Olympic Women's Gymnastics 2012: Predicting How the Final 8 Teams Will Finish
A dramatic and controversial opening day of Olympic women's gymnasts eventually unveiled the eight countries competing for team gold on Tuesday. Although Sunday's action determined who made the final cut in the race to reach Summer Games glory, all scores from the day are cast aside.
Essentially, the competition starts over with a smaller group of elite gymnasts. Favorites emerged based on Sunday's performance, but it's all about execution from here on out.
Reputation and history aren't factored into scoring, so it's anyone's gold medal to grab. Here's how we think things play out in Tuesday's gold medal showdown.
The Canadians edged out Germany by three-tenths of a point on Sunday to solidify a spot in the final. Unfortunately for the Canucks, this team appears substantially over-matched in Elite Eight competition.
Only Dominique Pegg placed among the top 24 on the individual all-around qualifying scoreboard. In a competition where depth is so important, the fact that no Canadian registered a score of 15 or higher in any single event on Sunday does not bode well.
Japan was paced by Asuka Teramoto's consistent performance in qualifying (she registered at least a 14.2 on every event). Koko Tsurumi is an outstanding specialist on uneven bars.
What worries you about Japan is its inability to take advantage on vault. Only one team member broke a score of 14 on Sunday.
In contrast, top contenders Russia and the U.S. only saw one gymnast out of eight total competitors fail to reach a score of 15.
It was apparent during Sunday's second subdivision that either Italy or Australia would make it out of the group, but not both. Propelled by Vanessa Ferrari's outstanding all-around performance, the Italians edged out Australia and punched their ticket into Tuesday's competition.
The 21-year-old Ferrari was the 2006 World Champion in the all-around and particularly excels on floor. Italy's uneven bar performance (or lack therof) nearly cost the country a spot in Tuesday's final and there isn't much reason to assume it will improve enough in a two-day span to place Italy among this group's elite teams.
5. Great Britain
In a sport that is seemingly more mentally stressful on an individual than any other Olympic event, Great Britain is fortunate to compete at home. That just won't be enough to propel the Brits to a podium appearance.
27-year-old Elizabeth Tweddle is a phenomenal talent on uneven bars, where she earned Sunday's highest event score. The team's worst event - the balance beam - will hold the hometown favorites back.
The reigning Olympic gold medalists started out strong in qualifying competition on Sunday, earning a score of 44.432 on beam. Led by Sui Lu, who earned a 15.400 (tops for the day), the Chinese beam score ranked third behind Romania and the U.S.
Deng Linlin also looked strong as a returning member of the gold-medal winning 2008 Olympic team.
Now here's the bad news: China's qualifying floor score (41.641) ranks seventh among finals participants.
The reigning European Champions hope to cap off another strong Olympic run. No women's gymnastics team has been as consistent as Romania in recent decades.
The national team has secured a team title in every Olympic Games since 1976, including gold medal performances at the 2000 Sydney Games and 2004 Athens Games. In 2008, Romania earned bronze, finishing behind China and the U.S.
Catalina Ponor prowess on balance beam is well known. It's an event she won at the European championships and Romania has depth on vault.
The team's shortcomings on uneven bars (second-worst score among final qualifiers) is hard to overlook. Still, Romania should run its medal streak to nine consecutive Summer Games.
Russia is in the midst of an unprecedented gold-medal drought in Olympic competition. The country hasn't claimed a team title in women's gymnastics since 1988, when the Soviet Union topped Romania in Seoul, South Korea. That was the Soviets' ninth gold medal in ten Olympic Games, dating back to 1952.
Aliya Mustafina, the 2010 World Champion, has come back strong from a 2011 ACL tear. Her and Viktoria Komova give the Russians a one-two punch at the top of it's lineup that is as good as any.
It's hard to give Russia an edge over the U.S. in terms of depth, especially after Aly Raisman's all-around performance on Sunday. Tuesday's showdown between the U.S. and Russia is must-see TV.
Maybe I'm just being old-fashioned and reminiscing about rivalries forged during the Cold War. Either way, this sport is better when the Russians are a major factor.
The country dominated women's gymnastics for many decades of Olympic competition. It's been intent on rebuilding the program since the fall of the Soviet Union and this 2012 squad looks mighty good.
1. United States
Jordyn Wieber's heartbreak aside, this team had a tremendous qualifying round. The Americans' depth and star power was on display, as the squad placed three gymnasts among the top four all-around finishers.
Although she won't win individual all-around gold, Wieber hasn't gone anywhere. She still provides amazing skills in every event, particularly on floor and uneven bars.
Gabby Douglas, the 2011 Visa Championship all-around runner-up, dominates on vault as well. Aly Raisman was simply unstoppable in Sunday's competition.
As a group, each member of the U.S. squad that competed on vault in qualifying scored at least a 15.800.
Not one Russian approached that total.
The American's superiority on vault and ability to pull talent from every corner of its roster adds up to the team's first gold medal since the 1996 Atlanta Games.