2016 Olympic Event Finals Contenders: Guessing Games Are Fun
A preview of the gymnasts who may or may not make event finals but could probably but we don’t want to jinx anyone because anything can happen in this sport we love so much it’s almost unhealthy.
Maria Paseka, Hong Un Jong, and Simone Biles stood on the podium after the 2015 World Championships vault event final. The top two gymnasts both competed an Amanar and a Cheng, worth 6.3 and 6.4, respectively. Simone Biles competed an Amanar vault and has upgraded her second vault to a Cheng which means the top three vaulters in the world will start the competition on a completely level playing field which does not occur often in gymnastics. This assumption of parity assumes that Hong Un Jong continues her annual tradition of submitting the tripe twisting Yurchenko vault but then actually competing an Amanar. Simone has the edge in this final due to her excellent execution as well as her amplitude and distance from the table. Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar competes the highest combined difficulty on vault with a 7.0 valued Produnova and a Tsuk double twist worth 6.0 points. Similar to the small number of other gymnasts who attempt the extremely difficult Produnova vault, Dipa’s bottom says a friendly hello to the landing mat every single time, which earns her a low execution score and prevents her from earning a medal despite the high difficulty. If Dipa has a particularly good competition and her rear end only gives a friendly wave to the landing mat and therefore earns a high execution score she could finish high in the rankings. Very few gymnasts have ever landed this vault without incurring deductions that almost counteract the difficulty, and Dipa is no exception which greatly reduces her chances of earning a medal. Oksana Chusovitina, the Uzbek Energizer Bunny of gymnastics, also competes the challenging Produnova vault and also frequently performs a butt bounce, a skill gymnasts should only perform on the floor exercise. Chuso also competes a Tsuk double twist which has greatly improved since she has started training under former teammate Svetlana Boginskaia. Chuso also would have to hit the best vault of her life to contend for a medal against the 2015 medalists but Chuos is a legend regardless of the outcome of this Olympics and has maintained legendary status for roughly 12 years. European Championships gold medalist Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland competes a handspring front one and a half twist vault worth 6.2 points in difficulty and has recently brought back her double twisting Yurchenko which gives her 5.8 points. Giulia has trained a front handspring double twist but has not yet competed the vault that could bear her name. Giulia has a strong shot of making the event final. Ellie Downie from Great Britain competes an extremely high and well executed double twisting Yurchenko and a round off half on layout half twist off worth 5.6 points. Ellie earned the gold medal at the Osijek World Challenge Cup and the silver medal at European Championships in addition to competing in the 2015 World Championships event final. Ellie could definitely qualify into the event final in Rio but would have to rely on mistakes from other competitors to earn a medal. Wang Yan from China competed in the event finals in the 2015 World Championships and competed a Rudi and a Tsuk double, worth 6.0 and 6.2 points. Unlike the other events in which the top eight gymnasts advance to the final, gymnasts aiming to compete in the vault final must perform an extra vault which considerably narrows the field of potential qualifiers but also makes it easier to guess who will make the event finals. Other gymnasts who may compete two vaults but most likely will not advance to the event final include Seda Tutkhalyan, Ellie Black, Teja Belak, Brittany Rogers, and who knows, maybe Mustafina will throw an extra vault she has been training but no one knew about just to spice things up.
The 2015 World Championships uneven bar final debacle means four gold medalists could compete in the Olympic Games; however, one quarter of the gold medalists have retired and only 75% of the gold medalists will attempt to earn an Olympic medal. Fan Yilin, Daria Spiridonova, and Madison Kocian all should qualify into the event final. Last year Fan Yilin competed a 6.9 difficulty bar routine but this year has upgraded to a positively ginormous (trademark Tim Daggett) 7.1 difficulty routine which in addition to her textbook execution makes her the front runner for the uneven bars gold medal. Chunsong’s teammate Tan Jiaxin also competes an extremely difficult routine starting from 16.8 that includes many quick transitions, such as a Hindorff to Pak salto. Daria Spiridonova earned the silver medal on bars at the 2016 European Championships behind Becky Downie who did not qualify into the 2015 Worlds event final due to an uncharacteristic error in qualifications. Becky competes a 6.9 difficulty and a hit routine could earn her Great Britain’s second uneven bars Olympic medal. Becky’s teammate Ruby Harrold competed in last years event final with a 6.6 uneven bars routine but inconsistency on this event could prevent her from qualifying into the final as a fall kept her out of the European Championships event final. Shang Chunsong competed a solid 6.7 routine last year and maintaining the same level of difficulty and her solid execution could put her into the event finals again. Gabby Douglas is the second best uneven bar worker on the USA team and has competed either a 6.4 or 6.5 routine throughout the pre-Olympic season which is an upgrade from her 6.2 during 2015 World Championships. Gabby could qualify into the event final again but the difficulty other gymnasts bring to the event could put a medal out of her reach. Sophie Scheder from Germany competed in the previous year’s event final with a 6.6 difficulty routine and teammate Elizabeth Seitz matches that score and puts them in tight competition for an event final place. Russian first year senior Angelina Melnikova qualified into the European Championships event final but pulled out of the final competition and Spiridonova replaced her. It will be interesting to see which gymnast will qualify and if one with pull out again with a mysterious injury. Lastly, Aliya Mustafina may qualify into the event final in an attempt to defend her 2012 Olympic gold medal but she faces the most competition from her teammates who may eliminate her due to the two per country rule. On the other hand, Aliya may surprise everyone and bust out a 7.6 difficulty routine and be crowned Ultimate Olympic Champion.
