The Race to Tokyo – The Bubble Teams

Now that we have nominative rosters for the world championships, it’s possible to play around with scoring permutations and team rankings with a little more confidence and realism than when we didn’t know which random local urchins were going to make up these teams.

So, to the hierarchy. As it currently stands, I have USA, China, France, Russia and Italy as a top 5 teams, with Canada, Great Britain, and Japan rounding out the team final, and Germany close but just missing out. That’s just a very rough sketch of this step pyramid as I see it in present day, and it will be refined as we get closer to worlds. Many previews in our future.

But for the moment, I simply establish that hierarchy to say that if you favor those 9 teams to advance to Tokyo—as I currently do—then we have three Olympic spots left for the remaining teams. And those are the teams I want to deal with today.

Using each team member’s best score recorded on each event in 2019, here’s how those remaining teams rank in the race for those final spots. (And of course, those teams that haven’t been officially named yet are subject to change.)

10. NETHERLANDS – 165.666
Eythora Thorsdottir 13.767 13.866 13.800 13.666
Naomi Visser 13.800 14.333 13.467 13.200
Lieke Wevers 13.867 14.200 12.466 13.500
Vera Van Pol 14.167 13.400 11.633 13.033
Tisha Volleman 14.133 13.533 13.300 13.367


42.167 42.399 40.567 40.533
Things have looked a little tenuous for the Dutch at times this quad, but if Thorsdottir, Visser, and Wevers are all competing well, the Netherlands should be able to qualify a team to Tokyo with too much drama. Right now, I’d classify this team as the leader of the bubble group—and closer to a team like Germany than to the drop zone—but the situation not safe enough to be complacent or be able to afford multiple counting falls in qualification at worlds.
11. BRAZIL – 164.448
Flavia Saraiva 14.600 13.266 13.833 13.900
Lorrane Oliveira 13.167 14.000 13.067 12.933
Jade Barbosa 14.233 13.650 11.833 13.733
Thais Fidelis 13.700 12.950 13.133 13.300
Carolyne Pedro 13.733 13.150 12.233 12.933
164.448 42.566 40.916 40.033 40.933
The injury to Andrade knocked Brazil down from that group of team-final favored teams right into the bubble zone, and we now have a team that’s going to have to count a Yfull and potentially going to have to count Flavia’s bars score. That opens up the possibility for a lower team total—as we see even in this projection assuming those…pretty high floor scores.
12. BELGIUM – 162.931
Maellyse Brassart 13.800 13.300 13.166 12.900
Nina Derwael 13.566 15.300 13.800 13.066
Jade Vansteenkiste 13.733 13.100 11.333 13.500
Julie Vandamme 13.450 13.250 10.850 12.050
Margaux Daveloose 12.700 13.400 13.050 13.250
162.931 41.099 42.000 40.016 39.816
I’m a bit more concerned about Belgium’s prospects for Olympic qualification following the meet in Germany last weekend than I was before. There were some serious issues with hitting and wayyyy too many counting 12s. Now, I would still swap in either Senna Deriks or Fien Enghels for Julie Vandamme on this nominative team, which would help increase the score a little—and I’m still putting Belgium in my 12 at the moment. But, a performance like that repeated at worlds would not necessarily stay ahead of a hit meet from a team like Australia.
13. AUSTRALIA – 162.299
Georgia-Rose Brown 13.775 13.650 12.975 12.850
Talia Folino 13.875 13.200 12.125 12.150
Georgia Godwin 13.875 13.675 13.266 13.750
Emily Whitehead 13.633 13.375 12.833 12.600
Emma Nedov 13.875 13.350 14.100 13.033
162.299 41.625 40.700 40.341 39.633
Australia is still on the outside looking in (and I think a couple of the higher-end domestic scores included here are not too realistic), but Australia also has to be encouraged by looking at the totals for a team like Belgium and seeing itself not too, too far behind that. At least, I would put Australia in “on any given day, it could happen” territory.
14. UKRAINE – 161.880
Valeria Osipova 13.933 12.450 12.266 12.400
Diana Varinska 13.800 13.966 13.100 13.266
Anastasia Bachynska 14.000 13.566 13.533 13.200
