Douglas and Raisman Lead Young Jesolo Team

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Two-time 2012 Olympic gold medalists Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman will carry a mostly young and relatively inexperienced U.S. team at the annual City of Jesolo Trophy competition in Italy this week.

The U.S. will bring two senior teams and one junior team to Italy, with a total of 13 traveling overseas. In addition to Douglas, who just picked up the American Cup gold last week, and Raisman, the senior team includes 2016 Glasgow World Cup champion and three-time worlds medalist MyKayla Skinner, 2014 worlds gold medalist Ashton Locklear, 2015 Pan Ams gold medalist Emily Schild, and first-year seniors Laurie Hernandez, Ragan Smith, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, and Emily Gaskins in their senior debuts.

The junior squad will feature three-fourths of the team that just won gold at International Gymnix, including Jordan Chiles, Emma Malabuyo, and Gabby Perea, in addition to Trinity Thomas, who made her elite debut last summer.

Schild, Gaskins, and Thomas were all added to the national team in addition to picking up this assignment.

To be entirely honest, the senior team looks a little bizarre, with about half I’d consider strong contenders for Olympic team or alternate spots and the other half leaving me wonder a bit, as there are definitely stronger options who won’t be attending.

I’m not talking about wondering why gymnasts like Simone Biles and Maggie Nichols aren’t attending. Biles is set to make her debut still at Pac Rims in April, and Nichols will likely also be on the roster for that meet, so it makes sense to get a break after just finishing the American Cup. And then Madison Kocian is dealing with a minor ankle injury (slash we all know how she needs to be bubble-wrapped ten months out of the year if she wants to contribute during the high point of elite season).

I’m talking about the other middle-of-the-road question mark gymnasts already on the national team or with international experience like Rachel Gowey, Alyssa Baumann, Brenna Dowell (before someone even asks, I refuse to believe one rough routine at worlds is unredeemable…plenty have come back from worse), Norah Flatley, Bailie Key, Madison Desch

Key did miss the last camp due to a slight muscle strain and I believe new senior Jazmyn Foberg is also still dealing with nagging injuries, so it’s possible that’s why they’re still out, and Gowey was also absent last month, but I’m actually very surprised to see names like Schild, Johnson-Scharpf and Gaskins in over someone like Baumann especially.

Obviously, we know what Baumann can do, and the truth there is that she hasn’t really shown a ton of progress since becoming a senior. She’s good, and was definitely a stronger all-around gymnast than these three last year, as were Key and Dowell and even Desch based on what we saw from her at Pan Ams, but it might be that these gymnasts have nothing more to prove.

Schild, Johnson-Scharpf, and Gaskins, on the other hand, were okay last year but nowhere near the best of the best, though they each had potential…Schild was a powerful vaulter working some big skills on bars, Johnson-Scharpf had so much potential for outrageous difficulty on floor, and Gaskins was so elegant and poised, still coming back from injury and a gym change.

My guess is that Martha Karolyi hasn’t scrapped the Baumanns and Keys of the world, but rather knows they already have experience and can wait until this summer (or possibly even Pac Rims, where she’ll send six seniors) to see what else they have to offer in competition…whereas she wants to get a taste of the new kids on the block as early as possible in case any end up being potential dark horses in the way Elizabeth Price and Sarah Finnegan were in 2012. I don’t know if we should raise our expectations super high for these three just yet, but based on their potential alone, we can at the very least get excited about the growth they’ve experienced since we last saw them at nationals.

Otherwise, Raisman and Douglas make sense to me as top contenders for the Games stepping up as team leaders, Skinner has kept herself in the race all quad and is one of Karolyi’s perennial favorites even if she might not be a clear choice for an Olympic team spot, Locklear is a Bonus Kocian in Kocian’s absence (I do think Kocian is Karolyi’s preferred bars worker at this point but it doesn’t hurt to have back-up!), while Hernandez and Smith are at the top of their “2000 babies” class and need to get their feet wet internationally and prove themselves as seniors before we can consider them as being in the same league as their older teammates who won gold in Glasgow last year.

So that’s the divide in my mind. Supremely talented gymnasts were left at home most likely not because they were doing poorly at camp or aren’t looking in top shape, but rather because their performances are by the book at this point. They’re not among the top group, but they’re also so consistently doing their thing as seniors year in and year out at this point, there’s no need to take them to Jesolo yet again to see what they can do. Karolyi knows what they can do.

She doesn’t really know what healthy Locklear or full-of-potential Schild, Johnson-Scharpf, and Gaskins can do, and she doesn’t know what Hernandez and Smith can do as seniors. With Raisman, Douglas, and Skinner as her solid base, the rest of this senior squad is going to be all about figuring things out, especially in terms of how they look relative to both their U.S. teammates as well as compared to international gymnasts.

