Olympics: Gymnastics

SAN JOSE -- Nastia Liukin wrote a bittersweet ending to her decorated career Sunday night, walking off the floor with tears in her eyes after receiving a pair of standing ovations from the crowd at HP Pavilion.

It was far from a storybook ending for the 2008 Olympic all-around champion, but one of extraordinary grace and meaning. Liukin, competing only in bars and beam, struggled badly in her uneven bars routine; her legs folded on a handstand and then, in the evening's most startling moment, missed the bar on a release and fell face-down flat on the mat.

[+] EnlargeNastia Liukin
Kyle Terada/US PresswireNastia Liukin announced her comeback last October, hoping to become the first reigning Olympic champion to return to the Games since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.

The crowd cheered her on as she gathered herself and finished the routine, standing to applaud in appreciation when she finished.

"It's not really something where I thought I should stop or not finish my routine," Liukin said. "I was ready to finish and that's how I've been taught [from] such a young age. I've learned from my dad and my mom to be a fighter."

Liukin closed her competitive career with a clean beam routine and strong dismount, and then her eyes welled as the sold-out crowd rose to its feet once again to acknowledge the end of her competitive career. She waved and wiped her eyes.

This experience wasn't quite the throwback that sponsors, fans and U.S. Olympic officials had likely hoped for, but Liukin said she has no regrets.

"I don't consider this a failure for me," Liukin said, wiping away tears. "There can be different highs in your career and I feel like I've lived through amazing highs now. Winning the all-around gold four years ago and having two standing ovations for my performances tonight was something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Liukin's mistakes from Friday night, including a fall on the bars, took her out of contention for the 2012 team. The 22-year-old champion mounted a comeback less than nine months ago, but battled a shoulder injury and admitted Friday that a lack of stamina contributed to her mistakes.

Liukin will go to London as the athlete representative for the Federation of International Gymnasts (FIG) and plans to attend NYU in January. "This was another stepping stone toward the rest of my life and I'm ready to take it," Liukin said.


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Danell Leyva's coach and stepfather Yin Alvarez said a quick prayer, crossed himself, kissed the cross around his neck and lifted his son up to the high bar.

Then, Leyva electrified the crowd at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials with the best high bar routine of the night. Minutes later, national champion John Orozco nailed his own set with the same highly difficult, full-twisting reverse Hecht release move as Leyva and stuck his dismount.

It was a fitting finale for the duo, ranked first and second overall after one night of Olympic trials competition combined with two days' worth of scores from U.S. nationals earlier this month. Orozco, 19, and Leyva, 20, have been pushing each other all year and will be expected to lead the team in London. The top two overall gymnasts will receive guaranteed berths on the five-man team, as long as they place within the top three on at least three events, as well. As long as there aren't any major injuries or meltdowns, those two athletes will be Orozco and Leyva.

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Kyle Terada/US PresswireDanell Leyva leads overall after Day 1 of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials.

Leyva looked especially on fire, earning the top scores on parallel bars and high bar, and the second highest on pommel horse, not usually his strong suit. Finishing second to Orozco at nationals hadn't sat well with him, and he used it as fuel the past few weeks in training.

"I'd go up to take a turn, and remember I was second and say, 'Do this routine cleaner.'"

Afterward, he gave his first round of trials a high mark. "As far as what I was expecting from today, it's a 10. I don't want it to be perfect, which is exactly what I did. I want to be perfect in London."

Orozco had hoped to do a bit better on Day 1. After a solid showing on floor, he struggled on his pommel horse dismount and then sat down his vault. He rallied with strong routines on parallel bars and high bar, but even then, he barely cracked a smile.

"I'm not satisfied with my performance at all. I can improve a lot on those two events," he said at the end of the day. Orozco is .95 behind Leyva going into the final day of competition Sunday -- a difference worth noting since Orozco was penalized 1.00 for his vault fall. Erase the error, and the two are almost in a dead heat.

The surprise of the competition was Sam Mikulak, a University of Michigan gymnast who finished third behind Orozco and Leyva at nationals, but topped them both in Thursday's scores. Mikulak is strong on pommel horse, an event where the U.S. team is weak, and throws a much harder vault -- a Kasamatsu double that includes three twists off the table -- than either Orozco or Leyva.

