Unless I missed it I haven’t seen much comment on the Russian performance this Olympics. I somehow expected to see silly upgrades, I wholly expected Listunova turn up to Tokyo with her Silivas and whips to triple and Melnikova with an upgraded third pass. Yet the Russians turned up with routines they could actually hit. Indeed , Melnikova was able to hit her full difficulty on bars 3/4 times and their consistency on beam by Russian standards was also pretty good. They also managed to clean up their work and all look pretty polished. So what do we attribute to this consistency and smarter routine construction? Did a new coach have more say ? Or was it simply the fact they were stuck at Round Lake?
I wouldn’t say our consistency was good. Gerasimova failed to make any final, 2 falls in team final, Urazova and Listunova messing up their event finals. Only 2 individual medalists. Akhaimova is a poor replacement for Paseka. I am delighted for the team gold, and that is what the success of the women’s and men’s team will be measured on but actually a lot of individuals underachieved.
Other than Listunova in fx the team did what was expected. I don’t think anyone expected any Russians in the beam final. Akhaimova and Melnikova weren’t expected to medal on vault. Bars they were expected to get 1 medal if all went well and they did.
I also believe that having those three so close together in terms of scoring potential really elevated their performances.
Listunova won Europeans but was 2nd in qualifications, and won the Russian Cup, Urasova was 2nd at Russian Cup and 3rd (Qual) at Europeans, Melnikova was 2nd at Europeans, and 1st in Qualifications and 3rd at Russian Cup.
They pushed each other to perform well in the AA and there was a 3 way competition in the all around now. Whereas Melnikova didn’t have anyone pushing her like that previously.
With 3 very strong interchangeable all-arounders they immediately became stronger than the 2018 and 2019 by far. Akhaimova did BB in team finals in Stuttgart!
Going into Tokyo we knew these three would carry the team in finals with Akhaimova doing vault or Geraminsova doing beam. That was the only change out. But we all knew this was the team at the very beginning of 2021.
The US team line up changed various times all year. At one point we all figured Suni might have to settle for +1 specialist, and no one expected Chiles to be anywhere near this team. McCusker and Hurd being injured also hurt since they were both excellent bars and beam workers and proven competitors. I recall thinking the team would be Biles, Lee, Hurd, McCusker/McCallum all of 2020, with an outside chance for DiCello. But even at the Olympics we all had a certain idea of the line ups and that completely vanished after qualifications.
I’d also add that I think the emotions of the team winning impacted their individual performances later. And I agree that realistically they weren’t expected to pick up more event final hardware than they did, but it would have been nice to see them all hit.
And we’ll see how the disappointment for Listunova motivates her going into the Paris quad — which I consider that the start of that worlds this year. I expect her and Urasova to lead the new Russians coming up and they should do well, assuming they stay healthy.
Technical question. Are Listunova’s back handsprings odd? She seems too high to me. Again, maybe someone can explain that better. Is that something they can fix? I’d hate to see her suck at tumbling after she grows and that’s my fear for her.
Yeah, for all that MC is correct in that Russia did make a number of mistakes, it didn’t cost them any expected hardware.
They were never going to medal on vault and a silver on bars is actually better than expected prior to the competition. Floor was always likely to be a close group and they got a bronze there. Again not sure even a hit routine from Listunova would have got them to silver, and no Russian was beating Jade. I can see arguments that bronze on beam and silver AA were within the team’s grasp, basically that they could have further exploited Simone’s weakness, but those were shock opportunities really.
Still obviously worth a post mortem about how to be more ruthless though. It’s interesting, what I thought might happen was a 96 US style exhaustion and loss of focus in the AA after a historic team gold, but if anything the Russians were incredibly solid there. It was EFs where they were weaker, and I don’t think this is a particularly EF team.
Eta- I’d agree with irich that the settled lineups probably benefitted Russia too. As soon as that team was announced, we knew with certainty what 11 of the 12 routines would be. Even before Simone’s issues, that wasn’t at all true of the US. Not the first time that’s bitten them.
I don’t know I kind of think if Melnikova stuck that last pass they would have given her the gold.
Something I find interesting is that Russia winning Gold was not on anyone’s radar. Even after prelims the consensus was that USA would easily pull ahead. I remember in early summer people mentioning that China would be able to contend with the Americans.
I can only speak for myself but while I thought it was likelier that Simone would pull herself together and Chiles wouldn’t be quite as awful in TF, I certainly didn’t discount Russia winning gold even with Simone. That was an incredible qualies performance and it very quickly became clear that they have even greater AA depth than the US with three really strong 57-scoring all arounders whose scores held up internationally and had been pretty consistent this year.
I don’t think there is anything at all to pick over really. Two young gymnasts in their first major international competition and Melnikova properly assuming the role as leader. They should only get stronger.
I dunno about easily, but it’s true most people still thought the US were more likely than not to win even after losing prelims. As one of those people, I think there were two main reasons for that. One, we didn’t think Russia were likely to repeat that level of hit performance in TFs. Which tbf wasn’t wrong. And secondly, we expected better of Simone. She could still have had a not particularly impressive day for her and have done enough to beat the ROC prelims total.
It’s definitely true that the gymternet as a collective underestimated Russia and overestimated the US though. It’s interesting, because it’s not like the seeds weren’t there, but putting them all together is something else. One thing to identify that Jordan’s dance elements are mostly asking for 0.3s, which we as a board would pretty much all have understood going into Tokyo, quite another to envisage a gymnast in a US leotard actually getting smacked with the full force of them.
