Can Team USA win the gold medal?
The women’s gymnastics team finals in London are set. Can anyone dethrone the perennial Olympic powerhouses or will they run away with the hardware?
The U.S. team topped the standings for the semifinals with a score of 181.863. That came as Jordyn Wieber stood trying to hold back the tears after she was eliminated from contention for the individual all-around finals, which take place Thursday.
Russia qualified for the team final with the second-highest score, a 180.429, and China rounded out the top three with a score of 176.637.
Will there be any surprises?
The Romanians qualified fourth with a score of 176.264, leading the way on the floor exercise (44.699) after an impressive performance from Sandra Raluca Izbasa. She turned in the second best individual score of 15.066 and looked confident in doing so.
The team struggled with the uneven bars, however. Romania scored a 41.833, which was the second-worst total just ahead of Italy’s 40.974.
If they want to remain in contention for a ninth consecutive Summer Games medal, they will have to pull it together for that event. Their mistakes at the uneven bars are the reason China qualified third and they did not.
Although Viktoria Komova notched the top overall score during the semis (60.632) and her teammate, Aliya Mustafina (fresh off an ACL tear), rounded out the top five (59.966), the Russians did not bring the slew of outstanding gymnasts the world is accustomed to seeing.
They will carry Russia to the medal ceremony, but gold is not attainable if Team USA performs as they did Sunday.
Still, though, silver is nothing to scoff at. Anastasia Grishina is well-rounded enough to help them slip past China and Romania, and the team is still young—Kseniia Afanaseva, the team’s eldest woman, is just 20.
Komova dominated the inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010, winning the all-around, vault and bars, so at 17 she has the experience of the highest competition already. She can only do so much, however, and Russia will fall just short of the gold medal.
Gold: United States
The class of women’s gymnastics, the Team USA roster is deeper and more talented than any the competition has to offer. As mentioned above, Jordyn Wieber will not participate in the individual all-around final, but she will be part of the team final.
She finished fourth overall (normally qualifying her for the final), but with a rule in place that a country may have only two competitors of any event in the final, and both Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas coming in second and third, respectively, Wieber was left out.
The U.S. was the top scorer on the vault (47.633) and the beam (45.441), setting the table for what is sure to be a great final as Russia finished second in both events. Vault specialist Kayla Maroney, 16, tied Douglas for the individual top score at 15.900, and the U.S. compiled the top four scores in the event overall.
One event to keep an eye on is the bars.
The team placed fourth in the event and it could bite them if they don’t shape up in a hurry—particularly Raisman, who scored just a 14.166 in Sunday’s semis.
With the combination of youth and talent Team USA possesses, women’s gymnastics could be firmly in the hands of the Red, White and Blue for this and the next Olympic Games (and probably beyond).
Furthermore, the powerhouse countries all are extremely talented and have once again set themselves apart from the competition. We could see the same three or four medalists for the next two or three Games.