Friday, July 25, 2008

Olympic AA Final Outlook Part 2-UPDATED

Above: The 2004 Olympic AA podium for women's gymnastics: Zhang Nan (China)-Bronze, Svetlana Khorkina (Russia)-Silver, Carly Patterson (USA)-Gold. With all three gymnasts not returning to these Olympic Games, who will be on the podium this time around?

UPDATE: Check the bottom of the post for my explanation of my podium prediction

Note: Upon a reader's suggestion, I am changing my blog title to Polished Gymnastics 101, as to not create any confusion of my blog being about Polish gymnasts (yeah then I would have nothing to write about LOL). My site URL will remain the same, however.

I opened up this blog with a post on the women's Olympic AA final to take place at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China on August 15th, 2008. Three months after my original post on the outlook of the top all-around women for these Olympic Games, the landscape of this competition now has a very different look. Interestingly enough, it appears that a USA vs. China showdown will not be exclusive to just the women's team final. Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Jiang Yuyuan, and Yang Yilin look to be the top four contenders for this most prestigious title that they have trained their entire lives for. However, every gymnast is looking to capture their 15 minutes of fame on this night of nights. The anticipation is growing, the clock is ticking, and the drama is building. With just two weeks to go until the Olympics and everyone's final preparations for the biggest event of all falling into place, it is now time to crown the best gymnast in the world.

Note: The gymnasts' A-scores I have listed are of routines that have been credited successfully in competition. I do remark on any theoretical upgrades that either the gymnasts have said to be doing or have been rumored to be planning for the Games beside their current A-score total.

Shawn Johnson (USA)

Total A-score: (6.5 6.4 6.9 6.6)
26.4 (Note: Could be a 7.0 BB set if her full-turn is credited, according to the reports it was credited at the selection camp)

Pros: Shawn won both the U.S. Nationals and Olympic Trials with room to spare over what is predicted to be one of her top rivals in Beijing, Nastia Liukin. Upgrades to an Amanar on vault, a 6.4 A-score on uneven bars, and a 6.6 A-score on floor (believed to be the highest in the world at the moment) have not degraded her status as the favorite for Olympic AA gold in the least. Her consistency is admirable in the fact that she has only fallen once in a major competition this year, which was of course her Amanar vault at the Scam Cup.

Cons: International judges have been stingy all year long in international meets with execution deductions and downgrades on underotated skills, the latter of which has the potential to kill any hope for Shawn to win the AA. Questionable rotation on her Amanar vault and her whip+triple twist on floor, among other skills, could cost Shawn above a full point in start value, not to mention deductions for incomplete revolutions of the twists. USAG judges wouldn't have downgraded any of these major elements if their life depended on it, but the Olympic international judges are not likely to be even remotely lenient when it comes to these types of errors.

Outlook: I think Shawn's AA medal chances do not rely on any of the obvious things like mental toughness or being healthy, she has been all of that and more all year long and one shouldn't expect her to be any different in Beijing. However, Shawn's AA medal chances come down to far more technical details, that if not addressed now could have serious consequences on her medal chances at the games, and not just in the AA. However, it is definitely worth noting that despite USAG's inability to be harsh when necessary with these types of issues, Shawn and her coaches make for a very intelligent team and should be able to fix some of these potential problems in time for the arrival of the Games.

Jiang Yuyuan (China)

Total A-score: (6.5 7.3 6.5 6.3) 26.6

Pros: Jiang has an excellent Amanar on vault, and very formidable start values on bars and floor. Winning the AA title at the Chinese Nationals back in May should bode well for Jiang's confidence and political favor heading into the games. It also doesn't hurt that Jiang competed in the Beijing arena at the Olympic Test Event in November 2007, and won the AA gold there as well. Jiang gained valuable experience while competing at last year's worlds, yet won't have to deal with the same kind of pressure that is being thrown at Johnson and Liukin, who have been analyzed as Olympic AA gold possibilities by the unrelenting USA media for quite a bit longer than Jiang has back in China. Among all of the AA medal contenders, Jiang's A-score is the highest when it comes to successfully credited routines.

Cons: Jiang is especially weak on balance beam, boasting a comparatively weaker 6.5 A-score on that event and is generally wobbly and cautious on that piece of apparatus. Execution deductions await Jiang on UB (missed handstands, occasional dead hangs, bent arms, typical Chinese UB errors) and also on FX (sometimes uncontrolled landings and occasional OOBs). Not competing AA at last year's worlds could hurt Jiang in terms of being able to withstand the pressure of such a tough competition, and also her reputation standpoint from judges who tend to favor gymnasts who have been out on the scene longer.

Outlook: Jiang is a great three-event athlete, but as long as she gets past beam she should do very well in the AA. Being at home in China should lessen any political backstabbing from biased judges, though the way the scoring has been going this year Jiang's UB execution could take a significant blow with the deductions she tends to incur that I previously mentioned. A weakness on beam aside, Jiang is more than up to par with the rest of the gymnasts when it comes to consistency, difficulty, and execution and it would be most surprising to not see her as a top AA medal threat come August 15th, 2008.

Nastia Liukin (USA)

Total A-score: (5.5 7.7 6.7 6.2) 26.1 (Note: Has only been credited with a 6.7 on BB once, otherwise she gets a 6.6 because her front aerial to scale isn't held long enough)

Pros: Nastia has improved her FX and VT scores to go along with her world-class work on UB and BB. Victories at the American Cup and the Pacific Rim earlier this year have no doubt helped Liukin's statement to be a top Olympic AA contender, and second-place finishes at this year's Nats (which without an FX fall on night one might have won the competition) and Olympic Trials (while battling a case of the flu) have also proven that Liukin has the goods to go for gold in Beijing. Liukin is also known for her excellent execution marks for hit routines on events like vault and beam.

Cons: Liukin has several built-in deductions on UB (cowboyed/inconsistent double front 1/2 dismount, low tkatchev, off handstand on Ono 1.5 pirouette) and FX (crossed legs on twisting passes/cowboyed double front) that will most definitely be taken by the presumably strict international judging panel in August. Liukin has yet to put together a really flawless meet this year, with mistakes big and small always creeping in somewhere. Her double front 1/2 dismount off bars is of particular concern because of its generally low landings and poor form.

Outlook: Liukin's rumored upgrades like a DTY and a triple full on beam did not materialize, and in both cases it was likely a smart decision to favor execution and consistency over more difficulty. Liukin has looked excellent on beam all year and appears to be getting it together on vault and floor where she has had issues in the past. Ironically it is her strongest event, uneven bars, which could look to be her downfall. A weaker A-score on vault means that Liukin needs to take full advantage of strength on bars, and that sometimes doesn't materialize as the Olympic Trials, among other meets, showed us. While Liukin has yet to put everything together in an AA competition this year, she could just peak at the right time in Beijing and surprise all, or in a worse-case scenario even miss AA finals if Memmel and Johnson put strong performances and Liukin commits errors that will keep her out of the running entirely.

Yang Yilin (China)

Total A-score: (5.8 7.7 6.7 6.2)
26.4 (Note: Could have as high as a 6.9 BB set if she puts in all of her connections, but 6.7 is the highest she has received thus far)

Pros: Those that have not followed gymnastics in recent months should be in for a huge shocker at these Olympics, as the 6th place finisher from last year's worlds has a legitimate shot at the Olympic AA gold medal. Upgrades on every event that are for the most part consistent, including a DTY vault and a 7.7 A-score UB routine, put Yilin firmly in the AA mix. Also helping her case are the facts that Yang does not have any weak event and is generally a consistent and cool competitor under pressure.

Cons: Yang lost the Chinese National AA title to Yuyuan with a fall after her pak salto transition on the uenven bars. Yang doesn't quite the international name that Johnson and Liukin have and was scored a bit tightly at last year's worlds, which likely had a bit to do with her not having the international reputation that some of the other top contenders have. Also, competing at home will bring upon great pressure to this young lady who is arguably China's best hope for an AA gold medal.

Outlook: Though not perhaps as well-known as an AA threat as Johnson, Liukin, or Yuyuan, Yang Yilin could steal the show if she maintains her trademark consistency on this all important of nights. A strong DTY, outstanding bars, and good beam and floor make her arguably the best definition of an AA athlete competing in Beijing, but it remains to be seen whether she can avoid major error and hold off her top rivals in the process.

Other Potential Medalists

Steliana Nistor (Romania)

Total A-score: (5.8 7.3 6.9 6.1) 26.1

Pros: Nistor's consistency and lacking of a weak event make her a solid threat in the AA competition. With Vanessa Ferrari's never-ending battle with injuries, Nistor's chances could go up significantly if the European judges lobby to give her generous execution marks like they did at last year's worlds. Nistor's weakness, her form, has improved a tad bit over the last year. Also not to be forgotten is her experience of two world championship AA finals, one of which she medaled in.

Cons: Nistor was reportedly spotted with a back brace at the recent ITA vs. ROM vs. BRA meet, where she only competed bars. Nistor receives basic execution errors in the form and artistry department right off the bat and thus doesn't have the scoring potential of the presumed top four contenders mentioned above. Dealing with the pressure of being Romania's best hope for getting back an Olympic AA medal that they lost in 2004 could prove to be immense.

Outlook: Assuming that she is healthy and Stelina only competing bars at the recent ITA vs. ROM vs. BRA meet was merely precautionary, Nistor is Europe's best hope for an AA medal. Don't be surprised if Nistor gets generous marks from European judges who lobby to score her favorably a la 2007 World Championships, though it is no question that Nistor does not have the scoring potential that the top four gymnasts have. Nistor could easily sneak onto the AA medal podium if other gymnasts' mistakes present Steliana opportunities to do so, but if everyone is to hit (particularly the four mentioned above) Nistor's chances of medaling become much slimmer.

