Flipping Out – Women’s Gymnastics Trials

Little girls in leotards-i.e., female gymnasts – had their trials on Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia, and a few more Olympians were named. The trials were only one step in putting together the team, as two team members, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin, were actually named to the team. Another 12 hopefuls will go to a camp in Texas and perform for Martha Karolyi and the selection committee. The team will be named after the camp, and will be chosen based on their performances at the camp as well as previous competitions.

This selection system has led to some fantastic finishes by the U.S. team, but at the same time, it is also a system begging for corruption. The announcers have said many times that the gymnasts are all aiming to impress Martha Karolyi. A system where one person wields so much power is frightening.

A few more thoughts from the women’s competition:

– Chelsie Memmel, over the hill at 19, was hurt at the trials in 2004. She hasn’t competed since 2006, and then she showed up at the national championships two weeks ago, and kicked ass. On behalf of old ladies every where – go get it done at the camp, Chelsie! In two years, we’ll take you out for a drink to celebrate.

– Scoring has undergone a major change since the last Olympics. Routines and skills are given two scores: a degree of difficulty and an execution score. Because of this change, the perfect ten is gone. Gymnasts are pulling in scores of 16.25 or 15.9. Yet, the announcing team of Tim Daggett, Elfie Schlagel, and Al Trautwig did not explain this change until about twenty minutes through the broadcast. Most casual fans watch the sport every four years and don’t keep up with the changes that happen after every Olympiad. Those sort of changes need to be explained at the beginning of the broadcast, and several times throughout.

– Shawn Johnson is being compared to Mary Lou Retton, and I can see why. She’s tiny and powerful, and seems to be having as much fun as Mary Lou did back in 1984.

– Jana Bieger became one of my favorites simply by her choice of floor routine music. Her routine began and ended with “El Matador,” by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. It is also the entrance music for one of my favorite mixed martial artists, Roger Huerta. Unfortunately, her routine did not go well, so that will probably be the last time we see that.

– If you think Nastia Liukin looks like an old Russian gymnast, there is good reason for that. Her father was a Russian gymnast, and is now her coach.

– Alicia Sacramone, the only gymnast who can buy beer, had one of those terrible trials four years ago. She fell off the beam and didn’t quite recover. She stuck with the sport, and is now one of the top prospects to make the team.

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