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.
For possible team final lineups, Van Gerner vaulted a full at trials though she had more difficulty in the past, so I’ll give her the spot over Lieke’s full. There’s no real way to dress up having to count a full. As for 4th scores/backup routines, the setup is OK. Van Gerner is more than usable on beam and would be doing TF for most teams here, and while Van Pol has struggled to get scores out of the 13s on floor, she has competitive enough composition.
As was well-documented, the Dutch made the team final last year because of beam. Beam, beam, and more beam. In qualification, they got through bars and floor with hits, and then vault was 18th place. Those three beam routines from Wevers, Wevers, and Thorsdottir were the competition and transformed the Netherlands into a team final side.
The strategy will be the same this year. Beam needs to be the Netherlands’ highest-scoring apparatus of all, which remains insane because beam. They have worked that code to create high-difficulty routines, and it turns out their strategy is better than what anyone else has come up with. The Netherlands will have its work cut out to pass Canada, Brazil, Japan, Germany, and Italy, but beam is where it happens.
Vault is where it doesn’t happen. Even against the DTY teams (to say nothing of Japan’s rudis) the Netherlands is guaranteed to concede more than a point by using sub-DTY vaults, no matter how clean they may be. Floor is a more nuanced proposition because, like on vault, the Netherlands doesn’t have the power to keep up, but on floor, the spin combinations and pristine execution (not to mention the “I want to watch this all day” factor) may mitigate that lack of power and make floor less of a weakness than it probably should be. Recall that Lieke Wevers made the floor final at worlds last year, and it wasn’t because of her tumbling or massively gargantuan 5.6 D score. It was because ahhhhhhhhhhh.
Bars is a mystery because theoretically it’s competitive. As on every piece, Thorsdottir and the Weverseseses are lithe spirits, and Van Gerner brings the precision, rhythm, and amplitude. But also, someone’s going to get a 12. You know it. That’s why it all comes back to beam.
For watching-the-scores purposes, I’d say the Netherlands needs to be multiple points ahead of the previously previewed cusp teams on beam in order to provide enough margin to get into that team final in spite of lower total D on the other apparatuses.
I’ll also be interested in the comparison between the Netherlands and Germany because both nations are under-difficulty on vault and floor and more or less relying on one main event to build up the scores, Germany on bars and the Netherlands on beam. There are fundamentally more tenths to be gained on bars than beam, which is why Germany tends to be favored more heading into the meet, but it will be a compelling my-strength-vs-your-strength conflict.
Who qualifies, nobody knows. If Thorsdottir, Van Gerner, and Wevers do end up competing all the events in qualification, they’ll all be within a fall of each other either way. Of note, Thorsdottir didn’t even make the top 24 last year, and that was with a hit meet. Still, her tremendous D-score upgrades since then will put her in a much better position this time. She remains quite close to the others, but having that DTY in particular gives her a critical extra 0.8 over the other two, meaning she really should be one of the Dutch representatives with any kind of a normal hit.
Van Gerner had the misfortune of being injured during the Netherlands’ coming out party (she would absolutely have been on the team otherwise), so she hasn’t received quite the recent attention the others have. But, she was the best Dutch gymnast for forever and is quite the solid all-arounder herself. I anticipate a great battle between her and Lieke Wevers for the second spot. Could go either way, but it’s probably in Wevers’ control depending on how well she hits bars and beam.
Thorsdottir is a lot closer to the heights of the all-around these days, and has hit the 58.0 marker this year, though true medal contention is another step above what she has shown so far. Interestingly, like many of the contenders, bars tends to be her lowest score (the AA final is not going to be a memorable bars meet), though in her case it’s not from lack of form or ability. It’s just that she has a tendency to hit a perfect full pirouette and then crumble directly into an origami crane on the mat. Less of that, please.
Vault and Bars – The Netherlands will not be putting anyone in the vault final, and while there is some 14 ability and excellent execution in that Netherlands bars side, the difficulty is too 5.8-6.0 to get into the final.
Beam – Here we go. The real apparatus. The Netherlands does have three people in contention for this beam final, with the Weverseseses the most likely to get in if they hit their heart-stabbing turns and “was that a connection…” in qualification. It’s entirely up to them and their centers of gravity whether this happens or not. Sanne is the most likely to be in actual medal contention again because she has been able to wrench out enough difficulty and creative combinations to make her execution matter. She has it all.
Floor – I include floor here because Lieke did manage to sneak into the final last year (but mostly because watching the Netherlands on floor is simply a delight), though it’s tough to see anyone on the team having the difficulty to make the top 8 again.