The All Around Finalists


The all-around gold medal is the most coveted individual gymnastics achievement. When people refer to the champion, they mean the all-around champion. This Olympic year has an EXCITING all-around competition in store! Most years in women’s gymnastics there is a battle between two, maybe three gymnasts for the gold medal. This year, that is not the case. This all-around final will have five gymnasts who could win the gold medal.

There are twenty- four gymnasts in all who qualified into the All-Around finals. Here are the top five who will be vying for the podium. Who will end up on top is anyone’s guess. Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be a wild ride!

Viktoria Komova (60.632/25.7 Qualification)

After losing the gold to Jordyn Wieber last year by the smallest of margins, Viktoria comes into these Olympics ready to do battle – and win.  Her slight form hides the incredible power underneath. She dances like a ballerina, vaults with power and grace, swings bars like she was meant to live life in the trees and tumbles on the beam as if she was light as a feather.

Viktoria debuted her amanar for the first time in her senior career during qualifications. Adding that to her arsenal along with one of the most difficult, perfectly executed bar routines in the world right now gave her the edge she needed to qualify in first. Her beam and floor routines are both exquisite, but not very consistent. She tends to either hit or miss on beam and is often plagued with low landings on floor.  She will have to bring her best to keep her place at the top of the podium.

Alexandra Raisman (60.391/25.3 Qualification)

Aly is known to be one of the most calm, consistent competitors there is. Long overshadowed by higher scoring teammates, Aly shocked the world and herself by qualifying in as the top American. She comes in with the highest difficulty and most consistency on vault, beam and floor. However, her lower difficulty on bars, along with her poor form on this even is what keeps her from the top of the podium. She was fourth at last years world championships with a horrible mistake on bars.

Aly did the best vault of her career in qualifications, cleaning up her form issues and landing with just a small hop.  She did the best bars routine she has ever done by far during podium training, seemingly to finally overcome her form breaks.  She is generally rock solid on beam, and has scored the highest floor scores in both the team and qualifications.  Overall, Aly does not have high enough difficulty to win gold without mistakes from both Gabby and Viktoria. But her rock solid, consistent performances make her a gymnast you should not count out. After all, as we have seen, anything can happen in the pressure of the Olympic spotlight.

Gabrielle Douglas, USA (60.265/25.3 Qualification)

Gabrielle, or Gabby, has been a rising star this year. Last year, she was known for her high flying bar routine, but her mental game was just not strong enough for her to be an all-around threat. This all changed when she came roaring out of the gate as an exhibitionist at the AT&T American cup. She unofficially (her scores did not count as an alternate) ran away with the gold. Since then, Gabby has been inching away at Jordyn Wieber’s lead in every meet until she finally overtook her by .1 at the Olympic Trials.

Gabby comes in with one of the highest potential start values of the group. She has the physical ability to blow away the competition. What remains to be seen is if she can continue improving her mental game and hit the routines when they count. She qualified in third because of a large error on floor. However, she hit four for four during team finals, and her All-Around score there would have easily won the title.  If everyone brings out their best and they all hit, Gabby most likely wins. She will have to keep control of her nerves to stand on top of the podium.

Aliya Mustafina RUS (59.966/24.7 Qualification)

In 2010, Aliya was a star. In fact, it seemed she was on her way to becoming one of the gymnastics greats. Had we ever seen someone who could vault with the power and amplitude she attained and dance like a prima ballerina on floor? Someone who’s beautiful swing on bars was only outdone by her lightness and sureness on beam. Aliya won the all-around. She led the Russian team to gold. She qualified in EVERY event finals and placed on the podium in all but beam, where she had her only mistake of the entire competition. She looked unstoppable.

Unfortunately, an injury has put a serious roadblock in her path to glory. In 2011, she tore her ACL at the European Championships while performing her famous amanar. Her recovery has been difficult. She has grown and is still not used to her new body. But she has continued to train hard.

Aliya has yet to show the level of gymnastics and performance she attained in 2010 this year. She is not competing with the level of difficulty she formerly attained.  But Aliya has a competitive drive, a fierceness and focus on the competition floor like few others. She has that undefinable quality and mental drive that propels her to the front. Her team loss will only drive her more. I would not be surprised at all if she ends up on the podium.

