After watching the first two subdivisions from podium training at the 2014 World Championships, we have to talk about Russia.
Overall, they looked a billion times better than I expected, given their recent injuries and issues that caused a number of athletes to be left home. It’s funny, because while I think they can easily hold their own in team finals, qualifications are going to be the issue for them. They can definitely field three strong routines on each event in finals, but I’m not sure they can put up the five needed for qualifications.
It’ll be interesting, and something to keep in mind, because this is a team that could put up a misleading qualification score. If their weakest links are their fourth and fifth lineup spots, it’ll drag their qualification score down a great deal compared to what we’ll likely see in team finals.
Aliya Mustafina and Tatiana Nabieva hit some solid DTYs on vault with Nabieva’s form the only issue. Alla Sosnitskaya debuted her Cheng, first with a spot and then alone. It’s not perfect but it’s something the Russian team desperately needed – and interesting that they kept it a secret all summer! It’s not like she just started throwing them into the pit during training last week.
The team looked fabulous on bars, execution-wise. Van Leeuwen work looked especially nice as always, they all end up in outer space on their Jaegers, and the full-twisting double backs had clean landings, for the most part. I’m used to the Russians inventing skills on this event, so seeing carbon copy routines this year has been a bit dull, though they do them VERY well. That’s the trade-off. Mustafina could potentially make the final, and Nabieva looked cleaner than she did at the Russian Cup, from what I saw.
Mustafina and Maria Kharenkova were obvious standouts on beam and could both medal in the final, though I think beam is going to be the stacked final this year. Mustafina looked fluid, and hit her standing Arabian, switch to Onodi to side aerial, and her front aerial combo. Though I’m sure she’d love to connect everything one day, it doesn’t look like it’s happening before qualifications…though it’s still an awesome routine. She looked wobbly in some moments but solid in others. Kharenkova was clean all the way through it seemed, and Sosnitskaya showed no major signs of weakness.
On floor, Mustafina struggled with the triple Y turn, but otherwise looked strong, showing a nice double Arabian and 2.5 to front full. Sosnitskaya looks to be opening with a double layout and a whip-whip through to triple full, while Kharenkova has the double Arabian and whip-whip-triple full. I didn’t catch any missed tumbling passes from any of these three, so if they’re the ones to go up in finals, they could have a very good outing.
Canada is definitely still feeling the loss of Victoria Moors, especially on vault where they have mostly FTYs with the exception of Maegan Chant and Ellie Black, who just couldn’t hit her Rudi – I counted at least two falls. Considering this is typically their best event, it doesn’t inspire much confidence. Bars were definitely the weakest and I didn’t see very many clean landings on floor, but I was impressed with what I saw from beam – a glimmer of hope in an otherwise rough year for this young team, though Black is really the only athlete from this crowd with any chance for finals.
I thought beam was a standout for the Netherlands as well, floor looked great, and I only caught one fall from the group on bars. Vault doesn’t have much beyond a couple of FTYs, a tucked Tsuk 1.5, and a tucked handspring full, so they’re definitely lacking in the difficulty they’d need to get into the team final. Still, that being said, they’re very likely to be on the border of the top eight, with the top 12 an easy reach for this great crop of gymnasts.
In terms of individuals, Roxana Popa of Spain was bananas good. Everywhere. Her DTYs were fantastic and her beam was mostly clean with the exception of a wobble or two, but bars and floor were outstanding. She does about seven billion releases on bars, including a Gienger, Ricna, Jaeger, and awesome toe full-Tkatchev-pak salto series. She also hit a full-twisting double layout, making her the rockstar of her session. Her floor was equally killer, and was a crowd-pleaser at that; the double layout and stuck whip whip through to full in were especially great to see.
2011 World bronze medalist on vault Phan Thi Ha Thanh is giving Alicia Sacramone a run for her money with her clean DTY and handspring Rudi. The Americans and Hong Un Jong have her beat where difficulty is concerned, but not by much. Her execution could again make her a surprise podium finisher on this event.