The United States women's gymnastics team fell just short of a team gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Starting Friday in Tokyo, a mostly new batch of young ladies will represent the red, white and blue at the 2011 world gymnastics championships.
This version of the U.S. team features eight athletes, including two familiar faces.
Internet favorite Alicia Sacramone is the only member of the 2008 team that could compete in Tokyo, as Shawn Johnson qualified as an alternate but didn't travel with the squad. Sacramone is the defending world champion on the vault but she injured her Achilles tendon in practice and may not compete at all in Tokyo. She is not scheduled to be in the lineup for Friday's prelims.
While Johnson and Sacramone are the veterans, Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney are the two Americans most likely to gain headlines at the event. Wieber is the defending U.S. all-around champion and the favorite to walk away with individual gold in Tokyo. While Maroney is ranked No. 2 in the U.S. and should have a showdown with Sacramone in the vault event finals if the veteran can participate.
Team USA has not won a world championship since 2007, and if America's gymnasts can pull out a win in Tokyo it would make them the favorites in London next summer.
Look, I don't know a whole lot about gymnastics. What I do know is that the U.S. almost always has a phenomenal women's team and somehow it always comes down to a face-off between the Americans and China. And China's participants always look far younger than they supposedly are.
That said, when it comes to Olympic sports I end up turning into a jingoistic moron who screams at the television. During gymnastics you can almost certainly expect me to harshly critique some 16-year-old's routine on the balance beam. I'm not lying when I tell you that the words "You call that a dismount" came out of my mouth during the Beijing games.
So while I may not know much about it, I'll definitely be following it in the hopes America can finally get back on top of the sport.