Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bubble Girls Analysis

I have previously done my analysis posts on the team outlooks of both China and USA, and I will do a final analysis on the bubble girls of China and USA and how they could impact the outcome of the team result in the upcoming Olympics. On both teams there appear to be four locks, with two gymnasts to decide from among many prospective Olympic hopefuls in both China and the USA. Let's take a look at what holes these two teams have, what the bubble girls can and cannot contribute to the team, and how they concern things like start values and consistency.


Locks: Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel, Alicia Sacramone

Team Final Line-Up

Vault: Sacramone, Johnson, ?

Uneven Bars: Liukin, Memmel, ?

Balance Beam: Johnson, Liukin, Sacramone/Memmel

Floor Exercise: Johnson, Sacramone, ? (possibly Memmel or even Liukin)

Bubble Girls:

Samantha Peszek-VT, FX

Bridget Sloan-UB, possibly FX and VT if knee is fully recovered

Shayla Worley-UB, BB if USA absolutely needs her

Jana Bieger-UB/FX

Ivana Hong-VT/BB/UB if USA absolutely needs her

Mattie Larson-VT/FX if upgrades come on floor

Britney Ranzy- VT (if Amanar shows up at trials)

At this point, I don't expect anyone outside of this list to even have a chance at being an alternate. The UB postition looks to be a battle between two gymnasts, Bridget Sloan and Shayla Worley. Sloan looks to have the edge at this point because of her strong showing at Nationals (3rd place), though various reports have said that Shayla is up and running on bars and her Nats withdrawal was merely a precaution for her health. However, I would still pick Sloan because of her consistency, good execution and the fact that she also competed in the Beijing arena during the Olympic Test Event in November 2007 and performed very consistently. Reliability is something that Martha K. certainly should be looking for when selecting the team, after all Terin Humphrey was picked in '04 largely because of her cool head under pressure. The last spot is where everyone else (besides Sloan/Worley) is gunning for, and will be the most difficult to decide of all. Let's take a look:

Samantha Peszek

Pros: Good political favor, has a pretty solid DTY and a 6.4 A-score on floor, in addition to great improvement on UB and BB.

Cons: Showing inconsistency with her two necessary events to make the squad on, and form and artistry that is something to be desired on every event.

Outlook: If Peszek solely focused her efforts on either having an Amanar or an excellent floor routine, I would say she would be a shoo-in for the team. However, Sam has not been intelligent with what she needs to focus on to make the Olympic team. It also kind of shocks me that Martha K. didn't stop her from upgrading on bars and beam in hopes of being an AA gymnast, but rather stressing to Sam that the team would need her most on the two events she is strong at. Martha's mystifying choices to send many girls to Olympic Trials with little or no little chance to go are likely to be in direct response to Sam P.'s up-and-down performance at Nats on floor exercise especially. I would say Sam still has a spot on the team, but she better watch out if Britney Ranzy shows up to Philly with an Amanar.

Mattie Larson

Pros: Good, consistent work on floor and vault, not to mention great execution and artistry on floor that the international judges should appreciate.

Cons: Little international experience, low-balled on vault at nationals, lower start value on floor than some of the other floor specialists (6.1 A).

Outlook: Larson looks to be the top rival of Sam P. for the last spot on the team, but I frankly don't see it happening. Her DTY is good, but not something the U.S. can't do without, especially considering the fact that it is untested on a major international stage. With Memmel looking to be the 3rd floor worker on the team, I don't think Larson has much to contribute there unless if her rumored upgrades materialize and are done successfully at the trials. Peszek still looks to be better than Larson on vault, ragged form and all, but Mattie may just hear her name called as an alternate.

Jana Bieger

Pros: Jana has a 6.4 A-score on floor and placed 4th at Nats on uneven bars. Experience and consistency are two of Jana's biggest assets.

Cons: Jana was not scored favorably at this year's Nationals and doesn't look to have scores that the team can't do without. Several form issues on bars and floor degrade her B-score right off the bat, and Jana was shaky on floor on both days of competition, which is her #1 event in terms of importance to make the team.

