Russia qualifies third but that is little comfort.
The team had very little margin for error as they have two one-eventers, Maria Paseka and Daria Spiridinova. Maria was taken to Rio because she can do an Amanar and a Cheng and Daria can only contribute on uneven bars; to make matters worse Maria is injured and even if she had another good event she could not be asked to participate The situation made it absolutely necessary for Spiridinova to compete three events in the qualification round, as they needed four gymnasts in each rotation.
Russia started on beam and given previous competitions it was expected for Spiridinova and Tutkhalyan to fall as they rarely stay on, but it happened the other way around and both Seda and Daria stayed on while Mustafina fell and Melnikova grabbed the beam. Even though Mustafina’s score was dropped the team still placed a very low 8th place in the event among all the teams.
If beam was bad floor was worst. Aliya and Seda got through their routines but Melnikova put a hand down and Spiridinova, who had a routine of only 5.000 in Difficulty, fell AND went out of bounds loosing 1.3 in one tumbling pass alone. Her score was dropped but still Russia placed 10th in the event among all the teams.
After two rotations and with only four teams competing, Russia stood fourth, behind Belgium that eventually finished 12th. The beam and floor problems for Russia are reaching scary limits and they should ask Romania what happened after their uneven bars problems escalated.
So with a grim future Russia moved to the vault where they desperately needed to do well and an Amanar was supposed to help, except Maria Paseka chose to do her Cheng first since it had a 6.4 start value. But the vault nearly became a disaster; she had complete leg separation in the air, barely landed it and took steps that went out of the lines costing 0.3 in neutral deductions. In the end her score was dropped in favour of three better Double Twisting Yurchenkos, that only had 5.8 start values.
Paseka performed a rather secure Amanar for her second vault, however second vaults don’t count towards team total as they are used exclusively to qualify to the vault final, which Maria has entered.
An important lesson was learned from this experience, it showed how a single vault can make a huge difference. If the Amanar, instead of the Cheng, had been counted towards the team total Russia would have increased their total by 0.633 and while they would still have qualified third behind China the difference between the two team totals would have been of only 0.026.
Uneven Bars went as expected for Russia with all four gymnasts hitting their routines and both Spiridinova and Mustafina making the Uneven Bars Final. The amount of difficulty on bars was enough to bring them back into the picture for a team medal as they were the highest team on that particular event.
Uneven bars will be the first event for the Russians in Team Final, and it is absolutely mandatory that they equal their qualifications results, they cannot afford to fall. Russia needs to gather enough lead on bars to cushion any falls that might happen on beam or floor. The perfect example of how missing a single uneven bars routine can seal the team’s fate is Glasgow 2015. Komova lost the rhythm and jumped off the high bar leaving no room for any missed routines on beam and the team went on to fall on all three of them. The result was a fourth place finish.
Also vault is extremely important as it will be the final event for the Russians in the team final and depending on how things go on beam and floor, the Amanar could be the ultimate difference. The qualification experience showed that choosing between the two vaults Maria has could have made a huge difference, in the Team Final it could be the difference between a medal and a fourth place. Because despite of what happened in qualifications, Great Britain is still the one to beat.
The British team had uncharacteristic mistakes with Rebecca Downie hitting the bar during a release move and Elissa Downie falling on floor, but those are not common mistakes and if Great Britain performs up to their standard they can overtake Russia, they have done so in the past.
Seda, who is a good all-arounder but not extraordinary in any event, was the top qualifier for Russia in the all-around followed by Mustafina meaning Melnikova has missed her chance. At the end of the subdivision Angelina seemed very upset by this, however she could still have a chance of getting traded in if, again if, she delivers during the team final the four hit routines the team desperately needs. Given the particular circumstances of this team the full load of having two one-eventers is relying on Mustafina’s and her young shoulders’.
The expected team final line-up is Mustafina on all four events, Melnikova on all four events, Seda on beam and floor, Paseka on vault only and Spiridinova on bars only.