Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Slovenian World Cup analysis

Ok, so the women's field wasn't that deep at the recent World Cup meet in Maribor, Slovenia. But I still found some interesting tidbits in the final results of the competition.


1. Hong Un Jong PRK 14.300
2. Marissa King GBR 14.075
3. Nansy Damianova CAN 13.387
4. Marina Kostyuchenko 13.812
5. Imogen Cairns GBR 13.775
6. Ariella Kaslin SUI 13.750 7
7. Laura Gombas HUN 13.675
8. Dorina Boczogo HUN 13.312

Uneven Bars

1. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs CAN 14.875
2. Kristina Vaculik CAN 14.850
3. Marta Pihan POL 14.500
4. Hong Un Jong PRK 14.375
5. Lichelle Wong NED 14.125
6. Katja El-Halabi LEB 13.500
7. Danielle Englert SUI 12.825
8. Cha Yong Hwa PRK 12.725

Balance Beam

1. Kristina Vaculik CAN 14.975
2. Sanne Wevers NED 14.425
3. Nathalia Sanchez COL 14.275
4. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs CAN 14.175
5. Ariella Kaslin SUI 14.150
6. Marta Pihan POL 13.950
7. Lichelle Wong NED 13.525
8. Adela Sajn SLO 13.475

Floor Exercise

1. Suzanne Harmes NED 14.525
2. Yasmin Zimmermann SUI 13.950
3. Nansy Damianova CAN 13.900
4. Marta Pihan POL 13.825
5. Marina Kostyuchenko UKR 13.800
6. Ariella Käslin SUI 13.675
7. Emma Willis CAN 13.550
8. Zoi Lima POR 13.300

  • PRK sending their girls to a World Cup Event? WTF? Anyway Hong Un Jong pretty much locked up the 2nd spot on the PRK gymnastics team (the other being her PRESUMED sister Hong Su Jong) with a win on vault. She looked pretty good on bars as well, despite not medaling.
  • Cha Yong Hwa (PRK) MAJORLY BOMBED her bars set. The girl has potential on that apparatus; she won qualifying at Maribor and had a 7.4 A-score at prelims of last year's worlds. However, four major mistakes in her routine likely ended her hopes of going to Beijing.
  • For those that are worrying that Un Jong will come busting out at the olympics with an Amanar and a Cheng like her sister and will end up stealing a vault medal; I find this improbable. Yes, we will probably see the Cheng; the North Koreans push their girls to do the most unthinkably difficult skills. But the Amanar seems a bit too much for Un Jong's lack of power to handle. She crashed a DTY in warm-up and looked like she was still struggling to get two twists around even when she landed it in competition. Her second vault was only a Podkopayeva (5.2 A-score), so getting her Cheng back could be a challenge as well.
  • Despite Kristina Vaculik's win on beam, she didn't help her Beijing cause at all, nor did Hofner-Hibbs' win on bars for that matter. The very strange selection procedure for the Canadian Olympic team requires that athletes earn points by scoring a certain mark on a given event. The required marks on bars (15.3) and beam (15.1) were not met by either Vaculik or Hofner-Hibbs. The required mark for a vault average (13.6) was not attained by Nancy Damianova, who leads the standings (32) ahead of Hofner-Hibbs (30) and Vaculik (19). Damianova is wisely maxing out her efforts on vault, earning several points at other meets on an event which doesn't require an especially high score to obtain points. It looks like Nancy Damianova and Elyse Hofner-Hibbs will be the two women representing Canada at the olympics.
  • Lichelle Wong's inconsistency issues (she fell in Maribor on her UB dismount and on BB, too) could open the door for a successful olympic comeback for Suzanne Harmes, who proved her cause by winning floor exercise. However, I feel Verona Van de Leur will actually get the lone Dutch entry to the olympics.
  • Marissa King (GBR) will likely be on the British olympic team. Though she was shaky here, she is an especially strong vaulter. With Jana Komrskova's retirement and Elena Zamolodchikova's questionable status for making the Russian olympic team, King may just find herself in olympic vault finals. Though she won't likely medal, this would be huge for British gymnastics considering that Beth is the only British athlete in memory to qualify for a world/olympic event final. (Beth actually didn't make bars finals at the '04 games).

That is all.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Who Martha Karolyi wants on the Olympic Team

Above: Martha Karolyi, so lovingly called the "Gymnastics Mob Boss" by her fans, is the head decision maker for the 2008 Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team.

The U.S. team is going into the 2008 Beijing Games as the reigning world champions, and the battle for the six plane tickets to China will be a fierce one and will be largely reliant upon the gymnasts' performances at the national championships, olympic trials, and the selection camp at the Karolyi ranch. Similar to 2004, only the top two girls at the olympic trials are given even a tentative guarantee as to being on the olympic team, and these two spots are almost sure to go to Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. However, all the other girls are wondering just as we are wondering whether their dreams will come true and whether they will be on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team.

Competitors with a legitimate shot at making the 2008 U.S. olympic team

Jana Bieger
Darlene Hill
Ivana Hong
Shawn Johnson
Nastia Liukin
Chellsie Memmel
Samantha Peszek
Ashley Priess
Alicia Sacramone
Bridget Sloan
Geralen Stack-Eaton
Amber Trani
Shayla Worley

Competitors who WILL NOT be making a run at Beijing:

Rebecca Bross (too young)
Bianca Flohr (Level 10)

Natasha Kelley (Retirement)
Courtney Kupets (NCAA/Injury/no expressed desire to go to Beijing)
Shantessa Pama (Injuries/Level 10)
Ashley Postell (NCAA/No expressed desire to go to Beijing)

There look to be 13 potential candidates to go to Beijing. Let's see what they bring to the team and also why Martha might be hesistant to put them on.

Jana Bieger

Brief Bio: The German native is the daughter of a former three-time olympian, Andrea Bieger, who is also Jana's personal coach. Jana won the world AA silver medal in 2006, but has since struggled with injury.

Pros: Jana Bieger had a strong meet at the recent Pacific Rim championships, winning uneven bars and placing 2nd in the AA. On call, Jana is a strong, consistent competitor who throws difficult skills on every event. She finished 2nd AA at the 2006 worlds, beating strong AA threats such as Sandra Izbasa, Steliana Nistor, and Daria Joura. Her good uneven bars work, which is USA's weakest event, could propel Jana to Beijing.