Larisa Iordache (57.8/24 Qualification)

Larisa’s junior showings made her highly anticipated as the Romanian all-around contender at the Olympics.  She has a charming floor routine, one of the most difficult beam routines being performed at the Olympics, a solid vault and a very decent bar routine.  Her achilles heel at these Olympics has in fact been her heel. She has plantar faciitis in her left heel and has not been able to put in a great deal of training over the past week.

This has definitely shown in bother her qualification and team performances. She has not been on her game. Hopefully the additional days of rest and training will allow her to continue on the trajectory she has been on her entire career – a place on the Olympic All-Around podium.

In addition, Deng Linlin from China qualified into the top group. This group will all compete together, starting on vault.  It should be noted that Larissa did not qualify in this group and will start on bars. Once again, we all want these women to go out and have incredible, hit competitions!

 

 

 

 

Everything You Need to Know for Women’s Team Finals


Tomorrow is the day, the long awaited Women’s Team Final! Twelve countries qualified into the Olympics and now eight will move on to compete in the finals. Four of these countries will fight to be on the podium. The other four fought to get in the finals and are ecstatic for the opportunity to compete.

First, the details.

  • You can watch the team finals live on NBCOlympics.com at 11:30 EST or on Prime Time NBC tomorrow night.
  • Each team brings five gymnasts and puts up three gymnasts on each event. All three scores from each event count and will be added up to determine the final score.
  • The top two scoring teams start on vault, the third and fourth on bars, fifth and sixth on beam and seventh and eighth on floor, allowing you to most easily compare.

Now the Qualifiers.

Photo Credit USA Gymnastics

The USA had a strong performance in the qualifying round and qualified in first with a 181.863. They scored 1.4 higher than the second place team. In the world of gymnastics, that is a strong lead. They had a wonderful competition and really stood out on vault, their strongest event. There is room however for an even stronger performance as they had some minor mistakes on every event.

Photo By MIKE BLAKE/REUTERS

Russia qualified in second with a 180.429. They had a great day. Their bars is just a beautiful thing to watch and they did not disappoint! Their biggest area for improvement is Aliya Mustafina who, if rumors are true, will be competing her amanar. She has yet to compete this or even show it in training since tearing her ACL on the vault last year. She also had a number of errors in her beam routine that could be cleaned up. Russia is a fierce competitor with beautiful gymnastics and they will come on strong. Don’t let the gap in qualifications fool you. They can challenge the USA.

China qualified in third with a 176.637. China also had a shining bars performance, but had some problems on beam and floor. They also don’t have the difficulty on vault to keep up. They can definitely do better than they did, but it is unlikely that they can challenge for the gold.

Romania qualified in fourth with a 176.264. Romania definitely did not have their best day. A team that is known for decades for their consistent, hit performances had a number or missed routines. Mostly, because their star Larisa Iordache has been battling an injury this week and did not perform to her usual standard. Catalina Ponor also had very uncharacteristic mistakes. Neither Larisa nor Sandra Izbasa threw the more difficult vaults they have been training. It is unlikely that Romania will have another dismal performance. They are competitors and champions with decades of history of coming through in Olympic Finals. With a few more days or recovery for Larisa, a regular day of performance for Catalina, and all the vault difficulty being thrown, Romania will be right there in the battle for the gold.

The other four teams six or more points behind Romania – Britain, Japan, Italy and Canada. But all of them fought hard to make it to team finals and are ecstatic for the chance to compete in the Team Finals. None more so than Britain, who will have the opportunity to bring down the house in their home crowd.

Though Romania and Russia can bring on the heat, this really is the USA’s to loose. It should be a great team finals, with a lot of incredible gymnastics!

Women’s Qualification Competition Order


And it is almost time for qualifications to begin! In just a few short hours, all of our questions will begin to be answered. Each team has selected which gymnasts will compete on each apparatus and set the order they will compete in.

A few things of interest.

Romania: Larissa Iordache is set to compete in every event, allowing her to qualify for the all-around. Diana Chelaru is not, giving Romania only two chances to qualify.

Russia: Maria Paseka, who I didn’t think would be even competing on bars will be anchoring the Russian bars rotation. Usually you save the best for last. This seems to be a strange move. Also, Aliya Mustafina is set to go after Viktoria Komova on vault. This seems to suggest that she might indeed compete an amanar.

