A. Afan Farewell
In spite of Russia’s desperate attempts to make Afanasyeva happen, this week Ksenia announced, “I’m not going to happen.” She explained that her kidneys are falling off and that she’s dying in the hospital and has no way to make it to Rio, forcing Valentina to go, “SIGH, FINE” and settle on Tutkhalyan once and for all.
Simultaneously, a bunch of chatter went around (because of Valentina) that Afan had “retired,” though it remains to be seen what level of Russian retirement this is. We don’t know whether she’s at “actually retired,” “Komova retired” (injured), or “Nabieva retired” (categorically not retired). Obviously, we’re all hoping that she’s Nabieva retired. We need those two clanking around Russian Cup for decades to come.
If the Russian team is allowed to be a team, it is now officially Melnikova, Mustafina, Paseka, Spiridonova, and Tutkhalyan, which is still quite a medal-looking squad. Floor will probably be a nightmarish hellscape, but the rest of the events look relatively viable. The fourth beam and floor routines in qualification should be a unique adventure.
This also means that Valentina officially went 2-for-4 on her 2015 Olympic team announcement of Mustafina, Komova, Afanasyeva, and Paseka. Honestly, it’s better than I thought she would do.
Jekyll and Shelgunova will replace Afansyeva as the alternate, so that would either be fine or disastrous, depending on the day.
B. Peyton Ernst
Interestingly, Florida has released Peyton Ernst. HMMMMMMM.
Jenny Rowland gave Ernst the option of either staying at Florida and doing a medical retirement or taking her beam elsewhere. The fact that Ernst is talking to other schools tells me that she’s not completely broken into shards in spite of her million shoulder injuries and still has some gymnastics in her (perhaps some more hands-free beam routines or something?) but that Florida’s not willing to bet on her to recover enough to be a major or multi-event contributor in the future. Florida has enough elites pounding down the doors to get in there that keeping a broken, perpetually injured elite on scholarship would seem like a waste of one of the 12 spots. This is also fascinating to me because it’s the first real indication of a culture change at Florida in the Rowland era. This certainly isn’t the same attitude that kept Morgan Frazier around for four years without competing. Jenny is cracking the whip.
Even if Ernst is only able to give something like a hands-free beam routine, I could see her being a worthwhile investment for a number of other schools because it’s still a useful one-event score. Most lineups could use a weekly 9.850-9.900.
Florida is all over the news this week. Following up on the Baumann notes from last week, she is deferring for a year to “focus on recovery,” rather than heading to Florida right away. I didn’t know that was a thing, but sure. I can’t go to class because my elbow hurts? Gymnastically, it’s no different because she’s out for nine months and would have had to redshirt 2017 anyway, but perhaps this way she doesn’t have to use up her redshirt season and can take it….the next time she’s injured. Just being realistic.
C. Tan for Liu
The other rumor confirmed this week sees Liu Tingting removed from China’s Olympic team after suffering a hand injury, to be replaced by previously presumed team member Tan Jiaxin.
There was a very good argument for Tan to have been on the team instead of Liu in the first place (if she’s 100%) as she is a more proven vaulter and has higher scoring potential on bars. That’s the team I would have named, at least. Liu was on the original team primarily because of beam. Now, Wang will have to go up on beam in TF along with Fan and Shang, which is generally terrifying for all involved.
I actually think China’s scoring potential has increased with this move (and China still managed to finish a comfortable second at worlds last year while counting a Wang beam fall for 13.300), but beam just got that much more aneurysmy.
This IG article indicates that China will have only three beamers at the Olympics. Did something happen to Mao as well? I know they wouldn’t use her in TF, but…she does beam…
It also states a bleak truth that China will be bringing just one alternate to Brazil, vault and floor specialist Liu Jinru (though she could also do beam in a pinch should it come to that), confirming that China would rather jump into a volcano and die than bring beautiful jellyfish like Bai Yawen or Zhu Xiaofang to the Olympics, even as alternates.
China really, really, really wouldn’t want to have to use Wang, Mao (or alternate Liu) on bars, especially if they’re expecting a China score, so if something happens to Shang, Tan, or Fan (especially Shang or Fan because of the added beam terror) between now and the team final, China would be all kinds of screwed. You couldn’t have dug up someone else to take as an alternate?
D. All Netherlands and perfect
In case I don’t get into a full Netherlands team preview (the Olympics are SOON), the Netherlands team will be Thorsdottir, Van Gerner, Van Pol, Wevers, and Wevers and will continue to churn you up and spit you out on beam and floor with all the spinning and beautiful.
The concern for the Netherlands this year, as is has been in the past, is being underpowered compared to the other teams that are challenging to get into the team final. The Netherlands is bringing Vera Van Pol, ostensibly because she has a 1.5 on vault, which emphasizes how much ground NED is giving up on vault when someone has to be taken to the Olympics for a 1.5 even though it’s not 2008.
In 2015, Netherlands made up that vault deficit by being more wonderful than your life on beam (ranking 2nd behind the US in combined qualification + team final beam totals), but the question is whether they can really do that again. Qualifying in 2015 also relied on Brazil having a meltdown on bars, and this time around a country like Germany could get a greater advantage for bars than Netherlands gets for beam given hits elsewhere (not sold on that part yet).
E. More Russia things
Also Russia might get banned from the Olympics as a nation because of all the cheating. No big deal or anything.