Making Sense of the Women’s All-Around

Simone, where art thou?

In the absence of obviousness, this year’s all-around class and assembled helpers may seem a bit of a mess. They’re all so…there. In that spirit, let this be an unsuccessful effort to sort things out and clarify favorites from underdogs using recent scores.

I have taken the top 10 all-around contenders at worlds this year—in my view (and Dawn agrees with me)—and broken their 2017 scores down by event, including the average of the last five scores they received and their range of D scores during that period.

This should provide us with some method of ranking the contenders as well as highlighting which events gymnasts need to take advantage of to get into the medal race.

Let’s begin with vault.



Vault isn’t the most exciting of events in the all-around this year because, among the most likely medal winners, it’s a flatline of acceptable and normal DTYs where all the best ones should score pretty similarly.

Vault is not going to be the decider. We’ve seen meets this year where basically every DTY got the exact same score, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we’re rehashing that complaint throughout the next week.

Smith’s vault is cleaner than Iordache’s, but Iordache’s tends to be bigger, so 14.4 it is! The Russians fall down the rankings because of inconsistency, but…you’re not going to fall on a DTY at worlds, right? Oh god, of course you are.

Most of all, vault is the place where the underdogs, most particularly Andrade and Murakami, need to make their mark. Andrade’s competitiveness in the AA field is based primarily on the multi-tenth advantage she can get because of Amanar. She needs every single one of those tenths. Murakami’s clean and comfortable DTY would likely score on the higher side of the AA DTYs, but the upgrade to that elusive Amanar would be a game-changer big enough to put her in serious medal contention.

For those who are going to lose a couple tenths of ground on vault, bars is the place to make it up.

Eremina is the one serious bars specialist in the AA field, most likely the only major all-around contender we’ll also see in the bars final. Like Andrade on vault, the reason Eremina can medal in the all-around is her potential advantage on bars. She will, however, be at the mercy of the “credit for that?” police for a routine that can get tenthed and tenthed down the 14 ladder very quickly.

Concerns about beam (and an overall tendency toward middle-of-the-pack-ishness) mean that Melnikova needs to take similar advantage of bars. She may be European floor champion, but bars is her real opportunity to gain tenths.

Liu finds herself surprisingly low the list, which is an important reminder that attempts to compare scores from Russian Cup and Chinese National Games are always going to be fraught. Also that the world is a swirling veil of darkness.

Typically it would be difficult to imagine those with D scores like the Japanese gymnasts have, so much lower than what their peers are performing on this event, being competitive in the all-around. This year, the field is open enough that it’s not too much of a problem. Pretty much everyone has one of those events.

On beam, the D score is a less helpful indicator because connection credit is so mercurial. Gymnasts who seem to be far apart in difficulty may end up overlapping.

That top group of three (Iordache, Smith, and Liu), however, should be able to separate itself from the rest of the field because of beam. In fact, that wouldn’t be a particularly surprising podium to see in the beam final.

Note that Smith is sitting second on three separate events. Her evenness across the four pieces and consistency this year is her best argument. She hasn’t fallen nearly as much as the others and doesn’t have the one-event lapses in competitiveness that her competitors do.

Floor is an essential piece in Eremina and Melnikova’s quests for medals. We’ve seen both score well on floor this year, but both are also too reliant on turns to make floor a safe or guaranteed score. It can all get 13.4 pretty quickly, which would be devastating in the AA hunt when trying to hold off someone like Murakami, who gets her difficulty from tumbling and isn’t going to be downgraded to death.

That’s why, for most, floor is a worry. If Black gets through bars and beam with hits, her serious obstacle will be not having shown much floor difficulty this year. Andrade and Liu, as well, can only do so much with routines in the low 5s compared to sets at 5.5 or above. This is what starts to create a fairly significant separation between the top and everyone else.

All the averages combined:

The reason you may hear this competition being constructed as a Ragan Smith vs. Larisa Iordache battle to the death is…this. It kind of is. With all necessary caveats about weird domestic scores or the possibility of someone “showing up on the day” and being fantastic, those two really should have an advantage on the rest of the field.

Behind them is an extraordinarily evenly matched clump that could end up in any order. The bars of Eremina vs. the vault of Andrade vs. the floor of Murakami? I’m there for it.

You’ll see Morgan Hurd farther behind the rest here. In fact, if I had included Luo Huan in this, she would be 10th and Hurd would be bumped down to 11th. If Hurd competes at the average level we’ve seen so far this year, she won’t be a medal contender, but the fact that she was chosen for the second US spot should allow us to expect her to compete at a higher level than that come next week. Otherwise she wouldn’t have been selected. At least, that’s the assumption.


21 thoughts on “Making Sense of the Women’s All-Around”

  1. My dream podium and is a little bit realistic is:
    1. Ragan Smith
    2. Elena Eremina / Angelina Melnikova
    3. Mai Murakami / Morgan Hurd
    I’m honestly really happy that it’s actually a competition this year, not the americans and whoever else hits, but probably one of these couple.

