Olympic Floor Exercise Preview

One apparatus left to go. Over the last quad or two, floor has typically not been the deepest event in women’s gymnastics, but this year there is a slightly heartier crop of athletes contending for silver, and a whole bunch of people who could sneak in for a bronze medal depending on the day.

Rules – Each athlete will count her 8 most difficult skills, of which at least three must be acrobatic elements and three must be dance elements. Routines must also include a passage of two dance elements, an acrobatic twisting element, a double salto, and acrobatic elements both forward and backward.

Tier I

Simone Biles (USA)

Here, there is no question. Biles is so, so far ahead of the rest of the pack. Even with a Pride parade of going-out-of-bounds on her record this year and a full miss at Classic, Biles still owns a floor average more than half a point better than any other gymnast in the world. Even her 0.5 OOB routine from nationals outscored what anyone else has done this year (and if it had been correctly evaluated as 0.7 OOB, that would still be true). She’s going to be untouchable and in a tier of her own on floor.

Tier II

Murakami Mai (JPN)

The best hope for a home Japanese medal on the women’s side comes from Murakami’s floor routine. The 2017 world champion, she is the only non-American to have won a major floor title in the last decade (beyond Murakami, we’d have to go back to Afanasyeva in 2011), and she owns the second best floor average in the world this year, behind only Biles. Her tumbling is supreme, and as long as she gets credit for her difficult turns (a key area to watch), she’ll have among the very highest difficulty scores in the competition. There’s a lot riding on this routine, but she’s very capable of a medal.

Jordan Chiles or Sunisa Lee or Jade Carey or Grace McCallum or MyKayla Skinner (USA)

There will be two Americans in the floor final. The second one will be a medal favorite. The only question is…who? Chiles owns the peak score among the options with her 14.233 from the second day of Olympic Trials, and given her tumbling composition, that should make her the frontrunner for the second US spot. Yet, floor has been her least consistent event this year, and we’ve also seen those mid-13s that would be unlikely to get her into the final.

Lee is the defending world silver medalist, but I’d say she does need to add back full difficulty to place among the top two Americans in qualification and get into the final. Still, the 13.933 she recorded on the second day of trials while doing only three passes speaks to the level of 14ishness she might have here if her limbs fully cooperate.

Carey is the wildcard because we haven’t seen her do much in the way of full floor difficulty in 2021. But we do know that she has the tumbling to score well, is a world silver medalist on floor, and tied Lee in qualification at 2019 worlds, just missing out on the final because of the execution tiebreak. While Carey has a very different approach to scoring well on floor from Lee, she will nonetheless also have to pull out full difficulty to get her score into the rarefied 14s given the expected execution disadvantage. That full difficulty does not necessarily mean the layout triple double, which would have to look really good to be anything close to a code-savvy decision to put in the routine. But also please do it because that would be fun.

As for Skinner, her peak this year has been lower than the others, so I wouldn’t rate her as the most likely American to get into the final, but it’s certainly not out of the question if she has another Trials Day 1 in qualification. The same goes for McCallum. She has scored well on floor in the past, and also on the first day of Olympic Trials, but her numbers this year overall put her in last place among the US floor workers, so I’d put her in the longer shot category with Skinner. Perhaps that’s a little harsh on McCallum, but gaining more security on landings over the weeks since trials will be essential for her.

Angelina Melnikova (RUS)

There are very few athletes who have been able to maintain a floor average over 14 this year, and the defending world bronze medalist is among them, recording 14s not just at domestic Russian competitions but on two of three routines at European Championships as well. The rise of the new Russians has curtailed some of Melnikova’s individual medal opportunities, i.e. the all-around is a much longer shot these days, but floor—the event on which she has three-peated as Russian champion, including in 2021—remains her best medal chance.

Viktoria Listunova (RUS)

Listunova does have the routine composition and floor ability to score right with Melnikova and has done so on most occasions this year. Though not every occasion. We have also seen Listunova miss several times this year, with an emerging tendency to struggle on floor at the end of long competitions (both at the European Championships and Russian Cup), which is worth keeping in mind. That tendency has kept her floor average for 2021 behind that of her teammate Urazova, but there’s no ability-based reason why she shouldn’t be a medal contender on floor this year.

The 14ishness of Melnikova and Listunova means I would classify them as the clear favorites to make this final for Russia over the more mid-high 13 routines coming from Urazova and Akhaimova. If either of the favorites has a problem in qualification, Urazova or Akhaimova can very well knock them out, but if that’s the case, Russia might also be facing not having two athletes in the floor final.

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