MEDAL CONTENDERS: Russia, US, Romania, China
OTHER TF POSSIBILITIES: Great Britain, Japan, Australia, Italy, Germany, Canada
It feels deliriously exciting to be able to write this post title. Since the collapse of the USSR, the Olympic team title has become The Big One in the sport. and now it is upon us!
As Stoi! has already discussed, there is a clearly demarcated line between the top 4 teams and the rest. We are not going to see a medal from outside this group, or even a medal contender. Rare as that was even before the open ended system, in major global competition it is now effectively impossible. Therefore our medallists will be 3 of the US, China, Romania and Russia.
The Americans are the clear favourites going in. Their preparation has been assisted by a less gruelling selection process than usual: not only have the 5 team members been pretty obvious and indisputable for several months now, but Marta was obliged against her wishes to name the team and alternates at the end of Trials, rather than being able to hold another pointless and dangerous selection camp as per her preference. So in theory, the athletes should be less mentally and physically drained than they normally are by competition time.
Obviously, Maroney’s injury rather flies in the face of this. However, at the moment the other four appear to be fine. For a US team to have only one last minute injury, particularly one that doesn’t prevent the athlete concerned from participating, is actually something pretty special. Fortunately, they’ve had the sense to completely abandon the other three events for her. She did vault and vault only in podium training, and this is all she’ll do throughout the Games. Good.
The US seem to have had a decent podium training. Vault didn’t go quite as well as it should, but they’ll stand up three Amanars.
Maroney’s is, understandably, not up to her usual standard, but that’s still a 15.7 vault. It will be interesting to see whether they go with Raisman’s hideously messy and often underrotated but more likely to be landed effort, or Gabby’s prettier but less consistent vault.
We were surprised how laboured Wieber looked on bars, though. A bit more so than usual.
The other two TFers were clean, though, and should be well into the 15s. Raisman, bizarrely, has improved a bit. There might only be a tenth or two between hers and Jordyn’s prelim scores.
Romania have suffered a severe blow due to Larisa Iordache’s plascar fantitis. Initially, Mariana Bitang said she’d only do bars and possibly beam because of it. Well, by the sound of things, she rocked beam in podium training. And she did an FTY and dance through complete with some leaps yesterday, indicating that it isn’t a done deal by any means.
So, if you’ll forgive us a touch of cynicism, we wonder if some of this is mind games. Belu is no stranger to that, after all. Monica Rosu has been quoted in the Romanian media as saying that they might have to bring Haidu in.
Bollocks. That’s about as likely as Bronwyn lining up for them. Which is even less likely than it would be given that she’s gone boating this weekend (all the nice girls love a sailor).
No, Iordache will compete, and will do two events at a minimum, not maximum. It may be worth noting that the condition Larisa suffers from is incredibly variable in severity: it can be no more than a bit sore, or utterly crippling.
So with this in mind, our major injury concern for Romania is actually the prospect of Queen Cata suffering from a terminal wedgie.
There is a line, and she’s crossed it. Her hideous twisting form is actually making the leotard and underwear fail even worse. There’s a moral in there somewhere. I know it’s a full in from beam, but still.
Anyways, even in the worst case scenario we don’t think Iordache’s injury would totally screw Romania. They have Izbasa on floor, who can score probably 0.5 less than Larisa. And Chelaru’s nasty DTY on vault. This will score about 0.5 less than Iordache’s would, or 1.0 less than an Amanar. Although at this juncture, two points need to be made. One, Larisa had never competed hers before, and two Chelaru has been doing a DTY followed by immediate half twist during podium training. It’s therefore not totally impossible that this particular substitution will actually increase their vault total.
Readers will also probably be aware by now that the veterans are debuting some hot upgrades. Izbasa has successfully landed her Cheng several times in podium training, and apparently her Mustafina looks better than it did too. So there are three vaults she could feasibly do in TFs, at this stage. And Granny Ponor is tumbling a layout full in on floor! In a programme that used to be so renowned for competing underage athletes, it’s wonderful to see the old uns not just hanging on, but leading the way. Something a certain Olympic champion team could also learn from, judging by what we’ve seen recently.
China seem to be fucked, pretty much. They’ve looked notably unimpressive in training this week: sluggish, crashy and suffering.
Poor Yao Jinnan has a torn leg muscle. But they simply can’t do without her, so she’s going to end up doing 3 to 4 events in TFs. Deng Linlin has a bad back. It’s particularly unfortunate for the Chinese that their two most consistent athletes, indeed their two only consistent athletes, are the ones with the injuries. We reckon this means the Amanar can safely be ruled out, anyway.
He Kexin is apparently training vault, but we’re not sure what. In theory if it was the DTY, she could sub in for Yao Jinnan. This would make China, already the weakest of the top teams on the event, even further behind. More to the point, her bars are as they were. In training she sometimes got through the set and sometimes didn’t. She’s a gamble, basically. But we knew that.
So it looks like even if they hit everything, which they won’t, realistically the Chinese are going to need some help from others to get even the bronze. We are none too sorry at this turn of events.
And lastly of course, Mother Russia. They have been quite the revelation this week.
Komova has, according to reports, been sumptuous. The AA would appear to be hers to lose. Afanasyeva has also rocked it. Mustafina was magnificent on Wednesday and then, apparently, threw a strop in podium training. Fabulous. This is deeply and profoundly advanced bitchface.
Some silly cunt at IG reckons Aliya will do bars only in TFs. Riiight. Some of these people have no business getting accreditation.
She and Grishina are both working DTYs only at the moment, thankfully. Given that Aliya’s is better, we envisage her doing vault, and of course they can’t do without her on beam.
It’s not even prelims yet, and Mother Russia have already shown us triumph and disaster. Grishina’s double double caused rejoicing amongst the nations earlier this week. Then she spent podium training crashing it, and the double pike too for good measure. Paseka has been hitting some of her Amanars but not all- although that’s a better hit ratio than we expected six weeks ago. Bronwyn has a theory that she doesn’t seem to enjoy standing them up when there’s a camera on her. That’s unfortunate, because she’s about to encounter a few.
It is, as always, foolish to try and predict anything where the Russians are concerned. But we’re going to have to try anyway. They have arrived in London with more potential than many of us dared to hope, and it looks like we were correct in our assertion that if they all decide to turn up on time, face the front and sing from the same hymnsheet, it’s theirs for the taking.
Death or glory once again, it would seem. I can’t fucking wait.
I’m going to risk looking foolish and say the US have got to win another Olympic team title sometime. This is the strongest team they’ve had in ages, Maroney is still fit to vault and Marta appears to have taken out her more homicidal tendencies on the alternates this time. Belu is clever, but on this occasion not quite clever enough. The US won’t win it by much, and they’ll need Russia to fuck up more than they do, but they’ll win it.
Clara ideal podium
1. Mother Russia
Mother Russia to finally do what they’ve been promising for a long time. Marta to be punished for yet more stupidity, and China to be way behind. They cheated their way to enough medals last time and have been boring as fuck all quad. If one of those things doesn’t get you then the other should: 4th place is exactly what they deserve. Romania can have silver. I love what they’ve done in the past few months, but their 3rd ranked bars worker will be sufficiently grotesque to put them behind Russia in my preference stakes.
Bronners is off chasing sailors in the sunshine for now. She assures me though, that she wholeheartedly endorses this post. I, meanwhile, am off to prepare myself for MAG prelims. Happy Olympics darlings- it’s finally here!