Nation-by-Nation World Championship Preview

In many respects, the first worlds of the quad is the practice worlds. Podium training for the quad to come. There’s no team competition, no qualification consequences, just a chance for a handful of top individuals to get their titles before they get irreparably injured.

For those select few, career-defining major world medals are within reach, but for those outside the top four and a half countries (Romania still counts as half a country because Iordache/Ponor), the first worlds of the quad is about assessing how they might stack up against the rest of the world and their peer-group countries, evaluating the international competitiveness of new gymnasts, and maybe setting some national records in the rankings.

So, by way of a worlds preview, here’s a brief account of all the teams heading to Montreal (as we know them now) and notes on what would constitute a successful and victorious competition for each of those teams.

United States
Ragan Smith, Morgan Hurd, Jade Carey, Ashton Locklear

The US is a victim of its own dominance in that there is no longer any way for the Americans to exceed expectations at a major competition. You either win all the medals, or you are disappointing trash.

But diving deeper, the US will expect Ragan Smith to win the all-around title. At least, she’ll enter the competition as the favorite. It’s not a dominant favorite status as there are certainly those who can catch her (most notably Larisa Iordache), but she’ll start as the expected winner. The US has won the all-around every year since 2010 and won’t abide breaking that streak. It may not be fair (in fact, it isn’t), but anything less than winning the world AA title will be considered a disappointing competition for the US.

On the events, the US will be looking for something in the ballpark of four medals. The US hasn’t won fewer than three event medals since 2003, so while we shouldn’t expect the six medals of the Simone years, there are still some standards to uphold. Jade Carey has been selected in the expectation that she can get a medal on vault and floor, while Ragan Smith will hope to medal on beam and is quite capable of a medal on floor as well. Ashton Locklear is going for bars, but with her current routine she would not be a pre-competition medal favorite. She would need some mistakes from those who are breaking 6 in D score.

As for Morgan Hurd, the issue throughout the selection process was that she’s not a SHE’S GOING TO WIN A MEDAL ON THIS EVENT gymnast, meaning that her best hope will probably be the all-around. As of now, I see Hurd’s position in the international AA picture as similar to that of Aly Raisman’s early in her senior career, where she’s sort of in the 3-6 zone (alongside the Russians and hopefully a few of LTT, Murakami, and Andrade) and could get a medal if things fall right but could also finish heartbreakingly 4th.

This year, Hurd’s most competitive single event has been floor, where she can record a medal-level score. Her biggest floor obstacle is that she’s the third-best floor worker on the US team and may need some help not to get two-per-countried. Hurd is also quite capable of a very strong score on beam, especially now that it appears she has added back her full-in—a four-tenth boost in D that can help account for why she moved ahead of her AA peers at selection. Her 2017 hit record on beam being what it is, though, I’d consider a good finish on beam for Hurd a bonus rather than an expectation.

Elena Eremina, Angelina Melnikova, Maria Paseka, Anastasia Ilyankova

After a couple potential dramas died down regarding a potential injury to Ilyankova and the [GIF of car falling into pond] that is Paseka’s 2017 vaulting, we’re back to the expected Russian team.

We know not to take giant Russian Cup scores to mean anything, but Eremina and Melnikova are nonetheless competitive enough in the all-around to qualify into the top-6 group. A medal for one of them would certainly make this a victorious competition. Russia has a successful recent medal record in the all-around, though that record has been a two-woman performance. Recall that the last Russian to medal in the all-around not named Mustafina or Komova was named Khorkina. Russia absolutely does not want to start going all Romania and having to rely exclusively on Mustafina coming back again and again to win medals. An all-around medal from one of the newer ones would be refreshing.

I would say they’re “hoping” for a medal in the AA, but it’s unclear whether Valentina is happier when Russia wins medals or when she can run to the press and complain about Russia being unfairly robbed because being victimized for being white or whatever.

On the events, we’ll say 2-3 medals would be a good haul. At least two is a must, three or more would be great. Paseka is here because of her medal potential on vault. She has the difficulty to win the title even when her form is really Bee Farm, but then again ALL THE FALLING. We’ll see. On bars, it’s Russia, so at least one of Eremina and Ilyankova better win a medal otherwise Mustafina is going to crawl out of her birthing hut, throw a placenta at them, and instantly improvise a routine that’s a million times better.

Another possibility will be Melnikova getting into the medals on floor. She is European champion, but a medal is a tougher prospect now when asked to go against the Americans and Japanese. Then again, it’s a relatively weak field, so she’s not all that far down the depth chart. On beam, I have no expectations for medals because Russia. The capability is there of course, and it would be a disappointing beam final without any Russians, but also Russia.

