As everyone had predicted, team USA ended up on the top of the scoreboard after a stellar performance on all four events. Gabby Douglas started things of for the team with a stuck double twisting yurchenko and Maggie Nichols and Simone Biles continued with beautifully landed amanars. Nichols continued to impress on the uneven bars, where she hit her difficult opening combination and stuck her double layout dismount despite not competing on this event during qualifications. Gabby Douglas followed her with a gorgeous routine, hitting the piked tkatcev + pak combination she missed the previous time and sticking her double layout for a massive 15.333. Next up was Madison Kocian, who performed a beautiful komova 2 + pak + chow 2 combination and a high jaeger for a 15.3. They scored a bit lower than the expected on balance beam, where Maggie only posted a 13.966 and Aly Raisman received a 14.266 after not getting credit for all her connections. However, world champion Simone Biles was there to save the day with a huge 15.2, after nailing her grigoras, her back handspring + layout step outs and her full in dismount. The team had an impressive lead heading into the floor exercise, where they normally shine. Maggie Nichols was the first athlete to compete for them and she stuck her silivas and her full in while also showing great personality to post an impressive 15.0, which certainly makes her a threat for the team finals. After a disappointing routine during qualifications, Aly Raisman reminded us why she is the Olympic champion and she nailed her 1.5 + double arabian + layout, her Dos Santos + stag and her double layout. Then, Simone Biles went out there and earned that gold medal with a spectacular floor routine, which included a full twisting double layout, a Biles and a silivas. USA won the team title scoring about 5 points higher than the Chinese team and they just confirmed that they still were the absolute best team in the world. We all knew that they were going to get that gold medal, but that doesn’t make their achievement any less remarkable. They may have qualified into first place but they had a fair amount of struggles during qualifications and it was certainly impressive to see them putting that behind them and delivering such an excellent performance.
China was particularly impressive during the competition. They put their disastrous qualification performance behind them and the managed to deliver beautiful, well executed routines when it mattered the most. They started with three strong routines on their strongest apparatus, the uneven bars. Shang Chunsong has a couple of short handstands and a hop on her dismount, Fan Yilin was way too close on the bar on her gienger and Tan Jiaxin was late in a couple of pirouettes and downgraded her dismount to a double layout. However, their start values were high enough to make up for minor mistakes like that and they were able to post three scores above 15. Then, they moved on the event where they had a meltdown during qualifications, the balance beam. First year senior Fan Yilin, who had a fall during her first day of competition saluted to the judges with a beautiful smile and started her routine with one of the prettiest layouts the world has ever seen. She hit her switch ring, her aerial and her sheep jump and even though she missed a couple of combinations and took a big step on her 2.5 dismount, her routine was a very solid start for the team. Unfortunately, Wang Yan, who was the only one to hit on this event during qualifications, wasn’t as successful. She has big wobbles on her grigoras and her layout and then and she fell on her front tuck, receiving only a 13.3. Thankfully, the oldest member of the team, Shang Chunsong, showed her experience and hit a strong routine after that, to receive a respectable 14.6. The Chinese had the potential to score even higher on this event but after how they performed during qualifications, surviving this rotation with only one fall is definitely something worth celebrating. They also delivered on floor, which is a very crucial event for them. Wang Yan started things off with a massive routine, including a silivas, a 1.5 + triple + front tuck combination, a 2.5 + barani and a double pike. We did not get to see Mao Yi’s performance, but it looks like she managed to put her fall during qualifications behind her and to hit her routine, which includes 3.5 twists into a front tuck. Shang Chunsong delivered for one more time, sticking her 3.5 + front pike and completing her gomez. She barely gets around all her twisting passes and this scares me, but she certainly did everything she could during this routine. On vault, Mao Yi took a big step during her double twisting yurchenko but Wang Yan hit a strong double twisting tsukahara and Tan Jiaxin showed one of the prettiest DTYs of the night. At the end, their score was enough to secure a well deserved silver medal. Considering USA’s difficulty, this is the biggest accomplishment China could achieve and I am incredibly proud of how well they performed today.
