MEDAL CONTENDERS: GB, Romania, Russia
OTHER TF QUALIFIERS: Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain
That was a rather fascinating qualifying round. One can only hope the final is as good, because we could be picking this one apart forever.
Only 1.5 points separated the top 3 from each other. Italy had a decent showing considering they were minus Carlotta Ferlito, and for a while we thought there’d be relatively little to choose between them and the top 3. But as they were four points out of the medals, we’re officially ruling them out as podium contenders now.
So the medals will be decided between the British, Romanians and Russians – interestingly, the same as happened with the juniors yesterday.
But in what order?
Now, to see GB in first place after senior qualifying is quite the headfuck. Especially when you’re British. They did magnificently, but the kicker is that they pretty much topped out here. They could maybe squeeze another few tenths out of beam, a full point if they were totally on (0r, equally plausibly, all bust out the 11s). But they got 171.147 here, and realistically the highest they’re going is 172. Romania had 171.30 with three falls (two from Munteanu), Russia 170.621 counting two FTYs on vault – shit that has not been acceptable since Beth Tweddle were a lass. They also had to count a score in the 11’s from Spiridonova, who put her hands down on her double tuck. The Russians did well today considering current circumstances. The team is young, with relative unknowns. Today’s highlight for them (besides 3 strong bar sets) was Kharenkova on beam, qualifying to finals only second behind Iordache. Bronwyn said prior to the competition that her beam routine would be the key for them.
The maths would suggest that they’ll all be rocking between 173 and 174.5 should they go 12 for 12. This sets up a potentially fascinating final, because such wafer-thin margins between the top 3 haven’t been seen since the 10 was abandoned (RIP).
Another point that interested me is that despite qualifying first, GB didn’t get the highest total on any apparatus – they were 3rd ranked on beam, 2nd on everything else. That too is a new thing: I can’t think of another competition, prelims or final, where the winning team didn’t also top at least one event. But of course both Russia and Romania had one very weak event. For Romania it was the usual, and Russia contrived to place 11th on floor, barely squeaking past the mighty Poland.
Bars was the highlight. There was very little to choose between the Russians and British,with the former coming out ahead by barely a tenth, and a feast of innovation was served. Ok, Mustafina left out the Bhardwaj – hence only qualifying in second behind Becky Downie – and unfortunately Harrold, rather than Tunney has been 2 per’d out of the final, but otherwise one cannot complain. Spiridonova and Rodionova’s routines are almost nauseatingly carbon-copies of one another, with the judges giving the slight edge to Spiridonova for finals.
As usual, this is the event where Europe most shines in relation to the rest of the world, with China being the exception. It would be rather ironic, in this respect, if Romania were to come out on top. Although we must give Bulimar’s 8.8 E score (yes, you read that right) a mention. Aside from the hideous, and typically Romanian forward giant and scrappy dismount in there, it was actually a rather attractive routine.
The rotation draws for TF are random at Euros, and Russia have got the best of it. GB will, yet again, start on beam. Oh well, better than being ahead after the third rotation and finishing on it I guess. Romania go in Olympic order, which is fine for them.
And Russia will begin on bars. This is a great big positive, for two reasons. The first is that they’re going to take an early lead, as Romania won’t average 15 each on vault and the Brits have about as much chance of doing that on beam as China do of fielding an entirely age-eligible team at Worlds. But Mustafina, Rodionova and Spiridonova should kill it – although they’ve had better bars lineups fuck up worse.
The second, and more important, is that they get to take their time deciding whether to sit Aliya out or not. Specifically, they get to wait and see if the Brits melt down on beam – because if it’s going to happen anywhere, it’ll be there.
She did bars and beam today (and limped off of both podiums), qualifying to both finals, but also worked vault in podium training. The obvious conclusion to draw is that they plan to use her and her strong DTY in team finals, but wanted to protect her by resting her in prelims. Makes sense – she wasn’t doing two vaults, there’s no AA, and they were going to make TFs even if they had to count a handspring vault from someone. Personally I wouldn’t be that shocked to see them drag her out on floor if they think they need her to beat GB, terrible idea though it is. This is the Rodionenko’s we’re talking about.
Looking further down, Spain were a surprise qualifier. Azerbaijan all crapped out apart from Pavlova on vault to end up 16th, and France somehow contrived to finish 11th. So no final for them. And the less said about the girls from Kiev, the better. It was classic Ukraine v Belarus, just like those mid 90s races for bronze, except in this case the goal was 17th place. A real shame, although I suppose Team Belarus must be happy to finally finish one on top only 20 years after it actually mattered.
Fuck knows, really. Too close to call, but I’ve got to have a go so these are as good as any.
1. Russia (IF Aliya vaults, and her ankle stays attached)