Liu Tingting, Wang Yan, Luo Huan, Fan Yilin

Because of only being able to use three people on each event, China has elected to go with Liu and Luo in the AA, instead of Liu and Wang (their two strongest all-arounders). This is a strategy to maximize their opportunities on bars and beam, which is a giant neon sign pointing us to where China views its medal hopes. If Wang were to do the AA, only one of Luo or Fan would be able to go on UB, and they want multiple legit medal contenders performing there to guard against a qualification mistake.

Bars is not the extend of China’s medal opportunities, however. Liu Tingting should be in the mix for an AA medal. Her obstacle will be low difficulty on floor, as well as occasional issues with the DTY, but she can make up for that with big scores on bars and beam to keep herself squarely in the top-6 group. China has not managed to win an all-around medal since 2011, so breaking that streak will be a goal this quad. When looking for ways to make this a victorious worlds, getting LTT into the AA medals would certainly do it.

China’s most likely event medal would come from Fan Yilin on bars, though they’ll expect a couple more than that. Like Russia, 2-3 is the necessary result. Beyond Fan, look for Liu Tingting’s delightful and code-savvy beam routine as a strong possibility, and Wang Yan’s chances on both vault and floor. She’s among the five or six gymnasts with a shot on vault, and her high-13s on floor will be in the mix. Those are all realistic possibilities, at least for Shang Chunsong-legacy 4th-place finishes if nothing else. Luo Huan is very capable of getting into the finals on both bars and beam and being lovely, though shrugging off her heartbreaker destiny and getting into the medals feels like a dream.

Mai Murakami, Asuka Teramoto, Sae Miyakawa, Aiko Sugihara

Everyone’s favorite up-and-coming team is far from a constant on the medal stand, so for Japan, winning any medal would make this event a victory. Tsurumi’s 2009 medals are still their only recent hardware, making their status very different from that of the US, Russia, and China, who need to win many and multiple medals to make the event a success. Japan just needs something to take home.

At the same time, Japan is scoring well enough these days that we should begin expecting that medal, and there are several realistic possibilities on this team. Sae Miyakawa absolutely has the vaults and floor difficulty to medal on either piece, the main worry there being how she sometimes forgets what gymnastics is the moment she leaves Japan. She’s still yet to come through at the international level. It’s Mai Murakami’s floor routine, however, that looks like the most realistic medal for Japan. It’s tremendous, and it would be about time.

In the AA, Murakami is turning herself into more and more of a legitimate threat, especially if that Amanar exists. She may not be quite there yet, but I’d certainly keep her toward the top of the conversation. A good day from her can rival most everyone else in the meet. Teramoto should be Japan’s second AAer, and as usual will be lovely and finish 9th. And then finish like 10th on beam with the most secure routine. Basically every time. Her best-ever AA finish is 8th, so beating that would be a victory for her.

Great Britain
Amy Tinkler, Claudia Fragapane, Georgia-Mae Fenton, Alice Kinsella

Because of injuries, this is an off year for Great Britain and expectations should be tempered. Still, Great Britain is established enough that there needs to be a medal somewhere for this to count as a successful worlds. The best hope will be on floor from either Tinkler or Fragapane. Fragapane’s recent 13.9 in Paris was a good sign, but flying out of bounds in a floor final is sort of her thing. We know both are capable of it, but also prepare yourself for a zero-medal competition because it could happen.

In all-around finals, GB hasn’t been as competitive as in the team and event competitions in recent years. It’s all been sort of either 10th place or 23rd place. Whelan’s 9th place in 2011 is the best mark since Tweddle did the AA (aka, basically medieval times). As a country, GB is better than that, so while an AA medal is too much to expect this year without Ellie, beating that Whelan 9th place would be something.

I’m pleased Tinkler is finally getting the opportunity to be an all-around gymnast. She’s a stronger all-arounder than some who have been given AA spots at recent major events, but her strengths have never worked with the team needs, meaning she doesn’t get to do all the events in qualification. An individual year is her opportunity.

Fenton is the one member of the team with big British bars difficulty, though falling has been a major issue. For her, his competition is less about making the final on bars—a very tough ask despite the difficulty she can throw—than it is about hitting her set in a high-pressure scenario (and not getting injured right before the meet this time), showing that she can be a useful third option on bars this quad even when the Downies are healthy.

It’s also about the quest to get the Stalder Tkatchev to mixed grip named. Fenton and Derwael are both doing the skill, meaning it wouldn’t be named after either if they both hit it, but if someone doesn’t hit…

Ellie Black, Isabela Onyshko, Shallon Olsen, Brooklyn Moors

Let’s discuss our esteemed hosts. In most years, getting Ellie Black into an event final and notching a top-10 AA placement would be a solid result, but this year, coming out of a hosted championship without a medal would be a bit of a sour finish. The world is coming to Canada, and Canada wants to show that they are relevant and competitive on the world stage, especially after the disappointment of not making the team final at the Olympics. EHH’s beam bronze is still Canada’s only WAG worlds medal ever, and why not change that at home?

