Bross marches through first day en route to big lead at nationals

By Eddie Pells, AP
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bross shines on first day of nationals

HARTFORD, Conn. — Rebecca Bross started on what looks like an inevitable road to a national title Thursday night, running through four terrific routines to take a big lead heading into the final at U.S. gymnastics championships.

Bross finished with 60.4 points in the opening round, good for a 2.2-point lead over Mattie Larson — something equivalent to being up three touchdowns at halftime of a football game.

While Bross was dominating the all-around, Alicia Sacramone kept her comeback on track, scoring 14.85 on beam and landing solidly on both her vaults for a 15.65 and 15.35. Sacramone is seeking a trip to her second Olympics.

Top performers at nationals will be invited to selection camps at team coordinator Martha Karolyi’s gym in Texas, where the team that heads to world championships will be picked. It’s the beginning of the road to the London Olympics, which are less than two years away.

Bross’ biggest competition was supposed to come from Bridget Sloan, the defending national and world champion. But injuries to Sloan’s ankle and shoulder limited her participation to one event — the balance beam, where she fell and scored a 13.15.

She’ll get another chance Saturday night, as will Bross, who held leads at last year’s nationals and worlds but couldn’t close the deal.

Falling, of course, is a possibility this time, too, though anyone who saw her opening-night performance can see she’s in the zone.

If there was any flaw in her evening it was some less-than-perfect landings on her floor exercise, where she scored a 14.75. But even that was forgivable considering the way she slammed her feet solidly into the beam after her tricks, making that piece of equipment look as spacious as the floor. She scored a 15.5 there to set the tone for the evening.

Bross is trying to continue a mini-dynasty for her coach, Valeri Liukin, whose daughter, Nastia, is the defending Olympic champion and was on hand Thursday night doing TV commentary.

Where Nastia was all grace and fluid lines, sometimes looking effortless, Bross makes you know she’s working for it. But that determination seems to prevent mistakes before they happen. On her bars dismount, she was wobbling, but somehow had the grit to keep her feet in place and avoid a big deduction. Same thing when she was offline on one of her tumbling passes on the floor, but cemented her feet just inside the boundary to avoid another mistake.

There was nobody quite like her on this night, though the second-place gymnast, Larson, put on a fluid, musical show on floor for a score of 15 — the highest of the night there — and whipped through her bars routine for a 14.65.

In third place is Alexandra Raisman, who trains with Sacramone, followed by Chelsea Davis.

Vanessa Zamarripa, who is shooting for the 2012 Olympics while also competing for UCLA, put some nice dance in her floor routine and was in seventh place.

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