Outlook: Jana looks to be an alternate unless if injuries are to take several key gymnasts out of the picture entirely. Good strength on bars and floor, plus good consistency, make Jana a good plug-in gymnast if a key performer is to go down. However, Jana's tremendous form deductions leave no room for error, and that is something the U.S. will look to not risk in Beijing.

Ivana Hong

Pros: Hong's good form and experience of competing at last year's worlds are assets to make the squad. Her lack of a glaringly weak event makes her a capable plug-in gymnast on any piece of apparatus.

Cons: Finishing 9th on vault at Nats does not help Ivana's Olympic chances out in the least. Ivana is far too much of a loose cannon to be fired out onto the floor during USA's battle with China, and lack of an individual strength makes her not a necessary commodity for the team.

Outlook: Ivana can still wind up as an alternate if she performs well on vault at trials, but she appears to have a slim chance of even doing that. USA will likely take Jana over Ivana because of Jana's consistency and added strength on floor, Sloan/Worley because of their strength on bars, and if a third alternate is to be picked than Mattie Larson looks to get that position with good VT/FX work. Ivana simply doesn't give the U.S. anything that they don't already have.

Britney Ranzy

Pros: Britney had the 3rd highest vault score at Nats and is said to be planning an Amanar at trials.

Cons: Britney is untested internationally and up until this Amanar rumor no one even thought of her having as much as a remote possibility to go to Beijing. Without an Amanar, there is unlikely to be any use of Ranzy even as an alternate.

Outlook: Ranzy's Amanar could picture an entirely different team outlook than the selection committee had planned on overseeing. If it is clean and consistent at trials and at selection camp, than the USA could actually pick her as the other three events would look to be covered by the other five girls. However, the likelihood of viewers seeing Ranzy's Amanar, let alone her landing it, is lofty at best. Ranzy, with the exception of injury, has nothing to lose to try the vault if she is indeed training it.

As I see it, Peszek still looks to have the 6th spot provided that Ranzy doesn't come to trials with a landed Amanar, or if Larson gets 3rd on floor exercise, like she did at Nats. If Memmel or even Liukin takes 3rd on floor at trials, than USA already has that position filled and all we need then would be a vault specialist. Ranzy could very well get it IF her Amanar is consistent, but Peszek looks to get that spot because she is a potential plug-in girl on any other event if the USA needs her there.


Locks: Cheng Fei, He Kexin, Yang Yilin, Jiang Yuyuan

Team Final Line-Up

Vault: Fei, Yuyuan, Kexin/Yilin

Uneven Bars: Kexin, Yilin, Yuyuan

Balance Beam: Fei, ?, ?

Floor Exercise: Fei, Yuyuan, ? (possibly Yilin)

Bubble Girls:

Deng Linlin-BB, VT and FX if China needs her

Sui Lu-BB, FX

Zhang Nan-BB

Pang PanPan- UB

Xiao Sha-BB

Li Shanshan-BB

China is most in need of two beam specialists, possibly another floor spot if they don't think Yang Yilin is "good enough", and a backup bars worker in case something disastrous happens to any of the three bars workers mentioned above.

Deng Linlin

Pros: Winning beam and floor gold ahead of Sui Lu at the recent Moscow World Cup helps out Deng's Olympic bid. Linlin is generally a consistent competitor who gets solid scores on the events China needs her on.

Cons: Linlin is really more alternate material to the team. The only event they need her on is balance beam, and even there she suffered a fall during the prelims of the Chinese Nationals, thus failing to make event finals.

Outlook: Linlin's strengths on vault and floor really aren't needed, but her balance beam could be. Deng is overall more consistent than beam specialists Xiao Sha and Li Shanshan, but the Chinese may still not use her because of her lower scoring potential. I would predict Deng to be an alternate at this point because of her general consistency and ability to fill a hole while not being an event specialist, which is what the Chinese appear to really be looking for.