Ellie Black is always sort of close in the all-around, and getting closer each year. The 5th-place finish at the Olympics was her best yet. Of note, none of the four people who finished ahead of Black in Rio are competing this year, so she really should be right up there this time around. Injuries have meant we haven’t seen much of full-strength Black so far in 2017, but keep her firmly in mind when thinking about the all-around and those who can score solidly into the 56s. She’s one of them. Onyshko isn’t too far behind Black, though her struggles with getting a DTY mean that she’s looking more for a solid placement (top 10?) rather than a medal. Lately it has been Black with a top-10 spot and then Onyshko down in the teens, which she’ll want to rectify.

On the events, Canada is realistically looking more at getting people into finals than at medals. A medal can happen in a couple places and will be the hope and goal, but it will require aid. The best medal chance probably comes from Olsen on vault, but she’ll need the Amanar to do it, which we haven’t seen this year. Black and Onyshko have strong scoring potential on beam as well, and since beam is beam, getting into the final means they’re have a chance. It might get wild. Moors is the contender on floor, though getting that coveted 14.000 will be a challenge.

Larisa Iordache, Catalina Ponor, Ioana Crisan

Romania has elected to go with three gymnasts this year, and while I never like countries throwing away spots, you can see the logic there. With two AAers and then Ponor doing beam and floor, Romania is left with only a VT/UB spot. They don’t have any other real two-vault seniors right now, and it’s Romania and bars. There’s literally no one even remotely competitive for that spot. I still would have preferred they throw someone in (you’re going to need 4 people to do bars at worlds next year, so think about who that might have to be and send one of those people just to get her out there and competing), but I also understand why they’re only sending three.

As we know, Romania is not in good shape as a program, but because Iordache and Ponor are still around, Romania is still in good shape for medals and really should be a top-4 country in the women’s medal rankings. Iordache is looking strong and healthy enough right now to expect an all-around medal, and it could be gold. Without a Biles around to take all the shiny, this is Iordache’s special year. This is her opportunity. A Iordache AA medal is how this event becomes successful for Romania, and if it’s gold…

After that, we look to beam and floor. On beam, Iordache is planning to show up with the highest difficulty of anyone (unless Sanne is saving 50,000 secret turns for EFs, a distinct possibility). That is, if she gets credit for all of it. [Ron Howard voice]: She won’t.

Still, even if she doesn’t, a hit routine will be right up there with the very best. Ponor is likely to be a couple tenths behind Iordache, but it’s also Ponor and beam. Making the final and then anger-beaming so hard that everyone else falls as she grabs all three medals is totally believable. Making a mark on floor will be a harder task (both peaked at low 14s at Romanian champs and that was with Romanian champs scoring), but Iordache getting into that final is certainly not outside the realm of possibility.

Overall, I’d say two medals (Iordache AA and then something on beam) would make this a good event for Romania, but it’s mostly about Iordache in the AA.

Ioana Crisan is also there.

Rebeca Andrade, Thais Fidelis

Brazil may be sending just two gymnasts (which is especially annoying because they’re sending a pretty big delegation to worlds—fewer VIP guests, more gymnasts please), but we should see some very strong finishes in a number of areas. Medals might be too far, but an emphasis on the might.

Recall that Andrade went 56.000 at Jesolo, and that was with only the DTY and a less-than-ideal beam. She has since upgraded back to the Amanar, which should put her comfortably in that zone of 56+ contenders with a hit performance. Significantly, however, we haven’t seen Andrade do either beam or floor since Jesolo, so how she looks on those two in PT will be a deciding factor as to her competitiveness.

On vault, Andrade’s Amanar should be one of (if not the) highest single vault scores. We tend to forget about Andrade for vault finals because her second vault is just a Lopez, but it worked for Simone, and Andrade’s Lopez is just as easy for her as Simone’s was. She will have a difficulty deficit, but she could make that up with execution and be a contender. On bars, Andrade may be just on the outside looking in, but her 6.1 D keep her in the hunt. The same is probably true for Thais Fidelis on her events, but she has emerged as one of the highlights of the world cup circuit this year, showing 14 ability on both beam and floor from time to time. Don’t sleep on her chances. Brazil has someone who should at least get somewhat close to the final on every event.

Tabea Alt, Elisabeth Seitz, Pauline Schaefer, Kim Bui

Tabea Alt is among the more compelling figures at worlds this year, not least because she’s planning to debut a Zuchold 1/2 on bars. Game changer. It’s a skill that can be connected out of a Shap 1/2 and (potentially) into another Shaposh. The CV possibilities are endless. Well, not endless. But large.

Alt took the AA world cup circuit by storm in the spring, then got sick at Euros right when she was supposed to bring her excellence onto a bigger stage. I worry she doesn’t quite have the floor to get a top, top all-around score (lack of competitiveness on floor continues to be the one weakness for this German team), but Daria Bijak’s 8th place from 2005 is something to aim for.