China: China seems to be building their rotations to give their all-arounders the highest scores possible. They are putting them up last, even on events with specialists who would likely score higher.

USA: USA builds from strong to strongest in every place except the lead off on beam. Kyla generally scores higher than Gabby Douglas, but Kyla is a more consistent beam worker, giving the USA the start they want on beam.

Here are the Start Lists!

In Subdivision 1 and 2 which livestreams at 4:20am EST you have:

Brazil

Italy

Australia

In Subdivision 3 which livestreams at 9:30am EST you have:

Great Britain

Canada

USA

France

In subdivision 4 livestreaming immediately following 3 you have

China

Russia

Germany

In Subdivision 5 which livestreams at 2:50 EST you have:

Japan


Romania

 

For the whole list go here:

Women’s Qualification – Olympic Gymnastics – Artistic | London 2012.

Names to Know: USA Team


This American generation is incredibly strong and the five member team is made up of young gymnasts. However, they all have a lot of international experience and four of the five were part of last years World Championship team.  This team of rookies took Worlds by storm. Even with the last minute loss of their team leader, they had one of the most dominate performances in a long time, hitting every single routine in prelims and in team finals. All but one of the 2008 team made a run for this Olympics, but with the strength and depth of these young gymnasts, were not able to make the team. Follow the link for a more in depth write up on each gymnast.

Jordyn WieberJordyn is in her second season as a senior and is the current World Champion. She competes some of the most difficult skills in the world with dynamic precision and impeccable form. Her weakest event is bars, if you can call an event where you make world finals weak. Jordyn is mentally tough and focused. Her biggest challenge this year will be the pressure of being the one everyone is trying to beat. She will compete all-around in Prelims and Team Finals and will be looking to win the all-around gold. She might make a few event finals as well.

Gabrielle DouglasGabby is also in her second year as a senior. She is phenomenal on bars. She SWINGS bars with incredible fluidity, beautiful lines and high flying tricks. Gabby was a bit unpredictable on the other events last year, but really came into her own this year, upgrading on every event, and competing with a new confidence and poise. She capped off the season by winning the Olympic Trials. Gabby will compete all-around in Prelims and will be looking to win the all around gold. She will definitely be competing bars in the Team Finals, and the other events will most likely be decided depending on how Prelims go.

Alexandra RaismanAly is in her third season as a senior and is our USA rock. She is so steady and comes through with performances that look just like she practices. She is phenomenal on floor and great on vault and beam. Bars is her nemesis and keeps her from fighting for the gold. Aly continues to improve her form and has some major upgrades on floor- doing some of the most difficult tumbling in the world. She will do all around in the prelims and will most likely be used on beam and floor in Team Finals and possibly vault. Aly will also be looking to challenge for a gold on floor.

McKayla MaroneyMcKayla is another second year senior and is the current World Vault Champion. She does the infamous amanar with such ease, grace and an explosion of power, it is in a class of its own. She also has a beautiful, artistic floor routine with lots of difficulty. However, her landings have been fairly inconsistent.  She is on the team for one reason, vault. She will compete vault and floor in Prelims and will be looking to win the vault gold. She will compete vault in Team Finals and floor will most likely depend on how Prelims goes.

Kyla RossKyla comes into her senior year as the Jr. National Champion. She was  a top all arounder and particularly shines on bars and beam. She is also great on vault. Though Kyla can hold her own in the all-around and on vault in most places, she comes in fourth in the all around and fifth on vault on this team. She will be competing bars and beam in the Prelims and undoubtedly in the Team Finals. She will be hoping to qualify for event finals on those two events as well.

All Athlete Pictures Credit: Harry How/Getty Images

Video

Getting Your Tear Ducts Warmed Up


My Favorite Olympic Commercial Yet. Getting you ready for all the NBC Fluff.

Being a mom is the hardest job in the world. But it’s also the best.

This Procter & Gamble commercial honors everything that all moms do to help their children succeed by showcasing the amazing moms behind Olympic athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The hardest job in the world is truly the best job in the world.

Format and Scoring for Women’s Gymnastics


I’m still confused by the scoring system!

