The 2013 American Cup lineups were announced this morning. In short, as of right now Elizabeth Price, Kyla Ross, Larisa Iordache, Elisabeth Seitz, Vanessa Ferrari, Asuka Teramoto, Danell Leyva, Jake Dalton, Marcel Nguyen, Kristian Thomas, Jorge Hugo Giraldo, Oleg Veniaiev and Sergio Sasaki will compete, with two women and one man still to be added to the roster.
Here's why it's going to be interesting:
Rebuilding Romania: Where does Larisa Iordache, who had a disappointing Olympics but was one of the Games's most highly touted prospects, fit in as a second-year senior? Iordache has a competitive streak and isn't afraid to talk about it. When I asked her how she felt after the 2012 American Cup, the first thing she said (through a translator) was: "I am a little disappointed because I was not in first place."
Kyla Ross vs. Elizabeth Price: Since we last saw Kyla Ross compete, she's had an Olympic gold medal placed around her neck, turned 16, gotten taller and been part of a media blitz that U.S. gymnastics hasn't seen the likes of since '96. Many are thinking that the serious, quiet Ross is going to pull a Bridget Sloan: be the youngest member of the Olympic team and go on to great individual success the year after the Games. It will be interesting to see how Price, with her Amanar vault and all-around strength, matches up.
Podium challengers: Germany's Elisabeth Seitz looked very well throughout the fall, finishing on the podium in Stuttgart and Glasgow with watering down her wild bar routine. You can never count veteran Vanessa Ferrari out. Tiny Asuka Teramoto of Japan quietly gave a breakout performance at the Olympics. She didn't make any inidvidual finals, but she almost did, and impressed on all events.
Where are the new seniors? The U.S. has chosen to play it conservative this season, sending out well-tested gymnasts on both the men's and women's fronts. This is a depature from past year-after-Olympics American Cups, which usually feature at least one highly-touted first year senior. In 2001 we had Kristal Uzelac, in 2005 Nastia Liukin and 2009 a 13-year-old Jordyn Wieber, senior status be darned.
Glasgow/Stuttgart rematch: Meanwhile, the men's lineup seems an awful lot like what we saw at the Glasgow and Stuttgart World Cups in December. But with the meet on American soil, it will be interesting to see who prevails. Leyva has traditionally done very well in the Americas; Europeans like Olympic silver medalist Nguyen less so. (Nguyen finished third at the 2012 American Cup in New York, Verniaiev sixth.)
The surprising Kristian Thomas: If you'd asked me the biggest surprise of the Olympic Games, I'd say it was the tall man from Great Britain. Thomas's crisp, clutch performances (including that stuck Yurchenko double pike vault) in team prelims and finals were a large part of the Brits' bronze medal in London. This was after two years of being considered a good. Thomas has shown he can be great. But can he be consistently great?
What about Jake? Dalton, who finished third at the 2011 American Cup after being informed he would compete the morning of the competition, has the most beautiful form of any American man in recent memory. It's important to remember that aside from Jonathan Horton, every single guy on the U.S. Olympic team was 21 or younger last summer. Expect men like Jake to step up and take more ownership of their gymnastics this quad.
The Ukrainian sensation: Watch out for Verniaiev, though -- the thin Ukrainian, 20, is only beginning to realize his potential. He's finessed and surprisingly powerful.
South American sensations: The 2013-16 quad will be all about the South Americans, who will be trying to replicate the success the British had as they ramped up for hosting the Olympics in their country. At 32, Colombia's Jorge Hugo Giraldo is still a formidable all-around gymnast, a Latino Jordan Jovtchev. Brazil's Sergio Sasaki is all of 21, and he does well when the lights are on him (he may not have won a medal, but he had a great meet in London).
Your take: Who do you want to see added to the American Cup roster? Please leave a comment below.