HARTFORD — During the run-up to the U.S. Championships, Rebecca Bross said she didn’t particularly care whether she won or not — all she wanted was to hit four clean routines each night.
Looks like she might be able to have it both ways.
Bross was the dominant factor of the senior women’s all-around competition Thursday night, performing four relatively mistake free routines to take a more than two point lead (60.4) over CoverGirl Classic champion Mattie Larson (58.2) and first-year senior Alexandra Raisman, currently third (57.55).
Sure, there are small things to clean up — a little more control on her tumbling passes, steps on her bars and beam dismounts, some more height on vault. But that’s being nitpicky; on Thursday, Bross got her four for four.
“I’m pretty happy with how I did,” Bross said. “I need to go out there and fix floor a little because I had a few mistakes on floor, but other than that I’d like to repeat what I did on Saturday.”
Undoubtedly, so would Larson, who spent all of 2009 injured before heralding her return by winning the Classic in Chicago two weeks ago. Larson looked strong and focused in all training sessions, and it showed in the meet, where she calmly stuck her double layout on floor (15.0, first on the event) and had excellent landings on her vault, bars and beam dismounts.
Beam was also something of a high note; in spite of a few wobbles, Larson planted her feet solidly on the mat on her 2.5 twist dismount.
Raisman, who excels on beam, floor and vault, showed none of the upgrades she tried with varying success in Chicago. Her first tumbling pass on floor was a 1.5 twist through to an Arabian double front, which she stuck (14.65 for third on the event). She followed up with a triple twist. She did not attempt an Amanar vault in any of the podium training sessions or competition.
UCLA’s Vanessa Zamarripa, currently seventh (56.05), struggled again on beam, falling on a jump (12.75). But she performed the most exciting vault of the competition, becoming only the fourth woman ever to land a Cheng vault (roundoff, half on, layout with one and a half twists off, 15.6). It bodes well for Zamarripa’s — among the select few to have landed the Cheng in competition include the former World vault champion who gave the trick its name, and Hong Un Jong, the reigning Olympic vault champion.
The difference is that Zamarripa stuck her Cheng, something not even originator Cheng Fei herself has been known to do — at least, not often.
Olympian Alicia Sacramone was again strong on balance beam (14.85, the second best of the night on that event) and vault, where she nailed her Rudi and added a nice double-twisting Yurchenko (15.65) for the first time in two years.
In fourth place is Chelsea Davis (57.15), who was forced to take three months off in 2009 due to back problems that stemmed from overuse. Kytra Hunter and Mackenzie Caquatto are tied for fifth (56.8), Hunter because of her low amount of difficulty on bars, Caquatto due to a 10th place finish on floor.
Samantha Shapiro, who hyperextended both knees at the CoverGirl Classic in Chicago on vault, threw an airy Yurchenko full without any problems (13.75) but had a fall on beam )12.8) and a miscue on bars (13.8). She’s currently eighth (54.7). When it comes to choose the World team, however, Shapiro’s bars is likely to be the event that will help her bid the most, as her form is truly exceptional.
2009 World all-around champion Bridget Sloan, who was competing only on beam due to recurring ankle and shoulder problems, missed her layout stepout on beam and fell dramatically (13.15). After the competition, Sloan said she could have been more prepared for the meet, but expressed determination to come back stronger on Saturday.
Sloan was quick to note that she also fell off the beam during the first night of the 2009 U.S. Championships, where she went on to win the title with a clean, four-for-four performance in the all around final.
The senior women’s all-around final will begin Saturday at 7 p.m., with 50 percent of the scores from preliminaries counting toward each gymnast’s final total.
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