Saturday, May 17, 2008

2008 Olympic Floor Exercise Outlook

Above: The apparent top five contenders in the women's floor final: Cheng Fei (CHN), Sandra Izbasa (ROM), Alicia Sacramone (USA), Shawn Johnson (USA), and Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)
I just checked out the USA Gymnastics website the other day and it appears as though floor will actually be the first event final contested, followed by vault on the same day. As event finals are in a three-day format, bars will be held the 2nd day and beam will be held the 3rd day. With the decline in artistry on floor exercise making it a less pleasing event to look at, it is probably a wise decision to close the event on beam, where all the drama is sure to come. The floor exercise used to be about a combination of good tumbling and nice choreography. The former Soviet Union was second to none when it came to choreographing floor routines with tumbling that was ahead of its time and dance which commanded the audience's attention. However, the new code has helped change floor exercise dramatically. Good dance is no longer necessary, nor is mediocre dance for that matter. What the FIG calls dance are triple turns and awkward twisting jumps that are rarely ever fully rotated and seldom ever look good. Tumbling requires not three tumbling passes, not four, but five. Double twisting double backs have grown significantly, as has the famed double twist side pass. However, admist all of the demands of tumbling, some gymnasts still find time to be artistic. In the floor exercise, the winner will be sure to land all of her tumbling, not miss any dance elements/connections, and have decent enough artistry.

Predicted Floor Exercise Event Finalists:

Cheng Fei (China)

Vanessa Ferrari (Italy)

Sandra Izbasa (Romania)

Shawn Johnson (USA)

Alicia Sacramone (USA)

Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)

Cassy Vericel (France)

Jiang Yuyuan (China)

And if something happens to either Cheng Fei or Jiang Yuyuan (only 2 per country advance)............

Sui Lu (China)

Predicted Reserve Athletes:

Daiane dos Santos (Brazil)

Anna Pavlova (Russia)

Ana-Maria Tamirjan (Romania)

The Contenders

Cheng Fei (China)

Results: 2008 Tianjin World Cup FX champion, 2007 Olympic Test Event FX champion, 2007 Worlds-5th place, 2006 World FX champion, 2004 Olympics-4th place

Pros: Cheng Fei has the potential for a 6.6 A-score on this event, the highest of anyone in the world. Armed with a tucked double-double and possibly a piked full-in at the end of her routine, Cheng has all the necessary tumbling passes and polished artistry to get her gold. Cheng generally does well at home, and could be unbeatable if she hits everything cleanly.

Cons: Inconsistency is the question mark for Cheng. At the 2007 Worlds event finals, Cheng had a great routine going but stepped way out of bounds after a faulty landing on her piked full-in dismount, costing her a medal. Cheng is unlikely to use her full tumbling difficulty until event finals, and this could prove detrimental if she can't pace herself accordingly while competing with the enormous pressure of going for gold at home.

Outlook: Cheng is perhaps considered the one to beat at this event, but certainly has stiffer competition hear than on vault. Her tumbling has looked a tad shaky this year, but Cheng is known to peak at the right time. The question mark for everyone is whether she can put all of her difficulty together for a clean, and perhaps unbeatable routine, or whether a fluke error will keep her off the podium entirely.

Vanessa Ferrari (Italy)

Results: 2007 Worlds-6th place, 2007 European FX champion, 2006 Worlds-3rd place

Pros: Ferrari is capable of a solid 6.3 A-score, including competing difficult skills such as a double-double. At two World championships and one European championship she has hit three mostly clean routines, providing good evidence that she will hit if she makes FX finals in Beijing. She showed improved artistry at the recent Europeans and scored a 15.3 in AA finals at the 2007 Worlds, one of the highest floor marks of the entire meet even with a severe foot injury.

Cons: Ferrari has struggled with injury and a maturing body over the last year and missed even qualifying to the FX event finals at the Europeans in April. She has competed a watered-down set so far this year which won't qualify her toward Olympic FX finals even if hit cleanly. Ferrari has had issues in the past of stepping out of bounds.

Outlook: It remains unclear if we will even see Ferrari at her full difficulty come Olympics, and whether she will be able to hit her routine cleanly. I expect Ferrari to come to the Olympics armed with big tricks, and if she hits them cleanly she will be definitely be a strong contender for a FX medal. However, small errors and form issues have lowered her placement on floor in the past, and thus I am not expecting Ferrari to bring home an Olympic FX medal.

Sandra Izbasa (Romania)

Results: 2008 Cottbus FX champion, 2008 European FX champion, 2007 Worlds-8th place, 2006 Worlds-6th place

Pros: Izbasa has good artistry, superb tumbling, and decent form. Her 6.5 A-score is very formidable, as was her winning Europeans with a whooping 15.775. Her tumbling has been extremely consistent this year and has renewed life into her artistry. She will have strong political backing from any anti-China or anti-USA judges, being Europe's best hope for FX gold.

Cons: Izbasa has faltered in the last two World Championship FX event finals, stepping out of bounds numerous times. At the 2007 Worlds she was penalized heavily for underotating a twist pass. Izbasa could end up competing four routines in prelims, team finals, and AA finals, which would likely weaken her stamina by the time event finals roll around.

