Peggy Shinn Blog - Eeny, meeny, miney mo, catch a gymnast by the toe …
After gymnastics Olympic Trials, the USA Gymnastics press release announcing the men's team was the most commented on article on teamusa.org. Most were upset that Raj Bhavsar was named as a replacement - for the second straight Olympics - not to the team itself.
Bhavsar finished third in overall scoring behind Jonathan Horton and Joseph Hagerty, who both were named to the 2008 Olympic team. The fourth, fifth, and sixth place guys didn't make the cut either. But Justin Spring, Olympic veteran Morgan Hamm, and Kevin Tan did make it - after finishing eighth, ninth, and tenth, respectively. Paul Hamm made it too, and he didn't compete in trials.
Many wondered why they even bothered to have trials if the team wasn't going to be picked based on overall score. In some ways, it seemed as if officials had lined up the athletes and counted, "Eeny meeny miney mo."
I'm sure the committee had sound reasons for picking the team it did, and it was no doubt a very difficult task. The New York Times reported that the selection committee deliberated for 10 hours before naming the team, even using a computer to generate 40 different scenarios based on the athletes' scores.
Unlike sports with start and finish lines, where Olympic berths are earned by simply going faster than anyone else, gymnastics is a subjective sport, where athletes sometimes make or don't make the cut based on traits that can't be quantified. Who is the most consistent? Who strengthens the team where it is weak? Who is a specialist? Who is stronger all-around? And who will lead the team with confidence and experience?
Maybe they should have called the meet an Exhibition rather than an Olympic Trials. It might have been less misleading. The committee still would have deliberated - much like a jury deciding a defendant's fate - but in this case, the "defendants" would have known that the jury wasn't just looking at the scores as evidence.
2008 U.S. Men's Olympic Team
Joe Hagerty, Rio Ranchero, N.M./Team Chevron
Morgan Hamm, Waukesha, Wis./Team Chevron
Paul Hamm, Waukesha, Wis./Team Chevron
Jonathan Horton, Houston/Team Chevron
Justin Spring, Burke, Va./Team Chevron
Kevin Tan, Fremont, Calif./Team Chevron
Alexander Artemev, Lakewood, Colo./Team Chevron
Raj Bhavsar, Houston/Team Chevron
David Durante, Garwood, N.J./Team Chevron
Peggy Shinn is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This blog was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.