I Got Per-Country-ed at the Olympics

What better way to prepare for the Olympics than by talking about per-country rules.

Per-country rules were instituted at the Olympics in 1976, limiting participation in the all-around final to three athletes per country and participation in the event finals to two athletes per country. Starting with the 2004 Olympics, participation in the all-around final was also limited to two athletes per country.

What follows is an accounting of all the women’s athletes who finished in the qualification places (that is, top 36 AA from 1976-2000 and top 24 AA from 2004-2016; top 6 on events from 1976-1980 and top 8 on events from 1984-2016) but were eliminated from finals because of per-country rules.

This does not include those who placed outside the cutoff but were later skipped over for other athletes when accounting for per-country (for example, Gabrielle Douglas’s 10th place finish on floor in 2016) because if per-country didn’t exist, they still would not have qualified.

First, some superlatives.

Continue reading I Got Per-Country-ed at the Olympics

Olympic Balance Beam Preview

For my next trick, I shall attempt a preview of the Olympic beam competition. Because I am a fool, who does fool things.

Rules – Each athlete will count her 8 most difficult skills, including the dismount, of which at least three must be acrobatic elements and three must be dance elements. Routines must also include a connection of two dance elements, a turn, an acrobatic element series, and acrobatic elements both forward (or sideward) and backward.

TIER I

Simone Biles (USA)

Biles has been world champion on beam on three occasions, most recently in 2019, and enters the Olympics as the favorite for this title, even if her favorite status is not nearly as clear cut on beam as it is elsewhere. In the all-around and on vault and floor—as long as Biles does anything even remotely close to what she is capable of—she will win gold. On beam, however, Biles could hit a strong routine in the event final and still not win, mostly depending on which athletes from China make it into the final and how they do. Here, Biles will not necessarily have the most difficulty in the competition, and she does not own the highest score in the world, so the outcome is less securely in her hands.

I do still consider Biles the favorite, however, largely because her difficulty is the most predictable and reliable among the select handful who have potential difficulty in the high 6s (i.e., she’s always going to get credit for her dismount and the combination bonus there). Save for a dance combo or two, her beam difficulty is not too subject to hesitations or how strictly the judging panel has been told to evaluate combination speed. For Biles, she has to make a big error not to score well on beam. A bunch of slight hesitations or nervous moments isn’t going to be too disastrous.

The issue of whether she will perform her eponymous beam dismount is sort of moot when it comes to the beam final because the additional one tenth makes it not worth performing—but even if she did, the landing tends to be comfortable enough that it shouldn’t materially change her chances.

Ou Yushan or Guan Chenchen or Lu Yufei or Zhang Jin or Tang Xijing (CHN)

Brace yourselves because the fight to see which two Chinese athletes make it into the beam final will be an existential crisis biopic, with five very realistic contenders for the two spots.

Continue reading Olympic Balance Beam Preview

Olympic Uneven Bars Preview

Today, let’s talk about bars, which should feature the highest profile, most exciting gold medal battle of the women’s competition at the Olympics. At least as long as everything goes to plan. It is bars after all.

Rules – Each athlete will count her 8 most difficult skills, including the dismount, for her difficulty score. Routines must also include a flight element from high bar to low bar, a same-bar release skill, the display of different grips, and a pirouetting element with at least a full turn.

TIER I

Nina Derwael (BEL) and Sunisa Lee (USA)

Derwael is the two-time defending world champion with the 2nd-highest difficulty score in the world. Lee owns the highest difficulty in the world as well as the highest score recorded on bars in 2021 with a 15.300. It should be a good one.

The 6.8 peak difficulty score for Lee is a very slight check in her column because it looks like Derwael is planning to go for at best a 6.7. Still, that’s just one tenth, and it’s going to get more complicated than that with both athletes facing some fraught composition decisions.

Lee performs that 6.8 difficulty only when she is exactly on, and if she’s not, she will adjust to her backup composition, which should put her at 6.5. It will be an interesting strategic conundrum for Lee because she’s still capable of winning Olympic silver with her backup 6.5 routine but is probably going to need to lean on the 6.8 to win gold, all things being hit.

That said, Derwael has decisions of her own to make with her potential composition. After missing on bars on the first day of the FIT Challenge, Derwael removed the new and slightly controversial Nabieva 1/2 from her routine in the event final to go down to a 6.6 difficulty. That’s a safer and probably more comfortable routine for her, but one that also has to introduce more skills and more cast handstands to get up to a 6.6 difficulty and is therefore risking a lower execution score as well.

