Dutch Women Flawless in Final

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I have to hand it to the Dutch team. I assumed the women from the Netherlands, who fought so valiantly to earn a team spot at these Games back at worlds in 2015, would be happy enough to compete together in Rio, with the team final a bonus, not a given.

Just making it to the Olympic Games as a full team was huge for the Dutch women, who hadn’t accomplished this since 1976, where they placed 11th. After finishing eighth in the team final at worlds with both Germany and Brazil on the rise this year, I assumed the Netherlands could possibly get in, but it was more likely to see them go 9th or 10th in qualifications, right on the border and within a point or two of making it.

But they totally proved me wrong, defeating two of last year’s higher-ranked teams in qualifications by scoring a 171.929 thanks to hitting nearly all of their 16 routines incredibly well. They didn’t come in with the most difficulty, but they showed how important it is to focus on execution, a strategy that worked especially well on bars, where they averaged an 8.8 E score among their four routines. The team was nearly perfect, aside from a few mistakes, like a sat 2½ from Eythora Thorsdottir on floor (who performed brilliantly otherwise, still managing a 13.633 for her triple full to punch front, double tuck, and brilliant turn sequence with a double L to double pirouette to double Y to illusion).

In the end, their clean performances helped them come in ahead of two favorites for the final, Canada and Italy. Both of these teams came in at an advantage several points ahead of the Netherlands with their difficulty, with Canada at an impressive five-point difficulty lead. But neither could execute anywhere near as well as the Dutch, with Canada counting a fall on beam and several other low scores throughout to finish not even two tenths behind the Dutch, while Italy had a disastrous beam rotation and showed weak routines on bars as well, allowing the Dutch to finish over two points ahead of them.

The team final for the Netherlands, who called themselves OrangElegance with a nod to the country’s royal color as well as the women’s gorgeous stylistic interpretation of the sport, was about as perfect as they could’ve ever dreamed, giving them a seventh-place finish with a score of 172.447, improving on their qualifications score by over a point, defeating the host team of Brazil by a few tenths, and reaching their best Olympic team final ranking since 1948. Thorsdottir did have a few form breaks and went out-of-bounds in their first rotation on floor, but that aside, everything was executed beautifully, with vault averaging 8.978, bars averaging 8.855, and beam averaging 8.627, some of the highest collective E scores in the competition.

Sanne Wevers was a standout on both of her events (bars and beam), Vera van Pol — brought in specifically for her Yurchenko 1.5 in the absence of vaulter Lisa Top — got her job done there, Celine van Gerner (in her second Olympic appearance after flying solo in 2012) made up for low difficulty with perfect performances on bars and floor, Lieke Wevers put up consistent work on beam and floor, and Thorsdottir — competing all four events — proved to be the best vaulter with her improved DTY as well as the top earner on bars, where she made so many efforts this year to grow as a gymnast.

Moving onto the finals, Thorsdottir had what I believe was the best all-around finish ever for a Dutch gymnast, placing 9th with a 57.632. It wasn’t her best day — she saved that for the team final, where she had a 58.199 — but she did show some phenomenal work with only a few minor mistakes. A year ago, she failed to make the all-around final and was consistently scoring two to three points lower than she did in Rio, so it’s clear how far she’s come. Thorsdottir has always been a gorgeous gymnast and a tremendous performer, but her difficulty boost in 2016 has also made her one of the top competitors in the world, and it was great to see it all come together for her when it counted.

Lieke Wevers was the second all-arounder for the Dutch team, and placed 20th with a 55.865 in the final after a fall on beam on an otherwise excellent day. Normally a fall isn’t such a big deal and can still guarantee you a strong finish, but this year’s all-around field ended up being insanely talented, making it difficult for anyone with large mistakes to finish anywhere near the top ten. Wevers did look gorgeous on bars and floor, though, with an 8.733 e-score on the latter getting her to a 14.133 for her breathtaking and emotional piece.

