Worlds Qualifications Recap - Where to Start?
I think I've been avoiding writing this post because I really had no clue where to start. Big surprises in Romania not making the top 8 or 2nd American all around spot. Or the happy surprises - Canada and the Netherlands making the top 8, both Sanne Wevers and Eythora Thorsdottir making balance beam event finals. There's just so much that happened in these two days and I'm still trying to process it.
Let's start with the heartbreak that is Romania.
Prior to competition, Ana Maria Ocolisan was injured. She was a savior in my eyes. At the time, I thought Diana Bulimar wasn't back to AA status so Ocolisan served as an excellent 2nd all arounder. Easily getting 55+ and showing consistency on all events. Then joined with Larisa, these 3 would be enough to easily get Romania in the team final.
The unthinkable happened.
Well, not unthinkable in this sport.
Ocolisan was injured and out of the competition. Romania, unfortunately, did not have an alternate they could willingly use in competition so they had just 5 athletes and only 4 athletes on some events. It would not have been half as bad if not for the meltdown that ensued. Iordache received a low floor exercise score (which I honestly still cannot understand). Vault went okay. Then uneven bars was wear disaster struck. Jurca started the team off great and after that it was melt down city. Neither Bulimar nor Iordache, the glue for the team and the leaders, were able to hit their routines. There were falls on beam too, kicking Iordache out of the beam event final.
There were just so many surprises here. Romania finished outside of the top 8 and will have to try and qualify a team for Rio at the Test Event. Something they haven't had to do... ever? They finished outside the top 8 for the first time in 40 years. Their only shot at a medal is the all around final. It seems weird not to have Iordache in the floor exercise final.
Lots of people have been quick to blame the Olympian comebacks that have not come to fruition in time for this Worlds. Izbasa hopes to be ready by European Championships and Ponor suffered an untimely injury that kept her out of this year's Worlds. But what about the other issues? Girls easily losing motivation. Or the fact that Romania has struggled on bars and only seems to be getting worse? It seems like there are infrastructure issues that need to be changed to help Romania get back to where she once was.
Just kidding because now we'll get to USA and me raging over Maggie Nichols not being in the all around.
The more I tried thinking of Team USA's lineup with the 7 athletes chosen, I knew it would be a struggle for each puzzle piece to fall nicely into place. You brought 2 UB workers so who do you take out of the AA? You brought a VT/FX specialist so which UB girl do you leave out? You brought an even keeled AAer so should she just come out to fit the specialists with an EF medal chance?
I have no clue what went through Martha Karolyi's head but it was apparent that Mykayla Skinner would be alternate. Fine. So now 2 UB workers are competing and out of the remaining 4 girls, only 3 would get to do AA. The battle came down to first time World Championships attendee Maggie Nichols and Olympic Champion Aly Raisman. Regardless of Nichols' stronger UB set, using her on UB meant taking an Olympic Champ out of the AA. That just wasn't going to happen.
Unfortunately, both Aly Raisman and Brenna Dowell had issues on bars. Many were quick to point out how useful Bailie Key would have been but let me stop you for a second. We have an athlete fully capable of doing bars that's ALREADY HERE! No, maybe not UB EF worthy but still a good UB set and a good chance at a medal in the all around. But it just wasn't to be. Nichols competed VT, BB, FX and could have scored below 13 and still beaten compatriots Gabrielle Douglas and Raisman to the AA final. What a time to be alive?
I have seen the glass half full, though. If Nichols does well in TF and in the FX EF (seriously - who saw that coming because I 1000% did not), she's making a statement for herself for Rio.
Speaking of Rio, what kind of statement did Brenna Dowell make? Not a good one to say the least. Multiple errors on her best event and the snafu on floor. This is where I actually would use Dowell in TF on UB. If she messes up here, then that could potentially make the Rio selection much easier. Give her that shot to see if she rises to the occasion or falls under the pressure.
Here's my APF lineup.
VT: Raisman, Nichols, Biles
UB: Dowell, Douglas, Kocian
BB: Nichols, Raisman, Biles
FX: Nichols, Raisman, Biles
VT, FX is pretty straight forward. UB has Dowell just to give her one more shot and I think the US lead will be enough that even if she does mess up, USA should still win. On BB, Nichols had the better routine compared to Douglas.
What I think Martha will do:
VT: Raisman, Nichols, Biles
UB: Biles, Douglas, Kocian
BB: Douglas, Raisman, Biles
FX: Nichols, Raisman, Biles
A few other things:
Canada had a phenomenal showing. I really didn't think this was the year for Canada or for the Netherlands. I was hopeful but skeptical and clearly that was not needed. Canada had an excellent showing. Rogers had an excellent international return with 2 great vaults and a superb uneven bars routine. Black qualified to the all around final in the top 5. Overall a great showing.
The Netherlands also were a pleasant surprise, earning the 8th spot. Lieke Wevers made the AA final. Sanne Wevers and Eythora Thorsdottir both made the balance beam final. Their artistry and excellent execution was rewarded and now they get to send a team to Rio. Which I think we can all have a sigh of relief not having to pick just 1 athlete from this talented pool.
China was a bit weaker than I expected but they are a young team. I'm somewhat hopeful they'll get it together for team finals. Ironically, China looked the worst on uneven bars. They just looked weak. In the past, China has used the code to their advantage or entirely ignored the code and just kept their immaculate pirouettes. Now, they're not really adjusted to the code, their backs are soft going into stalders, and the pirouettes are failing them. We'll see how TF goes.
Russia was solid, much improved despite missing Mustafina. Happy Komova showed up and nailed her UB and BB set for places in both finals. Paseka continues to improve on vault giving herself a real shot at a medal.
For Great Britain, an overall good performance, I was just surprised Ellie Downie did not make the AA final. I LOVE Ruby Harrold's floor so much and hope and pray that she really does end up at LSU.
Oh Italy. I'm not mad that Ferrari was chosen to go, I'm just mad that she's withdrawing now anyway. I had no doubts Italy would make the team final but it was a lot closer than I anticipated. So, fine, Mr. Casella you made the right choice. It's just unfortunate that Enus Mariani missed out on the international experience. I'm glad Ugrin did well. Hopefully both stay in the conversation closer to Rio.
Brazil and Belgium both did way better than I expected. Surprised that Australia was so low. Sad that Spain just missed out on top 16 and can only send 2 athletes to the Test Event. I just don't want to think about it.
Results on FIG event website.
What were your biggest surprises for the qualification round?