Brazil Thrills Home Crowd

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As the host country, Brazil was under a ton of pressure to perform well in many sports at these Games, and with gymnastics on the rise there over the past decade, lots of fans turned out to see what their girls could do.

It’s appropriate that this team saw Daniele Hypolito as its leader. Before Hypolito came on the Olympic scene as a 15-year-old in Sydney, Brazil didn’t have much going on in the gymnastics sense. With a first appearance in the sport at the boycotted 1980 Games, Brazil saw a series of individuals make attempts, but it wasn’t until Hypolito arrived that the women began to get international attention. Her 20th place all-around finish in 2000 inspired a whole generation of gymnasts to follow, and four years later, Brazil had a whole team of gymnasts at the Games, with Hypolito besting her all-around finish by coming 12th there while teammate Daiane dos Santos, a Brazilian legend in her own right, came fifth on floor.

The team spent the next decade steadily rising through the ranks, though they always seemed to be held back by injuries and other drama, including Jade Barbosa, who has Brazil’s best ever all-around finish at 10th in 2008, being left off the London team due to endorsement disputes. Already shattered by injuries, the 2012 team could barely scrape by to qualify in last place in London, with no athletes reaching a single final, a devastating finish after earning five finals spots and an 8th place team finish in Beijing. Would they even qualify a full team to the Games they hosted?

But a combination of promising new talent alongside the insight and instruction from former Russian coach Alexander Alexandrov led to a revival this quad, with the nation fielding its best women’s team of all time, a team that would hold its own in one of the deepest Olympic fields in recent history.

Though the team failed to qualify directly to the Olympics at worlds last year, the Brazilian women were on the same level as several of the teams that did make it through, like Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands. At the start of 2016, Alexandrov and team coordinator Georgette Vidor selected a core group of five gymnasts most likely to make the team — the veterans Hypolito and Barbosa, 2015 Pan Am bronze medalist Flavia Saraiva, 2015 national champion Lorrane Oliveira, and Rebeca Andrade, the once-promising junior who spent most of 2014 and 2015 recovering from injuries — and sent them off to Jesolo as well as a few smaller individual meets to get them prepared for the test event. After the disappointment in 2012, there was now no question whether they’d qualify, and the women handled the competition with confidence to finish first in that field of eight.

The next challenge was making the team final, which the Brazilians were a favorite to do if they hit. In the end, they managed to qualify fifth with a total of 174.054, just one hundredth of a point behind Great Britain and within about a half point from the top three, making them a potential podium finisher if everything came together in finals; a stretch, but a possibility nonetheless.

Andrade, whom it seemed would never get over the injuries plaguing her throughout her career, was exactly what you’d expect her to be on this day, competing her Amanar for the first time in over a year, looking incredible on bars, and hitting both beam and floor, the events that took the longest to get back and which she didn’t start competing again until late spring. With a 58.732 in the all-around, Andrade posted the best score of her career to qualify fourth into the final (third when you take the two-per-country rule into account). It was a tremendous day for the 17-year-old, who more than lived up to the expectations set for her when she was just a junior.

Also performing well was Saraiva, who didn’t hit bars as well as she could have, but she still managed to qualify second into the all-around final for Brazil, finishing 19th overall that day with a 56.532 to edge out Barbosa by a tenth. Brazil would later opt to swap Barbosa into the final in an effort to save Saraiva for the beam final, into which Saraiva qualified third with a 15.133, directly behind the two Americans who would later medal. Her performance there was nothing short of brilliant, with both her bhs-loso-loso and her roundoff layout series looking sharp and everything else hit precisely as well. Finally, her floor — while not the most difficult routine in the pack — was a crowd-pleaser, and also tied Andrade’s 14.033 for Brazil’s highest score on the event.

As for the veterans, Barbosa contributed scores everywhere but beam, helping especially on vault with a DTY and on bars, where a 14.266 for her cleaned-up routine was the second-best for the team, helping her to a 23rd place finish overall for the day. Hypolito competed only on beam and floor, and while her beam was about as good as you can expect (capped off with a stuck double pike dismount), her brand-new Brazil-flavored floor routine got the best of her, as she sat her 2.5 to front layout and then went out-of-bounds on her 1½ to front full for a 12.4, which they thankfully dropped.

