In the middle year of the last quad, Russia won the team final even with fall after fall…after fall. They were so far ahead of the game, the falls didn’t even matter and they were still able to edge out the U.S. team, who counted just one fall.
This year, it won’t be that easy. While I still think they’ll land on the podium, they’ll have to hit if they want to ensure a spot. Instead of winning with a handful of falls, they could end up off the podium with just one or two. They’re lucky in that the majority of the teams on their tail have either inexperienced teams, consistency issues, injuries limiting their full potential…or a mix of all three.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re safe. Romania and Great Britain, two of the teams with the strongest chance to become underdog heroines, both placed ahead of the Russian squad at this year’s European Championships, even with big mistakes of their own. It’ll be super close, making it so there is no room for errors.
Four of Russia’s five Euros team members will compete in Nanning, including last year’s beam champion Aliya Mustafina, vault/floor ace Alla Sosnitskaya, and first-year seniors Maria Kharenkova and Daria Spiridonova, who should be a huge help on beam and bars, respectively. They are joined by veterans Ekaterina Kramarenko and Tatiana Nabieva, the two St Petersburg gals who have come back from retirement “just for fun” yet found their talents desperately needed in a year plagued with injuries.
This team is best on bars and beam, and should be able to put up two scores in the 15s on the latter if both Mustafina and Kharenkova hit. Mustafina should also be guaranteed around a 15 for a solid bar routine, while Spridonova should also be capable of a high 14 or low 15.
They don’t have many vaulters, but they’re hoping for a Cheng from Sosnitskaya; even if this doesn’t happen, she and Mustafina both have solid DTYs with Nabieva able to throw in a third to the team final. Floor, on the other hand, is super weak; Mustafina’s the best there (where isn’t she the best?) but even she struggles with subpar execution. Sosnitskaya might be able to get close to a mid 14 score, but I don’t think anyone else can score out of the 13s.
You may have picked up on the fact that Mustafina is really the only one with all of her ducks in a row for this competition. As one of the favorites for the all-around podium, she’ll definitely need to go up on all four events in the team final as well, and should also make the bars and beam finals easily if she hits. She’s competed consistently all year, and even when she’s made mistakes, her scores almost never dip below 14.
It looks as though Kharenkova will not compete in the all-around despite being considered most likely to get the second all-around final spot. Her bars are lackluster, but Sosnitskaya’s are worse and yet she’s pegged to go up on the event in qualifications over Kharenkova…an interesting choice that must point to either an injury or terrible training session. Still, her beam is why she’s there; if she competes her full difficulty, this Euros beam champ could make the final even with a fall. She could also go up on floor in team finals, as her scores have been in the uniform high 13s all year.
Sosnitskaya will compete in the all-around in qualifications, as mentioned, but her talents are on vault and floor. With a DTY and a Cheng, she could definitely be a threat in the vault final, and while I don’t think she’ll come close to the floor final, she can hit in the mid-14s if she’s clean, second best behind only Mustafina. Her bars and beam aren’t bad, but on a team with superstars on these events, they don’t come close to measuring up.
As Sosnitskaya’s opposite, Spiridonova hopes to add to the team on bars and beam. Her bars could potentially make finals, as she’s earned 15+ internationally this year, but I think she’d be on the border of the top 8 and would need other stronger bar workers to fall. On beam, she’s nowhere near Mustafina or Kharenkova’s level, but an hit in the low 14s, better than anyone else could add to the team final.
I’m still too weirded out by Kramarenko’s inclusion to take this seriously. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE that she’s there, and after the Russian Cup, I went into full-blown fangirl mode thinking about how awesome it would be for the girl who contributed a 0 to the team in 2007 due to a misstep on vault to get redemption seven years later!? Her biggest contribution will be on bars, though she’s probably the team’s fourth best beam and floor worker; her scores are only in the mid-13s there on average but she’s been pretty consistent with those numbers.
