Glasgow 2015: The fight for the team podium

The day we have all been waiting for is finally here and the four best teams in the world are ready to fight against each other for a spot on the podium. The surprise is that this time around, the fourth team is actually not Romania, like it has always been in the past fifty years but Great Britain. I am not as eager to put them into my predicted podium as many people seem to be. In my eyes, they are the underdogs, not the top contenders. However, there is no doubt that it is possible for them to end up in the top 3 if others make mistakes. After two days of qualifications, USA is unsurprisingly in the first position and despite a few mistakes, they have a significant lead over Russia, who finished second after a fantastic performance during qualifications. Great Britain managed to qualify third, beating China who unfortunately had to count several falls and mistakes. It’s important to note that three of those teams will only be using five, and not six team members for the finals. More specifically, Brenna Dowell, Chen Siyi and Kelly Simm will not compete after not being top 3 in any event during qualifications. Surprisingly, Russia was the most consistent team of the first two days of competition, having only one single fall on balance beam. The Americans had three disappointing performances, from Gabby Douglas on beam and Aly Raisman and Brenna Dowell on the uneven bars while the British had Claudia Fragapane falling off beam and the Downie sisters having major problems on bars but their struggles were nothing compared to China’s, who had several falls on three events. However, none of those mistakes matter anymore. The falls and the disappointments don’t mean anything. The hit routines and the massive scores don’t mean anything! The only thing that matters is what the athletes will do today. So, let’s take a look at what we should expect from them on each event.

Vault

Team USA

line up: Gabby Douglas, Maggie Nichols, Simone Biles

simone by jordyn
gif credit: jordynslefteyebrow

Just like it has always been for the past 5 years, USA has a significant advantage on this event, since they are the only team in the world who is capable of 3 amanars, by Maggie Nichols, Aly Raisman and Simone Biles. However, it looks like they are choosing to play it safe since Gabby Douglas is listed to compete on vault instead of Aly Raisman. After a couple of low amanar attempts in training, Gabby decided to stick with her double twisting yurchenko. This turned out to be a wise decision since, during qualifications, she scored higher than Aly Raisman, who had two big steps forward on her amanar. After that, she was chosen to start things off for team USA in team finals. She is expected to show a clean and well landed vault in order to get a high execution score, so Maggie and Simone can follow with their amanars. Maggie’s legs form in quite messy and she doesn’t have the cleanest block, but she gets sufficient height and distance, she gets the 2.5 rotations around without any problem and she doesn’t give away much deductions with her landings. Then we have Simone and… well she’s Simone. There’s nobody else in the world right now who gets quit as much height as she does and while in Glasgow, she has stuck more amanars than all the other athletes together. During qualification she posted a massive 16 on this event so we can expect massive numbers from her.

Russia

Line up: Viktoria Komova, Maria Paseka, Ksenia Afanasyeva

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gif credit: jordynslefteyebrow

The Russians aren’t quite as strong as the Americans, but they definitely have a world class line up. Viktoria Komova performed a powerful double twisting yurchenko without any major execution deductions and she received a 15 for it. Maria Paseka is capable of an amanar and a cheng. I’m not sure which vault she will choose to do during finals but I’d prefer to see her amanar, since she is more comfortable with it and it was her highest scoring vault during qualifications. After several 2.25 twists, Maria is finally able to get her vault all the way around and to land it well but she will till be deducted for her massive legs separation on her block and her legs form. Ksenia Afanasyeva has competed amanars in the past, but since she’s been struggling with a kidney infection I would be very surprised to see this vault from her, even though you can never know with Russia. She is capable of a dynamic and clean double twisting yurchenko that could get a high score for her team.

Great Britain: Claudia FragapaneAmy Tinkler, Ellie Downie

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gif credit: sparklesandchalk

Great Britain is the only medal contender without a 6+ vault but their line up is certainly not weak, since it includes three powerful double twisting yurchenkos that will score in the high 14s. There are plenty of issues with Claudia’s execution but she has received high scores in the past and this is not going to change now. Amy’s vault is quite cleaner, even though she crosses her ankles while twisting but she often lands it with big steps backwards. The best vaulter of the team is definitely Ellie Downie, who performs one of the best double twisting yurchenkos in the world. All the athletes are comfortable with their vaults and there’s a very small chance that they will make mistakes. This is the event where they’ll finish their effort and it could definitely change the standings for them.

