Post Mortem US Tokyo Team - Are we framing this the right way?
A month out from the US WAG team silver I've seen a lot of questions being asked about what brought us to that place. US domestic judging. Lack of international experience for US WAG gymnasts (because of COVID or because of the USAG culture of not sending WAG athletes on international assignments). Tom Forrester and his personal leadership qualities (and how those may have played a roll in Simone's condition). All of those things I think are reasonable things to discuss.
But I am honestly becoming increasingly uncomfortable with a narrative of "what if this gymnast went instead of that". While sports fans like to play what if's it seems to me that much of this narrative has been ignoring a fundamental truth. The US was competing team finals with a 3 person team against countries that were using 4. 3 up 3 count doesn't erase that advantage. The three remaining gymnasts on the US team after Biles pulled out each had to do at least one event they hadn't been planning to do and they had to do it perfectly. After watching a terrifying incident with their friend and a super human of their sport which may have happened to themselves in the past.
3 people can not be expected to do the job of 4 and it is inhuman to expect them to. Bruno's scheme to put his finger on the scales for countries he favored by forcing 4 person teams that place extreme pressure on the athletes deserves as much focus as any of the US program questions.
Instead of framing things as "this wouldn't have happened if [insert my favorite non-Olympian] was on the team" I think we should celebrate the poise and grit of the women who succeeded in circumstances that were unreasonable.
I think you frame it well. What did those three women accomplish that they may not have been expected to?
Grace had actually started the day expecting to perform on all four apparatuses even before Simone withdrew. But Grace was the one who had to be first up after watching Simone have a very uncharacteristically shaky vault and withdraw. Then Grace wasn't perfect -- she hit her feet on the bar. But what she did next is what set the tone for the day: she steadfastly refused to fall to pieces.
Jordan had to perform two events she hadn't planned on competing that day. She at first thought Cecille was joking when she was told to put on her grips to prepare to do bars. This after watching her friend/teammate/mentor's struggles and despite her lack of TF experience...
Suni, the youngest on the team, was suddenly thrust into the team leader role and had the bars routine of her life (and just about anyone else's life). The plan to rest her sore leg on the floor was, of course, out the window. Fortunately she and her coach managed to turn around the situation to use the unanticipated routine as a learning experience to re-strategize her routine for the AA final.
They all showed a heck of a lot of mettle for three young ladies who came into the day expecting to be the Supremes to Simone's Diana Ross. They *won* that freaking silver medal. And that should be celebrated.
Interesting that Spencer mentioned that US and Russia had same difficulty scores but lost to russia by 3.5 points just because execution. Thats counting 2 falls with russian team.
Looking ahead USA team need to really priotize clean gymnastics over difficulty.
Another thing to note, everyone's hit routine was not much difference to their home scores except Jordan Chiles. She had the outlier of disparity between USA judging scores and International scores.
Suni, Jade, Myk, Grace all scored not too much lower compared to USA scoring; somethings need to be analyzed for Jordan's hit routine that is not being creditted as well as it was in USA
And USA needs to find a balance of College and Elite programme. All the talent they are losing just because the athletes joined college is quite sad , athletes like Leanne Wong, Suni Lee, Grace, Kara Aeker are all not even 20 yet and has at least a whole quad ahead of them. Overtraining is possible making most not keen to come back?
I think with Simone's vault the US was counting basically two falls as well. But yes I think there are a lot of program level questions to be asked. I am just quite tired of people acting like some other gymnasts being selected would have made a difference. Treat the result as a wake up call for the program. Treat the medal like a victory for the athletes.