They did it. And they did it well (beating second place Russia by over five points and third place Romania by over seven). Congratulations to Team USA’s women’s gymnastics team on winning team gold (for the first time since 1996)! Magnificent Seven then, Fab Five now. So many kinds of awesome.

My mom wrote this to me this morning –  “They didn’t choke, they don’t look like little emaciated underfed girls, and they really stepped up when the pressure was on.  I can’t believe the hard tricks that they all do now……watching them last night brought back lots of gym memories.”

Couldn’t agree more with all of it. BOOM!


Jordyn Wieber.

USA Olympic gymnast Jordyn Wieber was royally snubbed on Sunday (7/29). Though she finished with the fourth-best score of all competitors, she will not be competing for all-around gold on Thursday. Wieber, the 2011 World All-Around Champion, was one of only four female gymnasts to score 60 points or above. But she failed to qualify for the individual all-around finals.

Confused? Pissed off? Understandable.

Wieber is not in contention for all-around gold Thursday because, of the three competitors that finished above her in the standings, two happen to be from the USA (Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas). And an Olympic rule limits each participating country to two finalists.

Maybe she was doomed before her first salute – only four reigning world champs have ever followed up with Olympic gold. Maybe she deserved the scores she received – she notably bobbled on beam and floor. But this was an epic disappointment for a gymnast who has literally worked her entire life for this.

I hurt for her, and I’m incensed that this rule is so limiting, penalizing countries with depth on their squads. The fact is, Wieber is not alone in her rule-based snubbing. The top 24 gymnasts in the Sunday qualifier were eligible to move on to the coveted all-around, but if a gymnast made the cut but ended up third on her own team, she was out of luck. This list notably includes Anastasia Grishina (Russia), as well as Jennifer Pinches (Great Britain), and Yao Jinnan (China). Here’s the complete list (with Q next to those who made the cut. Notice the missing Q’s next to the names in the true Top 24):

This is disgraceful to the sport of gymnastics and to the Olympic Games. The Olympics are supposed to be the greatest stage for sport there is. But when one of the best gymnasts in the world is denied a chance to compete for individual all-around gold while athletes who scored between five and six points (not tenths, points) less move on, something is terribly wrong.

After the men’s team faltered in their chance for team gold Monday, the American women will take their turn Tuesday. My gut tells me that Jordyn Wieber will come out on fire, ready to show the world that she is the reigning AA champ for a reason.

Olympic Decisions.

Qualifier coverage is ramping up with the London Olympics looming mere weeks away. In the pool, Michael Phelps is working to qualify in enough events to go for eight golds again. For track and field, hurdler Lolo Jones was able to nab an Olympic team spot last weekend despite injury concerns. These stories are certainly notable and available, but one (summer games) sport in particular seems to enrapture the world every four years – and that is gymnastics.

For a sport that so few have access to throughout most of the year (from both a viewing perspective and via direct involvement), gymnastics owns a cult-like following when the Olympics roll around. There is a crescendoing buzz surrounding the women’s trials (which begin this evening at 9 PM on NBC) – who the favorites are, who will make the cut, who can make a comeback. The drama surrounding the team selection intensifies this year in that the pool of competitors is so strong, yet for the first time, only five girls can make the team. Until 2000, the squad consisted of seven. From 2000-2008, six girls could make the cut. But now it is down to five. In a sport where consistency is strived for yet unpredictability reigns, choosing the five representatives that will attempt to bring team gold to the USA for just the second time ever (1996’s Magnificent Seven were the first and only… cue memory of Kerri Strug’s vault) is a daunting task for head coach Martha Karolyi (who will actually have four choices to make after it becomes clear who wins the individual all-around – an automatic bid).

L to R: Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber

The biggest rivalry for the all-around title will almost certainly come down to Jordyn Wieber (the reigning World Champion) and Gabby Douglas (nicknamed the “Flying Squirrel” for her unreal bar routine), two incredibly talented 16-year-olds, both of whom will likely make the squad no matter who takes top honors this weekend. With those two spots all but locked, the three girls who will make up the rest of Team USA is anyone’s guess. In the Olympics of years past (with larger squads), one or two-event specialists would often be selected. But this year, that tactic seems wasteful.

L to R: Bridget Sloan, Alicia Sacramone, Nastia Liukin

Ali Raisman, Kyla Ross, Elizabeth Price, and Sarah Finnegan are all strong candidates for the 3-4-5 spots, but they will also be competing against 2008 Beijing olympians Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan – all trying for comebacks. Trying might be as far as that goes though – the aforementioned “strong candidates” all finished ahead of the Beijing competitors at the Visa National Championships earlier this month.

I remember hearing many years ago that enrollment in gymnastics goes up in the year that follows the Olympics. I never saw it in my gym, and I’m not sure if that statistic is even true, but I could believe it. Little girls across America watching only slightly bigger girls performing indescribable feats of athleticism on pieces of wood and leather, chalk clouds erupting from grips slapped together pre and post bar routine. The thud of 90-odd pounds of muscle slamming into a bright blue mat, stuck landing, emphatic salute. Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that? I have had my share of angst when it comes to this sport, looking back at the sheer amount of time dumped into something so far off the general radar, something so unbelievably challenging. But I believe I am better for having been a part of it, and you can be damn sure I’ll be watching every second of it I can.