To me, the biggest story of this day is not USA’s dominance but Great Britain winning their first ever worlds team medal in their own country. After qualifications, we all knew it was possible but we also knew that it was going to be difficult but the athletes exceeded expectations and wrote history. The British ladies had a rather shaky start on the uneven bars. Ruby Harrold hit her routine but not quite as cleanly as she did in day 1 and Ellie Downie had a fall. At that point, when Russia had not imploded yet, I thought that this mistake could really hurt their chances even though Becky followed her with a downgraded but cleanly executed set. Then they moved on balance beam, which is an event that has caused them all kinds of trouble through the years. The first gymnast to perform was Claudia Fragapane, who had had a fall during qualifications so the pressure was on, but Claudia handled it brilliantly. She was followed by Ellie Downie, who put her disappointment from bars behind her to nail her front tuck and her standing arabian before dismounting with a fantastic 2.5. Becky was the last to go on this event and even though she had a couple of balance checks she delivered an other strong routine for Great Britain. After beam was over, things could only get better, since the team had two of its strongest events left. Amy Tinkler showed her first routine of the day on floor exercise, landing her silivas and nailing her double layout and her 1.5 + 2.5 twists while Ellie Downie performed a huge 1.5 + double arabian combination and a Dos Santos. Claudia Fragapane proved that she is one of the world’s best on this event after landing her full twisting double layout, double arabian, triple twist and double layout. Her last tumbling pass was low but the arena just exploded after she landed it. Going into vault, it was clear that three strong double twisting yurchenkos would be enough for them to get that bronze medal and Claudia, Amy and Ellie all nailed their vaults. I was particularly impressed with Amy’s because it was probably the best one she has done during her career. In the end, Ellie’s score was up, the team was in tears and I started crying with them because really, what an amazing achievement for those athletes! Back in 2012, Becky Downie and Ruby Harrold did not get the chance to compete at the Olympic Games in front of their home crowd. Ruby was not quite as strong back then but Becky really had fantastic difficulty and barely missed out a spot on the team. Competing in the Olympics in your country is an one in a lifetime opportunity and I’m sure that both athletes were devastated but today, they won their country’s first world team medal in front of her home crowd and this has to be just as special. First year senior Ellie Downie was under tremendous pressure after falling on her first event, but she controlled her nerves and she was the one who secured the bronze medal with an excellent vault. The second first year senior of the team, Amy Tinkler, who was competing at her first world championships helped her team win their first team world medal in history in the day of her 16th birthday while Claudia Fragapane proved that 2014 was not just a lucky year for her. She’s here to stay. This was a historic day for those girls and they really did deserve every single bit of that bronze medal and the fact that they did it in their own country makes it even more amazing. I’m just so grateful we got to see history being written in front of our eyes and I hope they continue to do a great job during the individual finals
And then we have Russia… and oh, what could have been for this beautiful team! They had it! They really did have a great opportunity to win a silver medal behind USA. They started strong on vault, with Viktoria Komova and Ksenia Afanasyeva showing powerful double twisting yurchenkos and Maria Paseka landing her amanar very well. In fact, they were about a point behind USA after that rotation and bars were their next event. In an ideal scenario, they could have even taken the lead for just one rotation! But of course, they had to make mistakes! Maria Paseka and Daria Spiridonova both missed some combinations, losing a couple of tenths from their start values and Komova fell on her layout jaeger. And this happened before the had to move into the most risky beam rotation in the history of Russian gymnastics. I said that I was terrified to watch them compete on this event and it turned out that everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong. Seda Tutkhalyan hit her beam routine but sat down her double pike dismount. Then, Maria Kharenkova was having a beautiful beam set, sticking her front tuck, her layout and her switch ring but she fell on one of the easiest skills of her routine: an L turn. And then, Viktoria Komova fell on her standing arabian after wobbling throughout her first combinations. After this disastrous rotation and considering their lack of difficulty on vault it was clear that their medal chances were at risk and the fact that they didn’t do their floor routines as well as they possibly could have did not help their case. Things could have been much worse for them on floor and I was pleasantly surprised when Seda hit her routine but Maria Paseka’s step out of bounds and Ksenia Afanasyeva’s landing deductions were enough to take them out of the podium. Even with four falls, they were only a few tenths behind Great Britain. They could have easily won that bronze medal but they handed it to an other team, and they actually smiled and giggled while doing so. I’m not saying that I’d prefer to see them sobbing and crying but their reaction was certainly weird given the situation. Russia is and has always been my favorite team and I will always root for them but today, they did not deliver a medal worthy performance and they did not earn a spot on the podium. Hopefully, they will put this disappointment behind them and come back stong to win several medals during the individual finals.
