2016 Olympic Trials Day 2: The Whatever Five are Named
Simone Biles, Gabrielle Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, and Aly Raisman will represent the United States at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Ashton Locklear, Mykayla Skinner, and Ragan Smith will serve as reserve athletes.
According to Marta, Olympic Trials had zero bearing on the selection of this team and explains why everyone and their uninformed four year fan friends saw this team coming from a mile away. Marta used the same formula as in 2012 to create this team, which is a pretty simple formula. Take three parts all arounder and two parts gymnasts who compliment weaknesses of said all arounders, stir and let sit overnight. Despite an abysmal beam showing at Trials, Gabby is a top all arounder and in addition to that she compliments Aly’s weakness on bars and Simone’s not-absolutely-out -of-this-world-fantastic-ness on bars. Madison ranks among the world’s top bar workers (GymMapStics still finds the 2015 uneven bars final completely null and void. Half the field does not ever deserve a gold medal and if that happens then there is something wrong with the competition). Laurie can also contribute on bars and her beam set alongside Simone’s and Aly’s will create an amazing lineup.
Speaking of lineups, here is the Official GymMapStics Olympic Lineup:
VT: (Laurie) Gabby, Aly, Simone
UB: Quals – Aly, Simone, Gabby, Madison, Team Final – Gabby, Laurie, Madison
BB: Laurie, Aly, Simone (Gabby)
FX: Gabby, Simone, Aly (Laurie)
The vault lineup is a no brainer when one gymnast on the team competes a vault that does not even start from a 10.0 in NCAA. Gabby in top form can earn a solid score for her double twisting Yurchenko and apparently had a recent knee injury which suggests she will not return to an Amanar vault any time soon. Laurie does not compete a second vault which means she will not attempt to qualify into the vault final and her double twisting Yurchenko that she almost lands back on the vault table would not make a large contribution to the team final so she should compete in the space filler spot.
The uneven bars qualifications lineup is less clear than the vault lineup. Madison Kocian will anchor the lineup and Gabby will contribute on uneven bars during both the qualifications and team final. Simone and Aly will both compete early in the lineup to attempt to qualify into the all around final. In this scenario, Laurie will only compete on uneven bars in the team final which is not ideal because Laurie really should compete on bars before the team final but it does not make sense for her to attempt to qualify into the all around or uneven bars final. Laurie and Gabby’s average scores across P&G Championships and Trials have a difference of only .03 which means their lineup positions in team final are interchangeable. Gabby would be a strong lead off and Laurie could have a lower pressure middle of the lineup position for her first major international competition.
Similarly to vault, the beam and floor lineups do not have many different possible permutations. Laurie, Aly, and Simone will compete in the team final on beam and Gabby will compete in prelims for the all around spot. A million years ago in 2012 people claimed Gabby would never ever compete on beam in a team final event but she did. If a member of the team does not receive connection bonuses or has a McCool style mental meltdown Gabby could easily be subbed in. The floor lineup does not matter much either as long as Simone and Aly take the last two spots.
This team has the potential to earn a crapton (official term) of medals. Simone’s upgraded vault makes her a contender for the vault gold medal and she has won all the World Championships gold medals on floor for the entire quad, which rightly puts her as the Olympic gold medal favorite. Aly’s Brestyan legs should catapult her into the floor event final where she can attempt to defend her Olympic title. Simone has earned the gold medal on beam at the past two World Championships and has only improved throughout the quad which again makes her a medal contender. Aly and Laurie also could compete for a beam medal and it will be interesting to see which gymnast places in the top five in qualifications but cannot compete in the event final because her country has too much depth. Gabby and Madison have a high chance of qualifying into the uneven bars final because the same rule that will prevent three Americans from competing on beam will sideline a few Russians on bars.
The alternates form a similar puzzle to the core team. Ragan Smith is a solid all arounder who could replace any athlete on any event but the team would highly benefit from her on beam. As another one of the world’s top uneven bars workers, Ashton could fill in for any gymnast on uneven bars and in a complete Zika fueled catastrophe she could compete on beam. Despite having the best all around meets of her life at Olympic Trials, Mykayla Skinner would not be called in to replace an all around gymnast. She would replace Aly or Simone due to her strength on vault and floor. Let’s be honest though, none of these gymnasts will ever replace any of the members of the team. Each of the alternates placed second on one event with Ragan taking second place on beam, Skinner on vault, and Ashton on bars.
Seven out of the top eight gymnasts at Olympic Trials earned either a spot on the team or an alternate place. Maggie Nichols, who placed sixth all around, fifth on vault, ninth on floor, eight on beam, and fourth on floor, did not even receive an alternate consolation spot. Gymnastics is not a fair sport but this omission appeared rather baffling at first. Maggie could have been the all arounder alternate but the decision may have come down to having a standout or top 2 event and she did not place higher than fourth place on any single event. Additionally, Maggie recently had knee surgery and her ability to return and place in the top ten at Trials should be commended. Marta stated that Maggie would have needed and Amanar to make the team but sadly Maggie’s injury resulted from pushing too much difficulty through attempting an Amanar. Maggie recently retired from elite and will go on to have an amazing career at Oklahoma.