Cons: Jana has terrible form and the most unpointed feet known to mankind. The judges at last year's nationals were extremely picky when it came to poor form. The Queen of God Awful Form, Natasha Kelley, has retired and will likely pass her torch to Jana. The reason why the national judges are being so picky is because they don't what Martha to send anyone who's form could be used as an excuse for abnormally low scores in international competition. Also, Jana struggled with injury throughout nearly all of 2007.

Outlook: The fact that the 2007 Worlds judges didn't pick too heavily on bad form (i.e. Steliana Nistor) bodes well for Jana's olympic chances, though don't be surprised if judges low ball her come Nationals. Jana's strong competitive nature and strengths on bars and floor especially are potentially great assets to the team, and if she continues to improve she should be a strong threat for the olympic team.

Darlene Hill

Brief Bio: Darlene was a relative unknown until the 2007 U.S. nationals where she finished a very respectable 9th AA and 6th on UB and FX. She went on to place 4th on UB at the 2007 Glasgow Grand Prix, and won the floor exercise at the recent Pacific Rim championships.

Pros: Winning floor at the Pacific Rim championships helps out Darlene's olympic bid. The U.S. needs a strong 3rd bar worker and 3rd floor worker for the olympics and Darlene could be that girl. She also won't have much media pressure, which should enable her to just focus on her gymnastics and do what she's capable of.

Cons: Darlene is especially weak on the balance beam, and she had a shoulder injury preventing her from doing bars and beam at the Pacific Rim. Bars is one of Darlene's money events, and she will need to upgrade considerably on this event to be considered a top 3 performer. Darlene does not have a strong international reputation because of her lack of exposure on the scene. This could hurt her politically both in terms of scoring and whether she makes the olympic team.

Outlook: Darlene is a long shot to make the team, but her Pacific Rim FX win helps her cause out somewhat. She will need to get her strength up on bars, upgrade there and upgrade her vault to a DTY to give her a clear shot at making the team. Her weakness on beam shouldn't mean much because the U.S. has several strong beam workers. If Darlene improves her difficulty by Nationals, there's a small possibility you will see her in Beijing.

Ivana Hong

Brief Bio: Ivana took advantage of the new rule allowing gymnasts to compete at 14 going on 15 years of age in the year prior to the olympics (where girls must turn 16 in the calender year). She won the bronze AA at the 2007 Pan American Games and finished 4th AA at the U.S. Nationals, enabling her to qualify to the U.S. World team that won the gold medal.

Pros: Ivana's form is impeccable, and her ruthless perfectionism should enable her to fix some of the weaknesses in her gymnastics. Rumor had it that Ivana was very strong at the last national training camp, and assets that she brings to the team are a good DTY and solid work on all four events.

Cons: Ivana's nerves tend to get the best of her, and the U.S. only used her for two routines in preliminaries at worlds, with neither score being higher than 15. Despite potentially strong scores on all four events, the U.S. really doesn't need Hong on the team on any one event, unless of course injuries to top gymnasts take them out of the running.

Outlook: Ivana may just be a bit too young and inexperienced to be trusted to be on the U.S. Olympic team that goes for the gold. Her form is amazing, but she often doesn't recieve high execution marks usually do to lack of amplitude in her skills (especially on bars). Ivana will likely need injuries from a couple top gymnasts for her to go to Beijing, but we should expect to see some improvement in her gymnastics come Nationals.

Shawn Johnson/Nastia Liukin

See all-around final post. These two girls are locks for the team as long as they remain healthy and don't regress.

Chellsie Memmel

Brief Bio: Memmel was called in as a last-minute replacement for the 2003 World Championship Team and ended up winning gold with her team and individually on uneven bars. An injury prevented her from competing at the 2004 olympics, but came back strong to win the 2005 World AA title. She could've done the same in 2006, but the shoulder injury of doom was aggravated in team finals and she was out of competition for a year.

Pros: Memmel is tough as nails. After falling at the 2006 Worlds on bars and injuring her shoulder, she hit her beam routine and floor routine, including landing a punch front on beam almost entirely on one leg and STILL staying on. At full force she is especially strong on bars and floor, events the U.S. will need her most.

Cons: Memmel's shoulder problem makes it questionable as to whether she will ever come back to her world champion form on that apparatus. Her poor form and execution are sure to recieve markdowns from the national judges that don't always favor Memmel. She has also yet to compete this year, which doesn't announce good signs towards her progress.

Outlook: Chellsie is good for contributing lead-off scores on beam and floor in team finals, but where the U.S. will need her most is uneven bars, once her strongest event. Her shoulder problems have given her much grief since the 2006 Worlds and she wasn't anywhere near her full-strength on bars at the 2007 Olympic Test Event. However, Chellsie should get her strength back up on bars as long as her recovery process is intelligently executed. Bars is her money event to get her on the squad, and will need to be fully ready on that apparatus especially to go to Beijing.

Samantha Peszek

Brief Bio: The 2006 U.S. junior bronze medalist finished 5th AA at the 2007 American Cup and 7th AA at the 2007 U.S. Nationals en route to making her first world team. In 2008, she has finished 3rd AA at both the American Cup and the Jesolo Grand Prix.

Pros: Samantha has difficult skills on every event and is very powerful on both vault and floor. Peszek's rumored Amanar would boost her olympic chances considerably, especially since the U.S. needs to gain ground over China on vault to make up for lower scores on uneven bars. Sam also has the potential to be the lead-off beam and/or floor performer in team finals. Peszek's mom working for USAG also helps her out politically.

Cons: Peszek is unwisely upgrading on bars, including planning a layout double-double dismount come time Nationals/Olympic Trials. Peszek's Amanar rumor is ONLY a rumor at this point and without it her chances of making the team wouldn't be nearly as good, with other girls waiting in line to take Sam's money position as a vault lead-off. Sam has yet to outscore Shawn on bars so her bars upgrades could take away from her potential strength on the other events.

Outlook: Sam's confidence has improved considerably since last year, but she battles with inconsistency, as well as injuries that tend to downgrade some of her much-needed difficulty. Martha likes her, however, and confidence and a good Amanar will be hard to overlook when the selection committee decides who will be going to Beijing.

Ashley Priess

Brief Bio: Ashley finished 6th AA at the 2006 U.S. Nationals and was named to the world team. There, she replaced an injured Chellsie Memmel in AA finals, finishing a respectable 10th. She was out all of 2007 because of a back injury, but is intending on qualifying to the olympic team.

