The Race to Tokyo – All-Around Qualification

Following yesterday’s look at the race to qualify a team to Tokyo, I’m going to spend today looking at the individuals. Specifically, I’m looking at the method by which the majority of individual athletes will advance to the Olympics—all-around qualification at worlds.

A minimum of 20 Olympics spots are available through the women’s all-around at worlds (which go to the athlete, not the country). But, as I’ve mentioned before, once the unused event final spots are redistributed to the all-arounders, the number of qualifying gymnasts will end up being a lot higher than 20.

Using the results from 2018 worlds, we would end up with 28 Olympic qualifiers from the all-around, which is especially why I’m going to be a bit lax in my scoring expectations. In the end, we’ll have to go fairly far down the rankings to find 28 people, each from a different country, who also did not qualify as part of a team. (Reminder: this method of qualification is one-per-country.)

There are additional methods of Olympic qualification after the all-around at worlds, of course, like the event finals at worlds, and the world cup events, and the continental championships, but for the majority of countries, those methods are not realistic. The all-around at worlds is THE chance to get to the Olympics.

I’ve separated the contenders for those individual AA spots into a series of categories, all based on the assumption that the 12 teams I’m favoring in the team outlook do in fact qualify. Of course, that’s not guaranteed, but for the sake of making a list and projecting what will happen, that’s what I’m assuming.

The Favorites

Giulia Steingruber (SUI) – Steingruber is back and has competed exactly once, already recording 53.100 in the all-around. That’s a score that would comfortably qualify an individual spot to the Olympics and already puts her among the top-ranked individuals in 2019, most of whom have had a full year of meets to try to get that kind of score. The intrigue here is the case of Ilaria Käslin, who also has the scoring potential to qualify an Olympic spot  but is likely to be 1per’d out if Steingruber hits. But if Steingruber misses…Käslin could get it.

Denisa Golgota (ROU) – Golgota has a pretty significant edge in scoring potential over her Romanian teammates, so she looks quite likely to be the Romanian to qualify to the Olympics this quad. I mean, if anyone deserves it. She has singlehandedly carried this team post-Larisa.

Something (else) that sucks about this format: Say Golgota gets the all-around Olympic spot for Romania as we expect, but she also advances to the floor final and places well enough to earn an Olympic spot for that floor result. Romania would not be allowed to say, “Well, let’s have Golgota take the spot for the floor final and then have our next-best AA gymnast take the spot for the all-around so that we get 2 Olympians.” Because the all-around happened first, that all-around spot goes to Golgota, no other Romanian can get an all-around spot, and they can’t claim the spot from the floor final because Golgota has already qualified through another method. 

Diana Varinska/Anastasia Bachynska (UKR) – Competing in that first subdivision at worlds with Australia, the focus for both countries will be to record the kind of score that can earn team qualification, but the sub-story there will be the race for an individual Olympic spot. Varinska and Bachynska both have very similar scoring potential (and actually Radivilova isn’t that far behind, but I’d certainly rank her third in the country). One of them will surely get an Olympic spot for herself, but which one it will be is anyone’s guess. Ideally, Bachynska would get an AA spot and then Varinska would get an additional spot through the bars final, but I’m not betting on it.

An Australian Person (AUS) – I feel pretty comfortable saying that an Australian will get an individual spot should team qualification not work out, but whether its Georgia Godwin or Emma Nedov or Georgia-Rose Brown will be a day-of-performance kind of thing. Godwin has the highest scoring potential of the three, but she’s not an entire fall ahead of either of the others, so it could go any which way. Right now, Emma Nedov actually has a fair shot at getting the apparatus world cup spot for beam (she currently trails only Marine Boyer, who will become ineligible once she helps France qualify a team), so if you’re Australia and looking to maximize the number of Olympians, you want Godwin or Brown to get the AA spot at worlds, and then Nedov to get the apparatus world cup spot.

Ana Perez (ESP) – Perez has the four-event scoring potential to separate herself from her Spanish colleagues and rank among the top gymnasts who can advance to the Olympics, so count on her to get a spot. She’s among the few individual qualifiers here who also have a good look at advancing to the all-around final.

