Saturday, June 21, 2008
The women just competed at the first night of the U.S. Olympic Trials in Philadelphia, continuing in the second stage of the grueling marathon selection procedure to decide who gets to go to Beijing and who will be left aside. The two spots that are awarded after these Olympic Trials look to be unsurprisingly sewn up by Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. With two other spots looking to go to Chellsie Memmel and Alicia Sacramone, the battle for the final two spots got much clearer after day one. Here's a look at the top competitors and how they performed on night one of the Olympic Trials:
Shawn Johnson- My supposed theory that the judges would low ball Shawn a tad bit to ensure a Nastia Liukin win were false; Shawn leads Nastia by a solid .5 after day one with both girls hitting four mostly clean routines (a poor UB dismount from Liukin notwithstanding). Shawn was solid as a rock on Friday, but deductions for incomplete twists could come on her Amanar, whip+triple twist (though improved from Nats), and even her front full+rudi combination. Deductions like these are costly in both the A and B panel scores in international competition. Having the third highest bars score was helped in the fact that she upgraded to a toe-on full on bars (6.4 A), but judges were generous as International Gymnast pointed out with her having 2-3 missed handstands in her bar routine.
Nastia Liukin- Nastia was great on day one with the exception of the dreaded, extremely cowboyed double front 1/2 dismount. A bars dismount which occurs numerous deductions for seperated legs, flexed feet, and low landings makes one wonder that Liukin's decision to change her UB dismount was not a wise one. However, another great floor routine placed Liukin 2nd of the night on that event, and Liukin could end up competing floor in team finals if her newfound consistency on that event continues. Balance beam is continuing to look good and her decision to nix the DTY in favor of one of the best 1.5 Yurchenkos around looks to be working. Her low dismount landing probably cost her .3-.5 (scores all around were inflated, not quite Nats inflated though), which would put her almost dead even with Johnson.
Alicia Sacramone- Missed connections and other downgrades have lowered Alicia's beam start score at Nats and here, where she only had a 6.5 A-score and her chances of competing beam in team finals or making Olympic beam finals look to be slim. Floor was solid, but is possibly saving her rumored triple twist for the camp and also stepped OOB with both feet BARELY, but it was kind of deserved with her OOB on day two of nationals not taken as a penalty. Alicia stuck her Rudi vault on her last event of the night, and with an Amanar Alicia does have an outside chance at Olympic vault gold.
Chellsie Memmel- Chellsie is continuing to prove she belongs on the team with the second highest mark on uneven bars, USA's weakest event, and a third place ranking on beam and finishing fifth on floor. Though Chellsie is a staggering 1.25 away from Liukin to get an automatic birth to the team, Chellsie looks to be fully ready to be contributing some big scores to USA come August. Chellsie's work on bars and beam is looking good, a discredited jam to handstand aside. However, relatively weaker work on vault (yurchenko 1.5) and floor (OOB, 6.1 A on day one) mean that the selection committee still needs a vault/floor girl on the team, thus improving Samantha Peszek's Olympic chances.
Samantha Peszek- Samantha's Olympic chances improved immensely on day one with strong work on all four apparatus. Placing 3rd on floor at Olympic Trials, even without her 1.5 twist-double pike combination which is unlikely to be reinstated into her routine, proves that at top form she can also be used on floor in team finals if USA needs her. An improved DTY vault (15.1, tied Ranzy for third on that event) and the 4th highest mark on beam do more to improve her Olympic chances, but Peszek will need to be this solid again in night two if she is to really solidify her spot on the team. USA needs a good vault/floor performer and Sam P. looks to fit that bill, having much more experience and seasoning than Mattie Larson. My only question is: where are the upgrades? A double-double dismount off UB, a double Arabian off BB, and an Amanar on vault have not been seen in competition to date, and it would be unwise to risk injury with further upgrading. Martha K.'s tactics of naming several athletes to the Trials that have very little shot of making the team in order to scare Sam P. into working harder look to be working; expect vault specialist Britney Ranzy to be named to the final camp even if she doesn't have the Amanar, which she has yet to show in training or competition and likely isn't training it.