Many people are. Here’s how it works.

  • First you have the D Score– D is for difficulty. The judges add up the value of the elements done in the routine. This includes basic requirements, the value of the skills in their routine and bonus points for connecting skills together. The D scores tend to be between 5.5 and 6.5 (ish) at the Olympic level. Of course you have some lower and some higher.
  • Then there’s the E score– E is for execution. This is like the perfect 10 of old. You start at a 10 and are deducted for mistakes. These deductions are larger than they used to be, so this is why these scores are much lower than they used to be.
  • Then you add the two together and get your final score.

What’s the format of the competition?

Things will kick off on Sunday with Qualifications. As the title implies, this round of competition qualifies gymnasts and teams on finals. This year only five members are allowed on each Olympic gymnastics team. Four of those five members will compete on each event, and the scores obtained at prelims will qualify them on for the rest of the competitions.

Team Qualifications

Twelve teams have qualified to compete at the Olympics from either last year’s World Championships or the 2012 London Test Event. Each 5 member team will put up four gymnasts on each event and the top three scores will count. Those teams are:

Team Finals

The top eight teams from qualifications will advance on the team finals on Tuesday. In the team finals, each team will put up three gymnasts and all three scores will count (often referred to as 3-up 3-count). Here’s more on the contenders.

All-Around Finals

The top 24 gymnasts will advance on to the finals with the exception that only two gymnasts per country can advance on. The finals will be on Thursday 8/2. Here’s more on the medal hopefuls!

Event Finals

The top eight from each apparatus will qualify into the Event Finals held next Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Once again, only two gymnasts per country are allowed on to each of the individual competitions. Follow the link for the hopefuls on each event: Vault, Bars, Beam and Floor.

Live Stream and TV Schedule


On NBC Prime Time

Men’s and Women’s Qualifications, Team Finals, All-Around Final and Event Finals will all be on NBC Prime Time. Tune in every evening starting with Men’s Qualifications on Saturday the 28th and each evening after through Thursday the 2nd for the Women’s All-Around Finals. Women’s events will be Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.  Then we pick back up next Sunday the 5th-Tuesday the 7th for Event Finals.

LIVE!

This year NBC will be live streaming every Olympic competition on NBCOlympics.com if you have a qualified cable subscription. It is VERY important to verify your sign in before things get started! Do that here.

Not only can you watch it live, you can choose which event stream to watch and catch every routine you want to see! For instance, follow the USA from event to event and never miss a routine. Or just watch beam. Of course, you can watch the main feed as well. Or you can do what I will probably do. Get all feeds going and channel hop.

USA Women

USA Men

Event Finals

Olympic Women’s Gymnastics for Dummies


Many gymnastics fans (I was one of them!) only watch gymnastics on an Olympic year. It makes sense. Gymnastics is hard to find on TV. But now, thanks to social media and the internet, gymnastics is easier than ever to follow. So, if you are just rejoining the elite gymnastics world, rejoice! It will be much easier to follow gymnastics! In the meantime, here are some things to help you catch up.

I’m still confused by the scoring system!

Many people are. Here’s how it works.

  • First you have the D Score– D is for difficulty. The judges add up the value of the elements done in the routine. This includes basic requirements, the value of the skills in their routine and bonus points for connecting skills together. The D scores tend to be between 5.5 and 6.5 (ish) at the Olympic level. Of course you have some lower and some higher.
  • Then there’s the E score– E is for execution. This is like the perfect 10 of old. You start at a 10 and are deducted for mistakes. These deductions are larger than they used to be, so this is why these scores are much lower than they used to be.
  • Then you add the two together and get your final score.

How will the Olympics Work?

Things will kick off on Sunday with Prelims. This year only five members are allowed on each Olympic gymnastics team. Four of those five members will compete on each event, and the scores obtained at prelims will qualify them on for the rest of the competitions. These are team finals (Tuesday), all-around finals (Thursday) and event finals (Next Sunday, Monday and Tuesday). Only two gymnasts per country are allowed on to each of the individual competitions.

When Can I See Gymnastics?

