The Italian Championships three weeks ago didn’t really clear anything up about Italy’s worlds team picture. If anything, poor performances from the seniors across the board made things even more confusing, and so aside from Lara Mori (who placed ninth all-around but showed great work on floor), no one was named to the team.
Sara Berardinelli, who placed fifth with a 52.65, was the top senior all-arounder, followed closely by Desiree Carofiglio, who stood out with two solid vaults and another great floor set, so these two and tenth-place Francesca Linari were given nominative spots.
From the 2016 team, Erika Fasana showed up to compete bars just to get herself back out there, while both Carlotta Ferlito (in her first performance back following the Olympic Games) and Elisa Meneghini were hoping to be in contention for worlds, though national team director Enrico Casella didn’t seem impressed by their performances. According to Casella, nationals was the “real test” for worlds, and with Ferlito’s fall on beam as well as Meneghini’s weak performances on her three events, he didn’t think either was prepared enough to go to Montreal.
The gymnasts technically still had one test left, however, which was last week’s Serie A competition in Eboli. Ferlito expected this would help her make her case for the team, but then drama with the gym she typically represents kept her from being allowed to perform. Ferlito naturally took to social media, criticizing Casella and the program in general for not giving her the chance to compete, which ultimately kept her out of consideration for the team.
Meneghini, meanwhile, came back with a fabulous performance at the Serie A, finishing first among the seniors with a 53.850 all-around (without the bonus, a 53.350, the second-highest score in 2017 among seniors in contention for the worlds team after Mori). Her day included an especially high score on beam, a 14.15 (or a 13.95 without the bonus), the strongest by far compared to the rest of those in the senior field. Based on that performance, it looked like Meneghini was getting her life together exactly when she needed, and she seemed likely to replace Berardinelli — who didn’t compete at Serie A — as an all-arounder.
But Casella didn’t put her on the team. In fact, he didn’t even take her to camp. “Don’t forget that we also see the gymnasts in training,” he told the press. “I’m happy that today, two weeks after nationals, Meneghini had a good competition. The problem is that she was not ready when she had to be, so although today I’m happy that she made progress and has shown a change, she won’t go to world championships because she should have been training like this a few months ago.”
It seems like the decision to not take Meneghini was more punitive than anything, a sort of reaction to her not putting in as much effort into training as she should. “She understands the reasons why she was excluded,” Casella explained, continuing on to say that “she must learn to follow my direction, because she is a gymnast with great potential, but I judge readiness based on how gymnasts train, and if they’re not training sufficiently, they will not go to worlds.”
Without saying her name directly, Casella also brought up the issue with Ferlito, which seems to be her attitude more than how she could be expected to perform. “We need gymnasts to focus on what’s best for the team, and to accept my decision without running to post messages on social media that are not truthful and don’t correspond to reality. The gymnasts need to understand why they are not added on teams, and then they can agree with these decisions or not, but they have to deal with them maturely.”
In the aftermath of the rather disastrous nationals, 26-year-old Vanessa Ferrari — who hadn’t yet returned to competition due to lingering tendon pain that has plagued much of her career — decided she might make a last-minute push for worlds, the eighth appearance of her career. Though Casella had his “you have to be ready by nationals” rule, he made an exception for Ferrari, who wasn’t ready in time for nationals because of her injury.
Ferrari performed two hit routines at Serie A, getting a pair of 13.5s for her beam and floor, which would’ve been a pair of 13.3s without the bonus. She looked okay, with her floor score second-best after Mori’s and her beam third-best after Meneghini’s and Arianna Rocca‘s, but she had downgraded routines on both, not wanting to risk her health for anything more. Reportedly, her difficulty for her routines in training was several tenths higher, which could make her the top on both events going into worlds.
