2011 WAG Team Final Predictions
If the USA hits every routine, I’d say that they’ll win. It also seems like they are the team with the greatest chance of hitting 12/12 tonight; they were the only top 4 team that did it in prelims.
There are a few routines that could be troublesome for them, however. I don’t predict any issues on vault, although the Amanars in prelims, even though they looked beautiful in the air, had some uncharacteristic landing errors. Wieber’s step looked much less controlled to me than it usually does, and Maroney’s was the largest I’ve seen from her in the past year. They are the number one vault team in the world, no doubt about it, but they’ll want to get every tenth that they can out of those vaults in the first rotation.
USA did not look like a team with an extremely weak link on bars in prelims, beating China by about two points on what is usually considered China’s strongest event. Their bars rotation, however, looks like it could be the most problematic in finals. They seem to have fixed their issues since nationals, but I am still afraid that Douglas will miss almost every handstand and Wieber will muscle her routine like she did in August. I’d like to say, however, that Geddert made a great decision when he removed Wieber’s double double. It really was not working for her. Vega is the one that I worry about the most in the bars lineup. I have not seen her bars from prelims yet, but she only hit one routine between classics and nationals, and even during that routine she nearly fell. She was also having trouble in training yesterday on both bars and beam.
I also worry about Maroney on floor. It’s a combination of her second and third pass right now that makes me think that something is going to go wrong. She has not been doing well with the second pass in Tokyo, although it was great at nationals and classics, and the third pass has always been a little bit off. Wieber has been having trouble with her third pass was well. Honestly, I do not understand how it can still be called a fluke when she a) had a very scary fall on it in Jesolo b) fell on it in podium training at nationals c) fell on it at worlds selection camp and d) had to tuck it down in prelims. It seems like a pretty consistent error to me, but she can also do that pass very well, as well as pretty much anybody else in the world, and she is going to fight for it, as she did in prelims. So I’m not too worried about it, but I just might be holding my breath for those ten seconds.
The Russians, if they manage to hit again, might be able to put some pressure on the US. They are going to rely very heavily on Viktoria Komova, who will, despite all of her injury problems, be competing all around for them in team finals. We have to wonder what their vault rotation will look like; if they land two Amanars, they will be much closer to the US heading into the second rotation on what may be their best event, bars. In reality, however, I hope that they do not risk the Amanars. The Olympics are probably closer than the recovery time for a torn ACL, at the moment. They absolutely can not afford to lose Komova.
Today, for Anna Dementyeva, is all about redemption on bars and beam. She came into Tokyo with everybody expecting her to be a star, and did not end up in any individual finals. She fell on bars last year, but I have a decent feeling about her ability to hit there at the moment. Beam, however, was full of wobbles and missed connections yesterday, possibly due to some leg injury. If she scores in the 15 range, which she is 100% capable of, Russia will get much closer to the USA. Nabieva also needs to redeem herself, because she was the one who nearly lost it for Russia last year. If she misses bars in team finals again, her olympic dream is going to start fading away. I have no idea what to expect from Inshina or Belokobylskaya, who looked relatively calm in prelims despite their lack of international experience compared to the other four gymnasts on the team, but I am hoping that they can hold it together when it counts. The only thing that really has me worried in their routines is Belokobylskaya’s front layout on floor, which always looks a little bit low and long. In my opinion, she should have kept the jump out of it. I’m actually not that worried about Afanasyeva, knock on wood.
China, I would say, actually has a great shot at leading after the first two rotations. They are fantastic on bars and beam when they hit, and can score high 14s and low 15s for all of the routines on those events, but they can also have a complete meltdown, like the one we witnessed on bars in prelims. Hopefully Tan Sixin does not make the coaches regret putting her into the lineup on three events, despite missing two of them in prelims. She is great on beam, and hopefully she can show it. She’s also trained very well on bars. Sui Lu is out for redemption too after her mistakes on beam in team finals last year, and she has been known to deliver flawless beam routines occasionally. Hopefully this is one of these nights. Huang Qiushuang needs redemption as well, and will hopefully do well on bars. Vault should be good. Jiang Yuyuan will only vault, so hopefully she can do it without her head landing so close to her knees. The really want a 14.5+ from her. Finally, Yao Jinnan just needs to have a repeat of her prelims performance… easier said than done, but she can do it. He Kexin? Hopefully she’ll have fun chalking bars and being the official cheerleader of the team. I can see China beating Russia, but I can also see Russia beating China. It really comes down to who hits routines, and how the judging goes. The Chinese girls who did hit bars got relatively low scores in prelims, especially when you compare them to the mid 15s that China was scoring last year for hit sets.
Romania is clearly in fourth place heading into the competition, just like last year. Unfortunately, they do not have the same Ana Porgras that was a rock for their team all the way though worlds in 2010. She missed both of her big events in prelims. I do have some faith that she will hit beam in finals, but bars? She’s been having trouble on that dismount since nationals. I think she may have landed about one of them in competition. Acutally, her problems with this dismount have been present since at least 2010, although they were nowhere near as bad. They decided to use her in finals, and I hope for her sake that she can actually hit that routine and even break 14. A 14 on bars, unfortunately, is very valuable to Romania. Racea will be counted on on the same events, and I have more faith in her. Most of Romania’s big numbers will be coming from veteran Catalina Ponor, but she needs backup, and a double pike dismount off of beam. Haidu will need to hit her two events, but she has demonstrated consistency on them this season so I’m not too worried. The same goes for Chelaru, who will compete vault and floor, and Bulimar, who will only compete floor. Romania will need to bring back that traditional Romanian consistency we saw in 2010 and in many past years to challenge for a team medal with their lower difficulty and low execution on bars. I predict a fourth place finish for them, but with meltdowns for Russia, China or even a potential one for the USA (I don’t expect this), they can finish on the podium.
The other teams don’t really look like medal contenders; Japan may be the closest, but they have a lot of catching up to do on bars and beam before they can be considered real medal favorites. Australia is good, but consistently below the top few teams on every event. Germany will pick up two high scores on vault and possibly three 14s on bars, but it will be hard for them to keep up that standard on the other events. Great Britain will probably just be hoping to perform better than they did yesterday and maybe climb up a little bit in the standings.
My dream is that everybody on the medalling teams, especially the gold medal team, hit their routines and have no regrets. No moments where they think “uh oh, I just lost the gold medal for my team.” Please let the gold medal be decided by the rotation of turns and stuck landings. I do not want to see another exciting competition for all of the wrong reasons, I want to see a competition that is exciting because everybody is doing so well. And please, no injuries.