Winning Without London

 Winning Without London
After becoming the first women's team to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States since the Magnificent Seven in 1996, Jordyn Wieber, Kyla Ross, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, aka "the Fierce Five", have all become household names. It is hard to turn on the TV or pick up a magazine without seeing their faces. We see them everywhere from Oprah to the MTV VMA awards and read about them in everything from the New York Times to US Weekly.

We have seen what can happen in just a few short months in the sport of gymnastics so one can only imagine how much can change in four years. In fact, if a fan was asked in 2008 to predict who would have been on the 2012 Olympic team, it is difficult to imagine that anyone would have correctly picked these five women.

Let us take a look back at some of the gymnasts who were favored to make the Olympic team in the beginning of the last Quad.

In 2008, if you guessed which athletes from All Olympia Gymnastics Center would be competing in London, that list would not have included McKayla Maroney because she was not even training there at the time. Samantha Shapiro and Mattie Larson were the most likely candidates for the 2012 Olympic team.

Samantha Shapiro

Known for her graceful lines, Sami Shapiro had an impressive gymnastics resume from her career on the Junior Elite level in 2008. Shapiro finished 2nd in the All-Around at the 2007 and 2008 Visa Championships as a junior, but she missed trying out for the 2008 Olympic team because she was too young.

Due to an injury, Shapiro had surgery and missed the 2009 competitive season.  She was off the competition floor for over a year, but persevered and recovered in time to compete at the 2010 US Classic. Unfortunately, she suffered a horrific fall on her one-and-a-half twisting Yurchenko, hyper extended both knees, and was assisted off the floor.  After limited recovery time, Shapiro competed at the 2010 Visa Championships and finished 7th in the All-Around and beam, plus 5th on floor exercise.

In 2011, Shapiro left elite gymnastics and chose to compete collegiately for Stanford. As a freshman in 2012, she battled back from injuries to end the season as the NCAA runner up on Bars and a first team All-American.
Watch videos of Samantha Shapiro

Mattie Larson

Mattie Larson was Samantha Shapiro's training partner and another standout from AOGC known for her clean lines and beautiful artistry.  As a first year senior in 2008, Larson placed 7th in the All-Around at 2008 Olympic Trials but suffered an injury during the Olympic selection camp, derailing her hopes of making the team.  She spent most of 2009 rehabbing injuries. Larson came back stronger than ever in 2010 to win the American Classic and followed that up with a 2nd place finish in the All-Around at 2010 Visa Championships along with a gold medal on floor and bronze on beam. She was also a member of the silver medal winning team at the 2010 World Championships. Unfortunately, Larson had mistakes during both the qualifications and team final on floor exercise, her best event. Larson remained in elite gymnastics until the summer of 2011 when she ultimately decided to move on to the collegiate level.

Larson just completed her first season of collegiate gymnastics at UCLA and is loving college life and her new competitive environment. She helped the Bruins to the 2012 Pac 12 Team title and closed our her season by helping the Bruins clinch a 3rd place finish at the 2012 NCAA Championships, posting a 9.90 on beam in the final rotation.
Watch videos of Mattie Larson

Kytra Hunter

Kytra Hunter was a member of the Senior National team from 2009-2011 and was the alternate to both the 2009 and 2010 World Championship teams.  Hunter trained at Hill's Gymnastics with renowned coach Kelli Hill, former coach to Olympians Dominique Dawes, Elise Ray, and Courtney Kupets.  During her time as a senior elite, Hunter was a consistent All-Around performer placing 4th in the 2009 and 2010 Visa Championships. She was known for being very powerful in her gymnastics and was capable of incredible tumbling on floor, including a full twisting double layout and a piked double arabian. She even dismounted with a double arabian on floor, a pass that some gymnasts would use as their first pass.

Kytra currently attends the University of Florida and competes for the Gator's extraordinary gymnastics team. During her freshman year in 2012 she won the All-Around title at both the SEC and NCAA championships.  Kytra is the first athlete from Florida to win the NCAA All-Around title and was also the NCAA champion on the vault. Her spectacular freshman season resulted in her winning the 2012 Honda Sports Award. Based on her outstanding performance as a freshman, gymnastics fans are very excited to see what the future holds for Kytra.
Watch videos of Kytra Hunter

Bridget Sloan

Bridget was the youngest member of the 2008 Olympic team that won a silver medal in Beijing. She had an unbelievable 2009 season, picking up three gold medals at the Visa National Championships in the All-Around, floor exercise and uneven bars.  The fairytale season continued when Bridget won the All-Around gold medal at the 2009 World Championships.  She was on top of the gymnastics world by achieving what only four other American gymnasts had accomplished before her.

She was able to contribute for Team USA at the 2010 World Championships with a silver medal in the team competition and a 4th place finish on bars in event finals.  Clearly a strong favorite for the 2012 Olympic team, Sloan was sidelined for most of 2010 and 2011 by injuries that hampered her training efforts for London. After a rough two years, she petitioned her way to the 2012 National Championships and surprised a lot of people with her gutsy performance in St Louis. It was her first All-Around competition in almost two years and she qualified to the Olympic trials with her 10th place finish with a watered down vault.  

