After getting through bars and beam, the situation on floor seems a little low key, especially at the top where only a few gymnasts are looking super competitive compared to the 20 or so who could realistically make the final on the other two.
This final is all about Mai Murakami of Japan. It has to be. Murakami has been consistently incredible on floor all season long, and has both the highest top score of 2017 with a 14.8 and the best average with a 14.257 with all seven of her routines at a 14 or higher. She also has the second-highest D score with a 6.0 if everything goes as planned, and if she doesn’t medal in Montreal, the world will be a very sad place.
I don’t even particularly love Murakami’s floor as a total package routine. Her tumbling is great, but it’s not an all-encompassing routine hitting every mark on the list of things that make floor routines great. That said, even if stylistically and aesthetically it’s not the best thing we’ll see, it’s more about what she brings to it that makes me love her.
That, and a major international medal on floor has been a long time coming for Murakami. After missing out on a couple of teams, Murakami made it a point to never again get left behind, and now here she is, one of the best in the world both on floor and as an all-arounder. She’s shown huge improvements over the past couple of years, and you can tell she’s loving every second of what she does. I need her to medal here, especially after coming so close in Rio last year. It’s time.
The Americans won’t make it easy for her, though. Both Ragan Smith and Jade Carey are coming in with big difficulty and solid consistency just like Murakami, and I actually love Smith’s funky choreo, even though I do think it needs a bit of work in terms of performance.
Carey’s tumbling is a little more difficult than Smith’s, but I think Smith in comparison is stronger both in terms of precision, how clean her routines are, and how she performs. I know, I just said Smith could use some work on the last of those, but compared to Carey she definitely stands out. Carey still looks a bit green on this event, tumbling aside, and I think she’ll get docked for her leaps quite a bit as well.
But even though none of the top three is perfect, it’ll be hard to beat them simply because they have a tremendous advantage in that they always show up and hit, and the same can’t be said for everyone in this field.
Sae Miyakawa of Japan is one of those who fits into that list. Despite insane tumbling and an out-of-this-world D score of 6.2, Miyakawa always seems to struggle to get everything under control, and so her E scores are always much lower than she’d hope, even when she is hitting. If she looks good, she could absolutely crush it and take the gold, but we haven’t seen her do it yet, so she’ll really need to step it up in Montreal if she wants to make it happen.
From Russia, Angelina Melnikova — this year’s European champion — has a good shot at medaling with one of her better routines. I didn’t expect gold in Cluj even a little, but then she showed up with a performance so heartbreakingly good it had me crying in the press zone, and I just knew she was going to win.
When she’s on, her artistry is miles beyond any of the other top gymnasts, all of whom tend to excel at tumbling but don’t bring much else to the plate. Her 5.7 difficulty for a fully-credited routine puts her in the top five in the world, so it’s her combination of strong tumbling and effortless ability to connect to the crowd that will have the judges on her side.
But she’ll actually need to hit to make a medal happen. Despite several scores in the 14 range, her average is only a 13.085 with a hit rate of around just 40% this year. Thankfully, most of those routines came in the earlier months, and she looked fabulous at the Russian Cup, aside from looking tired in her event finals performance after a long week out on the floor. I think she’ll pull herself together and at the very least be able to challenge for a medal this time around, but she’ll need to be at her best if she wants to make it happen over one of the top girls in this group.
Her teammate, Elena Eremina, has a good enough set, but probably won’t be too much of a threat here unless others make mistakes. She does have a new double layout upgrade that she performed once at the Russian Cup before going back to her full-in, so that increase in difficulty could make her more relevant, but I think overall her landings just aren’t as strong as they need to be in a field like this, and so I’m gonna say she’s a no for me, unless of course she ends up having a killer day while others don’t.
Great Britain has a couple of routines that could make the final, but I’m mostly here for Claudia Fragapane’s “Nuttycracker Suite” routine that brings in some of the sass she picked up on a reality dance show earlier this year in addition to her always strong tumbling.
She’s still not the cleanest in the bunch, but I actually think her form has improved since she’s returned, or at least isn’t quite as loose as it once was. She’s also remarkably consistent this year, with an 85% hit rate, and while her E scores aren’t as great as some of the others, she could still absolutely make her mark this year.
