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.


Audrey said...

I have watched the Dos Santos floor routine a lot and I think they were definitely harsh to her. There was even some debate I read over whether or not she was trying for the laid out arabian or piked. I think she was going for laid out.

Dos Santos is a sentimental favorite and I want her in FX finals so badly.

And i am sad about Ferrari. It's nice to see someone from one of the non-headlining countries. I LOVED her old floor routine (though many may dislike it). It was the only piece of Ferrari's gymnastics I liked.

September_cake said...

Daiane was definatly clobbered by the judges - mean!
Ive watched a few times from diferent angles and I think she should have got credit for the LO double arabian. Ok it was a little piked, but its SOOOO hard I cant imagine its even possible in the totally hollow position.

Giulyx14 said...

I am really sad for Vanessa ... She will not heal for Beijing! Vanessa said that is working less on floor because she does not want to aggravate the situation but should be able to enter the double double.She seek to improve the vault and enter again the Skip screwed on the beam. Frankly its medal hopes are almost nil.
Carlotta instead has just taken up by a small accident ... she's still working on vault and wants to increase the difficulty to the floor.