Gymnastics fans invest a lot of time and energy into qualifications. We get super jazzed about who's ranked first and who's ranked second and who's ranked last heading into event finals, but deep down, our logical side knows that the rankings are rarely indicative of who will medal. We know that the gymnasts start with a clean slate, and some gymnasts will rise to the occasion and some gymnasts will fall--literally.
Personally, I've always wanted statistics about which gymnasts improved during event finals and which gymnasts flopped. So, with no further ado, here are some charts to help you visualize the most improved gymnasts and the not-so-improved gymnasts.
Let's start with the ladies…
An aside: The judges credited Phan with a double-twisting Yurchnko--not an Amanar.
Many gymnastics fans were disappointed that Giulia Steingruber didn't medal, and I think part of the disappointment stems from the fact that Giulia brought it like Nadia in Montreal, like Chellsie Memmel in Melbourne, like Nastia in Beijing, you get my point…
Not only did Steingruber upgrade her vault from a Yurchenko full to a Yurchenko double full, but she also upped her execution on her handspring rudi (from a 9.166 to a 9.300). The end result: An increase of 0.434 on her two vault average. Unfortunately, Steingruber didn't have enough difficulty to catch Hong Un Jong, who also improved on her prelims score by 0.234.
During finals, Huang Huidan performed the same routine from prelims. No upgrades, but her finals routine had fewer leg separations. (Prelims vs. Finals) As a result, she improved her execution score by 0.267. Really, from a numbers perspective, I don't have too much to say about the bars final. It happened. The big story was Yao Jinnan missing her Mo Salto and her coach just watching her fall.
I was sick during event finals, and I remember waking up and thinking to myself, "How the Fokin did that happen? Has my fever made me delusional?" It hadn't. Aliya Mustafina, ranked 8th after prelims, won the balance beam title, and she did so by improving her execution score by 0.767!!! That's the best improvement of any gymnast--male or female--in the event finals. That's almost as huge as Florida's comeback during the NCAA Championships last season.
By the way, for the skeptics out there, there wasn't an American or Russian judge on the balance beam jury. The beam supervisor, however, was Donatella Sacchi, a former Italian gymnast who competed at the 1976 Olympics. Just something to keep in mind as you fight over whether the judges blindly favored the Americans and their inquiries over the Italians…
Once again, Giulia Steingruber brought it in floor finals. She bettered her floor score from prelims by 0.300, but once again, it just wasn't good enough for a medal. Poor girl!
Now look at Mai Murakami's and Kyla Ross's scores. In Antwerp, only two gymnasts received the same scores in both prelims and event finals, and both times it happened on floor. That's strange. Here's Mai's prelim routine (6.1 D) and here's Mai's finals routine (6.2 D). Here's Kyla Ross's prelim routine (5.7 D) and her final's routine (5.7 D). What do you think? Exactly the same?
Personally, I think that Kyla was a little better in prelims, especially when it came to landings.
Anyway, from women's floor we head over to the men's floor…
A depressing fact: Even if we combined Jake Dalton's execution (8.900) and Diego Hypolito's difficulty (6.9 D), we couldn't catch Shirai Kenzo--not even on an off day. The kid is just too good. Mad props to Jake, though. He upped his difficulty from a 6.5 to a 6.7, and during finals, his landings were better, bumping his execution from an 8.666 to an 8.900. Overall, Jake was the most improved gymnast on floor (+ 0.434).
Between prelims and finals, the execution panel completely changed on pommel horse, but as you can see, the scores remained relatively the same. Weird. The big increases came from harder routines. During prelims, Kohei Kameyama performed a 6.6 routine, which he upped to a 6.9 routine. (By the way, he was ranked 8th after prelims, and he still managed to win gold! The Japanese Mustafina!) Similarly, Max Whitlock bumped up his 6.6 routine to a 7.2, but he, unlike Kameyama, wasn't able to maintain the same level of execution. (Only netted + 0.225, even though he had + 0.600 in difficulty).
For the most part, there was a complete changing of the guard on rings between prelims and finals. The D panel remained the same, but when it came to the E panel, only Anton Heidar Thorolfsson of Iceland was on both the prelims and finals jury. This new judging panel gave the gymnasts slightly lower execution scores (with the exceptions of Zanetti and Wynn). In the case of Liu Yang, a sizable deduction was merited. Liu's full-twisting double layout turned into a straddle-pikey thing, which ended with his knees being driven into his boobies. Cute.
Anyway, like on pommel horse, the big gain (i.e. Aleksandr Balandin's score) didn't come from an increase in execution, but rather, an increase in difficulty. Balandin upped his difficulty by 0.300 tenths, while his execution dropped slightly from a 9.000 in prelims to an 8.833 in finals. Between finals and prelims, he was able to increase his final score by 0.133.
Unlike rings, where almost everyone did slightly worse during finals, almost everyone did significantly better on vault during finals. For me, the big surprise was Steven Legendre. He was ranked 8th heading into finals, but he managed to win a silver medal. During finals, he increased his two-vault average by 0.333. I must admit; I doubted whether Steven Legendre would be able to go 4 for 4 on vault. He struggled at the U.S. Nationals and during podium training, but he managed to put his vaults to his feet when he needed to!
Lesson learned: Everyone can pull it together at the right moment. (Which means eventually Oleg will get his ish together, too! Right!?)
Sorry, Kohei, your + 0.266 performance looks pretty boring when it's in the same graph as Tsolakidis's and Fokin's disasters. In case you didn't see it, both Tsolakidis and Fokin just gave up. After they made mistakes during finals, they just dismounted the apparatus. I just wish that they had thrown in the towel with a little more style and humor. Next time take a lesson from one of my former teammates, who quit gymnastics by competing a floor routine of forward rolls.
Oh, and as an American, I should mention John Orozco. Ranked 7th after prelims, he managed to squeak out a bronze medal, even though his score went up by only a tenth. All in all, I must say that I was quite impressed with Orozco in Antwerp. Before Worlds, his best execution score on parallel bars was an 8.450. During event finals, he scored an 8.733 in execution. Dang, son! That's quite the improvement! Oh, and let's not forget that John wasn't initially named to the World team. Team USA could have missed out on a bronze medal…
With his strawberry blonde mane, Epke Zonderland was the big story of the men's high bar final. During warmups, Epke got applause simply for mounting the bar, and during the actual competition, he didn't disappoint his fans. He upped his difficulty by 0.600 when he added his Kolman + Gaylord II combination to his routine, and at the end of two days of men's event finals, Epke Zonderland was the most improved male finalist on any event, bettering his prelims score by 0.567. As you guessed, it's largely due to his massive D.
Here are the most improved men and women by events…
Here are the people who were ranked last, yet still managed to win a medal:
And here are the people who were ranked first and who managed to keep it together enough to win gold:
|Yang Hak Seon|