The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

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 competition at 2019 World Championships, the best 20 women and 12 men who aren’t  part of those qualified teams will go to the Olympics. (One per country.)

The top 3 finishers on each event who aren’t part of qualified teams will also go to the Olympics. (Three per country.)

These spots are for the individual, not for the country. So it’s not Switzerland getting an Olympic spot to use as it wishes; it would be Giulia Steingruber specifically as a human person 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.

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 this way, bringing their potential Olympics teams up to six members (4 on the team + 2 individuals).

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. So for a nation like the US, it would be 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 most sensible way forward would be for the US women to 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. Which they would.

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

Hopefully, the US does not get lost in the weeds of the nominative spots earned at the apparatus world cups, which complicate matters entirely and can be completely ignored by the US women. They don’t need to try for those spots.

The US should want to pick its own team of six at the Olympic Trials. The US would not want any of the spots determined by which athletes were healthy enough to go to World Challenge Cups at the beginning of 2019. Those gymnasts wouldn’t necessarily be your best choice once summer 2020 rolls around.

I heard that people who are on the 2018 US worlds team can’t go to the Olympics as specialists? What white nonsense is that?

Not quite. The qualification rules state that a single gymnast can’t qualify more than one spot at the Olympics herself—because you’re only one person. That’s to prevent a Simone Biles-quality athlete from just going to every single qualifying opportunity and greedily racking up multiple qualification spots for her country despite being only one gymnast.

But, anyone on the 2018 US worlds team CAN STILL GO TO THE OLYMPICS in either a team role or an individual role. There’s no law preventing that.

There is a law preventing a gymnast on the qualifying 2018 worlds team from also earning a nominative spot SPECIFICALLY FOR HERSELF through the apparatus world cup route (because that would be one single person gaining two Olympic spots).

Meaning: If Jade Carey were on the 2018 worlds team, she couldn’t then earn an apparatus world cup spot for HERSELF. But, she could still be assigned a spot at the Olympics in a team role, OR in an individual role that the US earned via non-nominative routes like the all-around world cup or the continental championship.

This is why a country like the US shouldn’t bother with the apparatus world cup route. It makes things SUPER unnecessarily complicated. It also eliminates opportunities for athletes who might emerge as new seniors in 2020, who wouldn’t even have had a chance to qualify an apparatus nominative spot. What if an awesome vault specialist turns senior in 2020? She’s kind of SOL if Jade Carey has already qualified a nominative spot and is guaranteed to go to the Olympics. There would be such overlap of their medal hopes you wouldn’t want to bring both of them. (You COULD, but it would be a lopsided group.)

The US should simply go for the All-Around world cup spot and the continental world cup spot, both of which would be non-nominative, so that ANYONE could be selected to go to the Olympics in ANY of the six spots, regardless of which meets they competed at in the lead-up years.

It’s actually much tougher for the top European countries than it is for the US, because the European countries can’t necessarily bank on getting a spot from Euros. They’ll have to get a little more creative.


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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