The Doha Balance Beam Preview

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Flavia Saraiva

Should I even preview beam? Because remember last year when I was like “these are all of the best beam workers!” and the judges were like “lol not really?” And then gave everyone a 6.5 execution score except sweet baby angel Pauline Schäfer because she’s the living embodiment of perfection?

Yeah, so, take this with a grain of salt. It’s more about who I think should factor into the mix if they hit and not so much a prediction because I’ve learned my lesson. You can’t predict beam. Nor pommel horse, for that matter.

The Americans are obviously on everyone’s mind for medals, and for good reason. 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Simone Biles has the potential for a 6.4-6.5 if everything goes well (and she looked fantastic at camp and in training), and 2017 world silver medalist Morgan Hurd was one of the judges’ favorites last year, with big skills and precise movement making her a top contender once again.

Both Biles and Hurd have the kinds of routines that can survive the harsh judging that took down so many of our favorites at worlds last year. They have difficult combos, but don’t rely solely on connections to build their D scores, making them relatively safe even if they aren’t super fluid with absolutely everything they do. Their teammate Kara Eaker, however, could potentially get up to around a 6.7 if the judges reward her with everything she does, but the likelihood of that happening isn’t very high, especially because even if she’s at her absolute best and hits every connection perfectly, her ring positions on her leaps and jumps are likely going to be pretty costly, which could end up really hurting her.

Eaker has impressed me with her beam for the most part this season, and she’s had a few routines lately – one at Pan Ams, one at verification – that completely blew me away. She’s really aggressive on her many series, and she moves better than almost anyone on the apparatus, as if she’s figure skating…but Liu Tingting was exactly that last year, only to let the nerves from an injury get to her at worlds, causing her to get docked considerably.

This is my biggest concern for Eaker, especially knowing how strict the judges are likely to be, but she’ll absolutely be worth the risk if she goes to town on her routine and does exactly what she’s capable of. In that case, she’s a gold medal contender for sure.

We always have to keep our eyes peeled for 2016 Olympic champion Sanne Wevers, who was one of the ones to get destroyed by her connections last year, though she’s made some improvements in her routine to ensure that it doesn’t happen anymore. I’d love to see her back on the worlds podium here, and I’d love to see her hit every connection perfectly to shove it in the judges’ faces.

I absolutely need Flavia Saraiva in the final. She looked so good at Pan Ams, almost better than she did at her peak in 2016, and I think a medal is within reach for her if she’s on fire the way she was in Peru. She has a little bit of everything in her routine, with aggressive acro and lovely dance both coming naturally to her, and I’d love to see her rewarded well by the judges this year.

My other big hope for the final is Ana Padurariu of Canada, who has so much difficulty here, and while she has been a bit nervous in her beam sets as a senior, especially since her injury in February, all she needs is that one solid set to get her through. She’s capable of it, based on her routines in training, so let’s cross our fingers for a big day from her this weekend so she can kick off her major international career on a super high note.

We also can’t count out Nina Derwael of Belgium. Though traditionally known for her bars, I was so impressed with her beam at worlds last year, even though she fell…she had just developed such a presence and completeness to all of her skills, it felt like once she conquered her nerves, she’d be right up there with the best of them, which is something she proved when she took the silver medal on the event at Euros, much to everyone’s surprise. Another hit routine from her here could be huge, and I hope she’ll be at her best…though trying to make a beam final in the first subdivision of qualifications is always a difficult task to undertake.

For China, it’s all about Chen Yile, who is magnificent here, and both Zhang Jin and Liu Tingting are also strong, with any of these three capable of making it in. Russia, meanwhile, will likely struggle on this event more than anything else, though Aliya Mustafina has a flight series now and loves to surprise us all with casual beam medals, Irina Alexeeva can be fantastic here if she’s on point, and Angelina Melnikova often lacks consistency, but is capable of solid scores when she hits.

The Japanese girls have some strong contenders here as well, with Mai Murakami and Asuka Teramoto both making the final last year, Murakami somewhat unexpectedly, but both are so tidy and precise in their skills and movement, it’s impossible to ignore them. Teramoto has been a contender for a medal for several years now, and while Murakami isn’t as natural on this event as she is on floor, she’s still pretty rock solid when she hits, and she has put up some excellent routines this year.

Others who should be strongly in the mix barring the madness that is a beam qualification are Marine Boyer and Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France and Ellie Black of Canada. Since beam is always insanely unpredictable, I’d also be very happy if we could see finals spots for Ting Hua-Tien of Chinese Taipei, Kim Su Jong of North Korea, Vasiliki Millousi of Greece, Aneta Holasova of the Czech Republic, Ilaria Käslin of Switzerland, Alice Kinsella of Great Britain, and Katarzyna Jurkowska-Kowalska of Poland, who is bringing back her gainer double full dismount that she attempted to get named last quad, but it now looks incredible and she should have no problem making it happen in qualifications this weekend.

The women’s qualifications at world championships will be held October 27-28, followed by the team final on October 30, the all-around final on November 1, and event finals held November 2-3. We’ll come back to you soon with previews for the apparatus and team competitions, as well as what you can expect from the men, who begin on October 25.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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16 thoughts on “The Doha Balance Beam Preview

  1. I need Chen Yile to win gold. She’s so perfect on everything, if I had to pick a single thing for this world championships to happen, it would be a Beam Gold for Yile.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This beam final is something Im really excited for, there have been a lot of strong beam workers this year and with the apparatus being unpredictable I would like to see who steps up and hits both days.

    Obviously the favorites are Simone and Kara but I love Morgan’s beam and she was so good in podium training that I hope she can continue that and make it on the podium.

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  3. Dream podium has Kara, Simone, and Flavia, in any order.

    IMO, the most beautiful/exciting final has the above three, and some combo of Sanne Wevers, Chen Yile, Nina Derwael, Asuka Teramoto, Melanie DJDS, Marine Boyer, and Ellie Black. But I am sure I’m missing several! It’s a stacked field this year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If Ri Se Gwang can get credited with a piked Dragulescu then Kara deserves a 6.7 D-score for her beam. But I’m really looking forward to this final and your accompanying meme reactions.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Liu Tingting didn’t succumb to nerves last year. She was injured and had no business competing. She shouldn’t have been in Montreal.

    Also, Sanne Wevers didn’t miss last year’s final because the judges didn’t credit her connections. She had 0.5 deducted from her D score because she left out a required element (a flicflac). Different thing altogether.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Sorry we’re late, Bob had diarrhea | The Gymternet

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