Cottbus 2019—the 5th of 8 events in the Olympic apparatus qualification series—is nearly upon us.
Thursday, November 21
10:30am ET/7:30am PT – Qualification Day 1
Friday, November 22
10:30am ET/7:30am PT – Qualification Day 2
Saturday, November 23
8:00am ET/5:00am PT – Finals Day 1
Sunday, November 24
8:00am ET/5:00am PT – Finals Day 2
This event takes on particular significance because it is the first competition to be held after the redistribution of points following worlds. Now, we have a much better sense of who is in the lead and who is actually in contention (and eligible) for these Olympic spots.
It’s worth noting, however, that the notes from the most recent FIG executive committee meeting—which, remember, took place after half of the series was already complete— contained this foreboding note:
With no further clarification. So that’s a concern, especially because it would seem to imply that previously earned points aren’t necessarily being redistributed in the way we (I?) thought. What I’m saying is, don’t be completely surprised if some crazy FIG nonsense happens and the system ends up being applied differently than they told us it would be. I’ve removed my Olympic apparatus standings page for the moment until I feel comfortable that it’s reflecting accurate information about whose points will be redistributed, which I currently don’t post-worlds.
But, what we do know is that the following ranking points will be awarded for results at Cottbus.
And here’s the general outlook for each event at this weekend’s competition.
Once at worlds, Spain announced that Rayderley Zapata would not compete, which ended up working fantastically well because Spain nonetheless qualified a full team to the Olympics, while Zapata remains able to go the apparatus route—currently the highest-ranked eligible athlete in the floor standings.
It is Zapata’s Olympic spot to lose at this point, but Emil Soravuo of Finland is still close enough to make things interesting at the remaining events. If Soravuo takes the title at Cottbus, I’d consider this race quite live going into the final three meets.
At this point, no other eligible athletes look close enough to be in contention, so we’ll have to wait to entertain the possibility of others getting into the race. They would need to win an event first, and then we can consider it.
Also in the floor field is Tomas Gonzalez, who missed out on booking his Olympic spot in Cottbus. But with currently 0 points, he’s got a long way to go.
The vault standings thus far have been dominated by Jade Carey, and at this point it really looks like the only way Carey doesn’t get this Olympic spot is if she doesn’t attend the remaining events. Based on the internal US rules for sending athletes to apparatus qualifiers and the general lack of cognitive awareness in the US women’s program, however, that might happen. We’ll see.
We know that Carey is not attending Cottbus, so for the moment an opportunity exists for other athletes to close the gap on her. With a victory here, Maria Paseka would move within striking distance of Carey at the final meets. Carey currently has enough of a lead that she’ll still retain a lead after Cottbus no matter what happens, but a win for Paseka means we start running scenarios.
While Yu Linmin has attended only one event so far, she’s another athlete in the field in Cottbus with a single solid result on her record who could rack up the points and be a dangerous factor in the second part of the series if she goes to all the events and does her full difficulty.
The pommel horse standings have belonged to Lee Chih Kai, but he was part of TPE’s qualifying team at worlds, so he’s ineligible now and is therefore letting some of his minions have a turn. Very charitable of him.
After Lee’s points are redistributed to the people he defeated at those previous meets in the series (as the original rules state they will be), Weng Hao would then be sitting in pole position with two 30-point results and a 25-point result, giving him 85.
But, Kohei Kameyama would also have two 30-point results, giving him 60 points after just two events and the chance to move ahead of Weng Hao with a win in Cottbus. Major Olympic spot implications based on how Weng and Kameyama compare at this meet.
Also major tie-breaking implications because it’s quite possible that at the end of the series, both athletes could end up with the maximum of 90 points and have to go to a tiebreaker. At various times, the FIG has published different tiebreaking criteria for the apparatus world cups (because of course), but the most recent one states that the tiebreaker between the two would be to add the scores achieved at the three events used to count for the final ranking, with the higher total score being the winner.
The other complication for both athletes—more intensely for Weng, but it applies to both—is that even if they win PH, they may not end up as the only athlete from their country to win an event in the apparatus world cup series. Right now, the Chinese men look like they’re going to win a few of the events. Yet, each country can earn only one spot per gender through this route. So, then we would have to go to yet another tiebreaker—in this case, the spot going to the athlete with the higher average ranking points earned from all apparatus WC events participated in on that particular apparatus.
So, even if Kameyama loses out to Weng, Kameyama would still have a shot should Weng then go on to lose an intra-China tiebreak. Or if they both lose intra-country tiebreaks, Saaedreza Keikha would be lurking around.
Keikha is also attending Cottbus, but with no victories yet on his record, he’s the underdog compared to Weng and Kameyama and would have to begin his upset quest with a win at this meet.
It has thus far been all China, all the time on bars as Lyu Jiaqi and Fan Yilin have dominated the standings. Lyu Jiaqi is not attending Cottbus, so Fan Yilin has a golden opportunity here to move into first place and establish a comfortable advantage in the race for the Olympic spot. At this point, consider Fan the favorite.
The spoiler may be Anastasia Iliankova, who was a late replacement for Daria Spiridonova and does have two solid results to her name from the earlier events in the series. Still, for Iliankova to earn the necessary ranking points here, she’s going to have to show an improved level over the routines we saw earlier in the year that…did not get her onto the Russian worlds team.
In the spoiler category, Sophie Scheder—a last-minute withdrawal from Germany’s worlds team and therefore eligible for the apparatus WCs—is competing on bars and despite having 0 points so far, is a threat to win the title here and get herself into the conversation, as could be Anastasia Agafonova.
I’ll also throw Georgia-Rose Brown out there since she does have two solid results from previous events to keep her afloat in the rankings, though she’s going to need some help to repeat that kind of result against the field in Cottbus.