Sui Lu

Pros: Sui has the capability of scoring very high on beam and floor, two routines that China would certainly like to use in its quest to beat the United States. Winning Chinese Nationals on those two events and also being scored extremely favorably should mean that Sui is being pushed by the coaches to go to Beijing.

Cons: Sui's meltdown in prelims of the Moscow Russian Cup, her first major international meet, does not bode well for her Olympic chances. In addition to that, the judges were strict in marking Sui in the beam finals for a couple of missed connections and ended up missing the gold on that event by about .4 to Linlin. Sui's inexperience is a huge gamble for China to risk going to Beijing, with the results being either stunning or disastrous.

Outlook: The Chinese can still send Sui Lu with Xiao Sha suffering from falls at both the Chinese Nationals and Tianjin World Cup. Sui should outscore with Yang Yilin with a hit routine, but the Chinese can count on Yang to hit whereas Sui is much more questionable. Still, with the inconsistency coming from Shanshan and Sha on beam, I think they will still risk sending Sui and her high A-scores to the Games because the Chinese are the types that will go all out to win, they are simply not going to go clean and conservative at home.

Zhang Nan

Pros: Zhang Nan has been a rock for the Chinese team on balance beam, posting their top score on that event at the 2006 Worlds when China won its first world title. Zhang is much more experienced than Shanshan, Sha, and Sui combind and the Chinese would look to trust her more than anyone to hit in a team final.

Cons: Zhang Nan has a .5 lower start value on beam than Shanshan, and has performed poorly since the 2006 Worlds. Zhang Nan is only a one-event athlete, and has not been selected to compete in any world cup meets this past year.

Outlook: Zhang Nan showed improvement at the Chinese Nationals, winning the bronze on the beam. However, the fact that Zhang Nan was not sent to a world cup meet at all this year basically means that the Chinese aren't interested. Too bad, because Zhang Nan is the consistent, experienced gymnast making a comeback who I would bet to HIT in team finals when I really can't the same for Li Shanshan, Sui Lu, and Xiao Sha.

Pang PanPan

Pros: With Cheng Fei and the possibility of Li Shanshan, Xiao Sha, Sui Lu, or even Zhang Nan means that China will have no backup on bars in team finals if something catastrophic is to happen to Kexin, Yilin, or Yuyuan. Triple P got bronze at Chinese Nats ahead of Jiang, just prompting that the Chinese might go as far as to trust her with competing UB in team finals. Triple P is also experienced and well-favored internationally amongst the judges.

Cons: Triple P does not contribute much besides bars, and China is much more likely to resort putting two beam specialists on the final two spots for the team when China already has an arsenal of three great bars workers. Triple P also wasn't at the top of her game at the Moscow World Cup, which was important for Triple P because it was the only World Cup meet she had the opportunity to compete this year.

Outlook: Triple P looks to be a relatively unlikely candidate for the team, but keeping her on as an alternate is imperative if one of China's top three bars workers is unable to compete. However, Triple P has really very little contribution on the balance beam, as she failed to make event finals at the Chinese Nationals on that event.

Xiao Sha

Pros: Xiao is a textbook beam worker and hit in the team finals of last year's world championships after falling twice in the prelims. Sha is capable of scoring 16+ easily on that event and is a legitimate backup on any event if China were to absolutely need her.

Cons: Xiao is very inconsistent and suffered falls at the event finals of the recent Chinese Nationals and the Tianjin World Cup. Sha's A-score is only .2 ahead of Zhang Nan, and that is probably not worth the risk when .8 is on the line with a fall.

Outlook: Xiao's beam is too inconsistent for the Chinese to seriously consider sending her to Beijing, and her scores on the other three events aren't necessary unless if China were to suffer multiple injuries prior to the Games. Since Xiao's A-score is .3 lower than that of Li Shanshan, who are basically the two beam specialists battling it out for one spot that all of a sudden looks to be going to Shanshan.

