Jordyn Wieber, or Viktoria Komova?
The battle between Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin that played out in Beijing was certainly exciting for American fans, but there’s just something about a classic “American vs. Russian” duel on the world stage that absolutely enthralls us. It seems to perfectly capture that magical spirit of international athletic competition and reminds us what the world championships and Olympics are truly all about.
It’s like Kim Zmeskal vs. Svetlana Boguinskaya, or Shannon Miller vs. Tatiana Gutsu, or Carly Patterson vs. Svetlana Khorkina, or better yet…Rocky vs. Ivan Drago. The media absolutely eats this stuff up, and so do we as fans.
This year’s women’s all-around showdown is one of the most intriguing ever. We’ve got two senior rookies in their first world championships who have been polished, primed, and refined over the last three years for this very moment.
So the question on everyone’s mind is…who’s the favorite between these two? I think many of us anticipated that Wieber was going to walk away with this title essentially unchallenged, given Komova’s ankle injuries earlier this year and her failure to perform full difficulty since returning to all-around form a couple of months ago. But Komova’s surprisingly brilliant preliminary performance and top score of 60.157 – just 0.125 ahead of Wieber’s total – changed everything. Suddenly we had a better matchup on our hands than any of us could have dreamed up.
But things got even more interesting between these two in the team final, when Komova showed a much better vault than she had in qualifications – one that looked capable of being upgraded – but suffered a fall off beam and a major stumble on floor. Wieber was rock solid again and raised the bar even higher, posting a 60.398 – over two tenths better than Komova’s preliminary score.
It may be Komova’s turn to once again “one-up” the American, particularly if she upgrades her vault to an “Amanar,” a move that would yield her big dividends – seven tenths to be exact – if she lands it. It’s anyone’s guess whether she’ll risk throwing this vault, but given how effortless her easier vault appeared in the team final and the fact that she carries at least a four-tenth deficit to Wieber in overall difficulty without it, she may want to seriously consider it.
My pick between the two? I’d go with Jordyn Wieber, though in reality, it could be too close to call if both gymnasts hit. What’s fascinating is that if we “mix-and-match” Wieber’s and Komova’s scores from qualifications and team finals; in other words, take the best score that each has shown on each event across both days of competition, the showdown appears so close it couldn’t have been planned more perfectly. Komova’s “mix-and-match” score, which uses her bars, beam, and floor from qualifications and her vault from the team final, comes out to 60.657. Remarkably, Wieber’s is 60.632 – a difference of 0.025!
But I choose Jordyn because she has been healthy, fit, and consistent in competition all year and has more recent all-around competition experience under her belt. Although Komova benefited from the adrenaline of the first day of competition and put together a fantastic all-around, she likely has less “reserve” than Wieber and may be more likely to “give out” just a little during the all-around final.
It’s almost a coin toss, though, and that’s what makes for such a thrilling competition. Every single tenth will be critical…from every handstand on bars, to every miniscule adjustment on beam, to the landing of every dismount and tumbling pass.
Will Viktoria Komova follow in the footsteps of her Russian predecessors, Svetlana Khorkina and Aliya Mustafina? Is Jordyn Wieber the next Shawn Johnson or Nastia Liukin? The next chapter in the world all-around history books is about to be written, and the best part is…we all get to be a part of it.