China

line up: Wang Yan, Mao Yi, Tan Jiaxin

wang yan by violla
gif credit: violla-roadkill-gymnastics

China, who has historically struggled on vault, is also capable of a strong line up under the 3 up 3 count format, since they have 2 double twisting yurchenkos and one double twisting tskuahara or a rudi. Mao Yi added that extra half twist to her vault very recently, she fell on it at the Asian championships and she showed a couple of low vaults at the podium training, so she’s probably not 100% comfortable with it yet. However, she had absolutely no trouble with it during qualifications so hopefully she will be equally successful at team finals. Tan Jiaxin is a much more reliable vaulter who has been competing a DTY for a long time. If she minimizes landing deductions she can even break 15 on this event. Vault finalist Wang Yan is capable of a double twisting tsukahara and a rudi. Regardless of which of the two vaults she will choose to perform, she has the potential to score above 15.

This means that USA has a significant advantage over any other team. Their difficulty is higher than Russia’s and their execution is better so they should have no problem taking the lead after the first rotation. Russia is the second strongest team while Great Britain and China are pretty much equal on this apparatus. Despite having a 6+ vault on their line up, the Chinese don’t really have much better scoring potential than Great Britain. Ellie Downie can match Wang Yan’s score on vault because Ellie’s execution is better and then, Claudia’s and Amy’s DTYs are very likely to score higher than Mao’s.

Uneven bars

USA

line up: Maggie Nichols, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian

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gif credit: mustafinesse

A rotation of Douglas, Kocian and Dowell would be one of the strongest bars line ups USA has ever had. However, after multiple mistakes during qualifications, Brenna will not be competing during the team finals. In 2010, Marta trusted Mattie Larson, who had fallen on floor during the first day of competition, to compete in team finals and she ended up having several mistakes so I was sure that she wouldn’t take a risk like that again. This is certainly unfortunate, since Dowell is spectacular on this event but it was definitely not surprising. What is surprising however is that the athlete who will replace her on bars is not world finalist Simone Biles but Maggie Nichols. Maggie did not compete on this event during qualifications and in fact, she has never shown her current routine to the international judges but it looks like Marta trusts her after how well she competed on Saturday. She is not the absolute best on this apparatus but she is world class, since she’s capable of a toe on full + maloney + pak + van leeuwen combination and a full twisting double layout dismount. Her start value is not massive so I expect her to score around 14.5 with a hit routine. Gabby Douglas qualified into the uneven bars finals with an impressive 14.750 even though she did not connect her piked tkatcev to her pak. This means that if she hits her routine perfectly, she also has the potential to score around 15. Madison Kocian, who is USA’s bars specialist for the second year in a row, has a beautiful routine which includes an inbar full + komova + pak + chow 1/2 combination. During the first day of the competition, she posted an impressive 15.233 without connecting her inbar full to her Komova 2. She has clean execution and she’s been very consistent so she should have no trouble breaking 15 once again.

Russia

line up: Maria Paseka, Daria Spiridonova, Viktoria Komova

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gif credit: mustafinesse

The uneven bars are Russia’s strongest apparatus. This is where they can really make up with any weakness they have by posting three scores in the 15s. Maria Paseka’s progress on this event has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. Her execution is still not perfect, but her entire routine is comprised by a spectacular combination of 6 high level elements and a double front dismount. During qualifications she posted an impressive 14.8 without connecting her pak to her van leeuwen so she is capable of breaking 15 if she hits all her combinations and sticks her dismount. World champion and Olympic finalist Viktoria Komova posted the second highest score of qualifications without showing her top difficulty or her best possible execution. It’s hard not to admit that she was a bit over scored, but she’s definitely stunning on this event. The way she swings is simply special, it looks like she’s creating music with her movements and the amplitude on her flight elements is ridiculous. The judges seem to love her as much as we do, so she can receive a massive score if she does her best. Daria Spiridonova, who made it into the bars finals in first place, is very consistent with her inbar full + komova + pak + van leeuwen combination and she flies high during her piked jaeger. If Komova and Spiridonova hit their routines to the best of their abilities, they are capable of scoring well above 15.

