The oldest member of the United States Olympic women's gymnastics team is only 18, but what the five team members lack in age, they make up for in competition experience, talent, and ambition. The women's gymnastics events kick off in London on July 29, and Aly Raisman, 18, Jordyn Wieber, 17, Gabby Douglas, 16, McKayla Maroney, 16, and Kyla Ross, 15, are expected to impress as Team USA.
Medal Hopes: The women's team is favored to win the team gold, coming off Team U.S.A.'s first place finish in the world championships held in October 2011. Wieber, Maroney, Raisman and Douglas were all part of the winning team and are expected to carry that momentum to the Olympics, where U.S. women have not won team gold since 1996. While China's women's gymnastics team was the star of the 2008 Olympic Games, they seem to have taken a step back recently. China placed third in the world championships, behind Russia in second.
The U.S. team also has a good chance of medalling on multiple individual events. Maroney is the world champion on vault, and though she suffered a concussion and nasal fracture in early June, she performed well at the Olympic trials just a few weeks ago. Wieber and Raisman hold bronze medals from the world championships on balance beam and floor exercise respectively, but each could do even better at the Olympics. Douglas and Ross both showed impressive uneven bars routines at the Olympic trials and could also medal at the Games.
One To Watch: This year's Olympics gymnastics team could only hold 5 members, down from 6 in past years, so competition to make the team was even more heated. But there was always one name that was a definite: Jordyn Wieber. Wieber is the reigning world all-around champion and has won all but one major all-around competition in the last year. Though she finally lost to teammate Douglas at the Olympic Trials, Wieber handled it gracefully, proving why she's a valuable team leader as well as a talented gymnast. With her own coach John Geddert also coaching the U.S. Olympics team, Wieber is a favorite to repeat her all-around victory and bring home a gold medal.
Don't Forget: At the Visa Championship in early June, Wieber was almost knocked off her winning pedestal by up-and-comer Gabby Douglas, known as the "Flying Squirrel" for her gravity-defying releases on the uneven bars. Douglas succeeded in beating Wieber at the Olympic Trials just a few weeks later, earning an automatic bid to the Olympic team and setting Wieber and herself up for a showdown over the all-around gold. Douglas's spunky personality and electrifying routines make her a favorite of media cameras, and her gymnastic consistency is sure to lead her to success in London.
Previous Olympics: While the U.S. women's team came second to China in the team finals at the 2008 Games, the 2012 team has a lot to live up to in terms of individual medals. Americans Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson placed first and second in the 2008 all-around, which could happen again with the Wieber-Douglas duo this year. Liukin also won silver medals on beam and bars and bronze on floor, while Johnson took home gold on beam and silver on floor. Liukin and 2008 teammate Alicia Sacramone battled back from injuries to compete at the Trials a few weeks ago, but neither was strong enough to make their second Olympic team. The 2012 team is a new crop of gymnasts, but they are the strongest Olympic team the U.S. has produced in recent years.