visa championships 2011

Black History Month: NCAA Gymnasts

February 8th- Kiana Winston (Alabama)

Kiana Winston (born June 12th 1996) is a former international elite gymnast who is currently a junior at the University of Alabama, majoring in psychology. She did her club training at Texas Dreams Gymnastics under Kim Zmeskal-Burdette and Chris Burdette.

Pre-collegiate Achievements:

  • 2009 US Classic Beam Champion 
  • 2009, 2010 and 2011 Visa Championships Qualifier
  • 2011 USA Junior National Team Member

Collegiate Bests:

  • Vault: 9.900
  • Bars: 9.975
  • Beam: 9.950
  • Floor: 10.000

Collegiate Achievements (to date):

  • First Team All-American on floor (2016)
  • Got her first 10.000 on floor against Florida (02/03/2017)
  • SEC Gymnast of the Week (02/06/2017)
With each routine that I get to compete, I’m feeling more like myself. Coming into the last routine of the day and coming into (Saturday) even after Thursday, I felt so excited and so confident. I felt like I could really go out there and hit my routines and not just question or wonder what would happen. I think it will only go up from here.
—  Shawn Johnson after the 2011 Visa National Championships

Potential Comebacks 2014 - Sabrina Vega (USA)

Sabrina Vega was last seen competing at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. While she was a member of the 2011 world championships team, Sabrina was not selected to be a member of the 2012 Olympic team. Despite this disappointment, she continued to train into 2013, changing gyms from Dynamic Gymnastics in New York to GAGE in Missouri. Early 2013, Sabrina had shoulder surgery to repair an old injury. This kept her out of competition for 2013. Fans of Sabrina are hoping to see her back in competition early next year and are excited to see what results the gym switch will have in her gymnastics. 

Past Results

2009 Junior Team of International Gymnix: gold - team; silver - all around, uneven bars, balance beam, floor

2009 Junior Pan America Championships: gold - team; silver - all around, uneven bars

2009 Junior Covergirl Classic: gold - floor; silver - all around; bronze - uneven bars

2009 Junior Visa Championships: gold - floor; bronze - balance beam

2010 Pacific Rim Championships: gold - team; silver - balance beam

2010 Junior Pan American Championships: silver - balance beam

2010 Junior Covergirl Classic: bronze - floor

2010 Junior Visa Championships: silver - floor

2011 City of Jesolo Trophy: gold - team, floor; silver - uneven bars; bronze - floor

2011 Covergirl Classic: silver - floor; bronze - all around

2011 World Championships: gold - team

2012 Secret U.S. Classic: bronze - floor

I came into this week thinking I was just going to like, pass out I was so nervous. But I finished just on cloud nine. I finally feel like I’ve kind of gotten my groove back with the whole gymnastics competition thing, and being selected back to the national team, it like, brought back tears.
—  Shawn Johnson after a successful 2011 Visa National Championships
A few thoughts on the 2011 Visa National Championships

Just like the recent CoverGirl competition, the senior women looked great in podium training yet had error-filled routines, particularly the first day. Hopefully this is not a pattern that will continue at World Championships. Most of them had much improved second days, so at least they are moving in the right direction. 

I’m not a fan of selection process for selecting the World Championships and Pan American teams – in particular the many camps that the girls have to attend. I understand it allows flexibility to factor in preparedness close to the event and allows the gymnasts to recover from injuries, but does anyone really think that Jordyn Wieber will not be on the Worlds team? Wieber isn’t a second semester senior in high school suffering from senioritis, and giving her a berth on the team now doesn’t mean she’s going to stop practicing and adopt Big Macs as a staple food. Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson were named to the Olympic squad at the Olympic trials after they took the top two spots, and their Olympic experiences were immensely successful.   

There are three 2008 Olympic veterans and former World all-around champions who didn’t compete to their full potential at nationals: Chellsie Memmel (excellent execution, low start values, especially on vault), Shawn Johnson (good execution, low start values) and Bridget Sloan (didn’t compete at all due to a shoulder injury). They have all proven themselves in international competition, and it’s reasonable to give them more time to prove themselves at a camp. But in the meantime, I think Wieber deserves to be named to the team, and I think a strong case could be made for Alicia Sacramone and McKayla Maroney as well. 

Jordyn Wieber is terrifically talented and like Aliya Mustafina doesn’t appear to have a weak event. I’m not enamored with her floor choreography but she had a great senior debut at the American Cup and nationals and is looking like the U.S.’ best hope for an all-around gold at Worlds this year. 

I’m a big fan of McKayla Maroney’s gymnastics. She had a terrible first day, but the fact that she was able to jump to second place after finals with four solid routines shows that she has the potential to score very well. She’s definitely in contention for a vault medal at Worlds, especially if she can upgrade the difficulty of her second vault. She’s got the best Amanar in the world at the moment; it’s so nice to see someone do more than just manage to pull it around with bent legs and a huge step on the landing. Her floor routine is beautifully choreographed – she comes from the same gym as Mattie Larson, so that’s not surprising – and she’s got nice lines on beam. She has some minor form issues on bars with bent and separated legs, but nothing too horrible. 