Her twin sister Sanne Wevers was the country’s sole representative in apparatus finals with her appearance on beam. Wevers didn’t perform her full difficulty in qualifications, not wanting to risk some of her more difficult elements in order to ensure a finals spot, but she went nearly all-out here, reaching a 6.6 D score for the highest in the field while performing tricky elements like her full-twisting back handspring mount, a side aerial to side aerial acro series, a triple spin followed by an L turn to full turn to double turn to split leap combination, switch leap to full-twisting back handspring, and a Steingruber dismount with a small hop for a 15.466.

Simone Biles, who led the beam field after qualifications and who captured the beam titles at both the 2014 and 2015 world championships, faltered here, putting her hands down on the beam to earn a much lower score than anticipated. Going up just before Wevers, the 24-year-old Dutch woman immediately scrapped her plans to attempt her 7.0 beam set, deciding a 6.6 D score was more than enough to get her where she needed to be, and it ended up being the right choice, as no one else was able to defeat her.

She did have some competition for the gold medal, though no one who was able to match her, as it turned out. Laurie Hernandez came close thanks to her clean execution but at the end of the day, this title was meant for Wevers, the girl who had been fighting for an Olympic spot since 2008. In her first year eligible for the games, Wevers came close with a second-place all-around finish at nationals, but ultimately was not selected, and in the subsequent quad, she dealt with too many injuries — an elbow, a shoulder, a foot — that kept her out of contention for 2012.

For Wevers, the medal was extra sweet, both for everything she’s overcome to get here, and because it’s only the second time women have medaled in the sport throughout the country’s long history. Their first and only medal prior to this was the team gold at the 1928 Games at home in Amsterdam, the very first time women’s artistic gymnastics was represented at the Olympics. It may have taken 88 years for gold to happen once again, but Wevers got it done and looked like a queen while doing it (which is fitting, as the Dutch royal family was there to cheer her on all the way).

Again, I don’t think Rio could’ve gone any better for the Netherlands even if they tried. Similar to the Germans, they managed to pull off everything they had hoped to do, from making the team final to qualifying two gymnasts into the all-around final and then getting Wevers’ beam gold as a special cherry on top. The beauty in this program is mesmerizing and I’m glad the four-year crowds who don’t watch obsessively were able to get a taste of another side of the sport.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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21 thoughts on “Dutch Women Flawless in Final

  1. I was so happy the Dutch team made the final. They’re my favorite team after the US even though they’re polar opposites. I love Sanne Wever’s beam so much was kind of glad she won the gold on beam. As much as I’m a Simone Biles fan, she already had lots of golds. I just with Eythora Thorsdottir’s floor could’ve made the final. It may have if she didn’t have that qualification fall.

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  2. Great article!!! I found the included skills really helpful, as it gives a sort of barometer for what they’re able to do. I really was amazed by the Dutch in Rio as well. I love the artistry! I found Sanne Wevers reminiscent of Khorkina, both her skills and execution. I was so, so happy the women did so well. Great reward, well deserved.

    I found it interesting to read in this article and your previous ones that you noted the depth of the field in Rio. I came away with the opposite conclusion – however I’m basing my opinion on the gymnastics compared to the Americans, who are ridiculously strong (Biles and Raisman, namely) in their D scores. Did I really miss how close the rest of the field was to one another regarding difficulty? Was it more talented than it appeared? I would love to see some stats (not sure who, if anyone, complies this) of the average D-score on each event, both overall and per country. This makes me want to watch the competitions all over again to see if my initial reaction would hold!

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    • 1. The US have gotten stronger and stronger since 2000 under Martha and their whole system.
      2. Romania has of course gotten far weaker, due to blowing up their system.
      3. China has definitely gotten weaker since Beijing, but they are at about their historical level.
      4. Russia has ebbed and flowed. They were weaker last year than their historical average, but simply adding Mustafina brought them back to their historical average. They were probably above average under Alexandrov and could have continued that run if they had kept him.
      5. Most other teams are getting much, much stronger. Dutch, British, Japanese, Germans, and Brazilians all had their best results in at least 50 years, I believe.