  2. Interesting that Larisa and Ragan are 1.5 above the rest of the crop… I’d love to see them go 1-2 in any order. And then 7 women within 1 point is incredible! I’d like to see a non big 4 nation sneak in for the bronze – so Mai, Rebeca, Ellie, Asuka… but really in general – I just hope for a good competition in which everyone does their best!

  3. I love that Spencer is such a Murakami stan lately. I’d love if she medaled in the AA or FX. Preferably both!

  4. So what the data seem to tell me are that, if Larissa and Ragan both hit 4/4, neither is going to have any sort of edge and it’s going to come down to very little things worth a tenth here and there. However, the data also tell me Larissa is a fall risk and Ragan isn’t, which makes Ragan the slight favorite, but only slight. For anyone else to win, however, would be an upset. Both Larissa and Ragan could likely fall and still get second. So the field isn’t quite as wide open as people are saying, but still, it has been 5 years since we have had even a 2 person horse race, so I’m grateful!

  5. As far as Ragan vs Larisa for 1st and 2nd, I’m beginning to lean more towards Larisa for gold. TF and EF are where she has been unpredictable in the past and seems to have improved her overall consistency in the past year. Compare her AA from London 2012 and Worlds 2013-2015. London she qualified 9th and finished 9th, Antwerp she qualified 4th and finished 4th, Nanning she qualified 3rd and finished 2nd, Glasgow she qualified 16th and finished 2nd. For me, I’m confident that regardless of the pressure of Worlds she has proven that she can hit and has been hitting this past season in multiple international and national competitions. Ragan hit her AA beautifully at SCAM and Nationals. She could definitely pull off the gold but I’m hesitant to believe that because she hasn’t competed enough this year to assure me she’s 100% rock solid. Mentally Larisa seems stronger than ever and I believe that’s just as important as being physically conditioned. I may be wrong in placing so much faith in Larisa and not enough in Ragan. But the playing field is pretty level and it’s going to come down to who stays on beam and keeps their D-score as close to the intended as possible.

    1. I wouldn’t have said that Ragan “hit her AA beautifully” at American Cup, considering she had a fall on beam. I do think that Ragan has looked super solid at her last few meets, but my one concern about Ragan is her lack of international competitions this year. She’s had literally one international this year and that was back in March. Maybe it won’t make a difference, but I would feel a little more comfortable if she had a bit more of a track record.

  6. I really love Larisa and would be so happy for her if this is her year. But at the same time i think her form and execution got really bad this season and I think the judges at the world cups were very generous with her E-scores (and of course her D-score on BB), which I get because she was the obvious star of those competitions. I hope she can live up to all the expectation at worlds..

  7. I think the gold medal favorite is heavily dependent upon what the scoring trends are like. We’ve seen a wide variety of scoring this year ranging from fairly generous to pretty harsh. I think that if they are pretty harsh with E scores and giving D score credit for connections and messy skills, then Smith will be the favorite for gold. If they are a bit more generous, then I think Iordache will be the favorite for gold.

    1. I completely agree with that analysis. I think we will have a more clear idea of what the 1-2 order will be between Larisa & Ragan after qualifications, i.e. after we see how/what the judges are scoring & giving credit for.

  8. If Larisa were to win, can anyone think of any gymnast who has competed as a senior for longer, before earning a FIRST World/Olympic AA title? That would be wild.

  9. I would love for R agan to win mostly because I was such Zmeskal fan back in 1992…i felt so bad for her at the Olympics. Sort of will make up for Bailie Key not making Rio Olympics. Morgan I think will get experience for next year when I think she will make her mark.

    1. I agree with Hurd being selected to give her experience at Worlds. Next year is her year to really shine. Now if she medals this year it’ll be great but not expected.

      I hope Ellie Black sneaks into the medals. Would be a nice end to her career — I’m assuming she stuck around this year for the chance to compete at Worlds at home.

    1. Pretty sure it’s a Mean Girls reference (and I feel sad that it took me this long to get it…)

  10. I would love for Larissa to win because she has been so close and been so unlucky for so many years!! But her form has deteriorated a lot… At the same time, I’m not a fan of Ragan gymnastics bit I think that the AA champions strike the US has is pretty cool… so basically let the one who hits when it counts win!!

  11. I agree with everything except this – Smith’s vault is cleaner than Iordache’s, but Iordache’s tends to be bigger, so 14.4 it is! Are you high Claree? UM sure Jan! Have you seen Larisas vault? Its an old lady piked down, bad form, barely around vault. Her form and vault, and twisting style have deteriorated a lot. So I dont think its BIGGER at all. I want her to do well her, only because I dont see her hanging around until 2020. Her gymnastics is going down hill ie her dismount on beam, vault, on floor, signs of things to come.

  12. Ok, I sort of feel bad saying it, but I really don’t want Ragan to be AA champion. Silver medalist? Sure! But just not AA champion. She’s a truly lovely gymnast, but I just don’t think she has that star quality that the AA gold medalist should have, in my opinion.

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