It wasn't pretty, but Jordyn Wieber took a significant first-day lead at the senior Visa Championships. Her 59.85 did not include any falls, but she struggled throughout her opening routine on balance beam, and closed the evening with a wild ride on uneven bars. Still, she was one of only a few gymnasts to avoid a fall, and many big names had more than one big error.
"I wasn't too nervous but I just had to get a few jitters out," said Wieber, who turned 16 last month. "I definitely think floor and vault were really strong. I'm definitely going to focus on bars and beam on Saturday.
Alexandra Raisman finished second with 58.00, opting to ditch the Amanar she warmed up and use a Yurchenko-double twist instead. She said her coach, Mihai Brestyan, made the decision not to risk the Amanar.
"I trust him," Raisman said. "He wanted me to play it safe."
Third went to Chellsie Memmel (57.35), who went four-for-four, regardless of low Start Values in places. In fact, her routines looked very similar to those that she used to rally the U.S. team to the 2003 world team title in Anaheim. She's still a crowd-pleaser, and will only need to insert some more difficult skills to please the selection committee that will choose the world and Olympic teams in the coming year.
Prior to St. Paul, coach Valery Liukin said that defending champion Rebecca Bross (56.90) would not be 100 percent in August, and he was right. She promptly slipped off bars on a Tkatchev in rotation one, then missed a foot on a back tuck on beam. Her second fall on beam came on her Arabian double front dismount, when she put her hands down behind her.
McKayla Maroney finished fifth with 56.30, but only because those below her had more mistakes. Maroney's lone bright spot was her impeccable Amanar vault.
Alicia Sacramone and Shawn Johnson both showed different levels of readiness, but each had something positive to show. Sacramone was clean and powerful on vault, even if she went out of bounds on floor and later sat down a front layout. Johnson did a solid double-twisting Yurchenko, hit a clean bars routine and showed promise on beam, the event she won in Beijing.
"I definitely think I showed that I went back and worked hard," Johnson said. "I'm in it for the long run. I want this really bad."
Said Sacramone: "It's not necessarily the right time to peak here. I think on Saturday you'll see a vast improvement."
With the Tokyo world championships less than two months away, U.S. national team coordinator Marta Karolyi and her selection committee will need much more polish and consistency from the current crop of seniors. Saturday will give everyone a chance to make a stronger impression.
• The first rotation included a major falls from big names: Rebecca Bross slipped off on a Tkatchev; Alicia Sacramone couldn't save a low front layout after a 2.5 twist and sat down; McKayla Maroney fell forward after a double Arabian, and so did Gabrielle Douglas. On beam, Jordyn Wieber fought through most of her beam set and managed to stay on.
• Alexandra Raisman warmed up her Amanar vault, but they seemed incomplete and she was bouncing sideward on the landing. In the meet she did a Yurchenko-double twist.
• Shawn Johnson got the biggest cheers during the introductions. She did not compete on floor, but she vaulted a strong Yurchenko-double twist.
• Former Arkansas gymnast Casey Jo Magee did an original beam routine that included double and triple turns. She mounted with a roundoff layout step-out, but fell near the end of the routine on another roundoff layout.
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Read complete coverage of the Visa Championships in the September issue of IG.