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AN EXPERT'S VIEW // ELFIE SCHLEGEL

Elfi Schlegel is NBC's analyst for Olympic gymnastics. This will be her second Summer Olympics assignment with NBC and her third overall. Schlegel is a former Canadian national team member and University of Florida gymnast.

The United States was third in the 1995 World Championships, but I see better things for the U.S. in the Olympics.

The team competition is probably going to be very, very close. The U.S. has great depth; there are some great athletes on this team. I don't think there will be one athlete they will have to worry about and say, "Ooo, can she handle it?"

Anything can happen, but I expect the U.S. to be on the podium. I think it's amazing what can happen when you're competing on home turf. When you've got that audience behind you, great things usually happen. I think the team will take full advantage of being at home.

I think the competition for the United States, obviously, will be very difficult, especially the teams from Romania and China. The four teams battling for three medals will be Romania, China, USA and Russia.

Romania is looking strong. They have won the past two world championships, they have the same players and they are getting stronger.

China came up so strongly at the world championships (second place), and I don't think the Chinese are going to step down from the podium. They're going to try for the gold medal, but they may not be successful at these Olympic Games.

As far as individual medals, I would suspect we would see more Americans on an apparatus final, meaning the medals will be awarded on those individual pieces: vault, beam, bars, floor. I think we will see a lot of U.S. women make the final cut.

As far as the individual all-around, it will be a battle. I have five names that I've been following over the year that can probably win the all-around championship: Mo Huilan from China, Lilia Podkopayeva from the Ukraine, Svetlana Khorkina from Russia, Alexandra Marinescu from Romania and Dominique Moceanu from the United States.

Moceanu and Shannon Miller competed at the U.S. Championships but missed the Olympic Trials because of injury. I would have a problem if these athletes didn't get a chance to compete in the Olympics. They're athletes who helped this country rise to the occasion and maintain its high level of gymnastics through their performances. Shannon and Dominique are owed the opportunity to go the distance.

Mentally, Dominique and Shannon still look very strong. I don't think that not competing at the trials is going to have a huge effect on them confidence-wise. They have been through too many competitions and pressure situations. They know how to handle themselves. They realize the importance of making sure the injuries have healed.

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