The Netherlands qualified their first full team to the Olympic Games in 40 years with their performance at last year’s world championships, leaving them able to avoid the drama that comes with selecting only one gymnast from a deeply talented pool.
Eythora Thorsdottir and the Wevers twins, Lieke and Sanne, were members of the team that qualified last October and will continue on to represent the Netherlands at the Games next month. The three are joined by 2012 Olympian Celine van Gerner (who was coming back from injury during last year’s worlds) as well as Vera van Pol, the 2015 worlds alternate who basically snuck onto this team at the last possible second.
The final Olympic qualifier was held as a friendly meet also featuring the team from Brazil as well as some individual competitors from Sweden, Slovakia, Egypt, and Australia. Thorsdottir tied Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade for the all-around title with a score of 57.25 with Lieke Wevers placing third with a 57.05, van Gerner finishing fourth with a 55.95, and van Pol landing fifth with a 54.9.
Sanne Wevers, who only competes bars and beam, had a rough bars routine but secured her spot with a first-place beam finish, earning a 15.4. On bars, her issues came with a hard fall on her Tkachev as well as another on her toe shoot, which got lift off from the low bar but zero distance going forward, causing her to just kind of hop down. There were also a few pirouette issues early on, and she started off the routine looking a little tired and off rhythm, so I’m sure it was just a rough day. She recovered nicely on beam, though, nailing the full-twisting back handspring mount right into a second back handspring, and doing a fabulous job with most of her tricky connections and her fabulous turns.
Thorsdottir performed her relatively new DTY with ease, showing much improvement since debuting it a few months ago. On bars, she lost her handstand in her toe full but quickly regrouped without coming off the apparatus. She later on arched over in a handstand on the high bar but the rest of the routine was without error.
On beam, Thorsdottir looked clean for a 14.55, showing a break on her illusion turn and a couple of minor wobbles, but otherwise looking super steady, including on her triple full dismount. Her floor performance was also fantastic and one of the highlights of the meet, opening with a clean triple full to punch front tuck, though the real treasure came in her dance elements and performance, as usual.
Lieke Wevers, who had a rough first all-around performance of the year at nationals in June, returned with a vengeance here. She showed a clean FTY on vault and a solid bars set featuring a Church to pak, Maloney to bail to toe full to toe shoot, and a double front dismount, which took her to her knees, though everything prior to that was great.
She was fabulous on beam, earning the second-highest score of the day at 14.95 to finish just behind her sister. I loved the fluidity of her tricky side aerial to side aerial combination, and as always her turn combos were brilliant. Almost every single element was performed with ease and finesse, including her stuck gainer layout dismount, making this another standout routine of the meet. Her floor can also be considered a standout, especially since she returned to the music she used prior to switching to the Schindler’s List routine she debuted at the test event. Her older routine comes much more naturally to her, which helped her focus on hitting her difficult dance elements brilliantly.
Van Gerner was a little short on her FTY, but otherwise was impressive, especially on bars, which were super clean from start to finish for the team’s highest score there at 14.45. Van Gerner came close to making the bars final in London four years ago, and it’s one of the reasons she was a shoo-in for this team, so it’s no surprise she continues to be their rock.
She did unfortunately have a fall on her roundoff layout on beam, but otherwise looked excellent and still managed a 13.5, and on floor she showed yet another fantastically choreographed piece with a great mix of solid tumbling and lovely dance elements for a 14.1, which put her in second place there. I think she’s actually the strongest tumbler on the team right now with Lisa Top out of the picture. She has the beautiful routine going for her as well, but adds some power to the mix.
Van Pol is another one who brings power to the game for the Dutch, with a big Yurchenko 1.5 on vault and a floor routine that includes a double arabian, 2.5 to punch front tuck, and double pike, all of which she hit very well at the trial event. She has also done fantastic work upgrading her bars, showing a huge Jaeger, giant full to Tkachev to pak, and double arabian dismount for a 14.05, third-best among the Dutch. I don’t think they’d use her there in qualifications, because van Gerner and the Wevers are all stronger bar workers and I doubt they’ll take Thorsdottir out of the all-around, but it’s a fabulous backup routine if needed.