Bridget Sloan- Bridget's unspectacular showing could've opened the door for Shayla Worley, but Bridget should be thankful that Shayla didn't step in and close it shut. USA needs to know with Johnson, Liukin, Sacramone, Memmel, and Peszek looking to be on the team, USA has all gaps filled besides a 3rd bar worker. Sloan had a couple issues on day one on that event but pulled in a respectable 15.6, which could go to as high as a 15.9 with a clean routine. Judges can hammer Bieger and Worley more so than Sloan on form, and having Shawn compete AA in team finals is a pressure-filled task that has backfired on the U.S. team twice before. I would still say Bridget is the last girl on the team, and despite her case for being an AA athlete USA looks to really only be using her on bars. Sloan's decision to nix her DTY from Trials entirely opened the door for Peszek to grab herself a ticket to Beijing.
Shayla Worley- Slightly lackluster efforts on bars and beam and failing to beat Bieger or Sloan on bars are looking to do the trick to compete Shayla off the Olympic team, the real question is whether Shayla and hang in there to be an alternate. Shayla (based on the quick hit commentary) seems to be a bit tentative, and with all of the injuries she's had she obviously has reason to be. The question remains whether Shayla has enough time to improve to peak form on bars and thus get the last spot on the team. So far, it doesn't look like it will happen but Worley would be wise to just focus on bars, and maybe beam, onward to the selection camp.
Jana Bieger- Jana was given higher scores here and her bars placed .05 ahead of Bridget and .25 ahead of Shayla. If she continues to have strong bars work on day two and at the camp, Martha K. would be wise to name Jana as an alternate in favor of Shayla. Jana is a consistent competitor who is experienced and would be an ideal substitute if something were to happen to any of our bars girls. Jana has no use contributing on floor, her other strong event, with shaky performances placing behind those of Johnson, Liukin, Sacramone, Larson, Peszek, and Memmel. From now until the selection camp Jana needs to be focused on improving uneven bars and nothing else; what was once proclaimed her weakest event looks to be her last hope for getting a ticket to Beijing.
Mattie Larson- Sam P.'s strong VT/FX scores from night one look to keep Mattie off the Olympic team, but I would still send her as a traveling alternate because of her good consistency and strong execution on those two events making her an ideal alternate. Mattie has expressed desire to go on to London 2012, and the experience of possibly going to Beijing as an alternate should help prepare her immensely when she goes for making the Olympic team again in 2012.
Ivana Hong- Even though Hong finished a solid 5th AA and had a good meet minus some low landing issues on floor, it would be a blessing for Ivana just to be named as an alternate. Sam P. has consistently outscored Ivana on vault, and has been outscored by Larson consistently on floor as well. Al and Armine have not been wise with what Ivana needs to be able to contribute to the team, and being an AA athlete is not going to do the trick. Though Ivana's consistency has improved, there is no gap she is needed to fill really anywhere.
There really isn't much of a chance for any of the girls who competed at trials to make the team apart from those that I mentioned above. I expect all of the aformentioned names plus Britney Ranzy to make the final camp, and Randy Stageberg or even Chelsea Davis might be named if they perform well in day two. Let us look at the holes USA is needed to fill assuming Johnson, Liukin, Sacramone, Memmel, and Peszek are on the team. The first three athletes that I mention in the prelims line-up are expected to be used in team finals.
Prelims (VT): Sacramone, Johnson, Peszek, Liukin, Memmel (?)
Prelims (UB): Liukin, Memmel, ?, Johnson, Peszek
Prelims (BB): Liukin, Johnson, Memmel, Sacramone, Peszek
Prelims (FX): Johnson, Sacramone, Liukin/Memmel/Peszek (all legitimate uses in team final)
So, if Memmel is to get her DTY back she should compete vault in prelims, but it would still help Bridget Sloan's chances if she competes a good DTY at the selection camp, thus making her a legitimate back-up in team finals on that event. With rivals Shayla Worley and Jana Bieger only competing 1.5 Yurchenkos, Sloan is not hurting her Olympic chances by not competing vault at trials. Using Johnson on bars would be a definite administrative error, which is why the 3rd ranked bar worker based on Nats/Oly Trials/Camp results is likely to get the last spot on the team. A strong showing on bars from Sloan on day two and she will be very hard to unseat for the last spot on the team.
