It was always going to be incredibly hard to take a medal in this hotly contested team final, the British ladies would have to be at their absolute best, and China and Russia perhaps not quite at theirs for the bronze from Glasgow 2015 to be repeated.
The USA were a complete lock for gold, and they confirmed with victory here by 9.959 points. Both the silver and bronze were up for grabs for whoever could hit best, and US aside, the three following qualifiers from competition one all had their issues, with a fall for Russia on beam, a fall for China on bars and floor, and a fall for GB on beam.
Of the chasing pack the numbers tell the story, and it was Russia who prevailed led by the indomitable Aliya Mustafina, for so long the strength and driving force at the heart of the Russian team, and the one remaining gymnast from the last team to beat the USA in a world level competition. Russia’s younger gymnasts do yet seem to have quite her competitive fire, a few weeks from her 22nd birthday, I imagine we won’t see her back in Tokyo on the four member team, but I wonder whether she will return just one more time in one of the specialist spots for bars. All credit to Aliya, 60.051 AA, she can push for an AA medal tomorrow.
Russia upped their qualification by 2.642 marks, 1.953 of that was Mustafina. Although Menikova fell from beam again, she didn’t fall on floor this time, her one point gain slightly eaten into by Spiridonova missing her full difficulty on bars, working from a 6.3 rather than the 6.7 she managed in qualification.
China also improved, 0.724 for them. The did have a fall from Shang Chunsong on bars, and Mao Yi had problems again on floor, falling once, but not twice as she had in qualification. China are the second strongest team in the world, they have always been strong on bars and beam (although I am so sad to see the demise of where there was once beautiful choreography and presentation to match the impressive skills and amplitude), but they are now vaulting well, and although they it’s not always coming off for them yet, they are bringing an 18.6 in D score over three gymnasts, equal second of the contending teams with GB. Had they hit to their best, they would have taken silver, but it was bronze for them on the day.
Japan improved by 1.807 points from qualification, a very strong competition for them, with all gymnasts going clean. Sae Miyakawa did struggle with her floor landing a little on two of her tumbles, but they all did their job, and a great result for them. It will be very interesting to watch how they progress over the next quad as they head toward a home games in Tokyo 2020.
So on to the British ladies, the result in terms of history was fantastic, 5th place, the highest finish since 1928. As I say, the bronze would have taken their best, and perhaps a little help, but there is a little disappointment in them not getting the 4th place spot. Personally I also think they should have.
The British team upped their total by 0.298 from qualification, and finished 1.641 from the bronze. At their best this was certainly doable, but we have to remember that China were also not at their best. The British team were were 0.009 from fourth place, the tiniest margin, and for me, this shouldn’t have been the case.
Starting on bars, Ruby got the them off to a great start going strongly through her unique and difficult routine under huge pressure for 14.833, up 0.33 from qualification, and she has been fantastic for the team in Rio.
Ellie next, she added an extra upstart handstand after her Pak to low bar, before the Van Leeuwen, but no major problems at all for 14.663, exactly the same score as she was awarded in qualification.
Becky finished the rotation, strong start with no problem on the Shang today, she took a longswing between the toe full and the Downie which lost her 0.1 connection value, but in doing her own skill rather than the Ricna gave her 0.1 that she lost in qualification so her D score was again 6.8. The longswing had a pause going over the bar, and she was late on the half turn before the dismount, but safely through under pressure for 15.400, up 0.167 from qualification.
On to beam, and Ellie up first. Really high on the front to W jump, landed completely solid. The huge Arabian, she was just off line, and there was no way of saving it so she counted a fall. Ellie put in a very good fight after coming off which exactly what you want to see, she had a wobble on the double spin but saved it well, then everything else was clean, solid, and well performed, particularly the sissone to free cartwheel which was light, clean, and reminiscent of her sister’s work. The fall cost of course, 13.366 for Ellie.
Claudia next, when the start lists were released, there was a lot of social media rumbling about Claudia being up in the team final. The line up will have been rehearsed again and again and again, and I always say that the people seeing these gymnasts day in day out are the only ones placed to make the correct decision. Amy of course was phemonenal in qualification, Claudia needed to step up in team final and hit.
Standing Arabian hit, great start. Change to sheep jump, a tiny adjustment considering her heel came off the side of the beam. Low landing and a wobble on the flick to full twist, but she wasn’t coming off. A wobble on the free cartwheel where she looked a little tentative going in, perhaps the fall in qualification on her mind, but again she brought it back under control with minimal issue. Great standing full linked to the W jump, and really strong in the flick flick double pike dismount. If you’ve been a bit hit and miss on beam though the year, the Olympic final is the right time to hit it. Well done Claudia, 14.443, and up by 1.91 from qualification.
