Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Olympic UB Final Outlook

The apparatus final to watch at these summer Olympics in Beijing, China, is the women's uneven bars final. All of the medal contenders on this apparatus have been upgrading their uneven bar routines over the past year like crazy to provide you with a thrilling showdown between several different styles of bar work. Bars queen Svetlana Khorkina of Russia may have retired, but that doesn't mean you should miss this battle between gymnasts from countries such as China, USA, Russia, Great Britain, and even Romania and Germany likely to have athletes taking part in this final. Among all the apparatus finals being contested in the Olympics, the uneven bars final in Beijing is one event NOT to be missed.

Predicted Bars Finalists:

Marie Sophie-Hindermann (Germany)
He Kexin (China)
Nastia Liukin (USA)
Chellsie Memmel (USA)
Steliana Nistor (Romania)
Ksenia Semionova (Russia)
Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)
Yang Yilin (China)

Predicted Reserves:

Anja Brinker (Germany)
Hong Su Jong (PRK)
Dariya Zgoba (Ukraine)

The Contenders (Note: The A-scores I have listed are for what athletes have either competed or have publicly stated that they plan on competing)

Marie-Sophie Hindermann (Germany)

Results: 2008 German Nationals-3rd place, 2008 Europeans-9th place(qualifying), 2007 Worlds-5th place

A-score: 7.3

Pros: Hindermann is appreciated for her very clean, correct style on the uneven bars. Form deductions that others suffer from do not apply to Hindermann, especially when it comes to not cowboying her double front dismount. Marie has upgraded her set to potentially .5 over where it was last year.

Cons: Hindermann is very consistent with NOT hitting her bar set. Hindermann would've challenged for the European title on bars earlier this year, but a failed dismount in prelims took away her chances of competing in the finals. She also had issues at the recent German Nationals, and only placed 3rd on this event in a competition she could've easily won.

Outlook: I predicted Hindermann would make bars finals because her A-score is higher than all of my predicted bars reserve gymnasts. Hindermann has yet to really put it all together on this event since last year's worlds. However, upgrades and good form could make Hindermann an outside medal threat at the Olympics if she hits her routine.

He Kexin (China)

Results: 2008 Chinese Nationals Bars Champion, 2008 Cottbus World Cup champion, 2008 Doha World Cup champion

A-score: 7.7 (rumored upgrades)

Pros: He Kexin is the solid favorite for uneven bars gold at these Olympics. Her consistency is remarkable, given the fact that she has yet to miss her extraordinarily difficult routine at a major competition. He Kexin's reliance on pirouettes is less so than her main rivals Nastia Liukin and Yang Yilin, which means there is less room for potential handstand deductions for Kexin. Stamina has not appeared to be an issue at all for Kexin's set, which is something that top bars challenger Liukin cannot say.

Cons: He Kexin's underage rumors could end up backfiring on the Chinese, with the judges having the option of giving a tight execution score to Kexin in order to prevent her from winning gold. Kexin withdrew from the recent Barcelona World Cup for reasons unknown, and also withdrew from the finals of the Tianjin World Cup due to "exhaustion." These recent occurrences could mean that Kexin is not as physically and mentally prepared for the Olympics as she would like.

Outlook: He Kexin has dominated bars throughout the entire year and will be tough to beat in Beijing. Consistency, lack of deductions, and incredible difficulty look to be the right combination for gold. The only things that are standing in the way are He Kexin dealing with the pressure herself and possible political disfavortism from the judges who are known to be relatively tight with the Chinese gymnasts' scores.

Nastia Liukin (USA)

Results: 2005-2008 USA Bars Champion, 2008 Pacific Rim-2nd place(tie), 2007 Worlds-2nd place, 2006 Worlds-2nd place, 2005 World Bars Champion

A-score: 7.7 (though unlikely, if Liukin connects Tkatchev + Pak she would have a maximum A-score of 7.9)

Pros: Nastia is a formidable challenger on this event because of her exquisite body line, good form and high difficulty. Nastia showed improvement in her bar work at the recent U.S. Nationals, especially when it came to hitting handstands. Judges are generally inclined to score tall girls favorably on this event, and Liukin is no exception. Nastia has also competed in three world bars finals, medaling in all of them, and her top rival He Kexin doesn't even have the experience of a world championship under her belt.

Cons: Nastia occurs deductions right off the bat for cowboyed form on her double front 1/2 dismount, in addition is usually a bit off handstand in her Ono 1.5 pirouette. Liukin has been struggling with maintaining her stamina throughout the routine and generally has less-than-desired landings on her dismount. Liukin has also been on the losing end twice during close bars races at the last two world championships.

Outlook: Nastia's #1 priority prior to the Olympics is cleaning up her dismount, which has about a .3 form deduction and additional deductions if she were to have a faulty landing. Liukin shouldn't be subject to another questionable loss of a bars gold medal, as the bars winners at the last two world championships (Elizabeth Tweddle and Ksenia Semionova) were from countries that had yet to win a medal in the competition. With Liukin's top rivals likely to be the two Chinese, Nastia shouldn't be subject to a loss due to the judges wanting to award the gold medal to someone who not from an especially dominant gymnastics nation. However, Nastia's scores and domestic and international competition have yet to match those of He Kexin, and might need a sizable error on her part to win the gold.

Chellsie Memmel (USA)

Results: 2008 U.S. Nationals-2nd place, 2006 Worlds-2nd place (qualifying), 2005 Worlds-2nd place, 2003 Co-World Bars Champion

A-score: 7.0 (stated it could be as high as 7.2)

Pros: Chellsie has strong uneven bar work and her competitive spirit has always made her a favorite of the international judges, which should continue due to the fact that Memmel has even upgraded since her shoulder injury of doom. Chellsie's extremely consistent bar work and amplitude with her releases are also assets to contend for a bars medal.

Cons: Even at top form, Chellsie is .5 behind the top A-scores on this event. This means that Chellsie would really need to rely on a big mistake from at least one of the top bars gymnasts to get a medal, and so far this year Kexin, Yilin, and Liukin have all looked pretty consistent on this event.

Outlook: Chellsie's upgrades make her a very likely candidate to get into bars finals, but medaling is a different story. However, Memmel's competitive nature would make her likely to do a great routine in bars finals and if another top challenger falls under the pressure Chellsie would be right there to snatch a spot on the podium. Because of a lower start score, any podium finish will likely come by default for Memmel, unfortunately.

Steliana Nistor (Romania)

Results: 2008 Europeans-2nd place, 2007 Worlds-6th place, 2006 Worlds-7th place

A-score: 7.3

Pros: Steliana is a very well-trained athlete, and in typical Romanian fashion can cover up a mistake like no other. Steliana is quick thinking enough to save any pirouette that is not completed and rearrange her routine accordingly. Steliana is also a very consistent gymnast, especially on this event, and often sticks her landings cold which is not something many other gymnasts can do here.

Cons: Steliana's form is something to be desired and at the Europeans in April she lost the bars title to Ksenia Semionova despite hitting the routine with a .3 A-score advantage over Semionova. Nistor also tends to suffer from deductions from missed handstands for her multiple pirouetting skills in her routine. Lagging behind Liukin, Yilin, Kexin, and others with her start value also doesn't help Nistor's bid for a bars medal.

Outlook: Steliana is a consistent gymnast but doesn't have the finest quality bar work like that of the other top bar workers. As a competitor she is a very reliable gymnast and is able to work through errors efficiently in her routine, but like Memmel a medal on bars for Nistor will likely come at the expense of other gymnasts' errors.

Ksenia Semionova (Russia)

Results: 2008 Moscow World Cup Bars Champion, 2008 European Bars Champion, 2007 World Bars Champion

A-score: 7.2 (potentially 7.6 if she connects tkatchev + 1.5 pirouette + jaegar but has yet to show this combo)

Pros: One of the lone bright spots for the Russian team in this entire quad, Ksenia has strong political favor from the eastern-bloc nations to score her well as one of their best hopes for an individual medal of any gymnastics event for the women. Ksenia is generally a consistent bars worker and could be a top challenger for UB gold if she adds the aformentioned connection, thus only putting her .1 behind Liukin, Kexin, and Yilin in terms of A-scores.

Cons: Ksenia has been noted to have a stock routine, i.e. a routine that really doesn't have anything truly original. Semionova suffers form deductions for her Deltchev release, as well as her piked double arabian dismount, the latter of which she is sometimes downgraded on because she tucks her legs in the second salto. Also, if Semionova were to not upgrade to the aformentioned combination (which she so far happens), her start value would be sizably behind the other top bars workers.

Outlook: Semionova's technique looks to make her capable of adding the 1.5 turn into an immediate jaegar, and the Russians should know that such an upgrade is necessary for a UB medal of any color. Still, Semionova's bar work might not be on par with Tweddle, Liukin, Yilin, and Kexin because of form and other deductions, however Semionova always seems to be scored favorably on this event in any major competition.

Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)

Results: 2008 Europeans-4th place, 2007 Worlds-4th place, 2006 World Bars Champion, 2005 Worlds-3rd place, 2003 Worlds-3rd place

A-score: 7.4 (rumored upgrades)

Pros: Tweddle has a very consistent bars routine and has had the highest B-score at the last two world championship bars finals because of her good form and lack of handstand deductions (she is more reliant on releases than pirouettes). Tweddle has a very innovative bar routine and has her own element, a toe-on tkatchev 1/2, which she is hoping to have named after her. An upgraded start value of 7.4 and even more potential upgrades to come will boost Tweddle's bar medal chances considerably.

Cons: A failed connection between a toe-on tkatchev and a pak salto lost Tweddle a medal at last year's world championships. Beth has been inconsistent with getting her toe-on full prior to her dismount to the handstand, and also lost credit for her new release skill when she failed to make her straddle back to handtand afterward (though she has since changed the combo to an Ezhova transition). Tweddle has never finished lower than 4th in a world bars final, but all of these little errors seem to plague Beth in bars finals, as does an older body which tends to be more prone to injury.

Outlook: Everyone is thinking about the He Kexin vs. Nastia Liukin showdown, but don't count out Elizabeth Tweddle. She needs to upgrade from her already high 7.4 A-score about .2 to really be in the hunt and thus won't have to rely on other's mistakes to get on the podium. With Beth's good technique and experience she could go as far as taking everyone by surprise by winning gold, but she will need to be flawless in order to do so.

Yang Yilin (China)

Results: 2008 Tianjin World Cup Bars Champion, 2008 Chinese Nationals-2nd place, 2007 Worlds-3rd place

A-score: 7.7 (rumored upgrades)

Pros: Yang Yilin is an extremely consistent competitor who has upgraded her bar routine a whooping .7 in the last year and is currently competing her 7.7 A-score bar routine cleanly. Yang has excellent form and has a good combination of high release moves with beautiful pirouetting. Yang also won't have to deal with the pressure of her teammate, He Kexin, who will have to take far more pressure on her shoulders when competing in Olympic bars finals.

Cons: Yang Yilin was given relatively tight execution marks throughout the competition on bars at last year's worlds, and has yet to beat He Kexin on this event. Yang is not as much of a well-known name as Liukin, Kexin, Tweddle, and Semionova and thus judges might not be as inclined to score her highly. Like Liukin, Yang Yilin earns a lot of her start value in her pirouetting and a few missed handstands here and there will make the difference in such a tight field.

Outlook: Yang Yilin could be a huge surprise on this event, with the potential to upset the favorites and win the gold. However, judges will likely be more inclined to score Kexin and Liukin more favorably than Yilin, and Yang cannot afford any short handstands or dismount steps or hops if she wants gold. A medal is very possible on this event, but like Tweddle Yang will likely need close to a flawless routine if she is going for the top spot on the podium.

Reserve Athletes

Anja Brinker (Germany)- Has a 7.1 A-score and has a very clean and mostly consistent work on this apparatus, though an apparent fall at the recent German Nationals took her out of the medals there. However, I would say that if one of the above predicted bars finalists were to not make it to bars finals due to a fall/injury (mainly Hindermann because of her recent bars issues), I would predict Brinker to sneak in there if she hits her prelims routine.

Hong Su Jong (PRK)- Very consistent and clean bar worker, but as of last year's worlds only has a 6.6 A-score. I don't actually predict many upgrades for Su Jong on bars at the Olympics because of the Koreans likely turning their focus toward Su Jong's vault efforts.

Dariya Zgoba (Ukraine)- Zgoba is an excellent bar worker but it will be hard, though certainly possible, task to make it in to Olympic bars finals. Zgoba has a potential 7.0 A-score but often suffers from form deductions and (correct me if I'm wrong) a compostition deduction for standing on the low bar to transition to the high bar. I would predict Zgoba to get into bars finals if Hindermann and Brinker make mistakes, enough so that Zgoba could compete in the biggest meet of her career.

Predicted Podium:

Gold: He Kexin (China)

Silver: Yang Yilin (China)

Bronze: Nastia Liukin (USA)

With Kexin and Yilin more likely to upgrade than Liukin and with them being more consistent than Liukin, I do predict that these two Chinese girls will finish 1-2 and Nastia will have to settle for bronze. As far as Tweddle and Semionova are concerned, Tweddle I would actually predict to be battling for a medal more so than Semionova because of her experience, good execution and difficulty, and generally good scoring from the judges. Semionova's scoring favor will likely depend on whether Russia gets its team medal back that they so heartbreakingly lost last year. Even with a tkatchev + 1.5 turn immediate jaegar upgrade, I don't see Semionova being able to put together a competitive effort for the finals when she has yet to compete her full difficulty this year and with form that can be a big reason for deduction.

Next Post: USA/China Bubble Girls Analysis

That is all.


Christi9103 said...

Well say yang, nastia, and kexin have the same SV in beijing i think that nastia will be favored

consider their major deduction

nastia: leg separations on cast and cowboy on dismount

yang: bent arms on kips, dead hang, muscled kips

kexin: sometimes arches before kips, dead hangs, muscle throu to missed handstands

yang and kexin's deductions are primarily visible from the side (i.e. the judges angle) whereas nastia's decutions are visible from the front/back (i.e. not within judges' view) and it doesnt seem like they deducted nastia for leg separations at last year's worlds because her execution scores were high there

btwz, if china takes home gold in team (as they shud because of their higher difficulty than usa) the judges might be inclined to give usa gold in an EF

MRR said...

IF Nastia were to stick her dismount, which she has yet to do with this upgraded routine, then I would actually say the gold is hers. But, given all of the trouble she has been having with it, I was predicting that the Chinese would overtake her. And I agree with your prediction that the U.S. would be scored favorably in EF if China is going to win.

Bleh said...

I highly doubt Nastia will connect a pak to that Tkatchev

that would be a huge struggle for her since the Tkatchev is so low

her best best would be connecting a stalder 1/2 to the Pak for a 7.8 A Score

lee1512002 said...

At 2007 worlds, the top judge for UB was from America. That partially explained why the chinese girls got the tougher scores. This Olympics, however, the top judge for UB will be an chinese, and that american judge will be the top judge for BB.

I'd say Liukin or Shawn may have better chance to win BB than UB.