As the men left the arena after the meet, a teammate turned to Mikulak and asked him, "You know you won today, right?"

Mikulak's confused look in response said it all. Though he might not have expected to do so well, he'll be a no-brainer pick for the selection committee if he has another consistent day Sunday.

Jonathan Horton, the only 2008 veteran at trials, is fourth. He's one of the country's best on rings, and excelled Thursday with the second-highest score of the day behind ring specialist Brandon Wynn. Though he's an Olympic silver medalist on high bar, Horton missed his first and biggest release move (a full-twisting double layout over the bar), before re-mounting and successfully throwing two other nearly as difficult release moves. Still recovering from foot surgery late last year, he's likely to clinch the fourth spot on the team.

The fifth member could well be a specialist like Jake Dalton or Steven Legendre. The training partners have the same strengths -- vault and floor -- and may be competing for the same place on the Olympic team. Dalton is first overall on both events, with Legendre second on floor and third on vault.

Legendre had a terrible competition at U.S. nationals, though, and is still climbing his way up the standings after severe cramping in his forearms hindered his performance there. He has been downing Gatorades and eating bananas on the sidelines in San Jose, and had the highest score of anyone on his vault, a handspring double front with a half twist, named after Romanian world vault champion Marian Dragulescu.

"I just wanted to go out there and do what I know I'm capable of, and I didn't feel like I did that [at nationals] in St. Louis, so I guess it was a little bit of redemption today," he said.

While the stars of the team are clearly Orozco and Leyva, the team's depth of talent is such that even Leyva insists he doesn't feel his spot is secure.

"To be completely honest, I don't think anyone is a lock at this time," he insisted. "Especially this team, this year. All the guys are so close together in performance, it's amazing. Whoever they pick for this team is going to be out of this world."

Nastia LiukinKyle Terada/US Presswire

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Nastia Liukin isn't used to being the underdog. Before the 2008 Beijing Games, she had already won four national all-around titles -- two at the junior level and two at the senior -- and nine world medals. She believed the 2008 Olympics were her destiny. Even when she struggled with injury in the lead-up to the Games, she was always considered to be a lock for the team.

This year, she's far from it.

Liukin, the 2008 Olympic all-around champion, is competing on only her best two events -- bars and beam -- at the Olympic trials this week. Over the two-day competition, she'll need to hit those four routines out of the park to have a chance at a trip to London.

By her own estimation, only one of those four was up to par three weeks ago at U.S. nationals, but she said those mistakes were all in her head.

"Everything I messed up on there was such a fluke mistake and my nerves coming out," Liukin said Wednesday after a training session at trials. "Somebody had told me that I hadn't competed bars since Beijing and I think that got into my mind a little bit."

She said she has been hitting "every routine, every day" and, in fact, looked much improved in Wednesday's practice, when she completed her full bar set and multiple beam routines, error-free. Even national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, the head of the selection committee, noticed the difference.

"She looks much more confident. She looks promising to me," she noted. Karolyi wouldn't speculate on Liukin's chances to make the team, but said she thought there were plenty of other good bar workers in contention for a spot, a none-too-optimistic comment on the odds of seeing Liukin in London.

For Liukin, though, just getting to San Jose has been an achievement. She didn't announce a comeback until late last year and has been sidelined at times by a shoulder injury that still has her popping Advil and working through pain. During the past eight months, she has called Karolyi several times, and said Karolyi urged her each time not to give up. Though more training time might have given her a better shot at the team, she doesn't think her body would have held up if she'd returned to the sport sooner.

Whether or not Liukin earns one of the five Olympic spots Sunday, she'll be OK with the outcome.

"I just want to leave it all out there on the floor, and give the selection committee something to think about," Liukin said. "I'm realistic about my chances ... but yes, of course, I really want to be on it."

