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Olympic Women's Gymnastics Predictions 2012: Gold Medal Odds & Projections

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIJuly 26, 2012

Olympic Women's Gymnastics Predictions 2012: Gold Medal Odds & Projections

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    Women’s Olympic gymnastics is a notoriously difficult discipline to predict.

    Four reasons why:

    1.)   It’s an Olympic competition. Stakes are high and crazy stuff happens.

    2.)   The majority of the athletes are teenage girls, many of them undergoing rapid body transformations that will in turn have drastic effects on their completive abilities.

    3.)   The world’s best gymnasts only compete against each other once a year at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Considering the pace of change in women’s gymnastics, results from a year ago have precious little predictive power.

    4.)   You never know what China is going to do (see Age Scandal, 2008).

    London 2012 figures to be no different, with elite athletes from as far afield as Australia and Vietnam further muddying what was already certain to be a messy medal picture.

    And while that might not give you total confidence in my prognosticating, it should give you ample reason to tune in and watch.

    Before you do, a look at the favorites and challengers set to tumble their way into our sporting consciousness.

Team Competition

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    United States: 50 percent*

    Russia: 25 percent

    Romania: 15 percent

    China: 9 percent

    The Field: 1 percent

     

    Breakdown:

    This is Team USA’s competition to lose. The Americans are clear frontrunners on vault and should have enough mustard on bars and beam to hold off any challengers.

    Of the potential spoilers lurking in the field, Romania may be the most intriguing. Newcomer Larisa Iordache is a potent all-around threat, and the return of 2004 medalist Catalina Ponor could pay big dividends on beam.

    *Percentages are an estimate of each team/athlete's gold-medal odds.

Individual All-Around

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    Jordyn Wieber, United States: 40 percent

    Viktoria Komova, Russia: 25 percent

    Gabby Douglas, United States: 15 percent

    Larisa Iordache, Romania: 10 percent

    Aliya Mustafina, Russia:  5 percent

    The Field:  5 percent

     

    Breakdown:

    Don’t jump off the Jordyn Wieber bandwagon just yet. Yes, the defending world champ lost to budding rival Gabby Douglas at U.S. Trials, but she’s still the sturdiest, most well-rounded performer in the field.

    As for Douglas, one must balance her momentary brilliance against a track record that smacks of inconsistency. She’s the contender most likely to flame out in qualification—and if she does, fellow American Aly Raisman stands ready to capitalize.

    Aliya Mustafina, the 2010 world champion from Russia, faces a similar scenario. Still looking for traction following a 2011 ACL tear, Mustafina is equally capable of medaling or finishing behind Russian teammate Anastasia Grishina in qualification and missing the event final altogether.

Vault

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    McKayla Maroney, United States: 60 percent 

    Oksana Chusovitina, Germany: 15 percent

    Sandra Izbasa, Romania: 15 percent

    The Field: 10 percent

    Breakdown:

    Rarely would I give any gymnast a 60 percent chance of winning an event final—especially one as variable as vault—but McKayla Maroney deserves the love for two reasons.

    1.)    She’s been hitting her Amanar—the sport’s insanely dangerous vault du jour—longer and with more consistency than any of her chief rivals.

    2.)    The strength of her competition took a hit when medal contender Jade Barbosa left Brazil’s Olympic team over a sponsorship row.

    That said, there are gold-medal vultures aplenty if Maroney should produce a rare miss.

    Start with two former Olympic medalists, 37-year-old German marvel Oksana Chusovitina and 2008 floor exercise champ Sandra Izbasa. Both performed well at the 2012 European Championships and have big-meet credentials well beyond what Maroney brings to the table.

    Others to watch include Vietnam’s Phan Thi Ha Thanh and Dominican daredevil Yamilet Pena Abreu.

Uneven Bars

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    Viktoria Komova, Russia: 40 percent

    Huang Qiushuang, China: 20 percent

    Aliya Mustafina, Russia: 10 percent

    Beth Tweddle, Great Britain: 10 percent 

    He Kexin, China: 5 percent

    Gabby Douglas, United States: 5 percent 

    The Field: 10 percent 

     

    Breakdown:

    Story lines abound in what should be one of London’s most exciting apparatus finals.

    Home country hero Beth Tweddle has just about every accolade imaginable besides an Olympic medal. Though a recent knee injury is cause for concern, the 27-year-old is battle tested and should get favorable marks performing on home turf.

    China’s He Kexin is one of just two 2008 gold medalists with a chance to reclaim her crown (Beijing floor exercise champ Sandra Izbasa is the other). Though she’s been rather quiet on the international scene since Beijing, a reported upgrade in her routine has the gymnastics world buzzing.

    America's best on this apparatus is Gabby Douglas. The Virginia native gets insane height on her releases and is equally adept in her pirouettes.

Balance Beam

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    Sui Lu, China: 45 percent

    Catalina Ponor, Romania: 20 percent

    Larisa Iordache, Romania: 15 percent

    Hannah Whelan, Great Britain: 10 percent

    The Field: 10 percent

     

    Breakdown:

    Catalina Ponor won this event eight years ago in Athens and emerged from retirement last year looking as if she’d never left.

    Upon winning gold at the 2012 European Championships over fellow Romanian Larisa Iordache—a gymnast almost nine years her junior—Ponor solidified her status as the most potent threat to reigning world champ Sui Lu.

    After bars specialist Beth Tweddle, Hannah Whelan is Team GB’s best medal hope. She’d need some serious help from the field to win gold, but the home gym advantage puts her in great position to claim a podium spot.

Floor Exercise

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    Larisa Iordache, Romania: 30 percent

    Aly Raisman, United States: 25 percent

    Jordyn Wieber, United States: 15 percent

    Ksenia Afanaseyva, Russia: 10 percent

    Sui Lu, China: 10 percent 

    The Field: 10 percent

     

    Breakdown:

    Sixteen-year-old Romanian phenom Larisa Iordache blew away her completion at the 2012 European Championships, looking every bit like a future Olympic champion in the process

    Standing in her way is American foe Aly Raisman, a seasoned 18-year-old (yes, such a thing exists in women’s gymnastics) known for her athleticism and consistency. Less balletic than some of her rivals, one wonders whether or not she has the artistry needed to woo the judges.

    Of those gymnasts lumped into “The Field,” Australia’s Lauren Mitchell is the one to watch. She became her country’s first ever gymnastics world champion by conquering this apparatus at 2010 Worlds.

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