The Romania Worlds Team Preview

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We’ve said it before – Romania is at a very scary place until they fix their bars situation. But will it affect them at Worlds?

When ace Diana Bulimar was knocked down due to a knee injury this summer, many fans worried not that they wouldn’t make the podium, but that they wouldn’t end up in the team final, period. I don’t think things are that dire, but with the strength of other teams this year, I think they’re really going to have to fight to make it happen.

They won the team competition at Euros this year with Bulimar, but not by much, and were defeated by Germany at a friendly meet just a few weeks ago, something likely still weighing on their mind as they train and get ready to compete at the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China.

18-year-old Larisa Iordache, a 2012 Olympian with tons of experience on an international stage of this magnitude, leads the pack that also includes 16-year-olds Stefania Stanila, Andreea Munteanu, and Ana Maria Ocolisan, and 15-year-olds Paula Tudorache and Silvia Zarzu. With an average age of exactly 16, they are a scarily young team, but not one without experience thanks to Romania utilizing competitions like friendly meets, Jesolo, and World Cups. The majority of those on this team competed at Euros this year, and those that didn’t have at least one international competition under their belt.

Their only major problem overall is bars. They’ll be able to put up three DTYs in the team final, have two world class beam workers, and can put up at least two scores in the 14s on floor, one closer to 15 thanks to Iordache’s explosive tumbling.

Iordache overall looks to be top notch this year. It’s a shame she had some of her weakest moments in London, because she’s been going nonstop at such a high performance level ever since injuries dragged her down in 2012. This year, she’s competed at four international meets leading up to Worlds, won multiple medals including at Euros, and still keeps upgrading. If she hits in all-around finals, she’s definitely a secret threat for the podium. After missing out in London and then again by just a hair last year, I have a feeling all of her hard work will finally pay off in Nanning. She should also easily make the beam and floor final, and is a favorite for the podium on both events if she hits.

Another one favored to make finals is Munteanu, who likely won’t compete in the all-around but who has an incredible beam routine. She also may go up in team finals on floor, as she’s only had about three problem routines out of ten total, though this should all come down to how she’s been training the event.

Stanila has picked up of international experience this season, and could be a great contributor on beam and floor in the team final. Though her beam isn’t quite as strong as Munteanu’s or Iordache’s, she’s been super consistent there and really everywhere but bars.

At Euros, Zarzu didn’t get much of a chance to show off, as she was relegated to vault only, but she hit nice DTYs and has a solid mid-14 score to add to the team final. She could also go up on floor, though her consistency isn’t superb; she hasn’t had any major crash-and-burn routines but is somewhat hammered on her execution at times.

Finally, Ocolisan and Tudorache are the least experienced of the group, but both made appearances at Länderkampf Kunstturnen last month to get a taste of international competition before heading to China. Ocolisan has a great DTY, rough bars, and is all over the place on beam and floor while Tudorache has a steady beam but not much else of value. Both should be crucial in qualifications, though Ocolisan will definitely make an appearance on vault and probably also on bars in the team final.

The Gymternet’s Team Final Predictions

Thankfully, the team has three mostly solid DTYs to put up from Iordache, Stanila, and Ocolisan. Zarzu also vaults a DTY, though I don’t think she’s as clean as they’d like for the most part, and she’ll probably be left out of the team final on this event.

On bars, Iordache leads the pack. The only other viable choices are Stanila and Ocolisan, neither of whom has a particularly clean or difficult routine but at least they don’t fall – much. If they hit, they should be able to put up routines in the mid-13s. I can barely choose an alternate for this event because the scores are so low, but Tudorache wins it, as she’s hit a 13.1 before. Yeah, at nationals, but hey, they’ll take what they can get – it really is that bleak!

Beam, thankfully, doesn’t have the problems bars does. Iordache and Munteanu are obvious picks, and then either Stanila or Tudorache could go up in the third spot. I’m leaning toward Stanila, just because she’s hit scores in the high 13s internationally before whereas Tudorache’s only scores above 14 are from nationals (she scored just a 12.35 in Switzerland, her only international meet of the year). It could come down to training, but I’d say Stanila has the edge…but she’s also pegged for all four events, so maybe they’ll rest her and give Tudorache the experience?

More good news – pretty much ANYONE could go up in the team final on floor. Iordache is a must, obviously, and then I think Stanila fits the bill for second in command, but the third spot could go to Munteanu, Tudorache, or Zarzu. I’m gonna narrow it down to Munteanu or Zarzu, both of whom have pros and cons. When Munteanu makes mistakes, they tend to be a bit bigger than Zarzu’s, but her overall potential is greater. I’ll go with Munteanu based on her international history, but wouldn’t be surprised if Zarzu ended up the one to go in.

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 Iordache 15.000 Stanila 14.850 Ocolisan 14.725 ALT Zarzu 14.750
UB Iordache 14.533 Stanila 13.650 Ocolisan 13.500 ALT Tudorache 13.150
BB Iordache 15.400 Munteanu 15.325 Stanila 14.050 ALT Tudorache 14.250
FX Iordache 15.500 Stanila 14.350 Munteanu 14.450 ALT Zarzu 14.100

Top Pick– 175.333
Alternate– 174.858
Average– 175.096

VERY good, thanks to Pikachu KILLING it with those 15s everywhere! But I doubt it’ll all come together this nicely for this young team.

The Low Scores

Same as above, but using each athlete’s lowest score this season.

VT Iordache 14.400 Stanila 13.600 Ocolisan 14.600 ALT Zarzu 13.750
UB Iordache 11.650 Stanila 12.550 Ocolisan 12.400 ALT Tudorache 10.200
BB Iordache 14.700 Munteanu 13.750 Stanila 13.125 ALT Tudorache 12.350
FX Iordache 14.350 Stanila 13.633 Munteanu 12.900 ALT Zarzu 13.450

Top Pick– 161.658
Alternate– 158.383
Average– 160.021

A huge gap between the high and low scores, largely due to tons and tons of falls.

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 Iordache 14.785 Stanila 14.490 Ocolisan 14.662 ALT Zarzu 14.362
UB Iordache 14.048 Stanila 13.051 Ocolisan 13.058 ALT Tudorache 12.075
BB Iordache 15.007 Munteanu 14.687 Stanila 13.621 ALT Tudorache 13.608
FX Iordache 14.796 Stanila 13.922 Munteanu 13.763 ALT Zarzu 13.770

Top Pick– 169.890
Alternate– 168.601
Average– 169.246

They won Euros with a 172.754 after a relatively strong performance and relying on high scores from Bulimar. At the friendly meet in Switzerland last month, they averaged 54.763 per event, which works out to a 164.286 overall score, and that included several falls.

This 169.246 actually ranks them second behind Great Britain (170.094, though this may be slightly inflated due to Gabby Jupp‘s 2013 scores being used) in our poll thus far, with about a 2.5 point lead over third place Italy, who has 166.770. Germany is currently fourth with a 166.430 and Japan trails in fifth with 165.909.

So things aren’t looking quite so bleak for Romania as many fans thought, and their score here might actually be slightly lowballed, considering the potential Iordache has to hit much higher than her averages on beam and floor. There’s still a possibility they could be upset for a spot in the top four, but they’re definitely not going to miss team finals altogether…unless they freak out under pressure and count multiple falls. Hey, it’s gymnastics. Anything can happen.

Article by Lauren Hopkins
Photo thanks to Larisa Iordache

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