For me, possibly the most significant factor in ROC success is the way their hit routines were hit. Bringing in the big numbers every time, not giving away soft tenths.
Looking at the last TF they were competitive on paper, 2012, they really had a problem with that. Obviously they collapsed on floor, but before that, after three events, Russia were 9 for 9. On paper, they should’ve been pretty much head to head with the US at that point, even slightly ahead. But they 1.3 behind, just from little things. A staggered landing here, a missed connection there. They all stayed on beam, and you couldn’t say those weren’t hit routines, but they still lost not far off a point to the US there. Whereas we didn’t see that in Tokyo. The only hit but not that hit set they had in TFs was Urazova on floor.
That bodes very well. It’s impressive in a way that going 10 for 12 in TFs is not.
The Tokyo win definitely speaks to Listunova/Urazova’s success in transitioning to the senior level. Unlike the US who’s top juniors who were “disposable”, in the sense that the US were always going to have a large pool of athletes to choose regardless of those juniors’ transitions to senior level, Russia hasn’t had that luxury the last quad or two. Perhaps Russia have finally adjusted their approach to developing talent in the last few years? I’m not familiar enough with the Russian program to say whether their success with Urazova/Listunova can be attributed to tweaks in development or just luck.
The US has had similar problems, and perhaps it’s simply a problem inherent to training gymnasts to peak at 15/16. Obviously, having Simone return this quad dampened the failure to successfully transition O’Keefe/Perea/Malabuyo/etc. to senior level, but this problem predates Simone. I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted Grace to make every team this quad after watching her as a junior in 2017, and that definitely helped to counterbalance the poor transition of gymnasts who were far superior to her as juniors.
Since the US team has dominated team/AA at worlds/OGs for the past decade or so in spite of all the talent that has been squandered, there hasn’t been any competitive pressure to assess what’s they’re doing wrong and attempt to fix it just hasn’t been there.
I think that’s probably the key point.
Someone, I forget who, summed up Tom’s approach as get a 59 AA off Simone, ignore the rest of them and wait for Russia to fall over. And that would’ve got them the title here, just, if not for the twisties thing. Even with Jordan crashing floor. But there’s never been any evidence of either a Plan B, because injuries and covid both exist, or of a longer term strategic plan about what to do afterwards. Because they had their get out of jail free card, so why bother? And that’s the underlying issue: short term, think about today today and tomorrow can wait thinking. It was a common sentiment before the Games that while the US were assumed to be the champions in waiting, there were also longer term problems about to come to the surface once Simone was gone.
You’re correct to highlight that this issue existed before Tom too. Marta notoriously was all about what you can do for me today. Looking at 04 and 08, in both cases she was outthought by programmes playing the long game. She was never willing to take decisions like China in 07 sending a relatively weak team to worlds and sacrificing the team title to get the bars workers some experience before Beijing.
I think we can say mustafina’s bb was a miss, even if she stayed on the beam. That was probably a full point on her own, with the three large wobbles. Funny that it was afan who had the only solid routine for them
Are you on some sort of time lapse?
Mmm, I can’t see that they were ever going to get a mid 15 out of Mustafina though. That would’ve been one of the highest beam scores of the quad. She wasn’t bringing in those numbers even before getting injured and beginning the ethical objection to the performance of a consistent acro series. She just couldn’t be expected to get through that set without wobbles, notwithstanding the first one was probably only an 0.1 anyway. High 14s, 15 tops is more like what they could reasonably have hoped for.
this made my night, thank you AR
Another thing is the ballgame completely changed after Simone’s 1.5 on vault. If she had stayed in the competition, it would’ve taken her very best international scores of the quad to make up the difference with a two-fall ROC, and subbing her prelims scores with Chiles UB/BB and Lee FX accounts for less than half the deficit. Chiles’s missed front pass, missing EGR, and 0.6 OOB is about the equivalent of a two-fall routine, so we have a fairly good picture of where the teams stood with or without mistakes.
The U.S. was still favored after prelims, but I think people (myself included) were underestimating how one big miss could affect the entire landscape. No one could have conceived of that happening on a Simone Amanar; she hadn’t missed the vault in her career. But once she did, the U.S. was more or less fucked so long as they performed evenly to Russia, and it’s not clear the Tokyo E-panels were willing to entertain the types of scores Simone received in 2018/2019 (or if Simone’s 2020ne execution could justify them).
This is setting aside that Simone competing anything after vault, never mind her best work, was all but impossible. But I don’t see the outcome changing. Russia already pulled a Russia on beam, and Chiles missed the third pass which had been troublesome all year, and that’s without the pressure of the U.S. being ahead.
Oh yeah i missed that score (i went and rewatched the rotation) That looks like quite the gift for musty but you’re right. I still think that’s not a hit routine tho
I described it to a coworker that Russia had 3 57 point gymnasts (and a one-eventer), the US had 1 59 point gymnast, 1 57 point gymnast and 2 55 point gymnasts. Simone can make up the difference for the 55 pointer, but without Simone there, Russia was just better. If they had managed to stay on the frickin’ beam, they would have run away with it US 2016-style. The US could have lost Jordan or Grace and (assuming a full-strength Simone having a better day than qualifications) still been okay. They probably could have absorbed Suni being injured but Grace and Jordan would have had to had their best days and it would have been really close. But lose Simone? The writing was on the wall.
(of course, similar could be said of Russia–if they had lost anyone but Aikhaimova, they would have been struggling. Team GB for the win? The nature of a 4 person team.)