We’ve got a special surprise for you loyal readers! As most of you know, the Good Guys generally stick to talking about the Mariners and Huskies. Joe’s yearly NBA posts come up but otherwise we stick to what we know. So, because the Olympics are the talk of the world we called in our gymnastics expert to give you the low-down on what to expect from team USA. Our expert happens to be Matthew and my sister, Rachel Long. She knows more about gymnastics than anyone I know and is just a big of fan of the sport than we are of the Huskies and M’s. If you want a quick preview, this is the place to be. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rachel Long.
I grew up in a sports family. Being the sister of Matthew and Andrew, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time at baseball fields, in the stands of bleachers, and yelling at the huskies from my couch believing that what I say will actually affect their performance. And, I’ve loved every minute of all of it. Nothing is better than a fall Saturday at Husky Stadium with my family.
Well…. almost nothing, because as much as I love every other sport, my obsession with gymnastics out rules them all. I have loved gymnastics for as long as I can remember. So much so that now it is my career. I spend the vast majority of my time coaching a gymnastics team. It is my job, my passion, and, most people would say, my life.
Most people go through years of their life not thinking a single thought about gymnastics. I can’t get my mind off of it. I over think it, analyze it, and drive friends crazy because I never shut up about it. My life is spent telling girls how to get better, how they can go higher, twist faster, and improve their scores. I analyze gymnastics videos trying to learn from the technique of the best gymnasts in the world. So when I watch gymnastics, I pick it apart. I look for every error, comment on every deduction, and yell at gymnasts and coaches just as you do at the Mariners. Sometimes, because of my knowledge level and “expertise” I find myself wondering if I have lost a little of the joy and amazement that I has as a young girls watching the Magnificent Seven win gold at the 96 Olympics.
But, then the Olympics come around again. Every four years, the world turns their eyes to gymnastics. A sport that is often forgotten is suddenly thrust into the spotlight and the world marvels at these seemingly impossible moves that these young girls make look easy. As I watch the games with my family and friends, their comments, questions and astonishment bring me back to why I love gym in the first place. No other sport is like it. It is exciting, terrifying, and beautiful all in one. The skill level, power and strength that these teenage girls have astounds you. The focus and heart that they compete with leaves you sitting on the edge of the couch wondering if in a single second all their dreams will fall apart.
I am okay with the fact that most people could care less about gymnastics. But, as you sit at home watching these Olympics, try to feel a little of the magic of gymnastics. Let yourself be pulled in. Root for these girls who have spent their whole lives working for this one moment. And then when the games end, you can go back to pretending like you don’t care.
So, from a gymnastics junkie to a four-year fan, here is your guide to the US Olympic Gymnastics team ….
Many would say that this is the best gymnastics team the US has ever had. Five girls, none over the age of 18, make up the squad who goes into the games as the favorite to win gold. Here are the girls
Jordyn is the reigning world champion and a favorite to win All Around gold in London. She is known for her power and athleticism and excels at floor and vault. Jordyn has won every major meet she has entered this year until three weeks ago when she lost for the first time at Olympic Trials to up and comer Gabby Douglas. Some would say that Gabby is peaking at the right time to give Jordyn a run for gold. In my opinion, sometimes people get tired of the old favorites. Weiber has been so good for so long that it can almost be a little boring. Though only 17 years old, Jordyn has been around and won every major meet in the World. Many gymnastics fans have fallen in love with Gabby because she is young, new and different. However, in my opinion Jordyn is the one to watch. She has all the skills, focus, and mind-set to win it all. Jordyn is one of the toughest competitors I have ever seen in gymnastics. If she has a weakness, it is on bars. Though she can score well, she does not have the high-flying skills of Douglas or beautiful lines of Kyla Ross. Watch for Jordyn to consistently hit her routines with very few visible errors and with mental toughness beyond anyone. Maybe she doesn’t have the personality of Gabby Douglas but Jordyn does some pretty great gymnastics.