Mostly, expect to see the Germans contending on bars. It’s their thing, and Seitz is still kicking. After coming heartbreakingly close to a medal in Rio, Seitz is squarely among the medal threats this year. She should be right with Fan, the Russians, and Derwael. As we know, Bui is also exceptional on bars, though her scores tend to be a couple tenths behind Seitz, so if any of the Germans is going to medal on bars, it will be Seitz.

Schaefer also has the legacy of being a worlds medalist on beam, though changes to the code have not been kind to her routine, particularly the downgrading of the gainer layout and the lessened reward for non-rebounding acro. That has put her farther down the beam depth chart.

Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, Marine Boyer, Coline Devillard, Lorette Charpy

France may not be a favorite for a medal but has some real contenders in Boyer on beam and Devillard on vault. Boyer has the necessary 6+ difficulty, and there are only a handful of gymnasts who can challenge her when she’s really on. She’ll expect to make the final and be in with a shot against the likes of Smith, Liu, and the Dutch.

Devillard is the European champion on vault. Her rudi + DTY combination is difficult enough that it should get her into the final, though execution scores that occasionally drop into the mid-8s instead of the requisite 9s could hold her out of the medals. Making the final is the main goal there.

De Jesus Dos Santos is an exciting new development for France this year, bringing strong potential on bars and beam and solid-enough scores across the four pieces to look for a reputable finish in the AA. It will be difficult for her to get up among those 56+ gymnasts battling for the bronze (similar is true on bars and beam, where she can score well, though maybe not high enough to challenge the actual specialists), but a top-10 finish anywhere would be a successful showing.

Eythora Thorsdottir, Sanne Wevers, Lieke Wevers, Tisha Volleman

Dreams of Eythora showing up and winning all the things will never abate, because it would be glorious, though realistically the expectation is a good performance where she hits more than a medal. Hit bars so that your AA score is acceptable. That’s what we ask. Success would be improving on the 9th-place finish from the Olympics and making that 3-6 group uncomfortable.

Now, if Eythora shows up with the routines on beam and floor that we saw at European EFs, then you never know. Her E scores can rival most anyone, and she has actually been able to put together an unexpectedly competitive D on floor as well. She’d still need some help from others, but the goal will be getting into those finals so that we all get the pleasure of watching her routines more times.

The Netherlands’ most likely medal remains Sanne on beam. Despite her struggles with hitting in recent weeks, she’s still Sanne, and we can assume at worlds that she’ll have the presence to pick the one of her 754 different routines that she can best hit in the moment. Olympic champion legacy means that she gets to be a medal favorite even if she hasn’t shown the best scores so far this year. We know she can pull out combinations to CV everyone into submission.

Vanessa Ferrari, Lara Mori, Sara Berardinelli, Desiree Carofiglio

Expectations are very low for Italy this year. A successful worlds may just mean proving that the team selection wasn’t as bizarre as it seems. This Italian squad is looking a little “no event finals, and one AA finalist who finishes 19th,” so beating that expectation would be solid.

Ferrari is here, and Ferrari is Ferrari. She’s an evergreen floor finalist, though expecting a big floor result for her here seems a little much considering that she just got a new Achilles 30 seconds ago.

Nina Derwael, Rune Hermans, Maellyse Brassart

Belgium’s worlds is all about Nina Derwael on bars. Her performance will determine whether this is a successful competition or not because she’s very capable of winning a medal. The 14.9 from a week ago is a tough score for anyone to beat. If Derwael hits, she’s one of the top couple favorites as few can match her peak score.

Derwael and Hermans can both make the AA final—they have both done so before—and something solidly teens would be a good finish, but the focus is Derwael on bars. Belgium has never won a worlds medal and has never even had anyone make an event final at worlds. Just making the EF would be a big deal, as would getting a skill into the CoP, but her sights will be set higher than all of that.

Giulia Steingruber, Ilaria Kaeslin, Jessica Diacci, Fabienne Studer

It’s a shame that Steingruber has been out for so long because otherwise the first year of the quad, with a semi-depleted field, would feel very THIS IS STEINGRUBER’S YEAR. A full-strength Steingruber would be a favorite for a vault medal, a good contender for a floor medal, and a legit member of the AA challenging group.

But, we don’t have a full-strength Steingruber. She’s just coming back and hasn’t performed her real difficulty yet, so expectations are minimal. She’s still going to be Switzerland’s best AAer and can make the AA final, but we shouldn’t have too many expectations beyond that. It hasn’t been a great year for Switzerland, so while I’d love to see a second AA qualifier, I’m not expecting it.

