Petrounias Looks to Defend Gold While Ferrari Goes for First Olympic Medal

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Eleftherios Petrounias

The second day of event finals at the Olympic Games will see the women compete on floor exercise while the men tackle rings and vault.

On floor, the big story is whether Vanessa Ferrari of Italy, who led the field in prelims with a 14.166, will be able to finally capture a medal at the Games in her fourth Olympic appearance. Ferrari has gotten close to the floor podium twice, finishing fourth in both 2012, where she missed out on a tie-break, and in 2016, where it came down to less than two tenths.

Regardless of whether she wins gold or not, Ferrari has a very strong chance at a medal, with one of the best blends of difficulty and execution in the mix, though the next five gymnasts who finished behind her in prelims who will be here today all finished within under two tenths of her, so not only will gold itself not be easy, but Ferrari will have to do everything in her power to make sure she can get a spot on that podium.

Jade Carey of the United States qualified just behind Ferrari with a 14.1, less than a tenth back, while Rebeca Andrade of Brazil was a tenth back at a 14.066, and then Jessica Gadirova of Great Britain and both Viktoria Listunova and Angelina Melnikova of Russia were both above a 14. Even those below that bench mark – Murakami Mai of Japan with a 13.933 and Jennifer Gadirova of Great Britain with a 13.8 – are within a few tenths of the top, so this has potential to be one of the most lethal finals for the women.

I do think if Ferrari does what we know she’s capable of, she will be on that podium, and I also have a good feeling about Murakami, who had a weak day overall in prelims but then put up a stellar routine in the all-around final. And with the way Andrade has been on fire all week, I anticipate a big routine from here, though hopefully a bit more controlled than we saw in the all-around competition.

Carey is a question mark for me. I think it could go one of two ways for her after what happened with her vault balk yesterday, either nervous and tentative, or fiery and out for revenge. I hope it’s the latter, but what happened to her in the competition yesterday would affect anyone, so I hope she’s just able to either put it behind her completely, or use it to her advantage.

The rings field has truly the world’s greatest in the final, with only a handful of those who should be here missing out. Over the past few years, the world cup battle was between reigning Olympic champion Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece and Liu Yang of China, and the pair outranked the rest of the world in prelims here, a third of a tenth apart from one another and three tenths ahead of the rest of the field, and I think it’ll be the same situation in the final, with these two fighting for gold while the rest of the field fights for bronze.

The guys behind Petrounias and Liu are all within about two tenths of one another based on prelims scoring, so this final will come down to the smallest of details. I’m hoping Samir Aït Saïd of France can prove himself and get redemption for his horrific injury in 2016, but I also think You Hao of China can make improvements from prelims and potentially challenge him for a medal.

Finally, on vault, I have a feeling this is going to be very much a “whoever stands it up wins” situation. Nearly everyone is matched in terms of difficulty, though I expect a couple of the guys will try upgrades here to really push for an advantage.

South Korea’s Shin Jea-hwan, who won the world cup series to qualify, led prelims with a 14.866, beating Artur Davtyan of Armenia on the tie-break, while Nikita Nagornyy of Russia qualified in third with a 14.783. The rest of the guys are all capable of similar scores, with the exception of Ahmet Önder of Turkey, who essentially snuck into this final thanks to clean vaults by a tenth ahead of 2012 Olympic champion Yang Hak-seon of South Korea.

While I think any of the top seven from prelims will be capable of medaling, I think Davtyan is the most “total package” vaulter here in terms of his difficulty and how well he can hit it, and Nagornyy always seems to pull out the best vault landings when it matters, so I expect to see him thrive here as well. But this truly is a situation where we could see the top three from prelims medal, or the bottom three, depending on how things go today and who can stand their vaults up the best.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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