1. Shawn Johnson
2. Nastia Liukin
3. Alicia Sacramone
4. Chellsie Memmel
5. Samantha Peszek
6. Bridget Sloan
1. Jana Bieger
2. Mattie Larson
3. Shayla Worley (non-traveling)
That is all.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Above: Happy Father's Day! Andy Memmel and Valeri Liukin with their respective daughters.
Prior to the start of the all important U.S. Olympic Trials next week, there have been several Olympic trials or pre-Olympic dual meets going on around the world. Four Chinese gymnasts have participated at the French Olympic Trials in what will likely be their last international meet prior to Beijing, and there has also been the Brazilian Nationals and a dual meet between Romania and Great Britain. Oh and Shawn Johnson's gym got flooded=AAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Without further ado:
French Nationals That Are Really All About the Chinese
- Yang Yilin had a strong showing, and is more and more beginning to showcase her strengths as a legitimate contender for Olympic AA gold. Posted marks of 15.125 (VT), 16.65 (UB), 15.75 (BB), and 15.175 (FX). In event finals she won gold on UB (16.825), tied for third on BB (15.325), but had a fall on FX (13.75). Yang has the potential to sneak into the AA medal ranks, but winning will be a tall order. Yang's consistency is something to be admired, though stamina required for a two-day competition probably impeded her event final FX and BB efforts. The more I think about it, the Chinese could use Yang on BB in team finals. She can hit, maybe with not a super high mark, but with a respectable mark that the Chinese can count on for consistency.
- Jiang Yuyuan had a lackluster vault score (14.575), which possibly could have been due to a shaky Amanar that was downgraded to a DTY, though there is no video yet. Has a 7.3 A-score on UB, but handstand deductions for late pirouetting are likely coming into play with scores of 15.8 (8.5 B) and 15.65 (7.2 A, 8.45 B) on that event. Won the floor exercise title but had a low mark on beam in AA finals (15.025). Jiang has the goods to win Olympic AA, but deductions like missed handstands, wobbles on beam, and occasional OOB's on floor will make the difference.
- Cheng Fei did not do her Amanar in either AA or event finals, but did do her Cheng (apparently successfully) in event finals, vault being the only event final she competed in. Scored a solid but unspectacular 15.55 in AA finals and landed on her head on her double-double on floor, scoring only a 14.275. Not quite the meet she was looking for, but she a very experienced veteran who was probably just treating this as a warm-up meet. It is beginning to look like she will be doing her Cheng vault in Olympic team finals, instead of the Amanar vault which she has done unsuccessfully in world team finals for the last two years.
- After this meet I seriously cannot see how the Chinese are going to even think of letting Sui Lu step foot into Beijing come August. Landed OOB on floor in AA finals (14.7) and had multiple falls off the balance beam as well (13.725). A score in the 13's would open a huge door for the USA in team finals, though Sui did mark a reasonable 15.35 in event finals. Sui Lu has all the potential to be the missing piece of the puzzle that China has been looking for, I thought after seeing the Chinese Nationals that Sui was a sure lock for the team. But as I said in my Chinese Olympic Team Outlook post back in early May, Sui Lu would be a huge gamble to risk competing in the Olympic Games, and I think the Chinese by now have realized that the risk of sending Sui will outshine the reward.
- Don't confirm this, but I heard that the French Olympic Team is: Pauline Morel, Marine Petit, Laetitia Dugain, Cassy Vericel, Marine Debauve, and Kathleen Lindor. Severino's Achilles injury from Europeans in April has disallowed this great gymnast from going to a third Olympics. Marine Debauve, who placed 7th AA at the '04 Olympics, has made a successful comeback to go to her 2nd Olympic Games. Cassy Vericel showed a 6.4 A-score on floor in the event finals of these championships, which apparently included a Dos Santos (piked double Arabian).
- Beth Tweddle was scheduled to compete but withdrew to a foot injury. No word yet on how serious it is.
- These scores were definitely stingy (comparative to USA and China Nats), and probably more or less around what you will see in Beijing.
- Penguin 888 reports that Ana Claudia Silva is the new AA champ of Brazil, not Jade Barbosa (shock horror) Jade had falls on her Amanar (which scored a 14.5 and probably wasn't credited with full rotation, it was a truly splatted vault if there ever was one) and a fall on her acro series on beam, which also gave her trouble at the recent Moscow World Cup.
