Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pan Ams

The Pan Am Games have been a bit of a Worlds hangover for the participants.  It was supposed to be a cake walk for Team USA, but these girls have been challenged by Canada a bit more than they presumed entering the meet.  To their credit, Mikaela Gerber, Kristina Vaculik and Peng Peng Lee have performed to the best of their abilities and should have the experience necessary to help Team Canada earn an Olympic berth regardless of the French Canadian quota present at the test event.  Peng Peng looks like she will be quite successful at UCLA; she certainly has experience competing her Yurchenko full.

For the Americans, Martha Karolyi's absence speaks volumes about the amount of belief she has in the members of the squad to become important contributors at the Olympic Games.  When the team was named, it had promise that has seemingly evaporated with the withdrawal of Chellsie Memmel and the woefully sluggish nature of Bridget Sloan.  Shawn Johnson just missed making Worlds and was supposed to make a splash in Guadalajara.  This year's event can only be seen as a partial success for Team USA.

Shawn Johnson is the resident A-Lister on this year's Pan Ams squad.  For Shawn, this season has been a process of regaining her physical form and her mental confidence.  Coming off of camp, Shawn was close to earning a spot on the World Team but just didn't fill the necessary holes.  Having upgraded bars and beam, Shawn looked strong in training.  Vault was about as good as one could ever expect from Shawn.  With her added Wieler Kips on bars, Shawn officially declared that she is extremely physically strong yet lacks the talent to do real skills.  To her credit, she is a far better bar worker than fellow Wieler Kipper Jordyn Wieber.  The thing about the girls who muscle bars doing Wieler Kips is that they always tend to break form and have to muscle up their first kip like during the pull-up challenge on the President's Fitness Challenge.  Shawn suffered that fate, but she proved her toughness by finishing the routine and performing a routine with a respectable 5.9 D-Score.  Her D-Score is not high enough to compete bars in Team Finals, but it could be strong enough to be the four bar worker in prelims.  Should she lose another 10 pounds, Shawn could muster her double double off bars by Olympic Trials.

Beam was where Shawn was expected to shine, yet a freak fall on her back full clearly startled a girl who was looking to recapture her place at the top of the sport.  Things didn't go according to plan and Shawn visibly lost focus and her foot on her switch leap.  Two falls on beam will not kill her chances at making the Olympic Games, but she didn't do anything to improve her chances either.  It is back to the gym and the drawing board for Shawn as she attempts to up her level of difficulty and confidence for the all-important Olympic year.  I wouldn't mind seeing her work her ass off to earn a spot at the American Cup as an all-arounder.  It is about time we see what she is and is not capable of on floor exercise.

The other star of Team USA was expected to be Bridget Sloan.  The 2009 World AA Champion is not known for her work ethic and she has pissed away much of the last two seasons without having Sam Peszek pushing her to the top.  If one is injured, they can still work their asses off to stay in shape.  Bridget Sloan doesn't seem to grasp that.  It is unclear if Bridget Sloan truly has the desire to make a second Olympic Team.  Sloan postponed college, but she is the type who may just enjoy a year off before work begins at the University of Florida.  Competing every weekend may be a bit much for Bridget.  She botched her floor routine badly and wound up performing two front double fulls when her hips didn't have a prayer of rotating 2 1/2 times.  If one stays in shape, coming back is much easier.  Missing every handstand on bars is more understandable after her surgery and time off, but coming back in poor shape is not.  They're called sit-ups and laps around the track.

Brandie Jean Jay surely belongs in the South. That is quite the West Virginian name. Her gymnastics needs a ton of cleaning up, but she should make a solid NCAA gymnast.  Jessica De Ziel has star potential in college.  Grace McLaughlin does not.  Grace always looks to need a pep talk and a Red Bull.  With teammates and belief in herself, Grace may be able to shine in college if she can avoid to WOGA weight gain.  Dorm food does not agree with one's metabolism after years of Russian dieting.

Bridgey Caquatto is the most interesting story at Pan Ams.  Despite a solid bar routine in Team Finals, her chances at making the Olympic Team didn't appear to improve on Monday.  Bridgey has always had talent on bars, but she is inconsistent and often injured.  Her other events don't look strong enough to earn her a spot of a five-man team, but three hit bar routines and accompanying gold medals will keep her in the mix and should secure her a place at Olympic Trials should she need to petition.  Capable of a DTY, Bridgey's coaches may have made a smart decision by having her stick to a full for this season.

