The first day of Gymnastics competition in Rio 2016 is over. For twelve hours, the best gymnast in the world battled it out over five subdivisions of competition. A gymnastics marathon if you will. The biggest story of the day was Team USA’s performance, but before we get to that, some other amazing things that happened in Qualifications.
Hong Un Jong, the 2008 gold medalist from North Korea on Vault. She was unable to compete in London 2012 because of an age falsification controversy, but she was outstanding on her two vaults, qualifying second behind Simone Biles. Hong competes the same vaults as Biles, the Amanar and the Cheng and there were rumors (and some video) of her training a Triple Twisting Yurchenko, an upgrade from the Amanar vault, adding an extra half twist. To beat Biles and to get the skill named after her, she’ll likely need to break it out during the Vault Final.
Russia, the team silver medalists from 2012, qualified third behind the Americans and Chinese today, but I want to talk about their bars. The other three events for Team Russia could be generously called a hot mess today, but not bars. All four routines they put up scored above 15 and Aliya Mustafina herself, the reigning Olympic Gold Medalist was fantastic with a 15.833, qualifying second. I’m here all day, every day for Russia on uneven bars.
Flava Flav! Flavia Savaira on beam. The crowd at the arena was ready to explode every time a Brazilian got up to perform and Flavia gave them more than enough excuse with her beam routine. She qualified 3rd with a 15.133 and will look to medal on the event during the beam final!
Ellie Downie of Great Britain had a scary fall on the floor exercise. She didn’t get enough lift out of her 2 ½ twist to punch front flip out of it and landed on her neck. After having to stop her routine, she came back out for vault to help her team qualify in 4th place and help herself qualify into the All Around. What a tough competitor!
Now on to the “senior citizen” portion of this article:
Houry Gebeshian, a 27 year old Armenian-American physician’s assistant, competing for Armenia, performing a new mount on bars and getting it named after her! She hit all four of her routines with a smile on her face as is one of my favorite stories of these Olympics!
Catalina Ponor won gold on beam in 2004. Twelve years ago. Today, she qualified for beam finals at the age of 28. She was steady and artistic and despite Romania, the historic gymnastics power not qualifying an entire team to the Olympics, she will represent them on the event that made them famous: the balance beam.
Oksana Chusovitina, 41 years old…I’ll wait and let that sink in, she’s FORTY ONE YEARS AGO, competing for Uzbekistan, (she originally competed for the USSR back in the day), hit her vaults and qualified into the vault final. She’s not a favorite to medal, but you never know what might happen at the Olympics.
And now on to the Dream Team. With apologies to the 1992 Men’s Basketball team, the five young women who compete gymnastics for the United States are the true Dream Team and were unstoppable in qualifications. After their subdivision, every single gymnast qualified for at least one event final and as a team they were a full ten points ahead of their nearest competition and. For reference, that means the US could have fallen ten times during the sixteen routines and STILL qualified in first place. Simone Biles led the way. She qualified first in the all around competition with a 62.366 and also first in the event finals on vault, beam and floor exercise. Team Captain and 2012 Double Gold Medalist Aly Raisman also qualified for the all around, just behind Simone with a 60.607 and the floor final. She’s the favorite to win silver in both events. Her former Fierce Five teammate Gabby Douglas was unfortunately shut out of the All Around competition, finishing third among her teammates and falling victim to the dreaded “2-per-Country Rule.” However, Douglas did qualify for the uneven bars final and based on her score in prelims could really challenge for a medal. Laurie Hernandez was outstanding in her Olympic debut, hitting all three of her routines and qualifying to the Balance Beam final. And Madison Kocian, the team’s bar specialist, nailed a HUGE bar routine, qualifying first to the Uneven Bars final.
The team final is on Tuesday afternoon and it will be a challenge for anyone to touch the Americans.
Here are my predictions: