Archive for the ‘2007 Nationals: Women’ Category

And now for someone completely different…

August 30, 2007

1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu has posted her thoughts on the 2007 U.S. Championships on her website. Bonus at the end of the essay: A pic of her very pregnant self.

Dominique Moceanu.

Full coverage of the 2007 U.S. Championships

August 29, 2007

…can be found here. Thank you, USA Gymnastics.

Bross new U.S. junior champion

August 28, 2007

Presenting Rebecca Bross, the newly crowned U.S. women’s junior national champion.

 Rebecca Bross won the U.S. junior championship in San Jose, despite falls on both days of competition.

To almost no one’s surprise, Bross ran away with the junior title in San Jose, despite falling on bars on the first day and beam on the second. Samantha Shapiro, who demonstrates amazing form for someone so young (she’s 14) was second. Phenom Jordyn Weiber, age 12 years and one month, was third.

All three should be extremely proud of themselves, but when it comes down to things, the junior national championships are not a very good indicator of who will be the next Shawn Johnson. (Johnson herself was 10th at the junior nationals in 2005.)

While some junior champions (read: Carly Patterson) have peaked at just the right time and achieved major success in the senior division, the junior nationals often seem more an indicator of who’s going to burn out once they hit the senior ranks (read: Kristal Uzelac, who won the title three consecutive years in a row and found that when she became age-eligible in 2002, her best years were already behind her.)

Bross is undoubtedly talented, but I’m not sure she has the “it” factor that some (Patterson, Dominique Moceanu, Nastia Liukin) have possessed. Her dance has been improved during the past year, but she struggles with some power on vault and leg form on floor (Bross, like 2004 U.S. Olympian Terin Humphrey, seems to be cursed with legs that look bent even when they’re not.)

Terin Humphrey's legs often appeared bent even when they were perfectly straight. 

Still, she has a great coach in Valeri Liukin, and perhaps more importantly, seems well-liked by National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi, who has already sent her to represent the U.S. at some prestigious events, including last month’s Pan American Games, where Bross was second in the all-around and first on floor exercise.

Bross is not age-eligible for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but she’s already established herself as one to watch in 2009, when she’ll be eligible to compete as a senior. Look out for Weiber and Shapiro as well, but everyone in the top 12 of this crop is liable to mature into a spectacular gymnast. The person who may be the center of all the hype the year before London may be a complete unknown right now — someone like Johnson, who didn’t begin making her mark until the year after the Olympics.

Junior Women Final Standings:

1. Rebecca Bross, 119.40
2.. Samantha Shapiro, 117.50
3. Jordyn Wieber, 116.20
4. Chelsea Davis, 113.95
5. Rheagan Courville, 113.75
6. Mattie Larson, 113.70
7. Olivia Courtney, 113.55
8. Ashley Stott, 112.90
9. Corrie Lothrop, 112.70
10. Cassie Whitcomb, 112.60
11. Rebecca Clark, 112.40
12. Sarah DeMeo, 112.15
13. Kamerine Moore, 112.00
14. Amanda Jetter, 110.30
15. Sarah Persinger, 109.70
16.  Hallie Mossett, 108.95
17. Mackenzie Caquatto, 108.75
18. Alecia Musser, 108.25
19. Morgan Smith, 107.85
20. Sherise Clark, 107.00
21. Madeline Hanley, 106.65
22. Kaitlyn Clark, 105.05
23. Jenna Rachels, 104.90
24. Gabrielle Swart, 101.45

The new new Mary Lou

August 23, 2007

Since 2005, when videos of her competing at TOPS national tournaments began circulating the internet, Shawn Johnson has been touted as the next big thing in women’s gymnastics.

Last weekend at the U.S. Nationals in San Jose, the 4’9″ Johnson proved that the word next can be removed from that moniker.

Call her that, call her the new new Mary Lou (a title that has been bestowed on everyone from Kristie Phillips to Kim Zmeskal to Carly Patterson), call her dominant. All are true — for the moment. Whether she lives up to all that is still to be seen, but at present, the facts speak for themselves.