DALLAS -- On the topics of the best song to warm up to (Eminem's "Lose Yourself" for 2008 Olympic all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin; "Boyfriend" by Justin Bieber for 17-year-old Aly Raisman), what college to attend (NYU for Nastia; Stanford or Vanderbilt for 2008 all-around silver medalist Shawn Johnson) or what they're most looking forward to in London, the women vying for a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympics gymnastics team didn't agree on much. But there was one topic that brought them to a consensus: naming the Olympics team at the end of trials is a good thing.

"It's easier on our bodies to not have the selection camps," said 2011 world champion Jordyn Wieber, who is making her first run at the Olympics. "Doing routines for such a long time can be tough on your body. We'll be able to go to camp and train instead of going to camp to compete. There's a difference. And it will be nice to get it done at trials and know who's on the team."

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Adam Pretty/Getty ImagesJordyn Wieber and other U.S. gymnasts will find out their Olympics fate on the final day of the U.S. trials on July 1.

Unlike in recent years, the five-woman team -- down from six in 2008 and 2004 -- will be named on the final day of trials, which will be held June 28-July 1 in San Jose, Calif., instead of after a post-trials, two-week selection camp held at the Karolyi ranch outside Houston. In 2008, Johnson and Liukin finished 1-2 at trials, were invited to the selection camp and named to the Olympic team with the disclaimer that they still had to prove their readiness during the camps. Instead of spending the weeks between trials and the Olympics tweaking routines, resting, rehabbing injuries and tapering training, the 12 women invited to the selection camp competed for those six spots.

"The selection process in 2008 was the longest, most stressful process of my life, and I felt like I was run into the ground," Johnson said. "After trials, I was like, 'Ahh, I made the team. Oh wait, no I didn't. I still have to compete.' This way, it will preserve me more and hopefully do the same for the entire team. It's one less meet you have to be on your A-game for. If you look back at 2008, our entire team was at its strongest at trials and then we slowly started to break down. I think they learned from 2008, and this time, I think we will peak at the right time."

At the 2008 Games, Chellsie Memmel broke her ankle during training in Beijing. A few days later, Samantha Peszek injured her ankle minutes before the women's qualifier and was able to compete only on the uneven bars. The team was highly favored for the team all-around but finished second to China. The additional mental and physical stress of those selection camps was often cited as a reason for the team's struggles in Beijing.

"This way is better for us for being in our top shape," said Rebecca Bross, who will be competing 10 months after dislocating her kneecap at the Visa Championships in August. "More importance will be placed on trials. I like going out to competitions better than selection camps. At selection camps, it's only us in the gym, but at a meet, you have the whole crowd there and people cheering you on. It's what we're used to doing."

Although the team will be named earlier, the selection process will still be based on subjective measures. The selection committee will choose the team based on a combination of competitive performance, team needs, medal potential, the composite strength of all team members, individual start values, consistency, attitude and competitive readiness.

"They're not just taking the top five in the all-around," Liukin said. "It really is a puzzle, and hopefully they'll pick the best team to win a gold medal. With my two strongest events, bars and beam, I hope I can play a role to help the team, but besides my gymnastics, I have a few things going for me -- but I can't rely on them. That is no way to make an Olympic team. Living in Dallas, everywhere I go, people are like, 'You won the gold medal. You have to make this team.' But that's not how it works. Your past accomplishments don't matter. All that matters is how you perform today."

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shannon Miller shares some advice for the U.S. gymnastics team and other Olympic hopefuls:

video

NEW YORK -- Jordyn Wieber looked perfectly composed as reporters pelted her with questions like snowballs, pausing occasionally when several hit her at once, glancing from one person to another until she could distinguish a single voice. Her high cheekbones, alert hazel eyes and unflappable expression give her face unusual maturity for a 16-year-old, which isn't surprising given the fact that her life is moving at warp speed.

Wieber, the reigning all-around national and world gymnastics champion, is the cover girl for the AT&T American Cup at Madison Square Garden on Saturday -- an event that has often served as a harbinger of Olympic greatness. She strives for as much groundedness as a rising superstar can manage, attending public school part time in her hometown of DeWitt, Mich., and filling out her education with online classes.