- Khiuani Dias withdrew from the competition entirely, and Daiane dos Santos still has a ways to go on floor exercise (14.667 in prelims).
- Despite Jade's AA trouble, she did manage wins on vault, bars and floor. No word yet on who won beam, but I suspect that top qualifier Daniele Hypolito (15.7 in prelims, rumors of a 7.0 A-score here) won that event.
- In prelims, Lais Souza was unspectacular, only finishing in the top three on balance beam with a 14.733 there.
- Jade has looked very skaky this year, although her floor exercise consistency looks to be greatly improving. She did her first Amanar vault of 2008 and it wasn't even close, and the ff+ff+2-foot layout acro series on beam has been giving Barbosa all sorts of trouble. Losing to little known all arounder Ana Claudia Silva will no doubt have a negative affect on Jade's confidence. However, last year Jade looked like an unremarkable gymnast until the Worlds where she easily was in the best condition of her life and was challenging for the World AA title. If she can repeat that concept of peaking at the right time for Beijing, than the top AA girls better watch out. Sadly though, I don't see it happening. Her consistency isn't improving, and if anything it is regressing to the point where hitting 4 for 4 routines in a major championship seems to be very unlikely.
GBR vs. ROM Dual Meet
- Romania won here (duh), with Steliana Nistor winning the AA. Steliana apparently only did a yurchenko 1.5 (14.6), but was excellent on bars and beam and finished with an AA score of 61.0. Likely fell on floor in the AA (14.2), but adding eight tenths to 61 would make Steliana a very legitimate AA contender, though these scores look to be inflated. Nistor followed up her AA win with a UB win and silvers on BB and FX. Overall, Nistor looks to be close to top shape less than two months prior to the start of the Games.
- Rebecca Downie is coming into her own for the British team and placed a strong 2nd AA with scores ranging from 14.55 (floor) to 15.8 (bars). Won vault in event finals and also placed 2nd on uneven bars. The emergence of this youngster will hopefully help Great Britain to make Olympic team finals.
- Sandra Izbasa is still having problems with the dreaded bars (13.55-sat down dismount) which will very likely take her out of the Olympic AA medal hunt in Beijing, unfortunately. Strong work on beam and floor, and a DTY on vault (relatively skaky though) kept Izbasa in the AA medals with a bronze at this meet, and would end up defeating Nistor for gold on both of those events in event finals. Without Ponor competing, Izbasa could make Olympic BB finals as well as challenging for FX gold, now that she won't have to worry about the 2-per country rule.
- Imogen Cairns improved her Olympic chances by defeating compatriot Marissa King for silver on vault. King, a vault specialist, tied for 5th AA but appeared to be lackluster throughout the competition on her key event to make the British Olympic team.
Thoughts and Rumors on Shawn Johnson's Flooding Situation
If you haven't already heard, there have been floods around much of Iowa and in the process the floods decided to go and invade Shawn Johnson's gym, which ended up being a very unusual roadblock for Shawn's training for the Olympics. There have been rumors that Martha K. is going to let Shawn train at the ranch after the trials until, presumably, when the U.S. team leaves for Beijing. Shawn went to Iowa State to train immediately following the flood, and should be leaving for the trials on Monday. There have been reports suggesting that Johnson left West Des Moines with almost the assumption that she won't be returning until possibly after the Olympics are over. Barring something very unlikely Shawn will get one of the two guaranteed births to the Olympic team in Philly next week. Training at the camp would be an ideal situation for Shawn, as the camp now has Jansen-Fritsen equipment, the same equipment being used in Philly, Beijing, and at Shawn's gym. However, if Shawn feels that Martha K. would not be a positive influence to her training (though Chow and Li will probably both go down with her and still coach her as normal), than Shawn should likely move in with another top gymnast. In this scenario, Chellsie Memmel would come to mind. Shawn and Chellsie's personalities are fairly similar, and having training partners would allow both gymnasts to push each other even more to come to the Olympics in peak condition.
EDIT: Shawn will be going back to Chow's after the Olympic Trials.