Zsofia Kovacs, Boglarka Devai, Dalia Al-Salty, Boglarka Tombol

Kovacs is certainly a player on the world stage, and probably Hungary’s most internationally relevant gymnast since Onodi, though her opportunity to bring home actual hardware for Hungary is in a European context, as she did with her AA silver at Euros this year. In a world context, Kovacs falls a bit too far down the rankings to be in the medal hunt. She’s still among the 56.0 contenders, though, so she can certainly challenge some people in the AA. A top-10 finish would be an excellent accomplishment and is doable.

The other measure of victory for Hungary would be getting Devai into the vault final. A couple of the DTY + Lopez crowd will probably be able to sneak into the final, so if she’s on track with her qualification landings, we could see Devai advance.

Ana Perez, Cintia Rodriguez, Claudia Colom, Nora Fernandez

The most anticipated aspect of Spain’s performance at worlds this year is probably Cintia Rodriguez’s quest to perform the full-twisting toe shoot and get it named after herself. That would be cool, and when winning medals and making event finals isn’t realistic, adding to the CoP is a solid accomplishment.

Ana Perez is Spain’s top AAer right now and impressed at some of the spring AA world cups. A hit day in qualification should see her advance to the AA final comfortably. Spain’s best recent finish in the AA was Roxana Popa’s 12th last quad, and something reasonably close to that would be a solid showing.

Rianna Mizzen, Georgia Godwin, Talia Folino

It isn’t a particularly competitive group for Australia this year, but there are still some goals I’d like to see them reach. The outside shot would be Rianna Mizzen making the bars final. She’s not a favorite to do so, but she could peck around the edge of the contending group. I’m expecting the cutoff for the final to be in the middle 14s, and Mizzen has scored in that territory before.

Beyond that, Australia will be looking to get two people in the AA final and have one of them score in the 55s for a reasonable mid-table finish. That would be a respectable showing.

Oksana Chusovitina

Vault is open this year. We have a few likely contenders, but no major, major favorites because even those with the best difficulty aren’t guaranteed hits. If Chuso were to have her typical peak-difficulty vaults, she would be a very strong contender for another medal to add to her collection, though recent evidence suggests she may not be at that level right now.

Yesenia Ferrera, Marcia Vidiaux

Ah, the mysterious Cubans. They bring an exciting duo to worlds this year. Ferrera should be the stronger of the two in the AA, and while she likely doesn’t have the bars and beam to make a huge mark there, she has the ability to get into the AA final, which we haven’t seen from the Cuban women in a loooong time. Mostly because we haven’t seen the Cuban women in a loooong time. Ferrera’s real shot to do damage at this competition, however, will be on floor. Her 14.000 from the Centroamericano served notice that she has a huge routine (that’s actually still upgradeable) that could be quite competitive for a spot in the final if hit. It wasn’t a crazy 14. It was an earned 14.

Getting someone into a final (even just the AA final), would be a victory for Cuba, but making an event final would be a huge deal. Vidiaux has also shown top-flight difficulty on vault in the past with a Rudi and Tsuk 2/1, which would make her a definite contender if both vaults were to appear again. We haven’t seen them in a while, so I’m not exactly expecting it, but she has the difficulty to whip out.

Diana Varinska, Angelina Radivilova, Valeriia Osipova, Valeriia Iarmolenko

A couple world cup performances from Diana Varinska have cultivated a flickering light of hope in the world of Ukrainian gymnastics. Her bars routine has sufficiently competitive difficulty, and while her making the final isn’t the most likely eventuality, she’s at least somewhere in the conversation. That’s progress for Ukraine. Scoring in the 14s and getting close to the final would be a good result.

Jonna Adlerteg

On that bars note, Adlerteg. She was the silver medalist on bars at Euros in 2013 and will break 6.0 in D score if she gets credit for everything she went for at Szombathely. Like Varinska, it will be tough for Adlerteg to make the final in this field (there are too many others with higher E scores), but reaching 14.0 for a hit routine in qualification and placing somewhere in the teens would be an excellent finish. Watch out for the layout Jaeger and the Shap to Bhardwaj combo.

Filipa Martins, Mariana Marianito, Mariana Pitrez

A successful competition for Portugal hinges on Filipa Martins making the all-around final. She’s their competitive scorer, and she has done it once before, in 2014 when she ultimately finished 16th. Beating that mark would make this a fantastic worlds, but having a gymnast in a final remains a big deal for Portugal because that doesn’t really happen.

New Zealand
Courtney McGregor, Isabella Brett, Estella Matthewson

McGregor’s vaulting is New Zealand’s jewel. She finished 13th on vault at the Olympics, a major milestone far stronger than what we typically expect for NZL gymnastics. We’re mostly just pleased if they send gymnasts. Her 5.4/4.8 vaults from last year probably won’t contend for the final against the batch of 5.4/5.2 gymnasts jostling for the final spots, but repeating something close to the Olympic finish would be an excellent showing.

