2020 Olympic Qualification Explained…But Like Actually

The 2020 Olympic qualification process is so weird and dumb, you guys. You are completely forgiven for putting off trying to understand it for as long as possible.

But it’s starting to be that time of quad…

Recently, the FIG released an entirely unhelpful gibberish video (the part about continental championships is actually indecipherable) that was supposed to explain this cuckoo-pants fever dream of a system to the uneducated masses. Thank you, it didn’t. Try again, but this time pretend like you’ve had a conversation with a human person before.

Anyway, here’s the actual deal.

What’s the team format for the 2020 Olympics?

Qualification is 4-4-3 (4 on the team, 4 compete each event, 3 scores count).

The Team Final is 4-3-3 (3 up, 3 count—the format we know well).

Translation: All four selected teams members will be all-arounders. It’s terrible.

How do teams qualify?

The top 3 teams from the 2018 Worlds Team Final advance to the Olympics.

Then, 9 more teams from 2019 Worlds Qualification will join them.

12 teams. Done. That’s all. No bothering with Test Event qualification this time. Team qualification is finished by the fall of 2019.

How do gymnasts without teams qualify?

In the all-around at 2019 worlds, the best 20 women and 12 men who aren’t part of qualified teams will also go to the Olympics (limit 1 per country) along with the top 3 from event finals who aren’t part of qualified teams (limit 3 per country).

These spots are for the individual, not for the country. So it’s not Switzerland getting an Olympic spot; it’s Giulia Steingruber specifically getting an Olympic spot.

What’s the deal with these specialist spots?

Oops. Don’t call them specialists. You might get murdered. They’re simply individuals and can compete all events at the Olympics if they choose.

This quad, there are several new methods of Olympic qualification open to any individuals, whether they’re part of a qualified team or not. Qualified teams can earn two more spots through these routes, bringing their potential Olympic teams up to six members.

Event World Cups
The overall winner of the event world cup series on each apparatus gets a spot at the Olympics (limit 1 per country). These spots are also for the individual, not for the country.

The event world cup qualification series begins in Cottbus in November 2018 and ends in Doha in March 2020. Each gymnast’s best 3 results during that period count for the final rankings.

All-Around World Cups
The top 3 countries at the end of the four 2020 All-Around World Cups (American Cup, Stuttgart, London, Tokyo) earn spots at the Olympics. These spots are for the country, not for the individual.

Continental Championships
The top 2 finishers in the all-around final at the 2020 continental championships earn a spot at the Olympics. That spot is for the individual, unless that gymnast’s country is already qualified as a team, then it is for the country.

What if I’m just pretending to be interested in all this but really only care about how it affects the US women?

Thank you for your honesty.

The US women will qualify a team of four gymnasts to the 2020 Olympics after placing among the top 3 teams at the 2018 World Championship (let’s be real here).

The US women will gain a fifth Olympic spot by sending athletes to the all-around world cup events in March and April of 2020 (American Cup, Stuttgart, London, Tokyo) and placing in the top three in the overall standings at the end of those four meets.

The US women will gain a sixth Olympic spot by sending athletes to the 2020 Pan American Championships and placing someone in the top 2 in the AA final.

The US will then select its team of six (four gymnasts competing for the team, two gymnasts competing solely for themselves) following the Olympics Trials as usual.

So, for US women’s purposes, the 2020 American Cup is the first meet that will matter for earning those two extra individual spots. You don’t have to worry about it until then.

The US will not bother with the individual event world cups since Olympic spots earned there are for the athlete rather than for the country. The US wants to be able to pick its own team, rather than have its team determined by external competition results.

I heard that people who are on the worlds team can’t compete at these other qualifying events. What white nonsense is that?

I know, it’s weird.

Countries that have already qualified teams to the Olympics cannot send the gymnasts who earned that team qualification off to earn more Olympic spots at the event worlds cups and continental championships. (This does not apply for the all-around world cups.)

Explain specifically for the US women, please and thank you.

So, since the US women won’t attempt to get a spot from the event world cups, this really only applies to the continental championships.