Her teammate and reigning Olympic bronze medalist on floor, Amy Tinkler, has struggled a little bit since bringing her floor routine back at the London World Cup in April, putting up just a 13.5 for a high score due to lots of little mistakes and a lack of polish that is leading to E scores far lower than what she’s capable of. Her D score is definitely strong enough to make her competitive, but I’m not sure if we’ll see her at full strength just yet, if only because she still looked a little weak in Szombathely a few weeks ago, and I’m not sure how much she’d realistically be able to improve on that in just a short amount of time.
We unfortunately heard today that China’s Liu Tingting suffered a foot injury and will compete only on beam, where she has the best shot at medaling, so while she wasn’t really a frontrunner for the floor final, she did have a chance and it’s a shame we won’t get to see her and her endless twisting get the shot to try.
This means that Wang Yan, who was incredible as a member of the 2016 Olympic team last summer, will compete all-around in her place, which I’ll fully squeal about in tomorrow’s all-around preview, leaving tonight’s squealing to be all about her floor.
Wang, the leader of China’s team this year, has a fabulous routine that I think has been vastly undervalued all year. She actually had to stop her routine short twice this spring due to a nagging foot injury, but she competed the event four times at National Games last month and looked fabulous each of those times, so fingers crossed she’ll hit when it counts this week. Like Murakami, she came super close to medaling in Rio last summer, and so there’s definitely that part of her that will want to show off a ‘revenge routine’ that will make the judges unable to overlook her once again, and I hope that’s what she ends up giving us because she is such a force on this event and needs to at least be in the final.
In podium training today, Larisa Iordache trained a double double, hinting that she’ll finally be bringing this pass back into her repertoire, and just in the nick of time. Without it, her D score of 5.5 wasn’t bad, but it also wouldn’t allow her to contend with some of the stronger tumblers, especially as Iordache’s execution hasn’t exactly been on point. But this ups her chances immensely, and I think she could absolutely surprise as someone who could very well fit into the finals picture here.
Her teammate Catalina Ponor? Not so much. She actually told the press today that her floor isn’t coming along well enough for it to make her a finals contender, and so she’s putting all of her focus on beam. I’m not sure if that means she’s not going to compete floor at all, or just won’t fret about it being a finals-worthy routine, but either way, she hit the nail on the head with her insight. As she’s shown a few times this month, she definitely wasn’t competitive here, and if she does end up competing something in qualifications, it won’t make the final unless several others make large mistakes.
You might know this by now, but my absolute favorite floor worker at the moment is Brooklyn Moors of Canada, who comes into the final as an underdog with just a 5.2 difficulty value, but who lights up the arena with her expressive, heartfelt routines.
With lower difficulty than most, Moors isn’t quite the ‘total package’ just yet, but she will be. Favoring front tumbling, she performs a Podkopayeva as her opening pass (which she has been training into a stag jump) and also has a front double full to front full. But as exciting as her tumbling may be, the wow factor comes with her attention to detail on things like leaps as well as with the sheer beauty of her routine.
I’d love for her to make the final in Montreal. She recently pulled off a win on the event at the challenge cup in Szombathely, defeating two Olympic medalists on the event (Ponor and Tinkler) for the title, and even though she was far ahead of schedule in terms of making the worlds team this year — only about 18 months into her elite career — she’s shown that she has the maturity to handle what’s thrown at her.
Consistency has been an issue, especially earlier in the season, so we can’t ignore that, but in the past month she’s been hitting at roughly 75%, with her only real blunder coming in at Pan American Championships, where it was so humid, the damp floor caused many problems for the athletes.
Final or not, I’m hoping we get to see a solid hit performance from her in qualifications, and I’m so glad Gymnastics Canada is giving her this opportunity, because she truly is the future of the sport in that country, and even if this doesn’t end up being a medal-winning worlds for her, I want the experience to be confidence-building for her as she continues to grow as a gymnast.
In a situation similar to Moors is Eythora Thorsdottir, who will captivate the crowd with her epic performance on this event, but who might be a bit held back by other aspects of her routine. She did pull off the bronze medal at Euros, so I wouldn’t count her out, but her tumbling consistency is incredibly weak, especially in recent performances, where she has struggled to hit even close to her potential.
