Mustafina…WOW!!!  Many of us anticipated she would be the top gymnast in Rotterdam, but she has truly surpassed expectations.  I expected at least a couple of signs of inexperience and jitters on the first day of competition, but she was phenomenal on ALL FOUR events.  My only hope is that she can maintain her stamina, because she’ll surely be used on all four events in team finals, then she’ll have the all-around finals, and it appears that she will make all four event finals!  I honestly can’t think of the last time we had a gymnast from any country deliver a performance this well-rounded at a world championships or Olympic Games.  She is leading floor and vault, 4th on bars, and 5th on beam.  If she keeps this up she’ll need an extra suitcase to haul her medals back to Russia.

I was so happy to see Russia deliver the way we’ve all been hoping.  After reading the training reports it seemed as though they might be a bit worn out, but boy did they turn in on for the competition.  They did well enough to give them the confidence that they can win the gold, but had just enough errors to motivate them to improve in the finals.  It’s a shame about Afanasyeva’s disastrous bar routine, but I guess it’s just as well that Nabieva will be in the all-around.  That’s a perfect example of why we should still allow three all-arounders from one team into the final; all three of them could medal and it makes absolutely no sense.  Poor Semenova might be done competing, as she probably won’t be needed in team finals and she didn’t make any event finals.

China also delivered BIG TIME.  I expected more mistakes from this team, but they all hit!  So awesome to see Jiang and Huang right up there in the all-around, He on top of bars where she belongs, and Deng, Sui, and Yang all fulfilling their roles.  Only one real mistake on beam from Sui Lu and some boundary problems on floor, but just as with Russia, this was the best they could have hoped for on Day 1.  It will be interesting to see which “China” shows up in the finals…the one that chokes under pressure or the unstoppable team from Beijing.  I could easily see Russia, China, OR the United States winning the competition.  It will all come down to hitting 12 for 12 in the finals.

Romania will have a hard time challenging for gold; their best bet will be to try and sneak in for a bronze, and even that will be tough.  Izbasa did incredibly well…amazing to see her near the very top on floor when it’s barely been a year since she tore her Achilles!  Porgras did awesome too and should make the final on both bars and beam.  I think her single FTY on vault will keep her off the all-around medal podium/

Japan was disappointing; they’ll be on the verge of missing the cut for team finals, as the USA is still to come and Spain and Germany could also knock them out. Hopefully Koko can pick it up in the all-around because she is much better than that.

Australia did fantastic, and Lauren Mitchell in particular has just gotten better and better.  She’ll be one to watch in the all-around, and again in the beam and floor finals.

More thoughts after tomorrow’s competition!