Jade Barbosa (Brazil)

Total A-score: (6.5 6.6 6.7 6.3) 26.1

Pros: Jade has some notable upgrades that she has debuted this year, notably a 1.5 twist+ immediate front double full on floor exercise. An improved A-score on bars (6.6) will further add to Jade's strong scoring potential on the other three events to make her a possible top challenger for the AA podium. It is also worth noting that Jade was in peak form at last year's Worlds more so than any event throughout the year. If Barbosa is to come to Beijing armed with the best gymnastics she has produced all year, she could prove to be an especially strong threat in this competition.

Cons: Jade has been remarkably inconsistent throughout the entirety of this year. Losing the Brazillian AA title to lesser-known gymnast Ana Claudia Silva will no doubt put yet another damper on Barbosa's often wavering confidence level. One of her main weapons, an Amanar vault, has yet to be landed this year and Barbosa has only attempted that vault once, and very unsuccessfully, since last year's Worlds. Balance beam has also given Jade issues all year long, with her acro series giving her particular trouble. Even Oleg Ostepanko, one of Brazil's top coaches, has stated that he would be surprised to see Barbosa challenge for medals at this summer's Olympics.

Outlook: With Barbosa the potential really is there, but her consistency is always a big question mark and her confidence has likely taken several shots this year, especially with losing the Brazillian AA title recently. Getting her Amanar vault consistent in time for the Olympics will be especially crucial for Barbosa, who will rely heavily on that one element to get herself up to the level of the top gymnasts contending for medals. Though Jade's inconsistency this year has made her look anything but a realistic AA medal prospect, we must remember that not many were expecting her to challenge for the podium last year and ended up surprising all by doing so.

Daria Joura (Australia)

Total A-score: (5.8 6.3 6.3 6.3) 24.7

Pros: Joura has exhibited much-improved confidence and consistency this year and Peggy Liddick's decision to send the stylish Dasha to world cup meets and the Pacific Rim championships should enable Joura to do much better at this year's Olympics than last year's Worlds where she had lackluster performances throughout the competition. Joura does not have a glaringly weak event and has very nice execution and artistry to possibly vie for a medal.

Cons: Not having an Amanar vault will put a significant damper on Joura's AA medal prospects and will give away .7 to the medal contenders that do. The only event where Joura is capable to potentially score one of the highest marks of the competition is on floor exercise, with lower start values on the other three ultimately meaning that Joura will likely need a significant error from a top contender or two to realistically wind up on the medals stand.

Outlook: Strong performances at the Pacific Rim and especially the Australian Nationals have signaled to the rest of the field that, while maybe not everyone's first choice for a medal, Dasha cannot be excluded from the list of very realistic AA medal threats come Beijing. Dasha's good execution and unique artistry have won over judges and fans alike, however it is without a doubt that Joura will be need to be at the absolute top of her game if she wishes to become the first Australian gymnast in history to win an Olympic medal. Joura appears to be really going after the B-scores to her bid of becoming an AA medalist, as her total A-score is far behind that of the other top contenders.

Vanessa Ferrari (Italy)

Total A-score: (5.8 6.8 6.7 6.3) 25.6 (Note: Has not been credited with those BB and FX A-scores (6.7/6.3) so far this year)

Pros: Ferrari is known for her high start values, good political favor, and incomparable mental toughness. Ferrari won the 2006 World AA title with a fall also won the 2007 European AA title. Ferrari followed that up those wins with a bronze in the AA at the 2007 Worlds while nursing a nagging foot injury. Another example of Ferrari's immense determination was displayed at the 2007 Worlds when Ferrari had not done a single full floor routine in training because of her injury and went on to hit three 15+ routines (under tough scoring as well) during the competition.

Cons: Ferrari will need all that mental toughness and more to win an AA medal after what has seemed like a never-ending battle with Tendonitis. (which if I am not mistaken was what developed to prior to last year's Worlds and has given her issues ever since) Even Ferrari has been pessimistic with her Olympic chances, confirming that she won't be at full speed and healthy when the Olympics arrive. Healthy or not, Ferrari's overall inconsistency, especially on bars and beam, has lost the Italian diva several individual titles in the past.

Outlook: Vanessa's need to wait until the last minute to add back in some of her big tricks she has yet to compete this year (notably her double-double and triple full on floor) could definitely backfire on Ferrari, who hasn't competed these elements in a full routine for nearly a year. If last year's Worlds are any indication, Vanessa will press on to vie for a medal, but time is running out. However, Ferrari's fierce competitive nature should mean that one shouldn't ever count her out, but as of now her AA medal chances do not look at all good.

Sandra Izbasa (Romania)

Total A-score: (5.8 5.8 6.9 6.5) 25.0 (Note: Potentially 25.2 if 6.7 A FX materializes)

Pros: Izbasa's upgrades on vault (DTY), beam (6.9 A) and floor (6.5, rumored 6.7 A) will help out her AA medal case greatly. A generally consistent gymnast, Izbasa has the experience of two world championships, one of which she won the bronze medal in the AA. Izbasa also won't have to deal with much of the pressure being put on compatriot Steliana Nistor's shoulders and could wind up being the surprise of the competition if everything goes according to plan.

Cons: Great work on three events comes with a potentially fatal price to Izbasa's AA medal chances, a weakness on the uneven bars. Romania's weakness on bars has been in full force for the last 15 years (Nistor being an exception), and Izbasa's meager A-score of 5.8 (she was only credited with a 5.5 at the recent Mediterranean Gym Cup) and consistently splatted double front dismount make her AA medal chances go down dramatically because of just one event.

Outlook: Izbasa is not expected by many to be touching an AA medal podium come August 15th, and certainly won't be doing so if her UB (dismount especially) continues to give her issues. However, if she can get her bars work at least somewhat together prior to the arrival of the Games while maintaining her strength on the other three apparatus, an AA medal will not be out of the question for Izbasa. Her chances would ultimately rise if top challengers with far more pressure falter and Izbasa's experience and consistency paves her a path to the podium.

The Darkhorses

Anna Pavlova (Russia)

Total A-score (6.5 5.7 6.8 5.9) 24.9 (Note: Amanar is questionable, 24.2 w/o it, has shown a triple full off beam in training, which looked fully rotated, and connecting back her front aerial+side somi+Kolesnikova series could bumb her total A-score up to as high as 25.3)

Pros: Anna was edged out of an AA medal in Athens which subsequently brought Pavlova to tears and prompted many observers to believe that she was unfairly placed behind Chinese gymnast Zhang Nan, who won the bronze medal. Anna is back for a 2nd Olympics and could be an outside threat for an AA with a possible Amanar vault, and a potential 7.2 A-score on beam (with triple twist and connecting her front aerial+ side aerial + Kolesnikova acro series). Pavlova will also carry with her great experience in Beijing and one shouldn't forget that the 2004 Athens Olympics has generally been said to be her best competition performance to date.

Cons: Pavlova has not competed her Amanar once since splatting at the European Championship vault event finals in April in both warm-up and competition. Low A-scores on floor (5.9) and bars (5.7, has ZERO connection bonus on this event) will make Pavlova have an extremely difficult time reaching the AA medals stand. Also combine that with the facts of her questionable Amanar vault and her fluctuating beam start value (has varied from 6.4 to 6.8, and could go as high as 7.2) make Pavlova a definite longshot for an AA medal of any color.

Outlook: Pavlova would need to be at the top of her game and more to vie for an AA medal, and since we have yet to see her reach her full potential on her two money events, vault and beam, it seems unlikely that we will see her in reach of an AA medal podium. However, a top 10 finish for Pavlova is very realistic, as are possible medal finishes with her team and individually on balance beam.

Ksenia Afanasyeva (Russia)

Total A-score: (5.8 6.2 6.7 6.0) 24.7

Pros: This relatively unknown Russian will likely end up being Russia's top hope for an AA medal. Armed with consistent work on all apparatus, Ksenia has won a total of three medals in world cup competition (2008 Tianjin and Moscow World Cups) and won the AA in both the preliminaries and finals of the recent Russia Cup. Ksenia's gymnastics generally has good execution and form.

Cons: Afanasyeva's lack of experience will definitely not help her quest for finishing on the AA medal podium, nor will her comparatively lower A-scores on bars (6.2) and floor (6.0). Afanasyeva being a relative unknown won't do well with her AA medal status either, with judges known to favor gymnasts who have won major international meets in the AA, something Afanasyeva has yet to do.

Outlook: Afanasyeva is without a doubt a relative long shot for finishing on the AA podium, however her consistency, good execution, and good strength across all apparatus should provide her a strong case for a top 10 finish if in peak form for the games. Though surprises have happened in the past in this event with top contenders faltering, Afanasyeva would need a stockpile of errors from the aforementioned contenders to finish the night with a medal around her neck.

Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)

Total A-score: (5.5 7.6 6.2 6.4) 25.7 (Note: Could go to 25.9 with 7.8 A-score UB routine she has apparently showed in training sessions at the British Nationals)

Pros: Elizabeth Tweddle, Great Britain's most decorated gymnast in history, qualified in 4th place to the 2007 Worlds AA final ahead of eventual co-bronze medalists Jade Barbosa and Vanessa Ferrari. Tweddle's work on the uneven bars and floor exercise is Olympic medal worthy on both pieces of apparatus. Tweddle is also the only contender besides Anna Pavlova who is competing in her second Olympics.