With her runaway victory at the U.S. championships, Shawn Johnson has established herself as one of the best in the world.

Not only did Johnson throw the most difficult skills at Nationals, she did so flawlessly. True, some of the flexibility, form and execution aren’t all there, but Johnson’s not beyond help the way a few U.S. elites seem to be. It should be noted that reigning world champion Vanessa Ferrari also has moments where she loses some of her toepoint or bends her legs slightly.

It was pretty clear from the get-go in San Jose that Johnson would be near the top of the scoreboard the whole way through, but her margin of victory over seasoned competitors like the not-completely-healthy Nastia Liukin and Jana Bieger must have surpassed even the gymnastics world’s wildest expectations.

Next up are the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, where Johnson, much like Patterson in 2003, finds herself the newcomer and favorite at the same time. Expect her to lead the team by example. Better training for next summer’s Olympics in Beijing — her coach’s hometown — couldn’t be had anywhere else.

Johnson wins U.S. all-around — by a lot

August 20, 2007

Shawn Johnson’s hundred megawatt smile, a grin that lights up her entire face and most of the room, never faded during the second night of competition at the U.S. Championships Saturday.

 Shawn Johnson won the national all-around title Saturday night by more than three points -- a huge margin in gymnastics.

Nor was there any reason for it to. Johnson, the only gymnast in the competition to put together eight routines without a mistake, won the all-around by 3.45 points, the largest margin in U.S. history.

The performance was probably even more dominant than the numbers. Johnson, who stands at 4’9″, was simply head and shoulders above the rest.

2005 and 2006 champion Nastia Liukin, expected to be Johnson’s main competition, showed up in San Jose not ready to compete on floor and vault, the result of a severe ankle injury sustained eight months ago.

Nastia Liukin was great on bars, but struggled on everything else at the 2007 U.S. Championships.

The result was disastrous for Liukin — she nearly fell on vault on both days, fell on her back on floor during the second night and did a front flip onto her back after landing her dismount on uneven bars too far forward at the end of the first night.

Liukin’s third-place finish was a gift — and a testament to the preparation of the rest of the team.

Silver medalist Shayla Worley, rebounding from two injuries in 2006, began her comeback by falling off the balance beam on her first major skill (standing Arabian) on day one. It wasn’t the start she wanted, but Worley performed calmly and competently for the rest of the competition, turning in the only performances that even came close to Johnson’s in terms of flawlessness.

 Shayla Worley balanced a silver medal in San Jose, despite a fall from the balance beam on the first day of competition.

Ivana Hong, second after the first day, missed her swing on uneven bars during her first performance of the finals round. Visibly upset, the self-proclaimed perfectionist lost her focus and overrotated her beam dismount on her way to a fourth-place finish.

Bridget Sloan, third going into the finals, fell off the balance beam during finals but fought back with stuck tumbling passes on floor and a nailed Yurchenko one-and-a-half on vault to finish fifth.

 Bridget Sloan fell from third to fifth after the second day of competition.

Samantha Peszek, who couldn’t have done much worse than she did on the first night of competition if she tried, regained her composure on night two and battled from tenth to seventh.

 Alicia Sacramone was impressive on her best events during the second night of competition.

Even Alicia Sacramone, who has been the rock of the U.S. team on vault and floor since 2004, missed the landing on her triple full on floor during the first night. Sacramone’s training time has been somewhat compromised due to her decision to give NCAA gymnastics a try. She competed fairly watered-down routines for Brown University during the winter while juggling Ivy-league coursework and an elite’s training schedule and didn’t look quite like her usual self in competition, although she did a great floor routine during finals.

 Chellsie Memmel competed floor in San Jose to make a statement, not the world team.

2005 world champion Chellsie Memmel, who injured her shoulder during the middle of the team competition at last year’s world championships, performed on floor during the first day of competition and scratched on night two. Memmel’s goal, she said, remains the 2008 Olympic Team. As someone who missed out on 2004 because of injury, she knows better
than to push it before she’s ready.