Pros: Ashley is needed for her strong uneven bars work, USA's weakest event. Her consistency, experience, and good form are also assets to the team and are sure to be appreciated by the national and international judges.

Cons: Ashley hasn't competed in a big meet for over a year and her current physical condition is unknown. Martha K. won't be lenient when it comes to choosing someone likely only to compete in two major competitions (Nats/Oly Trials), because the six girls going to China will need to be tough, seasoned competitors who can get the job done under any circumstances. Also, Ashley doesn't provide the U.S. much beyond the uneven bars.

Outlook: Ashley is unlikely to make the team unless if she performs superbly at both Nats and Oly Trials. Even at top form, her bars score was only about .1 higher than that of Johnson's, and the international judges will be cautious to hand out high scores to some one they haven't seen in a while. On the bright side, Priess' consistency and experience will give her an advantage over her younger competitors.

Alicia Sacramone

Brief Bio: Alicia Sacramone had a chance to make the '04 olympic team, but a disastrous showing at nationals took her out of the running. She has since been a strong world competitor, winning seven world medals and many national medals as well.

Pros: Alicia is currently the top U.S. vaulter and is very strong on floor exercise while also enjoying a recent resurgence on beam. A strong competitor who knows how to peak at the right time, Alicia has matured considerably since 2004 and has been called a lock by many to make the team because of her strengths on three key apparatus. She was also given mostly generous scores at last year's nationals.

Cons: Alicia has oddly never been favored politically in the international judging. At the 2006 Worlds she was marked down for an apparently missed dance connection and missed floor finals. She made floor finals in '07, but was docked .1 for an underotated jump (switch-side half) and lost the gold for a very questionable technicality. She also apparently rolled her ankle earlier in the year and has yet to compete this year. She also has a huge weakness on bars and it is unclear that she is even still training that event.

Outlook: Alicia's experience, toughness, and strengths on three apparatus should be the right recipe to get her on the team. Alicia's proof of experience means that she really doesn't need to be in top form until Nationals, so the fact that she's had a slight injury and isn't competing yet doesn't neccessarily mean anything bad. Assuming she comes to the marathon selection procedure at full force, Alicia is a lock to go to Beijing.

Bridget Sloan

Brief Bio: After winning the U.S. classic in July, Sloan decided to compete senior at the 2007 U.S. Nationals, finishing 5th AA. The reserve athlete for the 2007 World Champion USA team, Bridget competed at the Olympic Test Event, finishing 3rd AA and 2nd on FX.

Pros: Bridget vastly improved throughout all of 2007, and has proven to be a very consistent competitor with good execution marks. She ranked 2nd on the floor at nationals, and this is an event where Bridget could be the lead-off girl. Competing at the actual Beijing gymnastics venue and performing admirably bodes well for her olympic chances.

Cons: Besides floor, Bridget doesn't make any big contributions to the squad. There are other girls (like Memmel/Bieger) with more experience that are looking to get the bars/floor specialist spot that Bridget is trying to earn. Being left off the world team in favor of an injured Ivana Hong does not point good signs towards her good political standing with Martha K. and USAG. She is also a tad inconsistent on beam, falling at the 2007 Nationals-day 2.

Outlook: Bridget is a threat to some of the more experienced veterans, but her relative lack of experience and international exposure will likely open the door to hand the spot to someone more internationally seasoned. However, competing consistently at the Beijing venue is something only she and Memmel can say, and more improvement from Bridget could get her on the team.

Geralen Stack-Eaton/Amber Trani

Brief Bio: Both Stack-Eaton and Trani train at the well-known but infamous Parkettes gym in Allentown, PA. Stack-Eaton finished 6th AA at the 2007 U.S. championships and was a finalist on balance beam at the 2007 Stuttgart World Cup. Amber Trani won the silver medal at the 2007 Pan American Games on vault and finished 11th AA at the 2007 U.S. championships.

Outlook: Both girls have very little chance to make the olympic team. They lack consistency and form, in addition to battling several injuries. The Parkettes have never been favored politically, examples dating back to '92 when Kim Kelly was left off the team despite beating eventual team member Wendy Bruce at the trials. The only instances where either would make the team would be if Trani upgraded to an Amanar on vault or if Stack-Eaton improves significantly on uneven bars, a good but inconsistent event for her.

Shayla Worley

Brief Bio: Shayla Worley burst out on the scene with a 2nd place finish at the 2006 American Cup, but suffered a hamstring injury for much of that year. She came back strong with a 2nd place finish at the 2007 U.S. Nationals in the AA and on uneven bars. She contributed quite a bit towards the U.S. team's gold medal at last year's world championships.

Pros: Shayla is strong on uneven bars, ranking #2 in the nation. She also has the potential to score well on beam and floor and is planning on upgrading her vault to a DTY, further increasing her chances of making the team. Worley is generally appreciated by the international judges because of her unique style. Worley is also well-favored politically.

Cons: Shayla is somewhat inconsistent, with skills like a standing arabian on beam or a double front off bars routinely giving her trouble. Worley looked injured at the 2008 American Cup, missing several skills. Her inconsistency with her bars dismount could open the door for Memmel, Bieger, or Priess to break into the top 3 on the uneven bars, which is Shayla's money event to make the squad.

Outlook: Shayla has all the potential to make the olympic team. Focusing on getting healthy and cleaning up consistency issues will make her almost a lock for the team. The U.S. desperately needs a good lead-off (3rd ranked) routine on bars. Since Shayla is ranked #2 in the nation on UB, she should be safe to make the team barring injury.

Closing Thoughts

  • The U.S. is unlikely to send a girl who has yet to compete at a world championships before, regardless of performances at nationals, olympic trials, and the Karolyi camps. This rules out Hill, Stack-Eaton, and Trani. (I won't count Sloan because she traveled to Germany with the U.S. team at last year's worlds and was only decided as the alternate at the last minute).

  • The U.S. of course needs stars such as Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin to be fully healthy and ready for the games, but the potential comeback from Chellsie Memmel can help out a lot, too. Her strengths on every event, especially bars if she's healthy, can help out a great deal.

  • Don't expect AS MUCH politics in the selection procedure like that in 2004. Martha K. hopefully has learned from the mistakes in 2004 that cost the U.S. women the gold and can choose the olympic team that is truly the best one. Upgrades will be play a lot into who goes to Beijing and who doesn't.