Cons: Any hopes of an AA medal at the last two world championships were dashed for Tweddle at the last two world championships with falls on bars (2006) and beam (2007). Tweddle's relatively low A-scores on vault (5.5) and beam (6.2) do not bode well for her AA medal chances. Beth has always seemed to be cursed with injuries or lackluster performances at big meets, and with that said is coming to Beijing off an injured ankle that kept her out of the British Nationals.

Outlook: Tweddle's AA finishes at the last two world championships, 8th in 2006 and 11th in 2007, don't suggest this experienced gymnast to be capable of contending for an AA medal. However, upgraded start values on bars (7.6, reports have even said she is training a bar routine with a 7.8 A-score) and on floor (6.4) are added bonuses to Tweddle's AA chances and could result in a medal if Tweddle has the night of her life and others falter. Still, the likelihood of Beth medaling in this event is low and will have better chances of medaling in the uneven bars and floor exercise finals.

The Big Question Mark

Chellsie Memmel (USA)

Total A-score: (5.8 7.0 6.9 6.2) 25.9 (Note: Could wind up as high as 26.4 (though I'd say 26.1/26.2 is more realistic), if her double arabian and split jump 1.5 are credited on floor, allowing for a 6.5 A-score there, and if she gets her UB A-score up to 7.2 like she has said she will)

Pros: Chellsie's upgrades on vault (DTY), uneven bars (potential for a 7.2 A-score), and floor (double arabian-6.5 A), mean that Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin's once locked up positions in the AA final have suddenly become anything but. Chellsie's mental toughness is admired by fans and most importantly, the international judges, who have always scored Chellsie favorably in world championships despite shaky form and artistry. Chellsie's consistency throughout the Nationals/Olympic Trials/Karolyi Selection Camp meet was admirable, especially when you consider the fact that throughout the entire process she didn't miss one routine.

Cons: Chellsie's DTY is still a big question mark, and the 14.65 at the selection camp meet was lower than all of the scores handed out for 1.5 Yurchenkos. Her improvement on that event between now and Beijing is critical for Memmel's AA chances, with everything boiling down to if Martha K. wants to let Bridget Sloan and Samantha Peszek compete their comparatively better DTY's over Chellsie. A decision like that would ultimately mean Chellsie wouldn't do vault in prelims and her AA bid would be over before the competition were to even start. Chellsie's recent "whiplash" on floor at the selection camp meet will also mean that Olympic prelims will be the first competition where she will add back in her double arabian and compete it in her full routine.

Outlook: Shawn's questionable Amanar rotation and Nastia's inconsistent uneven bars could ultimately pave the way for Chellsie to not only make AA finals, but to even win a medal. However, Chellsie will need to improve her DTY vault fast if she is to truly solidify her position to compete all four events in prelims. As I see it, Memmel's AA bid could go either way. Her chances could realistically be washed away before she even competes her first routine of the competition, or Memmel's AA bid might ultimately culminate with a medal. Knowing Chellsie's immense toughness, I believe the latter scenario will be more likely to take place.

Other Gymnasts Looking for a Top 10-Top 15 Finish

Rebecca Downie (GBR)
Hong Su Jong (PRK)
Alina Kozich (Ukaraine)
Deng Linlin (China-If for some reason Yuyuan or Yilin wouldn't qualify or wouldn't be able to compete)
Pauline Morel (France)
Lia Parolari (Italy)
Marine Petit (France)
Ana Claudia Silva (Brazil)
Koko Tsurumi (Japan)

Now, while I know that sticking with your first instinct is always intelligent reasoning I learned myself when switching Deng Linlin, my original prediction for the Chinese team, with Sui Lu, when it now appears as though Deng Linlin is on the Olympic team and Sui is not. However, I will make one change to my original podium prediction (Liukin/Ferrari/Johnson)

Polish 101 Olympic AA Predicted Podium

Gold: Nastia Liukin (USA)

Silver: Yang Yilin (China)

Bronze: Shawn Johnson (USA)

4th: Jiang Yuyuan (China)-Weakness on beam could keep her out of the top 3, as can a lower B-score on bars.

5th: Steliana Nistor (Romania)-The typical consistent Romanian who is solid on every event, but sluggish form and artistry and little mistakes here and there look to keep her out of the medals.

6th: Vanessa Ferrari (Italy)-Is an incredible fighter, Giulyx14 reports of upgrades on UB and FX if she puts her double-double back in. Just not in the shape to vie for a medal, but don't count her out yet.

7th: Jade Barbosa (Brazil)-Inconsistent as all get out but peaked at last year's Worlds and could do the very same in Beijing. Has all the goods to be a top contender, but her mental game is her downfall and something she has to get together for the biggest meet of her life.

8th: Daria Joura (Australia)- Consistent gymnast with good execution who looks to be peaking at the right time, but that lower A-score is going to kill her.

9th: Sandra Izbasa (Romania)- UB is a nightmare for her, but solid work on the other three should definitely keep Izbasa in the top 10.

10th: Hong Su Jong (PRK): We haven't seen her all year, and was quite lackluster at the Olympic Test Event in November 2007, her last major comp to date. However, North Korea is known for busting out all of the big tricks at the biggest competitions; they NEVER play it safe. So one should expect some upgrades (likely on UB where she is a possible contender an EF birth on) from Su Jong provided that she is healthy. Not seeing Su Jong compete all year does not bode well for her consistency at the Games, but she could be the ultimate darkhorse threat if she is in peak form. That, or she won't factor in at all.

Update: Reasoning for my podium prediction

Many of you are likely dumbfounded by my prediction to keep Nastia Liukin as the Olympic AA gold winner. Shawn obviously seems to be the more likely pick of her consistency, difficulty, and execution. While Liukin is comparatively less consistent than Johnson, I think she is going to get it together one of these days and it could very well be the day of the Olympic AA final. The pressure on Johnson will be far more immense than that of Liukin, as Johnson's wins at Nationals, Olympic Trials, and the Karolyi camp have looked to downplay a Johnson vs. Liukin showdown that the media was making a big deal out of in the past.

As for Shawn's Amanar, the code states that the feet are the do or die factor when it comes to crediting the full rotation of the twists, and Shawn's feet have been short of the complete 2.5 twists throughout Nationals and Olympic Trials. Granted, she isn't that short of getting the full rotation on vault, but the judges at nationals and trials were USAG judges and would not have devalued the vault if their life depended on it. There have even been reports that judges were pressured to give certain gymnasts (Shawn and Nastia in particular) high marks for certain routines and would be reprimanded if they failed to comply. I don't necessarily know if that is true, but USAG judges are known to be extremely generous with top gymnasts' scores in domestic meets. So the fact that one can just say Shawn's Amanar (and whip+triple full for that matter, though at Trials it was much improved from Nationals) will get credited at the Olympics because it got credited at Nationals and Olympic Trials is not a reliable statement. The reason I am still skeptical for Shawn to win is because she is playing fire with a lot more elements (A-score wise) than Nastia is, though with that said Nastia's UB routine is a routine many will be nervous when watching because of its many potential problems.

As for Jiang Yuyuan's Amanar, TCO left a comment and made a good point that Jiang's crossed legs will be reason for deduction, and also the fact that to my knowledge Jiang has only competed this vault twice. (Johnson has done it successfully five times, fully-rotated or not). The video is too low quality, however, for me to determine whether she makes it all the way around (I am not the biggest expert on Amanar landings, as you probably have already figured out LOL). However, from what I can tell Yuyuan's looks clean, but I won't go to town saying it will be fully-rotated in the Olympics or anything like that.

All of these potential downgrades and inconsistency could pave the way for Yang Yilin, who looks to be pretty consistent while not gambling with the credit on a lot of her skills. However, I will still predict Nastia Liukin to win. It may not seem all that logical, but I am going to trust my first instinct. And we all should know by now how unpredictable the Olympics can be.

Next Post: Olympic BB Final Outlook and Updated FX Outlook

That is all.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It Is Now Official

Above: The 2008 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team, in addition to the three alternates chosen. Missing from the picture is Shayla Worley, whose very possible Olympic dream was ended at the last second with a broken leg.

The team selection for the USA women's gymnastics team, which will head off to Beijing to hold off China in its quest for Olympic gold, was announced the evening of July 19th, 2008. Though this team heads to the Olympics as the reigning world champions, just like in 2004, the drama and possibilities of who would go and who would stay was a far cry from in 2004, when the team selection was fare more open in terms of possibilities and resulted in a relatively shocking decision to invite veteran vault specialists Mohini Bhardwaj and Annia Hatch. This time around, the Olympic Trials in Philadelphia seemed to all but guarantee five spots on the team, with one being left to fight after. It looked like the last spot would be a fight between Jana Bieger, Ivana Hong, Mattie Larson, Bridget Sloan, and Shayla Worley. As all should know by now, Sloan got the last spot on the team and Jana Bieger, Ivana Hong, and little-known Corrie Lothrop were named as the alternates. My thoughts on the bubble girls competing for the last spots and their performances at the camp:

Jana Bieger:
With a consistent showing on bars at trials, the 6th spot was ultimately Jana's to lose. Despite Jana's former greatness as an all-arounder (silver at 2006 Worlds), that would mean nothing to this team, all that was important was her uneven bars work. Unfortunately, two falls on her stalder Tkatchev (otherwise known as a Ricna) would be the undoing of a lifelong dream. And, to be perfectly honest, had Jana hit one of her bars sets at the camp and outscored Johnson, I think that would've been enough for her to make the team. It must be an absolute killer to think that ultimately being an inch or too far away from the bar during one routine meant the difference between a possible Olympic gold, and watching from the sidelines and wondering what could've been.