Continue reading Olympic Uneven Bars Preview

Olympic Team Rankings

Using every athlete’s average score on each event from all competitions in 2021, the 12 national teams in the women’s competition at the Olympics are given a team total based on how the four gymnasts would do in a 3-count competition.

1. UNITED STATES – 173.351
Simone Biles 15.663 14.217 14.578 14.763
Sunisa Lee 14.425 14.838 14.227 13.523
Jordan Chiles 14.921 14.430 14.140 13.552
Grace McCallum 14.580 13.447 13.986 13.413
173.351 45.164 (1)
43.395 (2)
42.954 (2)
41.838 (1)
Unsurprisingly, the US boasts a dominant total with an advantage of around four points over the closest teams. The US will also hope for more on floor than the average scores indicate since Chiles is capable of a stronger number—as well as something a bit higher on bars from Biles, who had a few issues this year to bring down her average there. Given these numbers, vault is the only score that we would see McCallum contribute.
2. CHINA – 169.448
Lu Yufei 13.691 14.106 14.493 14.026
Zhang Jin 14.316 13.616 14.646 13.753
Tang Xijing 13.458 14.540 14.646 13.600
Ou Yushan 13.478 14.042 14.425 13.711
169.448 41.485 (9)
42.688 (3)
43.785 (1)
41.490 (3)
Things are extremely close between China and Russia for second right now, but China will hope its secret weapon in that regard is vault. These average vault scores don’t really reflect a hit DTY for Ou Yushan or the DTT that Lu Yufei added at the second test because they haven’t been doing those vaults most of the year. China will expect to be much more competitive there. In fact, the justification for its team selection is dependent on it.
3. RUSSIA – 169.286
Angelina Melnikova 14.592 14.462 12.914 14.177
Vladislava Urazova 14.460 14.808 13.124 13.700
Viktoria Listunova 14.352 14.629 13.625 13.648
Elena Gerasimova 13.320 13.544 13.709 12.722
169.286 43.404 (3)
43.899 (1)
40.458 (3)
41.525 (2)
While China may be hoping its secret weapon is vault, Russia will hope that its very, very secret weapon is actually hitting beam routines. Because everyone has been falling on every single beam routine this year, Russia’s average scores there pretty much assume an entire rotation of falls, or at least 2 falls. Even a couple beam hits in real life could drastically increase Russia’s score.   
4. JAPAN – 165.747
Murakami Mai 14.713 13.744 13.520 14.255
Hatakeda Hitomi 14.100 14.133 13.260 13.433
Hiraiwa Yuna 14.244 13.067 13.286 13.316
Sugihara Aiko 14.600 12.722 13.266 13.486
165.747 43.557 (2)
40.944 (6)
40.072 (4)
41.174 (4)
At this point, the host country has established itself as the most compelling challenger should one of the medal favorites have a meltdown in the team final. Murakami’s huge scoring potential can carry Japan a long way, and there aren’t too many holes in this group, save for that third bars score, which could cause some issues.
5. GREAT BRITAIN – 163.170
Jessica Gadirova 14.571 13.400 13.092 14.001
Jennifer Gadirova 13.925 12.483 13.308 13.463
Alice Kinsella 14.088 13.876 12.909 12.908
Amelie Morgan 13.569 13.603 12.935 12.817
163.170 42.584 (7)
40.879 (8)
39.335 (7)
40.372 (5)
5th in the team competition would be a very strong result for Great Britain and would match the finish from the last Olympics, though the 6-point margin between GB and Russia—and the 8th-place ranking on bars—doesn’t exactly reinforce the reasoning that leaving Becky Downie off the team was in service of a team medal. Jennifer Gadirova continuing to improve since the final trial and getting closer to her 2020 American Cup level would be of tremendous help in getting those vault and floor scores closer to Japan.
6. ITALY – 162.260
Martina Maggio 14.293 13.611 13.281 12.980
Asia D’Amato 14.400 13.700 12.600 12.850
Vanessa Ferrari 14.428 13.608 12.992 13.450
Alice D’Amato 14.360 13.495 12.513 12.300
162.260 43.188 (4)
40.919 (7)
38.873 (10)
39.280 (6)
Giorgia Villa has been removed from the Italian team following her injury at last weekend’s national championship. She is replaced by Vanessa Ferrari, who is promoted to the main team, while Lara Mori will replace Vanessa Ferrari as the +1 because of her 2nd-place finish on floor in the apparatus world cups. This changes the team average by a grand total of .003 because while the scores drop on bars and beam, Ferrari’s score is still counting on every event, and the total rises dramatically on floor.
