Two weeks from tonight the fifteen senior women of USA Gymnastics will begin competition for five spots on the 2012 Olympic team. In an effort to make your countdown go by a little faster, TCG brings you day two of the “15 in 15″ series with a profile of dark horse Olympic hopeful Elizabeth Price of Parkettes.
Price isn’t a household name. Many didn’t know who she was until she burst onto the senior scene with her fantastic Amanar at the City of Jesolo Trophy this past March. The sixteen-year-old’s elite history actually goes back to 2008 when she qualified to Nationals for the first time at age twelve. Two years later, a vastly improved Price made the junior National Team after placing 13th at the Visa Championships in Hartford, Conn. She competed in Jesolo as a junior in 2011 and though she had trouble on beam and floor later that summer, made the junior team again after placing 11th at Nationals.
The difference between Price’s abilities in in 2011 compared to 2012 is comparable to – though not as explosive as – Gabby Douglas’ growth. She still has her problems on beam, but perfected some pretty fierce skills on bars and floor in addition to getting a near-perfect Amanar. She has a huge Tkatchev and Church in her awesome bars set, which she caps off with a full-twisting double layout; on floor, she throws a great double double to open and follows up with a beautifully-executed double layout.
Price showing off her incredibly strong tumbling skills, especially in the first two passes.
So much power, so much ferocity, and she really seems to be peaking at exactly the right time, never really standing out in major competition until now, weeks before the Olympics. Up until and including the Secret U.S. Classic, this kid never broke 57 in elite competition; now she’s chasing Kyla Ross with high 58s and 59s.
Does Price have a shot at London? In fifth place at the conclusion of this year’s Nationals, “Ebee,” as she’s known to fans and friends alike, is looking more and more like she could be the underdog contender. Her biggest strength is the fact that her weak event is really the one thing Team USA doesn’t need covered. She can hit a huge vault with very little deductions in team finals, one that comes close to that of USA vault queen McKayla Maroney.
Price delivers a huge Yurchenko 2.5 on day one of the 2012 Visa Championships.
But are her bars and floor strong enough to be valuable? She does boast big skills but her start values and execution might be too low. On a team that could include athletes like Kyla Ross, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, and Aly Raisman, it would be tough to fit in on either event, as Ross, Douglas, and Wieber all perform better on bars while Raisman, Wieber, and Douglas are stronger on floor. So Price would essentially be going as a vault specialist, yet she only has the one vault, so wouldn’t it make more sense to bring McKayla Maroney?
This is where it get tricky. The decision between Price and Maroney for the fifth spot would come down to whether they value team strength/safety or individual gold. If they bring Price, they get an awesome team finals vault and then a very strong back-up athlete on bars and floor. If they bring Maroney, they get an awesome team finals vault and a probable gold event medal, but if anything were to happen to the other athletes, Maroney wouldn’t really be in a place to save them. Is it worthy to risk not having a strong backup if anything goes wrong, or should they play it safe with Price?
Of course, taking Price along doesn’t necessarily guarantee a “safety” for the team. Her bars are strong, yes. But she’s made mistakes in the past when it’s counted. In fact, her track record could suggest that she’s not the most reliable person to bring along if they want to ensure hit routines. She fell several times at the Classic and then struggled on bars during the second day of Nationals. One could argue that yes, Maroney is a vault specialist, but she could also technically step in on any of the four events and while her D+E combo isn’t terribly high, she’d still bring in scores that could help the team, with her extra few tenths on vault making up for what she might lack on floor.
Again, for Price, it’ll come down to how she competes in San Jose. Let’s say her rough Classics and stellar Nationals cancel each other out for now, and let’s wait to see how she does in two weeks. For all we know, she could show up with even higher difficulty than she’s been working and blow us all out of the water. To nab a spot on the team, she’ll either have to dominate or bank on mistakes and injuries among her fellow competitors. Price is a highly capable athlete who would easily be the first choice for almost any other nation going into London, but on a team as deep as Team USA, she’ll really need to prove that her bars and floor especially can be top three in the country and therefore worthy of a team final.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Photo by Stew Milne for US Presswire