After taking a look at the team situation for the women in qualifications at the Olympic Games, let’s go over everyone we should pay attention to as hopefuls going into the individual finals.
Obviously Simone Biles is going to win gold here with room for at least one or two falls depending on how the rest of the field competes. The other U.S. gymnasts – all five of them between team and individuals – will be fighting for the other spot, with Sunisa Lee most capable of taking it based on how she looked at nationals and trials, though again, it’s all going to be about who hits here because one mistake for any of them will give another the opportunity to climb into a position to take over.
The Russians have the strongest all-arounders in the competition outside of the U.S., with Angelina Melnikova looking incredible in podium training, while both young seniors Viktoria Listunova and Vladislava Urazova are capable of huge scores. I think it will be Melnikova and Listunova in the final, but Urazova isn’t so far behind, and like the U.S., it’s something that will completely depend on how qualifications go.
China, too. Ou Yushan, who I was hoping could be a medal contender here, has pulled out of floor, but the other three – Lu Yufei, Tang Xijing, and Zhang Jin – are all very accomplished and mostly well-rounded all-arounders with the opportunity to do big things here in Tokyo. I think it’ll be difficult for them to match the U.S. and Russia, mostly due to a pretty glaring deficit on vault and floor, but I’m hoping they’ll be able to come through with the beam routines we know they’re capable of, because that could give them a slight edge back.
After the big three, I’m counting on Murakami Mai of Japan and Rebeca Andrade of Brazil to be the biggest medal threats, with Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France, Ellie Black of Canada, Jessica Gadirova of Great Britain, and Nina Derwael of Belgium the best to round out the mix of top all-around athletes.
I’m also excited about many others who should be final hopefuls – Italy, Japan, France, Great Britain, and Canada should all get two into the final, and for most of these, it’ll be about who hits today, but I think of these, Ava Stewart of Canada will be one to watch, and I’m also excited to see how Jennifer Gadirova looks, and if she can join her twin in the competition ahead of Alice Kinsella and Amelie Morgan. For Japan, Hatakeda Hitomi has been the most consistent, and for Italy, it’s a crap shoot…I think Vanessa Ferrari could top the team, but also think she would likely withdraw, and I feel like Alice D’Amato and Martina Maggio have the best opportunity to factor in that case.
Roxana Popa of Spain is also one to watch, the Germans could get one or two into the final, with Elisabeth Seitz and Sarah Voss commonly the strongest, though it could go any way, Eythora Thorsdottir is the biggest hopeful for the Netherlands, and among the individual competitors, Georgia Godwin of Australia, Zsofia Kovacs of Hungary, Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland, and Flavia Saraiva of Brazil should be the best, though I think we’ll see a lot of outside hopefuls challenge…I love Luciana Alvarado of Costa Rica, Filipa Martins of Portugal, Caitlin Rooskrantz of South Africa, and Lee Yun-seo of South Korea as personal faves with a good chance of upsetting, and then Milka Gehani of Sri Lanka looked fantastic and super upgraded in podium training, so while she’s probably not going to get into the final, I’m excited to see if she can up her score from worlds.
This final is mostly about the Americans, with Biles an obvious “in” for the U.S. team, while both Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner will be fighting for that second spot. Remember, though, that Carey outscored Biles in 2019 worlds qualifications, largely because Biles isn’t always capable of controlling her landings, but I think it’ll take a lot of that to happen again this time. Between Carey and Skinner, it could go either way…both have looked tight and clean, and it’ll come down to the tiniest nit-picky things to determine who makes it.
Andrade made herself the biggest threat outside of the U.S. by bringing a Cheng into the mix alongside her gorgeous Yurchenko double. She’ll be four tenths behind in difficulty compared to the U.S. gymnasts, but she’s so clean, I think she could potentially make up for it and possibly even threaten for silver.
