described as a career ending injury to place 15th in the all around and win the bronze in the vault final.  South America will get there yet!

And that’s it for now.  I won’t promise not to come back with a fashion update after I actually get to watch the coverage.  Which I plan to do next weekend.  I’m going to count it as “studying Russian” since it seems that most of what’s been posted online so far is the Russian coverage.

Kristy Handicaps the WAG World Team Selection

Yeah, it’s another gymnastics post.  Don’t worry, I’m limiting myself to an absolute maximum of one per week—there are enough gymnastics blogs out there, we don’t need to turn this blog into one.  Also, Cammy’s not really into gymnastics, so that could make things awkward.  Anyway, there’s a reason for this post:  Yesterday USA Gymnastics released the names of the women who have been invited to attend the first World Team Selection Camp.  World and Olympic teams in Ladies competition are now determined not by any particular competition, but by a series of camps which are a combination of training and competition.  The first camp will be 13-18 September and then somewhere between eight and twelve of the women will move on to a second camp 3-6 October which will determine the final team.  The team is chosen by a selection committee headed up by Marta Karolyi.  Going to the first came are:  (courtesy of Gymnastike)

Rebecca Bross, Plano, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics
Mackenzie Caquatto, Naperville, Ill./Legacy Elite Gymnastics
Chelsea Davis, Lakeway, Texas/Texas Dreams Gymnastics
Kytra Hunter, Frederick, Md./Hill’s Gymnastics
Amanda Jetter, Milford, Ohio/Cincinnati Gymnastics
Mattie Larson, Los Angeles, Calif./All Olympia
Alexandra Raisman, Needham, Mass./Brestyan’s American Gymnastics
Alicia Sacramone, Winchester, Mass./Brestyan’s American Gymnastics
Samantha Shapiro, Los Angeles, Calif./All Olympia
Bridget Sloan, Pittsboro, Ind./Sharp’s Gymnastics Academy
Morgan Smith, Clermont, Fla./Brandy Johnson’s Global Gymnastics
Cassandra Whitcomb, Cincinnati, Ohio/Cincinnati Gymnastics

If you’re wondering why there isn’t a competition to determine the team, look up the shenanigans that went on with the 1992 Olympic team.  And if you’re still not convinced of how problematic competitions are for forming successful teams, go to YouTube and look up Kim Kelly, then ask yourself if that 90 degree split would have scored well in Barcelona.  Current competition format also means that the best team is not necessarily made up of the top six gymnasts.  There are six women to the team, but in team finals only three compete on each event.  So the game is to put together a team made up of six gymnasts that also gives you the top three on each event.  It’s like a logic problem.

Now obviously I’m not an expert, and even more obviously I have no say, but just for fun, I’m giving you my thoughts and predictions on the team.  Keep in mind that World Championships aren’t till 17 October, which leaves plenty of time for someone to get injured (gymnasts are very breakable), so this is all tentative.

Rebecca Bross will definitely be on the team.  She’s the national champion and can easily compete all four events in finals.

Mattie Larson is also looking close to a lock.  She could potentially go up on any event, though she’s had some problems on beam here and there.  She has a glorious divalicous floor and the international look that Marta Karolyi loves (that’s code for “she remembers to point her toes, and she can dance”).  She comes with the Johnny Weir official Diva certification, and at the moment USA Gymnastics needs a little more of that.

Alicia Sacramone looks to be in good position to make the team because they really need her vault.  She’s also been solid on beam and could contribute on both events.  I have doubts about Marta trusting her on beam in another major competition, but she’s seemed positive about her recently.  ASac also brings personality to the team which, let’s face it, they need.

If Bridget Sloan is healthy and ready, she’ll be on the team, and like Bross should be able to go on any event.  Being totally healthy is a big if though—even if she’s on the team she may not have all events back.

I think Raisman has probably done enough to prove her case and will probably be on the team.  The drawbacks for her are that she’s started to look more rattled in competitions and she has terrible lack of toe point.  She could be iffy at this point.

For the final spot I’m going to throw in Mackenzie Caquatto (please note:  if you’re ever stuck for the name of a US gymnast, assume it’s Michaela or Mackenzie—there are a lot of them) as a bars specialist.  She did fall off bars during finals at nationals, but it was on a nothing move and she came back and put up a great (for her) beam set.  That shows a mental “toughness” that Marta seems to really like.

So the team would break down like this:

Vault:  Bross, Sacramone, Raisman

Uneven bars:  Bross, Sloan, Caquatto

Balance beam:  Bross, Sacramone, Raisman

Floor:  Bross, Larson, Raisman

Team:  Bross, Sacramone, Sloan, Larson, Raisman, Caquatto

There’s a lot of wiggle room on this team; both Sloan and Larson could do more events than I have listed for them.  This could be good in the case of a last minute injury.

