Do you remember watching the Olympics back when Nadia (1976 in Montreal), Mary Lou (1984 in Los Angeles), and Olga (1972 in Munich) dominated the competition? But since then, Americans have caught up and surpassed the Russians and the Romanians. Gymnastics have been contested at every Olympics since the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. For the first 32 years, only men were allowed to compete. Women started competing in the 1932 Olympics, held in Amsterdam.
During those competitions, coming up to this year’s Olympics in London, the Russians have won 182 medals, including 72 gold medals. The United States is second with a total of 95, including 30 gold medals. In third place, and not far behind, is Japan, with 92, including 28 gold medals.
The Olympic Trials for Gymnastics are being held in San Jose, CA from June 28 to July 1. By the end of the competition, five men and five women gymnasts will be selected, along with one men’s and one women’s trampolinist will represent the U.S. in London this summer. These fifteen have won World or Olympic titles:
- Rebecca Bross, Plano, Texas/WOGA: 2009 World Championships- all-around silver, uneven bars bronze; 2010 World Championships – team and balance beam silver, all-around and uneven bars bronze.
- Jake Dalton, Reno, Nev./University of Oklahoma: 2011 World Championships – bronze, team.
- Gabrielle Douglas, Virginia Beach, Va./Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance: 2011 World Championships – team gold.
- Jonathan Horton, Houston/Team Hilton HHonors (Cypress Gymnastics): 2008 Olympic Games – horizontal bar silver, team bronze; 2010 World Championships – all-around bronze; 2011 World Championships – team bronze.
- Steven Legendre, Port Jefferson, N.Y./Team Hilton HHonors (University of Oklahoma): 2011 World Championships – team bronze.
- Danell Leyva, Miami/Team Hilton HHonors (Universal Gymnastics): 2011 World Championships – parallel bars gold, team bronze.
- Nastia Liukin, Parker, Texas/WOGA: 2005 World Championships – uneven bars and balance beam gold, all-around and floor exercise silver; 2006 World Championships – team, uneven bars silver; 2007 World Championships – team and balance beam gold, uneven bars silver; 2008 Olympic Games – all-around gold, team, uneven bars and balance beam silver, floor bronze.
- McKayla Maroney, Long Beach, Calif./All-Olympia: 2011 World Championships – team and vault gold.
- Alex Naddour, Gilbert, Ariz./Team Hilton HHonors (USA Youth Fitness): 2011 World Championships – team bronze.
- John Orozco, Bronx, N.Y./Team Hilton HHonors (U.S. Olympic Training Center): 2011 World Championships – team bronze.
- Aly Raisman, Needham, Mass./Brestyan’s American Gymnastics – 2010 World Championships – team silver; 2011 World Championships – team gold, floor bronze.
- Alicia Sacramone, Winchester, Mass./Brestyan’s American Gymnastics: 2005 World Championships – floor gold, vault bronze; 2006 World Championships – team and vault silver; 2007 World Championships – team gold, floor silver, vault bronze; 2008 Olympic Games – team silver; 2010 World Championships – vault gold, team silver; 2011 World Championships – team gold.
- Bridget Sloan, Pittsboro, Ind./Sharp’s Gymnastics: 2008 Olympic Games – team silver; 2009 World Championships – all-around gold; 2010 World Championships – team silver.
- Sabrina Vega, Carmel, N.Y./Dynamic Gymnastics: 2011 World Championships – team gold.
- Jordyn Wieber, DeWitt, Mich./Gedderts’ Twistars USA: 2011 World Championships – team and all-around gold, beam bronze.
In the last 2008 Olympics, held in Beijing, Nastia Liukin of the U.S. won the gold medal in the all around competition, followed by Shawn Johnson. But the American women finished second to China for the team all-around golf medal. The U.S. men finished third behind China (gold), and Japan (silver). This year’s team hopes to win gold in both the all around team events. Shawn Johnson won the gold medal in the individual balance beam event. The American men won only a silver in the horizontal bar (Jonathan Horton).
The events in men’s and women’s gymnastics differ slightly as follows:
These events evolved from exercises used by the ancient Greeks. These events require strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, and balance. I imagine it will be rather difficult to focus on just one event or even a few key performers. Things have changed in the gymnastics world, with China and Japan at the top along with the U.S. I guess the Russians would rather play tennis.
As far as the hopefuls to watch, Jordyn Wieber won the 2011 women’s all around title at the World Championships, Gabrielle Douglas, Rebecca Bross, Nastia Liukin, and McKayla Maroney. Among the men’s hopefuls are: John Orozco, Danell Leyva (a defector from Cuba), Chris Brooks, Sam Mikulak, and 2008 silver medalist Jonathan Horton.
It should be an interesting way to spend the day, even if it is San Jose. Do you know the way?