      The key to watch is whether the trends from this quad continue. I think the British may have set up a successful system. Brazil is probably going to fade once they lose Alexandrov and funding. I’m less certain about the other three, simply because I don’t know enough. I also think Canada is right up there, despite not qualifying to team final this year.

      To put in perspective, despite various changes to the code that devalued many skills, Brazil’s performance in Team Final would have earned 5th place in London. The gap between 1 and 2 grew larger, but the gap between 2 and 8 grew far smaller.

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      • Yeah I am thinking the same about brazil too. I doubt that he was able to implement a system that will outlast him like marta did…. I think the dutch team are doing the right thing and I hope to see them keeping it up… they are def nice to watch and is a nice different perspective… I love seeing sannes doing calculation in her notebook! Every gymnast should know how to do that!

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  3. What makes their 2016 success even more sentimental is remembering what happened to that 1928 Dutch team. Didn’t most of them and their coaches fall victim to the Holocaust?

    The Netherlands were my favorite team of all in Rio. I’m constantly amazed by their artistry and their commitment to quality artistic gymnastics. I surely hope Eythora continues because her tremendous improvement since last year makes her an even bigger contender for higher placements in AA and hopefully BB/FX finals.

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  4. It was incredible to watch. The Dutch team performs beautifully, and they have shown how important execution is/should be. Their difficulty isn’t on par with others and they managed to beat them because the are more consistent and perform beautifully. Sanne’s beam routine was incredible. While watching it i was enraptured. When she landed the dismount it was an incredible moment, and I srsly thought, “wow, this will be a historic moment.” It was truly amazing.

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  5. I hope Eythora keeps the zombie floor routine for at least another year. It really is my favourite to watch, especially with the connected turn series. I hope she keeps her incredible upward trajectory in upgrades and beefs her tumbling up too – I want this routine in medal contention!

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  6. I also find the Dutch team to be beautiful and lyrical. I love their flow. In comparison, the Chinese are very staccato in their movements on beam: trick, stop, trick, pose, trick, stop. It’s not just the Chinese who do this, but I think China does this the worst.

    And add me to the Sanne Wevers Beam Gold fan club.

    With that said, I love the Dutch as a counterpoint to the American power and the Chinese tricks. I wouldn’t want every gymnast to look like the Dutch. I think the power and tricks of gymnastics should take priority over dance and aesthetics. I can’t stand that many Dutch floor routines have only two tumbling passes. And I think an acro series on beam should include a rebounding element. Side aerial to side aerial should not count as an acro series.

    These are just some pet peeves of mine about the Code. The Dutch use the Code to their advantage and they are not to blame. It’s just that some Dutch routines don’t appear to be elite gymnastics routines. They appear to be more like dance routines. Very, very beautiful routines, though.

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    • I think the continuity in the Dutch routines is what makes them beautiful, as you mention. Their beam routines are very fluid. They remind me of flowing routines from the 1990s. I personally love acro series with aerials and layout step-outs!

      I did notice they only do 2 tumbling passes. What annoys me about floor nowadays is people doing 4 passes to get more difficulty, at the expense of the dance in their routine, which they then have to cram in. I wish the Code had a rule for 3 passes, no more no less.

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      • To each his own. There’s a part of me that really enjoys dance in gymnastics, and there’s another part of me that finds it somewhat sexist and troublesome…I certainly wouldn’t want to require more of it. Gymnastics is a rare opportunity for female athletes to have the limelight and be appreciated for their athletic talent.

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  7. Looking at the new COP , looks like there are several changes that will clamp down uses of turns and dance elements. I guess the dutch team will have to adjust somehow.

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    • I don’t think the changes are really clamping down on the uses of turns and dance elements. They’ll still be able to count 5 turns if they want. I see the changes going into next quad similar to the changes this quad regarding jumps out of tumbling passes- there was a loophole no one had really exploited in the past, certainly not to the success the Dutch have been able to, and so they addressed it in the next COP. Eythora’s routine for 2016 already met next COP’s requirements on floor.

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