Other possibilities:  Marta could put Larson in on bars and pick another power gymnast instead of Caquatto.  If so, I would predict that spot going to Kytra Hunter who is a phenomenal tumbler even if she lacks a little in the form and finesse department.  Chelsea Davis could easily take Caquatto’s spot as bars specialist.  If Sloan is out that will probably open things up for Hunter or Davis.  Sam Shapiro also has those pretty “international” lines Marta loves, but she lacks experience and breaks if you breathe on her hard.  But if she does well at camp they could look at this as an opportunity to give her experience.  Cassie Whitcomb could be a possible bars specialist too, but Marta’s had a lot of opportunities to give her assignments in the past and hasn’t.  It all really depends on the camps at this point.

US Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Championships: What you need to know

I know, I know, most of you are thinking that you don’t need to know anything.

For better or for worse (I would argue “worse”) most Americans only pay attention to gymnastics in an Olympic year.  Which kind of sucks for the athletes who are still working their asses off in the years between.  The US National Championships were held this weekend (and apparently there was a lack of other sporting events this weekend, since parts of it actually got broadcast on NBC) and I thought, in honor of that, it might be a nice time to check in and give you non-fangirls a rundown of what’s happening.  We are at the halfway point in the summer Olympic cycle, which the commentators like to remind you of constantly.  While I’m sure it is true that the athletes all have that in the back of their minds, the reality is that what’s going on now tells you very little about what will be going on then.  At the 2006 World Championships, for example, the ladies all around podium was:  Gold—Vanessa Ferrari (Italy), Silver—Jana Bieger (USA), Bronze—Sandra Izbasa (Romania).  If you just asked “who?”, you just proved my point.

If the extent of your gymnastics following has been my twitter feed, you might be interested in an update of the 2008 Olympic team, so in short:

Nastia Liukin:  Yes, she has boobs now; no, she hasn’t made a decision about returning to competition; her status as Evan Lysacek’s beard is no more clear than it ever was, but seems to be more or less over.

Shawn Johnson:  Officially announced she was coming back after almost two years out of the gym.  She had surgery in February for a torn ACL sustained while skiing; by her own admission she’s never had to deal with a major injury before, so we’ll see how this impacts her come back.  I suspect if she does make it, she’ll be a different gymnast than she was before.

Chellsie Memmel:  After having two Olympics in a row messed up by foot injuries, she is “taking a break”.  Basically she isn’t ruling out another come back, but it really sounds like she’s saying “gymnastics, I think we should see other people.  But I’d like to keep that big comfy sweatshirt you left over here.”

Alicia Sacramone:  ASac is back!  I would try to contain my excitement, but if you follow me on twitter you already know.  Cliché as it is, I cannot deny my love for ASac or my joy at the success of her comeback.  After swearing she was done with gymnastics (the girl had a countdown to her retirement in 2008) she’s back as a beam and vault specialist, and doing quite well at both.  Looking better than in 2008 the experts say.

Samantha Peszek:  Just started at UCLA where she’ll compete as an NCAA gymnast.  Has not ruled out a return to elite, but seems to be having fun with the college life.

Bridget Sloan:  Last year’s national and world all around champion.  Right now suffering from an ankle injury and a pectoral strain (yes, she strained her boob), she only competed beam at this year’s nationals and was clearly not 100%.

Okay, on to the current competitive scene.  Rebecca Bross is our new national champion having finally gotten through a major senior competition without a major nervous error.  Second place went to Mattie Larson who is finally not injured.  Alexandra Raisman who is perhaps better known as Alicia II for her physical and performance resemblance to ASac came in third.

But the really important things you need to take away from these championships (and perhaps more to the point the broadcast on NBC and Universal Sports online):

Mattie Larson is fabulous.  From her smoky eye make up to her exquisitely pointed toes to the divalicious way she tosses her head during her floor exercise choreography.  How fabulous is she?  Johnny Weir loves her.  Yeah.  That’s pretty damn fabulous.

Despite my earlier doubts, I think Rebecca Bross does have a personality.  And I’m fairly certain she’s just as sick as everyone else of being reminded that the last two Olympic all around champions trained in her gym.

Okay, I’m used to bruises.  This past May I got a bruise on my knee so big it left a stretch mark.  But Bridget Sloan’s bruise made me cringe.  Thing goes down to her elbow.  And I remind you that the actual injury is to her chest.  Proving what a bad ass she is, she laughs as she shows it to the camera.  Love it!

Nastia Liukin is staying in shape by wearing six inch heels.  Damn girl!

Apparently Valerie Liukin and Bela Karolyi go hunting together.  When Cammy and I produce the Bela Karolyi reality show, this is totally going to happen at least one episode a season.  Seriously, just picture tiny Valerie learning to use a rifle from big burly Bela!

In a postgame show Johnny Weir was asked what he would costume Nastia in for her next competition.  He began by indicating it would obviously depend on music.  When she pointed out they don’t use music for every event he assured her she would be changing for every event.  Dear skatenastics gods:  I REALLY want to see this happen.  Please.  I’ve been good!

According to John Rothlisberger, Tim Dagget’s Starbucks order is “swishy”.

I want an alternative commentary feed provided by ASac and Johnny Weir.  Keep Tim and Elfi for the humorless out there, but bring the rest of us the funny and fabulousness.

And since I’ve thus far left the men out:  Jon Horton has beyond huge muscles, Danell Leyva is prettier to watch (and might be a Santerista), and his father is crazy.