Which gymnasts will make the U.S. squad for the Beijing Games?
The Olympic trials in men's gymnastics are over, and on Saturday night the selection committee named Paul Hamm and Jonathon Horton to the team that goes to Beijing (provided that a month from now Hamm shows USA Gymnastics that the broken bone in his hand has healed and he's ready to compete).
Sunday, the five-member selection committee will name the rest of the team, plus alternates. It won't be easy.
Here's where I think the rest of the U.S. gymnasts stand:
Kevin Tan, 26, Fremont, Calif.
The Penn State grad is a still rings monster. He's won three straight U.S. titles in his specialty, and during the trials he consistently scored more than a half-point higher than the second U.S. man in rings -- points the team will need if they are to medal at the Games. His other three events -- pommel horse, parallel bars, and high bars -- are all relatively weak, but the rings make Tan a sure thing.
Raj Bhavsar, 27, Houston, TX.
Bhavsar, who's announced he will retire after this season, had a dynamite final day at the trials, finishing third overall and first in the parallel bars. He's also strong in the rings and is a proven veteran under pressure. Said a relieved Bhavsar: "The sense of accomplishment I feel -- I can't tell you how much pressure we were under today, with an Olympic berth at stake and performing on live TV -- is like a gold medal around my neck."
Justin Spring, 24, Burke, Va.
Spring was the surprise of the trials. The hard-luck gymnast tore the ACL in his right knee at nationals in 2007 -- it was surgically repaired nine months ago -- then severely sprained his left ankle eight weeks ago. Two weeks ago, he woke up in agony with muscle spasms in his back and had to go to the emergency room. Still, he rocked the house at both Nationals and the Olympic trials, finishing first overall in the parallel bars, second in the vault, and third in the high bar. At the trials, he did a floor routine for the first time in eight weeks -- he hadn't even been able to practice his tumbling passes because of his ankle injury -- and finished second and fourth in the two-night competition. "I was totally blown away to even be doing a floor routine," he gushed. "Give me a month to train and I can do a much better one, I promise you. I didn't even think I was going to be here. The ball's in the selection committee's court now. I did everything I could."
The kid has moxie, and the team will need moxie to medal in Beijing.
David Durante, 27, Garwood, NJ.
Durante helped himself with a strong final night -- he finished second on Saturday to Horton -- but he'd put himself behind the eight-ball with some inconsistant performances at Nationals and in the first night of the Trials. In his favor? He tied for first the final night on pommel horse, which is by far the weakest event for the U.S.
Joe Hagerty, 26, Albuquerque, NM.
Hagerty was second to Horton in the all-around over the four nights of competition (two at Nationals, two at the Olympic trials), and was the best overall performer in the high bar. That's huge. But his international exposure is limited -- he's never been on a world team -- and that will make a difference to the selection committee. He also had a so-so final night, when the pressure was highest.
Sean Golden, 25, Camden, NJ
A veteran of the 2007 world championship team that finished fourth in Stuttgart, Golden easily won the vault at the Trials, finished third in the floor exercise and fourth in the rings. Hurting his chances: those are his only three events. The selection committee may decide they need greater balance, especially if they choose ring-specialist Tan.
Morgan Hamm, 25, Waukesha, Wis.
Hamm, a veteran of both the 2000 and '04 Olympics, had a poor meet on Saturday, when he was hampered by an ankle he injured Thursday night. But his experience could help the team, and he is dependable on the pommel horse, the floor and high bar. Being Paul's twin won't hurt him either -- the two are inseparable. Look for Morgan to be named as an alternate, which will get him a flight to Beijing.
Alexander Artemev, 22, Lakewood, Colo.
Artemev seemed like a lock for the team before the Trials. A world bronze medalist in the pommel horse in '06, Artemev fell on his specialty three out of four times during Nationals and the Trials. He still was the top scorer in the pommel horse overall, but probably not by a large enough margin to justify his selection as one of the six picks to the team.
Guillermo Alvarez, 25, Denver, Colo.
A good all-around gymnast, Alvarez lacks a specialty. His only hope for inclusion on the team is his third-place overall finish in the pommel horse ... but it's a slim one.