The achievement of standing on the Olympic podium and wearing a medal of bronze, silver or gold cannot be attained without first making it through the rigorous Olympic trials. For gymnasts both male and female, the Olympic trials are the final obstacle they must hurdle before tasting a morsel of that Olympic dream.
USA Gymnastics governs the gymnastic sport in the United States and is sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). One of the responsibilities of USA Gymnastics is to train and select the men and women's US Gymnastics Teams for the World Championships and the Olympic Games. To make the men or women's US Olympic gymnastics team, an athlete must earn a spot by competing in the Olympic Trials.
The 2012 Olympic trials for gymnastics were held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California from June 28 through July 1. According to USA Gymnastics, 15 women and 15 men competed for spots on the 2012 Olympic artistic gymnastic team.
The Olympic trials are one of the biggest and most anticipated events in US gymnastics for the athletes and fans of the sport. Like the Olympics, the trials also open with an entertaining opening ceremony and are followed by hours of competition and fan events such as autograph signings, interviews with the athletes and other live entertainment.
Three types of gymnastics
US gymnastics consists of three styles, or categories. These are trampoline, rhythmic gymnastics and artistic gymnastics. The latter consists of the familiar competitions such as floor exercise, balance beam, uneven bars, pommel horse, vault, rings and the men's horizontal high bar. Trampoline and rhythmic gymnastics have fewer events within their discipline. The rhythmic gymnastics compete in two events, ball gymnastics and hoop gymnastics. The Olympic trials for trampoline, rhythmic gymnastics and artistic gymnastics span two days of competition.
Scoring a spot on Olympic team
There are a limited number of spots on each Olympic gymnastics team. For example, both the men and women's artistic gymnastics teams have places for just five men and five women. The US Olympic gymnastics teams feature American gymnasts who score the best at the Olympic trials as well as athletes whose skills will best compliment and lead the US to an Olympic team gold medal. The top overall scoring competitors will earn a spot on the team. The remaining spots are determined by a committee. This committee typically is lead by the team's coach.
The cohesiveness of the final team selection can be key to a country winning a gold medal. When it is time for the final team competition at the Olympics, only three men and three women will compete in each of the events. When the scores of all the athletes' routines are counted, the gold goes to the team with the highest cumulative score. Individual all-around finals take place as well. However, an athlete cannot get to that final Olympic stage without making it through the trials.
The Olympic trials can make or break an American gymnast's dream of attaining an Olympic medal. Although it's two days of intense competition, it's just a prelude if the young athlete makes it successfully through the trials and onto the Olympic team.