Along with many of you, I’m looking forward to this year’s National Championships perhaps more than any other in this quadrennium. The year before the Olympics is when things really start to heat up. In recent memory, the year before the Olympics has introduced us to such US stars as Kim Zmeskal (’91 Nationals & Worlds), Dominique Moceanu (’95 Nationals) and Carly Patterson (’03 Worlds). And this year should be as hot as any with incredible depth on our women’s National Team going into the final year before Beijing. The World Championships next month in Stuttgart, Germany should be an incredible showcase of things to come in 2008.

So who will I be rooting for this year? As usual the press is laying it on thick, writing up rivalries and hyping up the favorites. While I admire the grace of Nastia Liukin and the athleticism of Shawn Johnson, I’m a bit tired of the talk surrounding these two. I am hoping that someone unexpected will break through. One of my favorites to do so is Ashley Priess. I think she has what it takes. I’ve written this before but she’s got what gymnastics folks call “the whole package.” Artistry and athleticism. The only questions that remain is if she will be healthy and possess the mental toughness as the Olympics approach. Time will tell. Who will you be rooting for this weekend in San Jose?

Ashley Priess on Floor at the 2006 World Cup in Belgium.

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