I honestly don’t even know where to get started with this beam preview. Beam this year is insane. It’s impossible to predict beam in a normal year, because the girls with the best routines all year make a single misstep in qualifications and they miss the final, or they get to the final, but then muck it up when it counts.
There are definitely standouts in this field who consistently show why they should be top contenders in Montreal. But it’s when these contenders inevitably miss out that the random names pop up, gymnasts you never could’ve predicted would have ended up getting there.
We’ve actually been pretty lucky since Rio. I think for the most part, gymnasts who should make finals are making finals, and the competition in finals is generally super exciting. But this is worlds, the meet where everything falls apart, and so while I’ll probably go through a list of 20+ girls, ultimately someone totally random will creep in and shock everyone.
Just go along with me for the ride that is the beam preview, and then be prepared to jump out of the car at full speed when nothing goes as planned. You ready?
So, it’s time for Larisa Iordache to win a medal on beam. End of story. She must. I don’t know what she did in a past life to make the gym gods so mad, but I don’t think anyone has come into world championships as a major contender only to drop the ball three years in a row.
This year, she hasn’t exactly been consistent, but she’s capable of the highest D score in the world (a 6.7 if she hits everything) and has also hit one of the highest international beam scores with her 15.0 in qualifications at the challenge cup in Paris a couple of weeks ago. Yes, some of her form is sketchy, and over the past month, her hit rate is only 43%, which makes me nervous. But all it takes is that one routine on the day it counts to win a medal, and that’s what we have to bank on with her — that she will show up when it matters and will finally make this happen.
The good thing is that if she does fall in qualifications, she could still score well enough to make the final, which in general is kind of a crappy thing about the open-ended code of points, but I’m happy about it for this one instance. I’m just hoping that if she does get into the final, the pressure doesn’t get to her and cause her to miss out once again. She is far too good on beam for this to happen, and needs just one worlds where things turn out okay.
Her teammate, three-time Olympian and reigning European beam champion Catalina Ponor, is also in the running for a title, though the way she’s looked recently, I don’t know what to expect. I am smart enough to know never to underestimate Ponor, and so while her routines in September were messy and wobbly, when she shows up in Montreal she’ll probably look like an entirely different human. You know, just Ponor things.
Ponor has a rumored 6.9 D score when she hits everything, but the max we’ve seen her get credited with is a 6.3 at home and a 6.2 internationally, and at the recent Szombathely meet, she got D scores of 6.0 and 5.6. Her high scores on beam are a 14.6 at home and a 14.566 for her epic European Championships finals set, putting her eighth among those competing beam at worlds. The odds aren’t terrific for medaling, but again, this is beam. This is Ponor on beam. I wouldn’t doubt her if I were you.
My absolute favorite for the beam final is Liu Tingting, who crams something like 17 skills into her routine, building her D score not from skills with high difficulty but rather from connecting everything she can possibly manage. It’s a hell of a risk, because while she has a 6.5 D score, she has been credited for anywhere from a 6.0 to a 6.5 this season, with the 6.5 happening only twice and her average weighted toward the bottom of that range.
Liu does have the highest international score of the season, having earned a 15.3 in the all-around competition at the Asian Championships, and she earned scores of 14.8 and 14.867 at the recent Chinese National Games, where she performed insanely strong routines. I think she’s kind of a total package beam gymnast who is very smart about the kind of combinations she performs, taking advantage of multiple series bonuses and connection values all at once. I just hope she can be as perfect at worlds as she has been in the past, and that the judges are fair to her in terms of what they choose to credit.
Her teammates Luo Huan and Wang Yan also have finals potential, with Luo performing a routine that’s similar to Liu’s, but not quite at the same level. Luo has actually also gotten to a 6.5 on one occasion, but she’s not as consistent, though she could absolutely challenge to make the final, with her scores for her best routines somewhere in the mid-14 range. Wang’s difficulty isn’t as high as the others, but she had a couple of incredible routines at National Games, and is definitely someone to consider as an option, especially given the shaky nature of this event.
Ragan Smith of the United States is another key option, mostly because she’s consistent as heck and is another one capable of sky-high scores. Her difficulty of 6.2 isn’t the highest, but she definitely makes up for being a couple of tenths behind the top girls thanks to her grit and determination, both of which help her get ahead of gymnasts who are a little more tentative.
With Smith, leaps are generally something of a concern, but her big skills are always solid, and if she goes for her Patterson dismount in finals, that added difficulty could be exactly what she needs to get on top of the podium.
The other U.S. beam contender, Morgan Hurd, doesn’t really have the scores that show she could be in the mix, but remember how I said someone super random could sneak in depending on how everything goes? Morgan is one of those “someones.” Her one problem on beam has been her consistency, but she has shown that when she is hitting skills, they’re always clean and well-performed. Under the right circumstances, she could make herself a finalist, and based on how she looked at camp, I think that’s exactly what she’s hoping to do.
I don’t think either Jade Carey or Ashton Locklear will make the final. Either could go up in qualifications, with Locklear expected to compete, though she looks like she’s been dealing with knee problems and I’m not sure they’ll want to risk her on more than bars. Both are capable of about a low 14 at best, so unless the field ends up being really weak and either Smith or Hurd falls in qualifications, they likely won’t make it.