Ivana Hong: Well, at least her knee injury that she was rumored to have apparently was not serious, but Martha K. hinted that was Hong's lack of confidence, attack, and experience that kept her off the Olympic team. Though being an alternate to the team was pretty much known to be the case all along, Hong's relatively remote Olympic chances really boiled down to vault and bars. The numbers spoke for themselves, and Hong's vault being outscored by Samantha Peszek, Bridget Sloan, and Corrie Lothrop and having her bars being outscored by Shawn Johnson meant that there really is no immediate use for her on the team. Hong's help to the USA team on the world stage will have to be on hold until 2009.

Mattie Larson: Larson would've been the 3rd alternate at the very least if yet another injury (Memmel's "whiplash," and Worley's broken leg) hadn't happened to this most stylish of performers. If the injury hadn't occurred, it would've been interesting to see if Martha K. would've put Larson in for Hong as one of the two traveling alternates. After all, Larson had the 2nd highest floor score on day one, higher than Sacramone, Sloan, and Peszek, prior to her injury. The downfall to Larson's Olympic bid boiled down to even more than simply inexperience and her last-minute injury. Her best event, floor, was really the event USA needed her the least on. I think Larson's mature attitude and polished gymnastics can carry her a long way to the next quad and possibly the 2012 Olympics if she can hang in there that long. I only hope this isn't too big of a mental and physical setback for her heading into next year when USA could really use her to win medals in important competitions.

Bridget Sloan: If you read my "And spot #6 goes to...." post, you will definitely know how much I wanted Bridget to be on the team and I was thoroughly pleased to hear that she was indeed chosen as the last girl. However, her getting the last spot came down to very different reasons than I had imagined. With the five locks on the team, there was literally only one gap available, and that was on bars for both prelims and finals. However, with Shawn Johnson getting the 3rd highest bars score, Bieger's falls, and Sloan's missed handstands and closely caught release moves, the order of the day changed from getting a separate bars specialist to having the last girl add whatever tenths were left available to gain on vault and floor. With Sloan having arguably the best meet of her career at the most important meet of her career, she proved she could be counted on really any event as another good all-arounder for the U.S. team. I am still quite confused, and unhappy, that Sloan's UB scores fell like an avalanche between Nationals and the camp with hit routines. Apparently it was the aforementioned issues I mentioned of her UB routines that caused her scores to go down, but I would really like to see her being counted on as the 3rd bar girl and not Johnson, as Sloan certainly has the potential. Bridget's presence on the team now poses a threat to Chellsie Memmel competing AA in prelims, especially because of Sloan's far superior DTY at the camp.

Shayla Worley: I was devastated when I turned on my computer, went to and the front page the headline stared at me "Shayla Worley out with broken leg." All of our possibilities for a 3rd bars girl have fallen one by one, and Worley was our last hope. Unfortunately, Worley's leg injury could've at least had a lower chance of not happening had she and her coach been smart and just trained and competed at the camp on bars ONLY. It seems as though Jeff Wood, and I guess Shayla as well, thought her making AA finals at the Olympics was a possibility, which as we all know is complete rubbish. However, it is also known that Martha K. has a strong liking for AAers, and after all with Sloan being picked over Bieger provides further evidence for that fact. Really, in the case with Bridget Sloan, she is just providing the USA with more options for back-up on floor, vault, and bars. However, an excellent 3rd bar worker who could consistently outscore Johnson by .2 or more would be all that was needed for the 6th spot, and frankly I think that if Hatch's 1-event Olympics in 2004 means anything Martha K. would've done the same for Worley.

And that last spot could've easily been Shayla Worley, who was scored favorably at Worlds with the world-renowned "international look," and also had a 7.0 A-score UB routine in the works. And that last spot could've easily been Ashley Priess as well, who was scoring in the 15.7-15.8 range at a meet back in May but made an admirable decision to back-out of the race when she wasn't healthy enough to compete. One can only imagine how she now must be wondering that if her body had been up to the challenge she really could've made it. And, last but not least, that could've easily been Courtney Kupets, who everyone was waiting with eager anticipation if she would make an Olympic comeback until a nasty Achilles injury put a second Olympic Games out of her August travel plans. Kupets never said she would go to Beijing, but with experience, consistency, polished and difficult UB work, and confidence to top it off one has to wonder why she would pass up all of that for what could've been the Olympic team gold she missed in Athens. But here and now has arrived, and though all of those possibilities have vanished, using Johnson or Sloan for the 3rd bars girl should be good enough for the U.S. team given our strength and depth on the other three events.

Team Line-Ups


Prelims: Sacramone, Johnson, Liukin, Peszek/Sloan/Memmel
Finals: Sacramone, Johnson, Peszek/Sloan

Outlook: This is going to be by far the most confusing event to determine the line-up, with AA spots and extra tenths to be gained to the team total on the line. As of now, it looks like Memmel will sit out of vault, but Chellsie is known for pulling tricks out of nowhere that you never really thought she could do that well. (take Nats Day 2 vault as an example) So I'd say it would actually be a wise move to still let Memmel do vault, especially considering the fact that Martha K. would look extremely bad for not letting three girls do AA in prelims if Nastia or Shawn is to get injured and therefore cannot compete.

Now, with the Peszek/Sloan battle, we must not forget that Sloan's DTY scores were higher than Peszek's at the camp, and given how USAG judges tend to be rather lenient with Peszek that has to say something. Though this would seem to be almost unheard of for Martha K. (though if I'm not mistaken I think something like this happened at 2001 Worlds), Bridget could do VT in prelims and if she falters due to "inexperience" Sam P. can just go and do vault in team finals even if she didn't compete that event in prelims. It really is plausible, especially considering USA has no worries making to team finals (unless if Martha K. is really gunning for the top spot in prelims which would ensure USA of competing last on floor in team finals) and also that Sam P. can almost do a DTY in her sleep, even if it doesn't have the best form and height out there. And if Sloan's DTY is fabulous in prelims, well than you use her in team finals, simple as that. So, I would actually say I would sit out Peszek on vault in prelims, but knowing Martha K. it wouldn't be like her to be inclined to do that.

It will be interesting to see if Johnson is going to go last on vault in prelims/team finals. With the step latter scoring format the judges generally use, the panel may just be a tad bit more lenient with crediting Shawn's often underotated Amanar vault. Though knowing what happened to Cheng Fei in 2006, the judges are really free to do whatever they want to.


Prelims: Liukin, Memmel, Sloan, Johnson, Peszek
Finals: Liukin, Memmel, Johnson (possibly Sloan)

Outlook: Well, there is no question that this will be the prelims line-up with Sacramone ditching this nemesis event of hers altogether. It might be wise to put Johnson before Sloan in team prelims, so that judges can be more lenient with possible missed handstands from Sloan who has a .3 advantage in start value over Johnson on this event. However, unless if Sloan's UB routine is day 2 nats worthy in prelims, I'd say Johnson is doing UB in TF. Johnson if far more consistent on this event than Sloan and was scoring much higher than her at the camp meet, so as of now she is definitely the better pick.


Prelims: Johnson, Liukin, Memmel, Sacramone, Peszek
Finals: Johnson, Liukin, Memmel/Sacramone

Outlook: The real question here is who will be doing the lead-off BB girl (unless if they want to switch things up and go according to A-scores, which would make Nastia the lead-off BB girl in TF). Memmel and Sacramone are generally consistent performers here, and while Memmel definitely outclassed Sacramone on this event at trials Sacramone was apparently better than ever on this event at the camp with two 16.2's (one of those scores was definitely said to be inflated, while Memmel's 15.9 on day one was said to be fair). The decision of who competes BB in team finals will come down to who scores higher in prelims for sure, and if Memmel and Sacramone were to tie?


Prelims: Johnson, Sacramone, Memmel, Liukin, Peszek/Sloan
Finals: Johnson, Sacramone, Memmel (any of the other 3 are fine substitutes)

Outlook: Floor Exercise is an excellent event for the USA women and this is certainly an apparatus in which they will look to close in on at least part of the team's deficit on China that will likely be carried over from the uneven bars. Any of the above six actually could be a legitimate use in team finals on this apparatus. I am predicting, however, that Sloan will sit this event out in prelims. Potential A-scores of Johnson (6.6), Sacramone (6.4), and Memmel (6.5) mean that Sloan's 6.2, even with the international look and all, just doesn't quite cut it. Sloan tied Peszek (with a potential A-score of 6.5 on FX) at the camp on day one with 15.3s apiece and with Peszek's higher start score she seems like an ever so slightly better choice here. However, they can easily swap in Sloan if Peszek is the slightest bit off in training. I believe Johnson, Memmel, and Sacramone are great for team finals on FX, I do wonder though if Memmel will still put in the double arabian (which will make a difference of .2 in the A-score if she were to do her original double full instead) even though she will have yet to compete it along with the rest of her routine until prelims at the Games.

Brief Analysis on What Each Team Member Brings to USA's Quest for the Gold

Shawn Johnson:
The three-time world champion brings experience, consistency, and generally good scoring favor to the USA team. Oh, and we cannot forget that Johnson appears to be likely competing all four events in team finals at the Olympics. Johnson may just be contributing the top USA marks on vault, beam, and floor. If USA were to lose her than they might as well just hand the gold to China before the competition is to even begin.

