Looking Ahead to Visa Championships
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Our July-August issue will be out soon, and it includes a preview of the 2011 Visa championships in St. Paul, Minn. But until then, here are a few tidbits of what I learned in recent conversations with the coaches of the top senior contenders for the women.

Defending champion Rebecca Bross (shown here) is slowly coming back from November ankle surgery, so don't expect her to peak in August with the world championships in October. For a gymnast like Bross, who has already won silver and bronze world all-around medals, the main goal for 2011 is to be ready to help the U.S. team in October, which pretty much makes the Visa championships a practice meet for her.

"When the girls get older, things don't come as easy anymore," said Valery Liukin, who coaches Bross at WOGA. "You can't keep them too long in shape and peak too early."

With Bross less than 100 percent, the likely favorite would be Jordyn Wieber. But her coach John Geddert also is looking beyond August. The combination of the demanding Code of Points and the arduous U.S. women's selection procedure (Visas, selection camp, worlds) has Geddert concerned, so he, like other coaches, wants to make sure his gymnast still has "gas in the tank for worlds."

Mattie Larson, the 2010 U.S. floor champion and all-around runner-up, has upgraded her uneven bars and balance beam and is doing well, according to All Olympia coach Galina Marinova. But when I spoke with Marinova last week, she was disappointed that McKayla Maroney had just developed a back problem and was not sure how serious it was. "She was doing just phenomenal," said Marinova, who also expressed her frustration with the growing number of injuries under the Code of Points. "This Code is tough. I mean, you cannot see healthy people with this Code."

Alexandra Raisman and Alicia Sacramone are both healthy right now, according to coach Mihai Brestyan, who said that Raisman will compete an Amanar on vault, and that Sacramone would do vault, balance beam and floor exercise in St. Paul.

Liang Chow, who coaches Shawn Johnson and Gabrielle Douglas, said that Johnson will do two events this summer at the Classic (July) and Visas, and that Douglas has upgraded quite a bit in the past year. He wasn't concerned about Douglas's all-around placement, and cautioned that consistency might be an issue because of her more difficult routines. And, yes, he said she will vault an Amanar too. As for Johnson, the knee injury she sustained in January 2010 continues to keep her out of the all-around, but things are improving, Chow said.

2009 U.S. and world champion Bridget Sloan is coming back slowly from surgery on her biceps four months ago. Her coach, Marvin Sharp, said that Sloan has signed with Florida but will defer until next year. "We are going to take it at an easy, safe pace, making sure she is at full strength before we attempt any competitions," Sharp said. With London the obvious goal for Sloan, I would be surprised to see her compete again until 2012.

Chelsea Davis (Texas Dreams) has decided to retire from elite and attend Georgia this fall, and you can read on the Stanford website that Samantha Shapiro and Ivana Hong are set to join the Cardinal.

Unlike the women, the men will learn their world-team status at the Visa championships, and then meet later on, as a team, for a training camp. Jonathan Horton will be going for three national titles in a row, and Danell Leyva told me he thinks he has "a pretty good chance" of winning his first.

Of course, a lot can change between now and Aug. 17, but the 2011 Visa championships are shaping up to be excellent.