Now that the teams are taken care of, let’s go for a spin around the neighborhood with the individuals.
Unlike the last Olympics, when Yamilet Pena was the only individual competitor to make any event final, quite a few single ladies should make a push at finals this year, if not challenge for medals. Some of the non-team countries have very strong programs, you know. Almost like they should be sending more than one gymnast or something…
To the events!
As has been the case for a number of years, vault is the domain of non-team gymnasts. Very few of the gymnasts on teams will even be attempting two vaults, maybe not even 8 of them. I could see a solid half of the vault-final field coming from this pack of individuals.
Hong Un Jong – North Korea – With an Amanar and Cheng, Hong is a strong medal favorite and the most likely challenger to Biles. She has already hit for the cycle this quad with a gold, silver, and bronze over the last three years and looks like a good bet for a second silver if Paseka is all Russia Back…
Giulia Steingruber – Switzerland – 2016 Euros vault champion and now pulling a total Sacramone by trolling the gymternet with videos of a handspring 2/1. Her rudi can compete with anyone’s score on any vault, but the problem child is the second vault, which should be a DTY but is sometimes not and is always nerve-wracking. She’s definitely in the medal hunt.
Oksana Chusovitina – Uzbekistan – Doing the Prod now because why not. Given her theoretical difficulty with a Prod and often a Kas 1/1 second vault (7.0/6.0), she’s in the conversation, though the vault field is strong enough that she’s actually going to have to land the Prod in qualification to get back to the final. It can be a little Butt-a-Prod, but it can’t be a sitter.
Dipa Karmakar – India – Samesies. Her Prod has been looking a little more realistic in the last year or so. No less knee-explody, but more realistic. The problem for Karmakar is that I actually liked her simpler Tsuk vaults back a couple years ago, but she has had to upgrade to the 6.0 to keep pace with everyone. It’s not as comfortable or consistent for her.
Alexa Moreno – Mexico – Moreno has used her 6.2/6.0 combo to qualify to the last two vault finals, finishing 7th in both of them, and cannot be overlooked as a contender once again. Her most recent vault average from Anadia was 14.812, which would have been good enough for 5th in last year’s vault final. The 14.8s are about where I’d expect the final cutoff to be this year. Maybe 14.9s because of vault scoring, but something in there is probably the pace to watch as qualifying progresses. Moreno is usually right around that mark.
Marcia Vidiaux – Cuba – Moreno did not win that vault title in Anadia because she was edged by the newest member of the vault-contention club, Vidiaux. Her Kas 1/1 and rudi are the real deal, and right now she looks the most likely of the 6.2/6.0 club to do some damage on vault.
Phan Thi Ha Thanh of Vietnam is also attending the Olympics and has been a major vault threat in the past with a rudi and a DTY, though she has not competed that difficulty in a while and looks to have fallen back into the secondary tier of contenders.
With those six major individual contenders joining Biles, Paseka, Wang, Downie, Miyakawa, and maybe Tutkhalyan/Rogers/Black as the most likely finalists, that makes a pretty exclusive group that probably encompasses our eight.
Bars is the least likely event for any of the individuals to make a final, with only really Larrissa Miller of Australia and Jessica Lopez of Venezuela having the full potential complement of skills to make a realistic run at it.
Lopez always teases us with her general excellence but never puts it together at the moment to make a final. Miller was a reserve in the bars final last year, consistently shows a 6.1, and is very capable of a score comfortably into the 14s. The trouble may be a contingent of Chinese, Russian, American, German, and British gymnasts taking all the spots. Those five countries took all the bars EF spots in 2015, and it wouldn’t be very surprising at all to see that happen again.
Much more unexpected nonsense can happen on beam, which is good news for the individual challengers.
Catalina Ponor – Romania – I’d mark beam as Ponor’s best chance to make an event final. The field is the most open, and her difficulty remains as competitive as it has for quads now. This season, she has continued to score in the mid-14s, which is absolutely an event-final number. Of the individuals, she’s by far the most likely to make the beam final. I’d definitely bet on her to white-knuckle out a hit routine more than a number of the other beam contenders.
Vasiliki Millousi – Greece – Making the final is going to be too much to ask for Millousi in spite of what a joy she is to watch, but I include her here because VASILIKI MILLOUSI.
Ana Sofia Gomez – Guatemala – What a heartbreaker. Every once in a while, Gomez will show up at an event and be all BA-DAM to hit her actual 56 potential, though more often than not it doesn’t happen. Her most competitive difficulty comes on beam, where she could also go mid-14s on a good day.
Katarzyna Jurkowska-Kowalska – Poland – Gainer layout 2/1 off the end of the beam. That is all.
Theoretically, Steingruber has the difficulty to be a contender here, but beam is her arch-nemesis, and her far better chances to do something are vault, floor, and the all-around.
Giulia Steingruber – Switzerland – She is the most likely of the individuals not only to make it into the final but to challenge for a medal. That race for the third floor medal is rather open and should be quite contentious, but I’d rate Steingruber as more likely than anyone else to take it.
Catalina Ponor – Romania – Ponor is pushing for it, that’s for sure. Her difficulty is in that low-6 area right now, which will be borderline for the final. She’ll have to control those passes and spins, not landing all bouncy and crazy-like, to have a shot at outscoring the likes of Murakami, Downie, Mao, etc, against whom she’ll be fighting to get in.
Larrissa Miller will also be making a run at this one. She has made a floor final this quad, though I think at this point bars is her more competitively difficult event.
Among the individuals, the one with an actual shot at an all-around medal is Steingruber. She just has to hang around and be solid, solid, solid. She has the vault and floor scores to beat all the other bronze-medal contenders, so what it really comes down to for her is whether she’s going to hit beam and get a 58, or fall on beam and get a 57. That hit-beam 58 could be enough for the medal.
There are several others who will hope to get into the all-around final, like Lopez and Gomez, though special attention should be paid to Zsofia Kovacs of Hungary. She finished third in the AA at Europeans, behind only Melnikova and Steingruber, with a 56.432. She has useful scores on all four events, is a big reason Hungary should expect to be a thing next quad, and should finish quite respectably in the all-around alongside some bigger names.
Also, Ponor is planning to do the all-around, you guys. I know. That means bars. I can’t wait. I’m basically more excited about that than anything else at the Olympics now. Romania could have saved us all a lot of angst and argumentative posts if they had just mentioned when Ponor was announced as the Olympian that she really, actually, genuinely was going to attempt her first competitive bars routine in 12 years at the Olympic Games. Then I would have been 100% on board. I really need her to make the AA final now.
Potentially, given her scores on the other events, she may only need about a 12.0 on bars do it. Now, that’s a lot to ask because basically all we’ve seen from her in training videos is a forward giant and nothing, but it’s not like she would need a real score in order to pop into the all-around final to be like, “SUP I DO THIS NOW.”
TONI-ANN WILLIAMS. HOURY GEBESHIAN. COURTNEY MCGREGOR. JESSICA LOPEZ. SIMONA CASTRO.
Get it for the good guys’ team.