[+] EnlargeJordyn Wieber
AP Photo/Kathy WillensGymnast Jordyn Wieber seems to be handling the pressure of being Team USA's "it" athlete heading into the 2012 London Olympics.

"It's very important for her to feel like a normal kid," said Kathryn Geddert, who with husband John coaches Wieber at the Twistars USA club in Dimondale, Mich. "That's how she sees herself. She needs that camaraderie with her school friends along with her gym friends. I think if she didn't have that, it would be harder for her."

There's very little teen-speak to Wieber's public delivery, a noticeable absence of "likes" and "you knows." She does talk quickly, however, and when someone asked her to describe what's involved in the ultra-difficult Amanar vault, she complied in nearly the same scant few seconds it takes her to execute it.

"Basically, you do a round-off back handspring onto the table, you put your hands down on the floor and then your feet on the board and then your hands on the vault table, and then from there, you have to block and do two-and-a-half twists in time to land on the floor," Wieber said matter-of-factly.

One of the trickiest parts of the maneuver is the extra half-twist that leaves no margin for error and propels the gymnast into a blind forward landing, but Wieber is growing accustomed to those, both in and out of the gym.

The high beams of media attention veered toward her with full intensity after her win in Tokyo last fall, but so far, her status doesn't seem to have caused so much as a wobble. Her world championships gold "definitely gives me a little bit of confidence, but I have to kind of think about what I need to do right now," she said. "I can't think about what I've done in the past."

Wieber also turned pro a few months ago, and depicted that passage as a collaborative process with her parents.

"They trust me and my decisions and everything and they helped me make my decision. We worked it out and it's all a positive thing."

The pace Wieber is on requires a discipline most adolescents would find hard to live by. Her friend and fellow Olympic hopeful Alexandra Raisman portrays them as perfect roommates at international events "because we both like to get a lot of rest." The two are ardent nappers and recently have become enamored of scented candles as relaxation aids -- Raisman leans toward vanilla and Wieber likes "something cinnamon-y," Raisman said.

"She's handling it really well," Raisman said of the new expectations facing Wieber. "She's using it as motivation, which is really important and really good. She's the same Jordyn she was last year before she was world champion, so I don't think anything has affected her."

Geddert said she admires Wieber's comfort level with the media. "As a 16-year-old, I never would have been able to do the stuff she's done," the coach said.

Mary Lou Retton, who won this event three times, including the year she took Olympic gold (1984), observed that Wieber appears to have the ability to thrive on pressure rather than sag under it.

"If she stays healthy, she's the one to beat in London," said Retton, now a mother of four daughters ages 9 to 16. "She's the whole package. She's got explosiveness, she's got flexibility, she's got poise, upper-body strength, everything. As an athlete, you always kind of doubt yourself until you've got that big one in the bag, and she has that now.

"She's fierce on that floor. I wouldn't want to have to compete against her. She's just like a lion."

The Olympics are still six months and three weeks away, so there's still a little time to order a copy of Michael Phelps' "London on 10,000 Calories a Day" guidebook. The U.S. Olympic trials season, however, is just about to heat up.

Mark the following events and dates on your 2012 Mayan calendar if you want a head start on crushing all opponents in your Olympics Fantasy League.

(Disclaimer: This isn't all of the trials since some sports don't have them, but this list is a lot to put on your plate without also explaining the selection process for the modern pentathlon team.)

[+] EnlargeShalane Flanagan
Kirby Lee/US PresswireShalane Flanagan will be one of the favorites heading into the U.S. Olympic marathon trials.

Jan. 14: Marathon

Begin the long, grueling season of Olympic athlete trials and qualifications with -- what else? -- the marathon in Houston. The U.S. women may have their deepest field ever, including Desiree Davila, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan and 38-year-old Deena Kastor. On the men's side, Ryan Hall is the favorite, but don't rule out 36-year-old 2004 silver medalist Meb Keflezighi, who set a personal record in the recent ING New York City Marathon. By the way, top marathoners average just under five-minute miles. For 26.2 miles. You'd be lucky to average that in Houston at rush hour in a car.