The Italians will have Euros finalist Lara Mori and the Susan Lucci of missing out on Olympic medals, Vanessa Ferrari, comepting this event in Montreal, with Mori looking like the standout right now thanks to her superb consistency on the event, though her routines overall aren’t the strongest and I think it’ll be somewhat difficult for her to make the final if everyone is at full strength.
Ferrari, meanwhile, only just returned to competition less than two weeks ago, and while this is generally “her” event — she was the world silver medalist in 2013 and the European champion a year later — she hasn’t been back long enough to really show what she’s capable of, and it’s hard to say how she’ll look in competition here. Her score at Serie A doesn’t even make the top 25, but her 5.3 start value could increase by the time qualifications get here, and you never know just what she’ll be able to pull off. I’m coming in with no expectations for her, but think she will definitely surprise us.
The bummer about Italy is that because they’re letting Sara Berardinelli do the all-around, Desiree Carofiglio — one of the country’s most promising up-and-comers on this event — won’t get to compete. Despite having a high score of 13.75 (just half a tenth behind Mori’s high score) and a D score of 5.4 (a tenth ahead of Ferrari), the girl known for one of the best piked double fronts ever will not get the opportunity to challenge for a finals spot, which is definitely sucky.
Now, two of my favorites for this final who might not jump out at you right away are Thais Fidelis of Brazil and Yesenia Ferrera of Cuba. Fidelis, a first-year senior, is capable of scores similar to the big dogs, thanks to big skills and generally solid execution. She’s an outside favorite for a medal, which she can totally make happen with a hit routine, and I’m just hoping for nothing but good days for her as she makes her major international debut with a lot of expectations and pressure on her back.
Ferrera’s career has been a weird one, bursting onto the scene as a 15-year-old new senior at Pan Ams in 2014 as a literal unknown to grab two event medals and become a star, only to get injured the following spring in a challenge cup vault final, disappearing for over two years until she reemerged at the Central American Sports Festival this June, winning the gold medals on beam, floor, and in the all-around. Casual.
With a floor score of 14, Ferrera is absolutely a threat for the final, but it’s hard to say how she looks in terms of consistency since we’ve only seen her this one time and have nothing to compare it to. I hope times a million that she ends up killing it and walks onto the podium like she owns it, but either way, I’m excited for what she’ll have to offer in Montreal, especially now that she’s a little more seasoned as an athlete.
Because I can’t go five seconds without talking about Morgan Hurd of the United States, I’m going to mention her even though she’ll more than likely get two-per-country’ed out of the final, slash maybe wouldn’t have made it even if that rule doesn’t exist. But I think Hurd is a total package on this event, with impressive difficulty, clean tumbling, beautifully extended leaps, clever and unique choreography, and the ability to win over a crowd, and I wish we could have a separate floor final for all of my stylistic favorites because she’d be in it along with Moors, Thorsdottir, and every other gymnast I personally love.
One of those is Pauline Schäfer of Germany, whose routine is to-die-for gorgeous and is also generally quite clean, though she just doesn’t have the skills to put her on the same level as the rest of the competitors. I am also impressed with how clean Rebeca Andrade of Brazil’s tumbling tends to be, again, even though she isn’t doing the most difficult work, the Canadian Ellie Black’s current routine is probably her best one yet, Ana Derek of Croatia is freaking fabulous on this event, I love the work Tisha Volleman of the Netherlands has done to become more competitive here (including super difficult spins and adding a whip straight into full-in as her opening pass!), Nina Derwael of Belgium has a beautiful and expressive routine, as does Agnes Suto of Iceland, and Paula Mejias of Puerto Rico is generally a great tumbler.
I just arrived in Montreal and will be heading to the training gyms and official podium training tomorrow, and can’t wait to find out a little bit more about how everyone’s doing so I’ll be going into my all-around preview with as much detail as possible.