Oliveira balanced out Hypolito’s beam and floor with strong sets on vault, with a clean DTY, and on bars, which she hit cleanly for a 14.158. Earlier in the year it seemed Oliveira might be a standout for this team alongside Saraiva and Andrade, but she seemed to regress a little as time went on, especially on floor, where she was once capable of huge skills and big potential. Sadly, this didn’t pan out for her and Barbosa became the third all-around option, though Oliveira did exactly what she needed to do in this competition on her two best events.

Without the luxury of dropping the couple of falls the Brazilian women had in qualifications, their score dropped by two points in the team final, counting two falls into their 172.087 total, putting them in last place. Even without the falls they wouldn’t have reached the podium with both Russia and China outperforming their own qualifications routines, though I’m sure 8th place was a bit of a sting in front of the home crowd, especially after their fifth place finish two days earlier.

The first fall came from Barbosa on beam, getting them off to a weak start, and then Andrade fell on floor in the second rotation, landing her final pass — a double pike — to her knees after an otherwise solid effort. Though these were the only big mistakes, a few other smaller ones also brought down their overall score, like a wobblier-than-usual beam set from Saraiva and a step out-of-bounds from Andrade on her Amanar.

Otherwise, though, the women did some of their best work. Barbosa came back from her fall to nail floor, drill her DTY, and perform one of the best bar routines I’ve ever seen her do. Hypolito hit her always steady leadoff beam routine, Saraiva was outstanding on floor, Andrade had yet another brilliant bars set, and Oliveira contributed a nice routine on that event as well. It wasn’t a perfect day and the combined mistakes took them from a potential fourth place finish to the very bottom of the barrel in what ended up being a super tight field, but overall the team still showed an incredible fight, with 8th place tying their best-ever team finish, something the women also achieved in 2008.

Things only got disappointing from there, sadly, with Barbosa crunching her ankles on floor and then leaving the arena in a wheelchair, in tears in front of a supportive crowd. Andrade also had a rough day, with some rough handstand work and close releases on bars, a couple of big wobbles and a bailed switch ring on beam, and then some small landing errors on both her Amanar and on floor. Without the precision and perfection showed in her qualifications performance, she finished only 11th with a 56.965, a bummer when you come in as one of the leaders and especially when you realize that her qualifications score would’ve gotten her the bronze medal.

Even Saraiva, the only one to make an event final, didn’t have the day she hoped for, even if her fifth-place finish was the best Olympic final finish for a Brazilian woman on beam. With the advantage of going up last in front of a home crowd, Saraiva clearly felt the pressure in this competition, and landed her roundoff layout series with a huge wobble before going on to make many other costly landing deductions on several of her skills to finish with a 14.533, over half a point behind her qualifications score and two tenths behind the bronze medalist. Coming in, Saraiva’s beam had the biggest medal potential, so it’s a shame she wasn’t able to make it happen after doing so well on this event for the majority of her career, but if I can be selfish for a moment, hopefully it means she’ll stick around for another quad or four so she can one day capture the medal that eluded her in Rio.

The individual mistakes in the latter half of the Games don’t cheapen Brazil’s overall Olympic efforts, however. The big goal here was making the team final at home in front of thousands of homegrown fans, and they did just that, making a whole nation proud.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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20 thoughts on “Brazil Thrills Home Crowd

  1. Oliveira has a nagging injury on her foot that held her back all year. That’s really sad cause she was supposed to be the 3rd AAer, even though Barbosa did just fine at qualifications.

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      • She was trying to upgrade the DTY and I heard she was training a double arabian with a half twist before Ostapenko left. But considering the injury, at least she could do VT and UB cause she’s top 3 on both.

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  2. I’m so excited for the next years! Thais Fidélis is a brazilian prodigy. She rocks on their 6,500 of difficulty on beam, Fabiane Valentin will be one of the bests all-arounders of the country and Luísa Kyrchmayer is going work on her 6,200 uneven bars!!!

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  3. I’m so curious! Next weeks will happen the Individual Pan American Championship and the Junior Brazilian Nationals! I wan tto know who will be the competitors!

