Wieber, Douglas battling for top spot
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Midway through the meet, Gabrielle Douglas had had enough with the announcer at the Olympic gymnastics trials.
"Every time he would say '2012 Olympic trials' my stomach would just start tingling, and I would think, 'Oh my gosh, this is really happening.' So when he kept saying it, everyone was thinking, 'Stop saying that!' "
The nerves didn't show, though.
Douglas and Jordyn Wieber, both 16, lead the field after the first day of competition, with strong routines across the board. The gymnast with the highest total score after Sunday, the final day, will get an automatic berth onto the five-gymnast Olympic team, and either Wieber or Douglas will be the one to earn it.
But the selection committee, headed by Martha Karolyi, will have plenty of tough and talented competitors from which to choose the other four spots Sunday.
Here's how the team is taking shape:
Jordyn Wieber: Current national champion Wieber did what she always does: Hit cold. She's in the top three in every event after Day 1, showing how invaluable she is to the team. She even improved from nationals on her bar set, typically her weakest event, with an upgraded dismount (full-twisting double layout). She's ahead of Douglas by 0.3 going into Sunday.
Gabrielle Douglas: Douglas always has been an incredible talent, and now she has become a very good competitor as well. She was off on her first routine on bars, but worked through it, and ended up earning a respectable score. "I pulled it out of nowhere!" she joked afterward. She gave perhaps the performance of the night on floor, lighting up the crowd with her powerful tumbling and huge smile throughout.
Alexandra Raisman: Raisman, a 2010 and 2011 worlds veteran, showed the consistency that she has been known for of late, and earned the top score on floor. If she hits her events Sunday, she's on the team. "I don't like to think that I'm on the team," she said, "because it's always so important that I keep really humble and keep working hard. But I really hope I am!"
Kyla Ross: The former junior national champ is best on bars and beam, and she excelled on bars Friday. She had a few wobbles on beam and sat down the Amanar vault that has been causing her trouble lately. She can improve Sunday, but her bar talent probably will be enough to put her on the team.
McKayla Maroney: Maroney is coming off a concussion that grounded her from the second day of competition at nationals. She had major mistakes on both beam and bars, but those aren't events on which the U.S. team would look to her to contribute. On floor and vault -- the events where she's needed -- she looked great. She garnered the top vault score, and earned the fourth-best mark on floor, nailing the back 3.5 twist opening pass that gave her the concussion at nationals. Her vault score alone makes her a strong candidate for the team, and with a good floor set as well, she's most likely the fifth member.
Nastia Liukin: The 2008 Olympic all-around champion needed to hit both of her routines perfectly to have a chance at the team, and it didn't happen. On bars she made it through most of her super-difficult set before struggling at the end. She looked visibly tired, broke form, and landed her double front dismount to her back. Her beam wasn't up to her usual standard either, but the damage was already done. The team needs a strong bar worker, and Liukin has just run out of time to fill that position. "Obviously, I'm hoping to do a better bar routine and a better beam routine [on Sunday], but whether or not I'm on the team, I'm glad that I gave it a shot," she said.
Alicia Sacramone: Another 2008 Olympian, Sacramone is making a case for herself with solid routines on both beam and vault. The U.S. is very deep on vault, though, so she may be looking at an alternate spot. Her performance Friday was superb, however, and reflected her more carefree attitude this time around. "In 2008 I was so stressed and focused on making the team that I didn't enjoy the process. This time, I honestly have done everything in my power to get back to where I am today, and if that's not good enough, it's all I can do. I won't have any regrets."
Elizabeth Price: Price is one of the youngest competitors at trials, but looked like a veteran. She has the second-best vault in the country behind Maroney, and has power to spare on floor, where she tumbles a sky-high double-double mount, then comes back with a double layout. She can score reasonably well on bars, too, making her a great potential alternate.
Rebecca Bross: The six-time world medalist has had a rough go of it since coming back from a dislocated kneecap suffered last year, and now is a specialist on bars and beam. Though she earned the fourth-highest score on bars, she fell twice on beam, an event in which she has had consistency issues all year. She could be an alternate if the selection committee feels it needs another good bar routine as backup.
Anna Li: Li is in a similar situation as Bross. She tied for first with Ross on bars, and does one of the most difficult and unique routines in the world. But she fell on beam, and didn't compete in floor or vault here, so most likely can't challenge for the team with only one usable event. She and Bross may be competing for the same alternate spot.