As I mentioned above, Gabby is the talk of gymnastics right now. After moving two years ago to be coached by Olympic champion Shawn Johnson’s coach, Gabby has been on the rise. She has continued to improve and astound the world, climaxing in her win at the Olympic Trials. Wait till you see her bar routine. This girl flies. I had the chance to watch her compete in person twice this year and her bars is unbelievable. I find myself holding my breath through it as she barely grabs onto the bar after each release move that seem to go ten feet into the air. She has been dubbed “the flying squirrel” by Olympic team coordinator Marta Karolyi because of the way she swings bars. Gabby can also be amazing on every other event especially floor. However the operative word is “can.” For as amazing as Gabby can be, she can also be disastrous. She has been at times labeled as a head case and is very inconsistent, especially on beam. This is the main reason I have a hard time loving Gabby. As great as she can be, I am scared to see her put up on beam in team finals. I have nightmares of the United States losing out on gold because of a fall from Douglas on beam. Though I hope not, I expect Gabby to have a fall or major error at some point in time during the Olympic games. I just hope it doesn’t cost team USA or Gabby herself a medal.
Ally fought her way onto this team by pure work, determination and guts. Ally doesn’t have some of the beauty of the other girls and doesn’t always have the same skill set. However what she does have is much-needed on this young inexperienced team- consistency. Ally can be counted on to go up and hit her routines with no major errors. She has proven this at meet after meet and is on this team to be the rock that the US needs. Ally, at the oh so old age of 18, is the team captain and the calming influence on the some of the very young girls. Ally has a big weakness on bars and that should keep her out of competing for the all around. But, on every other event she can put up some huge number that the US needs. Her vault is messy and I predict it will not score well at the Olympics. But her floor and beam are astounding and I hope to see her make it into finals on both these events. Her first tumbling pass on floor (round off 1 ½ twist step out to double Arabian immediate punch front layout, for anyone who cares!) leaves you wondering how in the world any human can do that. I root for Ally because you can see that she has worked so hard for everything she has. I would love to see her have her own moment at the Olympics.
Besides Weiber, Kyla has been my favorite gymnast to watch all year. She is the youngest on the team at 15 years old and many wonder if her inexperience will hurt her. I’m betting it won’t. Kyla has all the makings of a world class gymnast- clean lines, big skills, and focus that never seems to waver. She showed all through this season that she could be counted on to hit her routines over and over with great execution. I believe that the international judges will love Kyla’s look and gymnastics. Kyla is mainly on this team because she can be counted on to put up a huge bar score, which is the event team USA is weakest on. Kyla’s bars is beautiful. At some meets this year, her scores have even topped Douglas. Kyla can also shine on beam with a difficult set that she performs with perfect form. On floor and vault, Kyla can be counted on for clean performances with solid scores but will not bring in the numbers of some of the other girls. Kyla may not be the main star of these games but she will help the US to be close to that Gold medal and I expect to see Kyla around for a few more years after the olympics.
Maroney is on this team for one reason- Vault. I have not read or heard anyone disagree that this 16-year-old girl from Long Beach, California is without question the best vaulter in the world. Her score on vault will give the United States a huge score advantage over any other country. I’ll try to summarize her vault in a way that a non-gymnastics person can understand. She sprints down the runway as fast as possible, does a round off so she hits the spring-board facing backwards, as she flies head first at top speed into a non moving extremely hard object she turns upside down and bounces off her hands on the vault table, and finally from here she flips off her hands and, while rotating with her body completely straight, completes two and a half twist before landing on her feet. And she does it in a way that makes it look easy. Other athletes can do this vault, including Weiber and Douglas. Nobody can do this vault the way Mckayla Maroney can. Not only does this help the US during team finals, it almost guarantees the US another medal. Maroney will make it to vault finals and she will win. (I’m knocking on wood as I write this because I don’t want to jinx her…. But really she’s that good!) We might not see Maroney compete any other events though I would love to see her floor routine. But like I said, Mckayla was put on this team to vault and she will do that well.
These five girls come in as the favored team. The US are the defending world champions and all of these girls except Kyla were on that winning team. They are very, very good. However, this can mean nothing in gymnastics. In the team finals, one fall can cost you a medal and many countries are biting the heels of the US team. Expect the fight to be between the historically top four countries in gymnastics- Russia, Romania, China, and The USA.
– Rachel Long
(Ed. note) I believe gymnastics starts tomorrow (Sunday) during prime time, if you are interested in watching.