Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Can the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team Win Gold?


Congratulations to Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney for making it onto the U.S. Olympic Team! Is this the year that the U.S. women finally get a second team gold in gymnastics at the Olympics? The U.S. has been a dominant force in the women's team competition since Marta Karolyi took over the U.S. coordinator position in 2001, winning either gold or silver in every world or Olympic team competition since 2003. The team, however, has not won team gold at the Olympics under Marta, with the only Olympic team gold coming in 1996 when Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes, and the rest of the Magnificent Seven won in Atlanta.

I believe that this is the year. If you read my previous article, U.S. Olympic Team Prediction, you can see that we have some very strong gymnasts on our team this year.  Four of the five girls on the team were part of the Gold-medal-winning team at last year's World Championships in Tokyo, which is a very good indication of their ability.

The Olympics, though, represents an entirely different level of pressure, and in gymnastics, the pressure either produces beautiful routines or causes you to fall and destroy your chances. Major mistakes by Carly Patterson on the uneven bars in 2008, Courtney Kupets on the floor exercise in 2004, and Alicia Sacramone on beam and floor in 2008 cost the U.S. the gold at the last two Olympics.

One thing is for sure: the team score needed to win gold at the Olympics is always higher than the score achieved by the gold-medal team at the World Championships the year before. The U.S. won by over 4 points with a score of 179.411, but I think a score of closer to 185 will be needed to pull off the win.

In order to see the team's potential score, I averaged the scores the team members got at the trials and nationals as well as from the 2011 world championships (with the exception of Kyla Ross, where I used her scores from the most recent international competition because she was a junior last year).

[1] Scores in gray are not counted towards total under the assumption that those athletes will not be used in the 3-up 3-count format at the Olympics.

Half of the weight is given to scores from the world championship/international experience, and the other half is given to the scores received at the Nationals and Olympic Trials. I understand that the scores from the World Championships don't account for the increased difficulty in all of their events (like Gabby's uneven bar routine, Jordyn's beam and bars routines, and Aly's floor routine), but at the same time, international judges have always taken more deductions than the U.S. judges, so I believe that averaging the two is a decent, but not perfect, approximation. Most likely, Gabby will score much higher than a 15.173 on bars, but the rest of the scores actually seem pretty reasonable to me. With the obvious team potential of scoring close to 185, I think the U.S. is the favorite going into the Olympics.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Russians, Romanians, and Chinese all have athletes that were either injured, too young, or out of form at the last World Championships. Aliya Mustafina (RUS) is back with a vengeance after tearing her ACL last year, and little Larisa Iordache of Romania performed extremely well at her first big senior international competition at the European Championships, winning the gold in floor exercise and silver on the beam. The Romanian press is dubbing her the new Nadia, so watch out. Lastly, even though China looked frail last year (and the fact that you can't rely on specialists as much because the team only has five members), we still have to expect that they will be able to pull together a competitive team.

Check back for more in-depth analysis of the Russian, Romanian, and Chinese teams!

Photo courtesy of Ezra Shaw/Getty Images


"The Russians, Romanians, and Chinese all have athletes that were either injured, too young, or out of form at the last World Championships."

China's entire team was too young at the last Olympics.

Yang Yilin and Cheng Fei were definitely of age, but yeah, everyone else was probably 14 or 15. All the Chinese girls that are in consideration for the team this time around have either competed at the last Olympics or have been competing for multiple years on the senior tour. Won't be any He Kexin's who literally have their first international competition happen the year of the olympics.

Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock of the Olympics (copyright to Mike & Mike): Romanian women will win Olympic gold

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