Vanessa Ferrari’s passing your quarantine tests and winning your floor medals
The coronavirus is ruining Olympic qualifications (and gymnastics in general!) for everyone right now, with the cancellation of the Stuttgart World Cup and postponement of the Doha World Cup, but the little bit of good news we can still hang onto is that Baku is still happening this weekend.
Despite the current threat of the virus, many gymnasts who are looking to qualify to the Olympic Games as specialists, or who just want a little extra preparation going into the rest of the season, have flown to Azerbaijan to compete this weekend.
The biggest sigh of relief comes in seeing China back in action after they were forced to sit out Melbourne last month. The team has been training in Doha for weeks now to avoid corona-related travel misery, so they’re safe to compete in Baku, and will continue aiming for individual spots in both MAG and WAG.
For the men, Weng Hao currently leads pommels and Liu Yang leads rings, while Fan Yilin tops the bars rankings, all having earned 90 points, the highest available to a gymnast in this qualification series. All three are looking likely to hold onto their positions through the end of the series, but with only one per country eligible to qualify through the world cups, it’ll could come down to a tiebreaker assuming both Weng and Liu win their respective events.
With only two qualifiers left – Baku and Doha, which has been rescheduled for June – it means mathematically, it’s now impossible for most of the contenders to, well, contend. Here’s how the scenarios are looking to play out for each event.
Jade Carey of the United States, who isn’t in Baku, leads with a perfect 90 right now, and the only one who can realistically take her down at this point is Yu Linmin of China. She’s currently ranked third with 60 points, but while a win this weekend can bump her to 90, matching Carey’s total, Carey would win the tie-break and is more or less guaranteed to qualify to the Olympic Games on vault…unless, of course, the world cups go kaput and everything changes, but that’s a worry for another day.
Fan Yilin has a pretty decisive lead here, with a total of 90 points putting her two wins ahead of next-in-line Daria Spiridonova of Russia, currently ranked sixth with 50 points, with just one win. Fan can miss the final completely this weekend and still hold onto her lead, but obviously she’ll want the insurance of a fourth win to absolutely come out of the entire series with the berth.
But Spiridonova has a shot to get close if she can win in Baku, and then keep that up in Doha, and then another one we have to consider is Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, who won the first competition in Cottbus back in 2018, and is currently ranked eighth with 30 points. If either Spiridonova or Andrade wins both here and in Doha, they’re going to match Fan and it’ll come down to the tie-breaker, so there’s obviously a lot at stake for both and we’ll hopefully see them at their very best.
This is the tricky event, with a total of three gymnasts still in pretty equal contention (the six wins went to five different gymnasts, but two of them – Li Qi and Zhao Shiting – aren’t competing in Baku, taking them out of the running).
Emma Nedov of Australia has the lead right now with 75 points, but with only one win under her belt compared to two wins for Urara Ashikawa of Japan, Ashikawa can essentially seal the deal in Sunday’s final if she knocks out her third win in a row. She’s currently at 60 points after taking gold in both Cottbus and Melbourne, so adding another 30 will get her to 90 (math!) and will mean it’s over for everyone else.
As with bars, Andrade is back here, and with 30 points from Cottbus in 2018, she’d just need a win here and in Doha to reach 90 points, putting her also solidly in contention, but beam isn’t generally Andrade’s best event, and both Nedov and Ashikawa have been looking incredible in recent months, while Andrade’s been out with an injury for nearly a year. She’ll spice things up, for certain, but if she does end up sneaking into the rankings, I think that’ll happen for her on bars.
WOMEN’S FLOOR EXERCISE
Once again, it’s Carey with the lead here with 90 points, but assuming she qualifies through vault, it leaves things open for a few other competitors – most notably, the Italians, with Vanessa Ferrari and Lara Mori both officially tied for second at the moment (though unofficially, Ferrari wins the tie-break).
Ferrari and Mori have gone back and forth in their work on floor, but Ferrari had a decisively stronger routine in Melbourne last month and looks to be in the shape she needs to be in if she wants to upset her young teammate. However, while the spot seems likely to go to either of these two, I also wouldn’t count out Anastasiia Bachynska of Ukraine, who picked up 30 points at Cottbus last year and isn’t that far behind. A win for her here could skyrocket her ahead of both Italians, taking her from 50 points to 80 points, though I do think Ferrari is more likely to score higher here and take the title.
MEN’S FLOOR EXERCISE
Rayderley Zapata of Spain has held his lead for quite some time now, and he’s currently first with 85 points, but he floundered a bit in Melbourne and this could make room for someone like Kazuki Minami of Japan or Ryu Sung-hyun of South Korea – each of whom currently has one win apiece – to take over, while Casimir Schmidt of the Netherlands is still mathematically not out as well.
