The highly-anticipated world team trials is upon us. Unbeknownst to most of the gym community, the camps at the OTC have long been open to the public. In an age where so many transparency issues have gone wrong, the men have been leaders in allowing the public to watch their meets. It’s simply their national governing body that has, at times, not placed value in also sharing their talent with the world.
Here are the facts. From the eight men team that the selection committee will be choosing from, with only five available slots, Team USA is going to have holes. There are really no ifs, ands, or buts around that. Keeping that in mind, be pragmatic during the selection process. Realize, that there is going to be at least one weak spot on the team as is the case with most of the rest of the world.
The committee members for this selections process are as follows:
Jake Dalton – Athlete’s Representative
Russ Fystrom – Coach Representative
Brett McClure – High Performance Director
Mike Serra – Coach Representative
J.D. Reive – Athlete, Coach, Administrative Representative
Dennis McIntyre – Vice President for Men, ex officio, voice – no vote
The 8 athletes in the selection process are:
Colin Van Wicklen
Trevor Howard (replacing Donothan Bailey)
If the committee chooses to take the top 5 from the AA at Nationals in a 5-3-3 format with the top scorers from that group competing as they ranked, the team would ironically only be comprised of four gymnasts: Sam, Yul, Allan, and Alec. Donathan never outscored any of them to be in the top three team members of each event. If each of the four gymnasts matched their best score, the team total would be 259.3. For the four gymnasts listed, the averages of this proposed team from nationals would still score well into the 250s with a 255.05, which will be competitive in Doha.
For a myriad of reasons, this max score likely won’t happen exactly as is. Scoring is always a little different across competitions and we’ve yet to see how Marvin can factor into this team scenario. This scenario also puts Sam doing AA in qualifications, team finals, all-around finals, and additional routines on whichever other final he might make. Depending on the head coach for the team, Sam, or Yul, could be taken out of the AA in team final to rest and prepare for the rest of the competition. For example, if Mark Williams were to be named head coach of this team, there is a probability that he would take Sam out of the line-up on rings in team final for stamina reasons as he did in 2014 and 2016. Other coaches might have other solutions to give certain gymnasts a break to optimize medal potential.
The mostly known facts:
Sam is going – likely even if his hand touches the mat an equal number of times to his feet touching the mat, he’s going. There is no one in the country, nor has there been in the last five years that can touch him if he is healthy. He also owns the second highest AA score in the world this year behind Kohei Uchimura’s 87.75.
Yul is likely also going, unless there have been significant changes in his injury. He’s clean, beautiful to watch, and also highly consistent. The 2017 world championship bronze medalist will hopefully have the opportunity to equal or better is results from Montreal.
The giant question marks:
Marvin: Is he still injured? Has he recovered enough to compete well? If he’s still injured, will the selection committee consider naming him to the team still a month out from the competition? Will him showing up with a strong enough PH, SR, VT, HB combination make it impossible for the committee to not choose him?
Trevor: The replacement for Donothan Bailey – why was he chosen over someone from the Pan AM championships who would likely be in better shape having just competed? His highest score was on rings and it was only about two-tenths higher than Yul. Where does the committee see him fitting into this team?
Akash: Akash could be immensely valuable to TEAM USA, but is he consistent enough to do so? After having one stellar day of competition in Boston followed by one that might leave the committee wanting, he will need two great days of competition to earn one of the five spots to Doha.
Filling in the 5-3-3 format puzzle.
Allan: Will the committee see the value in taking someone who will hit over someone with a higher scoring potential?
Alec: Alec provides a world-class pommel set and a consistent parallel bar set. Does his pommel horse set alone warrant a return trip to Doha this year?
Van Wicklen: Colin has a lot of power on vault and a much needed score on high bar, however, the approximate .8 given on high bar is equally as lost on other events he may need to fill in on to relieve either Sam or Yul from doing the all-around three in three consecutive competitions.
With four members of the team well-established, in my opinion, the committee will need to look at who they could substitute in for the maximum additional points. The most easily targeted event in need for substitution is high bar followed by rings and then vault. The most logical piece to this puzzle would be a healthy Marvin. Should he not be healthy, Van Wicklen would be the next most logical choice for his high bar alone.
In terms of the alternate, I believe Akash is going to end up in this role again. He is a stable gymnasts with a phenomenal Pbar set, but for this puzzle, this seems to be the most practical role.
If there are no injuries, and if everyone hits to their capabilities, I believe the team would be Sam, Yul, Allan, Alec, and Marvin.
You can watch the competition live on USA Gymnastics’ Youtube channel. The competitions will be Thursday, September 20th at 11am MST and Saturday, September 21st at 3:30pm MST.
Article by: Kensley Behel