Angelina Radivilova 13.900 13.050 13.333 13.033
Yana Fedorova 13.650 12.800 12.000 11.850
161.880 41.833 40.582 39.966 39.499
I will admit to cooking the books a little bit here and not including scores recorded at meets within Ukraine. The reason: I want this to be at least a somewhat reliable picture of national quality, and…no Yana Fedorova is not going to score 14.500 on beam at worlds. Putting that score in here would just be comical. Even without those bonkers scores, Ukraine should consider itself in the hunt as long as Varinska and Bachynska deliver in qualification. I look at this Ukrainian team as being on par with these other “next-closest” countries.
15. HUNGARY – 161.649
Dorina Boczogo 13.750 12.650 12.400 13.400
Bianka Schermann 13.550 13.900 12.700 12.850
Zsofia Kovacs 13.933 14.000 13.450 13.000
Sara Peter 14.166 11.100 12.100 13.000
Noemi Makra 13.050 13.000 13.350 13.000
161.649 41.849 40.900 39.500 39.400
I don’t have the individual event scores from Hungarian nationals, so those are not included here, but we’re nonetheless seeing a team that has enough spot routines to be a thorn in the side of the favorites At least, as long as they get three beam hits in there since that’s Hungary’s least-competitive number.
16. SPAIN – 161.267
Ana Perez 13.867 13.767 13.567 13.700
Alba Petsico 13.600 12.850 12.367 12.867
Marina Gonzalez 13.300 12.900 13.200 12.866
Roxana Popa 13.433 13.550 11.667 12.333
Cintia Rodriguez 13.333 13.500 13.350 12.733
161.267 40.900 40.817 40.117 39.433
The scores tell us that Spain should also be competitive with these outsider Olympic spot contenders—just a point back from Australia—though I have a little more skepticism about some of these scores and Spain’s likelihood of getting that close to Olympic qualification. Realistically, I’d put Spain in the next tier down.
17. SOUTH KOREA – 160.366
Lee Yunseo 13.166 14.100 13.100 12.266
Eom Dohyun 13.100 13.250 12.400 12.400
Ham Miju 13.600 12.200 12.900 12.650
Yeo Seojeong 15.100 12.150 13.800 12.350
Lee Eunju 12.100 13.000 13.033 13.167
160.366 41.866 40.350 39.933 38.217
Keep in mind that South Korea finished 14th at worlds last year, so this is not truly a team on the deserted outskirts of Olympic qualification—even though they compete at fewer meets as a group and therefore have a lower profile. I don’t think the four-event scores are really there (floor is going to be a problem for competitiveness), but KOR can put together another solid finish.
ROMANIA – 159.897
Ana Maria Puiu 13.600 12.300 13.233 12.900
Iulia Berar 13.266 12.950 13.500 12.050
Ioana Crisan 13.200 12.500 12.850 12.200
Denisa Golgota 14.366 12.966 13.700 13.866
Maria Holbura 13.233 12.300 12.533 13.050
159.897 41.232 38.416 40.433 39.816
Romania did place 13th at worlds last year, just one position out of the Olympic spots, but the outlook is not auspicious this year despite a largely intact team. Even these current scores, which I think are quite charitable in some places, put Romania down in 18th.

There’s also North Korea, which qualified a team to compete at worlds this year after finishing 16th last year. As always, we have basically nothing to go on about that team. 

To me, we still have a collective of 12 clear teams—the same teams that finished in the top 12 at worlds last year, and the same teams that qualified to the 2016 Olympics—but there’s quite a bit of parity among the next-best countries, so if one of the favorites falls apart, it’s suddenly a wide-open race.

30 thoughts on “The Race to Tokyo – The Bubble Teams”

  1. What if Jade Barbosa is in fact injured and not on the five for Brazil? They seem to lose almost 1.5 point without her in that five and I don’t think they get anything back from a replacement if that replacement is not Daniele Hypólito. God, I need CBG to hurry with their announcements because I can’t deal with the possibility of Brazil not sending a team.

    1. If Brazil doesn’t send a team to Tokyo we riot.

      Seriously though guys. An Olympic team of Saraiva, Andrade, Barbosa and Fidelis is just too good. I refuse to entertain even the possibility that they don’t go.

