Romania was solid, but they’ll need to be better if they want a medal.
Catalina Ponor’s performance was simply an extension of the magnificence she’s been displaying in both training and in competition over the last few months. It’s a comeback so remarkable it’s almost too good to be true. You can’t tell by watching her she’s actually SEVEN years older than she was when she won three gold medals back in Athens 2004. When was the last time you saw a 24-year-old do a full-in off beam? As a matter of fact, how many gymnasts PERIOD can you name who compete a full-in off beam anymore?
Ponor leads beam with a 15.0 and will likely make the finals. Her floor routine was strong, and she delivered a DTY on vault that’s better than the one she competed back in Athens. I’d say Ponor should get the Romanian “MVP” award for Day 1. Anna Porgras, on the other hand, was surprisingly tentative and suffered a fall on the beam on her switch ring leap. She was overscored with a 14.4, and won’t make the final (she’s already out due to the 2-per-country rule). She followed with a big out of bounds deduction on her double pike on floor (both feet out) and actually fell on her double layout off bars. She sits in 4th in the all-around but will drop considerably after the next few sessions. Of note, last year’s lowest qualifying score to the all-around final was 54.566. Will Porgras even make it?
Romania’s team total of 227.228 was good enough to lead Australia by about five-and-a-half full points, but is actually over a point lower than they scored in preliminaries last year (228.495). It does appear, however, from the bars scores in particular, that some of the judging may be quite a bit stricter here in Tokyo. We’ll know much more about that after some of the other top teams compete. Here’s an event-by-event look at Romania’s preliminary performance in comparison to last year. I bolded the score that was the higher of the two years for each event:
Romania’s World Preliminary Scores 2010 vs. 2011
So it appears that bars was primarily the event that kept their preliminary scores in Tokyo lower than those from Rotterdam – over two points lower this year! Although Porgras’ fall certainly accounts for some of this (she scored a disastrous 12.666 here), even Haidu and Chelaru scored a little lower on bars than they did last year, and that’s with slightly higher D-scores. It smells like some really tough judging to me.
Notice Romania’s beam score this year is nearly two points higher than last year’s! That is largely due to a huge two-point increase in difficulty this year. All four Romanians who counted here had D-scores between 6.1-6.5 – a huge D-score total.
I think Romania will need to score a little higher on floor if they want to medal. Obviously Porgras’ out of bounds error didn’t help, but they’ll likely need Ponor, Chelaru, and Bulimar to squeeze out a few more tenths as well. All four of these gymnasts can score higher on this event than they did in prelims here. Again, it’s difficult to discern whether or not this is simply due to tougher judging without having seen all of these routines.
I do think Romania is still in the medal hunt. Their big beam score in particular was a telltale sign that this team is solid and ready to compete. We’ll know more about where this team truly stands after the next few sessions.