The Rio Olympics are only one year away and the pressure is on for the Brazilian team, which is expected to write some history in their own country. We all watched their home crowd giving thunderous applause to the Brazilian athletes at the Sao Paulo world cup and we are all excited to see this happening again next year. This team has always been a sentimental favorite of mine, and words can’t describe how emotional and excited I get when I image them competing at Rio. Just imagine the entire arena exploding after Rebeca Andrade sticks her amanar, and the entire crowd on their feet, clapping along while Flavia is out there working her magic on floor, or Daniele Hypolito getting a standing ovation from after finishing her last routine of her fifth Olympic Games in her home country. For team Brazil, those Olympics could be full of incredible moments that will bring tears to our eyes and give us chills. But this will only happen, if they actually manage to qualify a full team to Rio. In order to do that, they will need to show their absolute best at the world championships of Glasgow next week. Last year, the Brazilian team finished in a very respectable 16th place, which would be enough for them to make it to the test event. This time, they are have a much stronger and more well prepared group of athletes so they have every reason to hope to do even better. The country will be represented by: 4 times Olympian and world medalist Daniele Hypolito, Olympian and world medalist Jade Barbosa, Youth Olympic Games and world cup champion Flavia Saraiva, World team member and Pan-American Games medalist Leticia Costa and world cup medalists Lorrane Dos Santos Oliveira and Thauany Araujo. Notably absent from the team are junior super star Rebeca Andrade and Pan-American medalist Julie Sinmon, both of whom unfortunately torn their ACLs. Andrade’s injury is simply devastating. She is an incredible talent, capable of one of and original 1.5 twisting double tuck on floor and one of the best amanars the world has ever seen on vault. She’s powerful, she’s clean, she’s flexible, she’s charismatic and Brazil’s scoring potential would be significantly higher if she was part of the team. Julie is not as spectacular, but she’s a solid gymnast, with strong routines on beam and floor. She had also been working hard to improve on the uneven bars and she would definitely have things to offer to the team. Hopefully, they will both have a speedy recovery and be ready to fight for a spot in the Olympic team next year.
The leader of the team, is the legendary Daniele Hypolito, who is one of the oldest gymnasts heading to Glasgow. During her incredibly long career, Daniele has written history for her team over and over again. She became their first gymnast to ever win a world medal back in 2001, she participated in four Olympic Games, she won 12 national All Around titles, she represented her country at plenty world championships and she won more Pan-american and South American medals than one could possibly count. And yet, after almost 20 years in elite gymnastics, she continues to be among her country’s top athletes. During 2015, she competed in multiple international competitions, like the Doha World Cup, the FIT challenge and the South American championships. She was one of Brazil’s most impressive gymnasts at the Pan-american Games, where she did an excellent job during the team and the All Around finals and qualified into vault and floor finals. More recently, she won a silver medal on balance beam at a friendly meet against Switzerland and Germany. After London, people said that Daniele should retire, that she was just past her prime, that she was too old to be competing and that she would have no chance to go to Rio over the younger athletes of the team. And yet, here she is, at the age of 31, being in a much better shape than she has been in a long time. She is one of Brazil’s most valuable athletes and she can help the team on every single event, while she also has the potential to qualify into the All Around and maybe, just maybe, the balance beam finals.
An other veteran travelling to Glasgow for the Brazilian team, is world medalist Jade Barbosa, who is now 24 years old. During her career, she has earned an impressive number of major international medals, including the 2007 worlds All Around bronze medal, the 2010 worlds vault bronze medal and the 2007 Pan-American gold vault medal. Jade missed the chance to compete at her second Olympic Games in London over some sponsorship issues and she has struggled with plenty of injuries during the quad, but now she is back and she looks absolutely great. She returned to competition at the South American championships, where she won a gold medal on the uneven bars, and then she competed at the Osijek World cup, earning the beam title. After that, she participated in the friendly meet in Germany and won bronze medals on bars and beam while also tying for fifth in the All Around. Jade is still coming back from her injuries and she will probably not be ready to challenge for a spot in the finals on her favorite event, the vault, but she is extremely valuable to the Brazilian team.
