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Fri, Jun. 27th, 2008, 12:08 am
ic789: U.S.A. Olympic Gymnastics Trials

What a fabulous competition I was privileged to see this weekend in Philadelphia, PA! Overall, we’re going to be well represented in Beijing this year. The highlight for me was standing about ten feet away from Bela Karolyi as he was interviewed about the women’s competition. He's the Romanian who coached Nadia Comaneci and then defected to the U.S. (when communism was still around) and lives in Houston, TX. Marta, his wife now coaches the U.S. women's team.

The competition began on Thursday (19 June 08) with the first night of the men’s competition. On Friday, the women competed in their first round. I attended on Saturday for the men’s final round and Sunday for the women.

A couple of interesting things about the audience, many young gymnasts (male and female) attended with their clubs from around the country, and many came from clubs where the competitors train. Overall, the folks are short and highly spirited; most of the girls/women wear shorts and practical shoes (not a lot of flashy high fashion). There were even tailgate parties, which I hadn’t seen previously. I felt right at home as there were many on crutches and/or had wraps, and slings. One little girl even asked me if my ankle scar was from a gymnastics injury, she smiled when I told her that I fell down the stairs. ;)

MEN:
My seat was kitty corner behind the high bar, and I was able to see the rest of the events really well.

The men’s team was picked and here is the link to who will be going to Beijing. http://www.usa-gymnastics.org/Story.aspx?tabid=321&ArticleID=2267
Paul Hamm didn’t compete, but petitioned for and won a spot. He wore a brace on his arm and stated that he plans to compete as long as he’s healthy. My personal favorite is Joe Haggerty, although his routines weren’t filled with a lot of flash, he was consistent throughout all six events and was just amazing in his execution. My second favorite is Justin Spring, he’s a daredevil who must avoid more injury.

The pommel horse was almost everyone’s downfall, as most of them fell off. Their high bar routines were really beautiful and very competitive. Luckily, no one got hurt; although David Sender sat with ice on and off his ankle throughout and I believe it was way worse than a sprain.

WOMEN:
My seat was kitty corner from the uneven parallel bars, again I was able to get a good view of all the other apparatus.

The first two top women are on the team, and then ten were picked to attend the final training camp in Texas where the rest of the team will be named in July. Here’s who will go: http://www.usa-gymnastics.org/Story.aspx?tabid=321&ArticleID=2268
I believe that Shawn Johnson can win big as long as she maintains her focus, she hasn’t faltered yet but the Olympics can turn the most refined gymnast into jelly. Shayla Worley fell on her front off the high bar doing a release and it was a little scary, but she wasn't hurt and finished her routine. My favorites are Chelsie Memmel and Jana Bieger, both ‘come back kids’ who weren’t on the team four years ago. They threw down excellent routines full of consistency and strength. Alicia Sacramone makes me a little nervous as she isn’t as consistent as I’d like to see her, a little sloppy but a real powerhouse.

COACHES:
Interestingly enough, three athletes are coached by their fathers, who are well medalled gymnasts in their own rights. I’ve really enjoyed watching the father-child dynamics as the stakes have gotten higher; they are Chelsie Memmel, Nastia Liukin, and Sasha Artemev. And jana Bieger is coached by her gymnast Mom. It must be so amazing to share such a dream together.

This was the end with men's team and the women going to the camp. I couldn't stop smiling as i went to sleep last night!!