Tomorrow kicks off the 2005 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Though there are many big names missing from the competition roster this year, this could be the break-out year for some lesser-known athletes. Here are some of my thoughts as the competition draws near…

On the women’s side…

First I must express my dismay that Courtney McCool will not be competing this year due to injury. She is one of my all-time favorite gymnasts and I was hoping she would make a run for the national title this year. I can’t wait to see her return to competition.

With McCool missing, my attention turns to Nastia Liukin and Chellsie Memmel. If both Memmel & Liukin hit all their routines, they will likely be neck and neck for the All Around crown. Though a fan of both gymnasts, I have had mixed feelings about which one I want to see take the title.

I have tremendous admiration for Liukin’s gymnastics and believe her to be one of the best gymnasts in the world. However, I have yet to see her perform on Vault & Floor so I am still in doubt as to her abilities on the “power” events. And although I would be happy with a Liukin win this weekend, I think I will probably be rooting for Memmel. Practically a shoo-in for the U.S. Olympic Team, Chellsie broke her foot just months before the Games. Although she recovered quickly, she wound up the alternate for the Olympic Team. So after a rough year with injury and extreme disappointment, I hope this is Memmel’s year to shine.

All Around Wild Card: Alicia Sacramone. While excellent on Vault & Floor, Sacramone has typically been weak on Bars and Beam. In order for her to surprise Memmel or Liukin, I think Sacramone will have to hit all 4 events and hope that the other two make a few mistakes. But you never know!

On the men’s side…
I was disappointed to see 3 of the top guns pull out of the competition. It was announced last weekend that Brett McClure, Jason Gatson, and Raj Bhavsar have all withdrawn due to injury. I was hoping to see any/all of those 3 making a bid for the championship this year.

In addition to the aforementioned athletes, I have been hoping to see Todd Thorton emerge as a front-runner for the title. With a leaner line-up this year, his chances for success are even greater. I enjoy his style, artistry and power. He’s my top pick for the win this weekend.

Thorton’s competition for the title? Alexander Artemov & perhaps David Durante.

Update: I just read that Artemov is out with an injury (8/10/05). Looks like the title is wide open for Thornton.

Other athletes I am excited to see…
Jana Bieger – all events
Sarah Shire – all events
Grace Taylor – Floor
Jonathon Horton – High Bar
Justin Spring – Floor & High Bar
Clay Strother – Floor

Starting tomorrow, I will not be checking my usual Gymnastics News websites (InsideGymnastics, IG, and USA Gymnastics), until after the competition concludes – so that I can be surprised when I watch it on TV. Looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out this weekend in Indianapolis.

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