Given the Americans' forgettable performance in Team Finals, it will only give Martha Karolyi more latitude to turn up the these hot messes surely needed her added psychological intensity.  If her workouts don't wear you down, her talks are always good for a few tears.  Crying burns calories.


  1. I was expecting more out of the bunch. I wanted a really strong B team, pushing the A team (Vega is not a real A, let's be honest). Kind of better when we have them all in the mix and then get a better output. Oh well.

  2. Sad to say, but I don't think any of these girls has a shot in hell of making the Olympic team, UNLESS some of the other top girls are too broken by Marta's concentration camps to go to London. I'm not trying to be mean; it's just that the U.S. is just too deep right now. I suppose it's possible that Brandie COULD sneak in as a vaulter if A-Sac is out of the mix, but that's her only shot. Bridgette could sneak in as a bar worker if Liukin doesn't make it back. Unless half the national team falls victim to the black plague, DeZiel and McLaughlin won't be in London. Johnson COULD be, but right now she isn't exactly indispensable. Sloan is just too lazy and inconsistent. She can kiss 2012 goodbye if she doesn't get her butt in gear, pronto.

  3. Huh? Brandie sneak in as a vaulter due to Sac's absence? REALLY? Her DTY is fugly at best and there are plenty other girls with a dty who can at least pretend to contribute on other events.

    As for Bridgette, I'm not seeing her as a bar specialist ... her scores didn't seem that great here even without a fall. Did she leave out some skills? If not, I think there are other girls in front of her. Her other events didn't standout to me.

  4. 8:44, are you dissing baby Gator or lazy Gator?

  5. Haha, baby Gator or lazy Gator. I was talking about baby Gator, but it wasn't intended as a diss. Just for someone who people keep mentioning as being a bar worker, her scores seemed low.

    As for lazy Gator, she does the work for me. Nothing needs to be added.

  6. lets be honest. the only two who have a remote shot at making the olympic team training squad are sloan and johnson. that said, i think the two of them made important statements towards that goal. in opposite directions.
    -johnson. despite her falls on beam, her bars upgrades and continued impressive e-score on bars are impressive. her physical fitness appears to be improved. vault is steady. she is olympic beam champion. she has almost all of her skills back and a few upgrades to boot! i think she got an overall thumbs up on this outing. just needs to stay on the beam more and show up to more competitions. definite lock for pac rims, IMHO.

    -sloan. underwhelming. what is the story on her toe/foot? was she going to AA and then this cut (requiring the reported 14 stitches) caused her to scratch beam and vault? regardless, she didnt compete either in podium training so we have no idea what she is currently capable of on the two events. sloan's strength is an all arounder. she has the event back that would seemingly be the toughest coming back from arm surgery (bars). so what the hell on beam?! her team finals performance on bars would have been better if she didnt hit her feet on her high to low transition. in fact even with all of her missed handstands, add that 1.0 back on and she got 14.850. highest score of the entire UB competition all three nights.

    bridget has to know that she is needed as an AAer but that her strength on the US team is UB/FX. just as she was used in 2010. she royally f'd up both of her events at pan ams. she is lucky if she makes it to olympic trials at this point.

  7. there is no way in hell brandie jay is making the olympic team. hell. she'll be lucky if she makes it into the top 20 at Nationals! If you take the current US National team members who will be senior in 2012 ... there are TWENTY-SIX. 18 current Senior team plus 8 on the junior team who turn senior next year. Thats a hell of alot of talent and of those ... there are currently three with amanars (maroney, ross, skinner) plus more that are training them.

  8. According to interviews with Sloan and Sharp she was intending to compete AA. The cut foot and bandaging made it impossible for her to do beam (theres a closeup picture of her foot somewhere too) and I guess there wasn't a point to vault if someone else can. They said they weren't sure if she or Bridgette Caquatto would compete because of injuries (baby gator's knee was heavily taped). You do gymnastics with 11 stitches in your foot and see how you feel. And I'm sorry, there is no such thing as a lazy elite gymnast.

  9. Sloan is known for being naturally talented and extremely 'lazy' by elite standards.

  10. If you're going to mention the Weiler kip 4 million times in one paragraph, you should probably learn how to spell it.