That is all.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
China is most in need of two beam specialists, possibly another floor spot if they don't think Yang Yilin is "good enough", and a backup bars worker in case something disastrous happens to any of the three bars workers mentioned above.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Predicted Bars Finalists:
Marie Sophie-Hindermann (Germany)
He Kexin (China)
Nastia Liukin (USA)
Chellsie Memmel (USA)
Steliana Nistor (Romania)
Ksenia Semionova (Russia)
Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)
Yang Yilin (China)
Anja Brinker (Germany)
Hong Su Jong (PRK)
Dariya Zgoba (Ukraine)
The Contenders (Note: The A-scores I have listed are for what athletes have either competed or have publicly stated that they plan on competing)
Marie-Sophie Hindermann (Germany)
Results: 2008 German Nationals-3rd place, 2008 Europeans-9th place(qualifying), 2007 Worlds-5th place
Pros: Hindermann is appreciated for her very clean, correct style on the uneven bars. Form deductions that others suffer from do not apply to Hindermann, especially when it comes to not cowboying her double front dismount. Marie has upgraded her set to potentially .5 over where it was last year.
Cons: Hindermann is very consistent with NOT hitting her bar set. Hindermann would've challenged for the European title on bars earlier this year, but a failed dismount in prelims took away her chances of competing in the finals. She also had issues at the recent German Nationals, and only placed 3rd on this event in a competition she could've easily won.
Outlook: I predicted Hindermann would make bars finals because her A-score is higher than all of my predicted bars reserve gymnasts. Hindermann has yet to really put it all together on this event since last year's worlds. However, upgrades and good form could make Hindermann an outside medal threat at the Olympics if she hits her routine.
He Kexin (China)
Results: 2008 Chinese Nationals Bars Champion, 2008 Cottbus World Cup champion, 2008 Doha World Cup champion
A-score: 7.7 (rumored upgrades)
Pros: He Kexin is the solid favorite for uneven bars gold at these Olympics. Her consistency is remarkable, given the fact that she has yet to miss her extraordinarily difficult routine at a major competition. He Kexin's reliance on pirouettes is less so than her main rivals Nastia Liukin and Yang Yilin, which means there is less room for potential handstand deductions for Kexin. Stamina has not appeared to be an issue at all for Kexin's set, which is something that top bars challenger Liukin cannot say.
Cons: He Kexin's underage rumors could end up backfiring on the Chinese, with the judges having the option of giving a tight execution score to Kexin in order to prevent her from winning gold. Kexin withdrew from the recent Barcelona World Cup for reasons unknown, and also withdrew from the finals of the Tianjin World Cup due to "exhaustion." These recent occurrences could mean that Kexin is not as physically and mentally prepared for the Olympics as she would like.
Outlook: He Kexin has dominated bars throughout the entire year and will be tough to beat in Beijing. Consistency, lack of deductions, and incredible difficulty look to be the right combination for gold. The only things that are standing in the way are He Kexin dealing with the pressure herself and possible political disfavortism from the judges who are known to be relatively tight with the Chinese gymnasts' scores.
Nastia Liukin (USA)
Results: 2005-2008 USA Bars Champion, 2008 Pacific Rim-2nd place(tie), 2007 Worlds-2nd place, 2006 Worlds-2nd place, 2005 World Bars Champion
A-score: 7.7 (though unlikely, if Liukin connects Tkatchev + Pak she would have a maximum A-score of 7.9)
Pros: Nastia is a formidable challenger on this event because of her exquisite body line, good form and high difficulty. Nastia showed improvement in her bar work at the recent U.S. Nationals, especially when it came to hitting handstands. Judges are generally inclined to score tall girls favorably on this event, and Liukin is no exception. Nastia has also competed in three world bars finals, medaling in all of them, and her top rival He Kexin doesn't even have the experience of a world championship under her belt.
Cons: Nastia occurs deductions right off the bat for cowboyed form on her double front 1/2 dismount, in addition is usually a bit off handstand in her Ono 1.5 pirouette. Liukin has been struggling with maintaining her stamina throughout the routine and generally has less-than-desired landings on her dismount. Liukin has also been on the losing end twice during close bars races at the last two world championships.
