The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Junior Worlds – Day 2

European Games has the day off today, so I’m just coming in with a quick recap of the women’s team/AA competition at juniors worlds—there’s not a lot to say since WE COULDN’T SEE IT. Originating and organizing this big event and then making sure it’s pointless and impossible to care about…the gymnastics way. Girl, what are we even doing here? Live stream or it didn’t happen.

Especially because this one looked really exciting. Cool, fun mystery.

In the women’s team competition (and all-around), it was a glorious coronation for this generation of Russian juniors that—between Jesolo and junior worlds—has now racked up two victories over the US juniors in 2019 with its trio of future obsession-worthy stars Vladislava Urazova, Elena Gerasimova, and Viktoria Listunova. Valentina, don’t screw this up for us.

Whenever the US women lose a competition, it’s a headline (especially finishing 3rd as they did here), but finishing behind Russia did not come as much of a surprise since the Russian team started with a clear difficulty edge on the US and China and therefore held its fate in its own hands. Among the counting scores here (3-3-2 team format), Russia had a D-score advantage of 1.4 over both the US and China, meaning that Russia was always going to have to make errors to become vulnerable to anyone else. What’s truly newsworthy about this Russian team is that…they didn’t. Despite being all Russian and whatnot.

I had definitely tempered expectations with “OK, but when Russia falls three times on beam…” thoughts, but they didn’t have three falls on beam. They had maybe one we think? And were able to drop it. Russia also recorded the top 3 scores on bars and 3 of the top 4 scores on floor. It was a pretty dominant performance.

The real surprise among the medals came from China sneaking in for second ahead of the United States by about a tenth of a point. We knew China had the best beam group in the competition and could be competitive enough on bars as long as Guan’s score didn’t have to count (it didn’t), but I thought that would be good enough for third place, not second place. I figured the vaults would put China too far behind to challenge for the top two spots. While China did suffer on vault compared to the top two teams, it was able to make up for that because of beam and by keeping pace on bars and, most surprisingly, floor. China finished just a tenth behind the US on floor. China. Floor.

Ou Yushan delivered the highlight performance for China. She did exceptionally well at Chinese nationals last month and continued that form here, sneaking in for the bronze in the all-around behind the Russian gold and silver medalists Listunova and Urazova.

A moment on that Listunova all-around victory because Urazova and Gerasimova were the two likely medalists for Russia coming into this competition, but Listunova used her massive floor score to get ahead of both of them despite recording a low number on beam. She may be the least-hyped of the three, but her floor routine from Jesolo was the highlight performance for Russia there, and I’m looking forward to seeing that in the event finals.

Kayla Di Cello put together the top all-around performance for the US to place 4th.

Also Guan Chenchen missed on beam and didn’t make the final so everything is pointless. Goodbye forever.

While it is a surprise to see the US down in bronze position (and the “KONNOR MCCLAIN PLEASE” chatter won’t die down after this result), the team will be mostly-pleased with a mostly-solid performance. Di Cello and Barros hit the all-around, and a miss from Blakely on beam (on a score the US needed) was the only real blemish on the day.

Finishing just out of the team medals was Romania (!) in fourth place, which is a massive victory for a team that looked strong in the junior competition at FIT and managed another positive showing here. The sooner Stanciulescu and Sfiringu can turn senior, the better. Where is your time machine, Romania? Romania even finished 7th on bars.

Belgium also did well to show that the talent pipeline is still chugging along with a 5th-place finish and two bars finalists, and Great Britain will absolutely take 6th place, with Jennifer Gadirova having a huge day by advancing to three finals and recording the 9th-best AA score. One to watch when we actually get to see these routines in event finals.

Vault finals will be the best chance for the US to take a gold medal here, with Barros and Di Cello qualifying in first and third positions. They are, however, both doing DTY/FTY combos (different rules apply for junior meets, so that’s allowed), and #2 qualifier Urazova is doing DTY/Y1.5, so she’ll have a difficulty edge. Meanwhile, Guan Chenchen has the single most difficult vault in that final with her DTT.

Vault qualifiers: Barros, Urazova, Di Cello, Jennifer Gadirova, Anastasia Motak, Listunova, Guan, and Camilla Campagnaro

Bars should be a Russia-fest with Listunova and Urazova coming in as the highest qualifiers with the highest difficulty scores among the finalists, but Ou and Wei Xiaoyuan can nearly match them. US qualifiers Blakely and Di Cello are a bit lower down in difficulty and will probably needs some errors to get into the medals.

Bars qualifiers: Listunova, Urazova, Ou, Blakely, Di Cello, Wei, Noemie Louon, Stacy Bertrandt

Not a surprise that China boasts the top 2 qualifiers into the beam final, though they were expected to be Ou and Guan. Wei Xiaoyuan hasn’t developed the footprint of the other two yet, but that may change as she had a strong day and also broke 14 on beam. Stanciulescu will deliver Romania’s best shot at a medal in this final.

Beam qualifiers: Ou, Wei, Gerasimova, Stanciulescu, Di Cello, Julia Soares, Jennifer Gadirova, Urazova

On floor, Listunova comes in with a huge advantage, outscoring the entire rest of the field in qualification by a half point. Only Sfiringu  can match the D that Listunova put up among the finalists. The US just barely managed entrants into this final, with Blakely and Di Cello snatching the last two spots. It’s a shame that Barros just missed out on the floor final because hers is the most…most. She had the highest E of the Americans on the day but didn’t have the D.

Floor qualifiers: Listunova, Ou, Gerasimova, Jennifer Gadirova, Stanciulescu, Sfiringu, Blakely, Di Cello

Everything begins tomorrow at 7:00am ET/4:00am ET with the men’s and women’s all-around finals from European Games, and then an hour later with the first day of event finals from junior worlds.


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