By Anna Rose Johnson
It was certainly an eventful round of qualifications for the women at 2017 Worlds. In a moment that saddened the gymnastics community, Larisa Iordache tore her Achilles tendon in warm-ups for floor exercise just moments before the competition. Iordache, who had been expected to contend for medals in the all-around and on beam and floor, left a huge void in the qualification round. Numerous unexpectedly low scores and unfortunate falls continued to shift the preconceptions of this competition, but in the end, we saw some amazing moments as well—Japan’s thrilling rise, the lovely Russian bars routines, and Jade Carey’s rock-solid performance in her debut World Championships. Let’s take a look at our finalists!
Mai Murakami topped the all-around qualification round with a 55.933 and solid scores across the board. Her stunningly powerful floor routine, which included a double-twisting double mount, scored 14.200—the second highest floor score of the entire competition. Starting off with a superbly controlled beam routine and scoring a 14.633 on vault, Murakami tumbled to victory just 0.001 ahead of USA’s Ragan Smith.
Smith had a bit of a rough night, falling from balance beam, but she rebounded beautifully on floor exercise to claim the top score on that event (14.433). If she hits beam in the all-around final, she should have an excellent chance to claim the gold medal. Canada’s Ellie Black, who competed in prelims two days ago, finished the qualification round in third place with a 55.766. Black’s routines were full of poise and power, and she put on a brilliant performance for the home crowd in Montreal.
Qualifying in fourth was France’s Melanie de Jesus do Santos, who scored a pair of 14.5s on vault and bars and ended the competition with a 55.299 total. Elena Eremina of Russia finished fifth with the top uneven bars routine (15.100). USA’s Morgan Hurd was sixth, and the remaining gymnasts in the top 10 included Diana Varinska (UKR), Nina Derwael (BEL), Aiko Sugihara (JPN), and Angelina Melnikova (RUS). With only 1.101 points separating first from sixth place, it should an epic battle for the gold tomorrow.
2015 World Vault Champion Maria Paseka of Russia qualified first to the vault final with a steady Amanar and Cheng (14.933 average). Jade Carey (USA) finished a close second, taking a large step forward on her Amanar and completing a nice Kasamatsu for an average of 14.849. Switzerland’s Giulia Steingruber, who won a 2016 Olympic bronze on this event, ended up third with a 14.750 (her rudi was one of the best of the qualification round)! The other vault finalists include Shallon Olsen (CAN) with a 14.649, Wang Yan (CHN) with a 14.550, Sae Miyakawa (JPN) with a 14.516, Ellie Black (CAN) with a 14.483, and 1992 Olympic champ Oksana Chusovitina (UZB) with a 14.349.
Russian teammates Elena Eremina and Anastasia Iliankova were the top qualifiers on bars, with scores of 15.100 and 15.066, respectively. Both Eremina and Iliankova have exquisite lines on this event and will be difficult to beat in the final. Fan Yilin (CHN) was part of the memorable four-way tie for bars gold at 2015 Worlds, and she has a definite chance to defend her gold if she repeats her lovely performance in prelims (15.000). Rounding out the final is Belgian star Nina Derwael (14.966), German veteran Elisabeth Seitz (14.700), U.S. national bars silver medalist Ashton Locklear (14.566), and Luo Huan of China (14.566).
Beam was one of the most closely contested qualification rounds, but the lowest-scoring of all four events. Germany’s Tabea Alt qualified first to beam with a 13.533 (5.9. D-score). Alt, 17, is known for her elegant routines, and could certainly take the beam gold if she repeats her performance from qualifications. Qualifying second was USA’s Morgan Hurd, whose dynamic standing full was a highlight of her beam routine (13.500). 2015 World beam bronze medalist Pauline Schaefer qualified third here with a 13.433, while Canada’s Ellie Black placed fourth (14.433). Japan’s Asuka Teramoto (13.333), Russia’s Elena Eremina (13.233), China’s Liu Tingting (13.233), and Japan’s Mai Murakami (13.200) completed the field of beam finalists.
An extremely competitive event was floor exercise, where USA’s Ragan Smith qualified on top with a 14.433 for her powerful tumbling and intricate choreography. Mai Murakami (JPN) was second with her 14.200, while Jade Carey (USA) qualified third with a 14.100 for her unbelievably high passes. Great Britain’s Claudia Fragapane was fourth (13.933), and Canada’s Brooklyn Moors performed an artistic exercise for a 13.866. The other finalists included Thais Santos of Brail (13.733), Vanessa Ferrari of Italy (13.600), and Lara Mori of Italy (13.500).