The preliminary rounds of competition are over, and as expected, there was plenty of drama! Right off the bat, all eyes were on Kohei Uchimura (JPN), who definitely had an off day falling on high bar and pommel horse. I have confidence that he can pull himself together for Team Finals and the All Around. He is a star who knows how to handle the pressure, and despite the errors, there were flashes of his usual brilliance. Unfortunately, some of his teammates seemed to struggle as well, but they ended on a good note with several fantastic parallel bar routines. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out in Team Finals.
The Tanaka parents must be so proud! Kazuhito, Rie and Yusuke represent 30% of the Japanese gymnasts on the floor in London, and Yusuke and Kazuhito will be battling it out for the gold medal on parallel bars (the qualified in first and second place)! Rie is one to watch as well, having won the Longines Prize for Elegance at the 2010 World Championships. I really enjoyed her Pink Panther floor routine in prelims!
It’s always exciting when the TV broadcast pans to lesser known gymnasts. Shek Wai Hung (HKG), a vault finalist at last year’s Worlds, sat down his double front and I felt so sad seeing the disappointment on his face. 2011 World bronze medalist Phan Thi Ha (VIE) ended up 12th on vault after a fall and a stumble. Some of the worst moments of preliminaries were when Sherine el-Zeiny (EGY) hurt her leg during a double tuck on floor and had to be carried away by her coach and when Yao Jinnan (CHN) collapsed in pain after aggravating a leg injury on vault. Other heartbreaking moments include learning of the disqualification of Luiza Galiulina (UZB) who tested positive for furosemide (I’m sure Daria Elizarova would have loved to represent Uzbekistan in London!), the exclusion of Jordyn Wieber (USA) from the All Around final, and Kieran Behan (IRE) not competing to the best of his ability:
I’ve got to hand it to the Romanian women. Just last year it appeared their team was fizzling away having won no medals at the Worlds for the first time in 3 decades. Then Ana Porgras retired unexpectedly in January and it seemed as though they might not be able to field adequate lineups for the Olympics. I am so impressed with the improvements they have made in a short amount of time, and with the fact that their team includes the past two Olympic Floor Champions: Catalina Ponor in 2004 and Sandra Izbasa in 2008. Despite having several uncharacteristic errors in prelims, they showed they are back and will once again be in the medal hunt come Team Finals.
Oksana Chusovitina (GER) and Jordan Jovtchev (BUL) should receive some sort of special medal for longevity! At ages 37 and 39, they are both competing in their SIXTH Olympic Games! And not just participating, but competing in the vault and rings apparatus finals!
Canada just managed to squeak into Team Finals in 8th place, an accomplishment made even more impressive after losing Peng Peng Lee to injury. Brittany Rogers and Elsabeth Black also qualified to vault finals, and Dominique Pegg will compete in the All Around. Unfortunately, the top two gymnasts will not be moving on past Team Finals. Kristina Vaculik did not qualify to the All Around after falling twice on beam, and Victoria Moors just missed Floor finals despite nailing her fantastic double-double mount. This has got to be one of the best teams Canada has ever fielded, and it was sweet of the girls to wear white flowers in their hair in tribute to Honorary Captain Peng Peng.
I have very much enjoyed the television commentary by Canadian Kyle Shewfelt. He is enthusiastic, positive, knowledgeable, and is always kind toward all gymnasts while remaining realistic about their chances. It’s refreshing to hear, and he makes it even more fun to watch gymnastics!