The two legends of Brazilian gymnastics will be joined by the talented Leticia Costa, who has had a very busy 2015. She started her year the Houston National Invitational, where she placed first in the All Around and on floor exercise while also grabbing a silver medal on vault and a bronze on bars. After that, she qualified into the vault finals of the Sao Paulo World cup, where she placed fourth by only 0.01 and she posted strong scores on vault and floor at the FIT challenge. She earned silver medals in the All Around and the floor exercise at the South American championships, but she unfortunately had a rough competition at the Pan-american games. At the recent friendly meet, she competed on vault, helping her team win a gold medal. Leticia is a fairly inconsistent gymnast, but if she manages to control her nerves she is actually a strong All Arounder. Her best events are obviously vault and floor, but she is also incredible on balance beam and hopefully, she will have her time to shine at Glasgow
One of my favorite Brazilian athletes right now is Lorrane Oliveira. I think this girl is a diamond in the rough. She is incredibly talented and unbelievably promising, but she still needs to work on polishing her routines and getting consistent. Hopefully, Alexandrov’s influence will help her reach her full potential. During 2015, she earned a bronze medal on balance beam at the Houston Invitational and a silver medal on the same event at the Ljubljana world Cup. She represented her country at the Sao Paulo World Cup and the Pan-American Games, but unfortunately, she had a rough competition both times. Thankfully, she looked much better at the friendly meet, where she placed first on vault and third on the uneven bars, while also tying for fifth in the All Around.
The two remaining members of the team are first year seniors, each of whom had a completely different junior career. The most well known of them is obviously Flavia Saraiva, who won the hearts of millions of fans from all over the world with her smile and artistry at the Youth Olympic Games. She started her senior career at the Sao Paulo World Cup, where she had the full support of her home crowd and earned a silver and a gold medal on beam and floor. Then, she became the All Around champion of the FIT challenge and she competed at the Pan-American Games, where she helped her country win a bronze medal and placed third in the All Around. She also won the All Around title at the friendly meet in Germany, where she also won the gold medal on beam and the silver on floor exercise. Her year hasn’t been perfect, and she has had falls, mistakes and disappointments, just like every other athlete in the world, but overall, she has done a brilliant job and she is one of the most loved gymnasts heading to Glasgow. She has the potential to qualify into the All Around and the balance beam finals, while she also in an underdog for the floor finals and I wholeheartedly wish she has a great competition at Glasgow.
The other first year senior of the Brazilian team, Thauany Araujo, has quite a different story than her teammate. She was basically unknown as a junior, she never got to compete in any major international competitions, she never achieved any spectacular results and she never was someone whom was considered a potential future star. In fact, nobody even knew her name until this year, but this didn’t prevent her from qualifying into two finals and winning a silver medal at the Osijek world up and to post solid scores at the friendly meet. She is a solid gymnast, with good potential on vault, bars and beam and she is definitely one to watch for the future.
At the beginning of the year, I was beyond excited for Brazil’s vault line up. They had Andrade’s fabulous amanar, Jade Barbosa was coming back and most of the team was training yurchenko double fulls. Rebeca’s absence, definitely costs the team several valuable tenths but that doesn’t mean they are not very strong on this event. Leticia Costa and Lorrane Olieveira are both capable of powerful and clean double twisting yurchenkos. Leticia only performed a full at the recent competition in Germany, but hopefully, she was just saving herself for worlds. World medalist Jade Barbosa, has shown both an amanar and a Cheng in the past. She is just coming back from injuries, so we can’t expect her to have any of those skills back, but I think a double twisting yurchenko would be realistic for her. She only vaulter a FTY at the recent competition, but she’s been training the double and I hope to see her adding this extra half twist at Glasgow.
Pan-american Games finalist Daniele Hypolito is capable of a beautiful yurchenko with 1.5 twist while Flavia Saraiva, who has also trained double fulls in the past, seems to be sticking with her near perfect FTY. First year senior Thauany Araujo performs one of the most explosive full twisting yurchenkos I have ever seen and I definitely hope she upgrades in the future. This means that Brazil could potentially have three DTYs in their line up and that would give them a significant advantage over teams like Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands and Australia. As we all know, vault is the highest scoring event, so having three 5.8 vaults makes it easy for them to have three scores in the high 14s. Both Leticia and Daniele perform two vaults and are therefore eligible for the event finals. It is not going to be easy for them to make it in such a deep field though.
