Rio In Review: Russia Vaults Into Team Silver

The team opened on uneven bars, their strongest event. Melnikova bettered her score from qualifications and Aliya Mustafina scored a 15.933 a score that could easily win her Olympic gold on uneven bars again. But Daria Spiridinova showed a routine of only 6.3 difficulty against the 6.7 she had showed in qualifications. Since it was early in the competition and beam and floor were still to come the lost 4 tenths in difficulty meant a nervous start for Russia.

Great Britain who placed behind Russia after the uneven bars rotation was set to take advantage on beam but the very unexpected fall of Elissa Downie on her standing arabian gave Russia the opportunity to continue in the lead for bronze if they managed to stay on the apparatus.

Angelina Melnikova fell off the beam scoring lower than she had during qualifications where she also had problems and ended up grabbing the beam. Mustafina who fell during the preliminaries scored nearly two points higher (14.958). If she had scored that high during the qualification round she would have earned a spot in the beam final.

Seda Tutkhalyan re-known for her difficulty on beam yet her inability to perform it without a fall surprised during the preliminaries by having her team’s highest score on beam. And once again, when her team needed the most, she performed it so well that if it had been the preliminary round she too would have advanced to the beam final.

The beam test was over and the girls had passed it successfully however floor is also a big challenge since Russia lacks difficulty and they do not compensate it with good execution, so even though they rarely fall they are very weak in the event.

Angelina Melnikova increased her Floor score by a full point since she had fallen in preliminaries, Mustafina as beautiful as ever scored almost the same than she had in qualifications but Seda had issues with her landings taking several steps in her double pike and landing low in her double tuck. But she managed to stay in bounds and on her feet for the team to continue in the battle for bronze.

Great Britain had one last chance to catch Russia on Floor as they are very strong in the event, so strong that they finished 2nd in the apparatus despite losing 0.5 in out of bounds deductions. But for GBR to be in the run for bronze they needed the lead after three rotations to make up for Paseka’s Amanar and after three rotations the British girls were down by approximately 1.3 points.

So Russia almost seemed to have the bronze in the bag until the scores came up and Japan was in bronze medal position after three rotations. Unexpectedly too, China, that had been in the silver medal position the whole time had a fall on floor, but it was much more than just a fall. Mao Yi had landed (sat down) her first tumbling pass outside the floor area earning an automatic 1.5 deduction for her error. China had gifted away their silver and it was in Russia’s vaults the opportunity to catch it.

So with two goals in mind, surpassing Japan to secure bronze and for Paseka to land her Amanar to climb into silver, Russia entered the final rotation. After two good double twisting Yurchenko’s Russia had a secure bronze but there was an opportunity for more and the fate of the entire team relied solely in Maria’s hands, if she crashed her vault or performed it poorly Russia would have to settle for only bronze. Maria delivered and performed a stuck Amanar that showed why she is the current World Vault Champion.

The job was done, the team delivered more than skills they delivered mental toughness and were highly rewarded for it. We hope to see more performances like this from the Russian Team with the added bonus of improvements on beam and floor.

As for the pending event finals, after qualifications Seda topped the Russian standings followed by Mustafina which means Melnikova has lost her chance for the all-around final. However Seda and Angelina could be traded if considered necessary. Neither of them has a real chance of an all-around medal however Russia is expected to place in the top 10. Given Seda’s outstanding record in consistency throughout the Games along with the fact that Melnikova is still recovering from injury it would be best to have Seda as Russia’s second all-arounder.

The bar is high for Aliya Mustafina as she needs to equal her Team Final performance to have a real chance of an all-around medal and the same applies for the uneven bars final. Daria Spiridinova needs to show full difficulty to stand a chance on bars as well as for Maria Paseka she has in her Amanar half a medal she only needs to improve her Cheng for a place on the podium.


Rio in Review: The Team Final

Rio in Review: 10 Cool Facts from the Team Final

Rio in Review: Aliya Mustafina Repeats All-Around Bronze from London 2012

Rio in Review: Aliya Mustafina Golden as the Russians Close Their Olympic Participation


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