You can’t talk about a beam final without bringing up 2016 Olympic champion Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands. The reigning world silver medalist on this event, Wevers still has a tremendous amount of planned difficulty, but planned is the operative word for her right now. The highest she’s actually received in competition has been a 6.1, which definitely puts her at a disadvantage, and as of late, she just hasn’t had the routines to make up for that.
Wevers right now is close to about a 50% hit rate, and in recent meets, even when she’s on, she’s not completely all there. There have been lots of little nervous tics in her routines, including missed connections and bobbles that cause even more missed connections, and so we haven’t yet been able to see what she can do at her best. In fact, her strongest meet of the season was at the world cup in Doha back in February, and since then she’s just not been in a place to really challenge anyone, missing out on medals at Euros and at the challenge cup in Paris a few weeks ago.
I do think Wevers is the kind of athlete who peaks incredibly well when she needs to, though. She showed similar results leading up to worlds in 2015, and then when she got to Glasgow, bam, she did what she needed to and won the silver. I think while her scores might say she can’t really challenge this year, her history of pulling herself together and bringing home the big medals tells us a different story.
I’m really rooting for Marine Boyer of France this year. After coming within about a tenth from medaling in Rio last summer, she’s back and looking strong at recent meets, winning the silver medal on the event in Paris this month.
Boyer is one of those who doesn’t have any overwhelmingly huge scores, aside from a 14.9 she earned under favorable conditions at nationals, and she’s not a top contender, but she wasn’t a top contender in Rio either and still made a big enough impression to finish very strongly, and I hope she’s able to do that in Montreal this year.
From the host country, both Ellie Black and Isabela Onyshko will hope to challenge for the final, and I think this could be Black’s best shot at a medal in front of the Canadian crowd in what could be the final elite competition of her career.
I’ve heard this rumor several times, that she came back after Rio basically just so she could get to compete at a home worlds, but doesn’t plan on sticking around much longer, so if this is the case, this could be the final chance for Black to get a world medal. At a 5.9, her difficulty isn’t the most competitive, but I think she could get a mid-14 with a hit routine, so that and home field advantage could put things in her favor. She’s been fighting for a medal of this caliber for a long time now, and after defeating Iordache for the beam title at Universiade last month, it looks like it could finally be her time to shine on the world stage as well.
Onyshko, who made the beam final at the Olympic Games last year, has only competed once in 2017, at Canadian nationals where she got a solid 14.034 on beam in both days on the floor, winning the senior title in finals. It wasn’t bad for her first time out and with a lower-than-usual difficulty level, but she apparently went to the selection camp and killed it, so I’d say we should give her a nod just based on that.
As for the Russians, the only two who will be competing this event are Elena Eremina and Angelina Melnikova, both of whom are okay and could sneak in, but I wouldn’t consider either of them a threat. Inconsistency has hurt them both in the past, and Eremina’s difficulty is a little low, but Melnikova showed at the Russian Cup just how good she can look when she hits and…yeah, it’s good. If she hits like that in Montreal, we definitely can’t ignore her, but with a hit rate hovering somewhere in the neighborhood of 30%, it’s hard to say whether she’ll be able to make that happen.
Okay, so moving on to more of the “if they hit” options…there’s a lot. My favorites are probably Thais Fidelis of Brazil with her awesome arabian series and the tidy Tabea Alt of Germany (it would be great to see her get redemption after her rough go at Euros!), but I’m also into the Dutch gymnasts Lieke Wevers and European silver medalist Eythora Thorsdottir who could definitely make an impression, Amy Tinkler of Great Britain who at full strength is great (though I think her hit rate this year is 0% which is…not promising, in case you struggle with probability), 2015 world bronze medalist and execution queen Pauline Schäfer of Germany, the always-versatile Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France, Asuka Teramoto of Japan (and on a lower level, her teammates Mai Murakami and Aiko Sugihara, the latter of whom is attempting to get a double Y turn named for her in Montreal!), and Tutya Yilmaz of Turkey, who boasts huge skills, but has only been back in competition for a couple of weeks and probably won’t be at full strength.
The big question mark routine here will be the one from Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari, who returned to competition exactly 12 days ago, getting a 13.3 on the event at a domestic competition in Eboli. It’s funny because she basically made the team for her potential, with Italian national team coach Enrico Casella leaving behind five seniors who have outscored her on this event this year, though Ferrari’s D score of 5.8 in Eboli is the second-highest, and she’s apparently planning to have even more skills by the time she takes the stage in Montreal.
If Ferrari can hit a routine with a D score in the 6.0 range, she absolutely could make the final, whereas I doubt any of the gymnasts they left home would’ve come close. Taking her is a risky decision, but I get it, and like some of the others in this field, she’ll go up and hit the best beam of her life just because everyone doubted her. It’ll be interesting to see what she ends up doing, and I think she could very well go down for quickest “zero to hero” comeback ever, but I won’t be fully sold on her being at worlds until I see her at full strength.
