Moving on to the Great North, it’s high time we tackle the prospects for Team Canada at the Olympics. Coming off the brilliant 5th-place success of the 2012 Olympics, the beginning of this quad was disappointingly thumpity-thump-thump for Canada as a team, regressing to finish 12th in 2014 against a somewhat nondescript field.
Fortunately, things have improved recently in the build-up to Rio. Canada managed a 6th-place finish at 2015 worlds, one that better reflects the current talent level and expectations for the country, and has put together a group of five for the Olympics that looks almost sure to improve on that 167.697 TF score that put Canada into 6th last year.
The focus for Canada will not be medals, as the most likely outcome would see Canada leave the Olympics with no gymnastics medals, but a number of competitive finishes should be in the cards.
Ellie Black – 2015 Pan Am All The Medals, 2015 Worlds AA 7th, the one who has been the best Canadian gymnast for the last 5 years, bum hops, Elsabeth not Elizabeth
Shallon Olsen – 2016 Pac Rims vault champion, actually brand new human, coming to save your country on vault and floor
Isabela Onyshko – 2016 Canadian champion, beam difficulty is COAL MINING + SMALL TALK, suddenly getting 58s, might finally have it together
Brittany Rogers – 2016 champion of all of life forever, best bars worker in NCAA, actually what will Georgia do without her, I can’t even, possible superhero
Rose-Kaying Woo – 2016 Canadian bronze, the one who’s the younger sister, here to make beam not sad
Projected Olympic Lineups
Vault – (Onyshko) Black, Rogers, Olsen
Bars – (Woo?) Black, Onyshko, Rogers
Beam – (Rogers) Woo, Black, Onyshko
Floor – (Woo) Olsen, Onyshko, Black
The Canadian qualification lineups are pretty easy to come up with because of the excellent use of complementary specialists on this team. Well played, Canada.
On vault, Canada has four 5.8 options now that Onyshko is performing a DTY, though her DTY is still in the “got a zero at trials once” phase, making that vault more critical for her individual hopes than it is for the team, which already has three more proven high-difficulty vaults.
Canada will be relying on Onyshko and Rogers to prop up that bars score and keep it competitive, which they are capable of as long as we don’t have another 2015 TF incident. I’m not sure where I stand with using Black vs. Woo in the TF on bars. Woo has some lovely qualities, but her difficulty at trials was just 5.5, while Black’s is 5.8 in spite of her wanting to get off the bars as quickly as possible and then burn them because they’re a stupid jerk. The two have lately ended up with quite similar total scores, so Woo’s presence does allow for Black not to have to deal with bars.
Notably, Canada elected not to use Black in the TF last year, using a 13.533 from Older Woo instead. Black came back two days later and got 14.000 on bars in the AA final. I’ll be watching the comparison between the two closely in qualification.
Mostly, however, Woo is here for beam so that Rogers doesn’t have to do it. Woo’s hit for 14.300 on the final day of trials seems to have been a major decider in getting her the final spot on the team. As wonderful as Brittany Rogers is on beam, and as much as I could watch that bhs 3/4 all day long, longtime readers of this site will be too familiar with Georgia Beam Heart Attack Syndrome to deal with that in a TF. As for floor, while it would be a dream to see Rogers do the AA at the Olympics, floor is an unnecessary burden to put on her when Woo could just as easily have her score dropped in qualification.
That means I have only Onyshko and Black in the AA for Canada, which is fine because they’re the two clear AAers on this team anyway. There’s not much of an AA qualification question on the Canadian team. It should always be Black and Onyshko.
While not a guarantee, qualifying to the team final is the expectation for Canada and will happen given a hit meet in qualification. With the talent on this team and the results from the last worlds (and the last Olympics), not making the team final this time around would be a huge disappointment.
A particular asset for Canada will be those three reliable 5.8 vaults, all of which should be able to score 14.800-15.100, which provides a buffer against some of those other challenging teams that will have to count Ds of 5.4 or lower. The presence of Olsen also steps up the team’s possibilities on floor as she can complement Black and Onyshko’s scores well. Last year, Canada had to use Rousseau on floor in the team final for 13.333, a score that won’t have to be repeated this time around.
The real danger, of course, is from an implosion. When looking at Canada’s most impressive and internationally competitive routines (Black and Onyshko on beam, Rogers on bars), what jumps out is that they’re also terrifying. Canada is resting quite a bit of its Olympic hopes on Black and Onyshko both hitting bhs + back full series on beam and Rogers having worked out her issues on that pak. Not getting 14s for those routines would make Canada susceptible to getting passed by the remaining members of the second tier, the likes of Italy, Germany, and Japan, in qualification. In the team final, those routines will also tell us whether it’s going to be a 5th-place kind of day or an 8th-place kind of day, which is about the range I expect from Team Canada.
Both Black and Onyshko should comfortably qualify for the all-around. (Onyshko was the 24th and final qualifier at worlds last year but shouldn’t be all 55y again this time around.) Lately, 57 has looked like a reasonable expectation for either, which is the kind of score that would qualify them into the 7-12 group with a chance to go higher if AA qualification is a little bleak or sparsely populated again, as Black did last year to qualify to the final in an impressive 4th.
Medals are going to be too much to ask, but I’d expect to see Canada come out of the AA final with a top-10 finish. To date, Canada’s best ever finish in the women’s Olympic AA final is 13th, and that record is in trouble.
Vault – Brittany Rogers and Ellie Black [and Shallon Olsen] have two vaults that they could compete for competitive scores and an average in the highish 14s. As mentioned in the GB preview, however, it’s going to be quite difficult for vaulters without at least one vault in the 6s (if not two) to qualify to the final. At worlds last year Rogers and Black finished qualification in 10th and 12th, which sounds about right.
Bars – It is perhaps my biggest dream of the Olympics to see Rogers advance to the bars final, but with the Chinese, Russians, Americans, Brits, and Germans using up so much of the bars air, her difficulty looks like it will be squeezed out even with an excellent hit in qualification. But I’m just going to not care about facts right now and give her a bronze medal.
Beam – Given the difficulty of the sets from Black and Onyshko, along with the unpredictability of beam in general, beam looks like one of the more realistic opportunities for Canada to qualify entries into an event final. They both have that scoring precedent in the high 14s that it will take to make a mark at the Olympics, so why not? It will still be quite tough given the Americans, Shang, Mustafina, Ponor, Wevers, Schaefer, Saraiva, etc. But they’re in the conversation, and Black has made the last two world beam finals. If only it weren’t beam…
Floor – I would expect some 14s for Canada at these Olympics and don’t anticipate floor to be a weakness the way it will be for some other big teams, but they may lack the big-impact Steingruber/Fragapane routine to get someone into a final. Low 14s did get it done at worlds last year, a score Black is certainly capable of, but there are more than 8 ahead of her in the queue as of now.