Not only does China’s Weng Hao have the lead here with 90 points, but second-ranked Kohei Kameyama – who had two wins and 80 points – has been taken out of the circuit by the Japanese team for not being up-to-standard, so that means it’s literally Weng’s to lose. Stephen Nedoroscik of the United States put up a statement routine at Melbourne last month, and if he does that twice more, he’ll tie Weng, which is especially important to note because of the multiple event winner tie-breaker situation China will be in. Should China qualify on rings, the pommels alternate gets the spot and that could very well be Nedoroscik if he plays his cards right (but it could also realistically be Saeedreza Keikha of Iran, who doesn’t have any wins and can’t challenge Weng outright, but he still has a shot to stay ranked second, becoming the alternate and the Olympic qualifier if he holds onto second).
We talked about how Liu Yang of China is currently leading rings with 90 points, but I think almost everyone on the gymternet collectively wants him to botch a few handstands in solidarity with Eleftherios Petrounias. Petrounias, currently fourth with 55 points after a win in Melbourne, is mathematically still in the mix to tie Liu’s 90 points if he wins the next two, but Liu is just so good, it could happen that Liu keeps winning, but as with pommels, Petrounias will still want to kick major butt so he can rank second and just pray that China qualifies on pommels.
Courtney Tulloch of Great Britain is also still fighting heartily to qualify on rings, and he’s currently third with 66 points, but with struggles at recent meets, I don’t see him upsetting either Liu or Petrounias.
This world cup series has turned men’s vault into the beam of MAG, for the most part, and so qualifying here has been an “anyone’s game” kind of situation. Right now, Hidenobu Yonekura of Japan has the lead with 75 points, but he missed the final completely in Melbourne, opening the door to Jorge Vega Lopez of Guatemala (technically tied in first with 75 points, though Yonekura wins the tie-break) and Shin Jea-hwan of South Korea (currently third with 71 points). It could be a fight to the death for these three guys this weekend, none of whom has more than one win. In that sense, though he’s ranked lower in eighth with 42 points, Audrys Nin Reyes of the Dominican Republic is also technically in the mix, though again, realistically, I don’t see him breaking into that top three group.
With most of the top p-bars guys in the world already qualified to the Olympics, or part of teams that used them to qualify, the p-bars field has pretty much been the weakest in the world cup series in terms of those hoping to get to Tokyo on this event, but Vladislav Poliashov of Russia has been straight killing the game, getting to 90 points with his win in Melbourne to currently sit at the top.
Behind him, You Hao of China has 85 points and two wins, so he’s more than capable of taking the lead and even winning the series outright, but again, with China already having guys on top of the rankings on pommels and rings, a p-bars win for You doesn’t necessarily guarantee him an Olympic berth. It’ll just make an already insane process even more annoying as we wait for the FIG to figure out who’s winning what and why.
So, congratulations Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands, I guess? After “underperforming” (??!!) in Melbourne last month, Japan withdrew Hidetaka Miyachi from the qualification process, leaving Zonderland the only person left in the field who can qualify to Tokyo via high bar. He can literally show up tomorrow and scratch, and then do the same in Doha, and bam, he’s our Olympian. It’s a real shame, because that down-to-the-second battle between Zonderland and Miyachi was what I was most looking forward to in the final moments of this series, but we can’t have nice things and this is just another example of that.
The competition begins Thursday, March 12, with qualifications on vault and bars for the women, and for floor, p-bars, and rings for the men, and then qualifications continue on Friday, March 13, with the women doing beam and floor while the men tackle vault, pommels, and high bar (yeah, I don’t know why they swap pommels and p-bars at this meet, and yes, I’m consistently enraged by it).
Finals will be held over the weekend, with the first day on Saturday, March 14, and the conclusion on Sunday, March 15. The event will be streamed on the Olympic Channel, and we’ll be live blogging all of the action for you.
A full list of competitors is below. Be warned, some have withdrawn due to travel restrictions or personal decisions related to the coronavirus, so I’ve tried to make this as up-to-date as possible, but it’s also likely that there are some gymnasts listed who will not end up competing.
|Thierry Pellerin||Sophie Marois
|Randy Leru||Yesenia Ferrera|
|Audrys Nin Reyes|
|Jorge Vega Lopez|
|Ng Kiu Chung
Shek Wai Hung
|Mahdi Ahmad Kohani
|Justine Ace de Leon
Jan Gwynn Timbang
Carlos Edriel Yulo
Abdelrahman Magdy El Gamal
|Igor Radivilov||Anastasiia Bachynska
|Dinh Phuong Thanh||Tran Doan Quynh Nam|
Article by Lauren Hopkins