Barbora Mokosova

Another darling of the world cup circuit, Mokosova has developed into a very capable all-arounder who has begun consistently making WC finals and occasionally winning medals. A hit day from her in qualification could be good enough to make the AA final, which would be tremendous. Slovakia has never done that before (at least as an independent Slovakia), and Mokosova has a shot.

Argyro Afrati, Evangelina Plyta, Ioanna Xoulogi

It’s very weird to preview a Greek team without including the requisite reference to how glorious Millousi is on beam and how she’ll inevitably fall in qualification and break everyone’s hearts, but Plyta is well-suited to take up that responsibility. She has lovely handstands on bars, a theoretical difficulty in the higher 5s, a Shaposh + Deltchev combo, and it always goes disastrously. A hit from her would be nice.

Goksu Uctas Sanli, Tutya Yilmaz

Yilmaz only just started competing again a second ago, so you may have had time to forget about her, but recall how much you were rooting for her beam routine at the Olympics. I mean, she performs a layout 1/1. Expectations will be minimal, because she’s just coming back and because it’s so hard to hit that routine, so she won’t be expected to repeat her 13th-place finish from Rio. But, Turkey never has anyone close (until Yilmaz), so even a somewhat competitive score would be a big deal.

Hana Kassem, Farah Hussein, Sherine El Zeiny, Farah Salem

On the topic of countries that never have anyone close. Farah Hussein made waves at recent world cup events by…being there and being good? Gotta start somewhere. Hussein can score some 13s, so while the AA final is likely a step too far, El Zeiny’s national record of a 46th-place finish is very attainable. Egypt is beginning the slow process of becoming competitive as a country. Sending four people also helps.

Toni-Ann Williams Maya Williams, Mackenzie Robinson

This will be our first look at Toni-Ann for a while as she spent most of the NCAA season having to wheel herself around on that little scooter and trip over every single mat. She went 54th at the Olympics last year and has been as high as 45th at worlds before, which are beatable marks if she’s at full strength. Mostly I’m just looking to see where she is in her comeback in terms of next season’s NCAA prospects. Three months!

Puerto Rico
Paula Mejias, Bianca Leon

1) Are you…OK? 2) If yes, please vault. Mejias has performed a Tsuk 2/1 before, which when paired with a second vault of reasonable difficulty, would be squarely in contention for the final. It was enough to earn her an 11th-place finish in 2015, and while we haven’t seen her best in a while, Mejias’s vault is still Puerto Rico’s showpiece.

Teja Belak, Tjasa Kysselef

Vaulting at world cup events is this team’s jam, and both gymnasts are here to vault. It looks like Belak is signed up for the all-around, but a solid finish on vault will be the focus. Belak’s 5.4/5.0 difficulty is not too far off the EF contenders, but she doesn’t always get credit for it/hit it, so it’s more about getting close to the final than getting into it.

South Africa
Claudia Cummins, Naveen Daries, Angela Maguire, Cornelia Eksteen

South Africa is one of the rare lower-ranked countries sending a full contingent to worlds, so they get automatic points for that, but they also get actual points in terms of how well Daries and Cummins have been scoring lately. A good day for them is still in the 52s, so they may not be too close to the AA final, but Beckett’s national-record 43rd place finish is definitely in danger. More importantly, if they get Rooskrantz healthy and add her to the group, South Africa has a legitimate chance at next year’s worlds to advance as a team to 2019.

Ahtziri Sandoval, Miriana Almeida, Victoria Mata

Add this to the category of teams I don’t really get since I would consider Nicolle Castro and Jimena Moreno (who both just competed in Paris last weekend) as Mexico’s strongest gymnasts right now, neither of whom are on the list for worlds. I’d have said Castro would be in with a chance for the AA final, but that looks fairly unlikely for this group of three.

Ginna Escobar, Valentina Pardo, Dayana Ardila

Colombia has recorded some solid scores on vault and floor so far this year, with Ardila capable of breaking the 14 mark on vault. The bars and beam routines likely prevent the Colombians from getting too close to the AA final, but Escobar has the best shot as the most well-rounded of the group.

Czech Republic
Aneta Holasova, Veronika Cenkova, Lucie Jirikova

The retirements of the Merkovas have somewhat soured the excitement over the Czech Republic (they were supposed to be the next big thing in artistry), but these are still three gymnasts capable of getting around a 13 on every event. I’ll be looking to see whether they still have the depth of routines to be a competitive team next year.

Agnes Suto, Dominiqua Belanyi

Presumably Sazonova is unavailable because otherwise Iceland would have selected her, although the old guard of Suto and Belanyi is not too far behind her scoring potential. I would like to see if Iceland has any new ones to keep things going in future years (Sazonova, Suto, and Belanyi are all in their mid-20s, like old crones), but they’re not at the same level and wouldn’t make sense to send.