Unfortunately, Brazil’s uneven bars line up is not nearly as strong as their vault. However, I have to say that things are not nearly as bad as I thought for them on this event. They definitely have a long way to go and they desperately need to upgrade their difficulty and improve their execution but they have quite a few routines that could score in the high 13s, so they will still be in the mix after this rotation. Daniele Hypolito performs a clear hip full + tkatcev combination, a full pirouette in L grip and a double layout dismount while Leticia Costa is capable of a maloney + bail combination, a messy gienger, a jaeger and a double front dismount. Flavia Saraiva is actually promising on this event since she has solid basics and lovely swing. For the time being, her routine, which includes a tkatcev + pak, piked tkatcev and a full in dismount, doesn’t have a high start value, but I hope she can improve in the future. New senior Thauany Araujo came out of nowhere to win a world cup medal on this event. Some of her most notable skills are her maloney + pak combination, her jaeger, her tkatcev and her double front dismount. Jade Barbosa really impressed me with the routine she showed at the recent friendly meet. She started with a chow + pak and a maloney + bail combination, she connected a toe on full into a tkatcev and dismounted with a double layout dismount. Her swing is a little labored but she showed clean form and if she hits this routine perfectly, she could score above 14. Lorrane Oliveira is also promising here. She is capable of a maloney + pak combination, a van leeuwen, a beautiful piked jaeger and a forward full pirouette into a double front dismount.
Bazil’s strongest event is definitely the balance beam. If they do what they’re capable of here, they can score just as high as the Italian, the Dutch, the Japanese or the British athletes, while also having an advantage over Germany and Canada. The star here is no other than the lovely Flavia Saraiva, who is a World Cup champion and a Pan-American finalist on this event. She starts her routine with a gorgeous back handspring into two layout step outs, showing fabulous extension and she continues with a round of into a high layout and two front aerials into a side somi. Her switch ring and her sheep jump are beautifully executed and her double pike is as high as it could possibly be. She made major mistakes on this event during the Pan-American championships, but she was very solid at the recent friendly meet so hopefully, she will hit her routine during qualifications. If she does, she definitely has a brilliant chance to make it to event finals. Her older teammate, Daniele Hypolito is capable of a unique switch ring + ring leap combination, a side aerial + split jump + side some and two back handsprings into a double pike dismount while Lorrane Oliveira performs a front tuck mount, a sheep jump and a double tuck in combination.
Jade Barbosa, who has always been very strong on this event, recently won a gold medal at the Osijek world cup after a stunning routine. She mounted the beam with a spectacular layout step out, she maintained a beautiful straight body position during her layout salto and she got excellent height during her front tuck and her double pike dismount. Thauany was also competing at that same final, but a fall prevented her from challenging from a medal. If she hits though, she can definitely post a solid score. Her flight series is a back handspring into two lay out step outs, her front tuck is very powerful, her switch half is probably the highest leap being done in the world and her double pike dismount is very solid. Leticia Costa also has an incredible level of difficulty, since she performs a high standing arabian and a fantastic patterson dismount.
On floor, Flavia Saraiva is once again the super star of the Brazilian team. This girl is a ray of sunshine that lights up the entire world every time she competes. She’s simply delightful. She dances beautifully, she smiles throughout her entire performance, she shows incredible flexibility during her leaps, she has tons of grace and elegance and she can also tumble. Her 1.5 + double front twist is incredibly clean, her tucked full in is high and her double pike and double tuck seem easy for her. In the past she has shown a triple twist and two whips into 2.5 twists but it looks like she’s not planning to perform those elements at Glasgow. Daniele also starts her routine with an 1.5 + double full combination, and she has actually been working on adding a front tuck out of it too. She
performs 2.5 twists into a layout, a memmel and a double L turn. Leticia is an incredible tumbler, capable of a high double layout, a powerful full in, a double pike and a spectacular double arabian dismount. Lorrane performs 2.5 twists into a front full, a sky high full in, a double arabian and a whip into a double tuck. In the past, she has attempted a whip + double arabian + front tuck combination, but she never managed to put it into her feet during competition so hopefully, she will be more consistent with her new routine. We haven’t seen Jade on floor in a while, but she posted a respectable 13.5 on this event at the friendly meet, and in the past, she has shown difficult tumbling passes like a double layout, a piked full in and a Dos Santos
In conclusion, the Brazilian team has the difficulty and the potential to fight against the very best teams in the world. They are obviously not in the level of USA, Russia and China, who will obviously qualify into team finals as long as they actually compete in qualifications. They are also not in a position similar to Japan’s or Great Britain’s, who could even afford a few falls or mistakes during the first day of the competition and still finish in the top 8. However, if they hit, they have what it takes to compete against Italy, Canada, the Netherlands and maybe even Germany for one of those last spots that directly qualify a team into the Olympic Games. They don’t lack difficulty, they lack the ability to perform under pressure. Some of their athletes are extremely inconsistent, while others are just coming back from injury or have very little international experience. If they manage to control their nerves and actually hit their routines then nothing is impossible. The last time Brazil qualified a full team into the Olympics is by far one of my favorite moments of last quad and I certainly hope it will happen again.
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