First-year senior Jordyn Wieber looked invincible as she ran away with the 2011 Visa Championships, but a knee injury to defending champion Rebecca Bross proved how fickle a gymnast's health can be. Wieber never missed a routine throughout the two-day competition, and her 121.30 was a hefty 6.15 ahead of runner-up McKayla Maroney (115.15).
But in contrast to Wieber's all-around brilliance was the exit of defending champion Bross during the third rotation, when she landed low on a double-twisting Yurchenko and dislocated her right knee cap. Her leg was put in a brace and she was carried off for further evaluation.
"To see one of your friends and teammates get injured, it's heartbreaking," said Wieber.
Wieber improved upon her 59.85 from Thursday and tallied 61.45 Saturday, which exceeded the goal of her coach, John Geddert.
"We really wanted to post a 61 today to send a message to the world," said Geddert, who did not want his gymnast to water down her last routine, on beam, with such a big lead. "This is nothing like what worlds will be like [in terms of pressure], so taking things out was never an option."
Wieber also wanted to send a message, especially after the spotty effort she had put forth on Thursday. She's also looking forward to getting even stronger in the lead up to worlds in October.
"It feels really good," she said of her win. "Just how aggressive and confident I was, I want to put into my training."
Maroney turned things around from Thursday, when the only event she hit was vault (Amanar). But what a vault she has. She hit all of her routines tonight, and won the vault title (layout Podkopayeva second vault). U.S. national team coordinator Marta Karolyi was willing to give her a pass on day one.
"You can't blame her because that was her first time as a senior," she said, and then raved about her incredible vault. "She has what I think is the best [Amanar] in the world."
Alexandra Raisman, third with 114.60, avoided falls throughout both days, but was rough in places. She attributed that to her new routines, which are packed with difficulty. She mounted floor with a 1.5 twist through to Arabian double, punch front, but she decided against vaulting her Amanar in both prelims and finals.
Mackenzie Caquatto finished fourth with 112.50, and her sister, Bridgette, finished sixth (111.50), behind Sabrina Vega (112.05). Both Caquattos are strong on bars, which could help at least one of them get selected for worlds.
Gabrielle Douglas improved considerably from day one, when she had numerous falls. She looked much better this time on three events, and was nailing her difficult beam set until the end, when she balked twice on her dismount sequence of flip-flop, flip-flop, double pike.
Chellsie Memmel was eighth, and that included an aborted routine on uneven bars when she tweaked her right shoulder on a giant to full pirouette. She missed the skill twice and decided not to remount again.
Shawn Johnson did vault, bars and beam, and looked stronger than on Thursday.
"With each routine I compete I feel more like myself," she said, adding that she would be attending the next training camp. Overall, she was very excited about her performance and inspired to continue her quest for London 2012.
Alicia Sacramone had another mixed effort, looking strong on floor but missing connections on beam and landing her double-twisting Yurchenko fairly low. But as she said after prelims, now is not the time to be peaking with the world championships in October.
Karolyi can only hope things come together by then.
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Read complete coverage of the Visa Championships in the September issue of IG.