Today, a look at the batch of top countries that have named their worlds teams thus far and how those teams shape up in terms of competitiveness, scoring potential, and strategy.
The defending silver medalists will aim to repeat that accomplishment in Antwerp with a team of Alice Kinsella, Jessica Gadirova, Ondine Achampong, Georgia-Mae Fenton, and Ruby Evans.
Heading into selection, it appeared that Becky Downie would have a spot on this year’s team—she joined the first four on the title-winning Euros squad in April—but a migraine-induced 10 on bars and 9.8 on beam in the final trial scuttled those plans and sent her to an alternate position.
Essentially, Kinsella, Gadirova, Achampong, and Fenton are the obvious four that would pretty much cover every event in a team final themselves, so then it’s sort of…can you get anything more out of a fifth spot? Maybe? In that hope, the British team elected to go with Ruby Evans and the possibility of an Amanar for that fifth position.
The attempted vault upgrade mission was the big story of the British trial, with Jessica Gadirova showing a Cheng, and both Alice Kinsella and Ruby Evans going for Amanars. Whether that all actually materializes at worlds will be the major question of podium training and qualification because at the trial, it appears that Evans missed her attempt, while Kinsella scored about the same as she would for her reliable DTY.
Overall, the British team will hope that scores from the final trial were not representative of where this team actually is (if Jessica Gadirova is going 12.350 on floor at worlds, it’s code blue), but using 2023 averages, the team score would look like this:
Within that picture, the team will certainly identify areas (bars) where they expect improvement in the actual competition at worlds, but even so, a 162 holds up pretty well right now. While the US is currently looking at team scores in the 172s and 173s for their most likely squads based on nationals, 162 is on track compared to everyone else.
This British team will certainly face challenges at worlds should, for example, Brazil figure out how to stay healthy through an entire competition and hit all their routines at the same time, or should China stay on bars and beam in the team final and not score any 10s, but overall the Brits will like their medal chances right now.
For reference, this is what the British score would look like if everyone hit their best result of 2023 at the same time:
Speaking of China, we have a six-member Chinese squad of Qiu Qiyuan, Ou Yushan, Zhang Qingying, Huang Zhuofan, Wu Ran, and Zhou Yaqin—an almost entirely new group with Ou Yushan the only member with world/Olympic experience.
For this team, China has just said, “Vault is stupid and we don’t play that,” electing not to bring a vaulter like Yu Linmin (she’ll be at Asian Games with veterans Tang Xijing and Zhang Jin), instead accepting a low vault score while trying to maximize bars and beam. Which this team can do. Qiu Qiyuan, Zhang Qingying, and Ou Yushan would dominate the beam competition with hits, and Qiu Qiyuan and Huang Zhuofan can both be medal contenders on bars.
That’s why, despite vault, China should still have optimism for a team medal based on this year’s scoring average:
Here, the vault scores are low, floor is pretty conservative/realistic, and Qiu’s beam score is lower than she would get for a hit, and they’re still ahead of GB’s 2023 average.
This isn’t in any way a new story for China. They’re taking a team to worlds with medal-level scoring potential that is also very reliant on getting high scores from the riskiest possible routines to achieve that potential. But it’s there nonetheless.
Meanwhile, when looking at maximum scores in 2023, China comes in about a point behind Great Britain, in contrast to average score where China is ahead. So I guess it’s up to us to play a game of whose maximum score is less realistic.
The big news out of Japan is the injury to defending beam champion Watanabe Hazuki, which will see her replaced on the worlds team by Hatakeda Chiaki, as Sakaguchi Ayaka moves into the alternate position.
Watanabe would have been counted on for anywhere from two to four events in a team final (remember that time in 2022 when Japan didn’t put her up on beam and then she won the event final?) but because there’s such equivalent scoring potential across this team, putting Hatakeda in Watanabe’s place results in an overall team score drop of only 2 tenths by 2023 average, losing ground on beam while increasing the floor score.
It’s a bigger loss (8 tenths) when we look at the best-of-2023 scores, which reveal the major deficit in the beam scores without the 13.700 that Watanabe has scored this year.
