We’re 11 weeks away from the summer Olympics in London and it’s about time you got to know some of the athletes poised to bring home the gold. Over the next three months, our Better Know an Athlete series will be profiling some of America’s best. This week: Women’s Team Gymnastics, an event that pits the top five gymnasts from each country against each other in a variety of events.
Nastia Liukin, started in 1993
Accomplishments: Won the all-around gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games to go along with three silvers (team, balance beam and uneven bars) and a bronze in floor exercise. Nine-time World medalist (four gold and five silver). Two-time U.S. all-around champion (2005 and 2006).
Liukin is perhaps the most prolific American gymnast ever to grace the mats; her 2008 Olympic haul ties the U.S record for gymnastics medals, her nine world medals tie her for second in that category and from 2005 to 2008 she was pretty much unbeatable, winning four straight U.S. uneven bars titles, three balance beam titles and two all-around titles. At 22, she is considered to be an elder stateswoman of the sport and has the choice this year of either competing or coaching.
McKayla Maroney, started in 1997
Accomplishments: 2011 World Championships team and vault gold medalist. Back-to-back vault gold medalist at the Visa Championships in 2010 and 2011.
A rising star on the international stage, Maroney has dominated vault for the past few years and is expected to be on the podium in London. She is another lock to the team competition.
Gabby Douglas, started in 2002
Accomplishments: 2012 Pacific Rim Championships gold medalist in uneven bars. 2011 World Championships Team gold medalist.
A newcomer to the sport, Douglas made a name for herself with the team in 2011 and solidified her status as an all-star with a gold medal in the Pacific Rim Championships earlier this year. Though not the most experienced member of the National Team, don’t be surprised to see her name in the fifth slot for the team competition.
Alicia Sacramone, started in 1996
Accomplishments: 2008 Olympic Team silver medalist. 2011 U.S. balance beam champion. Ten World medals (four gold, four silver and two bronze), the most World medals by an American gymnast. Has five U.S. vault titles (2005-2008 and 2010) and two U.S. floor exercise titles.
Sacramone is another veteran on the U.S. National Team, and though her Olympic resume isn’t quite as impressive as Liukin’s, her World medal total is tops in the U.S. As of 2011 she was still active for the U.S. team event, placing first in Tokyo, so she may be an option for another Olympic run; her presence would solidify the States’ shot at gold.
Jordyn Wieber, started in 1999
Accomplishments: Three-time American Cup all-around champion (2009, 2011, 2012). 2011 World Championships team and all-around gold medalist. 2011 U.S. all-around, uneven bars and floor exercise champion. 2010 Pacific Rim all-around, uneven bars, floor exercise and team champion and vault silver medalist.
If Liukin and Sacramone pass the torch to anyone, it will be Wieber; she is a force in any event she competes in, evidenced by her diverse medal resume, and is a sure bet for the team competition to go along with a projected gold in all-around.
Aly Raisman, started in 1996
Accomplishments: 2011 World Championships team gold medalist and floor exercise bronze medalist. 2011 CoverGirl Classic all-around, vault (tie) and floor exercise champion. 2010 World Championships Team silver medalist.
Like Wieber, Raisman is a jack-of-all-trades, trying her hand and faring fairly well at several different events. She proved in 2011 that she can handle all of them, and her flexibility (in both senses of the word) should be valuable in the team competition in London.
Rebecca Bross, started in 1998
Accomplishments: Six-time World medalist (three silver and three bronze) in all-around, floor exercises and uneven bars. 2010 U.S. all-around champion.
Bross is another up-and-comer on the world stage, having already laid claim to six medals, though World gold still eludes her. She hasn’t finished lower than third in all-around since taking to the senior circuit in 2009.
Worth Noting: Gymnasts don’t tend to be athletic aberrations; their families are usually full-blown athletes. Liukin’s father and National team coach took home four medals at the ’88 Olympics and her mother was the ’87 rhythmic world champion. Maroney’s father was a quarterback for Purdue.
Olympic Scouting Report: The U.S. team looks poised to take medals in vault, all-around and floor-exercise but they’ll be looking for gold in team. Since 2009, the U.S. National team has placed first in team in every major competition they’ve entered, and the Olympics shouldn’t be any different.