Jan. 19-29: Women's soccer qualifying tournament

Sadly, Hope Solo's "Dancing with the Stars" season finished shy of the coveted mirror ball. If she wants a shot at adding another Olympic gold medal to her collection, she and the rest of the U.S. women must first secure a spot. A field of eight countries from the Americas will compete in Vancouver, British Columbia, for two slots in London. The United States is in Group B with Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, but another interesting story should be Group A in which Haiti will face Canada, Cuba and Costa Rica. Let's just hope Vancouverites don't burn down the city if Canada doesn't qualify.

Feb. 13-19: Women's boxing

Qualifying for the Olympics is a two-step process for the U.S. women. Boxers must win the trials in Spokane, Wash., in February. Then those boxers must finish among the top eight in the three weight classes at the world championships in China in May. This will be the first time women's boxing will be on the Olympic calendar.

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AP Photo/Martin MeissnerThe U.S. women's soccer team will compete in Vancouver for a spot in the Olympics.

March 22-April 2: Men's soccer qualifying tournament

Because of the age restrictions, men's Olympic soccer isn't viewed as big a deal as it is for the women. But can Freddy Adu and his teammates grab the spotlight away from the women with a medal? Well, the Americans will first have to get there. The qualifying rounds will be played in Nashville, Tenn., and Carson City, Calif., before the semifinals and final March 31 and April 2 in Kansas City, Kan. Don't drip your scarves in the barbecue.

April 21-22: Wrestling

In addition to the usual hopefuls, there are two possible wrestlers who could make this event very interesting. Both 2000 gold medalist/"Biggest Loser" competitor Rulon Gardner and 1996 gold medalist/pro wrestler Kurt Angle have said they will attempt to make the team. A slimmed-down Gardner is working at the Olympic training center, while Angle is training on his own. No chairs, please, Kurt.

Late spring, basketball roster selections

The Olympic spots are set, it's just a matter of hearing the final rosters. The men are coming off gold in 2008, while the women are 33-0 in the Olympics dating back to 1992. BTW: If men's coach Mike Krzyzewski needs a vowel, he can buy it from women's coach Geno Auriemma.

(Read full post)

Pan Am Games: Monday's recap

October, 24, 2011
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A look at how some American athletes fared Monday at the Pan American Games:

Gymnastics

The U.S. women's team won the team gold medal Monday, its 14th title in Pan Am Games history.

Team USA finished with 219.750 points, followed by Canada (217.450) and Brazil (209.825). The gold-winning squad included Bridgette Caquatto, Jessie DeZiel, Brandie Jay, Shawn Johnson, Grace McLaughlin and Bridget Sloan.

"I was going through the lineup and getting all teary-eyed because I was so proud of them," Johnson said. "We have gone through a lot in the last couple of weeks and I think we did a great job."

The U.S. also qualified for the all-around (held Wednesday) individual events (Thursday and Friday):

All-around: Caquatto and Jay.

Vault: Jay.

Uneven bars: Caquatto and Johnson.

Balance beam: DeZiel (third reserve athlete).

Floor exercise: DeZiel.

Boxing

The final four U.S. boxers were eliminated from contention in Monday's quarterfinal bouts: flyweight John Franklin, lightweight Toka Kahn Clary, light heavyweight Jeffery Spencer and super heavyweight Danny Kelly.

Men's volleyball

Team USA rallied from a 12-9 deficit in the fifth set to defeat Puerto Rico, 22-25, 25-19, 20-25, 25-16, 15-13 in its opening pool-play match. Captain Evan Patak led all scorers with 27 points on 18 kills, seven blocks and two aces.

"We won because of two things. First, our ability to adapt," U.S. coach John Speraw said. "We made some crucial adjustments throughout the match from a variety of different players. And for a young team like this, I found that impressive. Second, the serving of our captain, Evan Patak, carried the team when we struggled early in the match. He put on some runs that helped us win the second set and give us the confidence to beat Puerto Rico."

Next up for the men's squad: Canada on Tuesday in Pool B play.

Track and field

The U.S. earned three medals on the opening day of the track and field competition at the Pan Ams.