Predicted Olympic Team

  1. Shawn Johnson

  2. Nastia Liukin

  3. Alicia Sacramone

  4. Shayla Worley

  5. Samantha Peszek

  6. Chellsie Memmel


  1. Jana Bieger

  2. Bridget Sloan

  3. Ivana Hong

Chellsie's toughness will prevail and she will get past the shoulder injury of hell to make the olympic team she just missed in '04. Peszek's confidence and political favor will get her on the team as well. Worley's strength on bars and potentially other events should also give her a ticket to Beijing. Johnson, Liukin, and Sacramone are all locks barring injury. My predicted alternates are all strong gymnasts, so the U.S. should be OK if they are needed due to an injury from another team member. In my opinion, these six girls are cut out to beat the excellent Chinese on their home turf, though it won't be easy no matter how you slice it.

Who do you think will make the 2008 U.S. olympic team? I would love to hear your opinions.

Next Posts: Slovenian World Cup analysis and April 2008 gymnastics news commentary

That is all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Olympic Team Final Outlook

Above: The U.S. team that won the world championships title in 2007

While the United States and China are expected to face off in terms of the total of olympic medals, specifically gold medals being awarded, the most dramatic case of a U.S. vs. China battle will be the women's gymnastics team final. Already being considered a big ticket event, NBC successfully requested that all the gymnastics finals be aired live and in primetime. China surprised many by winning the 2006 World Championship, but the U.S. gained revenge on the Chinese by winning in 2007. Romania and Russia are expected to dig it out for the bronze, but don't be surprised if another team winds up on the podium. In the 6-3-3 of death format, all scores count. This leaves little room for error, and one hiccup, such as Ekaterina Kramarenko's balked vault at the 2007 worlds, can be fatal for one team while it will be a dream come true for another. Teams from USA, China, Romania, Russia, Italy, Great Britain, France, Brazil, Ukaraine, Germany, Australia, and Japan will duel it out for the medals come August 13th, 2008.

The Showdown


Results: 2007 World Champions, 2006 Worlds, 2nd place

Pros: The U.S. is the defending world champions and has a great amount of depth to choose from in their gymnasts. The "semi-centralized training system" has improved the U.S. team dramatically from its Sydney olympics slump, and the six gymnasts chosen are likely to be very tough, capable gymnasts. Also, diversity in styles and coach's backgrounds are very much appreciated by the international judges, who scored the Americans as a whole higher than the Chinese despite similarly executed routines at the last two world championships. The politics surrounding Tibet (if it continues toward the olympics) could also help the U.S. team, with judges being pressured to not let China win.

Cons: The U.S. women will no doubt have to deal with being a long way from home in unfamiliar surroundings, as well as a hostil Chinese crowd. Marta Karolyi tends to let politics persuade who she will pick for the team and often chooses the team finals lineups based on preliminary scores, with some valuable gymnasts occasionaly shut out of team finals entirely because of one missed preliminary routine. Event-wise, uneven bars will be where the U.S. could lose to the Chinese women. Also, the marathon selection procedure determines the team based on primarily national, not international, competitions.

Outlook: The U.S. women have been favored for the most part by the judging at the last two worlds. Even when they lost in 2006, the judges ridiculously downgraded Cheng Fei's vault as an extra cushion for the U.S. after Jana Bieger missed her vault earler on. However, beating the Chinese women on their home turf is a formidable task, and the U.S. girls must be in top condition to win and must not suffer any big errors.


Results: 2007 Worlds-2nd place, 2006 World Champions

Pros: China is fielding their most competitive women's team ever, and being on home turf should help them perform confidently. With 'round the clock upgrades, China will likely have a higher difficulty score than that of the U.S. women, which means they have a bit more room for error. China also doesn't have a glaringly weak event, with Cheng Fei and Jiang Yuyuan likely to contribute top scores on vault and floor, historically China's weaker events. Sending top gymnasts to world cup meets is a wise task, both for gaining politcal favor and for experiece, while this is something the U.S. seldom ever does.

Cons: China's gymnasts, perhaps because of the lack of diversity in their gymnasts, typically don't recieve quite as high in the execution marks comparative to the U.S. women. The Tibet and human rights issues surrounding China could make things far worse, with judges possibly doing everything in their power to not let China win. China tends to suffer from silly errors at the worst times, and the pressure of competing at home will be immense.

Outlook: China's sending top gymnasts to world cup meets and constant upgrades are wise tasks in trying to get gold, and the Chinese gymnasts that competed at the Olympic Test Event in Beijing were strong. However, judges are known to find ways to be political toward the Chinese gymnasts, an example being a big deduction for something small like a slight dead hang on bars. China has the potential to easily win, but slight errors could mean the difference between gold and silver.

Battle For the Podium


Results: 2008 European Champions, 2007 Worlds-3rd place, 2006 Worlds-3rd place

Pros: The Romanians are experts at peaking at the right time and getting the job done. They won the last two olympic games while considered the underdogs. The 6-3-3 format helps the Romanians with strong scores sure to come from Steliana Nistor and Sandra Izbasa on several events. The Romanians have strong political favor, with the European judges likely to lobby to get the Romanians high scores after seeing that they are currently the top European team.

Cons: The Romanians lag behind the top two teams in form especially and also in depth. They came close to losing a medal at the 2007 Worlds until Ekaterina Kramarenko balked her vault and basically handed the Romanians the bronze. A retirement from beam specialist Catalina Ponor and an injury from bars specialist Cerasela Patrascu could mean two high scores lost, and the Romanians will need every tenth to get on the podium.

Outlook: Nicolae Forminte, the head Romanian coach, predicted that the Romanians would win olympic gold just weeks after declaring that Romanian gymnastics was in crisis. WTF? The Romanians will be very lucky to get gold or even silver, but on a perfect night it could happen. Bronze looks to be theirs to lose after winning Europeans. However, they suffered many mistakes at the 2007 Worlds team finals and shouldn't be able to rely on a careless error from another athlete for a medal at the olympics.


Results: 2008 Europeans-2nd place, 2007 Worlds-8th place (Kramarenko only needed 13.6 to get the Russians a bronze) 2006 Worlds-3rd place

Pros: Despite the balked vault, Russia was a far superior team on the day of the team finals than Romania. The Russian gymnasts generally have good execution and artistry on all their events. Russia has a good amount of depth and has the current World and European bars champion and European beam champion, Ksenia Semionova, in their arsenal. The Russians also have Yulia Lozechko and Anna Pavlova performing well this year and Russia should be more determined than ever to win the medal they lost in 2007.

