It's official: New U.S. champion Simone Biles and Olympic gold medalists Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney and Brenna Dowell will make up the American team at the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium at the end of the month.
Sixteen-year-old Biles, who won the U.S. title in her first year as a senior last month in Hartford, and 16-year-old Ross, who has been Miss Consistency for team USA for the past several years, are expected to compete in the all-around in Antwerp. The big question will be whether Maroney, 17, will do likewise or stick to her strongest events (vault and floor), which would mean Dowell, 17, would compete on bars and beam.
That's because although each country can bring four gymnasts to this World Championships, they can only put up three on each event. Some teams have taken advantage of this to send a couple of all-arounders and two specialists with chances at making event finals. In light of the fact that there is no team competition or Olympic qualification to worry about, other teams are sending no all-arounders at all, focusing on getting certain gymnasts into certain event finals.
For the U.S., if Maroney does all around (as she's been training throughout the year) it will help her figure out her place within team USA throughout the quad. Maroney has already committed to training for Rio in 2016, and of the Fierce Five, she seems the most dedicated to seeing it through the next few years.
Until this year, Maroney's place has been defined as a vault specialist with a decent floor routine, though that may change with the ascension of Biles, whose Amanar vault is in league with Maroney's and has been training a Cheng as a second vault, half a twist more than Maroney's second vault. The World vault final may be between those two, with North Korea's Hong Un Jong also figuring in, provided she can land her own Amanar and Cheng.
Although she has been training bars and beam at the two big U.S. events this year, Maroney has not competed them since last year's Olympic Trials. A successful four events in Antwerp and beating either Ross or Biles for the second U.S. berth to all-around finals -- would be big for Maroney.
Dowell, a Missouri gymnast with a unique bar routine, big front tumbling passes and an Amanar of her own, finished ninth all-around at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials and has dramatically upgraded her difficulty since. She is the first gymnast trained by Al and Armine Fong to make it to the World Championships since Ivana Hong in 2007 (Hong made the 2009 World team as well, but with coach Valeri Liukin). Dowell finished third all-around behind Biles and Ross at last month's U.S. Championships.
Following the selection announcement, Elizabeth Price was named the team's non-traveling alternate, according to various media reports. Price was an alternate to the Olympic team last year and won two end-of-2012 World Cups, but has been slowed by injury so far this year.
The U.S. men's World team -- Sam Mikulak, John Orozco, Brandon Wynn, Alex Naddour, Steven Legendre and Jake Dalton -- was announced following the U.S. Championships. 2012 Olympian Orozco, initially an alternate, was selected to replace 2012 Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva, who withdrew his name from contention after Nationals.