One of the big stories of 2012 has unquestionably been the resurgence of the Romanian women’s team.  The 2000 and 2004 Olympic team champions have failed to medal in the team competition at both of the last two world championships, but this year have looked every bit as sharp and consistent as they did when they stood atop world and Olympic podiums.  Their victory over Russia at this year’s European Championships was a return to the days of old, and an indication that this team is charging towards London with perhaps more than a bronze medal in mind.


Catalina Ponor and Larisa Iordache have competed brilliantly all year, and Sandra Izbasa has not only recovered from injury – she’s managed to upgrade her floor and vault, which were already world class.  Diana Bulimar has been an absolute rock on beam and floor and proven to be a solid leadoff gymnast for bars as well.  We’ve seen slight improvements on bars and some upgrades from multiple team members on floor and vault – including some new unique tumbling combinations, a promising Amanar on vault from Iordache, and the potential for a Cheng from Izbasa.  All in all, this team is looking fit, unified, and confident, and they appear to be approaching peak form at precisely the right time.


But a look at mathematics reveals that Romania still has a formidable challenge ahead of them if they truly hope to contend for Olympic gold.  Despite all the upgrades we’ve seen from this team this year, it appears that Romania still trails the other three medal contenders – the USA, Russia, and China – by about two points in difficulty.


Below I’ve summarized some calculations I’ve done from each of these four teams, given the Olympic teams are now finalized and we can guess the likely three gymnasts each team will put up in team finals on each event.  It’s always quite challenging to come up with precisely accurate D-scores for every gymnast because of the uncertainty surrounding the exact elements each gymnast will throw and also receive credit for, but based on recent competitions, we can certainly make very good estimates.  The numbers below indicate my best estimations of the D-scores each team currently brings to the table on each event.  Of course I had to make a few tenuous assumptions, particularly on vault – such as Russia bringing three Amanars to London, and China and Romania each bringing one.  We know the Americans plan to bring three.


Projected Team D-Scores For USA, Russia, China, and Romania































I noticed two surprises from this analysis:


  1. China has more difficulty than I realized.  I had assumed that having only one potential Amanar and relatively little depth on floor would have left this team trailing the USA and Russia in terms of difficulty, but China’s massive D-scores on bars and beam clearly compensate for these deficits.  Quite surprisingly, the team that has been largely out of the limelight this year and which has been projected by many to finish 4th in London actually boasts a total D-score right up there with the United States.  Could we see another USA vs China battle like the one we saw in Beijing?  This would be quite a surprise given the lack of spectacular gymnastics we’ve seen from this team this year, but given the numbers, this shouldn’t seem too farfetched.
  2. Romania is still quite a ways behind.  After seeing countless strong international performances from Romania this year – including a stunning showing in both the team and individual competitions at the European Championships – it certainly feels as though this team has at least almost caught up to the other three contenders.  But this team’s difficulty on bars is still SO LOW compared to the others (including over THREE points behind China), that it still trails in total difficulty behind the USA, China, and Russia by roughly two points.  We have to remember, though, that in today’s scoring system in which a fall = a full point deduction and medium and large sized deductions are taken quite readily, two points can disappear quite quickly.  Romania’s chances for gold won’t be totally in their hands – they’ll need to rely on wobbles, landing deductions, and/or falls from the other three teams to end up on top of the Olympic team podium.  But I’d say of all the top four teams, Romania has actually been the most solid and the most consistent this year, and if any team could capitalize on mistakes from their competitors under the pressure of the team finals, it’s Romania.  They’ve made up for their lower levels of difficulty many times in the past with clutch performances under pressure, and they’ll be looking to do the same in London.  That’s what will make this meet so exciting to watch.


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