Liukin might be well-suited to take the same advice. Although named to the World team Saturday night, it seems highly doubtful she’ll perform on anything except bars and beam.

Other world team members are Worley, Hong, Sloan, Peszek, Sacramone and, of course, Johnson.

Final results

1. Shawn Johnson, 123.65
2. Shayla Worley, 120.20
3. Nastia Liukin, 118.50
4. Ivana Hong, 118.45
5. Bridget Sloan, 118.00
6. Geralen Stack-Eaton, 116.50
7. Samantha Peszek, 116.30
8. Jana Bieger, 115.60
9. Darlene Hill, 114.65
10. Natasha Kelley, 113.65
11. Amber Trani, 112.55
12. Christa Tanella, 111.85
13. Katelyn Mohr, 111.35
14. Randy Stageberg, 110.05
15. Catherine Nguyen, 109.55
16. Alaina Johnson, 109.20
Alicia Sacramone, 92.40

Senior women: Newcomers make a splash while old-timers sink in standings

August 17, 2007

OK, so it wasn’t quite as bad as the men’s competition last night. But many of the U.S. women expected to be at the top of the scoreboard after the preliminary round of competition at the 2007 Nationals were to be found sitting on their bottoms at the end of the vault runway, on the ground reaching for the high bar or, well, scratching themselves.

The exception was Iowa’s Shawn Johnson, a 16-year-old from Des Moines who appeared as unruffled by the prospect of winning her first senior national championship as she might be about tackling some not-too-challenging math problems. After night one, Johnson leads the competition by more than a point and a half over newcomers Ivana Hong and Bridget Sloan.

Maybe more people should have been expecting this. Hong placed third in the all-around at last month’s Pan American Games, completing an American sweep with Johnson and junior star Rebecca Bross. Sloan picked up her first major victory in elite competition by winning the all-around at U.S. Classic, a precursor to Nationals.

Newcomer Bridget Sloan has put herself in excellent position to medal in the all-around at the U.S. Championships in San Jose.

The scratchfest started before the competition, when Alicia Sacramone announced she would not be battling her nemesis uneven bars at the championships this year. During the first rotation, 2005 world all-around champion Chellsie Memmel, who has been recovering slowly from a shoulder injury, scratched bars and followed up by sitting out on beam as well. Memmel did go on to perform a full difficulty floor routine.

2005 and 2006 U.S. champion Nastia Liukin started strong on balance beam, nearly fell on floor exercise and finally sat down her Yurchenko one-and-a-half twist on vault. It was, unfortunately, a bit like watching all Liukin’s competitions from the past two years in fast forward.

The last impression on Liukin, after she overrotated her double front dismount on bars, comes from International Gymnast Magazine’s Quick Hits:

Looks like she might have tweaked her knee…

Others, notably Samantha Peszek, who was third in the junior division last year, and 2006 all-around runner up Natasha Kelley, simply fizzled, though for different reasons. Peszek may have just had a bad night; Kelley’s form has always needed major work, and this year the judges are deducting her for it.

That left the competition wide open for Johnson and sleepers Hong and Sloan, who slipped past Liukin, Kelley, world all-around silver medalist Jana Bieger and promising hopeful Shayla Worley into second and third place after the first night of competition.

Worley recovered nicely from a fall off the balance beam on her new standing Arabian during the first rotation and is still in medal contention, sitting in fourth after the first day.

Here are the Quick Hits from tonight’s competition, courtesy of Inside Gymnastics Magazine.

Senior women’s results after preliminary round:

August 17, 2007

1. Shawn Johnson 61.70
2. Ivana Hong 60.15
3. Bridget Sloan 59.45
4. Shayla Worley 59.35
5. Nastia Liukin 59.05
6. Geralen Stack-Eaton 59.00
7. Jana Bieger 58.35
8. Darlene Hill 56.85
9. Natasha Kelley 56.55
10. Samantha Peszek 56.45
11. Katelyn Mohr 55.55
12. Christa Tanella 55.50
13. Amber Trani 55.40
14. Randy Stageberg 55.15
15. Catherine Nguyen 54.25
16. Alaina Johnson 53.85
17. Alicia Sacramone 45.10
18. Chellsie Memmel 14.60

 Shawn Johnson, courtesy of the Des Moines Register.