Basically, it will mean that the all-arounders on 2020 Pan American Championships team cannot have been on the 2018 worlds team. Not a big deal in the end.


And that’s that.

-12 teams of 4.
-Various individuals.
-Qualified teams can send up to six gymnasts to the Olympics given the right circumstances.

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58 thoughts on “2020 Olympic Qualification Explained…But Like Actually”

  1. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE SIR. I cant wait for this to blow up in their faces. If they think that E scores/D scores are so complicated as to need the fking green arrows and whatever, WHAT are they going to do about this clusterf**k?

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  2. LOL WTF WHY

    …is really the only response I have to all of this.

    Thank you for the detailed breakdown! I’m just literally here laughing at the ridiculousness and crying for the loss of 6-5-4.

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    1. I am so with you.

      In my opinion, anything that doesn’t allow choosing who goes up AND dropping a score is barely a team event, and allowing neither isn’t at all.

      The first Olympics I watched was 1996, and every team has felt tiny to me since. And 3 up 3 count is the worst.

      //rant

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      1. I actually….like 3 up 3 count. I just feel like it really ups the stakes. And there are very few other sports where you get to drop a score or a performance you know? So i like that there are ‘consequences’ for missing a routine. If it didnt exist, GB might notve gotten world bronze in 2015(but maybe, I mean Russia was a garbage fire). But to your point, the first Olympics i WATCHED like a gymfan was 2004, when it was 6 person team, 3 up 3 count.

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      2. @kwanfanforever…I guess I just feel like there’s no strategy and no teamwork in a 3 up 3 count scenario. I guess there can be strategy in a few situations, like if you are the last athlete to go and it is only mathematically possible for the team to get bronze if you through your very inconsistent E dismount, you throw your very inconsistent E dismount and not your more secure C. But I feel like, especially with open-ended scoring, dropping a score is what makes a team a team. It means there is a goal other than “do my very best” – it encourages calculated risks, it allows those later in the lineup to take bigger risks if their earlier teammates have hit, etc.

        Most team sports are something more than just adding up individual contributions, even when the performances are not in the same space. Relays in swimming and and track have the connections to negotiate, tandem diving and trampoline are about being in sync, etc. Without dropping a score, there is no reason outside of emotions to have a team final at all – you might as well just add up the top 3 scores from the qualifications, or from other finals. The athletes don’t affect each others’ performance, results, strategy, anything. It’s like if you just added up the top track or swimming scores without actually make them work together at all. Dropping a score was the one tool gymnastics had, and I miss it.

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      3. Kwanfanforever.
        Actually, Great Britain was 3rd in qualifications, 2 points ahead of China. China struggled with the 4th counting score. So it is quite likely that Great Britain would have held onto at least 3rd place.

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      4. kwanfanforever and AnnieA– I appreciate this really good discussion of the benefits of allowing vs not allowing a team to drop a score!

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    2. count me as team all up, all count. dropping a score doesn’t do anything to make it more of a team effort, imo, it just reinforces the status quo. additionally, the fact gymnasts can be picked for their specific strengths is what makes it a team effort to me, and having only AAers like in tokyo or pre-sydney undermines that.

      i see no reason for teams to be small because of that, though. 6-4-4 would be my ideal format. (is 7-5-5 too much?)

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  3. OK, I think this answers the only big question I had, which is what is the path to get a non-nominative spot if you don’t qualify a team (because that’s when you get the situations like with Trinidad & Tobago). It looks like the only way that happens is if any of the top 3 finishers from the AA world cups is not from a qualifying team, correct?

    I’m also a bit confused about how replacement athletes will work. Can that be a separate post, maybe? If a team gymnast is injured the day before prelims, she can be replaced by an individual, but if that individual had a nominative spot (unlikely for the U.S., but totally possible for other countries), she would in turn be replaced by, say, whoever got 4th on bars in the event world cup series, whether or not that athlete was from the same country?

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    1. Only the top finishers from the previous World Championships get invited to be in the AA World Cup so if you are Joanie Jones from Aruba, you aren’t getting the call. Joanie can only get a non-nominative spot by showing up to the Continental championships and kicking butt, coming in 1st or 2nd in the AA.