  2. If you were a team not looking likely to qualify as a team to Tokyo, would you strategize at worlds to maximize your individual potential? E.g. if Brazil couldn’t field a competitive team, should they keep Flavia out of the all around and just put her up on beam and floor and hope she gets an event final spot to qualify leaving room for the second best Brazilian to qualify by all-around? Perhaps a more likely example, should Switzerland try to get Giulia Steingruber a spot through vault at worlds and keep her out of the all around so Ilaria Kaeslin can also qualify?

    1. That would be enormously unfair to Steingruber. She shouldn’t have to sacrifice competing at her very best just so her teammate can MAYBE qualify through the AA. She’s fought her way back and deserves to be allowed to do her best on all her events. Same goes for anyone in this position.

      1. Especially because it’s very risky. What if Steingruber doesn’t make event finals? Or Flavia? Then they have given up their own Olympic dream. Maybe they would have a shot at a World Cup spot. Maybe. (Probably not Steingruber but beam is wide open for Flavia)

      2. Devils advocate. Giulia does not have to win a medal even to qualify by vault at the world champs. USA, RUS, CHN and any qualifying team will not be eligible for nominative spots. Thus, Paseka (if she goes) Simone and a second American in the final do not matter. She would have to finish top 3 among eligible athletes, so making the final is a calculated risk but may not be unfair.

        The FAQ the FIG put out also does not specify if quals for AA supersedes placement in EF. It’s possible Giulia’s rank would be ignored from AA. If it is, since the qualifiers ignore gymnasts from the top 12 teams and the NOCs that get a nominative spot via worlds AA (limit 1 per NOC), it would realistically transfer to the next Swiss gymnast above 49 points in the AA.

      3. I mean, taking this to its logical extreme, Brazil is in the last subdivision at Worlds and ends on FX. While they are on FX, the U.S. is on BB. If Flavia is 6th or higher on BB at the end of Brazil’s BB rotation, and Brazil are not looking good for a team Olympic spot, they could keep her off FX to try to get an extra all-around spot. Her spot is at that point all but a certainty.

        It deprives her of the AA final at Worlds, but to my understanding there’s no Olympic risk.

      4. AnnieA that is brilliant. If she makes it into the beam final, and other spots in that final are going to NOCs with qualified teams, she would could be a lock.

        If the final is full of Romanians and Dutch and German gymnasts, who may not qualify a team, it gets riskier, but they would be able to weigh the risk in that position.

        I think Brazil wants her score on floor though. Really tough call

      5. @Anonymous2: The thing is they will already know which other teams will have qualified, because they are in the last session. They will know her rank on beam and the qualification status of every athlete above her.

      6. Absolutely Annie I was agreeing with you.

        But they may need Saraiva’s score on FX to get a qualified team. If you count the teams Spencer mentions in team finals, he includes Japan which is 9 total teams, so his ranking system actually puts Brazil in 12th place. Saraiva is netting about a point higher than the fourth score on floor for Brazil, so they may need her for team placement. You’re totally right and they’ll know if they will make it (ie go for EF) but I suspect it will be close this year and they won’t risk qualifying a team instead. If they are super far ahead already, then it’s a pretty perfect plot

    2. And this is where the rules are stupid. Here’s how I think it *should* be:

      The athlete who has qualified a spot through the AA should be able to decline that spot after the results of EF are seen. So, for example: Steingruber qualifies the AA spot, with Kaeslin 1-per’ed out. Then Steingruber is in position to qualify a spot through vault finals. At this point, she declines her spot from the AA and Kaeslin is in. No olympic spots are actually granted until EF are completed and athletes know their options and have the opportunity to decline one spot over the other.

      I get why you cannot defer decision regarding apparatus cups until after you see how continental champs go months later. But to treat the whole worlds competition as one qualification without the order of finals messing up a country’s chances to qualify two athletes, that is absurd.

  3. Also per the above discussion, Australia is sitting pretty to qualify multiple athletes without a team.

    Emma Nedov may qualify by beam. Australia is likely to get an AA spot via continental champs (ie Australia nationals plus New Zealand, other Oceana gymnasts?)
    Australia will definitely get someone by worlds AA quals

    1. And if Georgia Godwin gets on the floor EF and only three or less gymnasts without qualified teams do (possible) and that gets precedence over the AA spot (unclear for some reason?), that’s four spots!