Jarred Rome won silver medal in the men's discus, Amber Campbell won bronze to become the first U.S. athlete to earn a Pan Ams medal in the women's hammer throw since 1999, and Becky Holliday took home the bronze in women's pole vault.

"The most challenging part was having this late of outdoor season because I compete indoors, as well ... so I've been going since January," Campbell said. I'm really hoping to continue the success into next year, try to fight these girls all around the world and make it to the podium in London."

U.S. men's finals teams set for worlds

October, 10, 2011
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The United States men’s gymnastics team advanced to the team finals at the World Championships in Tokyo.

Four members of the team also advanced in individual finals. Here’s the lineup:

U.S. team: Jake Dalton, Jonathan Horton, Steven Legendre, Danell Leyva, Alexander Naddour, John Orozco and Chris Brooks (alternate).
All-around: Orozco and Leyva.
Floor exercise: Legendre.
Still rings: Horton.
Parallel bars: Leyva.
Horizontal bar: Orozco.

The top eight countries will qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. The worlds continue through this week (Oct. 11, women/team event; Oct. 12, men/team event; Oct. 13, women’s all-around; Oct. 14, men’s all-around; Oct. 15-16, individual events).


Proper values help shape Danell Leyva

October, 6, 2011
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Danell Leyva’s earliest gymnastics memory is an instructive one. “My first competition was when I was 5 or 6 and I didn’t place on anything,’’ he said. “I got a last-place medal on high bar and I was crying. And Yin said, ‘See? If you want to be something in this world, you have to work for it.’”

Yin is Leyva’s stepfather and coach, Yin Alvarez. And if “You have to work for it’’ seems like a harsh instruction for a disappointed, sobbing 5-year-old, well, perhaps that’s also how you raise champions. Leyva won the U.S. all-around championship in August and will head a strong American team into the world championships this weekend in Tokyo.<./p>

[+] EnlargeDanell Leyva
Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesDanell Leyva enter Japan as the all-around national champion, which he won in August.

“We’re looking really good,” Leyva said. “We have a really good chance, not only in doing well but also winning gold.”

“The goal is to win the team gold medal,” U.S. men’s team coordinator Kevin Mazeika said. “I think our chances are very good. The team is well-prepared, in the right frame of mind and balanced over six events. It’s one of the strongest teams we’ve ever fielded.’’

Leyva was born in Cuba in 1991, but his mother, Maria Gonzalez, was able to bring him to the United States when he was 2 years old. She reunited in Miami with Yin, whom she had met when they were both top gymnasts in Cuba, and the two eventually married. “Both my parents were part of the Cuba national team for like 10 years,’’ Leyva said. “They brought some [gymnastics] videos over when I was really young and I got super interested. At first, my mom didn’t want me to get in it, but Yin pushed and made her believe I could make it.’’

Yin had defected to the U.S. in 1992 and opened his Universal Gymnastics gym in Miami. He is famous for his wildly animated enthusiasm while watching his gymnasts during competitions. “He is my gymnastics; he is my life,’’ Leyva said. “He’s given me everything I know, everything I am. Even as a human being. He and my mom both have made a great structure for me.’’

This will be the second trip to Tokyo in several months for the U.S. team, which finished second to Japan at the Japan Cup in July. It won the pommel horse competition at Japan, a discipline that has long challenged the U.S. team.

“We’ve all been to Japan; we’ve all competed there, so the real confidence-builder is we know what we’re getting into,” said Jonathan Horton, the 2009-10 U.S. champion and a silver medalist in the 2008 Olympics. “It’s a very humble confidence how good our team is. We know we’re a great team. The competition at Japan Cup was great and we know we can be better. We know what the country is like and that really helps.’’

Horton, 25, and Leyva are good friends but it was the younger Leyva -- still technically a teenager until he turns 20 on Oct. 30 -- who upset the two-time defending champ at nationals in St. Paul in August (Horton fell on the pommel horse). After Leyva clinched the all-around competition, he hugged his demonstrative stepfather and lifted him off the ground in joyous celebration.