  11. He thinks he is a Russian diva in training and thus cannot be bothered to spell the names of skills gymnasts he hates compete.

    Who knows if Sloan is a lazy athlete and who cares. Ever since aunt cunt heard somewhere that she supposedly was, that's all he ever prattles on about when mentioning her. Even if she is, can't deny it has worked for her.

  12. ummm please lay off Grace,she has been battling serious injuries for a while now, and she's trying.

  13. Re Baby Gator: she'll be in the mix but only to push other girls. Her sister, Anna Li, Gabby, Memmel, & Liukin would all nee to break an arm before she became a serious contendef.

    Re Lazy Gator: agreed! Does she care to make the team? Injury is one thing but she seemed so sluggish & indifferent. Maybe she was disappointed at the new injury but like a fall on beam you suck it up and move on. The stitches/injury won't set her backs months. Moreover her dance moves on floor looked no different than in 2010, its like shes spent minimal time learning to carry herself & express her music, etc. That has nothing to do with injury.

    BTW, why didn't Marta send an up & coming elite to train at Sharps to keep Sloab on her toes?

    Re Shawn: would LOVE to see her do all 4 at Scam against Jordyn or Raisman. I'm sure USAG could set it up for her to go though i don't see J or R accepting an invite. And Shawn keeps improving & showing she wants it. Excited to see how 2012 shapes out!

    1. Why do you think that Shawn can compete at the American Cup??? First you have to compete at the 2011 Worlds for the 2012 American Cup; and 2nd, you have to be invited, either by placing in the top 8, or if ppl in the top 8 decline, then they go down the list. Jordyn competing in 2011 was a special exception because Nicole Hibbert pulled out last minute and there wasn't enough time to pull in Aurelie or Elisabetta in time; the rules say that last minute replacements can be from the host country. Shawn cannot compete at the American Cup. No shot in hell

  14. Who is laying into Grace? She didn't do anything to get anyone's attention, let alone lay into her.

  15. Shawn is the only gymnast at Pan Am's that in my opinion will be in contention for top 10 placement at the trials. Sloan always looks the same to me injured or not-lack of expression, just going through the motions. Brandie is just not pleasing to watch-NCAA: unless she cleans up on every event I agree that there are at least 25 NCAA gymnasts who are ahead of her.

  16. I'm worried about Shawn's knee. I think at this point we can put to rest the idea that she was milking the injury. There are a lot of juniors who never make it because of injury. We always hear about the athletes who make it back to previous levels. But it really happens all the time, that people are just not the same.

    I really think if Shawn were bulletproof, that she could have clawed her way back to butt-slam Vega at least. Not making any excuses for ShawneyJ, but just being realistic about how it affects 2008.

    I think that is how Marta is looking at it too. Not who she "likes". But cold and calculating about who is going to be able to get it done. If you listen to her close on interviews, that is why she is half dismissive of Shawn (the knee). Marta sure called the ball on Chelse, when that shoulder popped out and 90% of the Gymternet thought it was no big limiter. It is a heck of a lot easier to put down the bonbons, do some pullups for a few months and get your skills back (these girls had elite skills) than to magic an 85% joint into 100%.

  17. If Shawn doesn't learn how to do the weiler kips in the straight position (not straddled), then her bar upgrades are non-existent. The straddled weiler will be downgraded to a C before the Olympics. It should be doable, but Shawn straddles EVERYTHING in her routine - all of her handstands, so who knows - if she doesn't manage to get the straight weilers down (like Jordyn and McKayla), then her D-score is only a 5.6.

    I think Shawn is the only one with a shot at the Olympics out of the Pan Ams team, and I think she will need some injuries to other gymnasts, comebacks to fail, or she will need the amanar to get into the top tier of gymnasts for next year. Injuries are possible, but I'm not sure that she can get a **good amanar.

  18. I think Shawney only recently started the straddling crap on KCH and the like. She used to be one of the few who did a lot of straight body stuff. that said, executing the Weiler is a lot trickier than a cast. And Jordyn is leaner and has bigger biceps. Agreed though on the code issue. We'll see what SJ does...

  19. It's funny how everyone assumes Liukin is a done deal for the Olympics, considering she hasn't competed in about two years, and is still flitting around doing pointless ice shows instead of training seriously.