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Sunday, August 21, 2011
Wieber sets her sight on the world

By Pat Borzi

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Though there was at least one "Wieber fever" sign held high at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night, the crowd seemed to show the most love to the 2008 Olympians, Shawn Johnson and Chellsie Memmel. That should change if Jordyn Wieber continues her upward trajectory through 2012.

With her parents and older sister in the stands, Wieber set the standard from the very first rotation in the final night of the U.S. gymnastics championship. The clean tumbling pass that opened her spirited floor routine brought clapping and fist-pumping from a giddy John Geddert, who realized his athlete had no intention of giving back the lead she established on Day 1.

"Anything can happen at any time, so I'm into every routine, every trick," said Geddert, who along with his wife, Kathryn, coaches Wieber at the Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Dimondale, Mich. "I can't say how proud I am of her today."

Extending her lead with every rotation, the purple-clad Wieber amassed a monster score of 61.450 points to finish first all-around in her senior national debut, totaling 121.300 after two days and two gold medal-winning performances on floor exercise and uneven bars.

"It feels so great to be national champion," Wieber said. "I just wanted to come out here and do the best routines I could, like I've been practicing. The outcome was great."

Wieber had the title wrapped up going into her final event, the balance beam, which had been troublesome for her throughout the competition. First, Wieber endured two wobbles in Thursday night's preliminaries. Then Saturday, Geddert described Wieber's beam warm-up as a train wreck, with two falls and several other mistakes. Wieber could have chosen a conservative routine and still won easily, but Geddert wanted something special.

"Before she got on the beam, I told her to send a message to the world that she was a good beam worker," Geddert said. "She didn't send that message the first day. I couldn't ask for a better response."

Wieber earned a 15.300, the best beam score of the night, with one of highest degrees of difficulty.

"He told me to go out and be as aggressive as I could, just rock the beam routine, and leave no regrets up there," Wieber said. "I tried really hard to be confident and aggressive."

"She could have fallen three times and still won, but she did one of the best routines she's ever done to cap it off," Geddert said.

"I don't want to ever always expect it, but always seems to be able to pull it through. When it comes time to compete, she puts her best foot forward all the time. That's the true sign of a champion. That's Shannon Miller. That's Kim Zmeskal. That's the type of people that always separated themselves from the pack with their ability to compete."

Wieber's ability to shrug off mistakes and respond big on the next apparatus is becoming her trademark. It might be the thing that, along with her skills, lands her on the Olympic team.

"I wish I could tell you I taught her that," Geddert said. "From day one, when it comes show time, you can see the curtains close, and it's just her and the equipment. That's a rare find in an athlete. A lot of them have talent. A lot of them have ability. But that ability to focus under pressure is a rare find."

The world championship will take place in Tokyo this October. Although the U.S. roster won't be official until next month, after a selection camp at the Karolyi Ranch near Houston, women's team coordinator Martha Karolyi did not hesitate to hype Wieber's chances for winning the all-around.

"You never know in this sport what will be happening, but she will be an extremely strong contender for that medal," she said.

"I said in the interview before the meet that I had my trust in Jordyn. She proved it. I know Jordyn is a very strong gymnast skill-wise, and mentally very special. After beating the reigning world champion [Aliya Mustafina] in the spring [at the American Cup], I was pretty much sure that she would be able to perform well in this meet. And she proved me right."

Now, Wieber heads back to the gym to refine her routines for Tokyo and prepare for the challenges ahead.

"We all have to prove ourselves again, so this isn't the most important thing right now," she said. "The next steps will be important, too."