This year NBC will be live streaming every Olympic competition on NBCOlympics.com if you have a qualified cable subscription. It is VERY important to verify your sign in before things get started! Do that here. Not only can you watch it live, you can choose which event stream to watch and catch every routine you want to see! USA Prelims will be at 9:45am EST on Sunday, Team Finals 11:30am EST on Tuesday and All-Around Finals at 11:30am EST on Thursday. All events will be on Prime Time that evening on NBC.

What are our chances in London?

The US won the 2011 World Championships by a huge margin. We have incredible depth in the all around as well as a large advantage on vault. There’s this magical vault called the Amanar that has an extra 1/2 twist than the vault most gymnasts are competing. It adds .7 to the start value (the D Score of vault). Most countries are struggling to have any gymnasts that can currently perform the vault. The US will perform an amanar for every vault counted during the Olympics.  That ends up being a 2.1 advantage over most other countries in Team Finals if they aren’t able to put up Amanars. But there are a lot of Amanar rumors going on from other countries. In addition, the US has been weak on bars. The US has great chances. But the competition will be fierce this year.

Who is our team competition?

For a deeper run down, check out my post Who’s Who in 2012: The Team Contenders.

Russia was incredibly strong in 2010. The USA dominated in 2011. Russia’s amazingly fierce and talented Aliya Mustifani was out last year and their other top gymnast was not at her peak. With both of them back, plus a strong new senior there is every expectation that they can bring a battle for gold. Romania has come from behind and is putting the pressure on. They beat Russia at the European Championships this year and just keep getting better. China continues to be strong. Not as strong as they looked in Beijing, but they still factor in to the mix.

Check out these posts if you are interested in Who’s Who in the all-around or on vault, bars, beam or floor.

Who are the USA’s gymnasts?

This American generation is incredibly strong and the five member team is made up of young gymnasts. However, they all have a lot of international experience and four of the five were part of last years World Championship team.  This team of rookies took Worlds by storm. Even with the last minute loss of their team leader, they had one of the most dominate performances in a long time, hitting every single routine in prelims and in team finals. All but one of the 2008 team made a run for this Olympics, but with the strength and depth of these young gymnasts, were not able to make the team. Follow the link for a more in depth write up on each gymnast.

Jordyn WieberJordyn is in her second season as a senior and is the current World Champion. She competes some of the most difficult skills in the world with dynamic precision and impeccable form. Her weakest event is bars, if you can call an event where you make world finals weak. Jordyn is mentally tough and focused. Her biggest challenge this year will be the pressure of being the one everyone is trying to beat. She will compete all-around in Prelims and Team Finals and will be looking to win the all-around gold. She might make a few event finals as well.

Gabrielle DouglasGabby is also in her second year as a senior. She is phenomenal on bars. She SWINGS bars with incredible fluidity, beautiful lines and high flying tricks. Gabby was a bit unpredictable on the other events last year, but really came into her own this year, upgrading on every event, and competing with a new confidence and poise. She capped off the season by winning the Olympic Trials. Gabby will compete all-around in Prelims and will be looking to win the all around gold. She will definitely be competing bars in the Team Finals, and the other events will most likely be decided depending on how Prelims go.

Alexandra RaismanAly is in her third season as a senior and is our USA rock. She is so steady and comes through with performances that look just like she practices. She is phenomenal on floor and great on vault and beam. Bars is her nemesis and keeps her from fighting for the gold. Aly continues to improve her form and has some major upgrades on floor- doing some of the most difficult tumbling in the world. She will do all around in the prelims and will most likely be used on beam and floor in Team Finals and possibly vault. Aly will also be looking to challenge for a gold on floor.

McKayla MaroneyMcKayla is another second year senior and is the current World Vault Champion. She does the infamous amanar with such ease, grace and an explosion of power, it is in a class of its own. She also has a beautiful, artistic floor routine with lots of difficulty. However, her landings have been fairly inconsistent.  She is on the team for one reason, vault. She will compete vault and floor in Prelims and will be looking to win the vault gold. She will compete vault in Team Finals and floor will most likely depend on how Prelims goes.

Kyla RossKyla comes into her senior year as a two time Jr. National Champion. She particularly shines on bars and beam but is also great on vault. Though Kyla can hold her own in the all-around and on vault in most places, she comes in fourth in the all around and fifth on vault on this team. She will be competing bars and beam in the Prelims and undoubtedly in the Team Finals. She will be hoping to qualify for event finals on those two events as well.

