Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Change in selection procedures

As anyone who reads this blog with an interest in gymnastics (as opposed to an interest in Judaism) then you know precisely how I feel about the U.S. women's gymnastics team's selection procedure.

For those of you who feel the same way about Martha's policies, I've got good news -- it has just been announced that the Olympic team will be chosen immediately following the Olympic trials. It seems that the fan response to Alicia Sacramone's injury as well as some unflattering press has led USA Gymnastics to make this very sensible decision.

To those who might point to the success that the U.S. achieved at the most recent world's using Martha's methods, I would be quick to point out that the very same team could've been chosen right after Nationals. They simply took the top all-arounders (Wieber, Maroney, Raisman), the top bar scorers (Li, Douglass or Mackenzie Caquatto, who wouldn't have injured herself at a selection camp) and Alicia Sacramone and then selected an alternate (Vega). Same team, no extra selection.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out this summer. 


C said...

1) Love your blog. x 1000. I found it through your wonderfully written and thought out article in Slate, and I've been reading the archives and the new posts like an addict. I'm a feminist, a gymnastics fan and a writer - I resonate with a lot of your opinions and articulations.

2) When I first read about this announcement from Martha on announcing the Olympic team after trials, I was stoked. I share your feelings on the selection procedures.

The more I think about it, however, the more interesting it gets. Over the past few quads, I feel like trials and nationals have been sloppier than ever before. Gymnasts almost seem to rely on the camps, knowing that if they mess up, they will have other opportunities to prove themselves. These young women have grown up entirely under Martha's camp system; what will they do with a sudden change to it, that will hugely impact their careers and lives, less than a year from the Olympics?

It will make for an incredible competition, that's for sure. I feel like it's a healthier, safer choice for the gymnasts, but I can't help but think of the other side to it all - will the middle-of-the-pack gymnasts (almost) miss the 'death' camps?

3) lists are fun :)

Dvora Meyers said...

Thanks so much for this comment! I am a firm believer that we as writers and fans of the sport can do better analysis than we've done thus far, and certainly better than the mainstream media has done.

As to the meat of your comment: I share that particular concern. Nationals and trials have been a terrible mess under Karolyi's system. With a few rare exceptions (Wieber, who despite her problems on Day 1, didn't screw up too badly; Johnson cause she is a rock in competition), all of the gymnasts have significant errors during these competitions, partly because they aren't paced to peak at these competitions. And I'm not convinced that they should have their very best outing at Trials either because we want them to peak at the Olympics. But they should be able to hit reasonably well and lend some credence to the competitions.

And as I pointed out in the post, the team could've been predicted off the results of the dreadful Nationals. Not that I want to see a replay of that before London. I want to see the girls do well enough but demonstrate room for improvement -- which is where you should be over a month away from the Olympics. Then I want them to train as a team, not in a constant state of insecurity instead of having to daily prove their worthiness. I wonder how much it would help their mental game to let them train for over a month with the knowledge that they were on the team. Thinking back to 2008 -- only Nastia and Shawn were named after trials though we all knew they had to take Chellsie if just for her bars, that they had to take Alicia. Those girls should've been named after trials. Why should they have been left feeling insecure?

Yes, it will be interesting to see how this impacts the girls who have grown accustomed to the camps for selection as opposed to a competition in front of an audience. But just because the team is selected at trials, Martha & Co. don't have to base it solely off of the competition. It just means that they can't run the girls into the ground and select the team at the very last minute. What USAG has done is reduced the number of hoops the girls need to jump through.

And lists are fun. Also, feel free to suggest posts or topics. I love getting fresh ideas.