7. FRANCE – 161.712
De Jesus Dos Santos 13.700 13.975 13.564 13.625
Carolann Heduit 14.080 12.964 12.973 12.773
Marine Boyer 13.810 12.954 12.719 12.679
Aline Friess 14.800 13.750 12.488 12.625
161.712 42.690 (5)
40.689 (9)
39.526 (6)
39.077 (9)
France has the potential to be a lot better than this average score, but it’s dependent on the team being not just Melanie. Most importantly, Heduit needs to bring a hit on bars and Boyer would need to get beam going. Boyer has a lot of misses on beam this year, and she’ll need to arrive in Tokyo competing like the 2016 4th-place beam finisher for France to meet its team score potential. At times this quad, France has looked like the 4th-best team in the world, though that was also with Charpy.
8. CANADA – 161.119
Ellie Black 14.440 14.070 14.070 12.980
Ava Stewart 13.580 13.940 13.430 12.910
Shallon Olsen 14.413 11.500 12.183 12.100
Brooklyn Moors 13.750 10.600 12.383 13.233
161.119 42.603 (6)
39.510 (10)
39.883 (5)
39.123 (8)
Like many of the countries, Canada has a secret weapon for improving on these average scores, which in this case is called not counting an 11 on bars. This Canadian squad is certainly capable of advancing to the team final, but it’s going to be dependent on Olsen and Moors bringing countable scores on their “other” events. Olsen is there for vault and Moors is there for floor, but team success will hinge on at least one of them bringing a bars and a beam as well.
9. BELGIUM – 160.379
Nina Derwael 13.350 14.817 13.565 13.483
Jutta Verkest 13.403 12.562 12.063 12.715
Maellyse Brassart 14.000 13.375 13.138 12.450
Lisa Vaelen 13.733 12.775 12.350 13.025
160.379 41.136 (10)
40.967 (5)
39.053 (9)
39.223 (7)
Belgium has placed in the 10-12 range as a team every single time over the last two quads, and odds are on that streak continuing in Tokyo, though Belgium does currently rank 9th by average because there’s no disaster score on this slate. Still, Belgium probably is going to be left counting a 12 on most events, which will make it tough to advance to the team final. 
10. GERMANY – 158.676
Kim Bui 13.519 13.840 12.203 13.167
Elisabeth Seitz 13.611 14.157 12.049 12.910
Pauline Schäfer 13.500 13.388 13.150 12.900
Sarah Voss 13.604 12.771 12.227 12.773
158.676 40.734 (11)
41.385 (4)
37.580 (11)
38.977 (10)
Germany will expect to be able to ramp up the vault and beam scores from Voss, the two events she’s on this team to contribute, which would improve the team total, perhaps by a couple points. Having to count a beam score from either Seitz or Bui does, however, limit how high this team can go and will make Germany an outsider in the team final race.
11. NETHERLANDS – 158.332
Eythora Thorsdottir 14.200 13.379 12.775 13.175
Sanne Wevers 0.000 10.554 13.663 0.000
Lieke Wevers 13.565 13.168 12.917 12.755
Vera Van Pol 14.233 12.935 11.647 11.567
158.332 41.998 (8)
39.482 (11)
39.355 (8)
37.497 (12)
A flurry of falls at trials this year did a number on the Dutch averages, but there are some obvious places where this total can improve. The Netherlands will expect a countable score from Sanne Wevers on bars, even if it means chilling on the composition, and Vera Van Pol is going to have to reinforce her selection over Elze Geurts by delivering a strong floor number. Also beam. With Thorsdottir and the Weverses, that should be one of the best rotations in the world. If the Netherlands is actually ranking 8th on beam, this team isn’t advancing.
12. SPAIN – 155.033
Roxana Popa 13.600 12.650 11.800 13.238
Alba Petisco 13.566 12.650 12.300 12.025
Laura Bechdeju 13.566 13.275 12.400 12.425
Marina Gonzalez 13.366 12.675 12.713 12.625
155.033 40.732 (12)
38.600 (12)
37.413 (12)
38.288 (11)
Getting here was the victory, a development no one saw coming with teams like Brazil also in the mix. Given the injuries to Perez and Rodriguez that are keeping them off this squad, there’s really not a clear path for Spain out of 12th place.