In any case, it was her work on vault that earned her the spot, which could’ve also realistically have gone to Tisha Volleman or Mara Titarsolej. Volleman recently upgraded to a DTY, which outscored van Pol’s 1.5 though hasn’t really been tested enough this year for consistency, with the qualifier the first time she hit it in competition. Van Pol’s vault is much more reliable, and adds more tenths than anyone else can muster. Her floor isn’t one of the highest-scoring on the team, though she’s consistent enough to serve as a strong lead-off in qualifications, with Thorsdottir, van Gerner, and Wevers all able to follow up.
Volleman looked pleased to hit her DTY at this meet, and it wasn’t a bad one either. Her Rio-themed floor routine actually outscored van Pol’s routine by half a tenth, though this doesn’t matter much as neither would be expected to go up as one of the three in finals, should the team make finals. Overall, Volleman placed sixth with a 54.55 after a fall on beam. I believe the spot could’ve gone to either Volleman or van Pol, and so it all came down to van Pol’s consistency on her vault. Van Pol definitely got a bit lucky with the injury to Top as well as Noel van Klaveren not able to come back in time, as both of these gymnasts are traditionally strongest on vault, though she should do a fabulous job in her own right and it was great to see her battle back up to this spot after not making the European Games nor world championships teams in 2015.
A few weeks ago, I thought Titarsolej – a member of the 2015 worlds team who placed fifth in floor finals at European Championships this year – would be the fifth member, but a slight injury took her out of contention as it left her unable to perform the one routine that would be her ticket to Rio – floor. With only a weak FTY, she was unable to compete with van Pol and Volleman, though I think even with a hit floor routine, she scores so similarly to the three who lead the team there, she wouldn’t really add much anyway. It almost totally came down to vault and nothing but vault.
The alternate spots went to Volleman and Reina Beltman, whose standout events are bars and beam. Beltman placed 10th all-around at this meet with a 53.65. Kirsten Polderman also competed, scoring a 49.95 all-around after a rough day on beam.
For the Brazilians, Flavia Saraiva was given the day off, but the other four members of their Olympic squad – Andrade, Lorrane Oliveira, Jade Barbosa, and Daniele Hypolito – each performed what they’ll be expected to tackle in Rio, and mostly showed strong work.
Andrade, who tied Thorsdottir for first place, hit all four events very well, showcasing power on her DTY and her typically clean bars set, which earned a 14.35 for second place. While her beam and floor aren’t really standouts, she does well enough there to ensure solid scores for the team and a strong all-around performance, which is exactly what she did in the Netherlands.
Oliveira hit her vault and bars, but had rough performances on beam and floor and is unfortunately dealing with injury, though is still expected to compete in Rio. She placed 7th with a 54.4, which actually tied the alternate Carolyne Pedro, who looked to be at what was likely her best of the season, including posting the third-best bars score of 14.25.
The veterans Hypolito and Barbosa did three events apiece, with Hypolito competing all but bars and Barbosa showing all but floor. Barbosa struggled a little on beam while Hypolito had a minor error on her double layout on floor, though overall they both look as good as ever, with Hypolito’s beam one of the standouts for the Brazilian team.
Milena Theodoro and Julie Kim Sinmon also competed for Brazil, with Theodoro placing 11th with a 52.7 and Sinmon only able to compete bars and beam, as she is not fully back from an injury that took her out of contention last year.
In addition to these, Emma Larsson of Sweden placed ninth with a 54.1, Barbora Mokosova of Slovakia placd 12th with a 51.9, and Sherine el Zeiny of Egypt – who trains at in the Netherlands with Thorsdottir – was 14th all-around with a 45.0 after a fall on bars. All three will represent their countries at the Games, and used this as a practice meet before heading to Rio.
Finally, Emily Little of Australia also made an appearance on all but bars, putting up especially great work with her DTY vault – which earned the highest vault score of the day at 15.2 – as well as a solid floor for a 13.6. Little is the Australian alternate, but with the IOC’s ruling related to Russian doping coming out tomorrow, it’s possible that Australia – the team alternate based on their test event finish – will get to compete as a full team if Russia is banned from the Games. It won’t be easy for the Australians to put together a team on such short notice, though Little looks more than ready to tackle the situation.
Article by Lauren Hopkins