Zsofia Kovacs (HUN) – Kovacs did lose to Noemi Makra at the recent Hungarian championship, so there is precedent for Kovacs not to be the highest-scoring gymnast on her team and therefore not get an Olympic spot. Still, she should be considered the favorite for Hungary’s best score, and Hungary is certainly strong enough to expect to qualify an individual through this method.

The Almost-Favorites

Martina Dominici (ARG) – Don’t underestimate the importance of a DTY. Having that vault in Dominici’s repertoire reinforces her chances to advance because even a fall on another apparatus would then put her about even with everyone vaulting FTYs, and therefore still in it with a good shot. She’s also impressive enough on the other events that it doesn’t have to be all about the vaulting.

Yeo Seojeong (KOR) – While we’re discussing people whose vaults can carry them to all-around qualification status, Yeo will have a massive edge if she hits her handspring 2/1 in qualification. Though she’s not known for the other events, she has reasonable scores on them, and you don’t even need to be reasonable on them when you have a vault like hers.

Danusia Francis (JAM) – Using top scores recorded this year (and accounting for 1-per), Francis ranks 8th among all the gymnasts looking to earn an Olympic spot through the all-around. Each of her all-around performances this year has scored at least 51.650, a number that would easily be enough to advance to the Olympics.

Filipa Martins (POR) – Martins is always there, going evenly high 12s across the events and either making the all-around final, or getting close to doing so. It would be a major surprise if she isn’t hanging around safely in the qualification zone.

So that’s 10 spots I feel good about. Not guarantees by any means—you have to hit beam when it matters—but if you’re asking me which 10 individuals/spots are the most likely, these are my 10. Now, let’s get messy.

The Contenders

Gabriela Janik/Marta Pihan-Kulesza (POL) – Spicy. One of the most fascinating intra-country races will come in the fight between Gabriela Janik and Marta Pihan-Kulesza for the Poland spot. It’s a spot that I expect to be won, I just don’t know by whom. Pihan Kulesza has the standout event between the two with her floor, and if this were a VT/BB/FX competition I would favor her, but I worry about bars. That’s a place where Janik can gain enough of an advantage on MPK to earn the higher AA score.

Jessica Castles/Jonna Adlerteg (SWE) – Right up there with the Poland race should be the race for Sweden’s spot between Castles and Adlerteg now that Adlerteg has added back the all-around. Like Ukraine, the ideal would be for Castles to get the AA spot and Adlerteg to get a bars final spot so they can both go, but that’s tough. It may simply end up as a race between the two in AA qualification, and based on the scores this year, there’s nothing separating them. Taking best scores on each piece in 2019, Castles would be at 51.649 and Adlerteg at 51.600.

The Mexico spot (MEX) – Is it just me, or do you feel like any of Mexico’s gymnasts is just as likely as any other to be the highest-scoring all-arounder in qualification?  I anticipate that someone will score well enough to get an Olympic spot, but who is she…? Best scores so far this year give it to Anapaula Gutierrez, but are you going to bet against Alexa Moreno or Elsa Garcia? I wouldn’t.

Aneta Holasova (CZE) – I should say this is a Czech Republic spot that’s up for grabs, much like Mexico, though I do think Holasova has separated herself from the rest in the last year or so. She’s the national champion for 2019 and was the highest-placing Czech athlete at both the European Championships and European Games, all with scores that should be good enough for an Olympic spot.

Anastasia Alistratava (BLR) – We’ve come a long way, with Belarus now sitting in fairly reasonable position to qualify its own gymnast to the 2020 Olympics. Alistratava is a little one-event reliant on her huge bars score (and if that routine is a miss, you worry whether she has the other pieces), but that potential bars 14 can carry her to a solid AA total.

Marcia Vidiaux/Yesenia Ferrera (CUB) – I’m more confident about the countries with two likely contenders because if one of them goes totally off the rails, there’s still someone else likely to get a spot, and that’s how I feel about Cuba. Based on Pan Ams, I’d give the edge to Vidiaux, but one of them really does need to make the Olympics. They’re both too talented not to.

Ariana Orrego/Sandra Collantes (PER) – If we’re talking about Pan Ams performances, the qualification meets that both Orrego and Collantes put together there would be strong enough to get an Olympic spot if repeated at worlds. We could have another intra-country battle (and an NCAA battle) between these two as long as they hit.

