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.