Outlook: Nastia's #1 priority prior to the Olympics is cleaning up her dismount, which has about a .3 form deduction and additional deductions if she were to have a faulty landing. Liukin shouldn't be subject to another questionable loss of a bars gold medal, as the bars winners at the last two world championships (Elizabeth Tweddle and Ksenia Semionova) were from countries that had yet to win a medal in the competition. With Liukin's top rivals likely to be the two Chinese, Nastia shouldn't be subject to a loss due to the judges wanting to award the gold medal to someone who not from an especially dominant gymnastics nation. However, Nastia's scores and domestic and international competition have yet to match those of He Kexin, and might need a sizable error on her part to win the gold.
Chellsie Memmel (USA)
Results: 2008 U.S. Nationals-2nd place, 2006 Worlds-2nd place (qualifying), 2005 Worlds-2nd place, 2003 Co-World Bars Champion
A-score: 7.0 (stated it could be as high as 7.2)
Pros: Chellsie has strong uneven bar work and her competitive spirit has always made her a favorite of the international judges, which should continue due to the fact that Memmel has even upgraded since her shoulder injury of doom. Chellsie's extremely consistent bar work and amplitude with her releases are also assets to contend for a bars medal.
Cons: Even at top form, Chellsie is .5 behind the top A-scores on this event. This means that Chellsie would really need to rely on a big mistake from at least one of the top bars gymnasts to get a medal, and so far this year Kexin, Yilin, and Liukin have all looked pretty consistent on this event.
Outlook: Chellsie's upgrades make her a very likely candidate to get into bars finals, but medaling is a different story. However, Memmel's competitive nature would make her likely to do a great routine in bars finals and if another top challenger falls under the pressure Chellsie would be right there to snatch a spot on the podium. Because of a lower start score, any podium finish will likely come by default for Memmel, unfortunately.
Steliana Nistor (Romania)
Results: 2008 Europeans-2nd place, 2007 Worlds-6th place, 2006 Worlds-7th place
Pros: Steliana is a very well-trained athlete, and in typical Romanian fashion can cover up a mistake like no other. Steliana is quick thinking enough to save any pirouette that is not completed and rearrange her routine accordingly. Steliana is also a very consistent gymnast, especially on this event, and often sticks her landings cold which is not something many other gymnasts can do here.
Cons: Steliana's form is something to be desired and at the Europeans in April she lost the bars title to Ksenia Semionova despite hitting the routine with a .3 A-score advantage over Semionova. Nistor also tends to suffer from deductions from missed handstands for her multiple pirouetting skills in her routine. Lagging behind Liukin, Yilin, Kexin, and others with her start value also doesn't help Nistor's bid for a bars medal.
Outlook: Steliana is a consistent gymnast but doesn't have the finest quality bar work like that of the other top bar workers. As a competitor she is a very reliable gymnast and is able to work through errors efficiently in her routine, but like Memmel a medal on bars for Nistor will likely come at the expense of other gymnasts' errors.
Ksenia Semionova (Russia)
Results: 2008 Moscow World Cup Bars Champion, 2008 European Bars Champion, 2007 World Bars Champion
A-score: 7.2 (potentially 7.6 if she connects tkatchev + 1.5 pirouette + jaegar but has yet to show this combo)
Pros: One of the lone bright spots for the Russian team in this entire quad, Ksenia has strong political favor from the eastern-bloc nations to score her well as one of their best hopes for an individual medal of any gymnastics event for the women. Ksenia is generally a consistent bars worker and could be a top challenger for UB gold if she adds the aformentioned connection, thus only putting her .1 behind Liukin, Kexin, and Yilin in terms of A-scores.
Cons: Ksenia has been noted to have a stock routine, i.e. a routine that really doesn't have anything truly original. Semionova suffers form deductions for her Deltchev release, as well as her piked double arabian dismount, the latter of which she is sometimes downgraded on because she tucks her legs in the second salto. Also, if Semionova were to not upgrade to the aformentioned combination (which she so far happens), her start value would be sizably behind the other top bars workers.
Outlook: Semionova's technique looks to make her capable of adding the 1.5 turn into an immediate jaegar, and the Russians should know that such an upgrade is necessary for a UB medal of any color. Still, Semionova's bar work might not be on par with Tweddle, Liukin, Yilin, and Kexin because of form and other deductions, however Semionova always seems to be scored favorably on this event in any major competition.
