MEDAL CONTENDERS: Beth Tweddle, Viktoria Komova, Aliya Mustafina, Gabrielle Douglas, He Kexin, Youna Dufournet
OTHER EF PROSPECTS: Kyla Ross, Huang Qiushuang, Anastasia Grishina, Yao Jinnan, Natalia Kononenko, Rebecca Tunney, Koko Tsurumi, Larisa Iordache
The top three bars workers in the field appear quite obvious: Tweddle, Mustafina and Komova are in a league of their own. Any of them would be a superb Olympic champion. Yes, Tweddle’s casts and pirouettes are shocking, Komova’s composition is poor and Mustafina needs to keep her legs straight before her dismount. But these are all totally barnstorming routines- bars as it should be.
There are some other very high quality routines here, but if the top 3 are all on and hit, they should be unassailable: the issue would simply be which order. The Russians are the more consistent (how often has anyone ever written that?) and Tweddle does love headcasing prelims. However, she’s also got the home crowd advantage. Which leads Clara to think this is hers to lose.
According to Blythe’s quick hits, Beth has looked good in training and has been working her double double dismount. By our calculations, her D score should be 7+. On the other hand, she loves headcasing bars in prelims. That has now happened at two of three worlds this quad, culminating in her throwing away a nearly guaranteed gold in Tokyo. And in both of her previous Olympic outings, she has been underpar on bars in prelims. We must all hope and pray to whatever deity we hold dear that this doesn’t happen again. Not least because Beth always hits the event she doesn’t fuck up, and we are sure that nobody wants her anywhere near the floor podium again.
We thought there might have been more of a discussion about which two of the three Russians would make it, as Grishina is pretty useful in her own right and has successfully competed an extremely difficult set this year (D score?) However, she was inconsistent with it. Stoi! advocated her sticking to her test event set instead, which should be a safe enough 15.2ish, and this is what she’s been doing recently.
We imagine this will happen again in London- if so, she’s going to need a mistake from either Komova, Mustafina or both to avoid getting 2 per’d out of the final. Komova has apparently rocked training, whereas Mustafina has been mixing it up. Grishina could of course go for broke if she did manage to make the final: really there’s no guarantee that 15.3 would be sufficient to medal.
He Kexin will be a finalist and indeed a medal contender if she hits. Training footage and reports appear to suggest she looks a mixture of good and bad. As has been the case for a long time now, really. It’s been a long time since she got through three consecutive hit routines. Stamina is an issue.
Even if she does decide now is the time, she really shouldn’t be up there with the top 3 though. Yes, her routine is very difficult and yes, it’s impressive for someone who is no longer 13 to perform a routine that was designed for that age group. But everything is laboured. She makes it look hard. That it is hard is no excuse. She lacks the easy fluency and swing of the really top bars workers, which is why if this is judged fairly she won’t quite be up there with them. Think of her swing and then of Gabby Douglas. The contrast is stark.
The same is true of fellow Chinese contenders Yao Jinnan and world bronze medallist Huang Qiushuang, except with slightly less difficulty. It’s interesting that He Kexin is only up second in prelims- Huang Qiushuang is first and Yao Jinnan third. As China, like Russia, have 3 potential finalists, lineup order might make the difference between being 2 per’d and not.
This is a comparatively weak event for the US, but they still have two routines that should score well into the 15s. Gabby Douglas doesn’t quite have the difficulty of the top three, but her lines and swing are superb. She’s also pretty consistent, having competed her set around 8 times in 2012 and been notably underpar only once. While she isn’t quite up there with the very best, she must be the favourite for bronze if one falters. A 9+ E score is a realistic possibility.
Kyla Ross has nice lines but frankly I find it hard to get excited about her. It’s those fucking stepdowns. If you’re not going to do them in split, Boginskaya style- and she absolutely doesn’t- then don’t do them at all. Ever. She’s a pretty gymnast, but alas one can’t help feeling that she’ll be a bit of a waste of an Olympic bars final berth. Still, she’s going to get one anyway.
Consistent is not a word that could be used for test event silver medallist Youna Dufournet. She had a He Kexin style hit ratio even before unveiling fabulous and utterly unpredictable upgrades a few weeks back at the France v Romania and Germany meet. Video was around at the time but now seems elusive. We do know, though, that she’s scored 15.55 for this new set domestically. Assuming some overscore, that still looks very competitive. If she can manage to get out of prelims.
Sentimentally, we want to see Kononenko rock it. It would be totally Ukrainian to make such a colossal arse of team qualification, injure the top athlete then come back and take a medal. It would also feel rather karmic, since they have been cheated out of bars bronzes in two of the last three Olympics (cheers, Team China!). We suspect however that the surprise medal at Euros is probably the most that can be hoped for.
Still, one can dream. Kononenko is one of the more mentally tough Ukrainians- there’s a prestigious and hotly contested category for you- and they do manage the odd rage, rage against the dying of the light moment. Perhaps this will be one of them.
Ideal podium: those three in any order really. Douglas, Kononenko and Dufournet would also be more than acceptable. Actually anyone but the Chinese or Ross.
Bronwyn no doubt wants an all Soviet podium again. She’s not got over Euros yet.