By Anna Rose Johnson
With less than 400 days until the 2020 Olympics, we’re celebrating by counting down to Tokyo in our July/August issue and here on the website! It’s always fun to look ahead one year out from the Games and predict what might transpire in the Olympics to come—and we’re wondering which athletes have a chance to defend their titles in Tokyo!
The women’s team competition will be fascinating. In all likelihood, USA will win the team gold, especially since they claimed the Doha team title by a margin of 8.766 points—it will be interesting to see who their strongest challengers are. Russia, China, Canada, and Japan could potentially push them every step of the way if the U.S. begins to falter. And if the U.S. wins the team gold in Tokyo, it will mark their third consecutive and fourth total victories—a remarkable record!
USA’s Simone Biles is in a prime position to defend her three individual titles from Rio (all-around, vault, and floor exercise). Continually upping her difficulty and thrilling audiences with new skills, Biles could be a shining star at these Games, just as she was three years ago in Brazil. Her challengers may include Mai Murakami in the all-around and on floor, while Maria Paseka and Jade Carey could vie for the vault gold as well.
Russia’s Aliya Mustafina won back-to-back gold medals on uneven bars in London 2012 and Rio 2016, and she could certainly make it an unprecedented threesome in Tokyo 2020! But Mustafina has downgraded her difficulty in her latest comeback, which prevented her from contending for gold at last year’s World Championships (her D-score in Doha was a 5.8, compared to champion Nina Derwael’s 6.5). Because of the difference in their D-scores, Belgium’s Derwael could be Mustafina’s strongest challenger for the bars title—but Mustafina often saves her best for the biggest competitions, so don’t count her out yet!
Beam champion Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands continues to perform beautifully on this apparatus, maximizing her scores with the special spins that have made her a fan favorite. Unfortunately, consistency has been Wevers’ main obstacle in this quadrennium—at 2018 Worlds, she qualified fourth to the beam final with a significantly high E-score of 8.633, but she finished seventh in the final after a fall. Much like Mustafina, if Wevers can put together all the pieces on her best event when it counts most, she could certainly defend her beam title from Rio. Simone Biles could also challenge for the beam title (she won the bronze in Rio), as could China’s Liu Tingting.
Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com