Elizabeth Tweddle (GBR)
Results: 2008 Europeans-4th place, 2007 Worlds-4th place, 2006 World Bars Champion, 2005 Worlds-3rd place, 2003 Worlds-3rd place
A-score: 7.4 (rumored upgrades)
Pros: Tweddle has a very consistent bars routine and has had the highest B-score at the last two world championship bars finals because of her good form and lack of handstand deductions (she is more reliant on releases than pirouettes). Tweddle has a very innovative bar routine and has her own element, a toe-on tkatchev 1/2, which she is hoping to have named after her. An upgraded start value of 7.4 and even more potential upgrades to come will boost Tweddle's bar medal chances considerably.
Cons: A failed connection between a toe-on tkatchev and a pak salto lost Tweddle a medal at last year's world championships. Beth has been inconsistent with getting her toe-on full prior to her dismount to the handstand, and also lost credit for her new release skill when she failed to make her straddle back to handtand afterward (though she has since changed the combo to an Ezhova transition). Tweddle has never finished lower than 4th in a world bars final, but all of these little errors seem to plague Beth in bars finals, as does an older body which tends to be more prone to injury.
Outlook: Everyone is thinking about the He Kexin vs. Nastia Liukin showdown, but don't count out Elizabeth Tweddle. She needs to upgrade from her already high 7.4 A-score about .2 to really be in the hunt and thus won't have to rely on other's mistakes to get on the podium. With Beth's good technique and experience she could go as far as taking everyone by surprise by winning gold, but she will need to be flawless in order to do so.
Yang Yilin (China)
Results: 2008 Tianjin World Cup Bars Champion, 2008 Chinese Nationals-2nd place, 2007 Worlds-3rd place
A-score: 7.7 (rumored upgrades)
Pros: Yang Yilin is an extremely consistent competitor who has upgraded her bar routine a whooping .7 in the last year and is currently competing her 7.7 A-score bar routine cleanly. Yang has excellent form and has a good combination of high release moves with beautiful pirouetting. Yang also won't have to deal with the pressure of her teammate, He Kexin, who will have to take far more pressure on her shoulders when competing in Olympic bars finals.
Cons: Yang Yilin was given relatively tight execution marks throughout the competition on bars at last year's worlds, and has yet to beat He Kexin on this event. Yang is not as much of a well-known name as Liukin, Kexin, Tweddle, and Semionova and thus judges might not be as inclined to score her highly. Like Liukin, Yang Yilin earns a lot of her start value in her pirouetting and a few missed handstands here and there will make the difference in such a tight field.
Outlook: Yang Yilin could be a huge surprise on this event, with the potential to upset the favorites and win the gold. However, judges will likely be more inclined to score Kexin and Liukin more favorably than Yilin, and Yang cannot afford any short handstands or dismount steps or hops if she wants gold. A medal is very possible on this event, but like Tweddle Yang will likely need close to a flawless routine if she is going for the top spot on the podium.
Anja Brinker (Germany)- Has a 7.1 A-score and has a very clean and mostly consistent work on this apparatus, though an apparent fall at the recent German Nationals took her out of the medals there. However, I would say that if one of the above predicted bars finalists were to not make it to bars finals due to a fall/injury (mainly Hindermann because of her recent bars issues), I would predict Brinker to sneak in there if she hits her prelims routine.
Hong Su Jong (PRK)- Very consistent and clean bar worker, but as of last year's worlds only has a 6.6 A-score. I don't actually predict many upgrades for Su Jong on bars at the Olympics because of the Koreans likely turning their focus toward Su Jong's vault efforts.
Dariya Zgoba (Ukraine)- Zgoba is an excellent bar worker but it will be hard, though certainly possible, task to make it in to Olympic bars finals. Zgoba has a potential 7.0 A-score but often suffers from form deductions and (correct me if I'm wrong) a compostition deduction for standing on the low bar to transition to the high bar. I would predict Zgoba to get into bars finals if Hindermann and Brinker make mistakes, enough so that Zgoba could compete in the biggest meet of her career.