There’s also Steingruber, Black and Shallon Olsen of Canada, Melnikova and Lilia Akhaimova of Russia, Yeo Seo-jeong of South Korea, Alexa Moreno of Mexico, Marcia Vidiaux of Cuba, and of course, Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan as the biggest contenders to make the final. It’ll be heartbreaking to whittle down this incredible field to just eight.
The bars field is another tough one at the top, with Derwael, Lee, and Fan Yilin of China considered the three most likely to make the podium, but I think Russia could also factor into the mix with any one of the four between Melnikova, Urazova, Listunova, and individual athlete Anastasia Iliankova, here just for bars…though Iliankova struggled a bit in podium training and hasn’t looked quite as good as she once did, so I think she could potentially miss on a two-per-country decision.
Lu should also be a finals contender if she can hit what she’s capable of, though this isn’t as strong of a bars field for China as we might normally see. For the U.S., Biles is hoping to get into the final, and she has a better shot than any of the others on the team outside of Lee, I’d love to see Stewart – who will be hoping to get her new skill, a piked double front dismount, named for her – get in, finals regular Seitz has a strong shot, De Jesus Dos Santos should be squarely in the mix, Hatakeda could also make it happen, Andrade, Martins with her huge impressive difficulty…
It would also be nice to see D’Amato get in after some of her earlier success there this quad, though she’ll have to be at her very best to make it, Popa would be great to see get in, Kovacs has upped her difficulty and could be an outside hopeful, Jonna Adlerteg of Sweden should have a shot if she hits, and I also love Barbora Mokosova of Slovakia, though don’t think it’ll be realistic for her.
In the biggest crapshoot of a final, all I’m hoping is that the Chinese women can get two in, and pick up at least one medal. Guan Chenchen and Tang would be my favorites to make it here, and would love to see both of them wind up on the podium, and I don’t think I saw nearly any misses from either in podium training…but all it takes is that one moment in qualifications for everything to go wrong, so hopefully they will be on their game today.
Biles wants revenge for bronze in 2016 and will be fighting for gold, and with her huge difficulty that isn’t so reliant on connections like the Chinese, a hit from her could be everything she needs to make that happen. Lee is also fabulous on this event, and could be a medal contender as well. The 2016 beam champion Sanne Wevers will also be in the mix, but I don’t think she’s looking as much of a medal threat as she once did…though of course, she’ll be pulling out all the stops here and I wouldn’t be surprised if she
I love that I get to say this now, but I’d also watch out for Melnikova, who has grown leaps and bounds here and should at the very least have a finals-worthy set, potentially alongside Listunova or Urazova. I’m also hoping for Black and Stewart, Saraiva, and Ting Hua-Tien of Taiwan to put up fights for the final.
The rest of the field will be super unpredictable, I feel. Larisa Iordache of Romania is coming in with beam as her only event, but I’m very nervous for her with her recent injury, and hope she can pull off the kind of routine she’ll need to make the final. Kinsella will be hoping she can pull off a finals spot, Derwael lacks the big difficulty but her execution is quite often close to flawless on this event, Marine Boyer of France hasn’t been scoring super well here this year but looked incredible in podium training, and Japan doesn’t have any key beam workers on the main team, but individual athlete Ashikawa Urara is one of the cleanest and most precise in the competition.
This is the Biles show for sure, and if she can deliver a top-notch routine in the final, she has the potential to win by a full point. It’ll be close to impossible for anyone to upset her, though Carey had a fantastic routine in training and I think could get closer than anyone…and if she falters in prelims, I’m really hoping this is where Jordan Chiles can shine.
Murakami and Ferrari are my third picks for the podium, but the Russians – Listunova and Melnikova most notably – will make it difficult for them, and both of the Gadirova twins have routines that could be huge here.
This is another event where Andrade, De Jesus Dos Santos, and Popa look good as those with potential to make the final, and then while Brooklyn Moors of Canada and Lara Mori of Italy have lower-difficulty routines, I’d love to see them in it as well.
Article by Lauren Hopkins