Aug 20, 2013, 4:16 PM EST
Overarching storylines now that the U.S. gymnastics championships are over …
1. The women’s team doesn’t have legitimate replacements for the Fierce Five yet.
Good news for any 2012 Olympians looking to get back into the mix … Team USA still needs you. McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross put on a show at nationals, claiming all of the event gold medals (Ross: balance beam, uneven bars; Maroney: vault, floor exercise).
The only newcomer who set herself apart was all-around champion Simone Biles. With only a handful of juniors from this year’s competition moving to the senior ranks in 2014, there’s plenty of room, and plenty of need for the Fierce Five to return. Judging by this weekend’s performances — the USA could really use a Gabby Douglas uneven bars routine right about now.
2. The American men have some serious depth.
The U.S. men are finally getting a break after cycles of rebuilding after Olympics. The combination of a young Olympic team in 2012 and a great mix of specialists provides a luxury of depth for the first time in many years. In the past the men’s team has leaned heavily on one or two stars (Paul and Morgan Hamm, Blaine Wilson), but the World Championships team this year could be entirely made of men with Olympic and/or worlds experience.
It’s so deep that the 2012 U.S. all-around champion, John Orozco, didn’t make the World Championships team outright; he’s an alternate who could replace the injured Danell Leyva. Things are looking up for a program that has much to prove after their poor showing in London.
3. USA Gymnastics delivered big time for their audience.
USA Gymnastics gets a round of applause for their digital and social media efforts, especially by former University of Michigan gymnast Scott Bregman, who has changed the game for the 50-year-old institution. Up until last year there were few options to see junior portions of competitions, or even day one preliminary competitions for the sport’s most die-hard fans.
USA Gymnastics live streamed all major events this season. They also live streamed podium training, previously only open to the media, and added athlete interviews and vintage full broadcasts of domestic competitions dating to 1980. USA Gymnastics uploaded a staggering 1,200 videos from the weekend’s National Championships, totaling more than 72 hours of coverage. Their YouTube views totaled nearly 1.4 million during the five-day competition. The most watched video? Maroney’s night two vault.
4. Reputation still counts.
Gymnastics remains, in part, a subjective sport. In past decades and even under today’s revised scoring system, gymnasts have relied on reputation to get the benefit of the doubt, whether it’s from the team selection committee or from the judges.
Maroney has set the precedent of near perfect scores on vault. While she was great at nationals, the judges awarded a 9.7 execution score for a vault that was clearly inferior to her Olympic team final stunner that earned a similar 9.733. The good news? If she sticks the Amanar at the World Championships, we could see the first perfect 10.0 at a worlds under the new scoring system.
5. Mykayla Skinner to Worlds?
Three of four women’s spots on the World Championships team are already locked up: Biles, Maroney and Ross. There’s only one spot left and no standout specialists to fill it. Martha Karolyi has thrown surprises in the past, so don’t count out Mykayla Skinner.
Skinner, 16, lacks the polish of her teammates, but she boasts some of the most mind-blowing gymnastics out there, including a double twisting double layout on floor that if performed at the World Championships would bare her name in the Code of Points. She didn’t hit in night one, but she stuck the double twisting double cold Saturday, finishing third on the event behind Maroney and Biles. She can further her cause at the selection camp next month.
Bonus: Bats love gymnastics, too
During the first night of men’s competition a large bat frantically flew around the heads of the audience and commentators in the XL Center (video here). Nastia Liukin muted her mic a few times during the broadcast out of fear of the shrieking as the winged mammal flew by. The bat even got it’s own Twitter account (@PGChampsBat). The arena said it died of “natural causes” before the next day.