Outlook: Watch out Cheng, Johnson, and A-Sac, Izbasa has been coming out like gangbusters with her excellent FX performances this year. If she keeps this up she could well be an Olympic gold medalist. However, Izbasa's performances at the last two Worlds do not point strong signs to her hitting in Olympic FX finals, and as I mentioned earlier stamina could be a big issue for Izbasa, as FX finals are just one day after AA finals which she is likely to compete in.

Shawn Johnson (USA)

Results: 2007 World FX Champion, 2007 U.S. FX champion, 2007 Pan American Games-2nd place

Pros: With a rumored tucked full-in for her last pass, Shawn would have a strong 6.4 A-score. Floor is arguably Shawn's most consistent event, hitting all of her 2007 FX routines. Good form, excellent tumbling, and decent-enough artistry are a good combination for her success here. Shawn also has strong political favor, which was brought to light when she beat Alicia Sacramone at the 2007 Worlds despite an OOB and several other hops on her landings.

Cons: Shawn's whip + triple twist upgrade has been inconsistent in terms of full rotation this year, and reports from the camp indicated that Shawn didn't land her full-in upgrade at the end of her routine. Even with that upgrade she does lag a tad behind Izbasa and Cheng's A-scores on this event. Several observers have pointed out that Shawn travels so much on her tumbling passes that if she grew an inch she would be out of bounds for sure.

Outlook: It will be a tall order to repeat as FX champion, but it could happen if others make mistakes and if Shawn hits cleanly. This is a good event for Shawn and with strong political favor she should be in the mix for a medal and on a perfect night a gold medal. Shawn's #1 concern appears to be staying in bounds.

Alicia Sacramone (USA)

Results: 2007 Worlds-2nd place, 2007 U.S. Nationals-2nd place, 2006 U.S. Nationals FX champion-tie, 2005 Worlds FX Champion, 2005 U.S. FX Champion

Pros: Alicia has the entire package on this event, with sky-high tumbling, nice form, and attractive dance. Alicia hit three good FX routines at the 2007 World Champions, two of them with the pressure of being the last competitor of the night. Alicia's ease with all of her tumbling passes look like they can be upgraded without issues as well.

Cons: Alicia has rarely been favored by the international judges, who much prefer Shawn's cute and smily demeanor. Alicia's switch-side 1/2 was downgraded at the 2007 Worlds FX event final, costing her the gold. Alicia had reason to be upset after losing the 2007 World FX title, but her stormy reaction after the loss will make matters far worse with judges not wanting to score Sacramone highly due to her lack of sportsmanship. As of now, Sacramone has only a 6.2 A-score on this event, which is much lower than what she will need to medal in Beijing.

Outlook: Alicia's lack of political favor and lower A-score seem to make it unlikely for Sacramone to even reach the podium. She definitely has the potential for upgrades (double-double, piked double Arabian, triple twist) but whether she will decide to use any of them remains to be seen. Sacramone is excellent on the floor, but will need upgrades and mistakes from other competitors to get a gold medal.

Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)

Results: 2008 Europeans-2nd place, 2007 Worlds-7th place, 2007 Europeans-2nd place, 2006 Worlds-4th place(tie)

Pros: Elizabeth has an upgraded 6.4 A-score on this event, and hit a great routine at the Europeans this year to win silver. This A-score is the 3rd highest A-score in the world that is currently being competed among the FX medal contenders. Tweddle is generally scored favorably by the international judges, being the only British female gymnast with a shot at winning a medal in any event.

Cons: Tweddle hit a lackluster routine at the 2007 Worlds event finals. Tweddle's artistry is relatively weak compared to the other top floor workers, and has suffered from stepping out of bounds or underotated landings in pressure situations in the past. Tweddle tends to be jinxed with getting injuries substained near or during a major competitions, i.e. an injury substained while practicing bars at the 2005 Worlds prevented her from competing floor exercise.

Outlook: Tweddle's 6.4 A-score, if hit cleanly, can get her a medal on this event. With Kexin, Yilin, and Liukin upgrading like crazy on UB this year, Beth should probably invest more time on improving her floor routine as she actually, in my opinion, has a better chance for a medal on floor than on UB. Judges will probably be more inclined to score Tweddle favorably than Sacramone, and thus a clean routine could easily get Tweddle on the podium.

Cassy Vericel (France)

Results: 2008 Europeans-7th place, 2007 Worlds-3rd place, 2007 Europeans-4th place

Pros: Vericel has improved her A-score to a 6.3 and for whatever reason French gymnasts always seem to be scored pretty favorably, with Vericel being no exception. Unexpected to contend for a world FX medal, she hit a clean routine and played off of other's mistakes to win the bronze at last year's world championships. She has solid form and generally good landings on this event.

Cons: Vericel suffers from inconsistency, dropping to 7th at this year's Europeans by stepping out of bounds twice. Her artistry is something to be desired and lacks the international name that the other top floor contenders have.