“To be completely honest, I feel no different [as national champ],” Leyva said this week. “I know it’s weird, but I think it’s because I looked at [the U.S. championships] as one of the higher priorities of my career, but at the same time, I looked at the world championships as higher. It will be after worlds when everything is going to hit me.’’






Gymnastics: Worlds, Pan Am rosters

September, 22, 2011
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Here are the complete USA Gymnastics rosters for the 2011 World Championships and 2011 Pan Am Games:

World Championships

Men
Jake Dalton
Jonathan Horton
Steven Legendre
Danell Leyva
Alexander Naddour
John Orozco
Chris Brooks (alternate)
Head coach: Kevin Mazeika

Women
Gabrielle Douglas
Anna Li, Aurora
McKayla Maroney
Alexandra Raisman
Alicia Sacramone
Sabrina Vega
Jordyn Wieber
Shawn Johnson (non-traveling alternate)
Head coach: John Geddert
Assistant coach: Jiani Wu

Pan Am Games

Men
Donothan Bailey
Glen Ishino
C.J. Maestas
Sho Nakamori
Paul Ruggeri
Brandon Wynn
Tyler Mizoguchi (alternate)
Coaches: Justin Spring, Rustam Sharipov

Women
Bridgette Caquatto
Jessie DeZiel
Brandie Jay
Shawn Johnson
Grace McLaughlin (replaces injured Chellsie Memmel)
Bridget Sloan
Grace McLaughlin (alternate)
Hallie Mossett (alternate)
McKenzie Wofford (alternate)
Head coach: Marvin Sharp
Assistant coach: Jiani Wu

No worlds, but Johnson still eyeing London

September, 22, 2011
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Shawn Johnson won a gold medal and three silvers at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her photo adorned cereal boxes on American breakfast tables. She led the Wrigley Field crowd in singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." And she reached the highest level of fame possible for an athlete in our modern society by winning "Dancing with the Stars" in 2009.

But barring injury to another gymnast, Johnson won't be going to the world gymnastics championships in Tokyo early next month. Instead, she was named as a non-traveling alternate to the U.S. team. Johnson said she is not disappointed she didn't make the competing squad, nor does she feel her fame makes that any more difficult to handle.

"Honestly, you can't let it affect you," she said Thursday on a teleconference call with the U.S. team. "I didn't come back to gymnastic for any other reasons but I love it and I missed it."

Johnson was named to the U.S. team that will compete in the Pan Am Games at the end of October in Guadalajara, Mexico. Alicia Sacramone, Aly Raisman, U.S. champion Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Anna Li, Gabrielle Douglas and Sabrina Vega will go to Tokyo.

Martha Karolyi, the national women's team coordinator, said Johnson's training was limited due to her 2010 ACL injury, but she could be a strong component for next summer's Olympic team if she continues to progress.

"Actually, my knee is doing really good," Johnson said. "I'm putting in more numbers each week and month and the numbers are going up. Knock on wood, it's been really good. ... I think there's always room for improvement. There's still a long way to go. I need to go home and work hard. It's about putting in the hours and going through the paces.

"I've had a lot of progress in the last year," Johnson added. "I wasn't the best pick, but I'm here if they need me."


Rhythmic gymnastics teams announced

September, 10, 2011
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USA Gymnastics announced the U.S. rhythmic gymnastics teams for the 2011 World Championships and the 2011 Pan American Games. Shelby Kisiel automatically qualified for the world team by winning the 2011 U.S. rhythmic gymnastics all-around title. The rest of the world team and the entire Pan Am Games team were determined after the selection camp.

The World Championships will take place Sept. 19-25 in Montpellier, France. The Pan American Games are Oct. 15-18 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

World Championships roster:

Shelby Kisiel
Polina Kozitskiy
Julie Zetlin

Group:
Jessica Bogdonov
Megan Frohlich
Aimee Gupta
Michelle Przybylo
Sofya Roytburg
Sydney Sachs

Pan American Games roster:

Shelby Kisiel
Julie Zetlin
Reserve athlete: Polina Kozitskiy

Group:
Jessica Bogdonov
Megan Frohlich
Aimee Gupta
Michelle Przybylo
Sofya Roytburg
Sydney Sachs
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Gymnastics

USA Gymnastics names team for worlds

August, 31, 2011
8/31/11
12:45
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USA Gymnastics has named the team for the 2011 World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships. The competition will be held Nov. 17-20 in Birmingham, England.