By the Numbers | Best Floor Score
|1||Mai Murakami||Japan||All-Japan Student Championships AA||14.800|
|2||Angelina Melnikova||Russia||Russian Cup AA||14.425|
|3||Jade Carey||United States||U.S. Championships AA||14.400|
|4||Ragan Smith||United States||U.S. Championships AA||14.350|
|5||Elena Eremina||Russia||Russian Cup QF||14.275|
|6||Larisa Iordache||Romania||Romanian Championships EF||14.266|
|7||Thais Fidelis||Brazil||Brazilian Championships QF||14.200|
|8||Catalina Ponor||Romania||Romanian Championships EF||14.133|
|9||Sae Miyakawa||Japan||All-Japan Event Championships QF||14.100|
|10||Claudia Fragapane||Great Britain||English Championships||14.000|
|Eythora Thorsdottir||Netherlands||Reykjavik International||14.000|
|Yesenia Ferrera||Cuba||Central American Sports Festival||14.000|
|13||Brooklyn Moors||Canada||Canadian Championships QF||13.867|
|14||Morgan Hurd||United States||U.S. Classic||13.850|
|15||Lara Mori||Italy||3rd Italian Serie A||13.800|
|Wang Yan||China||Chinese National Games AA||13.800|
|17||Asuka Teramoto||Japan||Universiade EF||13.766|
|18||Desiree Carofiglio||Italy||Italian Gold Championships AA||13.750|
|19||Ana Perez||Spain||Spanish Championships||13.700|
|20||Rebeca Andrade||Brazil||City of Jesolo Trophy AA||13.650|
|21||Marine Boyer||France||French Championships EF||13.600|
|22||Kim Bui||Germany||European Championships EF||13.566|
|23||Aiko Sugihara||Japan||All-Japan Championships AA||13.550|
|Ellie Black||Canada||Universiade AA||13.550|
|25||Pauline Schäfer||Germany||European Championships EF||13.533|
By the Numbers | Best Floor Difficulty
|1||Sae Miyakawa||Japan||All-Japan Event Championships EF||6.2|
|2||Mai Murakami||Japan||All-Japan Event Championships EF||6.0|
|3||Jade Carey||United States||U.S. Championships AA||5.8|
|4||Wang Yan||China||Chinese National Games QF||5.7|
|Ragan Smith||United States||U.S. Championships AA||5.7|
|Angelina Melnikova||Russia||Russian Cup AA||5.7|
|7||Claudia Fragapane||Great Britain||Paris Challenge Cup EF||5.6|
|Lara Mori||Italy||4th Italian Serie A||5.6|
|Amy Tinkler||Great Britain||Szombathely Challenge Cup EF||5.6|
|Shallon Olsen||Canada||Varna Challenge Cup QF||5.6|
|Larisa Iordache||Romania||Paris Challenge Cup EF||5.6|
|12||Thais Fidelis||Brazil||Brazilian Championships AA||5.5|
|Eythora Thorsdottir||Netherlands||Dutch Invitational EF||5.5|
|14||Catalina Ponor||Romania||Baku World Cup QF||5.4|
|Elena Eremina||Russia||Russian Cup QF||5.4|
|Morgan Hurd||United States||U.S. Championships QF||5.4|
|Asuka Teramoto||Japan||Universiade QF||5.4|
|Desiree Carofiglio||Italy||4th Italian Serie A||5.4|
|19||Aiko Sugihara||Japan||All-Japan Event Championships QF||5.3|
|Vanessa Ferrari||Italy||4th Italian Serie A||5.3|
|Alice Kinsella||Great Britain||Dutch Invitational EF||5.3|
|Georgia Godwin||Australia||Melbourne World Cup EF||5.3|
|23||Marine Boyer||France||French Championships EF||5.2|
|Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos||France||Paris Challenge Cup QF||5.2|
|Brooklyn Moors||Canada||Szombathely Challenge Cup QF||5.2|
|Giulia Steingruber||Switzerland||Swiss Championships AA||5.2|
|Rebeca Andrade||Brazil||City of Jesolo Trophy EF||5.2|
|Ana Perez||Spain||FIT Challenge AA||5.2|
|Ana Derek||Croatia||Doha World Cup EF||5.2|
|Diana Varinska||Ukraine||Paris Challenge Cup QF||5.2|
|Boglarka Devai||Hungary||Paris Challenge Cup QF||5.2|
|Tisha Volleman||Netherlands||Dutch Invitational EF||5.2|
By the Numbers | Average Score in 2017
|2||Ragan Smith||United States||14.183|
|3||Jade Carey||United States||14.125|
|8||Claudia Fragapane||Great Britain||13.628|
|14||Morgan Hurd||United States||13.323|
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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