Predictions: 2014 World Team Final

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With the nominative lists being released today Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson takes a look at the 2014 World Championships Team Final

The following list is my best prediction for how the 2014 World Championships Team Final will unfold. I’ve chosen the eight teams I think will make the team final (plus one honorable mention), and I’ve put them in order of where I think they’ll finish. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

 

  1. USA

I’ve thought long and hard about the situation in the United States. It seems as though the USA is repeating a pattern that has cropped up in the past two quadrenniums. In 2005 (and 2009), the USA dominated the World Championships and had the top two gymnasts in the all-around. Then in 2006 (and 2010), they were the team silver medalists, with the team somewhat depleted due to injuries. Along came 2007 (and 2011), and the USA defeated the world and won multiple individual medals. And in 2008 (and 2012), the USA was very successful at the Olympic Games. They are poised to repeat this pattern again in the 2013-16 quadrennium. So far, everything is going according to this cycle. Slowly, the USA has lost several key gymnasts to injuries this summer—Lexie Priessman, Rachel Gowey, and Maggie Nichols. Additionally, a handful of the top USA gymnasts are dealing with minor injuries or have still not fully recovered from previous injuries. (i.e. Brenna Dowell, Amelia Hundley, and Alyssa Baumann.) But despite these issues that result in a lack of depth, the USA still has an excellent chance to win the World team gold this year, and I believe they will triumph. The USA is arguably the most consistent team in the world—at the three major team finals in the last quad, they counted only one fall (in 2010). The other reason is that rest of the Worlds teams are also dealing with lack of depth due to injuries, with the exception of China.

  1. CHINA

            I honestly see China as the only country that could conceivably challenge the USA for the title. In recent years, China has been third or fourth at World and Olympic team finals, and unlike the USA, falls tend to lower their overall totals. But I believe this is the strongest World team China has had since 2010, when they challenged for gold and wound up third by a narrow margin. Their 2014 all-star lineup includes veterans Yao Jinnan, Huang Huidan, and Shang Chunsong. The talented trio will join the accomplished vaulter Tan Jiaxin and newcomers Chen Siyi and Bai Yawen to form a team with a recipe for success. At their national championships in May, China showed that they have really capitalized on their strengths and improved their weaknesses. Vault is no longer an event where they’ll give up points, as several 15+ routines indicated. In reality, China’s only true weak area is their occasional inability to hit on all four events.

  1. GREAT BRITAIN

            Great Britain had an amazing showing at the 2014 European Championships, winning the team silver medal behind Romania and ahead of Russia. They have since lost elegant bars performer Rebecca Tunney to injury, but luckily the return of remarkable beam worker Gabby Jupp is on the horizon. I believe that GBR and Russia will be in a battle for the bronze medal in the World team final, it is very difficult for me to say who will be on top. But I’ll give the edge to GBR—I think they have the best team they’ve ever had. The roster for their recent World selection camp was full of prominent names—Becky Downie, Laura Edwards, Charlie Fellows, Claudia Fragapane, Ruby Harrold, Georgina Hockenhull, Gabby Jupp, Angel Romaeo, Kelly Simm, and Hannah Whelan. This team has all the ingredients for a perfect team final recipe.

  1. RUSSIA

Russia has gone through turbulent times this year, from their inconsistent performances at the 2014 European Championships to their resurgence at the Russian Cup in August. As usual, their star is 2010 World All-Around Champion Aliya Mustafina, who continues to steady her team with grace and elegance. Like China, Russia has exquisite bars and beam workers (Daria Spiridonova, Maria Kharenkova, etc.), but they tend to have problems on vault and floor exercise. At the Russian Cup, the highest floor score was Aliya Mustafina’s 14.700, and the next highest was 14.200. I’m not sure that Russia will be able to put up the numbers necessary to win the World team title.

  1. ROMANIA

Slot number five is a tough decision for me, but I will award it to Romania, who always seems to pull together at World Championships despite difficult circumstances. Romania was riding high after a win at the 2014 European Championships, but then veteran Diana Bulimar injured her knee for the second year a row. Without Bulimar’s across-the-board consistency, Romania may be in trouble. Larisa Iordache, the star of the team, always puts up great all-around totals, but this is a team in transition. With most of their veterans retired and their top juniors waiting in the wings, this probably won’t be Romania’s year to medal in the World team final. (They haven’t medaled in a World team final since 2007.)

  1. GERMANY

I could very easily have put Germany in the fifth place position, but they don’t have the proven track record of Romania at major international meets. Like Great Britain, however, they’ll be fielding the best team they may have ever put together: Cagla Akyol, Kim Bui, Lisa Katharina Hill, Pauline Schäfer, and Sophie Scheder (the last spot will be given to either Leah Griesser or Elisabeth Seitz). Much like the team China announced, Germany will be sending a balanced mix of experienced gymnasts and newcomers to Nanning. At a Germany/Romania/Switzerland friendly on September 6th, Germany beat Romania by 0.95, but as stated before, Germany doesn’t have quite the consistent track record of Romania.

  1. JAPAN

I think Japan will squeeze into the team final this year and probably finish in the seventh spot. Their elegant team—that includes Asuka Teramoto and Natsumi Sasada—is poised for a strong competition in Nanning, as the scores from their spring national meets displayed.

  1. ITALY

The last slot in the World team final is really a toss-up for me between Italy and Canada, but I am endorsing Italy to make the final. Their strong showing at the Novara Cup on September 6th showed that they are quite ready to contend at Worlds with some big scores.

HONORABLE MENTION: CANADA

            It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Canada ended up making the team final, but I’m leaving them as the Honorable Mention for a few reasons. One of their stars, Victoria Moors, was not chosen for the Worlds team, and secondly, their 4th-place finish (behind England, Australia, and Wales) at this summer’s Commonwealth Games indicates that they may not be quite prepared to make the World team final this year. These and other factors have caused them to be number nine on my list.

The team final will doubtlessly be a fascinating competition, and it’s now less than a month away!

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