Alexandra Raisman will probably get put on the Worlds team for her consistency and floor routine, which has superb tumbling. She had a very good Worlds last year and demonstrated she’s very cool under pressure, something Martha Karolyi values highly. Her flexed feet on her bars release moves aren’t pretty, but she probably won’t be used in the team finals on that event anyway. 

Alicia Sacramone did well on five out of six routines, and her one fall came on floor, which she wouldn’t necessarily be used for in a team final. She’s got to be looking over her shoulder at McKayla Maroney since her greatest contribution to the U.S. has typically been on vault. With Sacramone, Maroney and Wieber on vault, the U.S. is going to have a very strong lineup for team finals on that event. One consistent weakness is her landings – I can’t remember the last time I saw her stick a vault, and she tends to have trouble staying in bounds during floor.

Chellsie Memmel was looking totally unflappable until her last routine, when she fell twice on bars and ended up not finishing her routine due to a tweaked shoulder. Even though her difficulty level isn’t where it needs to be to contend for a world title as she has in the past, she can probably raise it higher over the next couple of months. She’s suffered a lot from injuries in the past, so staying healthy will be a major factor for her. Notably in her under-the-radar comeback she skipped the camps (which sound like they can be rather grueling on the body). She and her dad have a comeback plan, and they seem to be walking the line of pushing herself without overdoing it very well. 

Mackenzie Caquatto did very well for herself by hitting her bars routines. She made the 2010 Worlds squad largely because of bars and it seems likely that she’ll be named to the 2011 squad for the same reason. 

Unfortunately for Anna Li, she wasn’t able to hit her high-difficulty bars routine. With a simple beam routine and no floor and vault she would have had to score exceedingly well, consistently, to have a solid shot at a Worlds berth. 

Shawn Johnson is still far from her 2008 peak form, but Nationals was very successful for her. She added a respectable double twisting Yurchenko vault and didn’t have any falls on bars or beam. Like Chellsie Memmel, she looked particularly good after the first day when so many gymnasts succumbed to nerves and fell. Her long term goal is the Olympics next year, so my guess is they won’t try to push it too hard on the difficulty and risk a serious injury before Worlds, which means she’ll probably be getting a ticket to the Pan American Games instead of Tokyo. But it’s entirely possible that she’ll be able to show enough improvement over the next couple of months that she will be named to the World team.

Bridget Sloan is this year’s dark horse. After a somewhat fluke win at the 2009 World Championships when Rebecca Bross crashed her last tumbling pass, Bridget has struggled with injuries. Still, she benefited from the training camps in 2008, when she wasn’t at peak form due to a torn meniscus earlier in the year but was ultimately named to the Olympic team. If she’s able to show fitness at the camps, she’s a good bars worker and has proven herself in international competition.

We’re still waiting for the definitive word on Rebecca Bross’ knee injury, but the latest we’ve heard is that it was a dislocated kneecap, which is apparently less serious than a torn ACL. Bross has struggled this year – this was her first competition since Worlds last year, when she was competing with a broken ankle (it was diagnosed as a “stress reaction” prior to the competition). As with any top gymnast from WOGA, Bross has had excellent routines with terrific difficulty and execution, but has struggled with hitting all four events (see: 2009 and 2010 World Championship all-around competitions). She’s a fierce competitor with an enviable short-term memory though, and typically manages to regroup after a fall and continue to compete to her potential regardless of whether she’s still in contention for the gold. After this injury, her biggest challenge for 2012 will be getting and staying healthy. 

The media loves to hype the fact that Rebecca Bross trains at the same gym as the last two Olympic champions, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin. Expect this storyline to continue after next year’s Olympics when the phenomenal Katelyn Ohashi, who won Jr. nationals this year, is a senior. If Ohashi was old enough this year she’d almost certainly be on her way to Tokyo and London next year, just as Nastia Liukin was talented enough in 2004 to contend for an Olympic title during her last year as a junior. 

Finally, Nastia. She put out a statement before nationals that she wouldn’t be giving interviews about herself at the competition, presumably to forestall the inevitable barrage of “Will you be coming back for the 2012 Olympics?” queries. With less than a year left before the Olympics, the window of time for her to get back in shape and gain competition experience is not looking great. With the proliferation of 2.5 twisting Yurchenkos it seems like it would be harder for her to contend for an Olympic all-around medal (though, notably, silver medalist Shawn Johnson did an Amanar at the 2008 Olympics) at this point, given that her vault is a relatively simple 1.5 Yurchenko. Still, I think an excellent case could be made for her to be selected as a specialist on bars, beam, and possibly floor, assuming she’s able to return to something close to her 2008 form. She’s won world titles on bars and beam, medaled at the Olympics in floor, and with the exception of Viktoria Komova, no one comes close to her in terms of perfect style and lines. She has sent a lot of mixed signals regarding her intentions; she’ll be traveling to London in September for some promotional Olympics-related stuff (and presumably no 7-hour days in the gym), which suggests that she isn’t training seriously enough for a comeback. But she always says that watching competitions makes her miss being on the floor, and her decision to not rule out a comeback yet suggests that she is still toying with the idea. I hope she’s pulling a Chellsie Memmel and just keeping her comeback under-the-radar, because I would love to see her bust out with an amazing bars routine at next year’s CoverGirl Classic.