LOCKS: Beth Tweddle, Hannah Whelan
PROBABLE: Danusia Francis, Jenni Pinches
OTHER CONTENDERS: Becky Downie, Imogen Cairns, Rebecca Tunney, Niamh Rippin, Nicole Hibbert, Laura Edwards
Strengths: bars, floor, experience
Weakness: staying on beam, very heavily reliant on their star player
As has been the case for a decade now, Tweddle is a lock. The idea of a British team without her is like a Ukrainian one with no dodgy bangs- impossible. Although Mother Russia have raised their game, we think she remains the marginal favourite for the bars title. If so, she’ll complete a whole quad sweep on the event, the first since Khorkina to do so. She was a bit off in finals at Doha, but scored 15.9 in prelims, complete with double double. Here she is in the final, fucking up a bit for a still high 15.175.
Lower limbs permitting, Beth will also do floor. It took the rest of the world about 18 months to catch up with her on the event this quad, but it’s well and truly happened now. However, it’s possible that a few leading floor workers will be missing: there’s no guarantee we’ll see Izbasa, Mustafina or Afanasyeva, for example. If so, Beth’s now standard 14.5ish might be enough for a medal. It isn’t worlds, so she shouldn’t be constrained by her usual rule about not hitting both her events in prelims.
Beth is the only realistic British individual medal prospect- the others are long shots. The team will be hoping to take bronze- another silver would probably be too much to ask, given that they’re not at home and the Romanians won’t have had to drive across Europe because of a volcano this time (hopefully). Italy, France and Germany are also likely to have their eyes on finishing third, so watch it be a Western Europe smackfest. GB are probably maxing out at three medals, and it could feasibly be as few as one, but there are a few EF prospects there.
Tweddle’s Liverpool teammate Hannah Whelan, GB’s second most successful AAer ever, is the other lock for the team. Beam is her strongest event but she has yet to make a major final. This might be her opportunity.
Team GB’s other decent beamer is Danusia Francis. Yes, we also thought it was illegal for them to have more than one at once. The third beamer in TFs will actually have to fuck up pretty badly to neutralise the high scores these two can bring in, but GB have the pedigree. We all remember 2010 worlds. Rebecca Tunney at Scam was just one in a long line. Most British beam rotations have at least one routine which only barely outscores that effort. I was there for TFs Birmingham, and still remember the feeling of utter astonishment when none of them fell off.
While we’re on the subject, Tunney is a new senior. She didn’t have a very good time at Scam, but it’s worth noting that she could’ve finished 6th had she stayed on beam, and she had a reasonable outing at the test event. This fairly messy routine, from the test event, might squeeze her it EFs if she does it in prelims here.
Nice swing, shame about the form. Not the prettiest gymnast to watch, but she has some big D scores and, like any new senior in the running for the Olympics, needs as much competitive experience as possible. If she could just tidy things up a bit, this could be a 15 routine. As it is, she looks very unpolished.
If we’re honest, we don’t really know where the rest of the contenders are up to. Veteran wise, Downie and Hibbert are still rehabbing injuries- the latter had to sit out Tokyo entirely, the former’s participation was very limited. Downie has been a strong second fiddle to Beth in her time, and a GB team with both her and Whelan at full throttle would be very strong. Her Twitter suggests she’s finding training a bit hard at the moment, though. Imogen Cairns usually peaks later in the year, but if she makes the team she should contend for vault and floor finals. Niamh Rippin is a floor specialist, having scored a useful 14.4 at 2010 Euros. She, Tweddle and Tunney would likely be the highest scoring TF lineup on floor, but the last two are probably going for the same spot- including both of them would leave a big hole on beam. Jenni Pinches always seems to be in the running for big teams, but has yet to really live up to the hype as a senior.
Trials are in the next week or two, we hear. And the team for the tri-meet with Russia and Switzerland has been announced: Downie, Cairns, Rippin, Edwards, Hunt and Simm. It would appear that they’re going for the final 1-2 spots on the team, assuming that Tweddle, Whelan, Francis and to a lesser extent Pinches are unofficially selected already. Any other news gratefully received.
LIKELY OUTCOME: 3rd or 4th placed team. No individual medals for anyone other than Tweddle, 4-5 EF berths, a top 8 finisher in the unofficial AA.