Title contenders: Russia, Romania
Fight for bronze: Italy, Germany, France, GB
Prelims were quite something. Russia stank up the place like it was an Olympic Team Final. Four falls and a missed routine on bars, not to mention a shitload of stumbles thrown in too. It wasn’t especially shocking that Russia messed up and Romania took advantage of it. Even the scale of Russia’s bad day and Romania’s total lack of mistakes were not beyond the realms of plausibility. We’ve seen a number of riffs on that theme from both of them before. No, what got everyone was how far ahead Romania were, and how little ground there would be between the two even if everyone hit.
In particular beam and vault: most expected only a few tenths difference on both events, but Romania were over a point ahead on both. Really, the only improvement they could make would be to scratch out a couple more tenths on bars.
The rites are being read everywhere for Mustafina. Terms like “Nabieva” and “Raisman” are being bandied around. Our take – this is kneejerk fuckwittery. The girl has one bad day and everyone who’s always hated her and knew instinctively in 2010 (read: desperately hoped) that this would happen crawls out of the woodwork. It’s a laugh, really.
Now, there’s no doubt she was looking messy:
However, given that she executed both bars and vault nicely in Switzerland not a fortnight ago, we find it hard to believe that she’s entirely lost her ability to straighten her legs since then. Obviously the less said about her twisting form on floor, the better, but then it never stopped Ponor from winning the Olympic title.
What concerned us more was the favoring of the non-dodgy leg. Hopefully Aliya was just playing for sympathy. We anticipate hit vault and bars from her in TF’s on Saturday, and a watered down second pass on floor. Not before time. Just do a straight front out of the damn 2.5. Or take a tip from Jordyn Wieber (and it isn’t often that Stoi! advocates this) and leave it out altogether.
On the upside, Russia delivered two pleasant shocks. The first was that beam rotation; absolutely nobody predicted Grishina, Sidorova and Komova would all hit, especially not when they had to go up first. The second was Komova being the most consistent team member. We didn’t see that coming. Grishina going 3(ish) for 4 was a nice surprise too.
After only one day, we can state with confidence that Vika’s two layout series on beam is one of the highlights of the championships. That and her decision to stick with the curls.
Romania were vintage – in a 2004 way rather than a 1987 way, obviously. Stoi! informed readers after Worlds that they would be back strong in 2012, and so it has come to be. Octavian Belu can never be ruled out in an Olympic year, never. There is only one certainty in gymnastics: he is cannier than you.
It should be noted that they managed their effortless dominance with very little involvement from their reigning Olympic Champion, Sandra Izbasa. She did vault only, and stuck to the DTY and Lopez. Good choice. In theory Romania could bring her in on other events if they need her, given that she warmed everything up in podium training. But the others did so well that she might not actually add that much. Possibly the best way for her to increase the team total would be to do her Mustafina vault. She could replace Bulimar’s 14.2 on floor with something closer to 15, but then Bulimar is more than capable of doing that herself.
Iordache was immense. She was a contender for an Olympic AA medal before, and she remains one now. She got a bit lost during her bars routine, but otherwise didn’t put a foot wrong.
A paragon of consistency since turning senior, we anticipate more of same in TFs. She’s got a lot of lost time to make up for.
There might be one turd in Romania’s water bucket, though.
Stoi! doesn’t wish to throw a dampener on proceedings, but Haidu has never yet got through a major championships without at least one weak bar routine. We would not bet our Olympic video collections on her repeating her solid prelims performance in TF’s. If she does, fair play to her and give her the last Romanian Olympic spot.
Ultimately then, we think the team title will come down to who hits better. Romania have made up a lot of the gap and Russia will now need to hit and hit well to beat them. We identify the following routines as particularly important: Haidu on bars, Komova on beam, and Mustafina on floor. It could all come down to what side of bed Grishina gets out of, whether she’s in 60 or 40 AA mode.
The fight for bronze is also interesting. There are perhaps four contenders, all Western European. France, GB, Italy and Germany will all have come into the tournament hoping for third. Each has a chance.
France perhaps have too many injuries to be serious contenders, but then nobody (including us) saw GB’s scratch team qualifying in third, either. Don’t be fooled by Germany’s relatively low qualification place, either. They had a total meltdown on beam, but were very competitive elsewhere. Jarosch managed to perform a beam routine relatively unphased even when the lights went dead on that side of the arena. The venerable Oksana Chusovitina has dropped hints about (finally) retiring after London: if so, she’d no doubt love to lead her team to their first ever European team medal.
Here is the startlist for tomorrow’s team finals :
Unlucky Russia starts on beam (again). If they can come out of this having hit beam in the first rotation twice, they’ll have got something positive from the experience. And it does mean that they’ll be finishing strongly, too. But Romania and GB definitely have better draws.
As with gold, the battle for bronze will be won by whoever makes fewest mistakes: this is not going to be an effortless dominance scenario. Italy were our bets going in, and we think they’ll just pip it. We love this newfound GB consistency, though. This lot are something of a scratch team and only one of them, Hannah Whelan, is a genuine lock for London. The rest all have something to prove. This is the best opportunity they’ll get to do so. Don’t be shocked if they continue in the same vein.
1. Romania, because Russia count one more fall than them.
– Clara & Bronwyn