A-Sac’s bars scratch might not be a bad thing

August 17, 2007

Perhaps Marta Karolyi doesn’t want Alicia Sacramone to turn into Vanessa Atler. The two do have some frightening similiarities, namely amazing tumbling and vaulting ability that doesn’t translate over to the uneven bars, an event that keeps them from winning competitions like Nationals.

According to a report from Inside Gymnastics Magazine earlier this afternoon, Sacramone chose to forgo her shot at the all-around on the advice of her coach Mihai Brestyan and National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi. The reason given is that by doing bars, where the whole point is keeping one’s legs off the ground, Sac would be risking a leg injury.

It’s hard to believe they couldn’t come up with a better excuse. What about a hand injury? A broken thumb, perhaps?

The truth is that Sac is much more likely to get hurt on vault or floor, those events where you actually pound on your lower appendages.

Some are criticizing Karolyi for manhandling Sacramone out of the competition. It does seem that in American gymnastics today, Martha K. is more of a puppetmaster than advisor, whatever her title.

However, she might be onto something. In the runup to the 2000 Olympic Games, Vanessa Atler, considered by some the most talented gymnast ever to put on a U.S. leotard, persisted in competing all-around, despite the nerves that seemed to literally turn her into a different person whenever she came within 10 feet of the bars. By the time the 2000 Olympic Trials rolled around, Atler’s confidence on every event was shot, and the ensuing meltdown (there simply is no other word for it) cost her a place on the team.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened to Atler if she had focused on her three best events prior to the 2000 Trials and tried to make the team as a specialist. The U.S. didn’t need help on bars then, and they don’t now.

Granted, Alicia seems a bit more sure of herself than Atler ever was. But even if Sacramone did compete bars, it’s doubtful she would ever be put up on the event in a serious international competition. So why bother? More time for working on the triple-twisting Yurchenko.

Sacramone out of the all-around in San Jose

August 17, 2007

Alicia Sacramone is out of the all-around competition at the 2007 U.S. Championships.

2005 World Floor exercise champion Alicia Sacramone announced this afternoon that she would only be competing on vault, balance beam and floor at this National Championships, leaving her nemesis the uneven bars off of her schedule.

This means, of course, that Sacramone will not challenge for the coveted all-around title tonight and Saturday in San Jose.

Still, it may be all for the best. Sacramone did the same thing a few weeks ago at the American Classic, and won all three events she entered.

Too bad. The Massachusetts native’s spark and spunk have won her a lot of fans (not to mention  national and world medals) and many were anticipating this championships as her breakthrough year. Her persistence in trying to be an all-around gymnast despite problems on bars is certainly commendable.

Bross leads junior women after day one

August 17, 2007

If the first day of competition was any indication of the future of U.S. gymnastics, Rebecca Bross and Samantha Shapiro will be playing a big role in it.

Rebecca Bross leads the junior competition at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in San Jose, Calif.

Bross, 14, who trains at the same gym as two-time National champion Nastia Liukin, totaled a 58.95 during this afternoon’s preliminary round, putting her just 0.05 ahead of Shapiro, whose beautiful lines and toepoint are already setting her apart from the rest of the pack.

Despite falling on her Tkatchev on the uneven bars and a mildly shaky beam routine, Bross was clearly the cream of the competition. Her recent international experience at the Pan American Games has obviously helped immensely, and she’s bound to only get better.

Third after day one is Jordyn Wieber with a 58.5, who at just 12 years old is already a star in the making. Don’t let the cuteness fool you: This girl has moves some elite gymnasts train for 15 years and aren’t able to do.

Theirs will hopefully develop into a healthy rivalry as they get older. But make no mistake: The next great American gymnasts are in this bunch.