Olympic Vault Preview

As we get news of the Dutch gymnastics delegation having a positive test in its midst just two weeks out of Olympic competition (all tests today were negative), I have decided to ignore that and start previewing the competition as if everything is normal.

Phase 1: The vault preview. Why? Because two vaults are required to advance to the event final, vault presents the least deep of the four events with the most predictable slate of contenders. (The beam preview is basically going to be a shrug emoji and we all know it.)

Rules — To both qualify for and participate in the vault final, gymnasts must perform two vaults, each from different groups among the five options (Non-salto, handspring, Tsukahara, Yurchenko, and Yuchenko 1/2). The two vaults cannot feature the same flight, so both vaults cannot be back layout double twisting vaults, even if they are from different groups.

TIER 1

Simone Biles (USA)

Biles enters vault—among others—as the heavy gold medal favorite. Her current plan is not to perform the Yurchenko double pike (6.6 difficulty) in the vault final because no warmup is allowed for event finals and it is not safe. Score another win for the gymnastics brain trust. But even Biles’ “little guy” slate of vaults with the Cheng (6.0) and Amanar (5.8) should tie for the most difficult pair in the vault final, and her superior amplitude, distance, and body position should see her execution score rise well above that of any other contender.

There is the chance that she could also pull out the Biles I (6.4), but since we haven’t actually seen that vault since she fell on it in the world all-around final in 2018, I have a feeling that one has long since been taken to a farm upstate.

TIER II

MyKayla Skinner or Jade Carey (USA)

One of the biggest storylines of the US women’s qualification performance will be which athlete ends up joining Biles as the second and final American competitor in the vault final. Both Skinner and Carey have the same peak difficulty on vault with the Cheng (6.0) and the Amanar (5.8) and are likely to score about the same for them, with Carey perhaps enjoying a slight edge (all else being equal) because of her amplitude.

Carey played things conservatively vault and floor at nationals and trials with her Olympic spot already locked, so we don’t have a great sense of her current level on vault (particularly with the Cheng, which we haven’t seen since February) compared to Skinner, who has been excelling with both vaults at recent meets. When they did perform the same vault on the same day—both doing the Amanar on the first day of trials—Carey scored 15.200 for it compared to Skinner’s 15.133, pointing to a very close race.

They’ll even put some pressure on Biles if all three gymnasts perform the same difficulty, but Biles has such an execution buffer (really should be at least five tenths per vault, if not more) that the threat of Biles missing out shouldn’t come into play the way it did in qualification at 2019 worlds when Biles bounced to Mars for a 0.3 out of bounds deduction.

TIER III

Giulia Steingruber (SUI)

Among those who should also contend for a medal, the defending Olympic bronze medalist owns very comfortable handspring rudi (5.8) with a predictable landing that can be relied on for very high scores that should outshine the other 5.8s in this tier. Her stumbling block has actually tended to be her theoretically easier DTY (5.4), which is what kept her out of the vault final at the last worlds. At this year’s European Championships, however, Steingruber’s DTY looked strong, helping her to an ultimately smooth gold medal finish. If she vaults like that again, she should be considered a frontrunner for the non-US medal.

Continue reading Olympic Vault Preview

Olympic Gymnastics Schedule (US Times)

I’ll keep this in the 2021 Olympics menu at the top.

Screenshots and PDF downloads are available for the one-page qualification schedules.

Men’s Qualification


Women’s Qualification


FINALS

July 26, 6:00am ET/3:00am PT – Men’s Team Final

July 27, 6:45am ET/3:45am PT – Women’s Team Final

July 28, 6:15am ET/3:15am PT – Men’s All-Around Final

July 29, 6:50am ET/3:50am PT – Women’s All-Around Final

August 1, 4:00am ET/1:00am PT – Men’s FX/PH, Women’s VT/UB

August 2, 4:00am ET/1:00am PT – Men’s SR/VT, Women’s FX

August 3, 4:00am ET/1:00am PT – Men’s PB/HB, Women’s BB