Category Archives: Olympics

State of the Russians Address

Viktoria Listunova is the 2021 Russian national champion. Certainly the greatest beneficiary of the postponed Olympics, the 2021 senior performed the closest thing this competition had to a clean two-day meet, establishing a large advantage over the mere peasants through a fully secure and confident performance on day 1, and then withstanding a beam fall during the parade of nightmares that was today’s all-around final to retain that #1 position.

But seriously, my summary of this all-around final is

with the subheading

It is predominately Listunova’s floor, which has scored 14.3+ on both days of competition (using a couple swigs of Russian domestic floor scoring) with a whip-whip-triple and difficult dance elements, that allows her to establish an all-around lead, though her other events have also clearly progressed since the last time we saw her in competition. In this meet, she transformed from Next Star to Current Star.

Mimicking the circumstances of 2019 junior worlds, Listunova held off a close all-around challenge from her partner in Russia-Saving, Vladislava Urazova. Urazova actually recorded the higher AA score on day 2 thanks to her clearly more comfortable DTY on vault and superior bars work, but beam struggles on both days of competition brought her totals “down” and allowed Listunova to stay ahead. Once again, parade of nightmares.

Continue reading State of the Russians Address

The Race to Tokyo – All-Around Qualification

Following yesterday’s look at the race to qualify a team to Tokyo, I’m going to spend today looking at the individuals. Specifically, I’m looking at the method by which the majority of individual athletes will advance to the Olympics—all-around qualification at worlds.

A minimum of 20 Olympics spots are available through the women’s all-around at worlds (which go to the athlete, not the country). But, as I’ve mentioned before, once the unused event final spots are redistributed to the all-arounders, the number of qualifying gymnasts will end up being a lot higher than 20.

Using the results from 2018 worlds, we would end up with 28 Olympic qualifiers from the all-around, which is especially why I’m going to be a bit lax in my scoring expectations. In the end, we’ll have to go fairly far down the rankings to find 28 people, each from a different country, who also did not qualify as part of a team. (Reminder: this method of qualification is one-per-country.)

There are additional methods of Olympic qualification after the all-around at worlds, of course, like the event finals at worlds, and the world cup events, and the continental championships, but for the majority of countries, those methods are not realistic. The all-around at worlds is THE chance to get to the Olympics.

I’ve separated the contenders for those individual AA spots into a series of categories, all based on the assumption that the 12 teams I’m favoring in the team outlook do in fact qualify. Of course, that’s not guaranteed, but for the sake of making a list and projecting what will happen, that’s what I’m assuming.

The Favorites

Giulia Steingruber (SUI) – Steingruber is back and has competed exactly once, already recording 53.100 in the all-around. That’s a score that would comfortably qualify an individual spot to the Olympics and already puts her among the top-ranked individuals in 2019, most of whom have had a full year of meets to try to get that kind of score. The intrigue here is the case of Ilaria Käslin, who also has the scoring potential to qualify an Olympic spot  but is likely to be 1per’d out if Steingruber hits. But if Steingruber misses…Käslin could get it.

Denisa Golgota (ROU) – Golgota has a pretty significant edge in scoring potential over her Romanian teammates, so she looks quite likely to be the Romanian to qualify to the Olympics this quad. I mean, if anyone deserves it. She has singlehandedly carried this team post-Larisa.

Something (else) that sucks about this format: Say Golgota gets the all-around Olympic spot for Romania as we expect, but she also advances to the floor final and places well enough to earn an Olympic spot for that floor result. Romania would not be allowed to say, “Well, let’s have Golgota take the spot for the floor final and then have our next-best AA gymnast take the spot for the all-around so that we get 2 Olympians.” Because the all-around happened first, that all-around spot goes to Golgota, no other Romanian can get an all-around spot, and they can’t claim the spot from the floor final because Golgota has already qualified through another method. 

Diana Varinska/Anastasia Bachynska (UKR) – Competing in that first subdivision at worlds with Australia, the focus for both countries will be to record the kind of score that can earn team qualification, but the sub-story there will be the race for an individual Olympic spot. Varinska and Bachynska both have very similar scoring potential (and actually Radivilova isn’t that far behind, but I’d certainly rank her third in the country). One of them will surely get an Olympic spot for herself, but which one it will be is anyone’s guess. Ideally, Bachynska would get an AA spot and then Varinska would get an additional spot through the bars final, but I’m not betting on it.