Great Britain:

line up: Ruby Harrold, Ellie Downie, Becky Downie

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gif credit: violla-roadkill-gymnastics

Great Britain is also incredibly strong on this event that has brought them tons of success during the past years. They had a disastrous rotation during qualifications, with both Becky and Ellie Downie having falls and major mistakes, but if they hit, they have fantastic scoring potential. Ellie has improved tremendously on this event and she has some fantastic combinations like a piked tkatev + pak and a maloney + tkatcev while Becky has already proven that she is one of the best in the world on this event. At qualifications, she tried to perform an upgraded routine that she has never hit in competition in the past and in my opinion this was an unnecessary risk. After her fall, I would expectbeck spark her to perform the easiest set we saw at the European championships since this can score extremely well and she is more consistent with it. Ruby Harrold surprised us all during the first day of the competition, when she managed to qualify into the All Around and the uneven bars finals. She has regained all her difficulty after her injury and she still has one of the most unusual routine in the world since she performs combinations that nobody else can do. Unlike Russia, Great Britain doesn’t really have a good chance to post three numbers in the 15s, but they certainly have the potential to gain some ground on this event.

China: Shang Chunsong  Fan Yilin Tan Jiaxin

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gif credit: elisaminimeneghini

Before the competition started, I expected China to post the highest total on the uneven bars but this never happened since three of their gymnasts had major mistakes during qualifications. However, they are very strong in a three up three count format. Tan Jiaxin had a disappointing fall during qualifications but she has a spectacular routine, which includes a hindorff + pak, a maloney + gienger and a ray dismount so if she hits she can certainly post a massive score. Shang Chunsong managed to grab a spot in the event finals despite some mistakes during qualifications. She did not have a fall but she did not hit all her combinations and she was a bit messier than usual so she can definitely improve her 14.666 score for several tenths. Fan Yilin, who qualified fourth into the event finals can also improve her qualifications score, which was a bit low compared to others. The multiple falls was not the only reason why the Chinese received low scores during their first day of competitions. They were also not quite as crisp as they usually are. Some of their pirouettes were late, some of their handstands were short and their giengers were way too close to the bars so I’m hoping to see them fixing all those details and delivering high scores.

None of those countries is weak on bars. I think China and Russia have a slightly higher scoring potential than USA on this event but this is not something that could make up for USA’s strength on vault. Great Britain is just a bit behind the “big 3” since Ruby and Ellie are very unlikely to score higher than a 14.8.

Balance beam

USA: Maggie Nichols, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles

mustafinesse maggie beam
gif credit: mustafinesse

After Gabby Douglas’ fall during qualifications, Maggie Nichols was chosen to compete first on this event. In the past, she has shown a grigoras and a full in dismount but it seems like she’s playing it safe for Glasgow. Her scoring potential is not as high as Gabby’s but she has proven herself as the more reliable athlete. Olympic bronze medalist Aly Raisman was a bit shaky during qualifications but we all know that she’s fabulous when she hits. Sure, she doesn’t always point her toes, she has some legs separations and her switch half is not really well executed. But she is also incredibly solid and she has a great level of difficulty so a high score is within her reach. The judges were quite harsh on her on Suturday though, so I don’t really expect to see her scoring close to a 15 on this event. Simone Biles, who is the reigning world champion and the highest qualifier on this event, really delivered during qualifications, hitting her grigoras, her back handspring + layout step out + lay out step out series and her full in dismount for an impressive 14.9666. She is her country’s top beam worker and in the past she has scored above 15 multiple times.