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      1. I don’t think so. If Joanie kicks butt at the Continental championships, she would get a nominative spot (assuming Aruba has not qualified a team).

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    2. Replacement athletes will be 1 per the team event (cannot be one of the +2 athletes)
      There is no replacement for the +2 athletes.

      However, in your scenario the athlete on the team gets injured the day before prelims, which would mean no replacement could be used because line ups have to be finalized 24 hours ahead of the event.

      So if USA has 4 athletes and they injure one the day before qualifications, then the USA team is now 3-3-3 for qualifications and 3-3-3 for finals and they have to PRAY.

      Neither of the +2 athletes could count for the team or sub in for injury.

      So that will be interesting too for what USA does for their alternate for the team. It will likely be the next best AAer with unrealistic chance at individual success.

      I would say if 2016 were the example
      USA team: Douglas, Biles, Hernandez, Raisman (alternate Nichols)
      +2 AA: Kocian-UB only, Skinner- FX and VT only

      I highly doubt that the +2 AA will actually compete AA because there are going to be 4 athletes competing the AA in prelims with the team and it is still 2 per country. Unless, they have only 3 go on an apparatus or two (like China did in Rio on BB qualifications) which is also doubtful.

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  4. The 2020 Pan American Championships? What is this a new event?

    Or do you mean the 2019 Pam Am Games in Lima Peru? This event is held every four years, the year before the Summer Olympics. It was last held in 2015 in Toronto, Canada.

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    1. It would not be the Pan American GAMES which is what you are thinking of in Lima, Peru.
      There will be a 2020 Pan American Gymnastics Championship run by PAGU. There is a Pan American Gymnastics Championships held this year in 2018 which is also being held in Lima (and 2017-individuals was also held in Lima). The Pan American Gymnastics Championships is held the year before the Pan Am Games as a qualifier to the Games themselves. At the 2010 Pan American Gymnastics, Kyla Ross won the AA. In 2014, Skinner won the AA after Nichols injured herself on FX and had to vault on an injured knee so the USA team wouldn’t score a zero on VT and lose the gold since Kocian nor Locklear was listed to VT. That injury from Nichols ended up costing her the 2014 World Team.
      There was an individual apparatus only competition in 2016.
      So most likely they will hold one in 2020 with it being an AA championships only.

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      1. Yeah I remember the 2014 Pam Am completion in Toronto – it was really mainly a test event for the 2015 Pan Am Games organizers to make sure everything was running smoothly and if they had to fix anything for the actually real event the following year. I’ve worked on many ‘test events’ in multiple sports, including gymnastics, through the years.

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      2. Why was getting the gold at something like the Pan Am Championships worth vaulting injured? Did it qualify the U.S. team to something else?

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      3. AnnieA – it was not important at all except that they were the US and the US doesn’t lose. Not to mention that individual gymnasts are disposable, so what did it matter if Maggie was injured, as someone else was waiting to take her place. (Forgive my heavy sarcasm, but I thought that was a terrible decision to let her vault and indicative of the toxic culture at USAG)

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      4. Jesus, I didn’t know about that with Maggie at all. I just knew she had an injury but not all this extra. Fucking hell, that is some terrible planning by FIG and some terrible nonsense by Martha.

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    2. Pan-American championships have also been held in Olympic years but often after the Olympics and not including AA or team, at least not at the senior level. The US last sent a team in 2008, when Sam Shapiro, Corrie Lothrop, and Olivia Courtney won all the gold and silver medals between the three of them.

      It will obviously have to change its timing and format this year.

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  5. While this system is confusing, it does hugely benefit athletes who are from nations that don’t have much support for gymnastics in qualifying to the olympics. Not to mention that it gives a leg up to countries like the US, Russia, China, Canada and Japan by giving them 2 additional spots, even if two of them don’t compete in team finals.

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  6. The biggest issue I see in this system is for first-year seniors from smaller gymnastics countries… if their team doesn’t qualify a spot, the only way for a first-year senior to qualify is through the all-around world cup series, right? It seems like they will be at a disadvantage without the chance to get a nominative spot from worlds.