It’s not the strongest senior Jesolo team we’ve sent, but this year isn’t really about winning (though they’ll definitely win it anyway). Instead it’s about testing the unknown, an important step in creating depth through finding those hidden gems who might otherwise go unnoticed because the same higher-ranked gymnasts are always getting the spots. Anything can happen in gymnastics and you never know if one of these gymnasts will be the crucial piece to fit into what is an intense Olympic puzzle already this year.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that Schild, Johnson-Scharpf, and Gaskins are now magically fierce 58+ all-arounders like the other five at the top of the order and simply finished ahead of everyone else at camp and there was zero thought to this beyond their camp ranking, in which case this was a fun but pointless exercise. Ignore it all.

The City of Jesolo Trophy will be held this coming weekend, beginning with the all-around and team competitions on Saturday and then event finals on Sunday. For more information, check out our coverage guide.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

39 thoughts on “Douglas and Raisman Lead Young Jesolo Team

  1. I just find it interesting that there are gymnasts who are just as proven as the conspicuous absences on this team in what they can do if not more so (eg. Dougie, Skinner) who are getting multiple assignments in these early meets. Meanwhile the girls like Dowell, Key, and Baumann who haven’t competed internationally in a while or had a bad go at their last outing could really use a strong performance at an early season meet to help build their case for Rio aren’t getting any. (Unless they’re going to Pac Rims? I guess? I feel like she’s gonna at least put Maggie and either Gabby or Aly on that team in addition to Simone, though, and there are more than 3 gymnasts in this limbo position. Also, I heard a rumor that Marta is snubbing the Test Event AGAIN despite having more than enough gymnasts to warrant sending someone? Know anything about that? If it’s a Zika thing, like… are we really that worried that these girls might get pregnant?)

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    • In regards to the Zika thing, even if it’s entirely unlikely that any of them will get ill, I think it’s important to remember that the gymnasts themselves will not be the only ones traveling. Anyone accompanying them – coaches, doctors, etc – are also at risk, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility for one of THOSE people to be pregnant.

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  2. Your explanation of the team was insightful.. But I cant believe Marta isn’t giving the girls who are really in the running for Rio (Key, Baumann, Flately) a chance to prove themselves on an international stage! To be put on the Rio team, they need to prove they can be consistent and hit under pressure. The only way you can prove consistency, is by competing frequently. Douglas and Skinner have been proven, Marta knows where they are at and what they can do, so it is time to give the others a chance to breakout as a main contender for the games. Because lets be honest, the US have so much depth, that even if they fielded a team without these experienced pros, I would still put my money on them to win.

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  3. too many seniors added back to national team..there’s not enough spots and competitions for such a deep team like US…. we need to put a few on loan to other teams less fortunate like Romania…

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  4. Am I the only one who slightly suspects that Martha purposely snubs gymnasts she doesn’t particularly like in comparison to others? She does this all the time. Takes gymnasts who are on the outskirts and doesn’t give them international assignments. Then when they’re devastated that they didn’t make the team because they performed well all season Martha says that they’re not experienced enough when she was the reason why they’re not. Gymnasts like Bailie Key is an example. I know Bailie key had a rough debut compared to the promise she showed as a junior but in my mind it made no sense to pick Dowell when they already had one bars specialist and better vaulters whereas Bailie was equal to her on vault, had good bars that could easily contribute to the team and could’ve scored reasonably well on beam and floor as well and needed the experience more than anyone else.

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    • I’m wondering what mind games Martha playing now. sending GD to all these events. I’ll bet she on the pack rim team too. Baille seems to get the scrappy end of this. She has a muscle strain that should be ok by pac rim. She better come out as a strong 3AA. I don’t know what she has against Kim gymnast. That camp selection is brutal to baille. I never like those behind doors results. Then that girl who has nothing to loose you will get your shinning day, at least u can contribute on floor bars and vault. Just hope aly step it up and win the AA over GD. The pac rim team Simone. Maggie, baille dowell, Norah, regan and alyssa. Which ever 6. I better don’t see GD on that team.

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      • I have a feeling they are purposely avoiding the over-hyped, and under-competitive Gabby-Simone showdown. I bet they won’t have an international assignment together until Rio, and will first compete together at the start of the domestic season.
        And, I’m totally with you, rooting for Aly over Gabby!!

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  5. Sounds logical and I’m not at all surprised to find Gabby and Aly on the team and completely agree to your “new kids on the block” idea. The only thing I don’t get is why MyKayla Skinner is on the team (except that Martha likes her…) and Norah Flatley is not. MyKayla Skinner is the same case as Baumann or Desch which she just proved at Glasgow. And Norah definitely belongs to the group of new kids on the block. While I can live with MyKayla going to Jesolo I do feel a bit worried to not see Norah. So, whenever you happen to have more information about Norah that you can share – just let us know!