The big issue here arises when we look at which apparatuses Hatakeda’s score would be used on. It’s floor, probably vault, and maybe beam. When you’re looking for someone with those strengths……Sakaguchi Ayaka.
Hatakeda was named the first replacement on this team because she was next best in the all-around standings after the NHK Trophy, but this once again calls into question Japan’s deeply AA-based, deeply early-meet-based selection process because Sakaguchi just had such a good performance at the University Games, winning silver on vault and floor and bronze on beam. Her scores this year would now add about 6 tenths to the average team score compared to Hatakeda, while she would add almost a point to the best team score.
We have also have a confirmed six for France: Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, Marine Boyer, Lorette Charpy, Coline Devillard, Morgane Ossysek, and Djenna Laroui. It’s kind of a different look for this team with no Aline Friess or Carolann Heduit, but it’s nonetheless an almost entirely familiar group save for Djenna Laroui, who won the all-around at nationals this year, as perhaps the only newer face.
The big conundrum right now is the comeback of Lorette Charpy, who has not competed since she won that bars bronze at 2022 Euros and then keeled over onto the mat like a redwood. She is slated to compete exhibition bars on the 16th at the Paris World Cup, which will presumably tell us (and France) where she stands in terms of potential contribution to the team. France would love to have Charpy’s bars back because right now Boyer’s bars would have count, and they have never, ever elected to use Boyer’s bars in a world/Olympic team final before.
A hit bars from Charpy probably ends up adding more to the team score than a hit floor from Osyssek (also going in exhibition at the world cup), at least as long as you get hits from Laroui like she did at nationals.
Using 2023 averages (excluding scores from the Top 12 series), you have this team, with Osyssek counting on beam and floor:
Using best scores from 2023, you have this team, with Laroui counting on beam and floor and Osyssek on floor rather than Boyer. How all of that holds up after the Paris World Cup will be telling.
This year’s Canadian team is Ellie Black, Cassie Lee, Rose Woo, Ava Stewart, and Aurelie Tran, with Frederique Sgarbossa acting as alternate. Black, then, will be the only athlete returning from last year’s bronze medal team.
Black, Tran, and Stewart ended up 1-2-3 in the all-around at the August selection event, while Lee competed 3 events and won beam, and Woo finished 2nd on bars and 3rd on beam. That gives Canada pretty much the best available coverage for bars and beam, which should be the strengths of this team, with Black-Lee-Woo-(Stewart if she’s hitting) on beam and Black-Tran-Woo-(Stewart if she’s hitting) on bars.
But now let’s get to vault. This is much less of a vault team for Canada, going without Shallon Olsen (who finished 2nd on vault at the trial), which means it looks like they’ll be counting a Yurchenko full for the team score along with Black and the Y1.5 from Stewart. Without Olsen, the Denelle Pedrick DTY, or that reliable Y1.5 from Spence that proved critical in the team final last year, it’s going to be a journey.
Canada’s 2023 averages shape up like this:
And best-of-the-year marks look like this:
Of particular note in these best-of scores, adding Olsen’s DTY would increase the team score in place of anyone on the team except Ellie Black.
Australia has named its six as Georgia Godwin, Kate McDonald, Ruby Pass, Breanna Scott, Miella Brown, and Emily Whitehead—the squad tasked with the attainable goal of qualifying a team back to the Olympics.
New senior Ruby Pass, who won the national AA silver this year, has been essential this year in getting Australia much closer to the goal of three usable scores on each event, meaning that in terms of rounding out a team score, Australia is mostly just after a third believable vault. Right now that’s Miella Brown, but we don’t have results from Emily Whitehead for 2023 yet. Whitehead’s normal would put her on the highest-scoring team, probably for both vault and floor. We shall see.
So far this year, Australia has put together an average that is right on par with what Canada is scoring.
With a peak score that would be exceptionally competitive if real.
Let’s all revisit this with part 2 when we have official teams for the likes of Brazil and Italy. And maybe the US or whatever.