Nominative gymnasts Carofiglio and Linari both competed in the Serie A meet, where Carofiglio did well, reaching fourth all-around while once again showing her strengths on vault and floor (though her floor score was just out of the top three). Linari, meanwhile, had multiple falls on beam and floor, which kind of sealed her fate, and Berardinelli — leading a team in the Serie B competition a day prior — had multiple falls across three events, barely reaching a 49.
At the conclusion of the selection camp following the Serie competition, Casella stuck with Mori and Berardinelli as his all-arounders, Carofiglio as one of his specialists, and then Ferrari, back in action for less than a week, as his other specialist. With Ferrari going for beam and floor and with two all-arounders on the roster, it means Carofiglio will compete only vault and bars in Montreal, where her difficulty won’t make it possible for her to make the vault final and where her bars — her weakest event — will be completely irrelevant.
I really don’t get the decision to take Carofiglio for events that essentially don’t matter, or Berardinelli for the all-around when she likely won’t even make the final, but it’s not like they have anyone else who can compete. Oh wait, they have Meneghini and Ferlito in bad attitude prison, they’ve given up on Euros team member Giada Grisetti despite her posting the top senior bars scores at the past two meets (a 13.6 and a 13.8) and having the highest hit rate percentage for any Italian on bar this seasons at 81%, and they like to pretend Rocca doesn’t even exist.
In a world without mind games and politics, the team to me pretty clearly includes both Mori and Meneghini, the latter of whom is getting a lot of crap for being inconsistent, but she was also fully inconsistent leading up to the Olympics and was the only Italian to hit beam in Rio.
With those two in the all-around, it’s between either Carofiglio or Ferrari for one specialist spot, with both of whom at their best on floor. The whole point of Carofiglio is floor, and the two are capable of similar scores, though Carofiglio has been scoring quite a bit lower in the past few weeks than she was scoring in the spring, in which case Ferrari gets that spot, which — let’s face it — she’d also get because she’s Vanessa Ferrari.
So with only vault and bars left over, who gets the last spot in this scenario? Does it really matter? Not really. For balance, taking Grisetti for bars would work, and both Carofiglio and Rocca do two similar-scoring vault sets (neither of which would make the final, so it’s kind of a toss up). Why not take Carofiglio for vault just for fun, and then if someone gets injured, she can step up as an all-arounder or in Ferrari’s spot? That’s worth it to me, even if she won’t get to do her best event.
On the actual team, the one spot that makes zero sense is Berardinelli’s. Her sole international score this year was a 48.850 at Jesolo, and though she won the beam title at nationals with a 13.3, she doesn’t really have a standout event. I guess with Meneghini out of the picture, she’s kind of the next best thing, but in that case why not just put Carofiglio — who’s generally a much better all-arounder than Berardinelli — in that spot so she can get to do floor, and then bring either Rocca for vault or Grisetti for bars for the random final spot?
Anyway, if you didn’t get the memo, the Italian team? It’s a mess. They’re just so heavy on the beam and floor side of things, it’s impossible to figure out a situation that can include the absolute best, and I’m kind of glad Ferlito’s being shunned because she’d only tip the scales even further toward those events, making the decision even more ridiculous.
The only plus side to this scenario is that the juniors are continuing to kill it, and so all of the drama happening now will more than likely subside once the girls like Giorgia Villa, Elisa Iorio, and Asia and Alice D’Amato join the senior ranks in 2019. These ladies were once again standouts at the Serie A competition, with Iorio topping the all-around podium, Villa winning bars, and the D’Amato twins both finishing on the podium on two of their three events.
It’s fantastic and crazy that this team will go from drama-filled to “what are problems?” in just a little over a year, but for now, Italy is high-key ridiculous and I think at best they can expect a single all-around final spot at worlds, and maybe a floor spot for Mori, unless everyone ends up looking about nine hundred percent better than they have at domestic meets over the past month. If Ferrari’s able to do her highest level of difficulty, she could also maybe make an event final, but that aside, this is clearly a transition year for the team, and Casella is probably anxiously counting down to when the 2003 babies finally turn 16.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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