Honourable mentions + Team USA!

In honour of the Opening Ceremony, which begins at midnight BST, here’s the final post in our #countdowntoRio. Check out our blog for more details about the gymnastics in Rio and read all of our gymnast profiles above!

Firstly, I want to feature some of the “honourable mentions”: those gymnasts with equally incredible stories who have been really unlucky not to make it to Rio – their years of dedication and hard work shouldn’t be forgotten!

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Mary-Anne Monckton: Mez has been a mainstay of elite Australian gymnastics for the past 10 years and she bounced back from the heartbreak of missing out on a place at the 2012 Olympics by helping the team take silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Having already undergone several surgeries, she took time out in 2015 for an ankle operation (you can even see the scars above!). Mez was making an incredibly strong comeback and was named to the Australian team for the Test Event in April but suffered a devastating ACL tear in training. Always a fighter, she is still working hard on her recovery and aims to be back as soon as possible! We wish you all the very best, Mez.

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Gabby Jupp: Talking about ACL injuries, no-one knows more about suffering these than British gymnast Gabby Jupp. Gabby, Olympic torch bearer and national Junior champion in 2012, qualified for the Senior Europeans in 2013 but tore her ACL during qualifications. She fought back and after a year out, returned to help the GB team come 6th in the 2014 Worlds. Desperately unlucky, she suffered another ACL tear in 2015 and had to launch a second comeback: her return in 2016 resulted in a well-deserved British Bars title in April but didn’t quite give her enough time to make the Rio team. Hopefully, she’ll be able to stay strong for 2020!

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John Orozco: 2012 Olympian John Orozco has had a tough ride. He helped the USA team to a bronze medal at the 2011 Worlds but was disappointed with his performance at London. Neverthless, after a torn achilles in 2010 and a knee injury that forced him to wear a leg brace for most of 2013, he fought back to win a bronze medal on pommel horse at the World Championships later that year. Unfortunately, he suffered another Achilles injury that kept him out of the 2015-16 season and he did remarkably well to be named to the Rio team after a difficult year in which he also lost his mum. John suffered another ACL tear just weeks ago but is already concentrating on his recovery and his gymnastics career.

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Luke Strong: GB trampolinist Luke has really proven that he is both mentally and physically ‘strong’. In 2009, he suffered a terrible leg fracture that nearly had to be amputated, but he recovered remarkably to become Britain’s first ever European medalist, taking the bronze home in 2014. He has also managed to bounce back from another leg break, in 2015, and just narrowly lost out on the sole spot for Rio to teammate Nathan Bailey. There’s still so much more to come from this super talented gymnast (check out his insta for some amazing artistic videos as well!).

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Maggie Nichols: Maggie is a fierce all-arounder and in 2015 helped the USA women’s team towards their staggering success at the World Championships where she also earned the bronze medal on floor alongside the team gold. Knee injuries, however, are the bane of a gymnast’s life and, after strong performances put her in line for a place in the Rio team, a Meniscus tear earlier this year sidelined her from the key competitions in the run up to the Games. She made a great return on floor and vault especially at the US trials but it wasn’t enough to make what is arguably the most competitive team in the world. She will continue her gymnastics by competing for the University of Oklahoma in the NCAAs next season.

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We can’t talk about American gymnasts without commenting on the remarkable success of Martha Karolyi’s set of USA girls. Arguably, they could send three complete teams to Rio and see them all take home medals, such is the strength and depth of their programme. For this reason, I think the alternates, Ragan Smith, MyKayla Skinner and Ashton Locklear (who deserves an Olympic bars title for her winning routine, if only she could challenge on another apparatus as well) warrant a special mention, as they train behind the scenes in Rio this week.

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We all know about Simone Biles, team captain Aly Raisman and 2012 Champ Gabby Douglas, but 16 year old Laurie Hernandez is really one to look out for. She is the bubbliest, nicest of girls, and has one of the best coach-athlete relationships you’ll see with coach Maggie Haney of MG Elite, NJ. Laurie was an exceptional Junior but has made the transition to Senior so incredibly well; coming second to Simone twice this year is a remarkable feat considering the amount of talent the USA has to offer. She is a powerful and precise gymnast but it is her sass, her energy and enthusiasm, and true love for gymnastics that make her such a joy to watch. After podium training yesterday, it seems she won’t be competing in the all-around, but her beam and floor routine should be one of the highlights of the Games!

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So there you go: now you know who to watch out for. Follow us and all the gymnasts on social media for updates as these exciting Games begin tonight! It’s going to be a ball.

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