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.
Keeping Hypolito off vault and bars and keeping Oliveira off beam and floor would allow Brazil to compete three AAers in qualification in Saraiva, Andrade, and Barbosa, which would be a fascinating, US-level three-pronged showdown for the two spots.
Saraiva is the star and it would be a real shame if she doesn’t qualify, but Andrade is finally back to the all-around with a 57.250 at Dutch trials and Barbosa is always capable of throwing out 14s and upsetting everything. Significantly, Barbosa ranked as Brazil’s #2 AAer at the test event, even with a 12 on bars. They’ll put pressure on each other and are all close enough that a fall would take any of them out of the AA final.
Brazil’s weapon to get into the team final is beam. The Brazilians managed a third-place finish on beam in qualification in 2015 (ahead of even the much-vaunted Netherlands beam squad), and they rank among the dwindling number of nations that should expect to count three 14s as long as Hypolito, Barbosa, and Saraiva are all out there.
This is also wildly terrifying for Brazil because should they have a nervy day in qualification and suffer some wobblies, they won’t necessarily be able to make up those tenths in other places. There isn’t that guaranteed 14.5 on bars or floor to pull the total back up.
Of course, Brazil starts on beam. Prepare yourselves. It needs to be a 43. Don’t freak out, Flavia.
Now, on floor, Brazil does have a tremendous amount of tumbling potential. Theoretically, that lineup will also be quite excellent, though I worry that they’ll end up lacking the one big, dynamic score if they all continue doing the 5.8 routines they’ve been showing. It may be worth it to try to pull out some of that old difficulty. (I’m looking at you, Andrade.) Brazil won floor at the test event, but the scores were a little too 13.9 should they, say, need to make up some tenths after a beam issue.
On bars, the Brazilians are likely expecting to count one somewhat meh score, but as long as beam is together, one meh score is not the end of the world. Really, whether bars is competitive enough for the Olympics comes down to Barbosa. She and Andrade are the ones with the difficulty, handstands, and rhythm to manage strong 14s, but the history of Barbosa’s bars is that it’s just as likely to be a 12 as a 14. Neither the competition format nor team lineup would allow for a Barbosa 11-12 like we saw at worlds last year and the test event this year.
With hits, it’s very easy to see how Brazil makes the team final (they literally needed just a 12.800 on bars from Barbosa to do it last year, but she got 11), and while everyone else has improved since then, so has Brazil, adding Andrade to the mix following her injury in 2015. Reliance on risk is the concern. Brazil is going to be competitive enough on vault, competitive enough on floor, but beam is the major area where Brazil will be expect to be clearly better than your Japans, your Canadas, your Germanys. So…it has to work out.
That qualification race will be a good one. I expect the advancing gymnasts to be Saraiva and Whoever Hits. Whoever Hits is just a dream on floor.
Like many of the all-around contenders for Italy and Japan discussed recently, Saraiva will be right with the medal-contending pack on three events and will just hope to get through bars well enough to be competitive. Unlike some others, however, Saraiva has the swing and ability to be a solid enough bars worker, but those dead hangs and muscled handstands just destroy her, often for something around an 8.0 execution. Does she have the other three events to get out of the pack of Ferraris and Murakamis? Or is she just part of the bunch?
There is some precedent for Saraiva getting into the medal picture. At Jesolo this year she recorded pretty much her ideal possible bars score and finished with an AA total of 58.400, which just starts to look a little bronze. That’s the kind of score many of the higher-level Streingruber-category contenders will be looking at. But, it will take her absolute best.
Saraiva is the most likely Brazilian to do something in the AA. I could also see a streak of lower 14s coming from Whoever Hits given a good day, but she’ll be more likely to settle into that tertiary pack with 55-56.
Vault and Bars – There were days when Barbosa and Hypolito would both have been in the mix on vault, but those days have long-since passed. On bars, Andrade is most likely to put up a competitive score, but the difficulty of the field overall is going to be too much for her, even with an excellent hit.
Beam – Flavia Saraiva needs to be in this beam final. We’re all agreed on that, yes? Yes. She has the difficulty and precision not only to make the final but be right in the medal hunt now that she is competing a D well into the 6s. Many are in that same category, but Saraiva is among the most likely to get a huge score, and this routine is by far Brazil’s best hope on the women’s side to get close to the medals.
Floor – Saraiva should manage to score well on floor, and we’ll see if there’s any NCAA-crowd-boost happening in response to the ceiling falling in for her every move, but it’s quite unlikely that she (or Andrade) will have the difficulty to sneak into the final here when competing against 6.2-6.4s.