Cons: Russia faces a very realstic possibilty of not medaling in the olympic team final for the first time in the history of Russia's participation in the olympics. Romania easily beat them at Europeans (though Lozechko withdrew due to illness) and Russia had a very unlucky championship at the worlds. Lack of funding and interest in gymnastics since the USSR collapsed has gradually degraded the Russian program, and the Russians don't have a dominant star such as Khorkina to perform her team to a medal.

Outlook: Romania winning Europeans hurts Russia's chances of medaling because the European judges will likely lobby as a whole to try to break Romania into the top two. However, on a good day Russia has the difficulty and clean execution in their routines to get the job done, and could take advantage of the absences of Ponor and Patrascu to get on the podium. Russia still wants to get a medal and if there's any country that can prove people wrong at the olympics, Russia can.


Results: 2008 Europeans-4th place, 2007 Worlds-4th place, 2006 Worlds-9th place

Pros: At the 2007 Worlds, Italy proved that they weren't just the Vanessa Ferrari show by finishing 4th in the team final. Ferrari only contributed one good vault score, and 2007 European vault champion Carlotta Giovannini was absent from the team altogether, which proves that the Italians have new-found depth. With Giovannini and Ferrari at their potential form for the olympics and political favor from Italian FIG president Bruno Grandi, Italy has the potential to medal in the team final.

Cons: Italy succumbed to the pressure at Europeans, finishing 4th as a team and missing the podium altogether. Vanessa Ferrari is still struggling with a foot injury she aquired prior to worlds and she will need to be at full-speed for Italy to challenge the improving Romanians and Russians. Ferrari and the Italians in general suffer from inconsistency and bombing routines at the worst times.

Outlook: Italy has the potential to medal and the potential to not factor in at all. Vanessa Ferrari will need to be in top form, and if she is that's 1/3 of the scores taken care of. Italy should look to get some Grandi-aided generous scores, especially if they start doing well. But a bad day like that at Europeans or the 2006 Worlds prelims will keep Italy out of the hunt altogether.


Results: 2008 Europeans-3rd place, 2007 Worlds-6th place, 2006 Worlds-10th place

Pros: The French gymnasts have made some great improvements in their depth and overall consistency, and should continue this onward to Beijing. The French won the bronze at the recent Europeans, defeating a competitive Italian team to be on the podium without their longtime star, Isabelle Severino. Based on their ranking at Europeans, France has gone from 10th t0 5th (with USA and China).

Cons: Losing Isabelle Severino means much more to the team than just a few scores. Severino looked in great form at the 2007 Worlds, even making the beam final. But in the warm-ups of Europeans, she tore her ACL and will not be going to Beijing. France does not have the difficulty scores of the top teams and will have no room for error to win a medal in August. They will also have little political favor because they are an under-the-radar team.

Outlook: France boasts clean, consistent gymnastics but that is not generally rewarded in the new code of points. Their consistency and improvement will only prevail if the great pressure surrounding Romania, Russia, and Italy backfires on those countries. France has already beaten Italy, but it will be a tough, but not impossible task, to win the bronze ahead of Russia and Romania.


Results: 2007 Worlds-5th place, 2006 Worlds-7th place

Pros: Brazil is likely to field some former olympians such as Daiane Dos Santos, Lais Souza, and Daniele Hypolito, along with their current star, Jade Barbosa. Jade's all around strength and Dos Santos' potential for a high score on floor can help the Brazilians a lot toward their quest for a medal. Having so many gymnasts who have competed at the olympics before should help with maintaining the team's overall consistency in team finals.

Cons: Brazil lacks a bit in depth, and will hand tenths to the other teams on uneven bars especially. You should expect seeing very ranged scores in team finals, with some difficulty scores being much higher than others. The Brazilians will look for a strong floor routine from Dos Santos, but at the recent Cottbus Cup Dos Santos still looked plagued by the several injuries she's had since Athens 2004.

Outlook: Brazil has the potential to medal, but will need to be faultless in team finals and hope that gymnasts such as Barbosa and Dos Santos will bring their A-game to the competition. In the 6-3-3 format, Brazil's relative lack of depth will not be as much of a comparative disadvantage, but they still need to improve many of their scores, especially on uneven bars.

The Darkhorses

Note: In my opinion, these teams have very little chance for a medal, so I will only do brief posts on them.

Great Britain

Results: 2008 Europeans-6th place, 2007 Worlds-7th place, 2006 Worlds-10th place

Pros: Very strong scores from their leader, Elizabeth Tweddle, on bars and floor. Also, the Brits have improved their depth since finishing 10th at the 2006 Worlds, in addition to being one of the more consistent teams out on the floor.

Cons: Great Britain is unlikely to even use Beth Tweddle unless if they finish in the top 5 in the preliminary round, which is unlikely as well. The Brits lag behind the other teams especially on difficulty scores, which are hugely important in this new code.

Outlook: Winning a medal is unlikely for Great Britain, but they should be very proud of themselves for fielding their best team ever to these olympics and hopefully they can build up their depth in time to host the 2012 Olympics.


Results: 2007 Worlds-11th place, 2006 Worlds-6th place

Pros: With Peggy Liddick as the head team coach, the Australians are almost sure to have good execution marks for their generally clean lines and good artistry. Daria Joura and Lauren Mitchell can boast several good scores in a team final.

Cons: Australia can fall apart at the worst times, and them nearly losing a spot to go to the olympics after many were predicting a possible podium finish does not point good signs towards their mental well-being at Beijing. They also don't have an especially deep team.

Outlook: The Australians are lagging behind a bit too much in starting scores, consistency, and depth to challenge for the podium. However, anything can happen in the 6-3-3 format.


Results: 2008 Europeans-5th place, 2007 Worlds-9th place, 2006 Worlds-5th place

Pros: Ukaraine boasts some potentially very strong gymnasts, including Dariya Zgoba, Alina Kozich, and Irina Krasnyanska. Ukaraine generally gets good execution scores and even finished 3rd at the 2006 Worlds prelims, proving that the teams does have some depth.

Cons: The Ukranians regressed considerably between 2006 and 2007, with both Zgoba and Krasnyanska suffering injuries. These two gymnasts will be crucial to how the Ukranians do in Beijing, and so far things don't look good. Kransyanska was left off the European roster altogether just so Zgoba could compete bars, while Kransyanska herself is a world finalist on that event.

Outlook: The Ukranians define the term inconsistency, which is such a shame because their gymnastics is always so lovely to watch. Ukaraine has very little chance for a medal unless if Zgoba, Krasnyanska, and Kozich will all come to Beijing at top form.


