As I imagine many other regular bloggers have, I have been asked many many times over the last six months as we’ve gone through 2016 toward Rio, who I think will be on the Olympic team. Yesterday I was asked on twitter whether I would be writing a post about who I thought would be on the team, and I said no, but I was toying with a post on why I won’t be speculating. Having been encouraged to write it, here it is. A short(ish) post on why I have not spent the last six months speculating about who will or will not be on the team for Rio.
I don’t think I have never given a definitive answer to the question, I don’t think I have ever even given one name, the short answer is, because I don’t know. I have thoughts and ideas of course, but unless you have the entire picture, it is impossible to predict.
The one team I would be happy to predict, is one based on the competition results alone. The selection is based on
2015 World Championships
2016 Test Event
2015/16 FIG World Cup Series (Significant Results)
2016 European Championships
Trial 1 – 2016 WAG British Team Championships
Trial 2 – 2016 WAG British Individual Championships
Trial 3 – Preparation Competitions/controls/training sessions in the period 1st January 2016 to 3rd July 2016
So given that the Rio Competition 1 (qualifications for team, AA, and apparatus finals) competition format is 5,4,3 , and the performance target is team final, 2 AA spots, 1-2 apparatus finals, and one medal, on competition results ONLY, my team would be:
Ellie Downie, Becky Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Amy Tinkler, Ruby Harrold.
Why? Well since the selection period started, Ellie made two world finals, took three European medals, and every title available at the Osijek World Cup including an unofficial (as it was apparatus finals only) AA total of 59.125. She is a genuine contender for the AA final where she is among a group of about 8-9 gymnasts who at their absolute best could win the very open fight for the silver and in particular the bronze medal (assuming that Simone Biles will take gold) and if not, can place top eight, something never achieved by a British Gymnast before. She is also a potential contender for both floor and vault finals.
Becky having just taken the European bars title, is another potential finalist and medal contender. Bars is likely to be the most stacked final at the games, and having hit her big routine at Europeans, she will have the confidence, and results going in. Although she didn’t have the best outing on beam at Europeans overall, she is a regular team final beamer.
Claudia is also an apparatus final contender, and will be hoping to hit her floor and make the top eight. She has been improving her scores on vault this year, and very nearly hit 15.00 at Europeans. She has the big new beam routine to call on, where up to Europeans she had been hitting well, or a very steady and still well scoring slightly watered down routine should she not be hitting.
Amy is a team final floor and vaulter, based on what she has done already, let alone any rumoured upgrading. She contributes hugely on both pieces, and can really boost the team scores. Depending on would be put up AA in qualification, she could also take the second final spot, and after her top eight finish in qualification at the 2015 World championships, could again finish very well.
So if you read around the internet, this is the most speculated upon team, these four gymnasts, and considering the performance targets set by British Gymnastics, again based only on competition results, I would agree.
So there is then one final spot, and if these are the first four in my results only based team, the big task for the gymnast chosen for the final spot, is that to be able to perform and hit in the high pressure of a team final on bars, as that is where the most important gap is. Other than those already named, the highest scoring bars workers including and since 2015 worlds are Ruby, Gabby, and Becky Tunney.
So I chose Ruby on my results only based team, and this is why. Qualifications as I mentioned is 5,4,3, five on the team, four gymnasts up on each piece, three scores to count. With Becky Downie only competing bars and beam, it is a risk to take another gymnast who only competes on the two same pieces. This puts pressure on the three remaining gymnasts to hit in qualifications on vault and floor, as although the team can only use three gymnasts should it wish to, like China did on floor at world championships under the 6,5,4 format, there is then absolutely no room for error. Not making the team final would be a complete disaster, it is unlikely to happen on vault or floor that such a low score would come in, but not impossible, and it’s good to have the back up. So although Gabby has been the most successful bar worker of the three in competition so far this year, Ruby with her 14.8 double twisting Yurchenko, and 14.200 floor both from Europeans would get my vote in this scenario.
There you go, a team chosen, easy eh?
No, far from it.
The competitive results only tell part of the story of the squad heading toward team selection, and the other part is something only the gymnasts, their personal coaches, and the British team coaches are privy to. This is the reason I haven’t speculated on the team, and the reason I will continue to refrain from doing so.
The team I mentioned above may end up being the team, but it absolutely will not just be down to the handful of performances we’ve seen. If you look who has competed this year, it’s only been between three and five competitions each. Do you decide who closes out the quad in the most important event of them all on a handful of competitions only? Of course not.
What matters just as much is what goes on at the squads, the constant testing, controlled competitions, month after month through the year, building toward the 4th of July when the team will be told who is selected (the official public announcement is on the 12th of July). What goes on behind closed doors is what will finalise this team, and it still isn’t finalised. Following the final trial over the weekend, the squad are now in Barcelona, they will come back and head to Lilleshall again, before the team is decided, another full two weeks of being watched and tested, another two weeks to prove themselves.
There are upgrades not yet seen in public, there may be downgrades to consolidate routines that haven’t been as secure as hoped for. More than this, there are gymnasts who haven’t been at full strength this year, coming back to where they need to be just at the right time. There has been a lot of rumour and speculation about what went on at the final trial, understandable, as it is so close to team selection. A few things interesting things that definitely happened, Catherine Lyons competed AA for the first time in fifteen months, Gabby Jupp, who on my results only team I omitted as she wasn’t able to contribute on floor and vault, also competed AA finishing 3rd on day one with 56.1, and therefore greatly strengthening her position. Finally 2015 worlds team member Kelly Simm came back from her injury not only to her best, but even better with , upgrades giving her very competitive D scores, personal best scores on three pieces, placed second AA on day two, with a AA personal best, so higher than
So is the results only team the best team, it’s not looking as certain now is it?
I don’t know who will make it, but although I do think there are gymnasts that are safe, there are also almost certainly spots up for grabs for those that can bring the most rewarding combination of difficulty and consistency. Good luck to all the girls in contention during this intense final two weeks, they are all phenomenal gymnasts, and sadly cannot all be chosen. May they all remain healthy, and be at their absolute best so that the strongest team possible can take to floor of the Rio Olympic Arena on Sunday the 7th of August for competition I.