Nastia Liukin: Liukin's uneven bars is reason enough for her to be on the team, and also contributes world-class work on balance beam and potentially good work on floor exercise. Experience of three world championships and winning nine world medals should prove invaluable to the USA team in Beijing.

Chellsie Memmel- USA's gold medal chances are in much better condition with Chellsie Memmel arguably being in the best shape of her life at really the best possible time, too. The whiplash incident at the camp likely won't be an issue heading into the games at all for the fierce competitior who tore her rotator cuff on her shoulder during the world championship team finals and went on to finish the meet like nothing had happened. Memmel has the potential to contribute in team finals on bars, beam, and floor.

Alicia Sacramone- Sacramone has won three world medals on the vault and her strength there alone adds several tenths to the team's score. A triple twist upgrade bumps up Alicia's start value on floor exercise to a 6.4 and barring something unusual should compete in team finals there as well. Contributing to the team on balance beam is also a strong possibility, and with seven world medals in her back pocket the self-proclaimed "mother hen" of the squad will bring leadership, determination, and experience to the USA team in Beijing.

Samantha Peszek- Peszek, who as said by Elfi Schlegel as "skittish last year" has improved and proved to be a solid and reliable competitor on all apparatus this year. Peszek does nothing breathtakingly spectacular but nothing bad either, and could do vault and maybe even floor in team finals. However, with Sloan now on the team Peszek could actually be sitting out on the event, vault, which many still consider as her top attribute to the team. Peszek's choice to become an all-arounder, though at times looked to be questionable, ultimately did pay off in the end.

Bridget Sloan- If Bridget can get those bars handstands consistent there is some possibility that we will see her on that event in team finals. She is also capable of contributing on vault and maybe even floor in team finals on the team, but her position is really more to be a plug-in athlete on those events, but certainly a good one at that.

Is This Process of Naming the Olympic Team Too Exhaustive For the Gymnasts?

With two major injuries (three if you count Memmel) happening at the camp, all signs seem to point to yes. While having three pressure-packed meets will do very well for the gymnasts' mental toughness and confidence levels heading into the biggest meet of their lives, the potential for injury, as proven at the camp, runs at an all-time high.

It was said by most insiders that five spots to Johnson, Liukin, Memmel, Sacramone, and Peszek were sewn up at trials and having them compete at this camp meet could indeed backfire on the USA team who wants to send a team that is not only the best possible team, but in the best possible shape.

However, Martha K. was definitely intelligent to wait to the last minute to select this team. In the end, Bridget Sloan was unquestionably the best pick for the last spot, but would anyone have said that back in Philly? Surely not.

Worley's injuries cannot really be blamed as much on this selection process, as she didn't compete at Nationals. But in her case, she could've easily been named had her leg held up and thus might've been able to have competed great UB routines at the camp.

Had the team been named in Philly, than there would be no Sloan or Worley on the roster and Bieger would've most likely been picked, and as the camp showed us all Jana really wasn't peaking at the right time. If I were to change how this selection process were to go down, I would say hold Nationals around or maybe a tad bit earlier than when Olympic Trials would usually be held (mid to late June) and hold an Olympic Trials in mid to late July, in front of a packed house and all, and decide the team right then and there. I think that would cover the needs for picking the team as close to the games as possible, and eliminating the camp meet entirely would do well for the girls staying healthy and in peak form in preparation for the Olympics.

That is all.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Karolyi Camp Rumor Roundup+ Analysis

Anyway, it appears as though the 12 girls that advanced to the final selection camp meet at the Karolyi Ranch arrived safe and sound yesterday and began their training sessions today. Below is a list of the rumors and insider info that I have picked up from various message boards and other sources.

  • Apparently is doing some coverage of the camp meet, but specifically what coverage we will be getting is unknown. Tomorrow there will be an AA competition around 12:30 P.M., and Saturday and EF competition around 5:30-6:00ish in which all of the girls compete two events. The official announcement has been said to be between 7:00 and 8:00 Central Time on Saturday evening, and it appears as though will be the first source to officially leak out the info of the team selection to the public.
  • There has been an abundance of varying reports that have suggested in the EF competition that either the gymnasts decide which events they will compete in (like they did at the Karolyi International Friendly meet back in May) or that Martha K. will be choosing the events for the gymnasts. It has also been said that Martha K. may even demand some of the gymnasts to compete on their weaker/weakest events in this meet to better analyze which bubble gymnasts can deal with the pressure and which ones cannot. However, Shawn Johnson's blog entry said that the gymnasts do choose the events they will compete in, so I would say that is what is most likely to happen.
  • According to a message from USAG, only the families of the gymnasts will be allowed to see the meet, in addition to the selection committee and what not. However, no word yet if the Karolyi summer campers will get to see the meet like they did in 2004.
  • Overall, most of the gymnasts have looked at least somewhat shaky in training sessions.
  • Chellsie Memmel has been falling on her piked barani on beam.
  • Samantha Peszek looks all-around shaky, though it is important to remember that Peszek looked lackluster in training at Nationals and Olympic Trials and in both cases turned in pretty solid performances.
  • Shayla is looking especially solid and her good UB work looks like it definitely could get her the last spot on the team.
  • Jana Bieger looks no different than usual; uninspiring, awful form, yet consistent.
  • Bela is giving glowing reports on how tough Nastia is; Bela loves Nastia and Shawn to death so this isn't surprising. It has also been reported that Martha K. and USAG want Bela away from the girls as much as possible.
  • Ivana Hong may be (gasp) injured. Apparently she has a knee injury, and as she was dismounting beam and subsequently grabbed her knee in pain. Nothing official if she has pulled out or anything like that, but I would say if she does have a major knee issue she is either going to brave it and compete sloppily (knowing Al Fong that would seem likely) or just withdraw. Either option would make her chances of even an being named an alternate slim to nill, but again no word yet if this rumor is totally legit and if Hong is indeed planning to bow out of the race.
  • Sloan's knee is still giving her issues, Martha K. and Co. aren't interested in her any longer for the last spot.
  • Johnson's put on a few pounds since Trials and Martha K. isn't happy. (Note: I find this one to be especially ludicrous, and if it is true it is probably just because Johnson is resting a tad bit in order to peak at the right time for the Games)
  • A-Sac was seen icing her knee, though still appears to be fine.
  • That is all the info I have to provide, and my final thought is this: If Peszek is looking shaky (and continues to look that way, though honestly I think she will get it together) and if Hong is injured, Mattie Larson HAS to be named as an alternate. Being an actual team member is still a bit of a stretch, but Larson is consistent, polished and it would be a tremendous experience for her to travel to Beijing with the team that would only benefit her future career as a potentially great gymnast for the United States.
Predictions for Events Gymnasts Will Compete in EF Competition

Shawn Johnson: UB, FX
Reasoning: Martha K. and Co. need to know that Johnson's 6.4 A-score UB routine can be competed consistently (she missed a combination on trials night two which lowered her A-score back down to a 6.2), especially when it comes down to whether the selection committee feels that Bieger's unspectacular but consistent UB work is enough for the last spot on the team. As for FX, Johnson getting her whip+triple twist around will be another crucial test for her.

Nastia Liukin: UB, FX
Reasoning: Improvement on vault and being a rock solid beamer all year make bars and floor the key areas for Liukin to focus on. Liukin's 7.7 A-score UB routine has been inconsistent all year and Liukin needs another chance to prove herself and get her confidence level a boost on that event prior to the Games. Liukin could potentially compete FX in team finals with her recent improvement of consistency there, and Martha K. and Co. will look to see if that consistency is still going strong.

Chellsie Memmel: VT, FX
Reasoning: Floor Exercise is a relative no-brainer, simply because Memmel is planning a double arabian upgrade which could get her A-score to a potential of 6.5. Memmel is the ideal candidate for a floor performer in team finals (besides Johnson and Sacramone) at the Olympics, even more so than Liukin and Peszek, and this upgrade could make for a high-scoring routine if done successfully. However, the other event in which she would compete is sketchy, but vault seemed like the best option because she is scheduled to bring back her DTY here and she has been superbly consistent on bars and beam throughout Nationals and Olympic Trials.

Alicia Sacramone: VT, FX
Reasoning: This is a pretty obvious decision, especially since Alicia has been said to be unveiling her Amanar vault and triple twist on floor here at the ranch. Alicia's calf issue is perhaps the most dangerous threat of an injury to the Fab Four (Shawn, Nast, Sac, and Chellsie) at this point in time, however knowing Alicia's immense experience and confidence she should be able to come to the Games armed with fire and determination to lead her team to a gold medal, and to bag some individual glory as well.

Samantha Peszek: BB, FX
Reasoning: Sam P.'s has made improvements on floor, and while not spectacular on that event at trials, she would be an ideal back-up on that event assuming Johnson, Sacramone, and Memmel are to compete that event in team finals. Peszek has the potential for a 6.5 A-score on that event if she brings back the 1.5 twist + double pike combo she did at Nationals. However, she may end up doing beam if she brings her double arabian dismount to the camp, as landing a DTY for her is not a problem and will still have the opportunity to do so at the AA competition.

Shayla Worley: UB, BB
Reasoning: This is an obvious choice, but if Martha K. were to slap some sense into Shayla's coach, Jeff Wood, than it would be very reasonable, and intelligent, for Worley to say farewell to the other events and just come to the camp competing bars and nothing else. USA has five excellent beam workers and that is more than enough depth the U.S. needs on that event, though if Worley really has an excellent routine there than she might as well show it. However, competing vault at trials=exceptionally poor decision making. And if she dare steps onto a floor exercise mat Martha K. should hide her music immediately, as Worley would be only building upon her gigantic kingdom of back injuries. If Worley comes to the camp with that 7.0 A-score routine on bars, I feel she is a worthy risk to take for the last spot, even if injuries are to come along for the ride.

Jana Bieger: UB, FX
Reasoning: Martha K.'s rumored tactics of having gymnasts compete on their weakest events are of no use to the ever consistent and predictable gymnastics of Bieger. Bars will really make the decision for her, and if she can outscore Johnson than her case for getting the last spot on the team would be very strong. However, as I have said Bieger's scoring potential doesn't really compare to that of Worley or Sloan on this event, and if Bieger and Johnson's scores are right in line with one another there really is no sense in taking Bieger in my opinion. As for floor exercise, Bieger has been shaky there but does have a 6.4 A-score there so she could be used on that event in an extreme emergency. But it is bars, once considered Jana's weakest event, that is either her ticket to compete in the Olympics, or to watch from the stands.

Bridget Sloan: UB, FX
Reasoning: Sloan's problems on both of these events at trials, and her two major events to possibly contribute to the team (obviously more so bars) look to be her key focus at the camp. However, a clean floor routine in the AA competition may persuade her and/or Martha K. for her to compete beam, as this is the most mental event of all and while not Sloan's strength, and will test her determination in a pressure-packed situation. Sloan's decision to compete FX at trials looked to be premature with her knee injury and all, and possibly detracted from her focus on the other events. Bridget was wise enough to know Martha K. likes her AAers and if Sloan were to be one she would have herself a ticket to Beijing, but perhaps not wise enough to know when to peak at the right time and what events she most needs to qualify for the Olympic team. The bottom line is that Sloan needs to nail her UB sets at the camp like her life depended on it to get on that team, and while her chances may not be overly great now they certainly haven't vanished.

Ivana Hong: VT, UB
Reasoning: Assuming Hong is ready to go, these are really the only events we would need her on in an emergency. Bars, though maybe not her strongest event, has improved and did score very well (15.55) on day two of trials. Vault is also very important, especially if Hong looks to hold off Mattie Larson for one of the alternate positions. Traveling alternate looks to be the best-case scenario for Ivana at this point, being the final team member would require stunning performances on uneven bars that we have yet to see.

Mattie Larson: VT/BB/FX
Reasoning: Martha K. may want Larson to compete on a weaker event of hers, beam, to see if she is mentally ready to be at least an alternate. Larson makes for an ideal back-up athlete on vault and floor and will look to outscore Hong and Memmel (possibly Peszek, though unlikely) on vault and Sloan, Peszek, and possibly a few others on floor to solidify her status as a possible alternate to the team.

Chelsea Davis: VT/UB
Reasoning: I have failed to recognize this young lady as a potential hopeful even for an alternate spot, though I do feel she deserves to be at the camp with her good performance at the trials. A rumored DTY upgrade and unspectacular yet consistent UB work could, if everything goes Davis' way, make her the 3rd alternate to the team. A long shot for sure, but if Davis delivers on those two events in particular there will certainly be more than a few important eyes looking at her, and it also doesn't hurt to have a former Karolyi star, Kim Zmeskal, as your coach.

Corrie Lothrop: VT/FX
Reasoning: This second event is of irrelevance to Lothrop's chances, but vault is probably one of the only reasons she is at the final camp and of course has said she might do an Amanar if its ready. However "if its ready" is not going to cut it for even an alternate position, let alone a spot on the team, and if Lothrop is really gunning to snatch Sam P.'s vault specialist spot this Amanar is going to have to be Cheng Fei good at the very least. Assuming Sam P. delivers another strong meet at the camp, she really has earned her spot and considering the fact that she is (at the very least) a back-up gymnast on any event, Martha K. and Co. will feel very safe using Peszek if any emergencies are to arise. One-event luxuries are not going to be considered for the team (unless if its bars, which Lothrop won't be contributing) unless of course they are a luxury that cannot be refused, and an "if its ready" Amanar simply won't qualify as one in the grand scheme of things. Lothrop is far too risky to send and can generate a far bigger consequence than it can a reward, though if this Amanar is proved to be reliable enough she could find herself as an alternate.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

China Team Selection

Above: Deng Linlin appears to have gotten the much-anticipated 6th spot on the Chinese Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team

It is widely rumored, though not confirmed, that the Chinese Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team is as follows:

  1. Cheng Fei
  2. Yang Yilin
  3. Jiang Yuyuan
  4. He Kexin
  5. Li Shanshan
  6. Deng Linlin
  1. Xiao Sha
  2. He Ning
  3. Sui Lu

Apparently, PPP's health was felt by the Chinese coaches to be too much of a liability to the team. With that aside, if you read my earlier blog post on who should get the last spot for China I am definitely a tad bit disappointed, and surprised, to see Deng Linlin get the last spot. Even though I have great liking for Deng's gymnastics, I think the 6th girl needed to have good UB work to really help be there for China in an emergency, and to my knowledge Deng's UB is only adequate. Yang's FX work is definitely stronger than Deng, though in a pinch they can use Deng on that event in team finals if deemed necessary. It looks like the last spot really came down to beam, and it appears that China wants to use Deng to do BB in team finals instead of Yang, which would then mean Yang wouldn't have to do AA in team finals. That's actually a smart move on China's part, however in that scenario I would've actually taken a gamble and taken Xiao Sha for the last spot. Deng is a solid competitor, much more so than Sha, but she only has a couple of world cup meets and a scarcely-attended Chinese Nationals to her experience. And we shouldn't forget that she even suffered falls on beam and floor at the prelims of the Chinese Nationals which kept her out of event finals in both cases, so she is by no means a total rock in competition. Interestingly enough, I originally predicted Deng Linlin to be on the Olympic team, but after Chinese Nats I thought it was a no-brainer to switch my prediction after Sui Lu won beam and floor at those championships. Another classic example of why sticking to your first instinct comes in handy. Anyway, now that this appears to be China's Olympic team, I will do a BB outlook post and updated posts of the team, AA, and FX outlooks (I don't think there is any need for a VT or UB updated outlook posts, so I won't bother with those).

Also, Ukaraine's Olympic team has been announced:
  1. Dariya Zgoba
  2. Irina Krasnyanska
  3. Alina Kozich
  4. Valentina Holenkova
  5. Marina Proskurina
  6. Anastasia Koval
Alternate: Olga Scherbatykh

Official Schedule for the Camp

Wednesday, July 16th-Gurlies arrive, possible training?
Thursday, July 17th-Gurlies train
Friday, July 18th- AA competition for all, scheduled to start around 12:30
Saturday, July 19th- EF competition, every athlete does two events which either the gymnast or Martha K. decides which gymnast is competing what, scheduled to start around 5:30. Team selection should be announced late that night.
Sunday, July 20th- Announced team (and presumably the alternates?) appear and are interviewed on the Today Show

That is all.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mediterranean Gym Cup Analysis

As one of the final international meets prior to the Olympic Games, a tri-meet took place in Rome last week with Romania, Italy, and Brazil battling it out. Italy and Brazil should both play supporting roles throughout the competition in Beijing, not getting the limelight that will flock to USA and China, but will still play an important part of the competition especially when individual medals are concerned. Italy and Brazil's respective stars, Vanessa Ferrari and Jade Barbosa, provided us clues as to their chances of challenging for AA and individual event medals at the Games. Romania, complete with their leaders Sandra Izbasa and Steliana Nistor in hand, will look to steal away some of the medals and glory that is predicted to be reserved for China and USA. Here, we got a preview look at the condition of these three countries en route to the 2008 Olympic Games, less than a month away. Results here.


Sandra Izbasa-
Upgrades including a DTY vault, and a 6.9 A-score on beam have looked to make Izbasa a potential dark horse in the Olympic AA final. However, one thing stands in the way of her being a serious AA threat: her UB double front dismount. This was hardly the first time she has fallen on this dismount, and it remains to be seen if she is going to change her dismount prior to the games and whether Romania will have to use her on UB in team finals, the latter of which will be decided upon the recovery of compatriot Cerasela Patrascu. Finished only .15 behind winner Vanessa Ferrari, but would've won if it weren't for the dreaded bars that have routinely been Izbasa's downfall (only a 5.5 A-score at this meet).

Steliana Nistor- Varying reports have gone from the fact that the reason Nistor only competed UB here was that she was simply resting her body to the fact that she has a back brace and is suffering from back issues. Her UB routine scored (for her) a lackluster score of 15.45, though one must keep in mind that the scores here were quite harsh for all of the gymnasts. Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Jiang Yuyuan, and Yang Yilin all look to be formidable challengers for the AA podium, though with Ferrari looking shaky all year the European judges could save their high marks for Nistor at the Games. In that instance Nistor would very likely still be a top AA challenger assuming she is healthy and confident.

Romanian Team Outlook: With Patrascu's status still in the question, it remains to be seen if Patrascu is to be ready for the games exactly who she will replace. There is no obvious choice, though it might be Adriana Tamarjan as she is apparently still injured, the only one of the current Romanian Olympians who didn't compete at this meet. The other three members of the team: Andrea Acatrinei (beam specialist), Gabriela Dragoi (average on every event), and Andrea Grigore (decent VT/FX) are not especially strong assets to the team and are unlikely to be seen much in team finals. The best scenario for Romania is to have Patrascu replace Grigore with Tamarjan getting healthy and ready to compete in the games. Whether Romania will win bronze likely has much to do with Cerasela's recovery, and Romania will need her at peak form at the games to challenge Russia and its recently-increased depth. Romania unsurprisingly won the team competition here, but some weak scores on bars (even a few on beam and floor) are alarming for a team which doesn't want 2008 to be their first Olympic games since 1972 where Romania fails to bring home a team medal.


Vanessa Ferrari- Ferrari boasted the top uneven bars mark of this competition (15.5, 6.8 A), but was shaky elsewhere. This was arguably the best competition for Ferrari this year, but that isn't saying much for the former World and European AA champion who is continuing to battle tendonitis and other foot injuries that have plagued the Italian diva since last year. Ferrari competed a shaky DTY here (14.5), and had watered down beam and floor routines (15.35, 14.35). Ferrari was not credited for either her triple turn or her Memmel turn at this competition, and thus so far has a potential A-score of 6.0 on FX (she was given credit for only a 5.8 here). Upgrading to both her double-double and triple twist would get her A-score at a 6.4, but at this meet both her full-in and 2.5 twist were sloppily done and it appears unlikely she will get both tumbling passes back in time for Beijing. Ferrari has stated she won't be healthy by the Games' arrival, and it looks like Ferrari is more than a long shot for an AA medal of any color. However, Ferrari has proven herself to be an extremely tough competitor in the past, so one would be unwise to count her out just yet.

Carlotta Giovannini- Though not strong as an AAer, Giovannini's vaulting strengths are crucial for the success of the Italian team. They could become even more crucial if Giovannini comes to Beijing armed with her rumored Amanar and/or a Khorkina II vault (RO 1/2-on front tuck 1.5 off). Here, a solid DTY was all that was necessary (15.1), and was a good-enough result for the 2007 European vault champion who is coming off a sprained knee that kept her out of most of the Italian Nationals. Giovannini will also look to improve on her other events, floor exercise in particular, in order to bring Italy her maximum potential in August.

Italian Team Outlook: Italy's decision to allow Ferrari compete at the 2007 Worlds, as an AAer no less, could end up backfiring immensely on Ferrari and her team at the Olympics. Italy's strategy to have Ferrari compete watered-down routines (especially on BB and FX) this year have not helped speed up Ferrari's recovery, and it will be interesting to see if she has enough time and energy to get some consistent upgrades prior to Beijing. Italy is no doubt a long shot for a team medal (though barring a disaster they should make team finals), as is Vanessa Ferrari for individual medals. However, Italy's medal hopes may end up laying in an unexpected place. If Carlotta Giovannini's vault upgrades materialize, she should be a solid contender in vault finals. Though once again, the probability for that happening remains relatively low.


Jade Barbosa-
Brazil's star has looked anything but for the entirety of this year, and her shakiness continued at this meet with falls of beam and problems on bars. A 1.5 twist + front double-full upgrade on floor brings Barbosa's potential A-score on that event at a 6.3, though she was only credited for a 6.1 at this meet. Only competed a DTY (15.1) and will likely come to the Games without any experience of landing her Amanar vault in competition this year. Barbosa losing the Brazilian AA title to lesser-known Ana Claudia Silva has no doubt put a damper on her confidence, and whether she can get it back before Beijing remains to be seen. With Barbosa, the potential is there but her consistency is another story. At top form Barbosa could be in the AA medal mix, but her vault chances appear to be slim based on the fact that she has not landed her Amanar or Cheng vaults once this year.

Daiane dos Santos- Is pretty close to peak form on floor exercise, her signature event. However the judges didn't see it that way, clobbering her on both scores and downgrading three elements in the process, thus making her A-score a 6.1 instead of its proposed value of 6.4. Daiane is rumored to be putting in her piked double arabian back in as well, getting her A-score to a 6.5. However, doing that can cause some serious consequences. If her layout Arabian gets downgraded like it was here an additional piked double arabian wouldn't get credited because it would be considered a repetition of the same skill. Dos Santos has the potential to be a top challenger on floor exercise just like she was in Athens, but as this meet proved she also has the potential to be penalized harshly for silly errors that will keep her out of the game entirely.

Brazilian Team Outlook: While dos Santos' comeback is looking good, Khiulani Dias' absence from the team and Barbosa's unreliable confidence have put Brazil in a precarious position heading into the games. Making team finals is likely one of Brazil's top priorities, and can do that easily if they put together a strong effort in prelims. However, inconsistent performances from Brazil could put them in jeopardy of making team finals, as all of the teams that aren't USA, China, Romania, or Russia are all very close to one another when it comes to scoring potential. On the other hand, it can also be argued that Brazil missing team finals would be a blessing in disguise for this team that has little shot for a medal, which would then allow Jade Barbosa and Daiane dos Santos to be fully rested for the AA and apparatus finals.

Final Thoughts From This Competition

Though this was just a low key event, the current outlook for all three of these teams doesn't look overly impressive. Romania really does need Cerasela on the Olympic team, even if it is just for bars. A large part of Italy and Brazil's success in the Olympics depends on Ferrari and Barbosa, and both girls don't look near to their peak form at all. Hopefully Steliana just competing bars was merely precautionary, as she does have the potential to win some individual medals in August. Sandra Izbasa's UB dismount aside, this young lady looks to be in great shape and ready to help Romania win a team medal in Beijing. Who will rise above the pressure and become a shining star and who will falter and be whisked away in the darkness at the 2008 Olympics? We shall see.

Note: Gymnastics and Stuff and the Gymnut each have great commentary on this meet as well, and I advise you to check it out.

That is all.

Monday, July 7, 2008

And spot #6 goes to......... Part 2-China

It remains unknown when the Chinese will officially name their Olympic teams, for men and women, (though it is rumored to be within the next week) but since China is fully aware of the much-anticipated USA vs. China gymnastics showdown for the ages, they could end up waiting until after Martha K. announces the U.S. team so that China can plan their team accordingly. However, such tactics won't be at all necessary, as the U.S. team is pretty much set in stone as to who will go and who won't. Cheng Fei, Jiang Yuyuan, He Kexin, and Yang Yilin are locks for the Chinese team, and do to a surprising lack of depth on beam Li Shanshan should be named as the 5th girl regardless of how inconsistent she is. (she hit two relatively shaky, but clean, routines at the recent Barcelona World Cup which I think sealed the deal for her)Let's take a look at the line-ups of the Chinese women assuming Cheng, Yuyuan, Kexin, Yilin, and Shanshan are all on the Olympic team.


Prelims: Cheng, Yuyuan, Yilin, Kexin, Shanshan (?)

Finals: Cheng, Yuyuan, Yilin (Kexin if needed)

Outlook: The 5th vault girl is of little use to the Chinese team, as the lowest score in prelims is dropped and China making team finals is no worry at all. Shanshan competed a 1.5 yurchenko at the Shanghai Test Event (crashed completely) and has since been competing an FTY, and Pang Panpan has yet to show her DTY, which she hasn't competed since she missed the vault en route to giving the AA gold to Vanessa Ferrari at '06 Worlds. The 6th girl is not needed to fill any holes here.

Uneven Bars

Prelims: Kexin, Yilin, Yuyuan, ?, ?

Finals: Kexin, Yilin, Yuyuan, (Pang Panpan is capable of scoring higher than Yuyuan here)

Outlook: Kexin and Yilin are Olympic gold medal contenders on this event with 7.7 A-scores looking to crush any hope for American dominance in Olympic team finals. Jiang Yuyuan is a very solid 3rd bar worker, and while PPP can be used for that position there isn't a big difference between the general bars scores of the two gymnasts. However, if a bars specialist is to get injured what will China do? Shanshan is disgraceful to the Chinese on this apparatus, Fei doesn't even train bars, and if beam specialist Xiao Sha is to make the team she can contribute a decent, but unspectacular score here. This reason alone should guarantee both He Ning and PPP as alternate at bare minimum, but it remains to be seen whether China will take a potentially disastrous injury to a bars specialist in consideration when picking the last spot on the team.

Balance Beam

Prelims: Shanshan, Fei, Yilin, Yuyuan, ?

Finals: Shanshan, Fei, Yilin(?)

Outlook: Oddly enough, beam is China's weakest event and the one event where USA will look to make up what should be a solid deficit thanks to USA's weakness on UB. Li Shanshan is not as consistent a performer as one would like, but she is capable of getting a nice score even with a fall and given China's lack of BB depth the coaches have no choice but to send her. With Cheng Fei unlikely to get back her triple full dismount (which puts her A-score around 6.7) the big question remains on who will be the 3rd BB girl in team finals. The team should be satisfied enough to put Yang Yilin, a consistent but unspectacular performer on this apparatus. However, Xiao Sha and Sui Lu are capable of scoring much higher than Yang is, but than again both gymnasts are classic examples of "headcases," gymnasts with remarkable potential that cannot be consistent to save their lives.

Floor Exercise

Prelims: Fei, Yuyuan, Yilin, Shanshan, Kexin

Finals: Fei, Yuyuan, Yilin

Outlook: Floor Exercise is a relatively similar situation to the team as uneven bars is, because the team final line-up is quite strong but there is no back-up for the Chinese if one of these three girls is to go down with injury/illness/etc. prior to team finals. With Shanshan and Kexin adequate on this event at best, the 6th girl will need to have at least some skill on floor, which would help the Olympic case of someone like He Ning or Deng Linlin.

As of now, there appear to be six gymnasts with a possibility (some are remote however) to go to Beijing as the last gymnast named to the team. Let us take a look at what qualities each of these gymnasts brings to the table, and whether those qualities will interest the Chinese coaches when selecting the all-important Olympic team.