Results: 2008 Europeans-7th place, 2007 Worlds-10th place, 2006 Worlds-16th place

Pros: Having 32 year-old Oksana Chusovitina is a worthy asset to the team, not just in scores but also for experience. Marie-Sophie Hindermann and Anja Brinker can contribute top bars scores, while Chusovitina will look to score high on vault and floor.

Cons: The Germans are very inconsistent, notably Brinker and Hindermann. The Germans' 10th place finish at last year's worlds may have been propeled by the fact that they were competing at home. Finishing 7th at this year's Europeans basically means that the Germans will need to make some dramatic improvements to even make team finals.

Outlook: Germany will look to enjoy these olympics and would be very excited to make the team final. While a team medal is unlikely, individual medals on vault (Chusovitina) and bars (Hindermann) are possible.


Results: 2007 Worlds-12th place, 2006 Worlds-12th place

Pros: Japan put it together to defeat North Korea, Canada, and Spain for the final olympic team birth at the 2007 Worlds. Japan has some potentially strong gymnasts including Koko Tsurumi, Mayu Kuroda, and Miki Uemura. Japanese gymnasts generally have good execution as well.

Cons: Japan doesn't have the depth, difficulty, or consistency to vie for a medal. The Japanese would be thrilled just to make team finals.

Outlook: Japan sending a full team to these olympics bodes well for the potential growth of their gymnastics program for the future, but they are unlikely to be competitive in Beijing.

Closing Thoughts
  • China will likely have the highest difficulty score, but by how much remains to be the seen. Their have been many rumored upgrades for several gymnasts that we don't know are true or not, but both teams will look to have the highest difficulty score they can put together come August.
  • If politics goes the way it did at last year's worlds, look for high Romanian scores and U.S. scores and somewhat lower Chinese scores.
  • The crowd is expected to be very hostil, much like the Brazilian crowd was at the 2007 Pan American Games. The Americans will certainly not benefit from this but should be able to block out the crowd as the U.S. and China will likely compete in the same rotation and thus will never perform at the same time.
  • Unlike 2004, NBC is being very cautious as to point out that the U.S. will win the gold in Beijing. Prior to Athens, Elfi Schlegel went as far to say, "It's not a question whether the U.S. will win gold, it's by how much." So far I haven't heard any comment that even closely resembles that, despite the fact the U.S. just won its first world title on foreign soil. Since the Romanians kicked USA's rear end at every event in the olympics except AA and UB, NBC doesn't want to jink the U.S. team again.

Predicted Podium

Gold: USA

Silver: China

Bronze: Romania

USA is going to get the political favor it needs and the hostil crowd should only add to the judges marking down China so that they lose. Still expect a tight battle between China and USA due to China's higher starting scores, however. Romania will show consistency and hit routines and will play off other teams' mistakes to get the bronze.

That is all.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Olympic AA final outlook

above: Shawn Johnson, the defending World AA champion and favorite for AA gold at the Olympics

The Olympic AA final in women's gymnastics is set to take place on August 15th, 2008, just 120 days away. This, along with the team final, could potentially be one of the most exciting and dramatic contests of the games. Assuming there will not be any boycotts, gymnasts from the USA, China, Romania, Russia, Italy, Great Britain, Brazil, Australia and even North Korea have legitimate chances of meddling or winning this competition and becoming the new darling of their country. As history has proven, AA finals in the Olympics are a recipe for drama. Whether it be a judging scandal, a stripped title due to a cold remedy, or a vault set too low, this is a competition not to be missed.

The Favorites

Shawn Johnson (USA)

Results: 2007 World AA champion, 2007 National AA champion, 2007 Pan American Games champion, 2008 American Cup-2nd place

Pros: Shawn Johnson boasts huge starting scores on vault, beam, and floor. She mixes incredible power and difficulty with generally clean lines and consistency. While dominating the world in 2007, many considered her untouchable for the Olympic AA crown because of her potential to consistently score well on every event. Her loss at the 2008 American cup was also said by some as a blessing in disguise, as it enabled her to not be as pressured to win. If she gets her Amanar vault consistent by the Olympics, Shawn could be unbeatable.

Cons: Shawn's starting score on the uneven bars is only a 6.3 (as of the Italy meet) and she is 1.4 behind Nastia Liukin on this event. Shawn also showed some nerves at the Worlds, where she fell in 3 out of 14 routines. As the past has proven, media favorites prior to the Olympics (i.e. Kim Zmeskal) will often fall under the immense pressure. Only one defending world champion has gone on to defend their Olympic title (Lilia Podkopayeva) in the last eight Olympics.

Outlook: Shawn's starting score, with or without the Amanar, should be formidable to any competitor. Her execution scores are usually good as well. Shawn's training regimen of 4-5 hours a day has kept her remarkably healthy despite all the competitions she has been to, and this bodes very well toward her health at the Olympics. Though a strong favorite, one shouldn't expect her to just walk away with the gold.

Steliana Nistor (Romania)

Results: 2007 Worlds-2nd place, 2007 Europeans-4th place, 2006 Worlds-4th place

Pros: Steliana is a consistent gymnast who usually performs well under pressure. She has high difficulty scores and is a favorite of the European judges who lobby to get her high scores despite often dreadful form and execution in order to have a Romanian challenge for a medal. (this should continue, as the 2004 Olympics were the 1st time since 1972 where no Romanian won an AA medal). Nistor is strong on all four apparatus and has upgraded on bars and beam since worlds.

Cons: Steliana's form, no matter how much the European judges want to ignore it, is some of the worst amongst the top AAers. As of late, Stela has suffered from falls on beam at Europeans and at Cottbus Cup and as well as bars at the latter. Bars and beam are her money events, as these are the events where she takes the most risk. Steliana will also have to deal with the pressure of being Romania's lead AA gymnast.

Outlook: A news article entitled "Comaneci no longer inspires Romanian gymnasts" reported that Nistor had an injury preventing her from vaulting, although she was vaulting just fine at Europeans and won the AA in both qualifying and team finals, though there was no AA competition contested. Steliana's political favor, difficulty, and general consistency could easily lead her to a medal, but winning seems a bit unrealistic.

Jade Barbosa (Brazil)

Results: 2007 Worlds-3rd place, 2007 Pan Ams-4th place

Pros: A beautiful Amanar vault, and potentially strong scores on beam and floor can provide a strong statement for an AA medal or win. She was far stronger at last year's worlds than at any other meet during the year, proving that she knows how to peak at the right time. Despite a weakness on uneven bars, her strength on the other events should provide enough cushion for a weak score on that event.

