Is the “Elite Eight” Hurting Gymnastics?

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By Anna Rose Johnson

Imagine if there was a way for gymnasts from countries such as Israel, Slovenia, Puerto Rico, and Hungary to make World and Olympic apparatus finals—without changing the two-per country rule or adjusting the Code of Points or cutting the Olympic teams to three members each?

What if there were 12 gymnasts in each apparatus final, instead of eight?

Perhaps it seems like it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. But the diversity in major event finals would increase dramatically!

I compiled data from the women’s World Championships and Olympic Games since 2009. In this timespan, 35 different countries would have been represented in World and Olympic finals if 12 gymnasts competed in each apparatus final, as opposed to the 23 countries that actually were represented. Diversity is usually low in women’s artistic gymnastics. Take the London 2012 beam final as an example: the eight-person final consisted of two Americans, two Romanians, two Chinese, and two Russians. Had 12 gymnasts been allowed, gymnasts from Japan, Italy, and Greece would have been included as well.

Many gymnasts have been affected by the eight-person finals. If 12 gymnasts had been allowed in finals, Vasiliki Millousi would have qualified to the 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2014 World beam finals, as well as the 2012 Olympic beam final. Similarly, Poland’s Marta Pihan-Kulesza would have qualified to the 2010 World vault and beam finals, the 2012 Olympic floor final, and the 2014 World floor final. Under this system, Japan’s Asuka Teramoto would have graced the Olympic stage in the London floor and beam finals, not to mention the 2011 World beam final. Australia’s Larrissa Miller would have qualified to four World uneven bars finals!

Some may argue, “If you include the top 12, won’t you end up with gymnasts in finals who don’t have Olympic- and World-caliber routines?” The answer is—unlikely. Don’t you think Sui Lu and Beth Tweddle deserved to be in the 2012 Olympic floor final? Shouldn’t Kyla Ross, Youna Dufournet, and Jessica Lopez have been in the 2014 World bars final? Olympic stars and World champions shouldn’t be left out of the major finals unless they’ve had a major disaster in qualifications. I can’t imagine how some of these gymnasts must feel when they just miss making important finals.

I think this rule needs to be changed. The top 12 makes so much sense to me; far more sense than eight. The FIG has been striving for decades to increase global participation in gymnastics, especially in Olympic finals. Their latest solution has been the heavily criticized “four-member team” decision.

But it seems as though this simple solution is so much more effective, and the results are absolutely clear to see. We just saw some fan favorites miss finals in Glasgow by the slimmest of margins. Had there been 12 gymnasts in the finals, many more athletes would have been rewarded.

I believe that this rule needs to change, and it needs to change before any more world-class gymnasts are prevented from competing in the largest competitions.

Please share this article and spread the word!

Below is a complete list of the additional gymnasts who would have qualified to World and Olympic finals if 12 had been allowed in apparatus finals in 2009 through 2015.

2009 WORLD VAULT FINAL:

Rebecca Downie (GBR), Marissa King (GBR), Jana Komrskova (CZE), and Valeria Maksiuta (ISR)

2009 WORLD UNEVEN BARS FINAL:

Ekaterina Kurbatova (RUS), Ksenia Semenova (RUS), Gabriela Dragoi (ROU), Pauline Morel (FRA)

2009 WORLD BALANCE BEAM FINAL:

Rebecca Bross (USA), Ksenia Semenova (RUS), Ana Maria Izurieta (ESP), Vasiliki Millousi (GRE)

2009 WORLD FLOOR EXERCISE FINAL:

Kayla Williams (USA), Youna Dufournet (FRA), Ana Maria Izurieta (ESP), and Ekaterina Kurbatova (RUS)

2010 WORLD VAULT FINAL:

Huang Qiushuang (CHN), Yessenia Estrada (MEX), Nicole Hibbert (GBR), and Marta Pihan-Kulesza (POL)

2010 WORLD UNEVEN BARS FINAL:

Tatiana Nabieva (RUS), Rebecca Downie (GBR), Larrissa Miller (AUS), and Celine van Gerner (NED)

2010 WORLD BALANCE BEAM FINAL:

Elisabetta Preziosa (ITA), Huang Qiushuang (CHN), Marta Pihan-Kulesza (POL), and Sandra Izbasa (ROU)

2010 WORLD FLOOR EXERCISE FINAL:

Celine van Gerner (NED), Hannah Whelan (GBR), Rebecca Bross (USA), Daniele Hypolito (BRA)

2011 WORLD VAULT FINAL:

Jo Hyunjoo (KOR) Valeria Maksiuta (ISR), Austin Sheppard (HUN), and Jessica Gil Ortiz (COL)

