Olympic Preview — Team France & Team Belgium

Sorry, France and Belgium. The Olympics are getting too close. Podium training begins in three days. There’s still much to do, so since you’re the least likely teams to get medals, you’re getting combined into the same preview. All hail Frelgium!

While making the Olympics is an accomplishment we expect of the French team (though was by no means a guarantee this time around), getting this far is a massive step for a Belgian side that is getting more competitive by the year. Belgium was always going to find it difficult to score with the team final qualifiers, even before the injury to Axelle Klickaert that makes it an even more improbable prospect. Still, Belgium already did the job. The Olympics!

The French are not that far behind those team-final challenging 5-10 squads and could realistically upset one or two of them, though they will have to work with a few more lower scores and would need more help in order to get out of qualification. The most likely outcome does see these teams finish 11th and 12th, but it is by no means a guarantee.

Marine Boyer – 2016 Euros beam silver, 2016 French champion, brings a critical DTY and elegant, high-scoring beam routine
Marine Brevet – 2016 Euros beam and floor event finalist, not actually a brevet judge
Loan His – 2015 French champion, 2016 French bars gold, name is an incomplete sentence, SHAP FULL TO PAK.
Oreane Lechenault – New senior, 2016 Test Event bars finalist, 2016 French floor bronze, did all four events in the Euros team final, that clockwork-robot-themed (?) floor routine
Louise Vanhille – 2015 French silver, 2016 French floor silver and bars bronze, critical piece of Operation Bars

Senna Deriks – 2016 Test Event bars finalist, age-eligible by like an hour and a half
Nina Derwael – 2015 Belgian junior champion, generally glorious and special, bhardwaj, keeping the dream alive without Klinckaert
Rune Hermans – 2015 Worlds AA finalist, very even in all-around and usable anywhere, originally the alternate
Gaelle Mys – Competing in her third Olympics (!), 2008 AA finalist, still as necessary as ever on beam and floor
Laura Waem – 2013 & 2014 Worlds AA finalist, here for bars and beam reasons

Projected Olympic Lineups
Vault – (Vanhille) Lechenault, Brevet, Boyer
Bars – (Brevet) Vanhille, Lechenault, His
Beam – (His) Lechenault, Brevet, Boyer
Floor – (Boyer) Brevet, Lechenault, His

Vault – (Waem) Hermans, Derwael, Mys
Bars – (Hermans) Deriks, Derwael, Waem
Beam – (Hermans) Waem, Derwael, Mys
Floor – (Derwael) Deriks, Hermans, Mys

On the issue of the French floor lineup, Loan His hasn’t been doing floor lately, but she actually has some tumbling difficulty on a team that severely lacks it. France must go all out to try to get a spot in TF, so if at all possible…

Even though Boyer is the French AA champion, she’s clear choice to be left off bars. France doesn’t have the luxury of just throwing someone into a lineup to get her an AA spot (every one of those qualification routines is precious), so instead I’m opting for Brevet and Lechenault in the all-around because that makes the most sense for the team lineups.  Continue reading Olympic Preview — Team France & Team Belgium

Olympic Preview — Team USA

I feel like I’ve been missing something in these previews. It’s nagging at me. Some fun underdog I’m ignoring, some minor outside medal contender that probably doesn’t have a shot but deserves at least a pity mention.

Oh that’s right. The US.

Previewing the US is an altogether different prospect than previewing the other teams because, in addressing the US medal prospects, it’s no longer about “potentially maybe could.” The US will win the team final, and Biles will win the all-around. Trying to create a scenario where either of those things doesn’t happen requires so many “what if” contortions and imagined mistakes that it’s not even worth going into. It’s still sports and anything can happen, but come on. It’s all about likelihood, and the likelihood of both these wins is offensively high.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t still things to talk about. Like, say, the qualification lineups. Buckle up.

Simone Biles – Reigning Simone Biles 2013-2015
Gabby Douglas – Probably hasn’t accomplished anything, at least that I can remember, who is she?
Laurie Hernandez – Nicknamed “the human Shakira,” really needs to work on her shyness
Madison Kocian – Like…bars?, her leg fell off in February but she’s fine
Aly Raisman – Team great-grandmother, apparently turning 98, wheeled around the nursing home under a quilt because Nana gets cold

Projected Olympic Lineups Continue reading Olympic Preview — Team USA

Olympic Preview — Team Netherlands

The Dutch stole the hearts of the universe at worlds last year en route to their historic 8th-place finish, a performance marked by a cavalcade of tropical-bird, exotic-fish, and mythical-beast similes. Mostly by me. The Netherlands came to Glasgow relatively unheralded and left as the categorical sigil-bearers of artistry in modern gymnastics.

That performance, in which the Dutch absolutely overshot expectations, has heaped a hefty amount of “team final or bust” onto an Olympic squad that normally would have been in “good job finishing 10th” territory. It’s worth mentioning that the Netherlands needed massive assistance to get into that team final in the first place. It took a Brazilian meltdown and those fractured Romanian walls finally crashing to the ground, and if even one of those things hadn’t happened, the Netherlands would probably be considered in that France-Belgium tier of teams here, for whom we have some lovely parting gifts.

Of course, team final could happen again. This team is certainly talented enough and close enough to those borderline top-8 countries that it wouldn’t take much for Netherlands to sneak in again and certainly wouldn’t require the total meltdowns it did last time. The Dutch scores from the last couple domestic trials are right up toward that 174 territory with Japan and Canada, two teams that seem to be in stronger stead, so a repeat of those performances would make this team look very TF indeed. I’d say it’s more than possible, but not the most likely scenario.