Understandably, we didn’t get to see much from the other teams competing, but what we saw was pretty darn impressive. Japan finished in fifth place after an excellent competition. Mai Murakami unfortunately had a fall on balance beam but her strong floor routine and her stuck double twisting yurchenko are enough for me to forgive her. We also got to see the explosive Sae Miyakawa, who delivered a strong rudi and hit her full twisting double layout, stuck her front layout to double front, landed her silivas with a step out of bounds and finished with a double layout. If she continues to hit like that, she is certainly a strong medal contender for the floor finals. Asuka Teramoto had a beautiful bars routine, getting great height during her gienger and jaeger and nailing her full twisting dismount.
The Canadians started with impressive routines on floor, where Ellie Black nailed her 2.5 + double tuck combination and her front full into a double pike and Isabela stuck her full twisting double tuck. They continued to impress on vault, where Sydney Townsend showed a beautiful 1.5 twisting yurchenko, Brittany Rogers stuck her DTY cold and Ellie Black nailed her front layout full. I loved the variety of the team on this event and they found themselves in the top 5 after this rotation was over. However, as expected this changed after they moved on their weakest events, bars and beam. Onyshko hit a strong bars set, including a maloney + clear hip full + tkatcev combination, a hindorff and a much improved pak salto but Brittany Rogers unfortunately had a major mistake. On balance beam, Ellie Black only posted a 13.566, which indicates that she struggled.
The Italian team finished in 7th place after having some problems on their first event, the balance beam. Enus Mariani was having a beautiful routine until she fell on her Y turn and Lara Mori had an other fall right after her. Thankfully, Carlotta Ferlito managed to deliver on this event but the damage had already been done. Enus definitely made up for this mistake by posting the team’s highest score on the uneven bars though. Besides that, Italy had a good competition, with Erika Fasana showing a powerful double twisting yurchenko and a strong floor routine, which included a silivas and a double layout and Tea Ugrin hitting her uneven bars routine. Carlotta Ferlito and Elisa Meneghini were both very impressive on vault and floor, showing strong 1.5 twisting yurchenkos and powerful tumbling. World champion Vanessa Ferrari did not compete since she is suffering from tendinitis and she couldn’t put any more pressure on her body.
The Netherlands finished in 8th place after Lieke Wevers and Lisa Top had major mistakes on bars and vault respectively. Besides that, they had a good competition. Lieke made up for her mistakes on bars with strong routines on beam and floor, Eythora Thorsdottir showed great artistry on floor and hit on the three events she competed and Tysha Volleman showed one of the strongest full twisting yurchenkos of the competition. We didn’t get to see Sanne’s routines, but it looks like she hit on bars but did not do her full difficulty on balance beam. In addition to that, team Netherlands should win a gold medal just for their entrance into the arena. Their synchronized walking and the little choreography they did while saluting was one of the prettiest things I saw during team finals.
Canada, Italy, Japan and Netherlands were never hoping to win a medal. They just wanted to make it into the top 8 in order to qualify a full team to the Olympics. This was their main goal and they accomplished it, so everything else is just a bonus, They have all qualified athletes into the individual finals and I am hoping to see them having a great performance there, before starting to prepare for the Rio Olympics.
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photo credit: BBC sport