Difficult choices among talented gymnasts

Posted: June 28, 2012

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Picking their Olympic teams with a coin flip probably sounds good to the gymnastics folks right about now.

With enough depth on both the men's and women's sides that each could send two five-person teams to London, the selection committees have their work cut out for them after this week's Olympic trials. There's only one guaranteed spot available, with the remaining nine gymnasts chosen based on what combination gives the Americans the best chance for medals, preferably gold, in the team finals.

"It's tough," Jonathan Horton, who led the Americans to a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, said Wednesday. "You know there are going to be three or four guys who belong on the team that don't make it."

The men's trials begin Thursday, and the women start Friday. The top two men, using combined scores from nationals and Olympic trials, could lock up spots, but only if they also finish in the top three of the six events. Otherwise, two gymnasts will be named Saturday night, and the remaining three will be added Sunday. The winner of the women's all-around competition gets that lone guaranteed spot and, for the first time since 2000, the rest of the team will be determined after the competition ends Sunday.

"It's going to be really, really tough because there are so many great guys," U.S. champion John Orozco said.

Unlike track or swimming, the scoring format makes it impossible to pick a gymnastics team simply based on who finishes first, second, third, fourth and fifth. In qualifying, four gymnasts compete on each event, and the lowest score is dropped.

For the men, Orozco, world parallel bars champion Danell Leyva and Horton, a two-time medalist in Beijing, are considered locks. That leaves two spots for Sam Mikulak, Chris Brooks, Jake Dalton and Steve Legendre.

For the women, reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman can probably start packing. That leaves two spots - and at least a half-dozen candidates for them.

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