      1. The rule is that AA precedes over EF. Top AA & EF qualifier in each non-qualifying team has to DNS for one event to let in another AA from the same team.

      2. I can’t even think of one Australian gymnast who i would miss if they weren’t at the Olympics, whereas there’s lots of Euro and Asian gymnasts from small programs that I wish could go. But I will make sure to watch their routines at worlds – maybe I’m just not aware of their new talent.

  4. I’m kind of curious about Spencer’s assessment of Italy as a top five team this year. Certainly, TF is a realistic expectation, and they obviously have the potential to be top five – on paper they should be up there – but it’s such a young team… I don’t see them all hitting in TF. I’d be thrilled if they did, but I expect that the girls will need a bit more time to grow into the senior scene.

    1. I don’t think the junior / senior transition usually has that much of an effect? Especially if you’ve had a lot of Elite competition experience already.

      The Italians are a relatively inconsistent bunch but I don’t think they’ll totally fall apart and a lot of these teams are pretty sketchy. GB and Russia in particular could end up anywhere.

  5. Ioana Crisan (ROU) actually scored a pretty solid 13.800 for a Y1.5, that should lift Romania over North Korea. But I agree in any way it is not likely for ROU to qualify a team

    1. I think one of the methodological assumption of this analysis is that we are using BEST scores of each person but not Median or Average. So this represents team’s maximum scoring potential but not how consistent they are in a 1-day qualification event. I would say from the past experience this squad GBR GER UKR ROU and HUN had severe whole team meltdowns before, while BEL NED and AUS seem more consistent, so their actual chance might be higher than what is indicated here.

  6. The FIG OG Qualification Rules are very clear about chronological precedence. Even qualification in earlier EF at 2019 Worlds takes precedence over later EF. This is written under Criteria 4.

    1. Replying to myself. Actually within Criteria 4 (EFs) it is not clear any more that the chronological principle applies. Reading the Criteria 4 alone it seems so, but then they have a tie-break procedure to decide the cases where an “Athlete Qualifies on More than One Apparatus”, which would not be needed if they took it strictly by chronology. Anyhow, nothing in the tie-break rules suggests possible mixing of Criteria 3 (2019 Worlds CI AA standings) and Criteria 4 (EFs), so at least this can be considered clear, that the athletes qualified by their AA standings in qualification are not eligible to qualify a spot in EFs.

      1. Wow, sucks for Switzerland (and lesser extent Australia), but thanks for clarifying!

      2. It still doesn’t suck for Australia, unless Nedov qualifies first in AA quals. I think Godwin and Rose-Brown are scoring 3 more points or so than her in the AA so it’s likely that either Georgia Godwin or Georgia Rose Brown qualifies at worlds AA; the other through continental champs, and then Nedov through beam via the cups or even EF if she makes it at worlds.

        But yeah sucks for Swiss

  7. Sorry for this question, but the qualifications process for 2020 is so complicated. I know that the top three of each event final qualify to the Olympics. But if a gymnast in the top three is already qualified does the spot go to the next gymnast in line? So for example, let’s say Kara Simone, Sanne are the top three and Flavia is in fourth and Pauline is in fifth position, do the spots go to Flavia and Pauline if Germany and Brazil don’t qualify a full time? (This is just an random example)

    1. It is not the top three. It is the three highest placed eligible athletes. So yes, in your example the spots would go to Flavia and Pauline, provided they had not already got the spot due to their CI AA standings.

    2. Other than vault, it is almost impossible for 3 non-team gymnasts in the EF, so the rule would eventually be equivalent to “making EF but not AA -> secure a non-nominative spot”

  8. I think Brazil will rank higher than France.

    As of right now Jade Barbosa is on the team and competing at Worlds. Caroline Pedro is probably not on the team and Letica Costa will take the fifth spot.

    1. What are you smoking? France is a medal contender. Brazil is fighting to get to the Olympics and that is with Barbosa. Brazil needs Andrade to contend with France. The only way France drops to the point where they are fighting with Brazil is if something happens to MJDJS and I really hope that doesn’t happen.

  9. Just plugged in Varinska and Bachynska’s scores from Paris and their best routines there added 1.619 to Ukraine’s score, pushing them 0.5 ahead of Belgium.

    Ugh this is so hard because I like Belgium but would love to see a resurgence of Ukraine too.

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