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The 2012 U.S. women’s gymnastics trials get underway Friday night (June 29) in San Jose, Calif., where head coach Martha Karolyi will choose the team for the London Summer Games. The girl who finishes first in the individual all-around scoring will automatically qualify and the remaining four spots (plus up to three alternates) will be chosen by Karolyi, Steve Rybacki and 2004 Olympian Terin Humphrey.

This is a departure from the size of the past Olympic squads. Up until the year 2000, seven girls made the team. Then from 2000-2008, it was six. Now it’s down to just five – a particularly hard number to whittle down to this year because the team is so deep. In fact, it has been speculated the U.S. could field two teams of five girls that could both compete for a medal at the Olympics. It’s kind of a shame the U.S. can’t send two squads.

The rivalry to watch for the top spot comes down to a pair of 16-year-olds – Jordyn Wieber (above, middle), who won the Visa National Championships earlier this month, and Gabby Douglas (above, left), who was right on her heels. Regardless of who wins at the trials, however, both girls are generally considered locks for the 2012 Olympics team.

Past that, it becomes a bit murky about who will make up the last three spots. For instance, McKayla Maroney is generally regarded as the strongest vaulter in the world. But Karolyi has said she can’t afford to use one of the five spots on the team for a one-event specialist, like she might have been able to do in years past.

Then there are the “old guard” – Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan, who all competed in Beijing in 2008, but who may get beaten out by their younger counterparts like Ali Raisman (above, right), Kyla Ross, Elizabeth Price and Sarah Finnegan, all of whom finished ahead of the “old guard” at the 2012 Visa National Championships.

It will be interesting to watch who steps up and who crumbles under the pressure at trials. As NBC commentator Elfi Schlegel says, “The thing about Gabby Douglas is she has some off days – her greatest challenge is to stay focused and keep her head in the game. That’s what Jordyn Wieber has over her.”

The trials kick off Friday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT and conclude Sunday, July 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."