Dec 6, 2013, 9:06 PM EST
The U.S. Bobsled Team continued its golden start to the season, sweeping the two-woman and two-man World Cup races in Park City, Utah, on Friday. Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers and Olympic champion Steve Holcomb drove USA-1 sleds to victory at the 2002 Olympic track. Meyers, 29, notched her first career World Cup victory as a driver in her…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:18 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn safely made it down the mountain in her first competition in 10 months, finishing 40th out of 61 skiers at a World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday. The Olympic downhill champion completed the course in 1 minute, 59.22 seconds. German Maria Hoefl-Riesch won in 1:56.03 (results at bottom). “I was just too nervous,”…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:11 PM EST
Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal won his second straight World Cup race, taking a downhill in Beaver Creek, Colo., while no Americans finished in the top 10 on Friday. Svindal, the reigning world and World Cup downhill champion, clocked 1 minute, 44.50 seconds, in sub-zero temperatures in the first of three races this weekend. Austria’s Hannes Reichelt was second in…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:06 PM EST
Noelle Pikus-Pace continued her dominating start to the skeleton season, and this time she hasn’t been disqualified. The American won a World Cup event in her native Park City, Utah, with a two-run time of 1 minute, 39.54 seconds. She broke the track record in her first run by .11 of a second and then went…
Dec 6, 2013, 12:04 PM EST
A single U.S. speed skater won an event on the first day of the Berlin World Cup, but not the one many would have thought. Not two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis. Not world sprint champion Heather Richardson. Not world-record holder Brittany Bowe. Rather, it was Joey Mantia who won the 1500m in 1 minute, 45.80 seconds, .03 better than Poland’s…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:43 AM EST
Great Britain’s Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, who gained infamy for finishing in last place in 1988 Olympic ski jumping events, wants to jump at a World Cup event on New Year’s Day. Edwards, who turned 50 on Thursday, wants to be a fore-jumper rather than an actual competitor at an event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, as…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:10 AM EST
Yuna Kim stumbled out of one of three jumping passes in her competitive return from a foot injury but still posted her highest short program score since the Vancouver Olympics on Friday. The Olympic and world champion earned a 73.37 at the Golden Spin of Zagreb in Croatia. That’s higher than any woman’s short program…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:53 AM EST
Has Japan finally found the skater that can win the country its first gold medal in men’s figure skating? Yuzuru Hanyu just might be that man, the 18-year-old delivering a complete performance to capture the gold medal at the Grand Prix Final Friday in front of a home crowd, besting three-time world champion Patrick Chan.…
Dec 6, 2013, 5:31 AM EST
On rages the battle between the two best ice dance teams in the world. Friday at the Grand Prix Finals in Fukuoka, Japan, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White squeaked out the narrowest of margins against rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, taking the lead after the short dance, 77.66 to 77.59. “Wow,” remarked White…
Dec 5, 2013, 6:01 PM EST
Nelson Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president after spending 27 years in prison during an era of racial oppression, died at age 95 on Thursday. Mandela’s reach was global, in many aspects. Some of his most enduring images came with a backdrop of sports. He grew up an amateur boxer who admired the…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:46 PM EST
Curling officials want a mixed-gender event in the 2018 Olympics. “Mixed doubles is part of our sport that has taken off around the world,” World Curling Federation president Kate Caithness said, according to The Associated Press. Mixed doubles curling includes teams of one man and one woman, as opposed to the traditional four-person teams in the…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
Ryan Lochte is swimming again, a little over one month after tearing an MCL and spraining an ACL when he said a fan ran into him. He plans to be “back in full swing” after Christmas, according to NBC Charlotte. A November report said he would resume training in February. “I feel like a little kid…
Dec 5, 2013, 12:43 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn will ski competitively for the first time in 10 months on Friday, less than three weeks after partially tearing her ACL in a training crash. The Olympic downhill champion said Thursday she’s “confident and excited” about racing in a World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, according to The Associated Press. Vonn took her first…
Dec 5, 2013, 12:03 PM EST
Ron Burgundy is a connoisseur of the Winter Olympics. The Anchorman proved that on the “Dan Patrick Show” on Thursday, four days after commentating the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials. In the video above, Burgundy re-enacted Al Michaels‘ famous finishing lines from the “Miracle on Ice” game at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. For comparison’s sake, here’s Michaels’ call…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:29 AM EST
The first Olympic women’s ski jumping competition figures to be won by either Sara Takanashi or Sarah Hendrickson on Feb. 11. Japan’s Takanashi, 17, is the reigning World Cup champion. The American Hendrickson, 19, is the reigning world champion. Hendrickson is not a sure bet to compete in Sochi due to her knee injury, but when healthy they seem…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:24 AM EST
Tam Chua Puh, a 43-year-old pastry chef, turned in one of the more remarkable distance-running performances of the year when he was the first Singaporean to finish the Singapore Marathon on Sunday. Turns out, it was too good to be true. On Wednesday, Tam said he ran barely six kilometers of the 42-kilometer (26.2-mile) route,…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:58 AM EST
The Sochi Olympic torch relay, among other exploits, has included sled dogs and reindeer (and, it is expected, a dolphin). Add a camel to the list. A two-humped camel will carry an Olympic torch in the city of Chelyabinsk, the site above which a meteor exploded on Feb. 15. The Olympic torch relay is scheduled…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:23 AM EST
David Rudisha believes he can expand from the 800m, but not in the distance he’s talked about before. The Kenyan, both Olympic champion and world record holder in the two-lap race, is considering racing the 1500m before he retires. “I used to run 400m and through encouragement from my coach and friends, I committed myself to…
Dec 5, 2013, 8:17 AM EST
Lindsey Vonn is working her way back for Sochi, but it’s still unknown if Tiger Woods will be there in February. Woods was asked if he’s “making plans to be in Sochi” on Wednesday. “I think that’s just day to day,” Woods said at the Northwestern Mutual Challenge in Sherwood Oaks, Calif. “We just don’t know how her…
Dec 5, 2013, 7:20 AM EST
Mao Asada and Yuzuru Hanyu thrilled their home crowd Thursday in Fukuoka, Japan, the two Japanese skaters jumping out to healthy leads following their respective short programs at the Grand Prix Final. Hanyu, 18, delivered a world-record performance in his short, registering a score of 99.84 to build a healthy 12-point lead over Patrick Chan,…
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