Sorry, France and Belgium. The Olympics are getting too close. Podium training begins in three days. There’s still much to do, so since you’re the least likely teams to get medals, you’re getting combined into the same preview. All hail Frelgium!
While making the Olympics is an accomplishment we expect of the French team (though was by no means a guarantee this time around), getting this far is a massive step for a Belgian side that is getting more competitive by the year. Belgium was always going to find it difficult to score with the team final qualifiers, even before the injury to Axelle Klickaert that makes it an even more improbable prospect. Still, Belgium already did the job. The Olympics!
The French are not that far behind those team-final challenging 5-10 squads and could realistically upset one or two of them, though they will have to work with a few more lower scores and would need more help in order to get out of qualification. The most likely outcome does see these teams finish 11th and 12th, but it is by no means a guarantee.
Marine Boyer – 2016 Euros beam silver, 2016 French champion, brings a critical DTY and elegant, high-scoring beam routine
Marine Brevet – 2016 Euros beam and floor event finalist, not actually a brevet judge
Loan His – 2015 French champion, 2016 French bars gold, name is an incomplete sentence, SHAP FULL TO PAK.
Oreane Lechenault – New senior, 2016 Test Event bars finalist, 2016 French floor bronze, did all four events in the Euros team final, that clockwork-robot-themed (?) floor routine
Louise Vanhille – 2015 French silver, 2016 French floor silver and bars bronze, critical piece of Operation Bars
Senna Deriks – 2016 Test Event bars finalist, age-eligible by like an hour and a half
Nina Derwael – 2015 Belgian junior champion, generally glorious and special, bhardwaj, keeping the dream alive without Klinckaert
Rune Hermans – 2015 Worlds AA finalist, very even in all-around and usable anywhere, originally the alternate
Gaelle Mys – Competing in her third Olympics (!), 2008 AA finalist, still as necessary as ever on beam and floor
Laura Waem – 2013 & 2014 Worlds AA finalist, here for bars and beam reasons
Projected Olympic Lineups
Vault – (Vanhille) Lechenault, Brevet, Boyer
Bars – (Brevet) Vanhille, Lechenault, His
Beam – (His) Lechenault, Brevet, Boyer
Floor – (Boyer) Brevet, Lechenault, His
Vault – (Waem) Hermans, Derwael, Mys
Bars – (Hermans) Deriks, Derwael, Waem
Beam – (Hermans) Waem, Derwael, Mys
Floor – (Derwael) Deriks, Hermans, Mys
On the issue of the French floor lineup, Loan His hasn’t been doing floor lately, but she actually has some tumbling difficulty on a team that severely lacks it. France must go all out to try to get a spot in TF, so if at all possible…
Even though Boyer is the French AA champion, she’s clear choice to be left off bars. France doesn’t have the luxury of just throwing someone into a lineup to get her an AA spot (every one of those qualification routines is precious), so instead I’m opting for Brevet and Lechenault in the all-around because that makes the most sense for the team lineups.
Similarly, Mys has an argument for being Belgium’s top AAer (though it’s very close), but she wouldn’t be used on bars either, leaving Belgium’s AAers as Derwael and Hermans by default. That Belgian floor lineup has a few more full-ins from Hermans and Deriks and could have the edge on difficulty versus France there.
Ideally, France is going for a modified German strategy to get into the team final, knowing that they are underpowered on vault and floor and trying to make up for that with a fantastic bars rotation (and excellent beams from Boyer and Brevet). Unfortunately for France, the strategy hasn’t been going as well, finishing over 6 points behind Germany at Chemnitz last weekend. Even without Boyer in that meet—who would have boosted the vault and beam totals—that’s not an encouraging result.
France’s bars lineup is excellent. (So excellent that bars specialist Alison Lepin was deemed unnecessary.) Loan His is a joy to watch and my darkhorse for the bars final. The lineup, however, does not have quite the difficulty of Germany, so it will be more challenging to use bars as the primary scoring strategy. Another complication is floor, a lineup that’s going to lack the difficulty to put up a competitive total. Between the test event and Euros, France has not shown a D greater than 5.5 on floor from anyone, which means we’re unlikely to see 14s. Brevet, for instance, has a double layout, but then her second pass at Euros was a 1.5 to stag. Lovely, but not Olympic-level difficulty.
Their secret weapon to combat the scoring problem is Marine Boyer, who has a DTY and a phenomenal beam routine, which should keep both of those events more on track. Counting two fulls on vault will always make it tough to score well, but as long as France gets three of four hits on beam, that event score should be TF competitive.
The Belgians are considered the most likely team to finish 12th because while Belgium is pretty similar to these other geographically bunched France, Netherlands, Germany teams in a lot of ways, they don’t have THE EVENT. Those other countries will have lower scores in places, but Germany and France have bars (and some serious beam) and the Netherlands has BEAM BEAM BEAM. Belgium is more middle-of-the-road everywhere, lacking that big asset to help overcome mid-13s. Bars has been Belgium’s highest-scoring event and most competitive lineup (and that is where Belgium can gain some tenths on, say, Italy or Japan), but it’s not at the level Germany and France are performing right now.
Of note, be sure to watch Nina Derwael. Her bars is fabulous, featuring a bhardwaj and a shap 1/2, and her dance elements on beam are glorious. She is going to be the Eythora Thorsdottir of 2016.
Which brings us to…
None of the gymnasts on these teams are going to get particularly close to an all-around medal. We could see some of the French gymnasts score into the 56s (the Belgians could as well but are more likely to get 55s), though the goal for both countries will simply be to hit and get two people into the final. France managed no AA finalists at worlds last year, which is not good enough. France is way more talented than that and should expect to manage one finalist if not two.
Belgium did have two finalists last year, with Verschueren finishing 17th and Hermans 19th. I have Hermans going in the AA again in 2016, which is interesting because she wasn’t even supposed to be on this team and, looking at recent scores, she’s actually the lowest-scoring AAer of the five on Belgium’s squad. Still, she gets these all-around spots over theoretically better AAers like Mys because she’s usable everywhere in team qualification, while Mys sits on bars. Hermans gets in, not by being the best, but by being not-the-worst on each apparatus. You can always count her score if need be.
It is worth mentioning that all of Belgium’s gymnasts are quite similar in the all-around, as well as on most of the events. These lineups could go many different ways. In fact, all the different ways because pretty much everyone is capable of doing every event for around the kind of score Belgium will expect at these Olympics.
Vault – Neither country is likely to have anyone go for the vault final (Boyer did formerly do two vaults), but even if they do, they’d be unlikely to make the final.
Bars – France has some real difficulty going on bars. It may not be event-final difficulty, because it’s not 6.5-6.7, but it’s legitimately competitive and several French gymnasts are worth noting as contenders. His, Lechenault, and Vanhille all have Ds over 6, though His is the class of the group in terms of both form and excitement level. She actually proves that a shap 1/1 can work and be connected out of, and I’d expect her score to be the highest.
Beam – Marine Boyer is the contender here. Her form is a step above and she has consistently scored into the 14s this season with a peak D of 6.3. At Euros, she defeated a hit routine from Ponor in the beam final, so if we’re considering Ponor as a contender for the beam final, we have to consider Boyer as well.
Floor – I don’t see any of the French or Belgians getting into the floor final. They just want to get into the 14s.