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    1. The AA World Cup is only available to the top 8 (unless they change it) teams from the previous Worlds. The top 3 nations in ranking will get a +1 spot.
      The Continental Championships (Asian, Africa, Oceania, PanAmerican, European) will also allow for a +1 spot for the top 2 AA athletes.
      The final chance is through the World Cup Challenge Meets (event finals)

      It must be noted that you cannot have competed on your team (if they qualified to the Olympics as a full team) at the 2018/2019 Worlds in order to win a spot. So if Morgan Hurd wins team gold with USA in 2018, she is ineligible to compete at the 2020 Pan American Gymnastics Championships and qualify a +1 AA spot for the Olympics.

      We are likely to see a bunch of brand new 2020 seniors competing for the +2 spots, or second tier athletes from the US and Russia. If it were 2016 most likely Ragan Smith and Laurie Hernandez would have been sent to these events or someone like Bailie Key who had not been to Worlds.

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  7. “What if I’m just pretending to be interested in all this but really only care about how it affects the US women?
    Thank you for your honesty.”

    LOL. You know us so well

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  8. On the apparatus cup situation: Do those qualifiers only get to compete those events or do they get to compete whatever they want? And what happens if one person wins more than one event? (example: say Guilia decides to go rogue and wins both VT and FX)

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    1. Every individual at the Olympics has the discretion to compete as many or as few events as they wish, regardless of how they qualified.

      I would hope that if the same individual led the rankings in multiple events (and in all situations where someone already qualified was in the top spot for a second qualifier) the FIG would bump the spot down a place until they found someone who hadn’t qualified.* However, this is the FIG, so we’re just as likely to see them take the routes of adding another spot to the 2019 AA qualifiers instead or simply declaring the spot won’t be awarded that year, because they’re dumb.

      *There is one issue with this, and that is figuring out (in our example) whether Giulia is actually taking the VT spot and giving FX to the second ranked gymnast, or taking the FX spot and giving VT to the second ranked gymnast. If they let the gymnast pick they run the risk of her making an unfair decision (like say she had a teammate ranked second on VT so she chose to take the FX spot to give her country two spots for the price of one). If they say “ok she earned the VT spot first because the last EF in VT was 2hr before the last one on floor” that sets VT (and men’s FX) specialists at an inherent disadvantage because unlike the other three events you will always absolutely have to qualify first to get the spot. And if they try to do any sort of mathematical determination (eg. her scores were higher on FX so she gets that spot, or the gap between her and the silver medalist was greater on VT so she gets that spot) it will make things more confusing and likely suffer bias from the issues the Code has re. uneven score ranges across the four events.

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      1. actually aren’t they going to award points based on the gymnast’s three best placements and the winner of the circuit is the one with the most points?

        then if steingruber wins both VT and FX, a spot goes for whoever between 2nd place VT and 2nd place FX has the most points

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  9. What happens if an individual gymnast is competing for an AA spot at 2019 Worlds and does not make the all-around finals? We would already know who the top 12 teams are. Let’s assume the top 12 teams also have qualified two gymnasts to the all-around final (entirely conceivable). Now all 24 all-around final spots are full–these girls can’t qual because their team already did. The next 20 spots (1 per country) have to go to gymnasts that did not make the all-around final. How low are we gonna go down this list to get to the top 20 nominative??

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    1. as low as necessary! I think they went into the 80s or 90s to get all the test event qualifiers for Rio, that was top 40 non-qualified-team AA with one per country IIRC so it’s very unlikely that the rankings to get the top 20 NQT AA with up to 3/country will ever get that low, especially considering smaller team sizes

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  10. My reading of Criteria 4 is the top 3 gymnasts in an EF from countries without a full team can get a nominative spot. You don’t need to be a medalist. It says “the best three eligible athletes” and goes on to say that gymnasts from countries that qualified a team are not eligible.

    Of course this all goes back to the FIG’s terminal inability to communicate.