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  4. We had very high expectations for these girls, we never predicted inconsistencies. Sad to know Alexandrov is leaving, I’m Brazilian and the political situation there now is very chaotic, people protesting the impeachment are suffering police violence. I wonder what is on hold for gymnastics investment wise.
    Question: was anyone other than Saraiva an event final contender?
    Before the wrist injury Jade was a frequent in vault finals.
    I thought her beam had improved so much, she didn’t have that polished posture before Alexandrov.
    I thought Andrade’s bars would be a thing.

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    • I think Saraiva was the only contender to medal, but there were other possibilites of making to an event final. Specially both Saraiva and Andrade on floor, but they performed simpler routines. Andrade could potentially make it on bars as well. Sad that she hadn’t a second vault though.
      About Jade, I heard that she wanted to train a second vault, but Georgette Vidor wanted all the girls to just hit the first vault to help the team. Bummer. In Olympics, I think you have to give everything of yourself.

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      • Jade used to have an Amanar, Lopez, and even trained a Cheng(maybe even competed it once) back in her earlier 2007 peak form. It would have been interesting had she been able to regain that form, but her 2016 repertoire was impressive as well. Glad she held on to help lead the team along with Hypolito.

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  5. Btw I watched the Bbc broadcast and they didn’t show any of Andrade’s routines on AA
    I remember seeing her fall on floor on team final

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  6. It was disappointing to see the team finishing 8th. I had high hopes for this group, and I was also expecting Saraiva to medal on beam. Let’s see if they can improve until Tokyo.

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  7. Very promising juniors from Brazil, and new seniors from this quad. Flavia Saraiva, Loranne Oliveira and Rebeca Andrade will undoubtedly be the new veteran leaders. Carolyne Pedro can definitely be their late bloomer as she showed massive potential this year on bars and floor. Thais Fidelis and Luisa Kirchmayar are two extremely talented with Thais on a 6.5 beam set and Kirchmayar working on a 6.2. However, Alexandrov is leaving, and that mixed with their current financial crisis doesn’t look good. Hopefully their coaches will take everything they could out of Alexandrovs short leadership and continue to produce amazing gymnastics.

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    • He is leaving because of the current political crisis in Brazil.
      There has been huge investment in sports leading to te Olympics which is likely to stop.
      He hasn’t declared where to go yet.
      I’d love if he went back to Russia but it would probably generate more drama with the Rodionenkos and gymnasts had enough of that

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      • Alexandrov recently did an interview where they asked him about the possibility of going back to Russia and his response was “Who do you think would give me a job there?”

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  8. Jade wins a bronze AA medal on world championchips 2007, along side with a bronze on vault i dont remember when. She was the best gymnast that Brazil had and will always had, complete is the world. If shes wasnt injured on 2008 olympics, where she made vault final even without her amanar, she would have stayed at least on the top 5 on the AA.

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  9. Come on, guys, Alexandrov is not leaving because of politics around the country. He’s leaving because of politics inside of the gymnastic program. Yes, the brazilian program needed someone experienced after 2012, when we lost a lot of girls due to injury and other stuff, and he made the difference. But he wasn’t even with the girls in the team final, what kind of head coach is that? He doesn’t have any strings attached to Brazil and now that the Olympic Games is gone, there isn’t any goals anymore. Brazilian program needs to develop other things and there’s just nothing he can do about it.

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    • I think he was in the arena during TF. Only 2 team coaches are allowed on floor at any time… see the interview that he said hes not staying in brazil anymore…

      His role is similar to marta karokyi…. and marta wasnt on the floor either but she was surely watching closely…. from her seat above the beam! Because obviously beam :)… he was prob doing same thing

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  10. Now I wanna see how the things will be. Only few coaches stayed with Alexandrov and had the chance to see how he works and all his knowledge. I see Brazil repeating, every single olympic cicle, the same mistakes. The direction always take some medicine for what it hurts but never heal the headache.

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  11. there is not much to persue in Gymnastics in Brazil.

    You either are a superstar like those olympians or you are nothing.
    Its really really really hard to get a living out of gymnastics, there are no scholarship at Uni for gymnasts ( also for many sports either).
    It all comes at that age where they have to decide to persue a very very insecure and unlikely elite career, or a “regular” adult life going to college and stuff.

    Its such a crazy country, there are some crazy boys in the slums of brazil doing full-ins and double layouts on grass, dirt and asphalt.

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  12. Pingback: Celebrating the Olympic Veterans | The Gymternet

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