Gymnastics: "Fierce Five" prepare to take act on tour

LONDON Wed Aug 8, 2012 4:13pm EDT

U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas, 16, poses with her gold medal during a news conference at the 2012 London Olympic Games August 8, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas, 16, poses with her gold medal during a news conference at the 2012 London Olympic Games August 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Their gold medals in hand, gymnastics 'Fierce Five' posed for pictures and talked up their 40 city United States tour on Wednesday, promising to play all their London Olympic hits.

And U.S. gymnastics chief Steve Penny is adamant not since the mid-1990s British pop group the Spice Girls toured America have five young women promised to generate so much excitement.

Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross arrived at the London Games as wannabes but return home having snatched a fistful of medals, including the United States' first team gold in 16-years.

Only time will tell if the self-dubbed 'Fierce Five' will be one-hit wonders but they will get a rapturous welcome on their return to New York on Monday to begin an all-out media blitz, including appearances on morning and evening talk shows.

"The athletes don't know what's happening back in the States, how it is playing out," Penny told Reuters.

"You go home and you are able to get a sense of how America saw this and these girls are literally American idols. They have gotten to that level of popularity.

"They get to perform, they get to make some money its a good deal for everybody."

The 10-week, 40 city "Tour of Gymnastic Champions" that begins September 8 in San Jose and wraps up on November 18 in New York however, could just as easily be a farewell tour as a lap of honor.

Four years ago, the team silver medalists in Beijing; Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel, Samantha Peszek, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan were in a similar position, but by 2012 all had retired or failed to make the London Olympic team.

None of the team competing in London, not even Douglas the 16-year-old all-round gold medalist, have committed to Rio in 2016, leaving the door open for another complete changing of the guard.

"When you win at this level and you are a Nastia or a Shawn, when you have that kind of success at an Olympic Games there are so many opportunities that come your way," said Penny.

"It is really hard to stay in that intense environment of training when you have new opportunities.

"It's really hard to say how this team will transition into the next quad.

"We've been so successful at the elite level and we keep churning out new talent that it's getting harder and harder to take time off and comeback and be able to make the team.

"Shawn will tell you when she got back in the gym and saw the young ladies that were in there she saw it was going to be a lot harder than she thought.

"She had her eyes opened."

Even though Douglas is aged 16, in four years she is sure to feel a new crop of youngsters nipping at her heels.

U.S. gymnastics team head coach Liang Chow, who also trains Douglas at his Des Moines, Iowa gym, said he has some talented youngsters in the pipeline who could be battling for 2016 spots.

"I don't want to say promising but they are going in a very good direction," Chow told Reuters.

"They train very hard and it is my job to help them reach their goals every day."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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