An Australian Person (AUS) – I feel pretty comfortable saying that an Australian will get an individual spot should team qualification not work out, but whether its Georgia Godwin or Emma Nedov or Georgia-Rose Brown will be a day-of-performance kind of thing. Godwin has the highest scoring potential of the three, but she’s not an entire fall ahead of either of the others, so it could go any which way. Right now, Emma Nedov actually has a fair shot at getting the apparatus world cup spot for beam (she currently trails only Marine Boyer, who will become ineligible once she helps France qualify a team), so if you’re Australia and looking to maximize the number of Olympians, you want Godwin or Brown to get the AA spot at worlds, and then Nedov to get the apparatus world cup spot.

Ana Perez (ESP) – Perez has the four-event scoring potential to separate herself from her Spanish colleagues and rank among the top gymnasts who can advance to the Olympics, so count on her to get a spot. She’s among the few individual qualifiers here who also have a good look at advancing to the all-around final.

Zsofia Kovacs (HUN) – Kovacs did lose to Noemi Makra at the recent Hungarian championship, so there is precedent for Kovacs not to be the highest-scoring gymnast on her team and therefore not get an Olympic spot. Still, she should be considered the favorite for Hungary’s best score, and Hungary is certainly strong enough to expect to qualify an individual through this method.

The Almost-Favorites

Martina Dominici (ARG) – Don’t underestimate the importance of a DTY. Having that vault in Dominici’s repertoire reinforces her chances to advance because even a fall on another apparatus would then put her about even with everyone vaulting FTYs, and therefore still in it with a good shot. She’s also impressive enough on the other events that it doesn’t have to be all about the vaulting.

Yeo Seojeong (KOR) – While we’re discussing people whose vaults can carry them to all-around qualification status, Yeo will have a massive edge if she hits her handspring 2/1 in qualification. Though she’s not known for the other events, she has reasonable scores on them, and you don’t even need to be reasonable on them when you have a vault like hers.

Danusia Francis (JAM) – Using top scores recorded this year (and accounting for 1-per), Francis ranks 8th among all the gymnasts looking to earn an Olympic spot through the all-around. Each of her all-around performances this year has scored at least 51.650, a number that would easily be enough to advance to the Olympics.

Filipa Martins (POR) – Martins is always there, going evenly high 12s across the events and either making the all-around final, or getting close to doing so. It would be a major surprise if she isn’t hanging around safely in the qualification zone.

So that’s 10 spots I feel good about. Not guarantees by any means—you have to hit beam when it matters—but if you’re asking me which 10 individuals/spots are the most likely, these are my 10. Now, let’s get messy.

The Contenders

Gabriela Janik/Marta Pihan-Kulesza (POL) – Spicy. One of the most fascinating intra-country races will come in the fight between Gabriela Janik and Marta Pihan-Kulesza for the Poland spot. It’s a spot that I expect to be won, I just don’t know by whom. Pihan Kulesza has the standout event between the two with her floor, and if this were a VT/BB/FX competition I would favor her, but I worry about bars. That’s a place where Janik can gain enough of an advantage on MPK to earn the higher AA score.

Jessica Castles/Jonna Adlerteg (SWE) – Right up there with the Poland race should be the race for Sweden’s spot between Castles and Adlerteg now that Adlerteg has added back the all-around. Like Ukraine, the ideal would be for Castles to get the AA spot and Adlerteg to get a bars final spot so they can both go, but that’s tough. It may simply end up as a race between the two in AA qualification, and based on the scores this year, there’s nothing separating them. Taking best scores on each piece in 2019, Castles would be at 51.649 and Adlerteg at 51.600.

The Mexico spot (MEX) – Is it just me, or do you feel like any of Mexico’s gymnasts is just as likely as any other to be the highest-scoring all-arounder in qualification?  I anticipate that someone will score well enough to get an Olympic spot, but who is she…? Best scores so far this year give it to Anapaula Gutierrez, but are you going to bet against Alexa Moreno or Elsa Garcia? I wouldn’t.

Aneta Holasova (CZE) – I should say this is a Czech Republic spot that’s up for grabs, much like Mexico, though I do think Holasova has separated herself from the rest in the last year or so. She’s the national champion for 2019 and was the highest-placing Czech athlete at both the European Championships and European Games, all with scores that should be good enough for an Olympic spot.

Anastasia Alistratava (BLR) – We’ve come a long way, with Belarus now sitting in fairly reasonable position to qualify its own gymnast to the 2020 Olympics. Alistratava is a little one-event reliant on her huge bars score (and if that routine is a miss, you worry whether she has the other pieces), but that potential bars 14 can carry her to a solid AA total.

