Rio 2016: AA final

 

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The result was never really in doubt, Simone Biles, three time world AA champion now adds the Olympic title by over two whole points, and you know what? It wasn’t even her absolute best day. What can you say about Simone? We have never seen her like before, and I hope she decides to continue through the entire next quad to cement her status as simply the best there has ever been. There are others who have remained at the top through more than one quad, but none have taken every title there is to take in a single quad as Simone has.

We have seen Simone take three world titles from 2013-2015, each time the huge beaming smile lighting up whichever competition arena she is in, but today was the first time I have seen tears from her. For all of us for whom it seemed inevitable, perhaps we forget that even when you seemingly cannot fail, the Olympic title is so much more special, and it meant everything to this phenomenal young lady. Simone clearly holds herself to incredibly high standards, she looked a little deflated after vault where you know she so desperately wanted to stick that sky high Amanar, and bars where she missed a connection. After beam the smile was back, and after floor with the title secured she was beaming. Congratulations Simone, unbeaten, unbeatable across an entire quad.

Congratulations too go to Aly Raisman, tie breaked out of an AA bronze in London, she came back for redemption, and she got it plus a jump up to silver. I haven’t always been the biggest fan of Aly’s gymnastics, as she is a D score over E score gymnast every time, and the attention to basic form and extension hasn’t been there. Absolute credit to her though in her comeback for Rio, no she hasn’t ironed out all the form faults by any means, but for me she has looked better that she ever has, stronger than she ever has, and more consistent than she ever has. Her tears at the end of her floor routine again showing exactly what this AA medal meant to her.

Aliya Mustafina took the bronze, the only repeat AA medalist from London, and still such a beautiful classical gymnast to watch when she’s working at her best. Having driven her team to the silver medal, she came out fighting again last night. For those that saw Aliya earlier in the year, her results are remarkable, for those that have followed her over the last few years, she has done what she does time and time again, seemingly risen from the ashes once more when her country called. She wasn’t at her best, a missed skill on bars costing her 0.2 in D score, and her Achilles heel of again missing her acro series on beam costing her 0.5. She did enough though, and even without the errors it wouldn’t have been enough for silver such was the strength of Simone and Aly.

Other notable performances, Shang Chunsong from China who could on a different day would have been awarded bronze, and was sadly in tears at the end of the competition. Elsabeth Black of Canada who had an amazing competition, and was ecstatic to finish 5th, and Eythora Thorsdottir who was beautiful and elegant as always, finishing ninth.

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So lets talk about Ellie, this is a British blog after all.

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Firstly, Ellie was in this final after coming back out to vault having landed on her neck on floor in qualifications to help her team, and ensure her place in the AA. She hadn’t vaulted at all on podium up to that point as she’d jarred her back in podium training, she’d also had to miss training because of it. Her back clearly wasn’t 100% either, as she took the change ring out of her floor on each performance. Steely, tough, determined, exactly what you want in an elite gymnast.

I’m not a great one for what if’s, because if you what if one gymnast, you have to what if them all, this time however I’m going to make an exception. Taking major errors only, not errors like landings with hops, 0.1-0.2 missed connections etc, just falls and major breaks, and taking them from all gymnasts to make it fair, Ellie would have finished 4th. Two large errors on bars, and a fall on her beam dismount added up to 2 falls, take them out, and it’s enough to put her just behind Mustafina if you also give Mustafina her missed acro series.

This is how good Ellie is, and this is why all anyone could talk about, not just British fans, but gymnastics fans from all over the world, was not the disappointment of her not hitting today, but the enormous potential for the next quad Ellie has. This has also been without hugely upgrading from last year, which I do believe we will see her do next year, particularly on vault and floor. Through the 2017-2020 quad, don’t be surprised at all to see Ellie go from world level to world medalist.

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Ellie started on floor, she added the stag jump to the one and a half to double Arabian today for 0.1 bonus, the big piked double Arabian with a step for her second tumble. Lovely change leap, (as I say the change to ring is missing, but only 0.1 difference) through to change full. Safely, and completely controlled through the two and a half to punch front, good in the split leap full, then finishing with the double pike which today she was a little short on, chest down a little on landing, and a hop forward. 5.9 D score from a possible 6.0, the leap from the double Arabian looked fine, so I think they gave her a change half rather than change full. 14.300.

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Vault next, another great double twisting Yurchenko from Ellie. Initially when the 15.10 flashed up, I rolled my eyes, and thought she’s been hard done by again, but perhaps not so much today. Ellie was not quite as strong coming on to the vault, she had a small arm bend coming off, didn’t get as much height, wasn’t completely upright on landing, and although stuck, she was a little pitched forward. Don’t get me wrong, still such an impressive vault, but maybe 15.100 was fair, not too bad for this, 15.20 and I’d have been completely happy.

What the judges are saying though is that the vault she did in team final where she was ย straight coming on, arms were straight, she got more height, was more upright on landing, and stuck it cold was only worth 0.033 more. I pretty much feel like this about it

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Anyway……..on to bars.

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Good start for Ellie here, forward toe circle to handstand half, straight to the Maloney to high bar, then into the Tkatchev. Toe full, big piked Tkatchev, then into the Pak which came in close, causing her to circle the bar, then drop underneath the low bar. Ellie was not going to touch the floor, she pretty much upstarted from a dead hang. She went through the Van Leeuwen back to high bar without issue, then it looked at though she just didn’t quite lift through enough with her feet on the dismount before letting go, causing her to land low, take a huge pace forward, then another pace. That was of course not what she hoped for, but I was very impressed without how she refused to come off, then refused to fall at the end. 13.783, what could have been.

 

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Finishing on beam, and on the beam, this was a great routine. Solid through the high punch front to W jump, perhaps a concentration pause deduction before the Arabian, but safely through today, just a small adjustment, and back under control. Strong and clean through the change to change half leaps, with good range and extension, then absolutely in control of the double spin. Flick layout, and she landed off line with her hips turned, but dealt with it so well, without a wobble. Ellie missed the 0.1 connection between the sissone and the free cartwheel, but no problem on either skill.
In podium training we saw the double Arabian Patterson dismount from Ellie, but not after that. She was unable to train it after jarring her back, so very impressive for her to put it in here. It didn’t come off, but you can see she has this skill. It looked like she just didn’t quite come out in time, she rotated well and had it round, just didn’t come out. A fall counted, and 13.700, she was on for a great score there.

So it was 13th in the end for Ellie, sister Becky holds on for another quad to the highest British finish at an Olympic Games. Don’t put it past Ellie to be the one to take it from her in another four years though, this girl can set new standards for AA British gymnastics.

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