Double front has an interesting post about predicting the US women’s gymnastics team for 2012.
“During the last three Olympic cycles, between 50%-83% of the US team were members of the preceding year’s World team. Based on this recent history, at least half of the athletes selected for this year’s World Championships in Tokyo will be on the 2012 team.”
DF goes on to predict the chances of the returning Olympians from 2008.
“It’s also worth noting that the last two Olympics have not included any returning Olympians. Sydney 2000 was the last Games where the US team had returning Olympians. 2000 Olympians, Dominique Dawes and Amy Chow, were members of the 1996 Magnificent Seven. (Dawes was also a member of 1992 team in Barcelona).
Nearly all of the 2008 Olympians are still competing or are making a return to the sport. Historically, it is unlikely that more than two of them (if any) will get another berth on an Olympic team.”
While DF says that no returning Olympians made the past two Olympic teams, so far as I know only one even tried and she made alternate. Going beyond Olympians, you can also consider gymnasts who were either ineligible or didn’t make it to one Olympics but kept going and made the next one. For 2004 that’s Hatch and Bhardwaj. For 2008, that’s Liukin, Memmel, and Sacramone. Chow and Dawes were mentioned for 2000. A banner year for comebacks was 1996. Three returning Olympians and Borden who barely missed the previous Olympic team.
I think returning Olympians actually have a really good shot at making the next Olympic team and I think there are a couple of things that determine if a comeback will be successful or not. The most important thing is that they continue at all. You can’t tell me that both Kupets and Patterson wouldn’t have been able to beat out Sloan and Peszek for the final spots on the 2008 team. Patterson completely quit but Kupets, who kept in great shape in college, could’ve definitely made it had she not gotten injured.
Staying in shape is key even if they don’t compete. It’s much easier to get back into competition if you don’t also have to get back into shape as well. If they take a couple of years off from training, getting back into it soon enough is important. For 2000, it was remarkable what Dawes was able to accomplish but I think she would’ve been much, much better had she returned when Chow did. Continued learning is a must. Many times older gymnasts fall behind not because they are less talented than newcomers but because they never upgrade their skills. Gymnastics is a fluid sport and the skill set that was good enough at one point will not likely be good enough four years later unless the gymnast was the type to throw everything but the kitchen sink into her routines in the first place.
The last thing I would say that helps predict if a returning Olympian will make the next team is their status on the team they made. Were they a top contender or where they a bubble gymnast? IF they were a bubble gymnast, they can easily be surpassed by the better newcomers and would find themselves once again fighting for the last sport or two. That could go either way for them. If they were a top gymnast, even if they are beat out for the top spot on the team by some newcomer, they will most likely still be good enough to beat out the new bubble gymnasts.