Marta Karolyi plans to end her tenure as the head of US Women's Gymnastics with a bang - and a lot of gold.
When you start thinking about the Summer Olympics, gymnastics is one of the most eagerly anticipated sports. The athletes are incredibly tough, incredibly graceful, and go through so much just to get there that it has been compared to The Hunger Games. Now that the brutal trials are over, the 5-woman team set to go to Rio is complete.
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It will be a special year, as Marta Karolyi, the 74-year-old architect of the program, has said that it will be her last. While many people see her as being intimidating and curt, ESPN reports that she cried while telling the competitors and their coaches who she would be taking to the ranch and then to Rio.
The competitors cried as well. Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, both of whom were locks to join the team, cried in anticipation. Defending Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas cried as well - especially because she has had a rough few nights and was not a definite for the team. She made the cut, in part thanks to a beautiful uneven bars routine. Gabby has been in the news recently because she sidelined one of her coaches in order to help her find the joy in the sport again.
Newcomer Laurie Hernandez, who came in second, wasn't seen as a lock by many, though a fantastic beam performance all but solidified her at the last minute. She will be one of the few gymnasts who could show in all four competitions: beam, bars, floor, and vault.
Only 16, Hernandez has quickly become a scene-stealer. She didn't cry when her name was announced, laughing and asking Raisman and Biles, "Should I be crying, too?" She eventually did succumb to tears.
"It's a mix of joy and relief -- it's both," Biles said. "It's like a tornado of emotions."
Many people have been critical of Karolyi's method, where she doesn't necessarily go on the scores. However, her methods have been incredibly successful.
Madison Kocian rounds out the team, in a hard-fought win that was well deserved.
The team is still the favorite to win the gold medal next month, even with some bobbles last night. Nerves seem to be a huge problem for just about everyone, including Biles, who had a rare fall last night. Biles is likely to go down as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, as her talent is seemingly unending. Rio will be her first Olympics.
Hernandez might also be a contender for an all-around medal if she can clean up her routines and replicate her beam.
Raisman and Douglas were both 2012 London Olympians, and this is the first time that Americans have made back-to-back teams since 2000.
Karolyi was worried about Douglas, fearing that her new training and coaching might not help her. Douglas fell on the beam twice and performed a somewhat lackluster floor exercise. According to insiders, leaving her off of the team was discussed. Still, her versatility in all four events and her shining performances on uneven bars - something US is weak in - pushed her to the front. They also used that justification for Madison Kocian.
"I can't wait to get back in the gym," Douglas said. "I wasn't as sharp as I wanted to be -- but that is going to change. Because I am so determined. And I totally believe more is in me."
For now, the team will go to the US National Team Training Camp at Karolyi's ranch in Houston for a week and a half.
Raisman, who has been through this before and knows how it goes, said, "Just making the team is just so incredibly hard to do. But it's almost like the job is just beginning, too, and it's just getting more intense from here. It's exciting, but now you turn the page and focus on the next job, which is Rio."
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If Biles and the U.S. don't win it all, it will be one of the biggest shocks of the Olympics.