The Broken Roads To Rio – Part 1

Elsa García (MEX)

At the 2007 Worlds the sole nominative berth earned by Mexico went to Marisela Cantú. A wild card was petitioned so Elsa García could go to Beijing as well but it was denied and Elsa had to wait and train for four more years.

Ready to compete at the North Greenwich Arena in London 2012 Elsa suffered a last minute hand injury that limited her to two apparatus, beam and floor, in the qualification round. Despite the injury Elsa managed to finish 35th on floor but the disappointment of not being able to contend for a spot in the all-around final made her train for another four years.

At the 2015 Panamerican Games in July, Elsa was limited to two apparatus by a knee injury that did not improve, forcing her last minute withdrawal from the World Championships in October. With limited training due to her injury Elsa did not place in the top two spots at the internal competition set to determine Mexico’s representatives at the Test Event therefore ending her quest for a second Olympic Games.

 Marta Pihan-Kulesza (POL)  

When the nominative list for the Test Event came out, a very important name was missing, the one of Poland’s most successful gymnast: Marta Pihan-Kulesza. Marta is a two time Olympian, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, as well as a European finalist that has always been a standout on Floor for her creative and ingenious choreography.

An injury sustained at the Polish Championships in 2015 began to derail her road to Rio, because even though she was ready to compete at the World Championships in October she did not look at her best and did not manage to improve enough throughout 2016 to be named by her Federation to the Test Event, therefore ending her chances of becoming a three time Olympian. Soon after her non-selection Marta announced through her Facebook account that she would retire after attending the Cottbus World Cup and the Italian Series in May.

 Mary Anne Mockton (AUS)

With Australia fighting for one of the final team berths to be awarded at the Test Event, veteran Mary Ann Mockton was named to the team. Sadly her joy was short-lived as only a day later a fall would cause her ACL to rupture. Despite the disappointment Mary Ann announced that she would continue with her gymnastics career after her recovery with her new goal being the 2017 World Championships to take place in Montréal.

Sadly for Australia they did not qualify a full team to the Olympics finishing fifth in a competition where only the top four teams would get berths.

 Jonna Adlerteg (SWE)

In the all-around final of the 2015 European Championships Jonna Adlerteg tore her ACL on Floor. Since then Jonna had been pacing her recovery throughout the year to be ready for the Test Event. Jonna had already been picked by her Federation as one of the two gymnasts to the attend the Test Even when she re-injured her knee while competing at the uneven bars final at the Doha World Cup in late March. Her routine went well enough to earn her the gold medal however the double layout dismount tore her meniscus.

Jonna was Sweden’s representative at the London Olympics where she finished 39th in the all-around qualification round, and she was also present at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore where her bronze medal on the uneven bars was a historic one for Sweden.

 Roxana Popa (ESP)

The Romanian-born Roxana Popa had been Spain’s top athlete for the past few years. Sadly during the morning training of the opening day of the 2014 Mexican Open Roxana tore her ACL and injured her meniscus. As Roxana announced through her facebook account in late March, she did not manage to fully recover from the meniscus injury and an arthroscopy could not be postponed any longer meaning she would miss the Test Event and therefore her chance to go to the Olympic Games. Rio would have been Roxana’s first Olympic Games.

Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (MAS) & Marina Nekrasova (AZE)

A bad day of competition for Farah Ann Abdul Hadi and Marina Nekrasova at the Test Event meant they did not achieve a high enough score to earn a spot for the Olympic Games.

Farah Ann comes from Malaysia a country very little known in the gymnastics world, yet her smile along with consistent performances earned her an 11th place in the all-around at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

As for Marina Nekrasova, she represents a country that four years ago did not have an artistic gymnastics team. Despite being a very strong powerhouse in rhythmic gymnastics, Azerbaijan had not developed an artistic gymnastics program until three years ago and Marina just narrowly missed the score to be the country’s first Olympian, she’s currently first reserve with Farah Ann standing in second. 

 Catalina Ponor or Larissa Iordache (ROU)

By rule any gymnast that earns a medal at the World Championships, taking place the year prior to the Olympic Games, that comes from a country that has not qualified a full team earns an automatic berth to the Games with the country still having a chance to send a second gymnast.

When the rule was made the FIG included vault, bars, beam and floor medalists but excluded individual all-around medalists; most likely because it seemed impossible for a gymnast to win an individual all-around medal coming from a country that could not place in the top 12. And if that scenario could have been considered plausible everyone would have laughed at the possibility of that country being powerhouse Romania.

Larissa Iordache who was the bronze medallist in the all-around at the 2015 World Championships could not go to the Test Event to help her team qualify a full team to the Olympics due to injury. At the Test Event the triple gold-medallist from Athens 2004 Catalina Ponor was the leader of a team that saw their decades-long problems at the uneven bars, lack of consistency and injuries push them back into a jaw-dropping 7th place that only earned them one individual spot at the Olympics.

After retiring in 2007, Catalina Ponor made a comeback four years later that amazed many. In London 2012 she earned a floor silver medal and finished fourth on beam after a tie-breaking rule did not favor her. At the time, her comeback was praised as one of the best ever.

Three years after London, Catalina was ready to make a third comeback; however an injury prevented her from attending the 2015 World Championships in October. Following surgery and despite of not being fully recovered Catalina was the top athlete of her team at the Test Event. If she were to attend the Olympics her chances of making the beam and floor finals, the events where she won gold 12 years ago, would be very high.

Larissa has been the most successful and only medallist Romania has had since 2013. Her ability to come back from a devastating qualification round at the 2015 World Championships that saw her qualify only 15th but improve into 3rd in the all-around final, in the end, won’t give Romania a second spot.  

If the rules had been different and all-around medals, which are much harder to achieve than event final medals, could secure berths for all-around world medalists that don’t have a qualified team to the Olympic Games, then Romania could have a second spot that could go to Catalina Ponor. The rule will most likely be amended for Tokyo 2020 but for now it means that only one gymnast will go to Rio.

It has been announced that Larissa Iordache and Catalina Ponor will battle for the single spot with both having Olympic deserving routines. One of them will go and we will be irremediably devastated for the one that will have to stay home.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

Romania… The End Of An Era

The Broken Roads To Rio – Part 2

 

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