Becky finished the rotation, she started well with the front somi which had brought her to grief in qualification. Beautiful floating free cartwheel layout,then lovely extension through the change to change half leaps. Sissone to full spin, a balance check, so missed the 0.1 connection to the free walkover, but just a small error. Becky went for the free walkover into the split jump to W jump, then safely through the side somi, and a strong attempt at the change to ring today. The double pike dismount was landed low, but she stayed on her feet, and she’d stayed on the beam for 14.166, 0.866 higher than qualifications. Becky didn’t look as though she agreed with the D score she was awarded here, the work she did would have given her a 6.2 maximum D, and she was awarded a 5.9. It seems that she didn’t get the change to change half connection, or the free walkover to split jump, and that the change ring was lowered 1 value to a D.
Amy went up first on floor, and opened with a lovely Popa jump, then full twisting double straight. She was a little closed in her shape coming down, and had a rebound out, then fought the landing on her double double second tumble, and pulled herself upright with just the one pace. Hugely difficult tumbling though of course. Change to tour jete full, then high clean one and a half through to well landed double tuck. Change full to sissone, strong double pike to finish. 14.466 today, she went up 0.1 in D score, but just wasn’t quite as strong on her landings. Again a hit routine in a major final for Amy though.
Ellie showed no sign at all of being phased by her qualifications routine, she opened with a clean one and a half to stuck tucked double arabian. Piked double arabian with a small controlled pace second tumble, great split on the change leap, good on the change full attempt, perhaps a little short. No problem at all with the third tumble today, clean two and a half, high punch front, and a small hop forward. Good on the split full, a pace on the high double pike, great routine. Ellie was awarded a 5.8 D score when she went for a 5.9, she probably got awarded a split half instead of a split full. Ellie also left out the change to ring so counted a B dance skill, It would suggest she may be possibly struggling a little with her back. 14.133 for Ellie with a 0.1 penalty for being out of bounds before one of her tumbles. I felt that she was very clean on floor, and could definitely have squeezed a couple more tenths from the judges.
Claudia closed the floor rotation, and in her own words, she just had a little too much adrenaline here. Full twisting double straight to W jump to open, high double piked Arabian second tumble, a big step, then out the area. Change to ring through to tour jete full, then butterfly into the corner. Much better in the triple twist today, and linked to the stag leap, nice change full, and an absolutely nailed double straight to finish which she got the flag for, and it must have been by the tiniest amount. 14.166, with 0.4 penalty for the out of bounds, a huge shame as she was on for a good score there.
Finishing on vault, three strong double twisting Yurchnekos for the team to finish off the competition.
Claudia up first, good vault from her and definitely one of her cleanest ones. This vault has improved so much from the beginning of the year, legs were straight all the way round, she was a little off to the side, as she often is as she comes on to the side, but a great way to round up her competition for 14.700
Amy next, and the the big vault again, straight arms on, great block, huge height, straight legs throughout, just a hop back on landing. 14.933 I thought was a fair score for this vault, however there were other double twisting Yurchenkos that scored higher with what I feel were equal levels of deductions, and not as well done ones which scored around the same.
Ellie finished the competition for the British team with I think the best double twisting Yurchenko I have ever seen her do. Centred on the table, arms straight, not twisting off at all. Big block, through vertical, legs straight and locked together the entire way round, landed straight down the middle, and absolutely stuck cold. 15.133. Yes, 15.133.
Firstly I think a vault of this quality deserved at least a 15.300, secondly, in comparison to others in the same competition, I simply cannot understand this score. I am not keen on pointing out the faults of other gymnasts, as it is the judging I took issue with here not the competitors, but there three gymnast that I can think of that had obvious issues on their vaults, and were not penalised in the same way. Remember the 0.009 from 4th place the team finished, this is why I feel that it was the wrong result.
So team final done, some great performances from our gymnasts, not at their absolute peak, but much to be proud of here, and a historic result. To take the next step up we need bigger vaults, the US had 6.3, 6.3, 5.8 D scores, China 5.8, 5.8, 6.0. Russia 5.8, 5.8, 6.3, Japan 6.2, 6.2, 5.8, and GB 5.8, 5.8, 5.8. I did wonder whether we would see higher value vaults from both Amy and Ellie, not yet as it turned out, but I am confident we will by the time they hit the first big competitions of next year.
On bars we are quite competitive D score wise, but will be looking to improve on E score to bring in the big totals, the Russian team had a 1.2 E score advantage on the British team, so it’s an area where gains could be made . Beam we will again look to raise D score a little, but consistency and execution are the most important factor. We are competitive on floor, so will look to continue the progress made here.
Well done to gymnasts and coaches, they looked great out there, the highest finish for eighty eight years, and not even at peak performance. British women’s gymnastics has made huge strides over this quad, and I am sure we will continue to build towards Tokyo.