Camila Ambrosio, Camila Bonzo, Agustina Pisos, Mayra Vacquie

Argentina has a crop of juniors coming that it’s fairly excited about, but for this year Pisos is the new one to watch. She probably has the best score of the group on each event and will be needed this quad if Argentina is to put together a real team.

Thea Nygaard, Martine Skregelid, Julie Soderstrom, Solveig Berg

“Ingrid Hafenbradl was snubbed!” he shouted while literally no one cared. But really, the ones to watch here are Martine Skregelid and Dr. Richard Nygaard, both of whom have been close to the 13 zone on floor this year. It may not sound like a lot, but we’re getting into the territory of grasping at straws with these teams.

Yulia Inshina, Ekaterina Tishkova, Marina Nekrasova

Remember that time Inshina was legit on a Russian team? She’s not that gymnast now, but the project to lure Russians to Azerbaijan with sweet, sweet oil money is still working well enough that Azerbaijan has some gymnasts capable of getting 50s in the AA. Although, without Pavlova and now without Stepko on the men’s side, the hope of getting actual medals out of this project is on life support.

South Korea
Lee Eun Ju, Kim Jury, Sung Gaeun, Yun Narae

Lee Eun Ju is the one who went to the Olympics for South Korea last time and finished 53rd. Yun Narae is the other one we know. She had a strong Asian Games in 2014 but never really followed that up with good scores at worlds. Lee is probably still the best AAer of the group, but we’ll get a look at the other two, both of whom are new seniors this year. Everyone is always really into South Korea at podium training because they tend to have composed, simple routines, but at some point, there needs to be more than that.

Jasmin Mader, Marlies Maennersdorfer

Oh, Jasmin Mader. You’re always sort of there and finishing 60th. The 25-year-old has been making Austrian teams for a while, but in the absence of Lisa Ecker this year, she remains the best gymnast in the country. We’re waiting on a new generation of Austrians, but they don’t really have any newer ones who are going to score better than the 46-47 zone. You might get a 50 from Mader and Maennersdorfer.

Chinese Taipei
Fang Ko Ching, Lo Yu Ju, Chuang Hsiu-Ju, Lai Pin Ju

We won’t see Mai Liu Hsiang-Han, who was their best performer at the Universiade in August, meaning that Fan Ko Ching is probably TPE’s best hope for a competitive score. This is another country that doesn’t have a particularly strong record (51st place), which could be in danger simply because not all that many people will do the AA at this meet.

Annika Urvikko, Helmi Murto, Maija Leinonen

Urvikko has been Finland’s world cup stalwart for many, many years and is typically their strongest AAer and perennial submission to be viewed by the nations of the world, though Leinonen has had the stronger scores in 2017 and is the frontrunner for Finland’s strongest AA total this time around.

Ofir Kremer, Ofir Netzer, Gaya Giladi, Shailee Weiss

Israel is another lower-ranked nation that gets points for using all four spots. We are unlikely to see AA scores out of the 40s from this group, largely because bars is a real issue, but look for the Ofirs to lead the way on most events.

Ana Derek

Poor Ana Derek is always going to be remembered more for the time she ran up and over the vault at the Olympics than for any real gymnastics she actually does. Lost in that is the fact that she did qualify to the Olympics and is quite capable of reasonable scores on most events. The AA final is a long shot but not a crazy, crazy long shot the way it is for other teams in this section. She can score 13s.

Zhanerke Duisek, Yekaterina Chuikina

I like saying Zhanerke Duisek. She is typically their best one, so it’s not surprising she was selected for worlds even though she has competed little this year and her scores have been too…literally a 9…for comfort. Chiukina has a couple 13s this year on vault and floor, making her Kazakhstan’s most competitive scorer right now.


Mette Hulgaard, Linnea Wang, Emilie Winther

Mette Hulgaard has been Denmark’s best gymnast for basically a decade now, and that’s still easily the case. Her 53rd-place finish at 2013 worlds is Denmark’s best ever, so that’s the mark to beat.

Pamela Arriojas, Milca Leon

Arriojas and Leon have been seniors for a couple years now, but this will be the first major international meet for either. It will be important to gauge how this next generation performs in terms of having an actual team for Jessica Lopez to put on her back if she decides to return. Venezuela nearly advanced at 2014 worlds with that strategy (finishing 26th), but they’ll need to find some basically competitive routines to do it again.

Bui Nguyen Hai Yen, Truong Khanh Van

Vietnam’s hopes for event finals and possible medals went out with Phan, though if you were watching the SEA Games, you may have noticed Truong casually step backward on choreography and fall off the end beam hilariously. It masked the fact that she has a fairly legit routine there. It’s Vietnam’s most competitive set right now (meaning, she has scored a 12 for it before).