Simone Biles has earned the past two World Championships beam gold medals and could win a gold medal on this event, barring a hilarious wolf turn fall. Her high difficulty score of 6.7 as well as her solid execution and the best full in dismount of all time make her a strong medal contender. Sanne Wevers took home the silver medal on beam at the 2015 World Championships and has increased her difficulty through very unique combinations, such as a full turn with leg at horizontal, full turn, double turn, leap combination and switch leap Kotchetkova combination. Sanne currently nearly matched Simone’s difficulty and her confidence and solid execution on beam could result in an Olympic medal for the Netherlands. Shang Chunsong of China also has increased her difficulty to match Simone Biles. German gymnast Pauline Shafer won the bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships but the return of Catalina Ponor and the return of Reliable Raisman greatly increase the level of competition for the beam final which means Pauline faces much tougher competition than she did in 2015. Catalina and Aly both could not only make the event final but have a solid shot of earning a medal, hwich is pretty exciting seeing as according to the mainstream media they should reside in an assisted living facility. Flavia Saraiva earned the gold medal at the Anadia World Cup and Ellie Downie earned the gold medal on beam (and all the other gold medals) at the Osijek World Cup and both of these young gymnasts could challenge for a spot in the beam final. Ellie’s sister Becky competed in the European Championships event finals and could contend for a beam finals place as well. Aliya Mustafina won the gold medal on beam at the 2016 European Championships and one can never count her out. French gymnast Marine Boyer earned the silver medal behind Mustafina in Bern and a strong beam set with her 6.3 difficulty could place her in the event final. Laurie Hernandez earned her spot on the US Olympic team due to competitive difficulty of 6.5 and strong execution on balance beam. The US gymnasts could all qualify into the beam final but the two gymnasts per country rule prevents that from occurring which will make beam qualifications a nail biter. Isabela Onyshko from Canada competed an extremely strong 6.5 routine at Elite Canada and a repeat performance of this solid routine, which includes a back handspring back tuck full twist, would her a beam final contender.
Simone Biles leads the field having collected all the World Championships gold medals available since she began competing in the senior division. Her unparalleled difficulty and great execution not to mention her sparkling personality on this event make her the standout favorite. Neither the silver nor the bronze medalists who placed behind Simone will compete in Rio which makes for a fun change in medal contenders. Simone’s teammate Aly Raisman will be on a mission to claim her second Olympic floor medal and will seek redemption for failing to qualify into the 2015 event final. Giulia Steingruber qualified into the 2015 World Championships floor final but a knee injury on vault prevented her from competing. Giulia won the 2016 European Championships floor gold medal and could contend for a medal if she qualifies into the event final. Giulia has strong tumbling passes including a double twisting double tuck, full twisting double layout, and full in. Ellie Downie and Claudia Fragapane of Great Britain competed in the the floor final in 2015 as well. Ellie’s strong and difficult tumbling, including a huge Dos Santos, earned her the silvermedal at the 2016 European Championships behind Giulia. Catalina Ponor took home the bronze medal in Bern and her routine consists of difficult tumbling passes including a double layout, whip whip pike full in, triple twist, and double pike. Catalina could repeat her 2004 and 2012 medal winning floor performances and become a three time Olympic floor medalist. Sae Miyakawa from Japan competed in the floor final in 2015 and has increased her difficulty value since World Championships. She competes a full twisting double layout, front full twisting layout to front double tuck, double double, and double layout. A hit routine could land Sae in the Olympic floor final. Chinese national champion Shang Chunsong’s clean twisting with punches out of all of her passes earned her a spot int he 2015 floor event final and her difficulty tied silver medalist Kseniia Afanaseyva. Shang could again compete in the floor final. Dutch gymnast Lieke Wevers builds difficulty on floor based on turns and dance elements as opposed to difficult tumbling runs and this unique strategy could put her in another floor final. Ellie Black from Canada and Erika Fasana from Italy have appeared in World Championships event finals and could sneak into the Olympic floor final as well.
As we as gymnastics fans learn every year, nothing is ever guaranteed. Someone may be a shoe in for a final or a medal and then small errors build up and everyone must change all of their predictions.