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credit for both gifs: mustafinesse

Russia

line up: Seda Tutkhalyan, Maria Kharenkova, Viktoria Komova

This beam line up is going to be the end of me! It is obviously not surprising but that doesn’t make me feel any calmer. We have three fantastic beam workers all of whom happen to be terribly inconsistent. They actually have the potential to post three scores around 15 but they also have the potential to post three scores around 12. If Ksenia Afanasyeva was healthy, they would consider using her, despite her lower difficulty because she’s much more likely to hit but now, she’s been having health issues so they’ll have to go with a line up that looks like a ticking bomb. Maria Kharenkova is probably the most reliable of them but she’s not exactly a rock. She received a surprisingly low score after a solid routine during qualifications and she did not manage to qualify into finals due to the two per country rule. Now, she has the chance to help her team and to prove that she is in fact one of the world’s best on this event. She missed some combinations during her first day of competition so hopefully her score can improve. Unlike Masha, Viktoria Komova got a high execution scores despite having several wobbles. I do agree that she mustafineseewas slightly over-scored on this event but in my opinion her score wasn’t ridiculous since she has gorgeous technique and gives nothing away when it comes to form and flexibility. Her standing arabian was gorgeous, her sheep jump was stunning, her Y turn was beautiful and her double tuck dismount was stuck. She has competed in worlds and Olympic team finals on this event and she has made major mistakes both times. Hopefully, this routine will actually work out for her. Seda Tutkhalyan has a quite different style than her teammate. She doesn’t have the elegance and the clean execution we can expect from Vika and Masha, but she does have a round of into a layout full, a round of into layout, a front aerial into a sheep jump, a switch ring and a high double pike dismount. She also has the ability to fall over and over again. During qualifications, she was pretty shaky and still managed to score a 14.5. That means that if she hits she will score well, but this is certainly a big if.

Great Britain:

line up: Claudia Fragapane, Ellie Downie, Becky Downie

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gif credit: sparklesandchalk

Great Britain also has a rather risky beam line up, even though they are not quite as inconsistent as the Russian athletes. Becky Downie has been a rock for her team on this event. She has had a couple of meltdowns during the last couple of years but none of them happened during a team competition. She is capable of a beautiful side aerial + loso, a powerful front tuck, a switch ring and a double pike dismount. She was the only British athlete to really nail her routine during qualifications and she was rewarded for that with a 14.1. Her younger sister Ellie, has the potential to become the beam worker that Great Britain always desperately needed. She is capable of fantastic skills and combinations, like a standing arabian, a front tuck and a switch leap + switch half and she is more consistent than more of her teammates. She was quite shaky during qualifications but she can hope for a score well above 14 if she hits a solid routine. Claudia Fragapane is a rather surprising choice to me. She is obviously a strong beam worker, capable of difficult skills like a standing full and a back handspring + layout, but she is coming back from an injury and she had a fall during qualifications, so I expected them to use Amy Tinkler instead. However, it’s true that Claudia probably has the highest scoring potential if she hits and Great Britain need every tenth they can get in order to challenge for that podium.

China

line up: Fan Yilin, Wang Yan, Shang Chunsong

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gif credit: i-dont-understand-gymnastics

Through the years, China has produced way too many great beam workers to count, and they continue to do so. After having several falls during qualifications, they will only have one event finalist, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t have three amazing routines for their line up. This event finalist is the lovely Wang Yan, who executes her grigoras and her layout as well as one possibly could. On Suturday, she received a 14.5 for a very shaky routine so she is definitely capable of breaking 15 if she is a bit more solid. The same is true for Fan Yilin and Shang Chunsong. They both got low scores after falling, but they are fabulous when they hit. Shang’s most notable elements are her back handspring into two layout step outs, her two back handsprings into a layout and her triple twist dismount while Fan performs a gorgeous back handspring + layout, a switch ring and a switch leap into a side aerial before dismounting with 2.5 twists. I think that China has the best chance to post three scores above 15 on this event and I really hope they can get over their nerves in order to do that.