This is the first of two opportunities to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.

In trampoline, the men will compete in the final preliminary group with Colombia, Mexico and Australia. The women are in the sixth qualifying group along with Argentina, Mexico and France. The top eight men and women automatically qualify their country for the Games.

The final chance to earn an Olympic spot is the Olympic Test Event in January.

Men's Roster

Trampoline: Michael Devine, Logan Dooley, Jeffrey Gluckstein and Steven Gluckstein (Alternate: Neil Gulati)
Tumbling: Kalon Ludvigson and Alex Renkert
Double mini-trampoline: Trey Katz, Kalon Ludvigson, Ryan Roberts and Austin White (Alternate: Casey Chandler)
Synchronized trampoline: Logan Dooley/Steven Gluckstein and Michael Devine/Jeffrey Gluckstein

Women's Roster

Trampoline: Dakota Earnest, Nani Vercruyssen, Savannah Vinsant and Alaina Williams (Alternate: Alicia Powder)
Tumbling: Natalya Beneschott, Yuliya Brown, Karly Judkins and Marina Moskalenko (Alternate: Kaylah Whaley)
Double mini-trampoline: Erin Jauch, Kristle Lowell, Marina Moskalenko and Erica Owen (Alternate: Sonia Shah)
Synchronized trampoline: Alaina Williams/Dakota Earnest and Nani Vercruyssen/Savannah Vinsant
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Gymnastics

We all know making the U.S. Olympic team is difficult enough. Years of training, passion and financial sacrifice are normally required (well, not so much financial sacrifice if you're on the basketball team). But making the gymnastics squad is now even more difficult. That's because the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) reduced the number of gymnasts per country from six to five for the next Olympics.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Horton
AP Photo/Bas CzerwinskiThe U.S. men's team has made significant progress in the pommel horse discipline.

Sorry. You came really, really, really, really close, but you're not on the Olympic team. But if it's any consolation, you would have been on the team four years ago.

FIG's goal is to open more spots for individuals whose nations did not qualify as a team. You can debate whether that's a good thing, but it certainly comes at the expense of athletes who are with those strong teams.

"It's definitely pushed the all-around to the forefront," U.S. men's team coordinator Kevin Mazeika said in advance of this week's national championships. "With only five athletes, you need to cover more events with fewer guys. It has made us, as a program, look more to the all-around. You will see this at these championships -- the majority of guys will be doing the all-around. ...

"You have to look at all contingencies. It's quite a puzzle piece."

It certainly increases competition within the team.

"The depth and talent in this year's field is tremendous," Mazeika said. "That's where we want to be. When the domestic competition is this intense and tough, it pushes everyone to their highest level and, in turn, translates into a very talented team for the world championships and Pan Am Games."

So American gymnasts will be pushing each other in the coming 11 months for roster spots on the 2012 Olympic squad. The competition heats up this week at the national championships that run Wednesday through Saturday in St. Paul, Minn. The nationals are followed by the world championships in Tokyo and the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, both scheduled for October.

The U.S. men already have made great strides in the pommel horse, winning the event that has long challenged them at the recent Japan Cup. The U.S. finished second overall to Japan.

"We got a tremendous boost of confidence out of it," Mazeika said. "Winning the pommel horse was the result of a tremendous amount of hard work in the past two years. We definitely opened some eyes around the world. By doing as well as we did in the pommel horse, it gave us that belief and confidence we can compete with anybody in the world."

There were some safety concerns about the world championships in Japan following this spring's tsunami and nuclear plant radiation leaks, but U.S. gymnastics president Steve Penny said the gymnasts will be safe.

"The FIG spent quite a bit of time looking into that issue," Penny said. "I think they looked at as much info as they possibly could, and they decided it was a safe environment for anyone to travel there and that opinion continues to be held and everyone is gearing up for it. There has not been a lot of angst up to that point in time; everyone is pretty much ready to hit it."

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