A. Olympic qualification news
Yesterday, the FIG finally proclaimed the inevitable. With Germany and Great Britain unable to host their intended all-around Olympic qualifiers, that series has officially been canceled. (Though Tokyo is still planning to hold its event in May, which also serves as the gymnastics test event.)
Given the cancellation, the Olympic spots that would have gone to the top three teams at the end the all-around series instead have been awarded to the top three teams from qualification at 2019 worlds. For the women, that’s the USA, Russia, and China. For the men, that’s Russia, China, and Japan. Those nations have now all achieved a +1 Olympic spot to be bestowed upon any athlete they choose.
So here’s where we stand now with the women:
|WOMEN – Qualified Team |
OR Lara Mori)*
The men’s apparatus world cup spots are still much more up in the air than the women’s—with many more what-ifs and intra-country tiebreak scenarios in play—so I’m going to wait to make that chart until we see what happens in Doha.
Speaking of which, the nominative entry list for Doha (March 10-13) came out today. Yu Linmin is not participating, so Jade Carey is now assured of winning the vault series outright without having to go to a tiebreak (Carey would have won the tiebreak anyway, so it didn’t really matter). Because of her better overall finishes across all competitions, Jade Carey Vault wins the tiebreak over Jade Carey Floor, leaving the floor spot to come down to Vanessa Ferrari or Lara Mori, both of whom are slated to compete at Doha.
Ferrari and Mori are currently tied on points at 80, so if either one wins the floor title in Doha, she gets the Olympic spot. I’ll get into more specifics closer to the event, along with all the permutations for the men’s spots. Lottts of athletes are on the list for Doha, the large majority of whom are not in contention for the Olympics, so mostly people just want to get out there and compete.
Among the noteworthy just-wanting-to-compete athletes on the list, who are either already qualified or can’t qualify from this event: Larisa Iordache, Nina Derwael, Rebeca Andrade, Flavia Saraiva, Tin Srbic, Claudia Fragapane, Rhys McClenaghan, Artem Dolgopyat, Epke Zonderland, Marta Pihan-Kulesza, Marian Dragulescu, Anastasia Iliankova, Ahmet Onder, Petro Pakhniuk, Igor Radivilov, and Oksana Chusovitina. So it’s not your grandma’s apparatus world cup. Unless your grandma is Chuso. In which case it is.
B. NCAA week 6 preview
Obviously, I had to talk about my one true passion—the hilariously deceased Olympic qualification process—so this week’s NCAA preview is getting shoehorned in here. But it’s a good weekend!
Friday evening (7:30pm ET) brings the most anticipated SEC meet of the season as #1 Florida visits #2 LSU. It’s kind of a weird 1-2 matchup because Florida has clearly been the stronger team throughout the season thus far and, because of that, should be considered a more comfortable favorite than you would usually have in a 1-2 meet. But, LSU’s home status can make things interesting. If scores are flying and good is getting 9.950 while medium gets 9.900, then there’s not going to be much separation heading to the end of the meet.
We’ll see if LSU feels the pressure to get Kiya Johnson back on floor this week because, if things are close at the end, that Bryant-Johnson punch at the end of the floor lineup would be unstoppable. At least at full health. As for the other events, Florida has looked crisper and more confident on bars and beam so far this season and has a few more 9.9s in the back pocket there and will expect to win both events. Theoretically, vault could be even between these two teams, but LSU being without Edwards last week and Johnson’s DTY not looking ready yet turned that event into the weak one last Friday. LSU will need to improve its vaulting this week.
Not to be overlooked, Alabama is going to Georgia at 6:00 ET on Friday, which always remains a delightful one. Georgia will be dependent on the bye week having allowed people like Magee, Nguyen, and Oakley to continue getting their events back—and Lukacs perhaps adding back some difficulty—so that the scores can get into the more competitive portion of the 196s. Because otherwise, Alabama enters as a comfortable favorite.
Also keep in mind this week that Saturday at 4:00pm ET brings the inaugural meet for Long Island University, and…talk about not having any idea what to expect from a performance. We have nothing to go on! For a first meet in program history, during a pandemic, just having five scores to count on each event would be a win. We’ve seen teams do less this year. But there are also some legit names on this team who have competitive skills, so perhaps bare minimum expectations are undershooting this group’s potential.
For the most recent inaugural meet perspective, DII Lindenwood’s first meet in 2013 was a 185.925, while DI Arkansas’s first meet in 2003 was a 193.300.
I’m also interested to see Michigan return to action on Monday afternoon with a dual against Nebraska. Michigan looked really good in that first meet, but what has the temporary team shutdown done to them?
Meanwhile, we had two 10.000/9.900 splits for Central Michigan on floor today for some 9.800 routines, so that was a lark.
C. Dianne Durham
1983 US National Champion Dianne Durham died last week, sparking renewed appreciation for her status as the first black US all-around champion, for the fact that she had the gymnastic ability to become The Mary Lou had injuries played out differently, and for her being unjustly kept off the 1984 Olympic team because of Bela not knowing the rules/thinking they didn’t apply to him. But none of us are bitter about it or anything.
It also brought to light something I didn’t know, that despite her national championship, Durham was never selected for the US gymnastics Hall of Fame. Now, the Hall of Fame is a stupid and arbitrary PR contest that doesn’t actually mean anything or reflect athletic accomplishments at all, literally no one could tell you who is in it and who is not, and under normal circumstances I would be like, “Whatever.” But when you look at the way they flat-out throw Hall of Fame inductions at the current famouses (Gabby Douglas has been put in there 3 whole times) and the sheer number of people who never won a national championship who are in there, it becomes particularly glaring that Durham isn’t among them. Her gymnastics and her trailblazing both independently warrant being in the Hall of Fame, and together, well…
Expect some celebrations and and attempts to rectify that embarrassing oversight at this summer’s events.
D. What else?
Kriztian Berki—he of “the one who makes you not hate pommel horse” fame—has announced his retirement. Olympic champion, three-time world champion, six-time European champion, best pommel horse worker of a generation. Berki missed out on qualification to the 2016 Olympics after coming up short of making the event final at 2015 worlds—among the scenarios that led the FIG to try to add more apparatus specialist qualification opportunities to the Olympics and ah ha ha ha IT WENT FINE. Since then, he has been out of competition for quite some time, occasionally toying with posting videos to show that he’s still the best one, but a comeback this quad never materialized and it seemed like retirement was only a matter of time.
Aliya Mustafina has been placed in charge of the Russian junior national team. Brb, sending arms to equip Aliya’s guerilla militants in deposing Valentina.
At last weekend’s WOGA Classic, Jordan Chiles went 55.450 in the all-around despite a couple falls, delivering an extremely confident beam routine and a hilarious floor miss. So it was really a win-win.