The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – July 1, 2021

A. Li Shijia is out

On the eve of China’s final test, we have the news that world beam bronze medalist Li Shijia’s injury from the first test is severe enough that she will not be part of the final test or Olympic selection.

Upfront, this improves the chances of…well really everyone in the realistic picture because there’s one less person to compete against. And I would characterize everyone in the realistic picture as Ou Yushan, Lu Yufei, Tang Xijing, Zhang Jin, Qi Qi, Guan Chenchen, Liu Tingting, and Wei Xiaoyuan. With Fan Yilin already guaranteed one of the spots, those 8 are competing for 5 Olympic positions.

To me, the first 4—Ou, Lu, Tang, Zhang—should be the team. Which means it 100% will not happen.

Breaking it down further, I suppose the first 6 are the ones in actual contention for the 4 spots on the team team, Critically, no more than one of Zhang Jin, Qi Qi, and Guan Chenchen should ever be on the same team because of Bars Apocalypse. That will limit the realistic team combination options, of which there are still several. As for the other 2, there are permutations in which Wei Xiaoyuan and Liu Tingting do make up high-scoring teams—in fact, your peak best-scoring team based on 2021 would have Guan Chenchen’s VT/BB scores complemented by Wei Xiaoyuan’s UB, but that team would be risky and terrifying in a way I would be obsessed with…but don’t think will actually happen.

In reality, I imagine that Liu Tingting doing only UB/BB and Wei Xiaoyuan being mostly bars (with a low vault score) will be prohibitive for a team spot in this group. Their chances of getting the additional +1, however, have improved. Overkill on bars in the +1 spots may be an issue for China since they already have Fan Yilin there, but it wouldn’t be as egregious as the US going with Skinner and Carey for the +1s since Skinner and Carey are competing for one EF spot (because Biles), whereas both Chinese +1s could make the bars final if they choose to go that direction.

I’m definitely still partial to Guan Chenchen’s beam for that +1 spot—though that also could be characterized as overkill because the entire Chinese team is a medal threat on beam. The medal-threat holes on this team are vault and floor, but anyone with a good floor score (i.e., Ou Yushan and Lu Yufei) needs to be on the main team, and on vault, someone like Qi Qi could perhaps make the final but there are no actual vault medal threats in this group. So China is basically left with overkill as the only option for the +1.

This weekend’s team announcement won’t be boring.

B. The Olympic draw is here!

The FIG released the draw for the Olympics to the public yesterday (I say released to the public because NBC already had their Team USA streams listed for the exact subdivisions the US ended up being drawn into—lookee at that).

But anyway the women’s draw goes like so.

The US times for the subdivisions are

July 23rd, 9:00pm ET/6:00pm PT – Men’s Subdivision 1
July 24th, 1:30am ET/10:30pm PT – Men’s Subdivision 2
July 24th, 6:30am ET/3:30pm PT – Men’s Subdivision 3
July 24th, 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT – Women’s Subdivision 1
July 24th, 10:25pm ET/7:25pm PT – Women’s Subdivision 2
July 25th, 2:10am ET/11:10pm PT – Women’s Subdivision 3
July 25th, 4:00am ET/1:00am PT – Women’s Subdivision 4
July 25th, 7:20am ET/4:20am PT – Women’s Subdivision 5

I’ll of course do a full schedule breakdown closer to the event.

As for the draw, no huge headlines there. If nothing else, Russia ending on beam will be a thrill ride for the whole family. Most of the top teams are going earlier, which means we’ll have a pretty good sense of what it’s going to take to make event finals when the later teams go. The majority of spots will be locked by that point—except bars perhaps, with Derwael and Seitz going in the final subdivision.

Now, where are we on the podium training schedule/streaming intentions? Haven’t seen that anywhere yet.

C. Olympic Teams

Last week, the Netherlands announced the team of Eythora Thorsdottir, Sanne Wevers, Lieke Wevers, and Vera Van Pol, with alternates Elze Geurts and Naomi Visser.

Thorsdottir returned to perform quite well at the second trial, making her selection inevitable, and Sanne is Sanne. The max team score based on trials would have included Elze Geurts on the team thanks to her DTY that is clearly the best-scoring vault option, but it looks like they leaned on Lieke Wevers’ potential scores and past accomplishments to select her even though trials was fairly shaky, with Van Pol providing a viable vault and more other event possibilities than Geurts.

This week, Spain announced its Olympic teams without great shock or awe. The women’s team is Roxana Popa, Alba Petisco, Laura Bechdeju, and Marina Gonzalez. The men’s team is Nestor Abad, Joel Plata, Thierno Diallo, and Nicolau Mir, with Rayderley Zapata as the individual.

Both Ana Perez and Cintia Rodriguez would have been locks for this team if healthy, but they are out for the Olympics, opening spots up for the next-best athletes in line. Petisco and Gonzalez joined Popa on that 2019 worlds team, while Bechdeju was on the 2018 worlds team and 2019 Euros team and was Spain’s top AA performer at last weekend’s FIT Challenge in Belgium. Because two of the top three gymnasts are out, expectations won’t be high for Spain’s team score at the Olympics, but Popa should be able to get into the AA beam-willing, and getting her into another floor final would count as a victorious Olympics for this squad.

All four of Spain’s MAG team members were on the 2019 worlds team and provided fairly straightforward selection. Spain elected to remove Zapata from the worlds team in 2019 so that he could go for that individual spot, which was a big move but turned out to be a great choice as they fully maximized their number of Olympians.

Brazil also named its men’s team this week, going with Arthur Nory, Caio Souza, Diogo Soares, and Francisco Barretto as the four, and selecting rings-on-rings-on-rings Arthur Zanetti for the +1 spot. The teenager Soares is the only member of the gang who did not appear on the 2019 worlds team because he was then a fetus, but he finished 3rd AA at Pan Ams, behind only Souza and Paul Juda.

The full page is updated.

We still have a few outstanding teams, with China set to announce following this weekend’s tests, and Belgium scheduled to name its women’s team on July 3rd. As for Italy’s women’s team and Ukraine’s men’s team, Italy will name its team whenever it damn well pleases, sometime between 9pm and 2am on July oneteenth, whereas Ukraine is probably still trying to figure out if a picture of Oleg can be used as one of the team members.

On that note, Martina Dominici of Argentina has joined Oleg Verniaiev on the suspended members list following the reports of some manner of positive doping test. She is, however, still on the list of athletes qualified to the Olympics published by the FIG. For now. If Dominici is not allowed to compete, Abigail Magistrati was 1-perred out by Dominici at 2019 worlds, so the spot should revert to her.

The big intrigue element with Italy’s team concerns Vanessa Ferrari. She won floor in Doha last weekend to snatch up the Olympic apparatus spot for herself, but because Lara Mori finished second in the floor standings, Italy could have some leeway here and decide to put Ferrari on the team team, reverting her floor spot to Mori. The advisability of that didn’t seem high until recently, but with so many Italians MIA right now including Asia D’Amato, Elisa Iorio, and Desiree Carofiglio…

D. WHY

In cool-fun news, Artur Dalaloyan confirmed he had a full Achilles tear in mid-April. He returned to compete sans dismounts at the Russian Cup in early June, less than two months after surgery, and has been named as part of the Russian team at the Olympics—which will be slightly over three months post-surgery.

Seeing what kind of dismounts he comes up with on rings, PBars, and high bar will be a terrible adventure.

E. GymCastic

No thoughts on the US Olympic team. None at all.

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