Pranati Nayak, Aruna Budda Reddy

The next step will be translating Dipa into depth, but that’s for the next generation. A number of years off. For now, keep an eye on what difficulty Nayak is going for on beam because she can chuck some acro.

Pamela Georgieva, Yoana Yankova

I note that Bulgaria has gotten a pass when it comes to complaining about teams that used to be good and don’t even remotely have programs anymore (hi Belarus, except not because where are you).

It’s bad now, and not having Greta Banishka, probably their best AAer, makes it worse. These two attending are both new seniors, though, and it’s always helpful to have new gymnasts coming through and displaying some turnover rather that parading out the same old one elite. They can get 12s on beam?

Valerija Grisane, Marija Ribalcenko, Anastasia Dubova

Grisane has been Latvia’s one gymnast for more than a quad now, though Ribalcenko is a new senior they’re trying to bring through, perhaps providing another option. For now, Grisane is still their best score on most events, though I might have thought Dubova would get a call. She can do an actual bars kind of. Derr, they are sending Dubova. I just can’t read.

Hong Kong
Ng Yan Yin

Angel Wong is typically the choice for Hong Kong, but while she competed a couple events at the Chinese National Games, she’s apparently not ready for worlds, so they’re going with Ng instead. We’ll learn about this one at worlds, I suppose, because I’ve got nothing.

Agata Vostruchovaite

It looks like Vostruchovaite is taking over the mantle of the one Lithuanian who goes to meets, following Vaida Zitineviciute last quad and Laura Svilpaite the quad before. In her showings this year, she has scored in the 42s, so that’s the number she’ll be looking to beat.

Ana Laura Wong

Wong’s top score at Centroamericano was a 10.200 on floor, but if she does the AA, she could take over Isabella Amado’s national record 86th place, since it’s quite likely that 86 gymnasts won’t do the AA at this competition.

16 thoughts on “Nation-by-Nation World Championship Preview”

  1. If Ragan 2-per-countries Morgan out of the floor final I will throw my computer against the wall

  2. Amazing work as always!

    However, I’m genuinely curious how Thea Nygaard became Dr. Richard Nygaard! 😂

  3. Is Dr Richard Nygaard a Parks & Rec reference? I adore you even more if so. Thank you for this – Ponor hate-beaming is so spot on.

    1. YES! I’m watching Parks & Rec right now, and literally snorted when I read the Dr. Richard Nygaard reference. Amazing.

    1. AFAIK, a territory has to have it’s own Olympic committee/sports governing body, and then make a case that the IOC (or the international governing body of whichever sport is applicable) should recognize them as… enough of an independent entity to compete under their own flag, I guess?Puerto Rico has been sending its own national team to major international sports competitions since the 1940s. In my experience, a lot of non-Americans actually don’t know Puerto Rico isn’t its own country since we’re so used to seeing them at the Olympics. It’s similar to how England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales send their own national soccer teams to FIFA world cups. These things can get pretty political (Palestine comes to mind), but if I were to venture a guess not a lot of people have enough of an issue with Puerto Rico having their own team to challenge the IOC (or FIG in this instance) about it. Puerto Rican athletes can choose to compete for the U.S., provided they live Stateside for three years prior. (PS SORRY FOR WRITING AN ESSAY)

  4. So who was the last Russian not named Mustafina, Komova or Khorkina to win and AA medal? I havent googled …
    Zigashina? 01 and 02?

  5. I really don’t think there is a favourite for the AA, it’s wide open this year. I would say it’s between lordache, ragan and both Russian girls, if lordache does get credit for all those questionable elements on beam (which I think she will) I think she will take the gold. Both Russian girls should not be ruled out of gold though, they seem to have really got there act together this year and I don’t see them falling apart. I would love to see ragan get a medal, it would be amazing for Kim as well after all the disappointment she went through with poor ballie key last quad.

  6. I’m on the fence, on one hand I hate that I have NO idea what any of the podiums will be but on the other I’m excited about it. I had questions about what was reasonable for countries’ medal potential and this has me feeling a little more at ease so thank you Spencer and plz plz plz tell me you are live-blogging Worlds I need your commentary in my life!

  7. Iceland announced a team for Northern Europeans (today? At least I only saw it today on Agnes Suto’s Instagram story) including Sazonova, so I don’t really know why she wouldn’t be going to Worlds. Since NEs are like 2 weeks later. I guess in some ways Northern Euros is a bigger deal for Iceland than worlds, but I can only speculate – she has another commitment, or a funding issue?

  8. That was kind of mean to give literally everybody a nice little sentence or two and basically just dismiss Crisan. Right now it’s all about getting the new Romanian seniors the confidence they need because after their 2 flagship gymnasts retire, they’re all they’ve got, and in the low chance she saw this article im sure this wouldn’t help. Not even a mere mention of her “Romanian Legend” status of going 13.0+ on bars internationally this year?

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