The Turkey spot (TUR) – Three Turkish athletes are going to worlds and aiming for this spot. Tutya Yilmaz is probably the favorite to make her second Olympics, but I’d keep an eye on new senior Nazli Savranbasi, who has impressed at world cups this year and seems just about as likely to me. Goksu Uctas Sanli has the floor and beam, but I worry about the bars score, which is why I’d put her at third most likely on the Turkish team to make the Olympics. But still in it.

Marina Nekrasova (AZE) – Nekrasova’s vaulting has looked so good this year that she’s among those athletes I think can be carried into the qualifying spots with one big score in the 14s, but scoring on the remainder of the events is enough of a concern that I’m not 100% sold.

Barbora Mokosova (SVK) – The 2016 Olympian had been out for a while with injury and is yet to return to her full strength on vault and floor, which could be compromising to her chances, but she has a potential 13 on bars, a potential 12 on beam, so if she returns vault and floor to her 2018 level, she can get in there.

The Challengers

Now let’s move on to the group that definitely can get a spot and are probably just as likely as a couple members of that 20 I’ve mentioned so far, but I have a few more concerns.

Ting Hua Tien (TPE) – Ting is a brilliant beamer who can record a strong AA total as well when that routine is on, but I worry that if she doesn’t hit beam, there’s not another score in her repertoire to really prop her up—and the AA total could drop out of contention quite quickly.

Caitlin Rooskrantz/Naveen Daries (RSA) – Rooskrantz is known as a bars specialist (she just won the Szombathely gold on bars), but she did compete the AA at worlds last year for the highest RSA score, a score that would have advanced to the Olympics had 2018 been the qualifier. So I’d say she’s in with a reasonable chance, though Daries is the more typical all-arounder, probably with better scoring potential on beam and floor, so Daries could realistically end up with the higher total.

Mandy Mohamed/Farah Hussein (EGY) – For a while, it looked like Farah Hussein was going to take competitions by storm when she burst onto the scene with some good beam scores at world cups, but Mandy Mohamed was Egypt’s star of the last world championship, recording the nation’s best all-around total.

Any Austrian Ever (AUT) – We think of Austria’s chances being about Jasmin Mader (2016 Olympian) and Marlies Männersdorfer, but Elisa Hämmerle competed the all-around for the first time this quadrennium a few weeks ago for a 50.567 AA score, which could move her to front-runner status within the country. That’s a pretty qualification-type score if she can repeat it.

The Hopers

They’re hoping that a lot of those event final spots don’t get used and we go lower than 20.

Emma Slevin (IRL) – So far in 2019, Slevin hasn’t quite been able to repeat the kind of performance that she showed at the 2018 YOG, so I think she’s going to need to recapture some of that beam magic to get an Olympic spot, but it’s not out of the question at all.

Elina Vihrova (LAT) – Latvia’s best gymnast has shown enough 12-potential on enough events—and scored 49s at the European Games, a score that very well could get through—that she should be classified as a legitimate threat.

Ana Palacios (GUA) – Palacios has a lot of talent, scored a 50.000 in qualification at Pan Am Games, and has a semi-laid out DTY that could lift her score, though the worry that bars and beam will be too 11y to make a dent is real.

A Puerto Rico spot (PUR) –  Lately, Puerto Rico’s best all-around gymnast has been Andrea Maldonado, who will not be in attendance at worlds (and is about to be an Iowa State gymnast), but Puerto Rico will be hoping that a good day from Karelys Diaz or Paula Mejias on bars and beam will help carry their typically strong vault and floor scores to a competitive AA total.

Another Scandy or two (NOR/FIN) – We’ve been burned too many times by clinging to unrealistic domestic Scandinavian scores, but someone like Nieminen or Leinonen from Finland is capable of getting a 48-49 and staying close, and Julie Erichsen for Norway scored well enough at 2018 worlds that she would have made it through from that competition. At least one someone in this club should go to the Olympics.

Rifda Irfanaluthfi (INA)
Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (MAS)
Both of these athletes have enormous talent and potential to get to the Olympics, but with Abdul Hadi, you’re worried that she’s going to fall 1150 times and score a 2, and with Irfanaluthfi, her scores haven’t been so high this year and the risk of her going sub-10 on bars and not recording a strong-enough AA total is high.

