Sunday, May 27, 2012

U.S. Classics Recap

In Olympic years past, no one paid much attention to the U.S. Classic, the final qualifying competition to national championships, but with the team now being decided immediately after Trials (no selection camp this time--woot), the Classics were roundly considered Step 1 in a three part selection process. And though the competition itself was not at all surprising,

First and foremost, let's talk about what happened for Chellsie Memmel. The 2005 world champion and 2008 Olympic silver medalist decided to compete only beam and petition through to Nationals, but after a disastrous performance, her petition was denied. The selection committee cited the pre-competition criteria that they had decided upon. Single event competitors would have to earn at least a 14.0 to go to Nationals.  Chellse scored an 11.85 with that performance, falling far below the minimum.

That one failed routine is now her final elite level competition. Now, I personally never felt that Memmel had a true shot at one of those five spots on the Olympic Team, but she deserved better than this. She should've been the opportunity end her career at Nationals or perhaps at Trials, competing on more than one event. Chellsie rarely falls, not twice in a single competition much less in a single routine. It was a matter of too much, too soon following her shoulder surgery three months ago. After sacrificing her body for USA Gymnastics time and again (witness her heroics in 2006 at the World Championships), she should've at least been granted the opportunity to end her career on a better note. I wonder, however, if Chellsie had played the "game," so to speak, showing up to training camps in Texas, would she have been given the benefit of the doubt. I guess this underscores the importance of being in the system, for better or for worse.

And now onto Anna Li. Before Worlds in October, I had written against her inclusion on the team, mostly because I'm not into the idea of specialists in general and felt that she hadn't successfully put together a bar routine in competition. (Even her "hit" ones were adjusted from what she had planned.) And Classics did nothing to change my view of Li, who though lovely as an NCAA gymnast, hasn't shown herself capable of competing at the elite level. Yesterday was a little embarrassing for her. She starts with a fall on a very difficult new combo on bars. While this skill was super hard, falling on the event where you'd be expected to contribute is not a good omen. Beam was choppy but she didn't fall. Still, her beam would be unusable to the team. And now let's talk about floor. It all went wrong on the second pass which was supposed to be a 1.5 twist step out into another tumbling skill but buckled on the roundoff and only managed a back tuck. She didn't fare better throughout the rest of the routine, ending with a very simple full twist dismount. This routine was so much worse than if she fell on every pass. It really shows that she can't hang at this level of competition. Her quest for the team is all but over.

Another girl who now might be out of the mix--Rebecca Bross. Though she hit bars, she fell on beam, and has been inconsistent all year long. She didn't help her cause by choosing to specialize on bars and beam. In five person team land, bringing fewer events to the table is a risky move. And now that Nastia is back and competing for the same specialist position, I do not like Bross' odds. I'm pretty sad for this girl.

I do hope that the chatter about how Aly Raisman is replaceable ends after this competition. She is an unbelievable competitor and though she doesn't have the cleanest form, she hasn't, up until this point, been hammered too badly for it internationally. She has routinely been scored well. (Aly, on bars, gets graded on her own curve.) She can be used for team finals on three events. And, in addition to the oft mentioned bars weakness, the US might end up with something of a deficit on floor where Aly could be very useful. You don't want a team finals situation where someone like Kyla Ross is put up on floor--her start value at this competition was a paltry 5.5. The team really does need Aly both for her floor and her consistency. People who say that she won't be on the team are clearly engaged in wishful thinking. If the U.S. can't get three superb bar workers together, and it's looking increasingly unlikely that they will, they need to maximize on the other events.

For Aly Raisman:

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