Qualification is now complete at Cottbus, and finals will begin tomorrow. (8am ET/5am PT.) Here’s what went down on day 2 of the Olympic qualifier.
I’d classify men’s vault as the most wide-open of all 10 events in the race for the Olympic spot, and with every single one of the likely qualification suspects in the Cottbus field advancing to the final, we…still don’t know a ton.
The top qualifier and favorite for the title, Igor Radivilov, is ineligible for the Olympic spot by virtue of qualifying with a team at worlds, so his points should be redistributed to the rest of the group regardless of how he does. Tying for second with an average of 14.549 were Yahor Sharamkou and Colin Van Wicklen. Heading into this competition, both athletes were sort of pecking around the outside of the group of likely Olympic contenders but could bring themselves into the top tier with 30 points at this meet.
Van Wicklen in particular is suddenly looking like a compelling option, which I saw as a less likely scenario previous to…this week basically? Once points are redistributed, he should have 25 points from Baku last year, and if he can get 25 or 30 points from this meet, he’d set himself up as one of the leaders heading into the last three meets.
But, it’s very very very close at the top, and athletes like Hidenobu Yonekura, Tseng Wei-Sheng, Shin Jaehwan, and Jorge Vega Lopez were all in stronger ranking-point position than Van Wicklen or Sharamkou pre-meet. I said in the competition preview that whichever member of that group wins this meet is suddenly the Olympic qualification favorite, and as they all advanced to the final, it’s still true.
Li Qi ain’t got time for y’all. Li and Emma Nedov entered the competition as the leaders in the points race, but in qualification here, we saw Li advance to the final in first place with 14.500 and Nedov advance to the final in 5th place with 13.200.
Beam is still beam, and we still have the actual event final to conduct, but right now you like Li’s chances to move ahead of Nedov and into first place in the Olympic qualification standings following this meet.
The big surprises of qualification were the Japanese athletes Ayaka Sakaguchi and Urara Ashikawa, who qualified in 2nd and 3rd positions. Japan’s theme of the apparatus world cup series has been sending athletes you’ve never seen before to do surprisingly well on beam. Also, let me get this straight, Ayaka Sakaguchi has a DTY and just got 14.100 on beam at an FIG event, and she wasn’t on your worlds team that finished 11th and barely made the Olympics either? Cool.
Neither Japanese athlete has any points so far and isn’t yet muscling into the Olympic race, but it’s worth mentioning that both of them exist and scored well.
Also advancing to the beam final was Anastasia Bachynska, keeping alive her hopes of a last-minute, outside push for an Olympic spot.
You Hao led the eligible athletes on PBars entering this competition, with a slight advantage on Mitchell Morgans (who missed the final) and Vladislav Poliashov. You has advanced to the final in first place, so there’s no reason to stop treating him like the expected victor on PBars. As I mentioned yesterday, however, Liu Yang on rings is currently best set up to win an intra-China tiebreak, so those who lose to Chinese athletes on other events are still in this thing with hope.
What’s odd about this event in particular is that most of the gymnasts advancing to the final are ineligible for the Olympic spot and are just here for the money/it’s in Germany (Verniaiev, Dauser, Pakhniuk, Arican, and Likhovitskiy). That turns this event into a massive opportunity for ranking points for the only three athletes in the final eligible for the Olympic spot—You, Bevan, and Poliashov.
Poliashov qualified well behind You Hao, so he’s got some serious work to do in the final if he’s going to keep You from getting maximum points here, but he’s into Sunday with a shot.
Because Carey and Ferrari aren’t here, the women’s floor competition serves as the opportunity for Lara Mori to move out into the sun and create some distance in the race for the Olympic spot. She completed the initial part of that mission today by advancing to the final, though she did not advance in first place. That distinction belonged to Tisha Volleman, who tied Mori on total score but is ahead on the execution tiebreak (Volleman is not eligible for the Olympic spot).
Mori’s closest competitor in the Olympic rankings, Marta Pihan-Kulesza, also made it into the final, though it was a nail-biter and she made it with exactly a third of a tenth to spare. Still counts. Claudia Fragapane will be in the final herself after qualifying in 6th place, but we know she has the difficulty to win this competition on her best days. And because Fragapane is joining the Olympic qualification race so late, she really does have to win.
The show on floor was stolen, however, by Puerto Rico’s (and now Iowa State’s) Andrea Maldonado, who debuted a front triple full. Because this is an FIG event, that skill will go into the code as the Maldonado.
Hidetaka Miyachi did the job in qualification and advanced to the final in first place, so I’m still comfortable treating this as the Miyachi v. Zonderland fight. Everyone else is just soooooo far behind. Plus, Mitchell Morgans and David Vecsernyes, two of the other more realistic contenders for the Olympic spot, both missed the final here. Morgans did not have a good day.
Zhang Chenglong continues to hang around the corners of the dance floor in case something happens. He qualified in third place (behind his teammate Hu Xuwei, who is looking for his first points), and Randy Leru is another one to watch in the final because he does have one good result on his record thus far and did advance. But as yet, there’s not much reason to think they’re actually in it.
Miyachi, however, must win this competition for it to matter. Even a 2nd-place result doesn’t do him much good in the race to beat Epke. Miyachi qualified less than a tenth ahead of Hu and, you know, also has to hit his routine in the final, which has never been a given. So I am currently counting zero chickens.
Meanwhile, Colin Van Wicklen is having basically his best meet ever and advanced to the high bar final, in addition to vault, and in addition to floor yesterday. He even almost made the PBars final, which would have been really something. His best shot at the Olympic spot is definitely on vault, but he made a serious number of finals here. Meanwhile, Whittenburg withdrew from the meet with plantar fascia problems that caused him to stop his floor routine yesterday.