For me, China is the strongest country on this event. They have a fantastic level of difficulty and if they hit, their execution is a little bit better than anyone else’s. USA’s scoring potential is a tiny bit lower since they are using Nichols instead of Douglas, so I would say that Russia could outscore them on this event while Great Britain is a few tenths behind the “big 3”. They are much improved on this apparatus, but even if they’re perfect, they can’t hope for much more than three scores in the low – middle 14s with their current start values. However, balance beam has never been about potential! Having the straightest layout. the highest front tuck or the prettiest switch ring doesn’t mean much unless you can actually stay on the apparatus and China is having a hard time with that. Russia impressed us all during qualifications, but one successful rotation does not change the fact that they are a very inconsistent team and Great Britain has dealt with major issues on this event in the past. USA is by far the most consistent team on this event, despite the errors they had during qualifications but it’s beam, nobody is guaranteed to hit.

Floor exercise:

USA: Maggie Nichols, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles

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gif credit: mustafinesse

Maggie Nichols surprises us all when she qualified into the floor finals over the reigning Olympic champion. I thought that her score was a bit generous but there’s no doubt that she did a fabulous job. With her silivas, her tucked and her piked full in she has an impressive level of difficulty and she knows how to shell a routine to the crowd so the team can expect high scores from her. Aly Raisman had a rather mediocre routine during her first day of competition, stepping out of bounds on her opening tumbling pass and loosing control on the jump out of her double layout. If she actually managed to control all her landings she can definitely score well above 15 on this event. Then, Simone Biles is the absolute best floor worker in the world and she has two world titles that prove that. Her chusovitina, silivas, Biles and full in are all incredibly high and clean, her choreography is better than ever, her dance elements are all difficult and solid and she is incredibly consistent. During qualifications, she posted a massive 15.950 on this event and she’s capable of doing this again. USA doesn’t just have the best floor line up in the world right now. Their team includes both the reigning Olympic and the reigning world champion on this event and they have one of the best lines up the world has ever seen, at least in terms of tumbling. This is one of the main reasons why they will be very hard to beat.

Russia

line up: Maria Paseka, Seda Tutkhalyan, Ksenia Afanasyeva

afan turn sparkles
gif credit: sparklesandchalk

Floor is an event where Russia struggles. Thankfully, the 2011 world champion Ksenia Afanasyeva managed to compete despite struggling with a kidney infection and she delivered a much needed 14.6 during qualifications. She earned this score with two big steps on her double layout and her triple twist so if she actually sticks those landings she has the potential to break 15. Unfortunately, this is not the case for her teammates. Seda Tutkhalyan is very promising on this apparatus, where she performs a double layout and 2.5 twists into a layout. I’m hoping to see her doing great things in the future, but for the time being her start value is relatively low and she gives away lots of deduction with her uncontrolled landings and her execution flaws. If she actually gets credit for all her turns, manages to stay in bounds and controls her landings, I could see her scoring in the middle 14s but that has never happened so far. Maria Paseka, who recently came back on floor after struggling with injuries has an easy but solid routine. Her tumbling passes are a 2.5 + front full, a 1.5 + rudi and a double tuck. They are not particularly difficult but she is capable of sticking them and she has some beautiful low to the floor choreography on this event. I’m expecting her to score in the high 13s for a hit routine.

Great Britain

line up: Amy Tinkler, Ellie Downie, Claudia Fragapane

cantcountthose ellie
gif credit: icannotcountthosetwists

Last year, floor was Great Britain’s weakest event. Now, they are the second strongest team in the world on this apparatus and their floor rotation was one of the highlight of qualifications. Amy Tinkler’s routine combines powerful tumbling passes, like a silivas and a double layout, with fun expressive choreography while two times world floor finalist Claudia Fragapane is absolutely spectacular. She has some of the hardest tumbling being done in the world, since she performs a full twisting double layout, a double arabian, a triple twist and a double. Her form is certainly not perfect but it has improved a lot during the year and she gets insane height during her tumbling passes. Floor finalist Ellie Downie is also very exciting to watch. Her opening 1.5 + double arabian + stag during qualifications was a piece of art and her Dos Santos is incredibly clean and powerful. During qualifications, Amy received a 14.2, Ellie got a 14.4 and Claudia scored an impressive 14.6 with hit routines so those are the numbers we can expect from them here.