Simona Castro (CHI) – So far this year, we haven’t seen quite the scores from Castro that she had when she placed 56th at worlds last year and outscored a number of far more famous athletes, but she’s still in the picture for me.

Tienna Nguyen (VIE) – Nguyen attended some of the US fake meets at the beginning of the year and recorded ridiculous scores that overstate her chances, but she’s a strong enough gymnast to be in this thing.

The Wildcards

Some of these people could post huge numbers and knock down people even in the top categories, some of them could finish last, but mostly we just don’t know what we’re going to get here.

Courtney McGregor (NZL) – McGregor made the 2016 Olympics, but we haven’t seen her compete her elite routines in so, so long that there’s always going to be a question mark. Looking at the videos she posted of her trials routines, I’d say her performance there would qualify an Olympic spot if repeated identically at worlds.

Irina Sazonova (ISL) – Speaking of 2016 Olympians who haven’t competed elite in a while, Sazonova hasn’t shown us routines since the spring of 2018, but she did win the national title at that point and was good enough in 2016 to place 40th AA at the Olympics.

Kim Su Jong (PRK) – Kim’s performances in 2018 would be more than enough to send her through to the Olympics this year, but we haven’t seen her compete since last year’s world championship, so…what’s even going on there?

Maria Kharenkova (GEO) – Kharenkova is back in the all-around, and even her performance from Russian Cup could be enough to get through, but is it going to be one of those Kharenkova days? And does she have the bars to survive?

Laney Madsen (BUL) – Madsen’s performances this year have not been “out of the question” scores, but she has put up enough 11s to look borderline at best. She has the content at this point. The question for her is always whether the execution is there to avoid the kind of scores that look like falls even when she didn’t.

Luciana Alvarado (CRC) – After Pan Ams, my sleeper qualification wildcard pick is Luciana Alvarado, who showed some very competitive performances that could get into the qualification group if repeated.

Ana Derek (CRO) – Derek hasn’t competed vault since that fateful day at the 2016 Olympics—and actually hasn’t competed bars since the 2016 test event—but her beam and floor work is more than good enough to get her back to the Olympics. Can she add enough filler on the other two events to get an AA score?

Slovenia Things (SLO) – Teja Belak now has routines on three pieces, as we’ve seen her adding back bars and beam in recent weeks, but she hasn’t done floor since 2016. Because of her vault, even a meh floor might work. Slovenia’s best AAer is Lucija Hribar, who could be in this mix, but we haven’t seen her since 2018.

Kaylee Cole (BOL) – I have no idea, but we’ll see?

Oksana Chusovitina (UZB) – Please do the all-around. I mean, yes, she’s probably set for qualification as long she makes the vault final and should be focusing mostly on that, but please do the all-around.

36 thoughts on “The Race to Tokyo – All-Around Qualification”

  1. I thought the teams ranked 12-16 would still get a non nominative spot like they did the last two quads. Having the athlete going determined almost a year before the Olympics sounds like a bad idea, specially in teams with some depth like switzerland, both koreas, australia and ukraine.

  2. Chuso doing the AA would be the ultimate boss move. We know she can do it, but would she risk the injury? I doubt it.

    As for the rest of the girls, I just need Steingruber to make it to Tokyo. I love her. Her medal in Rio was my favorite gymnastics moment.

  3. Fingers crossed that Moreno gets an EF from VT spot and Castles doesn’t get hosed on scoring like she has in the past.

  4. Did McGregor djust do routines at Boise State and send them to New Zealand via youtube. Seems like that would be easy to just send the best one, not really at trial.

    I pray that Chuso does the AA.

    1. There’s a few people in suits at a table in the background of one of those “trial” videos. Could include a rep from NZ or a coach/judge they trust scoring the routines (or could just be some random people in suits who like to hang out in Boise State’s gym.)

  5. Golgota actually finished behind Iulia Berar and Ioana Crisan (and a lot of the juniors) in the recent Romanian Nationals AA due to a bars meltdown with 2 falls… She should really work on securing her FX since she is one of the few gymnasts who got a 5.8D this year (and there certainly won’t be 3 non-qualifying-team gymnasts in the FX final so an EF qualification is basically a lock of the Olympic spot)

  6. The weighting of all-around results over event results is such a poor decision. Someone who gets 60th in the AA would be prioritized over someone who gets 9th on an individual event and that is so backwards it’s not even funny.