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    1. I read this the same way. I went through an example of how this might have worked in 2015 and all the people who would have qualified this way also would have received all-around spots, so this ended up being kind of redundant. Although maybe someone who thought they could make EF or win the World Cup series would opt not to do AA at Worlds since it’s no longer the only way to get to the Olympics. But it still seems like a better safety net to do AA

      I think Cordelia posted on the college gymnastics Facebook group that the EF spots go back into the AA pool if they aren’t used, since there is theoretically 12 of them but not necessarily 12 will be from non-qualifying countries.

      One thing that isn’t clear to me, given the country limitations, is what comes first – EF qualifiers or AA qualifiers. I’ll use 2015 as an example. Steingruber wasn’t on a qualifying team. If she qualifies as an AA qualifier, then she uses up that spot for Switzerland and no one else from Switzerland can be an AA qualifier. If they do the EF qualifiers first, then Steingruber is an EF qualifier and presumably is excluded from the list of AA qualifiers, making Ilaria Kaslin eligible to get an AA spot for Switzerland (since she was within the 20 best AAers without a team) and giving Switzerland two nominative spots now instead of one.

      My guess is that no one has actually thought through this and will make up the rules as we go along when we get to 2019. Or maybe they have. But either way, order of operations shouldn’t change the answer and shows how stupid this is.

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      1. Also, what if there are multiple qualifiers from the same country for event world cups. According to the above there can only be one per country, and the spot goes to the individual. How do you decide who goes? Highest score (which isn’t fair since some apparatus score higher)? First to compete (which would be based on Olympic order)? Federation picks their favorite? I can see this being unlikely for the women, but for the men it is totally possible.

        This whole system was clearly created by someone who doesn’t understand flow charts.

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      2. i assume EF medalists come first simply because of how FIG dealt with them before – EF medalists went straight to the olympics, AAers without an EF medal had to fight it out in the test event.

        likely, EF medalists get their spots and them AAers are picked from the people without a qualified team or an EF medal.

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    2. Reply to beamscoring and Anonymous. The OG Qualification Rules, part D, say the events are listed in chronological order of qualification. The 2019 AA (Criteria 3) comes before 2019 EF (Criteria 4). So, if an athlete has already got a spot by placing well at CI, their result in EF becomes irrelevant, as they are no longer eligible to earn a spot through EF.

      Reply to Anon. The rules on how to decide which one gets the spot if more than one athlete from a NOC qualifies through apparatus World Cup series are given in the end of explanation of Criteria 5. Also, let’s say Steingruber would get a spot by being best eligible both on VT and on FX. It will not be decided by choice, whether she qualified on VT or on FX, but by applying the same procedure. This is important, because the spot on the event where she did not qualify (as a consequence of applying said procedure) will go to the next eligible gymnast on that event.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ohhhh. thanks for the info. but that’s kind of sad for the countries with EF medalists but no qualified teams lol

        also for the event world cups that’s a really unfair way to choose!! it’s not unfeasible in MAG that a country can have two different winners (say, dolgopyat FX and medvedev VT for israel) and in this example, they just give the spot to dolgopyat when medvedev might have won more points. SAD

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  11. I get the feeling that if the US has the resources they actually will also send gymnasts to the event world cups, just because there’s a chance they could be Ellie Blacked out of the Pan Am qualifying spots especially having to use B team or noobs for that competition. Better to have six spots and one is nominative than only to have five.

    I seem to recall also having heard that the gymnasts taking the WC, EF WC and CC spots at the Olympics for countries with a qualified team can’t have competed at the 2018 or 2019 WC at all? Meaning that anyone like Ashton Locklear who basically has to take a +2 to the Olympics as she doesn’t fit on a 4-(4/3)-3 team setup has to decide now that she’s not going to Worlds this year or next year even if she’s selected. I feel like this may have been a misunderstanding of the FIG’s actual intent but hey maybe if you want people to understand what you’re saying you should hire someone who actually speaks English to say it

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  12. The worst part of this entire process is that specialists who make sense on a 5-person team World Championships team might not work on a 4-person Olympic team. I think we’ll see specialists dragged to the 2018 and 2019 Worlds to help get their team qualified only to be shut out of the Olympics because they aren’t an all-arounder.

    Am I correct that the only way for a specialist who competes in the 2018 and 2019 World Championships on a team that qualifies for the Olympics to get an Olympic spot is to take one of the non-nominative spots earned from another gymnast(s) through the all-around world cups or continental championships?