There are a few others with good routines who probably won’t make the final for whatever reason, but still do lovely work, like bars gold hopeful Nina Derwael of Belgium with her lovely extension, Croatia’s Ana Derek with her excellent amplitude on leaps, first-year senior Aneta Holasova of the Czech Republic (her mount is epic!), Alice Kinsella of Great Britain with her lovely work when she hits, Ioanna Xoulogi of Greece with some huge planned difficulty, and Zsofia Kovacs of Hungary and Ana Perez of Spain, neither of whom has great difficulty, but they’re capable of lovely work when they hit.
If someone aside from one of the billions of gymnasts I’ve discussed here ends up making the final, I fully give up ever trying to preview beam. It’s actually impossible. My brain hurts. But if it does happen, it’ll be like, Ioana Crisan totally stepping up and killing it to make the final over the two Romanian favorites.
Our final event preview will come tomorrow, with a complete look at the floor field and who we expect to stand out there, the all-around preview will pop up on Saturday night after podium training, and on Sunday after podium training, I’ll have our full coverage guide highlighting every gymnast in the field.
By the Numbers | Best Beam Score
|1||Larisa Iordache||Romania||Romanian Championships AA||15.566|
|2||Ragan Smith||United States||U.S. Classic||15.350|
|3||Liu Tingting||China||Asian Championships AA||15.300|
|4||Marine Boyer||France||French Championships EF||14.900|
|5||Eythora Thorsdottir||Netherlands||Reykjavik Games||14.850|
|6||Angelina Melnikova||Russia||Russian Cup EF||14.800|
|7||Luo Huan||China||Asian Championships AA||14.750|
|8||Catalina Ponor||Romania||Romanian Championships EF||14.600|
|9||Sanne Wevers||Netherlands||Melbourne World Cup EF||14.500|
|10||Elena Eremina||Russia||Russian Cup QF||14.450|
|11||Asuka Teramoto||Japan||All-Japan Student Championships AA||14.400|
|Ellie Black||Canada||Universiade QF||14.400|
|13||Mai Murakami||Japan||All-Japan Student Championships AA||14.350|
|14||Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos||France||American Cup||14.233|
|15||Pauline Schäfer||Germany||German Championships AA||14.150|
|16||Wang Yan||China||Chinese National Games AA||14.133|
|17||Tabea Alt||Germany||Stuttgart World Cup||14.066|
|18||Jade Carey||United States||American Classic||14.050|
|19||Isabela Onyshko||Canada||Canadian Championships AA||14.034|
|20||Morgan Hurd||United States||U.S. Championships D1||14.000|
|Ashton Locklear||United States||City of Jesolo Trophy AA||14.000|
|Thais Fidelis||Brazil||Varna Challenge Cup QF||14.000|
|23||Zsofia Kovacs||Hungary||Elek Matolay Memorial AA||13.967|
|24||Nina Derwael||Belgium||FIT Challenge TF||13.900|
|25||Ana Perez||Spain||FIT CHallenge TF||13.833|
By the Numbers | Best Bars Difficulty
|1||Larisa Iordache||Romania||Paris Challenge Cup QF||6.7|
|2||Liu Tingting||China||Asian Championships AA||6.5|
|Luo Huan||China||Chinese Championships AA||6.5|
|4||Catalina Ponor||Romania||Romanian Championships AA||6.3|
|Wang Yan||China||Chinese National Games QF||6.3|
|6||Ragan Smith||United States||U.S. Classic||6.2|
|7||Marine Boyer||France||French Championships EF||6.1|
|Sanne Wevers||Netherlands||Dutch Invitational EF||6.1|
|Tabea Alt||Germany||Stuttgart World Cup||6.1|
|Thais Fidelis||Brazil||City of Jesolo Trophy AA||6.1|
|11||Amy Tinkler||Great Britain||American Cup||6.0|
|Angelina Melnikova||Russia||Russian Cup AA||6.0|
|Ioana Crisan||Romania||Romanian Championships AA||6.0|
|14||Asuka Teramoto||Japan||All-Japan Championships QF||5.9|
|Ellie Black||Canada||Universiade QF||5.9|
|Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos||France||French Championships EF||5.9|
|17||Aiko Sugihara||Japan||All-Japan Event Championships QF||5.8|
|Eythora Thorsdottir||Netherlands||Dutch Invitational EF||5.8|
|Mai Murakami||Japan||All-Japan Championships QF||5.8|
|Pauline Schäfer||Germany||Stuttgart World Cup||5.8|
|Vanessa Ferrari||Italy||4th Italian Serie A||5.8|
|22||Ashton Locklear||United States||U.S. Classic||5.7|
|Elena Eremina||Russia||European Championships AA||5.7|
|Jade Carey||United States||U.S. Classic||5.7|
|Morgan Hurd||United States||City of Jesolo Trophy AA||5.7|
By the Numbers | Average Score in 2017
|1||Ragan Smith||United States||14.542|
|11||Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos||France||13.669|
|Jade Carey||United States||13.600|
|15||Ashton Locklear||United States||13.575|
|22||Morgan Hurd||United States||13.027|
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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