December 04, 2014

USA Gymnastics is splitting up the 2016 Olympic Trials in hopes of giving its men's program a better shot at a medal.

The men's trials will be held in conjunction with the women's national championships in St. Louis from June 23-26, 2016, with the women's trials heading to San Jose, California from July 8-10. It's the first time in 40 years the men's and women's Olympic teams will be chosen at separate events.

USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said the organization moved up the men's trials to give the team more recovery time before the Rio Games. The U.S. men posted the top score in qualifying at the 2012 London Olympics but slipped to a disappointing fifth in the team finals.

The men will have about six weeks to prep between the trials and the Olympics, which begin on Aug. 5, 2016. The team had a month between the trials and the games in 2012.

''It took a lot out of them, because they didn't have those couple of weeks, they didn't have the physical stamina to regroup and get ready for the finals in the way they would have liked,'' Penny said. ''Two additional weeks will really help them.''

The dominant U.S. women's program will stick to a familiar script as it vies for another Olympic crown, with San Jose hosting the trials for a second straight quadrennial.

Two years ago Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross and Aly Raisman emerged from a stacked field at the 2012 trials to own the podium at the O2 Arena in London. The quintet became known as the ''Fierce Five'' while winning the team title, with Douglas becoming the fourth American woman to add the all-around gold. Raisman added a gold on floor exercise and a bronze on beam with Maroney finishing a memorable second on vault.

Douglas, Raisman, Maroney and Ross are all pointing toward 2016, as is two-time world champion Simone Biles. The women played to sold-out shows in San Jose in 2012, another reason USA Gymnastics has no problem making the selection of the men's and women's teams two different events.

''We have a high level of confidence the attendance for the women's event will stand on its own in San Jose, Penny said. ''We expect the women's trials to have a Final Four-like atmosphere in 2016.''

USA Gymnastics is also splitting the national championships. The men's championships and the women's Secret Classic - a major pre-Olympic event - will be held in June 3-5 at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, from June 3-5. Plans for the American Cup - an international event consisting of eight men and eight women held annually in early March - are still pending.

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