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(7 votes, average 3.29 out of 5)

As in every Olympic year, the U.S. national (Visa) championship, which begins today in St. Louis, is reduced to a warm-up act for the Olympic trials. The national champions are really only halfway to their ultimate goal of making it to the Olympics.

Still, defending champions Danell Leyva and Jordyn Wieber (shown here), both of whom earned individual world titles in Tokyo last fall (he on parallel bars, she in the all-around), hardly want to slip in their own national rankings. But that may happen when you consider the depth of both fields in 2012.

Here are a few subplots to follow this weekend in St. Louis.

Jonathan Horton's health: Surgery on his left ankle after the Tokyo worlds was not the best way to prepare for an Olympic Games, but Horton had little choice. We'll see if his ankle, and other body parts, can hold up this month over four stress-building rounds of competition at Visas and trials.

Can Leyva repeat? With most gymnasts upgrading their routines for London, mistakes are likely to affect many in the field. 2011 bronze medalist John Orozco could be the new champion, as long as he avoids the collapse that crushed his American Cup dream earlier this year. And if Leyva, Horton and Orozco stumble at all, Chris Brooks or even Jake Dalton could rise to the top.

Can Wieber repeat? Like Leyva, Wieber has a few capable challengers to steal her title. Her two routines on uneven bars will be critical, particularly the back uprise-free hip-full pirouette sequence that follows her Maloney. Look for Alexandra Raisman, Gabrielle Douglas or Kyla Ross to challenge if they avoid big mistakes and Wieber falters.

The Battle for Bars: Competition for one of the three team-final spots on uneven bars is almost as intriguing as the all-around clash. Assuming Douglas, Wieber and Raisman are shoo-ins for the five-member team, U.S. National Team Coordinator Marta Karolyi has several in the mix for the third berth: Kyla Ross, Anna Li, Rebecca Bross, Nastia Liukin and Bridget Sloan. I am very interested to see how Sloan fares after such a lengthy break, because she fits the bars-beam void that Karolyi needs to fill.

What to do with McKayla Maroney? The world vault champion's biggest enemy in 2012 is the five-member Olympic team. Oh wait, the 2011 U.S. women's world team had only five gymnasts, so everyone did all-around in prelims. Maroney's scores on bars, beam and floor were dropped. Hmmm. In team finals, she did vault and floor. That she can win the Olympic gold on vault is a nice advantage when the Selection Committee deliberates.

Miscellaneous: While it has often been said that Oklahoma's Jake Dalton and Steven Legendre are competing for the same berth, the same could be said for Liukin and WOGA teammate Bross. If Bross can go clean both days, she'll have an edge over Liukin, who still must prove she's capable of contributing a high score on uneven bars. That Liukin competed only on beam at the U.S. Classic suggests her bars were not ready. What she showed on bars in podium training in St. Louis was a watered-down version of her 2008 routine (no straight-body cast handstands, inside-Stalders or elgrip-Endo). She may be planning to upgrade for trials at the end of the month.

Here's the meet schedule (note that the Senior Men will compete early Saturday):

Thursday, June 7

1 p.m. - Junior Men's Competition

6:30 p.m. - Senior Men's Competition

Friday, June 8

1 p.m. - Junior Women's Competition

6:30 p.m. - Senior Women's Competition

Saturday, June 9

11:30 a.m. - Senior Men's Competition

6 p.m. - Junior Men's Competition

Sunday, June 10

10 a.m. - Junior Women's Competition

2:30 p.m. - Senior Women's Competition

Comments (9)add comment

ChrisS said:

0
Bross and floor?
I thought Bross was only going to compete bars and beam?
 
June 07, 2012
Votes: -1

JC said:

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Come on, Dwight -- Becca isn't even training floor.
 
June 07, 2012
Votes: +0

Anonymous said:

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Bross Is ONLY doing Bars and Beam
"If Bross can go clean both days, and also perform well on floor exercise". It has been made well known that Bross is only competing Bars and Beam - just like Liukin. Did something change w/in the past day?
 
June 07, 2012
Votes: -2

hobbes said:

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IT'S NOT GOING TO BE THE SAME WITHOUT CHELLSIE MEMMEL THERE BUT I'M STILL GOING TO CHEER HER NAME LOUDLY JUST THE SAME AS IF SHE WAS!!!
 
June 07, 2012
Votes: +5

Sam said:

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I find the reduction to a 5 member team kind of cruel. It takes the chance away for so many people in a lot of different countries. People work their whole entire gymnastics career for this chance and then you make it even more impossible? Such a shame.
 
June 07, 2012
Votes: +7

Anonymous said:

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"If Bross can go clean both days, and also perform well on floor exercise".

I thought Bross wasn't doing FX? There were a ton of articles around the time of CG Classics stating she was just focusing on Bars and Beam. Did I miss something?
 
June 07, 2012
Votes: -2

Dowisk said:

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It says nothing in that article about Bross competing on floor, where are you all getting that from and I do not think Bross has a chance to make that team, if anything it will be Liukin or Sloan to fill the Beam, Bars spot that Marta is looking for
 
June 07, 2012
Votes: +1

Anon said:

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IMO, Raisman should not be a shoo-in for the team. She has been a bit inconsistent on the international stage and I would hope to see her prove 8 consistent routines at Nationals first.

On the Bross/ Liukin front, I would have said Bross has the edge, but she (like Raisman) tends to make big mistakes at on the international stage (and London will be the biggest international stage there is), so on that front (depending on Nationals) I would say Liukin is the better choice of those two for the bars and beam void.


 
June 08, 2012
Votes: +0

GoRussia! said:

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Dowisk, you read the article after the error was brought to their attention. It was then fixed. Everyone makes mistakes...As for Bross not making the team: You have NO idea of who will make the team. I'm not a huge fan of Bross, and I cringe at her wonky legs and mechanical dancing, but she is an amazing gymnast nonetheless. Gym fans love to try to predict who will be on the team, but anything can happen in gymnastics. Just ask Phillips, Zmeskal, Kim Kelly, Vise, Schwikert, Morgan White, McCool, Memmel...the list goes on and on. No one is a lock except for the number one ranked gymnast in the world, and she is probably under the most pressure.
 
June 08, 2012
Votes: +0

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