What a thrilling finish to the competition.  Romania continues to look incredible.  After beating Russia two days in a row, they’ll now have to be considered a threat for at least a silver medal in London.  Could gold even be possible?  Not yet, but we can certainly envision how it might become possible…if Iordache adds an Amanar on vault, the team continues to improve on bars, and certainly if the U.S. has a couple of falls in team finals.  But right now let’s just say they’ve made remarkable progress and are a thrill to watch.


Russa’s implosion on Day 1 wasn’t too much of a shock…Mustafina is still returning to form, Komova has never been all that consistent, and Sidorova has really fallen all over the place all year.  The team was again a nervous wreck on beam in the team finals but really picked it up after that.  Despite losing to Romania, overall there were a whole lot of positives that came out of this meet and which Russia can build from in the next two months of training.


Grishina has to be considered a lock now for this Olympic team.  Sidorova has to be considered officially off of it.  I’ve never really understood all the hype around her anyway…I can’t even keep track of how many times that girl has fallen in major competitions this year.  I’m not even sure I’d put her as an alternate at this point.


Mustafina’s vault in team finals was magnificent – EASY to envision an Amanar there.  In fact, Paseka’s was pretty darn nice as well, and I felt she had the height and rotation to consider an Amanar as well.  If these two and Komova are all able to have Amanars ready for London, the team battle will suddenly become a whole lot more thrilling.  I hope this is one of their priorities over the next two months.




Mustafina would have needed a 15.068 on beam to break a 60 in the all-around, and that’s even with a couple of errors on floor (scored just 13.933 there).  She would have needed more than just a 13.825 on beam to outscore Larisa Iordache’s all-around and more than a 13.966 to outscore teammate Anastasia Grishina.  Mustafina’s still got some work to do, but she’s definitely back in the all-around race.  If she adds back the Amanar, I think she could be one of the contenders for the gold.


Having said that, though, Mustafina’s current floor music and choreography don’t do her justice.  The dance is just way too simplistic and plain for a gymnast with her artistic abilities.  It almost seems as though she has put all her effort into rehabbing her knee and regaining her physical shape, skills, and confidence, and the floor choreography has become a bit of an afterthought.  I think that’s probably what happened.  This routine unfortunately doesn’t even compare to the one she performed in 2010.


Speaking of the Russian Olympic team, I’d say that Mustafina, Komova, and Grishina are all locks, and the two remaining spots are completely up for grabs.  I would guess that Afanasyeva will have an excellent shot at one of these spots (to compete floor along with Grishina and Komova, perhaps giving Mustafina a rest).  If Paseka gets an Amanar, I’d give the 5th spot to her.  If she doesn’t…who knows?  Maybe Nabieva will bust out an Amanar, or perhaps they’ll go with Dementieva for beam or Belokobylskaya for floor (instead of Komova?).  It’s pretty hard to say – I’d say it all centers around one of these gymnasts achieving the infamous Amanar on a hard surface.


Raluca Haidu’s bars scored decently (upper 13’s), but it really wasn’t all that great.  I was surprised to see she’s competing less difficulty than she has in the past (no full pirouette out of the inbar stalder), and her Gienger was too close to the bar.  I’d still say she’s likely to get this last Olympic spot over Chelaru, who has looked quite terrible on bars all year, but it would make sense for Haidu to be working on adding the inbar full into her Gienger, an inbar blind change into the Jaeger, and another inbar stalder before the overshoot.


Diana Bulimar is just awesome.  She’s such a perfect little Romanian team player who just isn’t going to miss in the Olympic team finals.  I felt her floor was seriously underscored – an almost flawless routine with awesome tumbling, practically every pass stuck cold (just one small hop back on the piked full-in), no obvious form breaks, and completed dance elements.  Only a 14.633?  This was a 5.8 D-score and an 8.833 E-score.  It turns out the floor scoring in general is just so low – in fact this was the highest E-score on floor of the entire competition.  But it shouldn’t have been an 8.833 – it should have been about a 9.6.  I’ll never understand it.


Larisa Iordache is clearly ready to bring home Olympic medals – it’s just a matter of how many.  Medals in the team, all-around, beam, and floor are all very possible.  If she adds an Amanar on vault, she will be a legitimate threat for the all-around gold.  With just the DTY, I think silver or bronze is more realistic.


It’s amazing how strong Romania is on floor even without Sandra Izbasa, the 2008 Olympic floor champion and 2011 European floor champion.  It will be interesting to see if they end up using her in London, given that she, Iordache, Ponor, and Bulimar are all capable of similar scores around a 15.  They may just have to see which three score highest in the Olympic qualifications.


I really want Catalina Ponor to win some Olympic medals – I just couldn’t be more impressed with her.  She’d be the second Romanian I’d say is possibly capable of an Amanar (besides Iordache), though I think Iordache would be slightly more likely to do it.  Ponor’s a legitimate contender for Olympic gold on beam, particularly if she adds the full-in dismount.  On floor, she could benefit from doing a leap or two out of a couple passes to avoid a couple of landing deductions.


Italy is on a roll.  This team finished 9th at the world championships last year, and now they’ve just beaten Great Britain (5th at worlds last year) and Germany (6th at worlds last year).  They hit 12 for 12 solid routines here (how often does that actually happen in a team final?), with all their scores being between 13.9 and 14.9.  They might not have any medal-contending routines (aside from possibly Ferrari on floor), but a really nice job here.  Remember, they earned a team berth in London by winning the Olympic test event in January of this year.


So cool to see Ferrari doing her double-double on floor again (looks quite easy for her), and I love her full-in to back tuck on the second pass, although she didn’t do it in the team final.  It would be awesome to at least see her in the Olympic floor final.


Great Britain has a strong team, but they were still several points behind Italy.  Beth Tweddle could have added about 2.5 points on bars and floor, but with falls on beam from Whelan and Pinches, this still wouldn’t have been enough to give them the bronze.  It looks like Italy and Great Britain are very well-matched teams and will be two of the teams in a tight race for 5th place at the Olympics, along with Canada, Australia, Japan, and Germany.


Speaking of Germany, they sure were missing Elisabeth Seitz, who withdrew from this meet due to a back injury.  Seitz competed all four events in the world team finals last year, where Germany ended up an impressive 6th place.  Here, Germany had a disastrous competition, with low scores almost across the board.  Chusovitina’s 15.033 on vault was the only real highlight.  Let’s hope Seitz is back for London and that this team finds that spark again.


Youna Dufournet’s double turn to back pike on beam was uncanny!  She has regained that “light” look that she has always had on this event, and she comes up with some incredible combinations.  Her bars was very good aside from the extra swing out of the Gienger – she seems to have developed a habit recently of pulling this skill in way too close to the bar.