This week, the Italian team was dealt a devastating blow when Elisa Meneghini was forced to withdraw from competition at the 2014 World Championships due to back problems.
Lara Mori, a 16-year-old with no experience outside of Italy in her first year as a senior until now, will take Meneghini’s place. It’s a lot of pressure on her, especially as her scores are far below what Meneghini could have brought in, especially on vault and floor.
Two-time Olympian and 2006 World all-around champion Vanessa Ferrari leads the team that also includes Olympians Erika Fasana and Giorgia Campana and first-year seniors Lavinia Marongiu and Martina Rizzelli.
The team is split exactly in half with Olympians on one end and 16-year-olds on the other, making it a potentially shaky ride. Overall, they looked super prepared at both the Novara Cup and the Golden League, and until Meneghini’s injury, looked like they might actually finish in the top half of the teams. But while Mori can’t make up for Meneghini’s absence, not all hope is lost.
Ferrari is the kind of gymnast you can almost ALWAYS say looks “better than ever.” If she hits all four at the high level she’s capable of, she can earn around 58 in the all-around, and in addition to a good DTY, she also has incredibly difficult, high-scoring routines on beam and floor. At 23, exactly eight years after winning the all-around title, she is still one of the best in the world.
For a country with weak bars, Italy is lucky to have Campana, who averages close to 14 on the event. She’s competed ten bar routines this year and her lowest score is a 13.5, making her just about the most consistent bar worker there is, even if her difficulty isn’t that high. She could hit a score in the low to mid 14s, and while she’s comparatively weak elsewhere, that one bar routine in team finals will be worth its weight in gold.
Fellow 2012 Olympian Fasana should also contribute on bars, but her standout event is vault, where her DTY typically earns in the high 14s – and even earned a 15 at the Golden League competition last month. She’ll also be needed on floor, where she can put up a score in the low 14s when she hits. Though bars aren’t a strong event for her, the three young ladies on the team are scarily inconsistent, so Fasana’s experience could make her valuable there as well.
Marongiu is kind of a surprise to me this year. She wasn’t one of the hyped juniors, as far as I remember, and didn’t have the best start to her senior year but her performance at the Novara Cup was incredibly skilled. Still, she has somewhat low numbers across the board and is rather inconsistent, so it’s hard to justify a finals spot for her anywhere but beam, where they essentially have no one else. Her potential on bars is also great, but she’s hit less than half of her routines there this year, which is scary in a three-up, three-count situation.
Unlike Marongiu, Rizzelli WAS one of the hyped juniors, though she hasn’t necessarily lived up to what people have expected. She does all right on vault, so expect to see her there in the team final, but she’s incredibly inconsistent on her other events. She’s not allowed to go anywhere near beam after not scoring higher than a 12.65 all season, and she’s had more misses than hits on floor as well. Bars is supposed to be one of her better events, but she sometimes goes into disaster mode under pressure, like she did during team finals at Euros, earning just a 10.4.
Finally, there’s Mori, who could probably go up on floor for the team, though I doubt we’ll see her elsewhere. She’s just much too green, though hopefully she has a breakout performance and impresses everyone.
Overall, the team is best on vault, but can put up decent numbers on bars and floor. Beam, overall, is lacking, though it’s more due to their inconsistency as a whole than to shoddy routines. They actually display some great beauty on this event even if they get a bit nervy during performances.
The Gymternet’s Team Final Predictions
Fasana and Ferrari headline vault, no question about it. Rizzelli is my choice for third, and Marongiu – who has hit between 13.85 and 14.1 on her six FTYs this season, making her insanely consistent – is the alternate.
I think bars will be Campana, Ferrari, and somewhat surprisingly, Fasana. It’s much too weak an event for Marongiu or Mori, and while Rizzelli has stronger potential, I just don’t trust her to swing well when she’s under pressure in a team final situation, so she’s my alternate.
Ferrari is a given for beam, with Campana the second most obvious choice…Fasana has a higher average but Campana’s is marred by a couple of uncharacteristic falls. The final selection is difficult because it was supposed to be Meneghini’s spot, but I’m gonna have to go with Marongiu. I love her routine, and though she’s had some spills, she’s been relatively consistent in the latter half of the season. Fasana is alternate.
Again, there’s no way anyone but Ferrari will headline floor. I think Fasana and Mori are two great selections for the remaining spots with Rizzelli my pick for the alternate.
The High Scores
We took our potential team finals lineups and plugged in each athlete’s high score this year to see what their maximum earning potential looks like. You know, just for fun.
|VT||Fasana 15.000||Ferrari 14.700||Rizzelli 14.550||ALT Marongiu 14.100|
|UB||Campana 14.400||Ferrari 14.300||Fasana 13.900||ALT Rizzelli 14.000|
|BB||Ferrari 14.750||Campana 14.150||Marongiu 14.450||ALT Fasana 13.850|
|FX||Ferrari 14.633||Fasana 14.300||Mori 13.950||ALT Rizzelli 13.850|
Top Pick– 173.083
The Low Scores
Same as above, but using each athlete’s lowest score this season.
|VT||Fasana 14.266||Ferrari 14.000||Rizzelli 14.250||ALT Marongiu 13.850|
|UB||Campana 13.500||Ferrari 12.900||Fasana 12.450||ALT Rizzelli 10.400|
|BB||Ferrari 13.050||Campana 12.500||Marongiu 11.850||ALT Fasana 13.150|
|FX||Ferrari 13.250||Fasana 11.633||Mori 13.000||ALT Rizzelli 12.800|
Top Pick– 156.649
Like Great Britain, when the Italians fall, they fall HARD. They’re super hit-or-miss, meaning finals could be a total crapshoot. We all remember how they mentally imploded at Euros…
Let’s Be Real
We know not everyone is going to have their best or worst day during team finals, so here, we averaged each athlete’s scores on each event to get a more realistic idea of what will probably happen.
|VT||Fasana 14.631||Ferrari 14.408||Rizzelli 14.408||ALT Marongiu 13.983|
|UB||Campana 13.920||Ferrari 13.817||Fasana 13.500||ALT Rizzelli 13.186|
|BB||Ferrari 14.083||Campana 13.378||Marongiu 13.431||ALT Fasana 13.510|
|FX||Ferrari 14.436||Fasana 13.702||Mori 13.572||ALT Rizzelli 13.200|
Top Pick– 167.286
The team earned about five points less than this at Euros, but that competition counted fall after fall after fall. It was truly a nightmare of a competition, though like I said, the temperament of this team could make that nightmare a reality once again. If they stay calm, a 166.770 is doable, especially as they averaged 55.6125 per event as they dominated the Novara Cup, which works out to a 166.838 for the team score. Doable, but they need to not freak out. Is that so much to ask!?
What about the other teams in the race? So far, Great Britain is coming in with a 170.094 (which could be a bit inflated by about a point or two due to Gabby Jupp‘s scores coming from 2013), Germany with a 166.430, and Japan follows with 165.909, putting Italy in second place with their 166.770. We’ve been saying all along how exciting this team final will be, but look at Germany, Italy, and Japan all within less than a point of one another! It’s gonna be a crazy tight race that could end up with big surprises.
Stay tuned for the next in a series of team previews to see how other top nations will fare!
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Photo thanks to Giorgia Campana