    There are going to be a lot of situations where very good gymnasts are going to miss the Olympics due to being edged out of the AA by a teammate and placing a few places out of event finals qualification.

    A more balanced qualification method would be to have the top 4 gymnasts without a team on each event from qualification qualify for the Olympics (max 2 per country). The remaining 16 spots would be taken by the All Around results (max 1 per country).

    This methodology would still allow a diverse group of athletes to qualify but would raise the standard by qualifying stronger event specialists and stronger all around gymnasts overall.

    Someone who gets 10th or 11th on an individual event is more deserving than someone barely breaking 48 in the all around and this method would prevent that from happening.

    1. I love this post! I actually think it’s fine to leave event qualifiers at 3 per country and AA qualifiers at 20 but get rid of the requirement that the event qualifiers have to make EF. I would also make the event qualifiers come before the AA qualifiers.

      1. I agree! For the longest time I thought that any of the 3 EF spots that weren’t used by non-team girls went down the list from quals, so that there was 3 from each apparatus no matter what. I was really disappointed to find out that wasn’t true.

  7. “Is it just me, or do you feel like any of Mexico’s gymnasts is just as likely as any other to be the highest-scoring all-arounder in qualification? I anticipate that someone will score well enough to get an Olympic spot, but who is she…?”

    What about Frida Esparza? Is she still injured? She seems like the obvious contender.

    1. Esparza is the alternate on Mexico’s world team at this point. Presumably because she is still injured.

  8. Regarding Chuso, UZB is in Mixed Group 2, starting on FX in Sub 3 out of 12. Having VT as her 2nd event will give her some room for decision, whether it’s worth to go AA with all in, depending on how well her vaults turned out. On the other hand, Sub 3 is too early to be certain of anything.
    Regarding Steingruber, SUI is in Sub 11 starting on BB, having VT as 3rd event and ending on UB. In the last, 12th Sub would be teams from USA and BRA and individuals from FIN, NZL and SGP. It is pretty safe to assume that from the last Sub two USA gymnasts will make it to the VT final. After Giulia’s vaults, if she is among top 6, SUI and herself will know 100% whether she made it to the EF or not, and even how many gymnasts from not-qualified-teams made it to the vault final. If less than four, herself included, she does not need AA result any more to secure Olympic spot, she will already have it. However, if she has a realistic shot at AA final at Worlds (as we assume), it would be extremely unfair to expect her not to go for it.
    Now, SUI must put Ilaria first and Giulia last in their UB line-up. This would give time to do all necessary calculations, depending on Ilaria’s UB score, to evaluate whether: 1) SUI still has a chance to qualify as a team; 2) can both Ilaria and Giulia make it to the AA final; 3) what is the needed UB score bracket for Giulia to put her BEHIND Ilaria, but still in the AA final, if possible? Then, if there is no chance for a team, but option 3 is possible, then to decide, whether to go for it or not.
    I find it against the principles of sports that the rules allow for strategies that involve an athlete deliberately not doing her best to achieve some ultimate goal, but we knew that the current rules did exactly that when some of the strongest athletes from the strongest countries had to stay away from Worlds altogether to preserve their Olympic chances.

    1. The scenarios you described is exactly what is wrong with this qualification process. There should never a need to calculate scores so closely and have so many contingency plans in place. The fact that some countries are in a spot where they can qualify more people to the Olympics by some of their gymnasts doing worse on certain events or the all-around is just plain backwards.

      It’s awful to think that we might see coaches on the sidelines feverishly calculating scores and deciding, at the last minute, whether to hold back gymnasts from the all-around if they think they already secured an event final and want to give another gymnast the chance to qualify through the all around qualification. And then taking this further, think if a strong AA gymnast was held back from the all-around but the coach miscalculated and the gymnast doesn’t make the event finals after all…

      1. Totally agree. There are more complication scenarios that’s similarly awful – hypothetically, say Roxana Popa qualified for both AA and UB final, while Cinta Rodriguez ranked UB R1. Then Roxana can intentionally withdraw from the UB final to essentially give Cinta an Olympic spot.

