by: Kristen Leccese   10/30/2013

Brenna Dowell, the fourth member of this year’s USA Gymnastics World Championship Team, didn’t get a chance to compete in any of the events in Belgium - and her coach isn’t too happy about it.

This year’s World Championships did not include a team competition, only an individual all-around and event finals. Brenna Dowell was expected to compete as an uneven bars specialist, but 2012 Olympian McKayla Maroney was promoted to the all-around competition after her phenomenal performance on all four events during podium training in Belgium. Because the World Championship rules dictate that only three athletes per county may compete, Brenna Dowell was bumped to an alternate position.

Al Fong, Dowell’s personal coach at GAGE Gymnastics Center in Missouri, wrote a scathing article blasting the current selection system of USA Gymnastics. “Under Marta Karolyi’s questionable criteria for selecting the best three athletes to compete in each event, unfortunately Brenna didn’t make the lineup in any event - despite the fact that she has one of the best bar routines in the world at this time,” Fong wrote. He went on to blame Dowell’s inability to make the cut on the training gym conditions in Belgium, the USAG, and everything except the fact that she simply was not ready.

There’s no doubt that Brenna Dowell is outstanding on the uneven bars. Unfortunately, Simone Biles’ dynamic routine has a higher degree of difficulty and 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross is easily the most consistent gymnast in the country right now. For Marta Karolyi and the rest of the USAG committee (which includes one of Fong’s former gymnasts, Terin Humphrey) it’s all about who is most likely to deliver a hit routine and earn a top-three finish for Team USA. In Belgium, Brenna Dowell wasn’t one of them. Harsh? Absolutely. But this is gymnastics, and all too often the lines are blurry.

Al Fong, a veteran coach of dozens of elite gymnasts, should be well aware of the subtleties involved here. Instead of improving Brenna Dowell’s consistency as an all-around gymnast with more intense training over the next month, Al Fong has made a controversial decision to pull Brenna out of the upcoming World Cup and the Mexico Invitational. “By accepting any of those assignments would have meant no downtime to rest the body and soul,” Fong wrote. “It’s not smart coaching to keep an athlete at high intensity for three months straight and continue for another month without a break. But that’s what the USAG was asking her to do. Sorry, USAG - you had your chance to let Brenna represent you proudly. Now it’s time for a much needed break.”

In my opinion, Al Fong’s decision will completely sabotage Brenna Dowell’s chances of making the 2016 Olympic Team. This is elite gymnastics - four months of intense training is hardly much to ask. Brenna Dowell had the chance to prove herself at the World Cup and the Mexico Invitational, but because of Al Fong’s controversial protest against the USAG system, I have no doubt that her elite gymnastics career is in jeopardy.

Read Al Fong’s full article here: