Pegged by many as the future ‘it girl’ of USA Gymnastics from the age of 12, Bailie Key’s career seemed to be heading in exactly the right direction and the 2013 Junior National Champion seemed to be reaching every correct milestone that a future Olympic Champion must reach. Bailie Key was the correct age. Bailie Key was being coached by one of USA’s most notable gymnasts, Kim Zmeskal, USA’s first World Champion. Bailie Key had everything and was on track to make Olympic history and everyone believed it would happen. However, after a rather disappointing 2015, Key’s future seems more uncertain than ever and it has left many questioning whether Olympic glory is on the cards for Bailie Key or simply, what exactly is on the cards for Kim Zmeskals protégé.
Key became a member of the Junior National Team after her very first year at the Visa Championships in 2011, went on to make another National Team in 2012 and went on to be selected to compete at the 2012 City of Jesolo Trophy, where she placed 3rd AA. Whilst these are all important milestones, it was the end of one Olympic cycle and the beginning of a new quadrennium that marked the true beginning of Bailie Key’s career, all eyes were now on her to be the next ‘it girl’ the gymnastics community wanted her to be, and she did not disappoint.
Bailie became Junior National Champion in 2013, along with 1st place finishes at the USA-Germany-Romania Tri meet in Chemnitz, Germany, the City of Jesolo Trophy in Jesolo, Italy, the International Junior Gymnastics Competition in Yokohama, Japan and the International Junior Mexican Cup in Acapulco, Mexico. By the end of 2013 Bailie Key had cemented herself onto the radar of everyone looking towards the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Once again, although suffering from a shoulder injury and forced to sit out of both the U.S Classic and the P&G Championships, Key remained undefeated after placing 1st AA at both the 2014 City of Jesolo Trophy in Jesolo, Italy and the 2014 Pacific Rim Championships in Richmond, Canada and Key’s long awaited Senior debut was becoming ever closer. A senior debut that came at the 2015 City of Jesolo Trophy, and once again Key did not disappoint, placing 2nd AA, ahead of Olympic Champions Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, Key’s Olympic bid seemed to be right on track.
Furthermore, at both the 2015 U.S Classic and the 2015 P&G Championships, Key placed highly in the rankings, placing 4th AA at both competitions, leaving most speculating that she would more than certainly be named to the 2015 World Championships team.
However, shockingly, Bailie was instead named as a non- travelling alternate and suddenly her Olympic bid seemed less than certain. For many reasons Bailie Key may not fulfill the future most people had invisioned for her.
Firstly, whilst Key has had a multitude of international assignments and proven that she can deliver on an international stage, having no World Championships experience heading into the Olympic year leaves her at a major disadvantage. The only gymnasts to make a US Olympic team without having some form of World Championships experience since Martha Karolyi took the reigns in 2003 were Courtney McCool in 2004 and Kyla Ross in 2012. Otherwise, every US Olympic team member has had some form of World Championships experience before gracing the Olympic stage, whether it was experience as a travelling alternate, competing for another country or, not necessarily competing the year before the Olympics but 5 years before. Nonetheless, they had all graced a World stage and proven themselves before the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, Bailie has not and this leaves her at a disadvantage and makes the 2015 World Championship team members the foremost or ‘key’ contenders in the race for Olympic glory. Secondly, with Olympic champions, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas returning to the gymnastics world with a glorious bang, USA simply has too many All-Around competitors and Bailie simply does not fit onto a team. The All Around is where Bailie has the most potential to medal and the US does not need her. The US needs someone who can gain another individual medal whilst also delivering a huge score for the team. A specialist like McKayla Maroney for example. A specialist like Madison Kocian for example. It is the sad truth of a five person team and whilst Kyla Ross was fortunate that her strengths were the US teams weaknesses in 2012, Bailie Key is simply not so lucky.
So without the Olympics in her future, what does that mean for Bailie Keys future? Surely the Olympics is not the be all and end all of Gymnastics. However the next best pinnacle of Gymnastics is the World Championships. However without Bailie competing at the World Championships in 2015 and with Bailie graduating in 2017 and verbally committed to Florida, Bailies chance at World Championships glory may also hang in the balance.
So, whilst Bailie has been pegged as an Olympian for many years, this Texas Dreamer may not even earn a World Championships berth. Incredible as it may seem, it is a possibility. However, I must not get carried away with myself. The Olympic team has not been named yet. Bailie Key could still become an Olympian. Anything can happen. Injuries may plague the contenders, Bailie could be working on Simone Biles-esque skills. Who knows. Bailie Key is certainly still an Olympic hopeful and may still become a World Champion if, like many top elite gymnasts have done she decides to defer her enrollment at the University of Florida and compete at the 2017 World Championships. As history has proven, one quadrennium is never the same as another and this quadrennium is certainly proving to be like no other and is leaving the gymnastics community continually guessing and gasping and this is one chapter in the quadrennium that may leave many gasping and guessing and Ms. Bailie Jaye Key could certainly be in Rio taking on the role of ringmaster.