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    • I’m also worried about Norah and think that decision is surprising but knowing she was injured last year and was only really showing upgrades on bars and beam makes me think she’s not back on all four events yet which is limiting her?

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  6. Do not personally agree with taking Gabby and MyKayla who had great showings in past month. Also do not even prefer the choice of Aly who will likely go to Pac Rims where Marta could gauge her in completion this year. On the optimistic side, I’m hoping there is a true and sincere method to team selection now and over the coming weeks. Perhaps having Rhonda Faehn on board brings greater fairness and lessens tendency toward any favoritism ? I don’t know. In any case, that big black hole of what’s happening at camp is rearing its head. In the end, I hope all the girls, even if they aren’t selected for spring teams and/or Rio feel that there was a general sense of fairness and that they can/will stay emotionally healthy throughout the process.

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  7. Despite Gabby’s great showing at SCAM, Marta specifically said she thinks Gabby needs a reason to train to stay in top-form, I could envision Marta sending Gabby everywhere this year in-order to ensure she’s not ‘slacking off.’

    I’m also really curious to see if any of these rising seniors/inexperienced girls may break out as the Gabby of this quad…I would love to see a girl who hasn’t been apart of the conversation thus far take the scene by storm.

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  8. I was really hoping Morgan Hurd would get to go to Jesolo. Her (potential) upgrades look great! Still, I am excited to see the juniors who are going.

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  9. Do you think sending Gabby to all of the meets is more of a business move by USA Gymnastics to garner publicity? Every time Gabby is at a competition, it’s picked up by way more media outlets. Perhaps they’re trying to generate buzz to get ticket sales up for all of the major meets in the U.S. this summer (Classic, Championships, Trials)?

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    • I think you are right. Gymn fans don’t put a lot of thought into the business side of things (why would we necessarily?) But most everything in life comes down to business or politics. USA Gymn has nothing to lose by creating buzz around any athlete if that buzz works for them. Not taking away from Gabby’s athleticism or accomplishments by this comment. Unfortunately, though, that “buzz” spot can bump another worthy competitor.

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  10. Christina Desiderio was on the nominative list but wasn’t chosen… do we know why? Poor showing at camp maybe? Hopefully she’s not injured!

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  11. Will you be live blogging training sessions for Jesolo by any chance? Or maybe just hitting the highlights and giving us a preview? 🙂

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  12. Who do you think are the favorites to make the five woman Olympic team (even though we are still a good distance out from the competition)? And why DOES Martha like MyKayla Skinner so much???

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  13. Regarding the coverage (I’m posting this here as your coverage guide page does not have a comment section 😉 ) Flogymnastics claim to have exclusive coverage rights: “FloGymnastics will be providing exclusive coverage of the 2016 City of Jesolo Trophy, March 16-20 in Jesolo, Italy. FloPRO members will have instant and unlimited access to all of our content including training videos leading up to the competition and a LIVE stream of the entire competition.”

    Do you know (or can you find out) whether there is the slightest glimpse of hope that exclusive does not “really” mean exclusive but rather let’s say like they’re the only ones to commercialize this but Jesolo may still stream live themselves…

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    • The Italian Gymnastics Federation will also stream but you need an Italian IP. I actually have someone there doing coverage but he’s not even allowed to take photos of the athletes…it’s that “exclusive.” #Ridiculous

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        • I have to give credit to the two girls who run everything at the ground level, both named Becca. They do a fantastic job and really care about gym and it’s not their vault the upper management is so terrible basically. But yeah, even at meets where NBC is the exclusive streaming/TV provider, other media still has the right to interviews, photos, and even some training videos. Flo making it SO exclusive to the point where other media can’t even report basically is really obnoxious. Their coverage is okay…sometimes their streams are a mess because their camera people don’t know what they’re doing or it’ll cut out or something but for the most part they do a good job, or at least try to.

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        • Thanks for your insight and fairness. That had been my experience (re stream quality) when I had a trial at one point. And I’ve found some valuable resources there before. That level of extreme “exclusivity” turns me off though. More availability means more fans, always.

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        • Yeah, last year I found some gifs from Jesolo training that I shared on here and I immediately got an email from them requesting that we take them down! Even though gifs of videos don’t break any laws. I said I’d do it as a courtesy but said in my email that the gifs were linked to them and if anything would bring them more viewers from people wanting to see more than a couple of skills, but yeah, they wanted no part of it.

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    • I haven’t been able to get the streams to play. i also haven’t figured out how flogymnastics got my email address and the like (i actually thought gymternet was them) but it stinks that it doesn’t work.

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  14. I’m dying *ROFL*! Lauren above: “[…] and it’s not their vault (sic!) the upper management is so […]” When you know, someone is a REAL gym nerd! *gnihihihihi* Love you, Lauren!

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