Tragically, Bridget injured her elbow before Trials and had to withdraw from the competition. While her dream of making a second Olympic team vanished, Bridget is on her way to Florida and will compete for Coach Rhonda Faehn. She should be a major factor in the 2012-2013 NCAA season and gymnastics fans around the country are anticipating her NCAA debut.
Watch videos of Bridget Sloan

Ivana Hong

Ivana Hong was a member of the United States team that took home gold at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.  Her effort to make the 2008 Olympic team was hindered by an ankle injury, but following a respectable performance at Trials she was selected to be a team alternate. 

After the Olympics, Hong made a dramatic coaching change. She left GAGE and Al Fong, for WOGA and Valeri Liukin. The World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, Texas had just done the unthinkable and produced back-to-back Olympic All-Around champions with Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin.
2009 was a fantastic year for Ivana.  She was selected to the 2009 World Championship team following a 2nd place finish in the All-Around at Visa Championships. After becoming the  2009 National  Champion on beam, Ivana capped off an incredible 2009 season winning the bronze on beam at the World Championships.  While training for the 2010 American Cup Ivana tore her ACL. Sadly, this injury ended her career as an elite gymnast.

Ivana decided to move on to collegiate gymnastics and joined the team at Stanford. Her gymnastics during her freshman season was limited due to an ankle injury. However, Hong tied for the 2012 Pac 12 Vault title and produced Stanford's highest All-Around score of the year at the Super Six competition and is expected to be a key player for the team in 2013.
Watch videos of Ivana Hong

Mackenzie Caquatto

Mackenzie  Caquatto was a member of the US National team from 2008-2011.  She qualified to the 2008 Olympic trials in her first year senior following a strong showing at the US Classic finishing 1st on vault, 3rd on bars and 4th in the All-Around competition.   She placed 5th in the All-Around at both the 2009 and 2010 Visa Championships and was member of the 2010 World Championship team that took home a silver medal. Caquatto fit nicely onto the 2010 team, competing both vault and bars in the Team Finals.

She took a break from elite gymnastics to attend the University of Florida and compete for Coach Rhonda Faehn. Caquatto made an immediate impact on the team and was touted as a favorite for the 2011 NCAA All-Around title, but an ankle injury limited her gymnastics performances at the end of her freshman season.

She did make a brief return to elite gymnastics, and brought her collegiate consistency to the 2011 Visa Championships where she picked up a silver medal on bars and finished 4th in the All-Around.  During the 2011 World Championship selection camp, Caquatto landed short on a double pike beam dismount which ended her shot at the World team and thus ended her elite career. The injuries also slowed her down for her 2012 season at Florida. She finished out the year by contributing to their 2nd place finish at the NCAA championships and tying for 6th on bars with a difficult routine. Instead of competing for a place on the Olympic team, she spent the 2012 summer getting her ankles back in shape. A healthy Mackenzie Caquatto will be huge for the Gators next season as they make another push for their first National Title.

There will be two Caquatto's on the Gator's team next season as Bridgey Caquatto, the 2011 Pan American Games All-Around Champion, will join her sister at Florida. It looks to be a very exciting year for both the University of Florida and the Caquatto family.
Watch videos of Mackenzie Caquatto
Watch videos of Bridgey Caquatto

Sabrina Vega

 Sabrina Vega is member of the US Senior National Team known for her beautiful artistry and execution. She is coached at Dynamic Gymnastics by 1976 Olympic silver medalist, Teodora Ungureanu-Cepoi. Interesting fact, Sabrina's coach was a teammate of the legendary Nadia Comaneci.  

Sabrina began her elite career competing in 2008 as a junior and took the Senior ranks by storm with her performance at the 2011 Cover Girl Classic where she placed 3rd in the All-Around. Sabrina had a strong showing at the 2011 Visa Championships finishing 5th in the All-Around, 5th on beam and 4th on floor.  Her performance at the Championships and selection camps earned her a trip to Tokyo, Japan where she helped her team win gold at the 2011 World Championship.

Shortly before Olympic trials, Sabrina tore ligaments in her wrist that kept her from performing her best in the competition and slipping up on her key event, uneven bars.  She finished 10th in the All-Around and did not make the 2012 team. She has, however, stated that she wants to continue elite gymnastics and make a run for the 2016 team in Rio. 
Watch videos of Sabrina Vega

Rebecca Bross

An athlete known for her mental toughness, expectations were high that Rebecca could follow in the huge footsteps of Nastia Liukin and Carly Patterson to become the third straight Olympic All-Around champion from WOGA.  The prophecy seemed to be true when Rebecca won the All-Around silver medal at the 2009 World Championship in London and then won the All-Around bronze medal at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam.

Disaster struck for Rebecca at the 2011 Visa Championships when her double twisting Yurchenko went horribly wrong.  In a moment we all remember, she dislocated her kneecap on the landing of her vault. The gymnastics community worried Rebecca's career was finished. Amazingly, she returned for the 2012 season and fought her way to the Olympic trials. Competing only on beam and bars due to her knee injury, Rebecca struggled and failed to make the team. Unbelievably, Rebecca has come back again and she is currently performing on the road with the Kellogg's Tour. Whether or not she choses to continue in the sport beyond this, Bross is still a 6-time World medalist. 
Watch videos of Rebecca Bross

The talent level in the United States is unsurpassed and it easy to see why we are number one in the world with the caliber of skill and determination.
These eight ladies may not have ended up being on the 2012 Olympic team, but they were all fierce in their own right with their incredible talent and courage to fight through adversity. I am excited to see what the future holds for these incredibly talented athletes.

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