    If so, then another unfortunate complication is that you’re going to have a bunch of “workhorse” gymnasts who will be flung to the corners of the earth to earn spots that will go to the very gymnasts who weren’t eligible to earn them themselves because they were on a bloody World’s team…

    This is a fiasco.

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    1. Not allowing Worlds team gymnasts to get nominative spots is the most idiotic thing ever. They can’t utilize their nominative spots and have spots on their NGB’s team too, so there’s no reason to bar them from Worlds competition!

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  13. The most interesting thing in this video is that the best team like US can sent at most 4+2=6 gymnasts to Tokyo, while a non-team country might send as many as 7 gymnasts if they could all qualify individually (Yep I know it is highly unlikely, but just imagine a legacy Romanian “non-team” made up of Izbasa, Ponor, Iordache, Chelaru, Munteneau, Porgras, and Bulimar at qualification and competing for all events because they don’t need to worry about TF lol)

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    1. non-team gymnasts are not eligible for the all-around world cup qualification, only qualified teams get invited to the circuit. so, six spots too.

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      1. Not entirely correct. 12 best countries of 2019 Worlds (CI) will be invited to the 2020 AA World Cup. 12 best of 2019 Worlds does not necessarily mean 12 qualified to the Olympics. This in case if 1 to 3 countries qualified already in 2018 will place lower than 12th in 2019. Won’t happen in reality, but theoretically possible.

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      2. i think they just said top 12 on the assumption it will be the same teams that qualified because as impossible as it is it would be super silly to allow a non-qualified team in the circuit lol

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  14. Does this mean that 2020 Euros will be boring? I imagine Russia’s B team being the only competitive team and maybe GB’s?

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    1. Maybe not? Everyone wants one of the + spots and only 2 will get it. If you assume that all the major Euro teams have already qualified and the best AA gymnasts have also qualified nominative spots and aren’t allowed to get a second spot (right?), then the second tier athletes and the super-fringe ones and the previously-injured-but-now-healthy are all going to be scrabbling for the top two spots. The top tier gymnasts can still go I think, they just can’t earn the spot so there is an interesting bit of strategy at play there–do you let your best do AA so they can have that notch in their belt right before the Olympics or do you hold them back and hope your best second-tier athlete can pull through?

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  15. the only question i still have is… well, the 2020 euros weren’t supposed to have an AA final lol. even years have team euros. will they change the format to be a full fledged meet just for those 2 spots???

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    1. This post had a reply button under it, so I reply here to clarify one thing from higher up where I was not quite clear. By chronological qualification it was meant that CI AA takes place before EFs. There is no chronology consideration among the individual event World Cup qualifiers from the same country. So the one who gathers the most points qualifies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ohhhhh THANK YOU for the clarification (and for directing it to me specifically <3). it sounded really unfair to not use the points system. this whole overthought process actually looks fairer than test event now. if only teams were still 5-3-3…

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      1. oh great my OCD will really enjoy euros have AA medalists in an even year suddenly!!!!!! yes that is my main worry

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  16. Regarding “I heard that people who are on the worlds team can’t compete at these other qualifying events. What white nonsense is that?”. They can compete at these events (individual apparatus World Cups), they are just not eligible to earn individual spot, if their country already got a team spot at worlds where they were team members. So, it is not that they are not allowed to compete by the rules. Their countries just have no point sending them, if the country has another athlete capable of winning an individual spot and that another athlete was not on the worlds team when that country qualified a team.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And see, that would make a ton of sense if the Worlds team format and the Olympic team format were the same. i.e. you have to prove you have more than a team’s worth of Olympic-qualification-caliber athletes to qualify more than a team. I’m totally on board with that. But with the Olympic team being 4 and the Worlds team being 5, it’s so incredibly frustrating and belittling. Like, OK, 5 athletes worked to get the spot, only 4 can use it, and the 5th can’t go and try to earn herself a spot.

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      1. Oh good point! I hadn’t even thought of that…. because, you know, there’s just so much to think about my brain hurts.

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