Wednesday, January 19, 2011
you're a constellation of stars. i just hate to think you might be ignoring some of them because they don't burn quite as bright.
There has been a lot of chatter lately about the upcoming Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup. Making its debut last year, the NLSGC was intended to be a high-production competition for Level 10, up-and-coming athletes who had never before had the chance to experience performing on a podium.
Awesome! A meet designed to showcase and inspire Junior Olympic gymnasts! What a fantastic opportunity for these girls, right? Whether it was a chance to experience a big-time meet with the TV cameras, or a chance to be seen by the top NCAA recruiters, there appeared to be a lot incentive to qualify to this inaugural event.
Rumblings regarding the shady qualifying procedures began almost immediately. Organizers paid a hefty sum of $2,500 in order to be considered a "Nastia Liukin" qualifying meet. However, that money was in turn donated to the Nastia Liukin Fund, which provided scholarship money to talented girls who may not have the means to train and compete, so that's actually pretty awesome. The confusion came with actually qualifying the girls: each invitation determined their own selection criteria. One meet might qualify the top Junior and Senior AA competitors, another meet might qualify the top two girls from the 5th of 8 sessions.
The real issue quickly became the question of WHO exactly was allowed to qualify. At one of the very first invitationals, the CGA Club Parents Coaches Spectacular (nice name, by the way) not one but two elite girls became the top qualifiers.
Lexie Priessman, Mary Lee Tracy's latest meal-ticket from Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, qualified to elite in June 2009 by winning the Parkette National Elite Qualifier. Later that summer, Lexie placed second at the US Covergirl Classic, on a PODIUM, and went on to compete in Dallas at the Visa National Championships, also held on a PODIUM.
She was followed by Amelia Hundley, also from CGA, who qualified to elite at the 2009 Excalibur Cup. Despite competing at the US Classic in both 2009 and 2010 (both on a PODIUM), and Nationals in 2010 (PODIUM), Amelia has qualified to the 2011 NLSGC, to compete on the PODIUM yet again.
In the following months an additional twelve elite girls would qualify to the final meet. 14 girls, out of a field of 36, had competed in elite prior to the Nastia Cup.
In some cases, I find it acceptable. If an athlete qualified to elite, gave it a whirl, found it wasn't to her liking and then dropped back down to L10, that's fine. I don't find it fair to punish a girl for trying elite. What I don't find acceptable are girls who are in the MIDDLE of their elite careers competing in meets meant for level 10s.
In the end, Mary Lee Tracy's tiny 13 year old outshone the older level 10 girls to win the first Nastia Liukin Cup. She got a fancy new leotard, a bunch of airtime, and lunch with Nastia herself.
Many fans hoped that the meet's organizers would fix the qualifying issues for the second cup, to be held in March 2011. Either change the premise to simply being another elite meet, or limit who is allowed to qualify.
This did not happen.
As of this past weekend, two girls have qualified to the NLSGC. Are they two new-to-the-scene, undiscovered kids? No. Are they two high school girls who are hoping that maybe Miss Val will give them a look? No.
The first qualifiers for 2011 are Amelia Hundley, again, and Kayla frickin' Williams.
Oh yeah. Kayla Williams. You know, WORLD CHAMPION Kayla Williams.
You remember, that one time when she went to the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS and competed ON A PODIUM and won the GOLD MEDAL in front of the WORLD.
Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of Williams. I was pumped when she won (on a PODIUM) and I think she will fit in swimmingly at Bama. It's great that she's back in shape, and that MLT hasn't destroyed her completely. But I just don't see why in the world she would even WANT to compete in this meet.
Is she super excited to meet Nastia? Pretty sure they've been to camp together.
And who is going to get all of the TV time, I wonder? Some nameless 18 year old looking for a scholarship? Or the newest little pixie with the latest tricks? Or maybe, just maybe, the huge comeback story of the Cinderella world champion?
I blame Mary Lee Tracy for this, for all of this, I do. She started the trend last year when she qualified two elites from her home gym at her home invitational. Other groups simply followed suit.
I hope this all gets ironed out. The original concept had so much potential.
But, as it stands, this is just another opportunity for those chosen gymnasts to remain chosen. To quote Emma Pilsbury from the hit Fox TV show Glee:
"You're a constellation of stars. I just hate to think you might be ignoring some of them because they don't burn quite as bright."