Outlook: Vericel's world medal marked the only world medal for France during the entire quadrennium. Veribel is unlikely to win an Olympic FX medal due to her lack of artistry, inconsistency, and pressure of being France's lone hope for an individual medal. She would need to win an Olympic FX medal just like she won her World FX bronze, playing off of other's mistakes.

Jiang Yuyuan (China)

Results: 2008 Chinese Nationals-6th(tie), 2008 Doha World Cup FX champion, 2007 Olympic Test Event-5th place, 2007 Worlds-4th place

Pros: Jiang has superb artistry and has solid tumbling as well, boasting a 6.3 A-score. She won the Doha World Cup FX competition with only a 5.8 A-score. She hit a clean routine at the 2007 Worlds to finish 4th, and scores very well when she cleanly hits a routine. Jiang's lighthearted personality, similar to that of Shawn Johnson, should get her the scoring favor she needs to get a medal.

Cons: Jiang has been inconsistent in floor event finals as of late, steeping out of bounds at both the 2007 Olympic Test event and the recent Chinese Nationals. She lags a little behind some of the other contenders in terms of power in her tumbling and steady landings. Jiang's errors at the recent Chinese Nationals do not bode well for her being able to win an FX medal in Beijing.

Outlook: Jiang will need to outscore her compatriot Sui Lu in prelims just to get the final, but in my opinion should do so because of Sui's lack of experience. Jiang's inconsistency issues could prevent her from medaling in FX finals in Beijing, but she still could do so if Jiang puts together a clean routine for the finals.

And if Cheng Fei or Jiang Yuyuan doesn't make floor finals.........

Sui Lu (China)

Results: 2008 Chinese Nationals FX champion(tie)

Pros: Sui Lu has an excellent 6.4 A-score, and at Chinese Nationals showed a good combination of solid tumbling, form, and artistry. In the little that we have seen from Sui Lu she has shown to be a consistent gymnast on this event.

Cons: Sui Lu tremendously lacks experience, with the Olympics possibly being her first major senior international meet. She lacks personality which could weaken her political favor with the judges, as will her being a new face on the scene.

Outlook: Sui Lu actually, in my opinion, has a better chance for an FX medal than Jiang Yuyuan, but it remains to be seen whether Sui will crack under the pressure. Sui's alarming experience and potential for lower scores from international judges who hardly know her name make me believe that she will miss qualifying to the FX final due to the opportunity-crushing rule of only two gymnasts per country advancing to an individual final.

Thoughts on Predicted Reserve Athletes

Daiane dos Santos (Brazil)- Whether Daiane (famously and incorrectly pronounced "DNA" by Bart Conner) will be at top form on this event is something that Brazil is holding their breath over. Daiane was still struggling as I mentioned in my Tianjin World Cup analysis post and, with less than 90 days to go until the Olympics I am expecting a solid, but unspectacular effort from dos Santos that will ultimately fall short of qualifying for finals.

Anna Pavlova (Russia)- Viewers saying OMG this is the most artistic floor routine of the quadrennium are incorrect, but Pavlova does have a clean and elegant routine that should score favorably in Beijing. She will need to upgrade her routine up from its current 5.9 A-score if she has any hope of making FX finals, however.

Ana-Maria Tamirjan (Romania)- Recovered from leg injury that kept her out of last year's Worlds to win European FX bronze medal. Has a 6.0 A-score and will need to upgrade to make finals due to the early position Romania drew (1st subdivision).

Predicted Podium:

Gold: Sandra Izbasa (Romania)

Silver: Cheng Fei (China)

Bronze: Shawn Johnson (USA)

I am predicting that Cheng Fei will have a small error, enough of an error to allow Izbasa to pass her with a clean routine. Johnson will not have her absolute best routine (perhaps an OOB) but political favor and reputation will save the day to get her on the podium. However, Tweddle could easily pass Johnson with a clean routine. Sacramone will need mistakes from other competitors; the judges always find SOMETHING to mark her off for, whether it be a missed dance series or an incomplete jump or turn. Yuyuan, Vericel, and Ferrari are too inconsistent to be trusted for a medal on this event. Floor finals are going to be close, however, no matter what shape everyone will be in on the day of the competition.

Next Post: Not sure yet LOL

Note: I am not doing a UB final Outlook post until USA's are over, just to see what shape Liukin/Memmel are in. A BB final Outlook post will have to wait until Chinese Olympic team has been announced.

That is all.


Giulyx14 said...

Thank you!!!Vanessa has got a new floor music,different from the european's music!!I believe that she recover the double-double although hers foot injury is not yet healed!q

MRR said...

I figured Vanessa would change her floor music; the supposed lyrics of her Europeans routine may just be used against her at the Olympics. By the way, do you know if Ferrari has competed since Europeans, and if so, has she improved?

MRR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Giulyx14 said...

In the new music there are lyrics too!
Vanessa competed in A series a week after the European and she did the same exercise...In the last A series test she didn't do floor because she had a tendinitis!Now she is training the new floor and the new coreography and this weekend she will compete in the absolute championships where is elected the Italian champion!I think that she will do a lot of many new exercises..I will say you!!
(sorry for my bad english :( )