China

line up: Wang Yan, Mao Yi, Shang Chunsong

shang mustafinesse
gif credit: mustafinesse

China is a big question mark on this event. They surprisingly have some of the most exciting and difficult tumbling being done in the world but they are not capable of hitting it consistently. Wang Yan is probably the most reliable floor worker in the team. She performs a silivas, a spectacular 1.5 + triple twist + front tuck combination and an incredibly clean 2.5 + barani before dismounting with a double pike. Her low landings cost her a few tenths in execution but she shows great potential on this event. Shang Chunsong, who performs 3.5 twists into a front pike and a 1.5 + triple full + front tuck combination, had one of the best floor routines of her career during qualifications and she finally managed to get a respectable score in the middle 14s. However, she has had some scary falls during the year and her twisting passes are often underrotated so we can only hope he will repeat her successful qualifications performance. Mao Yi’s 3.5 + front tuck is much more secure than Shang’s and her triple twist is freaking gorgeous but she had a fall during qualifications. She is a rather inexperienced gymnast who has added lots of upgrades in a small amount of time so this mistake wasn’t really surprising but hopefully, she will manage to handle her nerves better during the team finals. If all of the Chinese athletes hit perfect routines on this event and the best they can hope for, is three scores in the middle 14s.

There’s no doubt that USA is the strongest team here. They have tons of difficulty, but unlike China, they can actually handle it. Great Britain is probably second, quite a few points behind USA while Russia, who is competing without some of their top floor workers in Glasgow, will just be trying to have three scores above 14 on this event. China has the potential to score well, but I’ll be happy if they just get through this rotation without any scary falls.

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gif credit: sparklesandchalk

Coming into Glasgow, we all knew which country has the best team in the world, and the results so far have only confirmed that USA is the absolute top contender for the gold medal. Of course, this does not mean that anything is guaranteed. We are watching a world championships where 4 Olympic champions have not qualified into their respective event finals. Nothing is guaranteed. However, USA would need to have quite a few major mistakes, and China or Russia would need to be absolutely perfect in order to lose that gold medal and knowing how USA competes, this is not going to happen. Then, the battle for silver and bronze should be intense though. In my opinion China and Russia are pretty even teams with similar scoring potential. China probably has a slight advantage but it’s not significant. Great Britain is a bit behind. I’m not saying that it’s not possible for them to win a meal, but they will have to be perfect. They’ll need to stick their landings, hit their pirouettes and nail their beam routine because they don’t really have enough difficulty to make up for mistakes.

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gif credit: huanghuidan

The four remaining teams of the competition don’t really have the start values to fight for a medal but they are definitely capable of producing some excellent gymnastics. The Canadians have some world class work on every event, and you should keep an eye for Brittany Rogers on bars and vault and Ellie Black and Isabela Onyshko on every event they’re competing. Japan is capable of beautiful work on balance beam while Sae Miyakawa is breath taking on floor exercise and Mai Murakami and Asuka Teramoto have strong routines on every event. Italy really shines on balance beam, and floor exercise, where they have some fantastic tumbling and artistry. Their alternate, Enus Mariani will compete after Vanessa Ferrari withdrew from the competition and I’m very excited to see her beautiful uneven bars routine. The Netherlands is the most artistic team of those finals and I can’t wait to see their gorgeous choreography on floor exercise. They also have some fantastic work on balance beam, where Sanne Wevers and Eythora Thorsdottir have both qualified into the event finals while their uneven bars are also beautiful to watch. Those teams’ main goal was to qualify into the team finals so they get a ticket to Rio. Now, they have already achieved that and they can enjoy the amazing opportunity they earned to compete at the world’s biggest stage.

For me, the team finals is always the most exciting competition of the championships. It is the only final where we get to see the best gymnasts from the best countries competing on their best events and this is definitely something special. I don’t know what will happen tonight, I don’t know who will hit and who will make mistakes or who will end up on the podium but I do know that we are about to watch some spectacular gymnastics and I’m really looking forward to that.

gif credit: jordynslefteyebrow, huanghuidan, elisaminimeneghini, sparklesandchalk, mustafinesseicannotcountthosetwists, viola-roadkill-gymnastics and i-dont-understand-gymnastics

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