This October in Stuttgart, the final 9 teams qualifying to the Olympics will be decided. But who will it be?
Using the principles of the National Team Rankings (I know, I know, I got behind and couldn’t catch up…), I ranked the contending nations based on how each country’s best-scoring group of five senior gymnasts would do in a three-scores-count format using each gymnast’s top score on each event recorded at a major international meet this year.
I do have a methodology departure from the previous National Team Rankings in that I’m using only major international meets** and excluding scores from smaller and domestic meets in order to provide a slightly more realistic impression that isn’t skewed by “I got a 14.500 on beam even though I’m getting at best a 12.700 at worlds!” national championship scores. I’m looking at you, Ukraine.
This method does cause equivalent problems of its own—Canada’s score is a little low because Moors and Olsen have competed only domestically so far in 2019, Brazil’s supply of countable routines is misleadingly paltry, etc—but there’s no perfect system.
Because this ranking is specifically about the race for the remaining 9 spots at the Olympics, I have not included the US, Russia, and China since they are already qualified. I’m also not including injured gymnasts that we know will miss worlds (like Rebeca Andrade) or gymnasts who have been deemed ineligible like Mai Murakami, in an effort to provide the most realistic picture of the race as it could play out at worlds. That means I’m saying Japan’s group of five must include the four gymnasts already named—since we know they’re going to worlds—and the fifth gymnast is selected only from those eligible through the inane selection procedures.
**I’m defining major international meets as FIG world cup events, continental championships, and larger-scale multi-nation competitions: Jesolo, Gymnix, the DTB Team Challenge, and the FIT Challenge.
| 1. FRANCE – 166.531
|If you’re using domestic scores, you’d put Juliette Bossu in there for her bars score instead of Carolann Heduit, but either way France is looking very strong right now as long as the major players stay/get healthy. This is a comfortably Olympic-level group of routines.
|2. ITALY – 165.514|
|This year, expect an Italian team packed with those new seniors to deliver the kind of scores on bars Italy hasn’t enjoyed in quite some time. I’m still a little worried about this group’s scores and consistency on beam and floor (be honest, you wouldn’t be that surprised to see one of the old standbys swoop to do those two events at worlds, would you?), but Italy is on track for its best team result in a while, and at just the right time.
|3. CANADA – 165.496|
|Once Moors and Olsen compete at Pan Ams, we’ll have a better sense of how they influence the team score because they’d certainly be included in the best five (plugging in their scores from nationals, Canada would zoom to the top, but scores from Canadian Nationals, especially on floor, are notoriously 5-ish tenths higher than reality). Either way, Canada is in an exceptionally solid position for Olympic team qualification. Shouldn’t be a problem at all.|
|4. GREAT BRITAIN – 164.664|
|Great Britain hasn’t done a ton of non-domestic competing so far this year, but when they have, it’s been successful (like the European Championship), so this ends up being pretty close to a first choice team, just probably with a Fenton or a Simm or a Becky in there. Or more than one.|
|5. NETHERLANDS – 163.847|
|Sara van Disseldorp||13.366||12.200||12.666||12.733|
|Netherlands has put up some reassuring performances recently, and if van Gerner gets back and Lieke continues this trajectory in her return as well, this can be a very formidable group.
|6. BELGIUM – 162.963|
|We have seen a change this year for Belgium, an introduction of depth. For the last quad+, Belgium has fielded a competitive team, but an exact specific five had to be healthy (and as Mys and Waem left, Kinkcaert and Brassart took their places in that five). If people like Hermans and Klinckaert were out (as we’ve seen recently), Belgium just wouldn’t have a team score. Now, new seniors like Enghels and Vansteenkiste have come in to give Belgium a little more buffer for someone critical being out.
|7. GERMANY – 162.514|
|Germany really should be one of the 9 qualifying teams at worlds this year and is too talented not to make the Olympics as a full squad—Seitz, Schäfer, Bui, Scheder, Voss is still such a formidable-seeming group—but what we’re seeing right now is a German team that’s exceptionally reliant on a select group of veterans all being healthy at the same time. You worry whether that next generation of backup routines/future stars is coming along or not.|
|8. AUSTRALIA – 160.633|
|This spring, we’ve seen an Australia squad that’s attempting to make a push out of the borderline territory and into the qualifying group of 9. This 8th-place position is therefore encouraging, the lingering issue being that Japan and Brazil are both lurking below Australia here…for reasons that we’ll get to.|
|9. JAPAN – 160.464|
|The * indicates athletes who have been named to the worlds team already and therefore must be included here. This is, of course, not the highest-scoring possible team Japan could come up with, but if they stick to these selection procedures, it could be the team that happens. Of the remaining eligible athletes, Ayaka Sakaguchi or Kiko Kuwajima seem to make the most sense for that last spot because they can deliver a DTY and a beam and floor routine, though they’ve only rarely competed outside of domestic competitions. Still expect Japan to be a couple points better than this, but it is perhaps worth being a little concerned if they send a team like this.
|10. UKRAINE – 160.463|
|Ukraine should be considered a major outsider for an Olympic spot, but the team is quite a bit better than last year’s 20th-place showing would indicate (they didn’t have a particularly great competition and didn’t yet have Bachynska). If Varinska and Bachynska both have legit meets at the same time, the score can be competitive.|
|11. BRAZIL – 159.445|
|Things are not quite as dire as all this, even without Andrade. Brazil went all-in on a very specific group of gymnasts in international meets early in the year, so there’s not a lot of backup scores to use right now. If you were to give the team the scores from Lorrane Oliveira and Jade Barbosa from nationals (high but still), they’re in the mid 162s, which is probably more reflective of where this team is without Andrade. In the 9, but not safely so.|
|12. HUNGARY – 159.281|
|We’ve seen from Hungary’s team results in Europe this quad that the potential for contention is there. This is not yet a top-12 country, but Hungary has a good crop of new seniors this year and should be at least somewhere in the vicinity of the qualification spots at worlds.|
|13. ROMANIA – 158.730|
|Ana Maria Puiu||13.600||12.100||13.233||12.900|
|Romania will not arrive at worlds with the expectation of Olympic qualification, but the way things have been going, the fact that it’s not completely out of the question feels like a win.|
|14. SPAIN – 158.446|
|There’s some hearty talent in this generation of Spanish gymnasts, and a few newbies who are showing competitive scores on select pieces. There’s probably not enough depth to get up into the fancy places, but the scores haven’t been too, too far away so far this year.|
Right now, I would say the next tier is countries like South Korea, Switzerland, and Mexico, but they’re currently a step lower, closer to a 154 kind of team total based on the scores so far in 2019