Eythora Thorsdottir – 2016 Dutch champion, 2015 Worlds beam 8th place, more important than you in every way, a light in the storm, a true performer
Celine Van Gerner – 2016 Dutch silver, 2012 Olympian, the old hand of the group, here to provide that competitively sturdy third or fourth routine NED lacked last year
Vera Van Pol – 2015-2016 Dutch vault champion, necessary Y1.5, surprise team member over Tisha Volleman, provides four-event reinforcements
Lieke Wevers – 2015 Worlds 13th (qualified in 5th), obvious dream on beam and glorious floor performer, utter cleanliness on all pieces
Sanne Wevers – 2015 Worlds beam silver, totally invented beam spins, because she has all of them, like seriously all of them, she is impossible

Projected Olympic Lineups
Vault – (L Wevers), Van Gerner, Van Pol, Thorsdottir
Bars?? – (L Wevers) Thorsdottir, S Wevers, Van Gerner
Beam – (Van Gerner) Thorsdottir, L Wevers, S Wevers
Floor – (Van Pol) L Wevers, Van Gerner, Thorsdottir

Netherlands’ all-around assignments are pretty obvious since Sanne Wevers doesn’t do vault and floor, and Van Pol is the weakest of the group on beam. I also have Van Pol off bars because she’s already off beam, and even though her bars routine is the real deal (including a hop full + tkatchev + pak), it’s not a reliable score. That can be said for pretty much the entire Dutch bars lineup, though which could end up being pretty much any combination of the five on this team in any order. So, I just ranked them in order of top trials score. Who’s not going to be a beautiful disaster today? Great, you’re in.

That leaves Thorsdottir, Lieke Wevers, and Van Gerner in the all-around, another particularly interesting showdown. The Netherlands will be going at the same time as the US again this year, so while you’re immersed in all the US AA dramatics, don’t forget to pop above water to check out Netherlands’ similarly poised affair.  Continue reading Olympic Preview — Team Netherlands

Olympic Preview — Team Brazil

Like any self-respecting host nation, Brazil has amassed its best squad in a decade heading into the Olympics. A reliable team-final qualifier in the 2008 quad when Daiane Dos Santos bounced around the floor and Jade Barbosa cried her way through an Amanar, Brazil has not made it back to a team final since those 2008 Olympics.

Last year’s worlds adventure finished in a heartbreaking 9th-place result following a gargantuan bars implosion in qualification (Brazil was top-8 on the other three pieces), but with the talent on this year’s Olympic team, 2016 looks like Brazil’s most realistic chance yet to break the ignominious streak.

The infusion of long-anticipated routines from Saraiva and Andrade has certainly provided Brazil with the tools to make it back, but so much of Brazil’s ultimate Olympic prospects will be defined by how well the team manages the nerves and adrenaline of competing in front of a ravenous home crowd.

Their performance at the test event did provide an encouraging preview of how Brazil might handle the moment, with the team winning handily over the second-place Germans.

If adjusted to a 3-count format, that test event total would have been 171.485, much lower than the 174s being thrown around for other teams, but that’s to be expected given the real judging from the test event compared to domestic trials. If we also take into account more recent meets like Anadia (and the Dutch trials that some of the Brazilians competed at for reasons like ????? and INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIPS), Brazil’s scores look quite competitive with those other borderline, in-the-mix teams.

The Brazilians are one of the main reasons it might not be such a cakewalk for Japan and Italy this year. They’re right there and basically the same.

Rebeca Andrade – 2016 Test Event bars bronze, 2014 Brazilian junior champion, back from 2015 ACL tear, best vault and bars on the team, those training videos of her doing an Amanar
Jade Barbosa – 2007 World AA bronze, 2010 World vault bronze, totally back and everything, please hit bars though, pronounced Zhadje
Daniele Hypolito – Was casually Brazilian national champion 9 consecutive times from 1998-2006, still killing it on beam, I woefully omitted her 9 total AA final appearances when praising Ferrari yesterday, you’d be reading a hundred articles about her longevity if it weren’t for Chuso
Lorrane Oliveira – 2015 Brazilian champion, if you don’t enjoy watching her there’s something wrong with you, did we hear that she was injured?
Flavia Saraiva – 2016 Test Event silver, 2015 Pan Ams bronze, enchanted woodland nymph, first gymnast who is also a part-time firefly, the Brazilian crowd will just lose it

Projected Olympic Lineups
Vault – (Saraiva) Oliveira, Barbosa, Andrade
Bars – (Saraiva) Oliveira, Barbosa, Andrade
Beam – (Andrade) Barbosa, Hypolito, Saraiva
Floor – (Barbosa) Hypolito, Andrade, Saraiva

Brazil is among the teams best poised to handle an injury should something arise since every event has at least one very usable backup with largely similar scoring potential, if not two. Martha would be proud.

On vault, Brazil is doing just fine with four DTYs and an Amanar Rumor (Amanar Rumor is getting upgraded to 6.2 D for the next quad). Saraiva’s is newer and tends to be a little closer to the table and shorter, so I have ranked her 4th, though that could change.

On any given day, all five of Brazil’s beam and floor routines could end up in whatever order, so qualification will be telling. The only really sure thing is that Saraiva reigns as queen of beam. Normally, I’d want Oliveira in that floor lineup, but she fell on a double pike at Dutch trials and hasn’t looked all there this season, peaking at 13.400. Continue reading Olympic Preview — Team Brazil