Several of the world's top men and women gymnasts will compete at St. Louis' Chaifetz Arena this weekend, and for some, dreams of going to the 2016 Rio Olympics will be made.
The Olympic Trials for U.S. Men's Gymnastics will be held Thursday and Saturday at 7 p.m. The P&G Championships, the national competition, for U.S. women will be held Friday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. The men's and women's juniors will also take place those days earlier in the afternoon, and a fan fest will be held during the events as well.
"I'm certain there are going to be people watching these athletes on the medal stand in Rio, listening to the national anthem, and I hope at least they recognize they had the chance to watch them up close in St. Louis ... and hopefully took advantage of that opportunity," said Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission.
- Olympians and medal winners
Two of the "Fierce Five" members of the gold-winning 2012 U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team will compete in the nationals in St. Louis: Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman. Viverito said, with only two Olympians back on the women's side, "it's a little more wide open." Among those competing this week will be the other members of the 2015 U.S. women's national team, which won the world championship.
Four of the 2012 U.S. men's Olympic team are back to try to secure a second trip: Jake Dalton, Danell Leyva (all-around bronze winner in London), Sam Mikulak and John Orozco. All of the alternates from that team will also be competing.
- The U.S. Men's Gymnastics Olympic team selection
The athletes' scores from the national championships and the Olympic trials are combined to determine who earns a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic teams.
The men have already competed in their national championships, which means by the end of the Olympic trials in St. Louis, we'll know who will represent the country in Rio. Viverito said the team will be introduced to the world for the first time Saturday night at the Chaifetz Arena to fireworks.
"Overall, the men are internationally competitive," Viverito said. "The group that you see qualify here has got a great chance to medal in Rio, because you have an experienced group that's vying for the team."
Still, Viverito said the team will need to have balance between "vets and rookies." Which means that there's room for...
- Upsets and new stars
Viverito said he is looking forward to watching competitor Simone Biles, a three-time world all-around champion and three-time U.S. all-around champion.
"Many people have suggested that Simone Biles is the best gymnast who has ever lived, so that’s pretty heady billing," he said. "Simone is kind of otherworldly when it comes to how good she is, and I think it's going to be a special treat for us hosting the event, but I can't imagine how cool that would be for kids (to see)."
On the men's side,he said Mikulak will be one to watch, particularly since he had an ankle injury that prevented him from competing in the world championship.
"This is the one thing you’ve been working for forever," Viverito said of the athletes. "You just never know with injuries and with young people coming along, this may be the last time you get to try (for the Olympics) because it’s four years later."