Li Shanshan

Pros: Li Shanshan won the silver medal on balance beam at last year's worlds with a fall and recently won the Barcelona World Cup on balance beam and took out her split-leg full turn for an easier 90 degree leg-up full turn which actually has the same value as the aforementioned skill. Li Shanshan's start value of 7.3 is the highest being done on balance beam in the world.

Cons: Inconsistency, including falls at Chinese Nationals and the Cottbus Cup. Shanshan contributes little besides beam, and gave a golden opportunity to the USA women when she fell out of bounds at last year's worlds in the team final.

Outlook: Hit beam routines in prelims and finals at the recent Barcelona World Cup look to seal the deal for Shanshan's Olympic bid. China will look to use a great team final score for her balance beam, and it should be at least mid-15 even with a fall. My only question is: Why didn't Shanshan take out the godforsaken split-leg full turn which cost her not one, but two major beam titles (Chinese Nats/Worlds) when the comparatively easier 90 degree leg-up full turn is worth the same?

So, this was just a quick little analysis on the bubble girls and what they contribute to China and USA prior to the final Olympic trials of both nations. If I were to pick today, I would say Samantha Peszek and Bridget Sloan are the bubble girls whose bubbles will not burst, and as for China I would say the same for Sui Lu and Li Shanshan.

That is all.


Christi9103 said...

sorry- this is a minor detail but it bothers me how u did not list liukin as the top BB girl because she is actually the reigning world and national champion:)

great post tho! i love reading ur blogs how theyre so detailed

dragalescu10 said...

I think your analysis was well thought out. I do not think that Nastia has any chance whatsoever of being picked for the team floor final, her nationals score was extremely generous and she won't score near that in int'l competition. My last two picks for the open spots would have to go to Sloan (since her bars is great, and all around she is pretty damn solid if they happen to need her on something else) and Peszek who is strong on vault and floor, but can be used on beam as well if need be. Also, these gymnasts have an international reputation, have been to Worlds and have shown they can deal with pressure. Just my opinion.

MRR said...

christi9103: I listed Shawn first because she was the top scorer (and final beamer) in prelims in Stuttgart, and also was the final beam performer in team finals. However, since Nastia won Nats on beam over Shawn with two hit routines despite Shawn's .3 advantage in start value, I think Martha would be wise to perhaps let Nastia go up last on beam in team finals to avoid another worlds meltdown. However, it will come down to the prelims scores to see who competes in what position in team finals, that's how Martha always seems to do it.

inna said...

my vote is for Samantha Peszek. I thought she had a really good nationals besides floor, her beam was amazing very clean and easy to watch
I think there is really no chance that Nastia will be picked for floor, but only because she likes to go out of bound, but I think her dance is by far the best out of any gymnast, but tumbling needs work and since this is not a dance competetion, dance alone is not enough....but her beam omg what can i even say. she has been amazing all year long!!!

Isis said...

"However, Triple P has really very little contribution on the balance beam, as she failed to make event finals at the Chinese Nationals on that event."

Actually, PPP was recovering from a foot(?) injury and only competed UB at the Chinese Nationals. We don't really know what her BB is like at the moment.

MRR said...

Well, at '06 worlds in the AA final PPP posted a 14.8 with a fall, which would've been around a 15.6 or so without it. PPP (when healthy) is very good on this event, but probably not quite up to standard with what the Chinese want. Assuming Li Shanshan is on the team, the Chinese might just send this girl because of her greater experience and reasonable consistency over Xiao Sha, Sui Lu, and Deng Linlin. China needs a backup bars worker, but whether China realizes that importance is the real question at this point.

Christi9103 said...

mrr, yes shawn was put up last in TF on BB because she had the highest score in qualification but thats also because shawn was put up last in prelims and the judges know that the scores are suppossed to escalate so even if nastia does have a better performance, theyll be inclined to give a bigger score to the last performer. i mean this doesnt seem that important, but it can make a minor difference in tenths and that could potentially change the line up in the AA final

on another note, i know that PPP's olympic chances arent that great but i would be so sad to not see her on the team. deep down i want zhang nan to go too :(