While watching the Junior division of the 2015 Secret US Classic, one thought kept popping into my head; "I would hate to be in Marta Karolyi's shoes next year." With more depth in both the senior and junior ranks, figuring out who will be in Rio next summer appears to be an impossible task. In addition to those born in 2000 who will be vying for a spot for the Olympic Team next year, those whose turn does not come for 5 years are already looking strong. I've highlighted some athletes who impressed me in Chicago. Watching the juniors compete, it became clear to me that the United States dominance will continue pass Rio.
The Secret Classic All Around Champion impressed me tremendously. In her first competition in a year and a half after a string of injuries. I was really impressed with her bars, where her intricate combinations and high flying releases lead the field. While she has always been strong on bars (as has teammate Jazmyn Foberg), you can tell there was a lot of time spent on this event while her knee healed. While this year's floor routine was not my favorite, it goes with the music well, and Laurie performs it so well, as is the Laurie Hernandez trademark. Look for Laurie to continue upgrading as she makes a push towards next summer's Olympics.
It is no secret that I have been a fan of Ragan's for a while, and I think she put on a strong showing in
Chicago. Her vault is dynamic and powerful, and an Amanar is not impossible for next year. Her beam came with some wobbles, which probably cost Ragan the gold, but her beam has potential to be amazing and room for upgrades. Her floor, however, blew me away. Her tumbling was huge, the choreography matched the music, and you could tell she loved performing it. I'm excited to see the plan Kim Zmeskal-Burdette has for Ragan in the next year.
I had never paid to much attention to Deanne in the past year, she was always the gymnast with an Ezhova to me, but this year I made sure to pay attention to her, and I've completely changed my attitude! Even coming off missed training time due to an illness that almost left her blind, Deanne's bars are easily one of my favorite pieces of gymnastics in the entire competition. If she can control her catch on the Ezhova she will be raking in the gold medals on uneven bars soon! Her beam is elegant and I can see her factoring in as a two event specialist next quad, especially with the 4+2 rule going into effect.
Maile O'Keefe, who doesn't become a senior until 2018, really impressed me on beam. Despite a fall on her side aerial- layout stepout combination (which will be awesome when she can hit it!), she looked confident, had fluid movement, and great routine composition. I'm excited to see Maile grow even more in the next 3 years.
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