The search for a new U.S. gymnastics captain

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The eight year de facto U.S. gymnastics team captain, Alicia Sacramone, announced her retirement from the sport late last month, and so this post started as a tear-stained, high school diary entry. But that didn’t seem totally appropriate. Instead I’ve decided to be positive, kind of, and pick who might be the next Alicia. Unfortunately Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, who took charge of the role while Alicia was out with an Achilles injury, isn’t in the picture for 2013 and hasn’t announced any future intentions to continue in the sport. So we have cross her off for now. Who’s next?

1. Jordyn Wieber – Wieber seems like the obvious choice. She’s mentally tough and physically dependable. She showed strength of character by putting her personal disappointment aside and coming through big time to help her team clench gold in the Olympic team final. Sounds like leadership material to me. She’ll be one of the most experienced, and most decorated seniors going into the 2013 season.

2. Elizabeth Price – Ebee was phenomenal at Olympic Trials. Still a little green, she was just short of making the team and settled for alternate. Since then she’s been on fire winning two world cup all-around titles and gaining valuable international experience. Ebee has the respect of the other elite gymnasts and in time could grow into a team leader with her positive outlook and powerful presence.

3. Mckalya Maroney – Maroney recently revealed she’s, “not done” and that she’d like to compete at the 2013 national championships and make the world team. She’s admitted that it’s a long shot due to her 2012 surgery following a tour related injury, but that doesn’t mean she can’t contribute leadership. Maroney only competed one event for team USA in London, but she was by far the biggest cheerleader for the entire team on the sidelines. Plus, she has that natural leadership swagger.

4. Rebecca Bross – No word yet from Bross on retirement (which is a good thing). Touted as the future of USA gymnastics in 2009, Bross had a meltdown at the U.S. Trials and failed to the make the team as an event specialist. Yet, she’s the most decorated world championship gymnast of the last four years (six world medals) and having seen both great success and great disappointment she has the right perspective that makes a great leader. Bross has been there and could be trusted to help lift a team up. She gets my vote.

Who gets yours?

Russia to finish Youth Olympics with most medals

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Russia clinched the top spot in the Youth Olympic medal standings, two days before the Closing Ceremony in Buenos Aires and eight months after it was excluded from the PyeongChang Winter Games for its doping problems.

The Russians have 52 medals with 25 golds so far, distancing the rest of the world.

1. Russia — 52 total, 25 gold
2. China — 36 total, 18 gold
3. Mixed NOCs — 36 total, 12 gold
4. Japan — 34 total, 14 gold
5. Italy — 31 total, 10 gold
10. U.S. — 15 total, 4 gold

China and Russia went one-two in total medals at the first two Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 and Nanjing, China in 2014. The U.S. has never topped a Youth Olympic total medal table, be it Summer or Winter Games.

The U.S. has, however, earned the most total medals at the last six Summer Olympics, beginning with the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The Youth Olympics, for athletes ages 14 to 18, do not emphasize medal counts (plus have many medal events where athletes from different nations compete on the same team). The Games include many Olympic events and some that are not on the Olympic program, including break dancing, where a Russian who goes by Bumblebee earned gold last week.

The next Youth Olympics are the winter version in the IOC base of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2020, followed by the summer version in 2022 in Dakar, Senegal, the first Olympic Games of any kind to be held in Africa.

The Youth Olympics conclude with the last full day of medal competition on Wednesday and the Closing Ceremony on Thursday.

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Aliya Mustafina returns to gymnastics worlds, year after giving birth

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Aliya Mustafina, an all-around medalist at the last two Olympics, made Russia’s team for next week’s world gymnastics championships, 16 months after giving birth to daughter Alisa.

Mustafina, 24, is joined by one Rio Olympic teammate, Angelina Melnikova, and three world championships rookies (plus Olympian Daria Spiridonova as an alternate), according to Russia’s gymnastics federation.

Mustafina is the last non-American woman to win an Olympic or world championships all-around, back in 2010 in her first year as a senior gymnast. A series of injuries followed, including surgeries on both knees and her left ankle.

She missed the 2015 Worlds with back pain but rebounded for a medal of every color in Rio (uneven bars gold, team silver and all-around bronze, just as she had done at London 2012).

Her seven total Olympic medals are tied for the most by a Russian woman since the fall of the Soviet Union with retired gymnast Svetlana Khorkina.

Viktoria Komova, the 2012 Olympic all-around silver medalist who has also struggled with injuries, is not on Russia’s team for worlds in Doha. She last competed at a global championship in 2015, sharing the uneven bars title with three other gymnasts.

Mustafina joins a list of distinguished moms to return to the top level of gymnastics, including Oksana Chusovitina, who began competing in the Soviet Union in the 1980s and, seven Olympics later, is still competing at age 43 (for Uzbekistan).

The most decorated Olympic gymnast, Soviet Larisa Latynina, earned 12 of her 18 medals after becoming a mom.

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