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Up next for women gymnasts: L.A. girls

August 21, 2008 |  3:16 am

Mattie Larson competes in the floor exercise at the U.S. Olympic trials in June.

BEIJING -- Can't take a rest when you're a gymnastics coach. No time for celebrating. Not 20 minutes after Shawn Johnson had added a balance beam gold to the U.S. total of eight women's gymnastics medals, team coordinator Martha Karolyi was speaking about the future.

While she will urge all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin to stay at least until the 2009 world championships, Karolyi listed five others she has her eye on, including Mattie Larson and Samantha Shapiro of the All-Olympia Gymnastics Club in Los Angeles.

Larson made it to the final 12 of this year's selection process but was slowed by a stress fracture in her leg. Shapiro was a year below the age limit this season.

Karolyi said the U.S. needs to up its difficulty on uneven bars, the apparatus where the Chinese dominated in the team finals. She cited AOGC coaches Galina Marinova and Artur Akopyan, especially Akopyan, as being excellent bars technicians.

Karolyi also mentioned 15-year-old Bridget Sloan, who was on this team, as being able to stay four more years and become the leader like Alicia Sacramone did this time. Two Texans, 15-year-old Chelsea Davis and 14-year-old Rebecca Bross (who trains at Liukin's gym, which has produced the last two all-around champions, with Carly Patterson and Liukin), are also high on Karolyi's future list.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Mattie Larson competes in the floor exercise at the U.S. Olympic trials in June. Credit: Nick Laham / Getty Images