Marcia Vidiaux/Yesenia Ferrera (CUB) – I’m more confident about the countries with two likely contenders because if one of them goes totally off the rails, there’s still someone else likely to get a spot, and that’s how I feel about Cuba. Based on Pan Ams, I’d give the edge to Vidiaux, but one of them really does need to make the Olympics. They’re both too talented not to.

Ariana Orrego/Sandra Collantes (PER) – If we’re talking about Pan Ams performances, the qualification meets that both Orrego and Collantes put together there would be strong enough to get an Olympic spot if repeated at worlds. We could have another intra-country battle (and an NCAA battle) between these two as long as they hit.

The Turkey spot (TUR) – Three Turkish athletes are going to worlds and aiming for this spot. Tutya Yilmaz is probably the favorite to make her second Olympics, but I’d keep an eye on new senior Nazli Savranbasi, who has impressed at world cups this year and seems just about as likely to me. Goksu Uctas Sanli has the floor and beam, but I worry about the bars score, which is why I’d put her at third most likely on the Turkish team to make the Olympics. But still in it.

Marina Nekrasova (AZE) – Nekrasova’s vaulting has looked so good this year that she’s among those athletes I think can be carried into the qualifying spots with one big score in the 14s, but scoring on the remainder of the events is enough of a concern that I’m not 100% sold.

Barbora Mokosova (SVK) – The 2016 Olympian had been out for a while with injury and is yet to return to her full strength on vault and floor, which could be compromising to her chances, but she has a potential 13 on bars, a potential 12 on beam, so if she returns vault and floor to her 2018 level, she can get in there.

The Challengers

Now let’s move on to the group that definitely can get a spot and are probably just as likely as a couple members of that 20 I’ve mentioned so far, but I have a few more concerns.

Ting Hua Tien (TPE) – Ting is a brilliant beamer who can record a strong AA total as well when that routine is on, but I worry that if she doesn’t hit beam, there’s not another score in her repertoire to really prop her up—and the AA total could drop out of contention quite quickly.

Caitlin Rooskrantz/Naveen Daries (RSA) – Rooskrantz is known as a bars specialist (she just won the Szombathely gold on bars), but she did compete the AA at worlds last year for the highest RSA score, a score that would have advanced to the Olympics had 2018 been the qualifier. So I’d say she’s in with a reasonable chance, though Daries is the more typical all-arounder, probably with better scoring potential on beam and floor, so Daries could realistically end up with the higher total.

Mandy Mohamed/Farah Hussein (EGY) – For a while, it looked like Farah Hussein was going to take competitions by storm when she burst onto the scene with some good beam scores at world cups, but Mandy Mohamed was Egypt’s star of the last world championship, recording the nation’s best all-around total.

Any Austrian Ever (AUT) – We think of Austria’s chances being about Jasmin Mader (2016 Olympian) and Marlies Männersdorfer, but Elisa Hämmerle competed the all-around for the first time this quadrennium a few weeks ago for a 50.567 AA score, which could move her to front-runner status within the country. That’s a pretty qualification-type score if she can repeat it.

The Hopers

They’re hoping that a lot of those event final spots don’t get used and we go lower than 20.

Emma Slevin (IRL) – So far in 2019, Slevin hasn’t quite been able to repeat the kind of performance that she showed at the 2018 YOG, so I think she’s going to need to recapture some of that beam magic to get an Olympic spot, but it’s not out of the question at all.

Elina Vihrova (LAT) – Latvia’s best gymnast has shown enough 12-potential on enough events—and scored 49s at the European Games, a score that very well could get through—that she should be classified as a legitimate threat.

Ana Palacios (GUA) – Palacios has a lot of talent, scored a 50.000 in qualification at Pan Am Games, and has a semi-laid out DTY that could lift her score, though the worry that bars and beam will be too 11y to make a dent is real.

A Puerto Rico spot (PUR) –  Lately, Puerto Rico’s best all-around gymnast has been Andrea Maldonado, who will not be in attendance at worlds (and is about to be an Iowa State gymnast), but Puerto Rico will be hoping that a good day from Karelys Diaz or Paula Mejias on bars and beam will help carry their typically strong vault and floor scores to a competitive AA total.

Another Scandy or two (NOR/FIN) – We’ve been burned too many times by clinging to unrealistic domestic Scandinavian scores, but someone like Nieminen or Leinonen from Finland is capable of getting a 48-49 and staying close, and Julie Erichsen for Norway scored well enough at 2018 worlds that she would have made it through from that competition. At least one someone in this club should go to the Olympics.

