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USA Gymnastics announces Olympic selection procedures

January 11, 2012 |  1:16 pm

Usag_logo_200No waiting around this year.

For the first time since the 2000 Olympics, gymnasts and fans will know, soon after the USA Gymnastics Olympic trials June 28-July 1 in San Jose, which five men and five women will represent the U.S. in London at the 2012 Olympics.

For both the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games, where the U.S. women produced silver-medal-winning teams and the gold-medal-winning all-around champion, the women had to attend a camp at the Texas ranch of team coordinator Martha Karolyi. Before the Beijing Games four years ago, selected girls had to compete in a two-day mini-meet at the ranch after trials and just before the team left for Beijing. It was at the ranch where the final selection was made.

"Basically, it comes down to timing," USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said from London on Wednesday. Penny is attending a gymnastics test event at the London Olympic facility. "The bottom line is the timing is conducive to selecting a full team because there are only a few weeks between the dates of our trials and the Olympic Games. We're very excited about the fact we'll leave San Jose with full teams."

This will benefit NBC, which is televising the trials and will have the announcement live.

The selection procedures for the men's and women's teams are different. The men will use scores from the national championships June 7-10 in St. Louis and the Olympic trials and the top two scorers make the five-man team as long as they are also in the top three on three of the six individual events men compete in.

For the women, the winner of the trials' all-around competition automatically qualifies. The men's and women's selection committees will choose the rest of the team as well as name three alternates who will all also travel to London.

The men will allow injured gymnasts to petition on to the team if they were a part of the 2008 Olympic team or were members of the 2009, 2010 or 2011 world championship teams. The women will not accept petitions of injured gymnasts who miss the trials.

Olympic gymnastics competition will begin July 28 for the men and July 29 for the women.

Penny said Karolyi, who had preferred selecting the full team as close as possible to the games because she felt it was the best way to find the most-prepared and healthiest gymnasts, was satisfied with this procedure.

"Martha's been agreeable because she understands that there's just not a lot of options when you're this close to the Olympic Games," Penny said. "By the time you turn around, you're heading to London anyway."

The procedure will be more tense than ever because the size of teams has been reduced from six to five. The women won three gold medals at the 2011 world championships including the team title and all-around gold with Jordyn Wieber. Defending Beijing all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin and all-around silver medalist Shawn Johnson are both making comebacks as are 2008 Olympians Bridget Sloan and Chellsie Memmel.

Also on the comeback trail in 2004 is all-around champion Paul Hamm, who missed the Beijing Games because of injury and, after starting a comeback, missed last year's national championships because of a shoulder injury. Hamm was arrested in June on assault charges after he allegedly kicked a cab driver while in a taxi and refused to pay the fare. Hamm has pleaded not guilty. Penny said that Hamm was still in good standing with USA Gymnastics and would be eligible to compete at the national championships and Olympic trials.

"I think Paul is most concerned about trying to resolve the legal matters that he has right now," Penny said. "In our most recent conversations, I felt Paul was approaching this in a very responsible and mature manner. He and his team are working closely to try to resolve the matter, and he's very eager to get it behind him."

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-- Diane Pucin

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