Cons: Jade generally will do very well until the last event where all hell will break loose. At Pan Ams, she had a small lead over Shawn Johnson but completely broke down on the bars and dropped to 4th. At worlds, she was in the lead going into the final rotation until a fall on a piked full-in (she also fell on her last event, floor, during prelims) dropped her to a tie for bronze. She also struggled a bit at the recent Cottbus Cup, her first event of the year.

Outlook: Jade has the goods to go for the gold, but her nerves always take control of her during the last event. The Amanar vault may not help her as much as she will need, with Johnson having one in her arsenal and possibly Ferrari and others. Jade will need to keep her mental and physical game solid on the day of the AA final, but has the potential to become the first Brazillian gymnast to medal, or even win, an Olympic AA competition.

Vanessa Ferrari (Italy)

Results: 2007 Worlds-3rd place, 2007 European AA champion, 2006 World AA champion

Pros: The blog "Gymnicestics? Seriously?" reported that with a rumored Amanar, Ferrari would have the highest A-score of the competition. Ferrari's potential for high scores on all 4 events and political favor from Bruno Grandi, FIG president who's also Italian, could be the right mix of ingredients to get her gold. She won the AA at the 2006 worlds WITH a fall ahead of four competitors who did not fall.

Cons: Ferrari developed a foot injury before worlds but was forced to compete to assure the Italian team of qualifying a full team for the Olympics. In her early 2008 performances, the injury had taken a noticeable toll on her gymnastics. Ferrari will have to carry the weight of Italy's expectations, as she is the only member of their team with a shot at an AA or individual medal.

Outlook: Though Ferrari has not looked strong since 2007 Worlds, she just might be able to peak at the right time for the Olympics. She is a tough competitor and the strength of her gymnastics at top form could be tough to beat. However, if she remains more injured than expected,many gymnasts waiting in the wings will be ready to snatch her spot on the podium.

Nastia Liukin (USA)

Results: 2006/2008 Pacific Rim AA champion 2008 American Cup AA champion 2007 Worlds-5th place, 2005/2006 National AA champion

Pros: Gorgeous lines and artistry make for high execution marks. Upgrades on every event, notably a DTY vault and a whooping 7.7 A-score on bars, prove that Nastia wants the AA gold. She is a world champion on uneven bars and balance beam and routinely earns 16+ scores on those events. When all the upgrades said and done, Nastia could have an overall A-score equal or even slightly higher than that of her top U.S. rival, Shawn Johnson. So far in 2008, Nastia has looked in great shape.

Cons: Nastia has been labeled as a "two-event gymnast" because she's considerably weaker on the power events, vault and floor than she is on bars and beam. Nastia's stamina tends to fade as a competition goes and one has to have a long memory to remember the last time Nastia didn't step out of bounds on the floor.

Outlook: Though people would've hated to have admitted this in 2007, there's a realistic chance Nastia might end up being the United States' best hope for gold, not Shawn Johnson. Liukin beat Johnson at Scam and posted a score over a point higher at Pacific Rim than Johnson did at the Italy meet (though Shawn didn't compete the Amanar). Plus, Liukin won't have to deal with the same pressure Johnson will as a defending world champion. Some minor errors aside, Liukin looks ready to challenge for the gold.

Other Potential Medalists

Jiang Yuyaun (China)

Results: 2007 olympic test event AA champion

Pros: After only competing 3 events at the 2007 Worlds, Jiang looked like a seasoned all-around competitor at the Olympic test event two months later by winning the AA with a score that would've been good enough for the silver medal at worlds. She is especially strong on China's weaker events, vault and floor.

Cons: Jiang has limited experience with competing the AA, and may not have enough difficulty (though there are rumors of an Amanar UPDATE: She successfully landed an Amanar at the Chinese Internal Test Event) of competing with some of the other top gymnasts. Also, Jiang was not sent to Cottbus Cup in favor of other Chinese a-listers, which may mean that she is not as healthy as she would like.

Outlook: The one weak event for the Chinese women is actually the AA, although at top form Jiang can be a top challenger in the event. Performing in her first big AA competition and winning against some good gymnasts at home bodes well for her chances of doing well in the Olympics.

Yang Yilin (China)

Results: 2007 Worlds-6th place, 2007 Chinese national AA champion

Pros: Yang is world-class on the uneven bars and doesn't have a noticeably weak event. She is very consistent and has proved herself at both her nationals and at worlds, two pressure-packed events.

Cons: Yang's 6th place finish at the 2007 Worlds could actually be seen as a disappointment because she finished behind three competitors who suffered falls, whereas Yang performed cleanly throughout the entire competition. Yang's comparatively lower A-scores will not help her quest for an AA medal, nor will her recent injury at the Cottbus Cup.

Outlook: Yang's consistency and textbook form are assets for doing well in the AA, but she will need to sizably bump up her difficulty for a medal. This may not be able to happen because of her recent injury, but Yang has proven to be a tough competitor under pressure.

Sandra Izbasa (Romania)

Results: 2007 Worlds-9th place, 2007 Europeans-2nd place, 2006 Worlds-3rd place

Pros: Though she only competed three events (all except bars), Sandra looked like a re-invented and much healthier athlete at the Europeans just a few weeks ago. Much like Jade Barbosa, strong scores on three events can cushion for a weaker score on bars. At top form, Sandra is a strong competitor who gets the job done.

Cons: Not competing bars at Europeans does not point any positive signs toward her current condition on that apparatus. Sandra's form tends to lag behind on bars and beam, and she may struggle to keep up with the skyrocketing A-scores of the top tier of gymnasts.

Outlook: Sandra has looked strong so far this year, especially on the floor exercise. Bars, and even vault, could hold her back from the podium. However, her consistency and mental toughness should make her fellow competitors raise an eyebrow or two when she is out on the floor.

Daria Joura (Australia)

Results: 2007 Olympic test event-2nd place, 2007 Worlds-10th place, 2006 Worlds-5th place, 2006/2007 Australian national AA champion

Pros: With strong, polished gymnastics and lots of style, Joura is a favorite among judges and fans alike. She doesn't have a noticeably weak event, and has performed well since worlds with medal finishes at the 2007 Olympic test event (silver) and the 2008 pacific rim champs (bronze). Potential upgrades on vault (Amanar) and floor (Double Layout) could increase Daria's AA medal chances significantly.