Rings is currently the tightest of all the events with just a handful points separating the top three in the standings. Yet, Liu Yang of China is best poised to win this thing because he currently has two 30-point results, and a third win here in Cottbus would give him the maximum of 90 points.
He’s also helped by virtue of his countryman You Hao—who recorded solid rings results at the early events in the series—competing only PB in this meet and not rings, removing some of his most dangerous competition. Liu will still have to contend with his other countryman Lan Xingyu, who has a 30-point result of his own.
The only other athlete with a victory on his resume so far is Courtney Tulloch, who has competed at every event, which gives him the luxury to drop some iffy results. A win here would also put Tulloch in contention with the Chinese. So if Tulloch or Lan win, they’re right in this race, but if Liu wins, he’s neeaaaarrly closed the door.
I’m typically skeptical of those who are just getting in the race now because they’ve lost so much time and so many opportunities for points, but Eleftherios Petrounias. He’s starting his apparatus world cup journey now because he missed qualifying at worlds, and you have to consider the possibility of his running the table at the remaining events and getting maximum points because Petrounias.
Ali Zahran and Artur Tovmasyan are in contention here given some solid previous results but are in a similar position to Saeedreza Keikha in that they don’t have the wins yet. That’s going to make it very tough to finish first, especially in this deep rings field.
The men’s vault standings were blown completely open by the circumstances at worlds, where the top four athletes in the standings all qualified to the Olympics (and 5th-place Chris Remkes is still out with injury), leaving a desert wasteland of a rankings picture that’s more ripe than the other events for someone new to sweep in.
That said, Hidenobu Yonekura of Japan is now the best-positioned eligible athlete given the quality of his two previous results, but I would consider Jorge Vega Lopez, Shin Jeahwan, and Tseng Wei-Sheng to be in basically equal stead. If any of those four wins this meet, he becomes the favorite to get the Olympic spot.
But because it’s so open, I’d also consider athletes who have just one competitive result on their records still to be in contention in this particular field, which would include people like Colin Van Wicklen and Yahor Sharamkou.
Many of those aiming for the Olympic spot on beam will similarly feel that their fates are yet to be determined. No one has achieved more than a single 30-point result yet, so anyone winning the beam title in Cottbus will automatically be considered among the top contenders heading to the final three meets.
Your front runners will nonetheless be those with previous wins—Emma Nedov, Li Qi, and Zhao Shiting (Rebeca Andrade was the other winner, sigh), all of whom are in the field in Cottbus and currently stand as the favorites for the Olympic beam spot and would move into nearly dominant position with a second victory.
I’ll also make mention of Anastasia Bachynska as one of those athletes with only a single competitive result on her record so far but who is still in this (same for Adela Sajn and Lara Mori and Sophie Scheder). Beam currently looks like Bachynska’s best shot to get to the Olympics, though even it is a long shot.
While China is keeping You Hao out of rings contention, it’s full speed ahead with You on PBars. He currently leads all eligible gymnasts, and I’d feel comfortable calling him the most likely athlete to get this spot if not for Vladislav Poliashov. Poliashov has two excellent results to his name so far and could absolutely move ahead of You with a superior result in Cottbus. Those two are going to be in a fight to the finish.
The most likely challenger to that duo is Mitchell Morgans, who has managed solid results in multiple competitions so far, having attended all of them. But as is the case with some others previously mentioned, he has no victories so far and will be considered an outsider in the race until he gets that first win. And accumulation of 3rd- and 4th-place finishes can make for a solid ranking, but not an Olympic-qualification ranking.
No other eligible athletes in the Cottbus field have anywhere near a competitive number of ranking points so far, so I’d consider this a three-man race unless someone comes in starting immediately and sweeps his way through.
As on vault, Jade Carey currently leads the way on floor, but there are some more complications going on with floor. Carey has better average results on vault so far than she does on floor, which means that (as it stands now) if she were to win both event, she would get the vault spot and the floor spot would go to someone else. Plus, the race is a lot closer on floor than it is on vault.
That’s why I’d say Lara Mori is the favorite to get the floor spot at present, with Marta Pihan-Kulesza her next closest competitor. MPK is well back on points right now, but if anyone can take the spot from Mori, it’s her. Unless it’s Claudia Fragapane. Fragapane has returned and will be trying for her first points here in Cottbus, which is really tough because Mori has already done so well. But, Fragapane is certainly capable of winning events.
Paula Mejias is your other athlete to watch because she does have a 2nd-place finish on her record from earlier in the series, and Anastasia Bachynska and Denisa Golgota (presumably, we don’t know what events she’s doing) will also make a push on floor in their last-ditch attempts to get Olympic spots.
Epke’s sinuses. Now that Tin Srbic has clinched his spot at the Olympics, the HB apparatus world cups were supposed to be the drag-out race between Epke Zonderland and Hidetaka Miyachi to see who would make it to the Olympics and who would not. Sadly, Epke had to pull out of Cottbus at the last minute with more sinus surgery, meaning the road is clear for Miyachi to move ahead of Zonderland with a strong result here.
Still, Zonderland has two wins on his record already, so he needs just one more victory to get the maximum 90 points, and that can come in any of the remaining events, which run through next March. That makes it especially important for Miyachi to win this particular competition in Cottbus because it may be his one remaining chance with Zonderland out of the way. It’s likely that Miyachi will need to get 90 points of his own for a shot at the Olympics, and probably won’t have a better chance to get another win on his record than he does here.
Many of the next closest competitors in the rankings are also slated to compete in Cottbus, like Zhang Chenglong and Mitchell Morgans and Davis Vecsernyes (who missed his chance at worlds this year). They will all relish the opportunity of a field without Tin and Epke, but they’re so far back right now that I really do think this Olympic spot will be a Zonderland-Miyachi duel.