Gold: He Kexin (China)
Silver: Yang Yilin (China)
Bronze: Nastia Liukin (USA)
With Kexin and Yilin more likely to upgrade than Liukin and with them being more consistent than Liukin, I do predict that these two Chinese girls will finish 1-2 and Nastia will have to settle for bronze. As far as Tweddle and Semionova are concerned, Tweddle I would actually predict to be battling for a medal more so than Semionova because of her experience, good execution and difficulty, and generally good scoring from the judges. Semionova's scoring favor will likely depend on whether Russia gets its team medal back that they so heartbreakingly lost last year. Even with a tkatchev + 1.5 turn immediate jaegar upgrade, I don't see Semionova being able to put together a competitive effort for the finals when she has yet to compete her full difficulty this year and with form that can be a big reason for deduction.
Next Post: USA/China Bubble Girls Analysis
That is all.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Please note that the vault rankings are based on both days of one-vault scores, NOT on the athletes that competed two vaults. (where A-Sac finished 1st, Ranzy finished 2nd)
Olympic Status: Lock
Scoring: Scored a bit generously, I haven't seen her day two bars routine but it scored a likely inflated 15.95. Also got the same execution mark on beam for both days despite a significant (IMO .5 deduction) wobble on day two.
Olympic Status: In the mix/longshot
Outlook: Going for floor alone is too small a contribution for Larson to make the team. At trials, it is imperative that Larson place 3rd on vault and floor to be seriously considered to make the team. It can happen, though, if politically biased judges decide to score her favorably and if Larson performs to her potential. Chellsie Memmel's father/coach Andy hinted upgrades on floor for Chellsie, and if Chellsie were to solidly finish 3rd on floor at trials than it will be probably be game over for Larson because of her lack of experience and for her necessity on just one event.
Results: 14th-VT, 9th-BB, 18th-FX
Outlook: Why on earth did Martha K. even let Amber go to trials given the fact that Amber did poorly at both the U.S. Classic and here at Nationals as well. Martha K. probably felt that the Mrs. would lose all hope for the future if she didn't have at least one girl at trials with Geralen now out of the picture. I'm sure the Mrs. thinks that Amber has a legitimate shot at going to Beijing, when everyone else knows she won't be. For Amber's sake it would probably be better for her to not have advanced trials so she could rest her body prior to NCAA.
Results: 15th-VT, 20th-BB, 5th-FX
Outlook: Darling is consistent on floor, but failing to get above a 15.25 on floor on either day of competition and failing to make top 3 on floor basically means game over for Hill's Olympic bid. However, Darling has done herself and her grandmother who passed on earlier this year proud by making the Olympic Trials.
Outlook: Shayla's back injuries have left a spot on the team up for grabs for several gymnasts, including her. Having bars as a strength is good for Worley's Olympic chances, but Bridget Sloan's consistency and improved difficulty on that event will make it hard for Worley to make the team. Look at the trials for who finishes 3rd on bars, as this one finish is crucial for Sloan and Worley's Olympic chances, as well as the make-up of the alternates. Shayla is doubtful to be left off the team entirely, unless if she is going to come back at very subpar form. At this point in time, I would predict that Shayla will be an alternate.
- Politically biased scores and inflated marks for top gymnasts are likely to continue. Expect inflated marks for the four locks plus Peszek, Sloan, and Worley. Bieger, Hong, Larson, and the other bubble girls will likely be scored fairly harshly throughout the meet like they were at these championships.
- Despite the fact that Shawn Johnson won Nationals, Liukin could steal the top spot at Trials due to strong political favor from USAG and possible upgrades to come. This would actually be a blessing in disguise for Shawn Johnson, who wouldn't have to deal with as much pressure going into Beijing. Chellsie Memmel likely won't break into the top two at trials unless if Liukin and/or Johnson suffer falls.
- AA and Beam placements are irrelevant at trials, instead pay close attention to who finishes 3rd on bars, vault, and floor. If Bridget Sloan is to finish 3rd on bars at trials with a sizable lead over Worley, I honestly think they have to pick her regardless of Sloan and Worley's placements on the other apparatus.
- Brittany Ranzy's Amanar vault, if done successfully, could make her somewhat of the Annia Hatch of this year's Olympic team. However, the only way this can happen is if Memmel and Liukin finish ahead of Peszek, Bieger and Larson on floor, thus degrading the need for a floor specialist.
Next Post: Olympic UB Final Outlook
That is all.