Xiao Sha

Pros: Xiao Sha is capable of a huge score on balance beam and hit beam during the pressure-packed team finals at last year's worlds after falling twice in prelims. Xiao is solid on the other three events, and can be used in team finals on VT, UB, or FX if an emergency is to occur.

Cons: Xiao is known for being extremely inconsistent on her money event, balance beam. One days she will hit like no other, while the next she will make a costly slip-up right before your eyes. With Yang Yilin having the potential for a 6.9 A-score, just .1 lower than Xiao's, it remains very questionable if the risk of taking Xiao will outweigh the reward.

Outlook: Yang Yilin's improvement on beam has likely meant game over for Xiao Sha's Olympic bid, but barring an administrative error she should still be kept as an alternate with a potentially strong beam score and decent routines on the other apparatus to be there for the Chinese to use if absolutely needed.

Sui Lu

Pros: Sui Lu won beam and floor at the Chinese Nationals, and was given extremely generous execution marks at those championships. A-scores of 7.1 on beam and 6.4 on floor will be hard to overlook when selecting the Olympic team.

Cons: Sui Lu's Olympic chances have melted considerably after disastrous performances at the Moscow World Cup and the French Nationals indicated nothing more than that Sui Lu cannot deal with the pressure of being in senior international meets. Amongst all the various rumors of the Chinese team selection, Sui Lu has been hardly mentioned as having any whisker of a possibility to become the 6th girl named to the team.

Outlook: I highly doubt after the Chinese Nationals that anyone in their right mind would think the Chinese would leave Sui Lu off the team. She seemed to have the entire package: high A-scores on events China needed her on, consistency, as well as good form and power to match. However, her performances at the two international assignments only showed the Chinese delegation all of the reasons they should not pick Sui Lu for the team, and those performances have not only been fatal to her Olympic bid but will also put stains on her reputation which has now become that of an unreliable competitor.

Pang PanPan

Pros: Pang PanPan is capable of higher UB scores than Jiang Yuyuan, the presumed lead-off bar worker for China in team finals. In addition to that, PPP is experienced and when healthy is capable of high-scoring work on beam and floor.

Cons: Unfortunately, PPP has been injured since helping the Chinese win team gold at the 2006 World Championships. These injuries likely cost her a chance to compete at the 2007 Worlds, and could very well do the same for her Olympic dream. It appears now that the only event PPP can really contribute is on uneven bars, and it can even be argued China doesn't need her there.

Outlook: PPP is generally scored favorably and her being able to outscore Yuyuan on UB should help her case out quite a bit. China is most in need of having UB back-up and PPP would be an ideal solution to this problem. However, injuries make it unlikely that she will return strong on VT, BB, and FX and be an ideal back-up gymnast on those apparatus. It will ultimately be a tough decision on China's part to risk a lack of BB or FX depth by sending a good UB gymnast to not only contribute a high mark to the team, but also an extra back-up bars girl (with PPP there would be four girls capable of high marks in team finals).

He Ning

Pros: He Ning is experienced and reliable and also a potential back-up gymnast to be used in team finals on UB, BB, or FX. He Ning was named to both the 2006 and 2007 World teams (the only athlete besides Cheng Fei to have competed on both world teams) while contributing far less than other teammates with actual routines performed in team finals. There have been various rumors that He Ning is indeed the 6th girl to be named to the team.

Cons: He Ning's capable scores on UB, BB, and FX, while solid, don't suggest the Chinese can't do without her in Beijing. Yang Yilin would be a much better option to compete BB in team finals, and in an emergency Ning isn't that much better on beam than Jiang Yuyuan, beam being Jiang's weakest event. If the Chinese delegation is indeed looking for another UB girl, PPP would be a somewhat better option just because of scoring potential. It is also worth noting that He Ning is the only serious contender for the team (besides Zhang Nan) that has not been sent to an international meet of any kind this year.

Outlook: He Ning's selection to the last two world teams means that she is politically favored, and strong performances from Chinese Nationals definitely helped her Olympic chances even if she has no international competitions to show for this year. He Ning is a solid back-up option on FX and UB especially, the events China is most in need of more depth. Though Ning originally seemed like a long shot, she provides a pretty strong case for herself to be named as the last girl to the team.

Deng Linlin

Pros: Deng is capable of high marks on vault, beam, and floor. A generally consistent competitor, she won both beam and floor at the Moscow World Cup which helps her case for having a good reputation with the international judges.

Cons: Deng's falls on beam and floor at the Chinese Nationals, which subsequently kept her out of event finals in both cases, definitely put a yield to Deng's Olympic chances, as did her mysterious pull-out of the French Nationals which she was scheduled to compete in. Yang Yilin's improvement on beam and floor makes her scores there equal or perhaps even higher than what Deng is capable of, and that reason, in addition to inexperience, look to make it unlikely Deng will be named as the 6th gymnast to the team.

Outlook: Though hardly a shoo-in for the last spot on the team, Deng's strengths on three apparatus make her ideal alternate material. A DTY vault and strong A-scores on beam and floor will be ideal to use if a substitution is needed, and while Deng lacks experience, she is a bit more consistent than Sui Lu and Xiao Sha and I personally think the Chinese would be idiotic to leave her off the team entirely.

Zhang Nan

Pros: Zhang Nan is the only athlete besides Cheng Fei with a legitimate chance at a second Olympic games. Her experience and prowess on beam is noteworthy, and won a bronze on beam at the Chinese Nationals ahead of Li Shanshan and Xiao Sha who suffered falls and finished behind Sui Lu, who looks to have little chance to make the team. Zhang has generally been scored favorably over the years by the judges, the most notable example being when she won Olympic AA bronze in Athens 2004 when Russian Anna Pavlova was felt by most to have put forth a superior effort in that meet.

Cons: Solid BB scores from Yang Yilin at recent meets (notably French Nationals AA final) provide little use for Zhang Nan to be named to the team. Li Shanshan and Xiao Sha are capable of higher marks than Zhang is, and the only reason Zhang would be named to the team would be for beam, which is likely far too little of a contribution than what China is looking for.

Outlook: The writing was on the wall when the coaches handed over the team captain duties that were formerly Zhang Nan's to Cheng Fei, and while Zhang Nan made an admirable comeback on beam at the Chinese Nationals, she simply brings too little to the table to be considered seriously for an Olympic birth.

Things To Be Considered When Naming This Team:

  • As far as alternates and substitution for injured teammates is concerned, the delegation has 24 hours prior to the beginning of prelims to submit the team's final roster, which means NO SUBSTITUTION after that is allowed. This fact alone, if considered, should help He Ning or (especially) PPP's chances because Cheng Fei or Li Shanshan competing UB in team finals would be the laughing stock of the gymnastics world and someone like Xiao Sha or He Ning to compete there in TF would also open a big door for the United States team, which then would likely have a smaller UB deficit to China in that scenario.
  • Xiao Sha seems to be incapable of hitting two clean beam sets in a row among qualifications and finals, whether it be a world cup meet or a national/world championship. So, if Xiao Sha is to get that 6th spot, if she hits in prelims than the Chinese should NOT use her in team finals, subbing in Yang Yilin to compete BB in TF instead. However, if she falls in prelims than China should select to her to compete BB in TF in a heartbeat, with past history making it a good indication she would hit and score highly.
  • China's lack of depth on BB and FX s considerably less so than UB, which makes me think that the 6th girl should have at least an adequate, preferably very good, UB routine.
Let us take a look at the possible scenarios if one of the Chinese gymnasts is to get injured, assuming the team is Fei, Yuyuan, Kexin, Yilin, Shanshan, and Ning:

Cheng Fei
possible sub: Deng Linlin

VT: Yuyuan, Yilin, Kexin
UB: not affected
BB: Shanshan, Yilin, Linlin
FX: Yuyuan, Yilin, Linlin

Yang Yilin
possible subs: PPP/Linlin/Sha

VT: Fei, Yuyuan, Kexin
UB: Kexin, Yuyuan, Ning
BB: Shanshan, Fei, Linlin/Sha
FX: Fei, Yuyuan, Ning

He Kexin
possible subs: PPP

VT: Fei, Yuyuan, Yilin
UB: Yilin, Yuyuan, PPP
BB: not affected
FX: not affected

Jiang Yuyuan
possible subs: PPP

VT: Cheng, Yilin, Kexin
UB: Kexin, Yilin, Ning/PPP
BB: not affected
FX: Cheng, Yilin, Ning

Li Shanshan
possible subs: Linlin/Sha

VT/UB/FX: not affected
BB: Fei, Yilin, Linlin/Sha

He Ning

Not a first choice for being in team finals, but her good routines on bars and floor will likely make PPP the substitute if He Ning is to get injured, with Deng Linlin being a possibility as well.

Predicted Team
  1. Cheng Fei
  2. Yang Yilin
  3. Jiang Yuyuan
  4. He Kexin
  5. Li Shanshan
  6. He Ning

  1. Pang PanPan
  2. Deng Linlin
  3. Xiao Sha

China's possible decision to include Ning as the last girl at first would look like an unintelligent decision, but the more and more one analyzes He Ning's potential for the team she really would be the best pick for the last girl. Though unlikely to compete in team finals unless if someone is to get injured, Ning provides strong experience, consistency, leadership, and reliable work on uneven bars and floor exercise, which are the events China is most in need of back-up gymnasts. Ning would simply be an insurance policy to the team, but a good one at that. We shall see who gets the last spot for China, and I don't think I'm the only person who is putting their money down on He Ning to the get the final spot for China.

Next Post: Mediterranean Gym Cup Analysis

That is all.