All Athlete Pictures Credit: Harry How/Getty Images

This year could be one of the most exciting years in gymnastics history. Make sure and tune in!

Who’s Who in 2012: The All-Arounders


All-Around Champions Beijing, 2008. AP Photo

The all-around gold medal is the most coveted individual gymnastics achievement. When people refer to the champion, they mean the all-around champion. This Olympic year has an EXCITING all-around competition in store! Most years in women’s gymnastics there is a battle between two, maybe three gymnasts for the gold medal. This year, that is not the case. This all-around final will have five gymnasts who could win the gold medal. Who will end up on top is anyone’s guess. Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be a wild ride!

Here are the contenders, in the order that they have “placed” based on their final meets of the season. These are the all around scores and start values they posted most recently (as best as I can find). Just remember, these scores were given in different countries under different judging panels at different points in the season. They give us an idea, but by no means are they reason to think anyone has this wrapped up.

Gabrielle Douglas, USA (62.050: Olympic Trials)

Gabrielle, or Gabby, has been a rising star this year. Last year, she was known for her high flying bar routine, but her mental game was just not strong enough for her to be an all-around threat. This all changed when she came roaring out of the gate as an exhibitionist at the AT&T American cup. She unofficially (her scores did not count as an alternate) ran away with the gold. Since then, Gabby has been inching away at Jordyn Wieber’s lead in every meet until she finally overtook her by .1 at the Olympic Trials.

Gabby comes in with one of the highest potential start values of the group. She has the physical ability to blow away the competition. What remains to be seen is if she can continue improving her mental game and hit the routines when they count. If everyone brings out their best and they all hit, Gabby most likely wins. However, Gabby has yet to really hit four for four in a competition. Is it likely that she can do it for the first time in the pressure packed Olympic All-Around Finals?

Jordyn Wieber, USA (61.650: Olympic Trials)

Jordyn is the current world champion. Though last year’s win speaks volumes for her gymnastics and competitive abilities, history is not on her side. Not since Lilia Podkopayeva has anyone won an Olympic all-around title the year after winning a World championship all-around title. Before her, it hadn’t been done since 1972. In other words, in the ever-changing world of gymnastics, back to back titles are rare.

Jordyn comes in with one of the lower theoretical start values of the group, but with the second highest actual all-around score. Jordyn is a focused, fierce competitor. She always seems to know how to put in just enough to pull out the win. Though she might have lower start values, her consistency and execution can easily put her on top.

Larisa Iordache (60.850: Romanian Friendly)

Larisa made her senior debut this year at the AT&T American Cup. Her junior showings made her highly anticipated as the Romanian all-around contender at the Olympics and she has not disappointed. Each meet she goes out and gets better, more consistent and more polished.

Larisa has a charming floor routine, one of if not the most difficult beam routine that will be performed at the Olympics, a solid vault and a very decent bar routine. She has been shown doing Amanars in training videos, which would increase her standings. She competes with a delightful childlike air about her and if she continues on the trajectory she has been on her entire career, she will easily be in the mix for the gold.

Alexandra Raisman (60.650: Olympic Trials)

Aly would most likely NOT be in the All-Around finals due to the two per country rule. However, if something goes wrong with one of the top two US contenders, Aly would swoop in. She was fourth at last years world championships with a horrible mistake on bars. Since then she has upgraded on every event and comes into the games with the fourth highest score. Aly is exceptional on three out of four events. However, bars keeps her from challenging for the top spot. Aly would need someone else to make a mistake to make it into the finals and onto the podium. But her rock solid, consistent performances make her a gymnast you should not count out. After all, anything can happen in the pressure of the Olympic spotlight.

Viktoria Komova (60.767:Russia Cup)

Gymnastics fans all over the world anticipate Viktoria’s entrance to the senior ranks last year. However, an ankle injury prohibited her training for much of the year, and she came into last year’s World Championships looking tired and was not up to performing with the level of difficulty and precision that she showed as a junior. Even so, she battled to the end with Jordyn Wieber and lost the gold by the smallest fraction.