    2. This makes sense but is dependent on Steingruber even competing two vaults at worlds (it’s been said that she only has one ready).

      It’s also very unfair to expect Steingruber to miss the AA final at Worlds after all the work she did to get back after her injury. It’s gymnastics, nobody knows what could happen in the future and every gymnast will want to do their best on the day at Worlds. Asking her to sacrifice herself so a teammate maybe gets a spot just doesn’t seem right, as wonderful a gymnast as Kaeslin is.

  9. Just one more note. Even though the AA spots are by name, the system is the same as for the EFs in any competition. If there is another gymnast from the same country with the AA result higher than the first reserve gymnast, when the qualified gymnast withdraws, the spot will go to that next gymnast from the same country and not to the reserve.
    This rule however, would not mean that Giulia could withdraw to allow Ilaria to get her AA Olympic spot. Well, of course she can withdraw, but withdrawal then would mean from the Olympics altogether. You just cannot make two spots for SUI instead of one by withdrawal.

  10. If Denisa gets a really good beam or floor score in quals, I wonder if a good strategy would be for her to downgrade and intentionally fall on vault so that another teammate could pass her. That way Romania would get 2 spots. But that’s very risky provided that Romania is in sub 5 and there’s no way to tell if her scores would hold up

    1. What is the point for Denisa to intentionally sacrifice her AA chance (had she qualified thru EF) in order to let in her teammates though…. Crisan/Puiu/Berar/Holbura won’t make any EF or AA finals in Tokyo. If she can hold an extra spot for Stanciulescu/Sfiringu/iordache maybe it would be more fruitful for the risk…

  11. I seem to remember that Chuso said in an Interview for Gymnovosti maybe that she is planning to do the AA. What other point would there be for her to train beam and Bars? Which she is doing, according to Videos I saw. So barring injury, she is doing AA.
    About the qualifications, I am sorry, but this should not be a math SAT.THis is ridiculous. HAving athletes do worse than they could according to some calculation of probability is stupid and will surely result in several heartbreak situations. I didn`t know it was this messed up and I hate it.

    1. For the gymnasts’ sake, I hope that coaches stick to whatever event lineups they have settled on beforehand. Having gymnasts not being aware what events they will be competing as the competition is happening would be unfair and stressful.

      At the same time, it’s hard to blame a national team for trying to maximize Olympic spots. The Kaeslin-Steingruber situation is an example of everything that’s wrong with the qualification rules. Rather than both gymnasts qualifying to Tokyo by doing their absolute best, it would actually take a weaker all-around from Steingruber for both gymnasts to have a chance (assuming she has 2 vaults).

      And then if a gymnast like Chusovitina is a reserve for the vault final and doesn’t do the full all-around, then she loses out on a spot that would go to someone who can’t even get a 50 in the all-around. I hate the idea that non all-around gymnasts who have event-final potential are not prioritized over all-around gymnasts who have no chance at all.

      1. Steingruber has already confirmed that she intends to compete AA in Stuttgart. It would be ridiculous to expect her not to. It’s also far from a given that she’ll even be in the vault final, given that she currently only has one vault ready. I mean, it’s Steingruber, you never know (she won bronze in Montreal after being back training for like 5 seconds), but there are a lot of assumptions being made here.

  12. The speculation is fun and all, but I REALLY don’t think anyone is going to intentionally underperform/throw the match so that their federation can get an extra spot. That sounds way too far-fetched.

    Even the whole swapping out people in EFs for their more competitive teammates thing is controversial, and at least in those cases you have clear control of the outcome (one comes out, one goes in).

      1. Loosely quoting Albert Einstein, reality is not only weirder than we imagine, it’s weirder than we CAN imagine :).


    Selection criteria for US for worlds.
    Confused about the “vote” referred to by the selection committee as I think the athlete rep probably should not have a say in who is named. But maybe it’s more a symbolic thing.

    Also Perskaia’s role/presence/whatever always kind of confused me and even more so now that so much of the old crew has left or been ousted.

  14. Since Chuso did all four events in Paris, I assume that means she is doing the AA. I don’t blame her for trying to give herself every chance to make the Olympics. Her total score would have been over 50, so I think she has a great shot at one of the AA spots.

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