Research nuggets: Sunday's gymnastics

Getty Images/Adam Pretty

Jordyn Wieber is trying to do what hasn't been done at the Olympics since 1996.

The gymnastics portion of the Olympics began on Saturday with men’s qualifying, and the women begin competing on Sunday. Both American teams are filled with medal hopefuls, and the women are favored to bring home team gold.

Women’s Gymnastics

The United States women have won team gold once previously, at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, when an injured Kerri Strug nailed her final vault to secure first place.

Since then, the United States has medaled in each Olympics, winning silver behind Romania in 2004 and China in 2008.

Individual All-Around
American Women Winners

Americans Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas are the two favorites to win the individual all-around, and either would be the third straight American to win gold in that event, following Carly Patterson in 2004 and Nastia Liukin in 2008.

Wieber is the 2011 world champion, but Douglas edged her at Olympic Trials. Recent history bodes poorly for Wieber: in the previous 40 years, the only reigning world champion to win Olympic gold was Ukraine’s Lilia Podkopayeva in 1996.

Other American women are also expected to contend in individual disciplines. After winning bronze at last year’s World Championships,

Aly Raisman seeks to win the United States’ first gold medal in floor exercise. McKayla Maroney took gold in the vault at World Championships, and she could be the first American gold medalist in that event.

Men’s Gymnastics

Don’t forget the United States men, who finished runner-up to Japan in 2004 and won bronze in Beijing, marking the first time they medaled in the team all-around in consecutive Olympics.

The Americans surprised everyone by finishing first in Saturday’s qualifying, though scores are wiped clean before Monday’s team final. The United States’ only team gold medal came in the boycotted 1984 Olympics.

Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, Danell Leyva posted the best individual all-around score in qualifying, with teammate John Orozco finishing fourth.

Either could join Paul Hamm (gold in 2004) and Peter Vidmar (silver in 1984) as the only Americans to medal in the individual all-around.

Leyva also placed third in the horizontal bar, for the best apparatus result by an American in qualifying.

Jonathan Horton was fifth on horizontal bar, an event the United States men have had recent success in, with Hamm winning silver in 2004 and Horton winning silver in 2008.

Elsewhere, Jake Dalton tied for fourth in floor exercise, and Sam Mikulak qualified fourth on vault. Winning a medal in either event would be an accomplishment.

An American man hasn’t medaled in vault since 1984, and the last U.S. medalist in floor exercise was Peter Kormann in 1976.