Reigning Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin earned the third highest score on beam at the US Classic in Chicago on Saturday, May 26 -- her first performance since announcing a comeback in October of 2011. The US Classic is one of the qualifiers to nationals, and a practice meet before the pressure-packed nationals and Olympic Trials in June.
Liukin's set was just .1 off of the top score, received by Alexandra Raisman and Jordyn Wieber, and her fluid style and flexibility are still at the top of the field. She has room to improve, too: her form was a bit messy on her dismount (back 2.5 twist), and some of her connections were slow, so her start vaule could still go up. If Liukin earns one of the highest bar scores at nationals and Olympic Trials, and remains in the top three on beam, I think she has a great shot at making the Olympic team to London. The front-runners for the team right now are most likely Wieber, Raisman, Gabrielle Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross -- and this group could use more depth on bars and beam.
Other athletes also impressed at the US Classic: Douglas earned the highest score on bars (15.70) with a phenomenal routine that included two sky-high reverse hechts (pike and straddle), but did not compete vault, so she didn't factor into the all-around standings. She put her hands down on a layout step-out on beam, but threw a great standing back full, and looked powerful and clean on floor, despite an out-of-bounds deduction on her Arabian double front second pass.
Sarah Finnegan, just 15, showed gorgeous form and presentation on three events, receiving the second-highest floor score and tying Liukin for third on beam. She also skipped vault. She is rumored to be training an Amanar vault. If she can add that to her repertoire she will be an all-around threat at nationals as well.
Six-time world medalist Rebecca Bross had a rough time on beam (fall on her Arabian double front dismount), but rallied to place third on bars with her usual aggressive style. She and Liukin are teammates at WOGA, and ironically, might be competing for the same spot on the Olympic team.
Ross looked a little off on vault and beam, but was dead-on on bars, earning second overall and showing that she could be another bar worker for team USA if necessary. Wieber, the 2011 world all-around champ, only competed on bars and beam, botching her bars set (missed pirouette at the beginning) but nailing beam to tie with Raisman for first.
In the all-around Raisman took top honors, followed by Ross, Kennedy Baker, and 2011 world team member Sabrina Vega. Raisman showed her usual solid performances and amazing power, winning both beam and floor. Her Amanar vault looked improved, though still sloppy in leg form. On beam she was a rock, looking confident and wobble-free throughout, and on floor she does one of the most difficult tumbling passes in the world (back 1.5 to Arabian double front, punch front layout.
Bridget Sloan, 2008 Olympian and 2009 world all-around champion, withdrew from the meet but will be competing at US nationals (June 7-10 in St. Louis, Missouri). Chellsie Memmel, another 2008 Olympian, only did beam, but had two falls early on (punch barani and back handspring swing down). She didn't meet qualifying criteria to advance to nationals, and as of now, it seems she won't be contending for the Olympic team.
Full scores are at the USA Gymnastics website, and I believe the video will archived there as well.
Who do you think will make the Olympic team? Name your Olympic picks.