Rifda Irfanaluthfi (INA)
Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (MAS)
Both of these athletes have enormous talent and potential to get to the Olympics, but with Abdul Hadi, you’re worried that she’s going to fall 1150 times and score a 2, and with Irfanaluthfi, her scores haven’t been so high this year and the risk of her going sub-10 on bars and not recording a strong-enough AA total is high.

Simona Castro (CHI) – So far this year, we haven’t seen quite the scores from Castro that she had when she placed 56th at worlds last year and outscored a number of far more famous athletes, but she’s still in the picture for me.

Tienna Nguyen (VIE) – Nguyen attended some of the US fake meets at the beginning of the year and recorded ridiculous scores that overstate her chances, but she’s a strong enough gymnast to be in this thing.

The Wildcards

Some of these people could post huge numbers and knock down people even in the top categories, some of them could finish last, but mostly we just don’t know what we’re going to get here.

Courtney McGregor (NZL) – McGregor made the 2016 Olympics, but we haven’t seen her compete her elite routines in so, so long that there’s always going to be a question mark. Looking at the videos she posted of her trials routines, I’d say her performance there would qualify an Olympic spot if repeated identically at worlds.

Irina Sazonova (ISL) – Speaking of 2016 Olympians who haven’t competed elite in a while, Sazonova hasn’t shown us routines since the spring of 2018, but she did win the national title at that point and was good enough in 2016 to place 40th AA at the Olympics.

Kim Su Jong (PRK) – Kim’s performances in 2018 would be more than enough to send her through to the Olympics this year, but we haven’t seen her compete since last year’s world championship, so…what’s even going on there?

Maria Kharenkova (GEO) – Kharenkova is back in the all-around, and even her performance from Russian Cup could be enough to get through, but is it going to be one of those Kharenkova days? And does she have the bars to survive?

Laney Madsen (BUL) – Madsen’s performances this year have not been “out of the question” scores, but she has put up enough 11s to look borderline at best. She has the content at this point. The question for her is always whether the execution is there to avoid the kind of scores that look like falls even when she didn’t.

Luciana Alvarado (CRC) – After Pan Ams, my sleeper qualification wildcard pick is Luciana Alvarado, who showed some very competitive performances that could get into the qualification group if repeated.

Ana Derek (CRO) – Derek hasn’t competed vault since that fateful day at the 2016 Olympics—and actually hasn’t competed bars since the 2016 test event—but her beam and floor work is more than good enough to get her back to the Olympics. Can she add enough filler on the other two events to get an AA score?

Slovenia Things (SLO) – Teja Belak now has routines on three pieces, as we’ve seen her adding back bars and beam in recent weeks, but she hasn’t done floor since 2016. Because of her vault, even a meh floor might work. Slovenia’s best AAer is Lucija Hribar, who could be in this mix, but we haven’t seen her since 2018.

Kaylee Cole (BOL) – I have no idea, but we’ll see?

Oksana Chusovitina (UZB) – Please do the all-around. I mean, yes, she’s probably set for qualification as long she makes the vault final and should be focusing mostly on that, but please do the all-around.

The Race to Tokyo – The Bubble Teams

Now that we have nominative rosters for the world championships, it’s possible to play around with scoring permutations and team rankings with a little more confidence and realism than when we didn’t know which random local urchins were going to make up these teams.

So, to the hierarchy. As it currently stands, I have USA, China, France, Russia and Italy as a top 5 teams, with Canada, Great Britain, and Japan rounding out the team final, and Germany close but just missing out. That’s just a very rough sketch of this step pyramid as I see it in present day, and it will be refined as we get closer to worlds. Many previews in our future. Continue reading The Race to Tokyo – The Bubble Teams

That Damn Gala

You know that thing where you’re watching gymnastics and think, “I wish this were boring and worse”?

Welcome to the Olympic Gala. The opportunity for 3 and a half people to drip into the Rio Olympic Arena to see some of the brightest male stars of the games be intensely proud of themselves for acting like insufferable hams while the brightest female stars give zero fucks and leave immediately.

If you didn’t watch it, well played.

I did. (The first one. Not the second one too. I don’t hate myself.)

So…probably sainthood, right?

It was basically one of those Gymnastics and Figure Skating Craptaculars, except without Nastia scarf-prancing to the tune of butt-shelves for thirty seconds, or some 9-year-old America’s Got Saddest glob country-twanging about hitting the open road. (And we’re all like, “You’re 9, the only thing you’re hitting is lunch recess.”)

This is how it started. (It didn’t get better.)

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 7.07.51 AM

Continue reading That Damn Gala