2011 WORLD UNEVEN BARS FINAL:

Yao Jinnan (CHN), Elisabeth Seitz (GER), Beth Tweddle (GBR), Larrissa Miller (AUS)

2011 WORLD BALANCE BEAM FINAL:

Vasiliki Millousi (GRE), Hannah Whelan (GBR), Asuka Teramoto (JPN), Celine van Gerner (NED)

2011 WORLD FLOOR EXERCISE FINAL:

Catalina Ponor (ROU), Nadine Jarosch (GER), Elsa Garcia (MEX), Hannah Whelan (GBR)

2012 OLYMPIC VAULT FINAL:

Guilia Steingruber (SUI), Nastassia Marachkouskaya (BLR), Phan Thi Ha Thanh (VIE), and Wong Hiu Ying Angel (HKG)

2012 OLYMPIC UNEVEN BARS FINAL:

Celine van Gerner (NED), Kyla Ross (USA), Rebecca Tunney (GBR), and Rie Tanaka (JPN)

2012 OLYMPIC BALANCE BEAM FINAL:

Asuka Teramoto (JPN), Vanessa Ferrari (ITA), Carlotta Ferlito (ITA), and Vasiliki Millousi (GRE)

2012 OLYMPIC FLOOR EXERCISE FINAL:

Beth Tweddle (GBR), Marta Pihan-Kulesza (POL), Asuka Teramoto (JPN), and Sui Lu (CHN)

2013 WORLD VAULT FINAL:

Ellie Black (CAN), Aliya Mustafina (RUS), Teja Belak (SLO), and Mai Murakami (JPN)

2013 WORLD UNEVEN BARS FINAL:

Tatiana Nabieva (RUS), Elisabeth Seitz (GER), Natsumi Sasada (JPN), and Sung Ji Hye (KOR)

2013 WORLD BALANCE BEAM FINAL:

Yao Jinnan (CHN), Krystyna Sankova (UKR), Daniele Hypolito (BRA), and Vasiliki Millousi (GRE)

2013 WORLD FLOOR EXERCISE FINAL:

Noemi Makra (HUN), Noel van Klaveren (NED), Jessica Lopez (VEN), and Shang Chunsong (CHN)

2014 WORLD VAULT FINAL:

Larisa Iordache (ROU), Dipa Karmakar (IND), Ellie Black (CAN), and Ri Un Ha (PRK)

2014 WORLD UNEVEN BARS FINAL:

Larrissa Miller (AUS), Kyla Ross (USA), Jessica Lopez (VEN), and Youna Dufournet (FRA)

2014 WORLD BALANCE BEAM FINAL:

Emma Nedov (AUS), Becky Downie (GBR), Vasiliki Millousi (GRE), and Vanessa Ferrari (ITA)

2014 WORLD FLOOR EXERCISE FINAL:

Roxana Popa (ESP), Shang Chunsong (CHN), Marta Pihan-Kulesza (POL), and Julie Croket (BEL)

2015 WORLD VAULT FINAL:

Seda Tutkhalyan (RUS), Brittany Rogers (CAN), Paula Mejias (PUR), Ellie Black (CAN)

2015 WORLD UNEVEN BARS FINAL:

Loan His (FRA), Lieke Wevers (NED), Noemi Makra (HUN), Larrissa Miller (AUS)

2015 WORLD BALANCE BEAM FINAL:

Carlotta Ferlito (ITA), Jade Barbosa (BRA), Maggie Nichols (USA), Flavia Saraiva (BRA)

2015 WORLD FLOOR EXERCISE FINAL:

Shang Chunsong (CHN), Lieke Wevers (NED), Wang Yan (CHN), Flavia Saraiva (BRA)

 

Share your thoughts in the comments below, or any suggestions you have. 

2 Comments

  1. AP says:

    Wow! What a list of gymnasts that could have (and should have) qualified! In particular, it seems like plenty of very good gymnasts missed the cut on uneven bars. Look at 2011 — defending UB world champion Beth Tweddle just missed, and so did future UB world champion Yao Jinnan. And what a boost this would have been for countries like Brazil, with Jade Barbosa and Flavia Saraiva just missing finals in 2014. And look at 2010 — Rebecca Bross, who had the highest score on floor at any world championships in the 2009-2012 quadrennium, just missed the cut because she was hurt and had to downgrade in qualifications.

    It seems so obvious that the event finals need to be expanded to include more gymnasts — what can be done to try and make this happen?

  2. JJ says:

    Great article.
    I think as a minimum, there should be no tie break qualifying into the event final if there is a tie for 8th. We saw it happen this year, and the girls who get relegated to 9th spot miss out on a great final opportunity when they won’t even break the tie for a gold medal.

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