Finally, Nabieva. NABS. A dream come true. A month ago, if you said Nabieva would be on this team I would have laughed in your face. The girl who casually stomped around on floor when she didn’t feel like doing her choreography at the Russian Cup? But she’s only back for fun, not because she’s seriously considering competing at this high a level again. WRONG. Nabs is back, expected to compete on vault and bars in qualifications, and likely just vault in team finals, where she can put up a decent DTY. There won’t be any individual accolades this year, but coming back not expecting to be used on a major international team is crazy awesome in its own right.
The Gymternet’s Team Final Predictions
The start lists for qualifications are out, but there’s no real hint in there as to who will go up in finals. It looks like they’re sticking Mustafina in the middle of their lineups for balance, and in some cases, putting the weakest link at the very end, kind of like what the U.S. did with Gabby Douglas in qualifications on beam in 2011. Compare this to how the U.S. is setting up their qualifications lineup this year, with the two weakest on each event at the very beginning and the three most likely for team finals in the latter end.
I tried to make some sense of their puzzle, but in the end just went with those I think are best on each event. For the vault final, Sosnitskaya with her Cheng should be the top competitor with Mustafina’s increasingly stronger DTY next in line. Since Nabieva is the only other Russian with a DTY, she should go up as well, and I think Kharenkova’s FTY is nice enough to make her a good alternate choice.
On bars, Mustafina and Spiridonova are strongest, and Kramarenko falls next in line with Nabieva in the fourth spot, while on beam, it will without a doubt be Mustafina and Kharenkova, with Spiridonova and Kramarenko battling it out for the last spot…though I’ll go with Spiridonova.
Floor is relatively easy to figure out, as there is a clear difference between the top three – Mustafina, Sosnitskaya, and Kharenkova – and the bottom three. Of the bottom three, Kramarenko is probably most consistent, Nabieva is a NO WAY, but Spiridonova could go either way. Still, I think Kramarenko is the stronger of the two, so she’s my vote for alternate there.
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||Sosnitskaya 14.800||Mustafina 15.067||Nabieva 14.700||ALT Kharenkova 14.100|
|UB||Mustafina 15.267||Spiridonova 15.133||Kramarenko 14.767||ALT Nabieva 14.533|
|BB||Kharenkova 16.200||Mustafina 15.567||Spiridonova 14.400||ALT Kramarenko 14.133|
|FX||Mustafina 15.100||Sosnitskaya 14.833||Kharenkova 13.933||ALT Kramarenko 14.067|
Top Pick– 179.767
Look how good this team can be if they hit! Even with a bunch of injuries sidelining top performers, they still have a hell of a lot of power. But they scored a full ten points lower than this at Euros…so “hitting” is the key word here.
The Low Scores
Same as above, but using each athlete’s lowest score this season.
|VT||Sosnitskaya 14.300||Mustafina 14.700||Nabieva 13.267||ALT Kharenkova 13.933|
|UB||Mustafina 13.667||Spiridonova 12.466||Kramarenko 13.167||ALT Nabieva 13.933|
|BB||Kharenkova 13.166||Mustafina 14.100||Spiridonova 11.966||ALT Kramarenko 13.167|
|FX||Mustafina 13.700||Sosnitskaya 12.533||Kharenkova 13.633||ALT Kramarenko 12.433|
Top Pick– 160.665
See? About twenty points lower than their high score potential – the largest gap thus far. HITTING. It needs to happen.
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||Sosnitskaya 14.625||Mustafina 14.833||Nabieva 14.272||ALT Kharenkova 14.017|
|UB||Mustafina 14.918||Spiridonova 14.683||Kramarenko 14.306||ALT Nabieva 14.126|
|BB||Kharenkova 14.758||Mustafina 14.852||Spiridonova 13.610||ALT Kramarenko 13.533|
|FX||Mustafina 14.420||Sosnitskaya 13.963||Kharenkova 13.764||ALT Kramarenko 13.253|
Top Pick– 173.004
Look at that! Definitely attainable. This is the highest score in our predictions thus far, over two points more than Great Britain’s 170.984. Next comes Romania with 169.246, Italy with 166.770, Germany with 166.430, and Japan with 165.909.
But we still have China and the USA left to go. Stay tuned to see who wins The Gymternet’s team final before qualifications begin later today!
Article by Lauren Hopkins