Cons: Daria had one of her worst competitions at the 2007 worlds, with numerous falls in preliminaries and AA finals. Succumbing to the pressure at a huge event like that may mean that she is not prepared for all the pressure surrounding the Olympics. She has also shown some inconsistency on beam and, as of now, lags behind the others on her A-score.

Outlook: Daria will need a great night, on her part and also by the mistakes of others, to get a medal. It could happen, though, if her rumored upgrades materialize and if she rises above the pressure and just let the flair of her gymnastics speak for itself.

The Dark horses

Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)

Results: 2007 Worlds-11th place, 2006 Worlds-8th place, 2oo5 Worlds-4th place, 2002-2007 British national AA champion

Pros: At the prelims of the 2007 Worlds, Beth was 4th AA, ahead of both Ferrari and Barbosa. She is an exceptional bar worker and is great on the floor exercise as well. She is also one of the only potential top AA competitors to have competed in an Olympic games, and will bring lots of experience to Beijing.

Cons: Beth generally does much better in the preliminaries than in the finals of a world championship competition. Her weaker scores on vault and beam allow Beth no room for error in order to get a medal. She also seems to be jinked with getting injured or giving subpar performances in big competitions.

Outlook: On a lucky night, Beth could get a medal. Her potentially formidable scores on bars and floor are great, but she will need to hit 4 for 4 and hope that other top gymnasts fall and open the door. An AA medal for Beth would be a huge milestone for British gymnastics.

Anna Pavlova (Russia)

Results: 2008 Russian nationals-2nd place, 2006 Worlds-19th place, 2005 Worlds-7th place, 2005 Europeans-2nd place, 2004 olympics-4th place

Pros: Admired for her beautiful, classical technique and an actual sense of artistry in her routines, Pavlova is a sentimental favorite in the AA. She successfully attempted an Amanar at the 2008 Russian nationals en route to a silver medal, and is looking good so far this year. Despite her inconsistency, one cannot forget that Pavlova's best competition to date was probably the 2004 olympics, where she likely should've gotten an AA medal.

Cons: Pavlova is somewhat sluggish on the uneven bars and doesn't have a formidably high start value on really any event besides vault. Her Amanar can help her out quite a bit, but it won't if she splats it like she did at Europeans. Not winning her country's championship proves that she has a little ways to go before being capable of challenging for an AA medal again.

Outlook: International gymnast magazine, oddly enough, put Anna as one of the candidates for their poll on who would win the 2008 Olympics despite not competing at all at the 2007 worlds. Anna is a sentimental favorite for the Olympics and her chances of medaling as of now appear slim. But hardly anyone expected her to medal in 2004, and she ended up coming extremely close to medaling and probably should have. She may just have the night of her life at the right time.

Yulia Lozechko (Russia)

Results: 2008 Russian national AA champion, 2007 Worlds-8th place

Pros: The European beam champion has proved that she can be competitive in the AA as well. Eighth at last year's worlds, she went against her coaches' orders in the prelims regarding what beam dismount to throw. She ended up doing, and falling, on her double arabian and the Russian coaches banned her from training camps. It seemed to motivate her, as she easily won the Russian national title in February.

Cons: Yulia is much stronger on balance beam than she is on the other three events, and this is partly due to lower A-scores, which have seemed to become the name of the game in this event. She is also inconsistent and made several mistakes at worlds in all phases of the competition, including that fateful balance beam dismount.

Outlook: It would be surprising to see Yulia on the medal podium on Beijing; she is certainly no Svetlana Khorkina. She will need to close the gap on her competitors on vault and bars in particular, in terms of both difficulty and execution. She does appear to improve from competition to competition, and we'll see where her gymnastics will be at come Beijing.

Hong Su Jong (North Korea)

Results: 2007 Worlds-12th place, 2006 Asian Games-3rd place, 2006 Worlds-23rd place

Pros: Hong Su Jong made dramatic improvement between the 2006 and 2007 worlds, moving up 11 places. She is world-class on vault, competing a very consistent Amanar, and is very strong now on uneven bars as well.

Cons: Despite her obvious improvement between Aarhus and Stuttgart, Hong is still relatively weak on beam and failed to even break 14 on the floor at worlds. Unlike Nastia Liukin, Hong's two best events don't provide her enough breathing room for weak scores on beam and floor because her A-scores are much lower on those two events. Also, North Korean gymnasts are usually not favored politically in the judging.

Outlook: The new code does not emphasize form enough and this will hurt the comparative advantage of Su Jong, who generally has stronger form than many of the top contenders. Though North Korean gymnastics training, much less its entire country, is clouded in mystery, the coaches and Su Jong have obviously done something right. Su Jong's improvement should continue barring injury and she might just be able to contend for a medal on a perfect night. If Su Jong were to climb 11 places again, she'd have herself a gold medal, although this is extremely unlikely.

I did not include any contenders beyond the allowed 2 per-country. While this is not a problem for most countries, the USA and China have some other contenders that would also like to get their 15 minutes of fame.

USA- Chellsie Memmel, Jana Bieger, Shayla Worley
China- Pang Pan Pan, Xiao Sha, UPDATE: Deng Linlin

Closing Thoughts
  • It is crucial for all medal contenders to qualify into the top group of 6 gymnasts. Much like figure skating, the top group of gymnasts generally get slightly higher scores comparative to the other gymnasts, regardless of the actual execution of their routines. Many judges do this to ensure that they know exactly what mark each gymnast needs on the floor, the last event, and how the medals will play out right in front of them, thus preventing any surprise gymnasts spoiling the competition on other events.
  • Despite people saying Shawn Johnson will just walk away with the title, I must disagree. So far this year, Liukin is looking very competitive. Nistor, Ferrari, and Barbosa will be formidable challengers as well if on call. Johnson herself dropped to 3rd at the 2007 worlds prelims with a fall on her bars dismount. It should come down to who is the best on that day.

Dream Podium

Gold: Shawn Johnson (USA)

Silver: Nastia Liukin (USA)

Bronze: Jiang Yuyuan (China)

LOL sorry I'm so biased for the Americans.

Predicted Podium

Gold: Nastia Liukin (USA)

Silver: Vanessa Ferrari (Italy)

Bronze: Shawn Johnson (USA)

I believe Ferrari will recover and be good as ever come Beijing. (though I hope I'm wrong LOL)

That is all.