The first real marquee event in gymnastics airs live tonight with the women's team finals. The top two seeds are China and the United States. Each has an interesting story line. The Chinese are rocked by allegations that some of their athletes are underage (16 by year's end is the minimum). The U.S. team looks like a MASH unit with injuries decimating a pretty good team. So what happens? That's why they hold the competition, to find out.
Apparatus in Women's Play
Floor exercise: On a 40-foot-by-40-foot mat, a gymnast gets no more than 90 seconds to perform a choreographed routine to music.
Vault: Pretty simple. A gymnast runs, hits a springboard, touches a vaulting board and hopefully lands on her feet.
Uneven bars: Two bars, one about 5 feet off the ground and one about 8 feet up. A gymnast maneuver between the two in a series of acrobatic moves.
Balance beam: A gymnast jumps up on a beam that is a little less than 5 yards long and 4 inches wide. Then she performs a series of moves without falling off.
1: China. Underage or not, this group of talented youngsters has poise and polish.
2: United States. Hampered by injuries, team is being carried by Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin.
3: Russia. Good on bars and beam, might contend for a medal.
4. Romania. Still fighting to regain its prominence as the best in the world.
5. Australia. Strong in the vault and the floor exercise. Competitive but overmatched.
6. France. Traditionally not very deep. It still might not have enough to win it all.
7. Brazil. Fun to watch and powerful from the vault. It will make things exciting.
8. Japan. The vault has always been the downfall of this team.
The U.S. Team
Shawn Johnson: She's powerful, consistent and never nervous. Has become the rock.
Bridget Sloan: A surprise to make the team. She's very inexperienced.
Alicia Sacramone: She is the team leader and a calming force. A true veteran.
Chelsie Memmel. They had high hopes with her, but a bad ankle derailed most of them.
Samantha Peszek: Sprained her ankle; might be limited to the vault.
Nastia Liukin: She is excellent on the uneven bars. Brings an elegance to the sport.