With the 2012 London Olympics officially underway, it’s time to prepare yourself for the most amazing sports spectacle in years. Women’s gymnastics is no different, and is shaping up to be one of the most exciting competitions in Olympic history. From Team USA with Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and world champ Jordyn Wieber, to Romania’s talented Larissa Iordache, who should you be watching?
5. Gabby Douglas vs. Jordyn Weiber
The media in London are attempting to make these two out to be serious rivals – and maybe they are. But all we know is that 16-year-old Gabby Douglas and reigning world all-around champions Jordyn Wieber are both in contention for winning an individual gold medal. Douglas has proven to be somewhat less consistent than Wieber, but nonetheless beat her out at the 2012 Olympic Trials in San Jose. Douglas also has less international experience than Wieber, but doesn’t seem to let that get to her. The key for Douglas will be to overcome nerves and to especially focus in on the balance beam, while Wieber needs to hit her weakest event – bars, and stay wobble-free on the balance beam. These two, along with solid competitor Aly Raisman, have the potential to lead Team USA to their first team gold medal since Atlanta in 1996.
4. Great Britain’s Beth Tweddle
This will be Beth Tweddle’s third Olympic games– something not many elite gymnasts in the world can say. At 27, Beth Tweddle still has arguably the best and most difficult bar routine in the world, one that she has reportedly told media in London “she can do in her sleep.” She’s even upgraded her bar dismount this time around, a tucked double double. Tweddle has yet to bring home a medal at the Olympic games, despite being one of the world’s top bar workers, so look for her to finally stand atop the podium in front of a home crowd.
3. Russians in medal contention
The Russian team, if healthy, can’t be counted out for winning gold. Despite being somewhat inconsistent in their podium training on Thursday, the Russians have three world-class athletes in Anastasia Grishina, Aliya Mustafina, and Viktoria Komova. 20-year-old Ksenia Afanasyeva is the reigning world floor champion, and has Olympic experience under her belt after representing Russia in Beijing in 2008. Komova is a world bar champion, and finished just behind American Jordyn Wieber at the 2011 World Championships in the all-around. Mustafina hasn’t been her usual self since tearing her ACL in 2011. She was the world all around champion in 2010, so if she can get back to her old self, expect to see big things.
2. McKayla Maroney’s broken toe
Undoubtedly the best vaulter in the world, it would be a shame if Maroney couldn’t compete for a medal in this year’s London games. That’s why, despite reports of aggravating a previous broken toe injury, Maroney is determined to compete through the pain. She took it easy through pre-Olympic workouts, but seemed to have no trouble during women’s podium training on Thursday. The US put up Kyla Ross on floor during podium training instead of Maroney, and will probably replace Maroney come competition time. But, if she is able to do the vaults she’s been doing for some time now, she’ll be taking home a gold medal.
1. Larisa Iordache likely out of the all-around
Romanian media is reporting that Iordache, one of the favorites for the all around title, is suffering from fasciitis, a painful but not serious condition that causes inflammation in the foot. She did not train floor in Thursday’s podium training, however she did show a promising beam routine that could put her in medal contention there. If she will compete for all around gold remains questionable, and the loss of her floor routine will surely hurt the Romanian chances a bit.
What storylines are you following for this year’s London Olympic Games? Coverage for the women’s qualifying round begins at 4:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, July 29.