To Italy we go! Much like the Japanese, the Italians are a perennial team-final qualifier that we can always count on to finish 5th-7th, but they’ll have to withstand increased opposition this year to keep that run going.
The scores from this month’s national championship (for which Lauren has helpfully noted the domestic bonus to be removed) forced us all to develop a nervous tic about Italy’s chances for another 5-7 finish. Even giving Meneghini a hit beam, and accounting for Fasana not being at full strength, Italy comes out of that somewhere in the lowish 173s, around a couple points behind what the Germany, Canada, Japan, and Netherlands teams were getting domestically this summer in their own trials.
Now, I think that dramatically overstates the difference between these countries (some nations will be brought seriously back to earth at the Olympics when we definitely won’t see a parade of 174s and 175s), but those scores do provoke questions about Italy’s competitiveness on certain events. Certain events named bars.
Italy’s eternal F Core of Fasana, Ferlito, and Ferrari remains the heart, brain, skeletal system, viscera, and really entire body of the Italian team, but is that consistency an asset or does that indicate that Italy has leveled off this quad while other nations are progressing upward? We’ll find out in…oh…a week. (A WEEK.)
Erika Fasana – Never not the Italian floor champion, double double, DLO, deceptively good spins, only somewhat made of bandages
Carlotta Ferlito – 2016 Italian silver, 12th AA in 2015, the team’s beam star, desperately trying to come up with memorable qualities that aren’t the Simone incident, 2013 Worlds 5th place on beam, oh crap
Vanessa Ferrari – 2006 World champion, and a lot since then, casually her country’s best gymnast for an entire decade
Elisa Meneghini – 2016 Italian bronze, 2016 Italian floor champion, preposterously gigantic layout full on beam that’s almost actually a layout, the team’s secret weapon
Martina Rizzelli – 2016 Italian bars champion, on the team to make the bars not depressing, also has a DTY
Projected Olympics Lineups
Vault – (Ferlito) Fasana, Ferrari, Rizzelli
Bars – (Meneghini) Ferlito, Ferrari, Rizzelli
Beam – (Fasana) Ferrari, Meneghini, Ferlito
Floor – (Meneghini) Ferlito, Ferrari, Fasana
Fasana has not vaulted so far this year to protect her everything, but the team needs her so that they have the three DTYs necessary to stay competitive with the large majority of TF countries. Ferrari has also been competing her DTY again, which she didn’t at worlds last year when she was basically wheeled around the meet on a gurney.
Ferlito and Meneghini both have 1.5s, but I gave the qualification spot to Ferlito since I assume she’s the one they’ll want in the AA. It could go either way, but adhering to tradition, I have Ferrari and Ferlito doing the all-around in qualification. Because of injury, the two actually haven’t been in an all-around final together since 2013. What is happening?
The other qualification lineups are pretty simple. Fasana doesn’t need to force that elbow into doing bars since it’s not a fun event for her anyway, Rizzelli doesn’t do beam, and Rizzelli also has the weakest floor of the group. Done and done.
In a team final scenario, I assume this will be the choice, but Meneghini could just as easily slot into the lineup on bars or floor. She is the national floor champion after all, and I think she and Ferlito probably loathe bars exactly equally, so…? Hooray bars!
Italy will be dealing with some 13s (…12s?) on bars. That’s just the way the team is. They don’t really have a choice in the matter. Ferrari is doing her best to up her bars game these days, but they honestly just want to get out of that wretched event with a 41. This issue is what led to some complaints over the team selection as none of the three gymnasts who competed bars in last year’s team final (Mori, Ugrin, and Mariani) made the team this year. I would argue that those gymnasts simply don’t provide enough tenths over the selected team to justify taking them expressly for bars. Even with Mori or Ugrin on the team, the concerns over the team’s competitiveness on bars would persist.
To try to make sure they get to the team final anyway, Italy has opted for the strategy of selecting its best possible beam and floor team and using those scores to make up the difference. On floor, Italy has more than sufficient tumbling through all three positions, so while they individually may not have the top, top, top floor scores in the meet, Italy should beat most teams given all those DLOs and full-ins. Beam is, of course, a terror, but this lineup could also be quite fantastic and exciting. If Meneghini hits her layout full, that will be Italy’s standout routine of the competition. They’ll just hope the judges don’t have their dance-element glasses on because the acro is definitely the highlight of those beam routines. Check the execution scores. Italy needs those hits to be 8.5s not 8.2s.
That’s how they make up for bars, by being top-5 on beam and floor. If that does happen, I’ll feel a lot more comfortable about Italy’s TF chances. Vault should also be interesting since Italy will expect to have the requisite three DTYs, but are those vaults comfortable enough to match the execution scores of the other three-DTY countries? Fasana is trying to get hers back after injury, and Ferrari’s vault is usually a sack of potatoes. Vault doesn’t necessarily have to be a standout event, but they’ll need to keep pace.
First and foremost, Vanessa Ferrari has somehow managed to finish 6th in the all-around twice this quad and overall has competed in 8 World/Olympic AA finals, a remarkable achievement. [Edited to add: I thought this was the most in the field, erroneous omitting Daniele Hypolito’s 9 AA final appearances.] Since her senior career began in 2006, Ferrari has missed the AA final in only 2009, when she didn’t attend worlds, and last year, when she qualified but pulled out with injury. I like her chances to make it 9 and tie Hypolito in Rio.
Ferrari and Ferlito both have the scores on three events to hang right with the rest of the contending gang and get their 57.0s, but Ferlito may be haunted by her y1.5 and both will be haunted by bars, though Ferlito much more so.
The field this year will allow for gymnasts to have a somewhat weak event and still be in medal contention (Shang moves closer and closer to that bronze every day), but while I see no reason that Ferrari can’t get another 6th-place finish out of this meet, she may not have the four whole scores to challenge gymnasts who are going more comfortably into the 58 zone.
Vault and Bars – Italy won’t really be trying to shove anyone into the vault final (Rizzelli has a second vault, but it’s like a 2), and while Rizzelli is their strongest bars worker, she is not in contention for the final, so let’s focus on Italy’s main events.
Beam – Surprisingly, Italy hasn’t put anyone into a beam final since 2013, but both Ferlito and Meneghini will have a look at this one given their intended difficulties over 6.0. They’re probably both in a position of relying on mistakes from other contenders (in the fantasy world where everyone hits in qualification, they wouldn’t be top 8 beamers), but if they stick around with their 14s, they are worth paying close attention to. Ferlito ended up first reserve in 2015, so she remains right in the pack.
Floor – Italy has advanced plenty of gymnasts to floor finals in the recent past, last year’s worlds marking the first time since 2011 Italy had not been represented in the final. (Fasana did qualify but pulled out.) Fasana also made the final in 2014, and Ferrari made three straight from 2012-2014.
Somewhat similarly to beam, the worry on floor is that Italy has three or so gymnasts who could all get close to the final but who could all be just barely pushed out as well. Provided she has her full difficulty back, Fasana will be Italy’s best chance to sneak in there. She did not compete her double double at Italian nationals, but she’ll need it back if she’s going to knock out the other 6ish Ds to make her way in.