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It’s tough to do gymnastics with your feet off the ground and your head in the clouds.
Enjoying the moment, which in this case is a great qualification round, is necessary but regaining focus and perspective has to take priority. Round one (prelims) was great, but it wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans if we couldn’t follow it up with a similar performance in team finals.
Martha is not one to let the mind start to get off track, so the day after prelims it was back to the gym. After a rest in the A.M., normal training resumed in the afternoon. Coaches were mindful of the “day after competition energy void” so we kept a close watch, modified requirements, and lessened the hard landings.
The Line-up dilemma
Worlds would not be Worlds if there wasn’t a little controversy thrown in the mix. Anna Li, who had been pulled from the line up due to a stomach strain was starting to gain momentum in training. Her bars were looking very strong and consistent. Sabrina, who was assigned to the bar line up for finals, struggled in training this day. This opened the door to consider Anna for bars. Anna was potentially USA’s best bar performer even with the slightly watered down set that she had been training in order to protect her abdominal strain. The dilemma was Anna’s lack of experience in international competition and the uncertainty of whether her stomach would endure. We left training with doubt as to who would represent USA on bars.
We had some decisions to make for the team finals line up. Prelims used 5 team members to count the 4 highest scores on each event. Finals was the nail biting format of 3 members up and 3 members count on each event. A mistake in this format is crucial. The vault line up was cut and dry. Ali, Jordyn, and Makayla’s scores combined for the best vault squad in the world during prelims. Beam was also fairly easy to decide. A small question existed as to whether to use Gabby or Sabrina. Sabrina got the nod as she was a proven consistent lead off score. Bars and Floor were left up in the air to be decided after another day of training.
Monday October 10th was slated for 2 workouts. The A.M. training would be short and the P.M. be full training. We wanted to try to mirror the competition starting time for the next day, thus the rationale for doing full training in the P.M. Makayla showed determination to make the floor line up and likewise Anna and Sabrina each presented a case for themselves as related to the bar line up.
The final line up decisions had to be made and turned in on Monday. Makayla’s floor routine in prelims was not up to her normal standards and Sabrina was rock solid. Makala potentially could score higher due a higher start value, so it was just a matter of considering if she would redeem herself in finals. Consideration was also given to the fact that since Vault was Makayla’s only other event, she could use the warm up gym to prepare while we were competing beam and thus be ready when we rotated to floor. Since Sabrina was in the beam line up, this was not an option for her. Strategically this gave Makayla an advantage so we opted to use her as our lead off on floor. As for the bar line up, we opted to go with the proven and consistent Sabrina. My heart went out to Anna, she worked hard, she earned a spot, but opportunities are limited by the format.
As I tweeted and Facebook posted, tick… tick…tick, the day crawled by second by second. We did have an A.M. training at the competition venue in the warm up gym. This would basically serve as extra warm up time for the competition. Our rotation for the competition was based on our preliminaries placement. The top 2 teams start on Vault, 3rd and 4th start on Bars, 5th and 6th start on Beam and 7th and 8th begin on Floor. The A.M. training was set up the same way. Since we had no intention of Vaulting or Tumbling in the AM we decided to report 30 minutes late, use our Vault time for warm up, do Bars and Beam and then leave 30 minutes early. This is strategy to limit the time in the gym.
Tick… tick… tick. Departure time was 3:30 for a 4:15 scheduled warm up. The travel time to the gym was usually 15 minutes by bus, thus putting us at the Venue 30 minutes early. This was not ideal but since the bus transportation ran on the half hour, our only other option was a 4:00 bus, 4:15 arrival which would put us in a rush and potential panic situation.
Competition warm up was traditional format where you start on your second competitive event. The warm up gym was set up with 2 sets of bars and 2 beams so each country took one for 30 minutes. Floor and Vault was split 15 minutes for each country. Warm up and WAIT is what this format should be called. We were done with everything we needed in 10-15 minutes on bars and beam, 10 minutes on Floor and Vault thus leaving 15-20 minutes of sit around time prior to rotating to the next warm up event.
At no time during the warm up did there appear to be any jitters. The girls seemed to have their game faces on and were relaxed yet presented an “all business” demeanor. It was time to March in.
The arena was buzzing
Team USA competed first on vault. Scores during prelims were very tight on this event, so much so that the WTC powers delivered a message to the judging panels to lighten up a bit. They did. The same vaults that we did in prelims scored 0.3-0.4 higher in finals. USA was off to a great start. After one rotation we had more than a 2 point lead on Russia.
Bars is our scary event. Bars is Russia’s “ace in the hole.” We had no grand illusions of beating them on this event, but wanted to lose as little ground as possible going into the last two events. The mission was accomplished when all 3 of our girls hit their routines. Russia got away with an “incidental touching of the athlete” during her performance when their coach “touched” Komova during her layout Jaeger. No deduction was taken. It is amazing what the judges “Don’t see” when they choose to.
On to Beam where we were the first team up. Beam is always the heart stopping event. With only a 1.5 lead going into balance beam, a couple mistakes and that lead would disappear pronto. That was IF there were mistakes. Sabrina, Ali and then Jordyn were all rock solid. Russia followed us and had to count a fall and several major wobbles. Our lead increased to 3 points going into floor.
Russia started off on floor and although they had some bright spots, Komova did not perform well. All we had to do was to dodge a total melt down and we were going to be World Champions. Fresh out of the warm up gym, Makayla started us off with a beautiful routine, totally redeeming her day one performance. Jordyn followed with a solid set. Mihai watered Ali’s tumbling a bit, knowing that all she needed to do was to finish the routine. Ali put the finishing touch on another perfect day for USA.
In two days of what some consider the most stressful competition anywhere, Team USA performed 32 straight routines without a mistake. This is simply amazing! In the past we have had the Super 7, and the Magnificent 7. My name for this team is THE MACHINE. Incredible chemistry, Incredible effort, composure, focus and energy.
THE MACHINE is the 2011 WORLD CHAMPION!
-by John Geddert,
2011 World Team Head Coach