This year, Viktoria has grown and gained in muscle. But her slight form still hides the incredible power underneath. She dances like a ballerina, vaults with power and grace, swings bars like she was meant to live life in the trees and tumbles on the beam as if she was light as a feather. If Viktoria is able to do her amanar vault as is rumored (which she has yet to do as a senior), she will come in with the highest theoretical start value. However, she will have to have a more consistent performance on all events than she has yet shown as a senior. This very well may happen, as injury has kept her from performing at the level she is capable of.

Aliya Mustafina (59.167: Russia Cup)

In 2010, Aliya was a star. In fact, it seemed she was on her way to becoming one of the gymnastics greats. Had we ever seen someone who could vault with the power and amplitude she attained and dance like a prima ballerina on floor? Someone who’s beautiful swing on bars was only outdone by her lightness and sureness on beam. Aliya won the all-around. She led the Russian team to gold. She qualified in EVERY event finals and placed on the podium in all but beam, where she had her only mistake of the entire competition. She looked unstoppable.

Unfortunately, an injury has put a serious roadblock in her path to glory. In 2011, she tore her ACL at the European Championships while performing her famous amanar. Her recovery has been difficult. She has grown. But she has continued to train hard.

Aliya has yet to show the level of gymnastics and performance she attained in 2010 this year.  But Aliya has a competitive drive, a fierceness and focus on the competition floor like few others. She has that undefinable quality and mental drive that propels her to the front. I would not be surprised at all if she ends up on the podium.

Yao Jinnan (58.598- from 2011 World Championships) 

Yao Jinnan placed third behind Jordyn and Viktoria at the 2011 World Championships. But for a fall on beam, she actually would have been first! Yao has not competed a lot this year, so it is hard to ascertain her current standings and level of difficulty. She is a long shot for gold, but it is definitely not out of the question if she hits her routines!

And here is a fun video highlighting these gymnasts and more.


Who’s Who in 2012: The Teams


USA WAG Team. Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

The question I get asked the most often by my friends as we head into the Olympics is “How are the USA’s chances.” My answer, “Currently, it is theirs to lose.” But the key word is currently. Right now, we have one of the deepest, most dominant US teams ever assembled.

The USA comes into the Olympics as the reigning world championship team. Led by reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber, Olympic trials champion Gabby Douglas, two time world team member and world bronze floor champion Aly Raisman, rising star Kyla Ross and 2011 world vault champion McKayla Maroney. The alternates are Elizabeth Price, Sarah Finnegan and Anna Li. They have high difficulty, high scores and most of all, they are very consistent. They rarely fall, or even make major mistakes.

However, the other countries know this, and have been working hard to up their difficulty so that they can challenge for the team gold medal. And history is working against them. No team coming into an Olympic year as the World Champions have won the Olympic team gold since the dominance of the USSR.

The second question, “Is China going to wipe the floor with us?” Well, no. This quad, China has not been dominant. In 2010, Russia showed a brilliant team with lots of future promise. The USA dominated in 2011. And this year, Romania is proving themselves ready for the challenge. The USA’s main competitors are Romania and Russia.

Russia’s team is led by veteran Ksenia Afanasyeva, last year’s silver medalist Viktoria Komova, rising star Anastasia Grishina, 2010 superstar Aliya Mustafina and vault specialist Maria Paseka. Their alternates are Yulia Inshina and Tatiana Nabieva.

Romania’s 2012 European Championship team.

Romania’s team is led by 2004 Olympic team, beam, and floor champion Catalina Ponor, rising star Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar, 2010 world championship silver medalist on floor Diana Chelaru and reigning Olympic floor champion Sandra Izbasa. The alternate is Raluca Haidu.

China’s Team (plus alternates)

China’s 2011 bronze world championship medalist Yao Jinnan, 2008 Olympic team gold medalist Deng Linlin, 2011 world champion bronze medalist on bars Huang Qiushuang, 2011 world champion on beam and silver medalist on floor Sui Lu and reigning Olympic bars and team champion He Kexin may challenge for a bronze. The alternates are Jiang Yuyuan, Tan Sixin.

To give you a picture, here are the current scores and start values from the last meet each team competed at (USA Olympic Trials, Romanian Friendly, Russia Cup and Chinese Nationals). I almost gave up doing this, as the comparisons are hardly even worth making. These scores were obtained under different judges, at very different times in this last season. China’s were from the beginning of May and were never reported officially. These were obtained from a fan site. Some of the people placed on the team didn’t actually even compete. So please know, this is a very loose “guestimate” and PROVES nothing. But it gives us an inkling of an idea.

