Monday 8 August 2016

Team Spirit

Rio 2016 Team Qualification

With 12 teams battling for 8 spots in the Team Final, the pressure was really on. Although the top 3 teams of USA, China and Russia could be expected to progress easily, let's not forget that Romania was once considered to be one of those guaranteed teams, yet they have not even managed to qualify a full team to Rio at all. It just shows that anything can happen - and in qualifying last night pretty much anything did happen!

Expected to dominate qualifying, nobody expected them to dominate by quite so much. Almost 10 whole marks ahead of everybody else, the US girls took an unheard of lead over the rest of the field. The exceptional standard of the American gymnasts was really on show last night. They pulled out all the stops and showed the world why they are the best. It does seem an insurmountable task to be able to beat them - it certainly is not likely to happen at these championships and is looking increasingly unlikely in the future as the US continues to exert its dominance. All 12 routines were hit to almost perfection and each of the girls should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved.

While the USA performed flawlessly, others faltered and China was definitely not at its best in qualifying. They took 2nd place by a mere 0.5 ahead of third place Russia (something which helps to put into perspective the sheer dominance of the USA team) but they will definitely be looking to fight back stronger in the Team Final and make more of an impact on the scoreboard. Capable of exceptional work, especially on bars and beam, they simply did not excel the way they usually do, indeed they only have one representative in each of those apparatus finals and they qualified to these in 8th and 6th places respectively. They will have to be at their absolute best on Tuesday if they want to hold on to second place.

Russia, quite simply, had an abysmal start to the competition. Their first two rotations, beam and floor, were littered with mistakes and falls leaving them far behind the rest of the competition. Vault helped them to recover but it was their final apparatus, bars, on which they excelled and crept back up to finish in third. I am quite sure that the determination they showed towards the end of qualifying will be back in force in the Team Final where they will hope to climb up the leaderboard and fight China for the Silver medal.

Great Britain
Everything that could possibly go wrong seemed to go wrong for the GB girls yet they kept calm and kept going, finishing in a very credible 4th place. Falls and mistakes kept many of the girls out of the finals they were hoping for, yet they pulled together through mistakes and injury to prove that GB is indeed a force to be reckoned with. I have no doubt that the mistakes in qualifying will fire them up to come out fighting in the Team Final, not just for a medal but for the first Olympic medal for a women's team.

The home nation were a delight in qualifying. Having had to go to the test event to qualify a team for the games, they seemed determined to give it their all in front of the appreciative home crowd and they certainly did. Qualifying in 5th to the Team Final, they performed with style, grace and sheer enjoyment. Mistakes were relatively few and they will be one to watch in the Team Final as they seemed to go from strength to strength and will no doubt continue to do so.

After a relatively quiet and lacklustre start on floor and vault, the German girls really went for broke on bars and produced some brilliant routines which pushed them right back up the table and in with a very good chance of making the Team Final. Their final rotation, beam, was not without its problems, but they held it together and scored highly enough to take them into the final in 6th place.

Japan had a steady start to the competition, working well on both vault and bars. Beam was not their best rotation, with mistakes and a fall, but they all worked incredibly well on floor to keep themselves in contention for the team final despite a fall from their top floor worker. Solid performances throughout saw them qualify in 7th place.

I am absolutely delighted to see the Netherlands qualify to the Team Final, taking the last spot in 8th place. This new generation of Dutch gymnasts has impressed many over the last few years and it is great to see them succeeding at this level. Although not always the most difficult routines, they are always exquisitely executed with wonderful artistry. It is great to see that this beautiful style of gymnastics can succeed at this level.

The four countries which did not qualify were Canada (9th), Italy (10th), France (11th) and Belgium (12th). Belgium were probably the team least likely to qualify, but France and especially Italy and Canada were all hoping to be in the top 8. All of the teams have some amazing gymnasts and some fantastic routines but unfortunately for them it was not to be their day. All four countries have gymnasts in the All Around Final though, and Canada, Italy and France are all represented in the apparatus finals, so it is certainly not the last we will see of these gymnasts in Rio.

It is hard to say what the podium will look like (with the possible exception of USA!) but there is no doubt that it will be very close and very exciting. Personally, I would love to see USA continue to impress, GB on the podium, Brazil to do well at their home Olympics and everyone to go clean. Fingers crossed!

The Team Final starts at 4pm local time in Rio, 8pm BST.

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