USA
Vault 16.15 16 15.8 47.95 6.5 6.5 6.5 19.5
Bars 15.9 15.65 15.35 46.9 6.5 6.4 6.4 19.3
Beam 15.4 15.05 14.9 45.35 6.4 6.3 5.9 18.6
Floor 15.5 15.6 15.3 46.4 6.5 6.2 6 18.7
Total 186.6 76.1
Romania
Vault 15.05 15 15.1 45.15 5.8 5.8 5.8 17.4
Bars 14.55 14.1 13.95 42.6 6.1 5.7 5.8 17.6
Beam 15.95 15.7 15.4 47.05 6.7 6.4 6.2 19.3
Floor 15.3 15.1 15 45.4 6.3 6.2 6.1 18.6
Total 180.2 72.9
Russia
Vault 15.2 15.067 15.8 46.067 5.8 5.8 5.8 17.4
Bars 15.2 16.2 15.867 47.267 7 7 6.8 20.8
Beam 15.067 14.7 14.3 44.067 6.3 6.1 6 18.4
Floor 14.3 14.133 14.267 42.7 5.9 5.8 6.1 17.8
Total 180.101 74.4
China
Vault 14.5 14.1 13.8 42.4 5.8 5.8 5.8 17.4
Bars 15.65 13.85 13.5 43 7.1 6.5 6.2 19.8
Beam 14.35 13.85 13.65 41.85 5.7 5.6 6.2 17.5
Floor 14.15 14 13.75 41.9 5.5 5.7 5.4 16.6
Total 169.15 71.3

Looking at these scores, it is easy to see why for much of the spring, people only talked about who would challenge for silver. USA gold seemed basically locked up. But as we have gotten closer, the other countries are making their bid. A huge part of the US lead is based on competing three amanars, a vault with one of the highest difficulty rating. These vaults alone give the USA a 2.1 lead over most teams.

Lately, amanar rumors abound. Russia has one girl who competed one last month (Paseka) and there are training videos of Komova completing an amanar (first five seconds of this video). Here is what Valentina Rodionenko from Sovietsky Sport had to say (according to a translation from Rewriting Russian Gymnastics)

Currently, Maria Paseka performs this vault excellently. She was named to the team thanks to her vault. Vika Komova performs it in training. Aliya, who got seriously injured when performing this vault, will perform it in London. Of course, it’s possible not to run risks and perform 2 twists. But we think we have to run the risk, it’s justified”

Russia is not the only one with amanar rumors. There is a video of Larisa Iordache training an amanar and rumors have Izbasa and possibly even Ponor competing one too. China’s Huang Qiushuang also has a video making the youtube rounds of her amanar.

If these rumors all come to fruition, this would raise Russia’s difficulty to .4 AHEAD of the USA and would raise Romania’s difficulty to trailing the USA by .6 instead of almost 3 points. I will be honest. I WANT these teams to come in with clean, safe amanars. I have been looking forward to a three or four way show down for gold for YEARS. Ever since Russia dominated in 2012 and Romania brought back their old coach Octavian Belu I have been gleefully anticipating one of the best team and all around competitions in gymnastics history. The thought of a repeat of last years Worlds, where the USA won by over four points is actually not appealing to me. Yes, I am a US fan. But more so, I am a gymnastics fan and I want to see great gymnastics!

But if I have learned anything this year watching the US team come together, it is that what IS is what WILL BE. I named the current US Olympic team months ago, but anxiously awaited Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Chellsie Memmel and Rebecca Bross to show performances that matched their former glory. Training rumors and even videos abound with promises of what was to come. But it never materialized. And in the end, the gymnastics that I saw all spring was what won the day.

I am so hoping that in the end, it will be a battle to the last tenth. We will all be sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering what the final placings will be. That everyone will hit and beautiful and difficult gymnastics will take our breath away. But in the end, I think the USA will take the gold.

I have never seen a team so full of calm, confident, consistent competitors. I boldly predict that it will be USA, Romania and Russia. But I hope that the competition is very, very close.