By Patricia C. Duffy
The official line-up for the U.S. women’s qualification round was released on Tuesday afternoon. The four gymnasts, Jade Carey, Morgan Hurd, Ashton Locklear and Ragan Smith, will begin competition tonight in the final women’s qualifying subdivision at 7 p.m. ET, at the 2017 World Championships at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Que., Canada. (See information on how to stream here.)
Feature photo by Grace Chiu; Video by USA Gymnastics
Unlike with the U.S. men, there were no surprises in these line-up choices.
All-around: Hurd, Smith
Vault: Carey, Hurd, Smith
Uneven bars: Hurd, Locklear, Smith
Balance beam: Hurd, Locklear, Smith
Floor exercise: Carey, Hurd, Smith
Let’s breakdown each event and see where each woman has the best chance at medaling:
Smith has been considered a lock for this all-around spot since she became the U.S. all-around champion in mid-August. Her beam and floor routines are finals-worthy compared to the numbers we’ve seen thus far through two qualifying subdivisions for the women in Montreal.
But the final Smith is pushing for is the all-around. It’s hard to not see her finishing on top or near the top of the leaderboard after qualifications wraps on Wednesday. Even with an uncharacteristic fall or any other mishaps, Smith would certainly still land in the top 24 to qualify to the final on Friday evening. She’s one of the favorites to win it all or at least podium, but she’ll have some stiff competition from the likes of Larisa Iordache and others.
Hurd was the unexpected Worlds team member. After P&Gs, many thought Riley McCusker would fill the fourth spot of an otherwise seemingly obvious roster. Unfortunately, McCusker had to scratch from Worlds camp due to illness, and Hurd was there to fill the gap.
At P&Gs in mid-August, Hurd finished sixth in the all-around due to a few mistakes, particularly on floor on day one, but her day two score of 55.650 would put her in second place on the current women’s qualifying podium after two subdivisions. She’s not any less capable of earning the U.S. a second medal in the all-around, but she’ll have to be consistent and performing at her absolute best to challenge in finals.
Other event finals for Hurd are unlikely. She is a true all-arounder in the sense that her scores are consistent across the board, but exceptional routines on beam and floor could put her in the running.
Hurd and Smith will only compete one vault each, meaning Jade Carey is the U.S.’s one and only hope at a vault medal. It’s not surprising. Carey was the only gymnast to compete two vaults at both the U.S. Classic and P&Gs over the summer.
Her Amanar has improved substantially since those competitions. It is BEAUTIFUL through the air. She’s sending McKayla Maroney vibes with her form and just needs to keep working on sticking the landing. That vault alone will earn her a huge score if she performs it similarly to or better than her Amanar in podium training.
Her Kas is the second vault she’ll perform, and it is just a notch down from her Amanar in wow-factor and execution.
Carey’s biggest competition is Maria Paseka, who is the only vaulter with a potentially substantial leg up on the competition with her Cheng vault that is valued at a 6.0 D-score.
The potentially comes from Paseka’s inconsistency on vault. Despite being on the scene since London 2012, earning bronze at those games and coming back to earn silver at Rio 2016, Paseka is often a hit or a miss with her vaults.
Other top competition for Carey on vault includes: Oksana Chusovitina and Giulia Steingruber.
The Russians are bringing it this year on uneven bars. They competed on Tuesday in the first day of qualifications and have three women in the top four. Obviously, the two-per-country rule eliminates Angelina Melnikova’s 14.966, but Anastasia Iliankova (15.066) and Elena Eremina (15.100) are the ones to beat in this final.
Smith has a chance if she improves in the execution of her newer, more difficult routine, but that’s why fellow Rio 2016 alternate Locklear is in Montreal in the first place. Her beam is a bonus, but her bars give the U.S. the best chance of a gymnast making this final. Her D-score (5.5) isn’t what it should be since she has yet to return her in-bars, but Locklear floats on this apparatus and can still put up big numbers if she hits a near-flawless routine.
The U.S. has a strong three-woman line-up on beam with Hurd, Locklear and Smith competing.
As stated earlier, Smith is the go-to woman for the U.S. on beam right now, thanks to her high D-score (6.1) and impeccable execution. She struggled a bit in podium training, slipping off on her front tuck, but she’s known to hit when it counts.
Locklear fills the third spot nicely. She also has a much less difficult routine than Smith and is inconsistent with it much of the time, but her numbers from recent competitions are still up there with much of the field when she hits.
Hurd and Smith both have difficult routines that could earn them spots in the floor final, but Carey, who has the highest D-score (5.8) for the U.S. on floor, rivals Smith on the apparatus when she hits a clean routine.
Her tumbling is incredible for someone who has only been competing in Elite gymnastics a year. That double-double and full-twisting double layout are just two of the reasons to expect Carey in the floor final this weekend.
Best Medal Hopes?
Smith and Carey are the best bets for the U.S. to bring home medals in the all-around, floor exercise and beam.
With consistent performances, Hurd could also medal in the all-around, and Locklear’s execution could keep her in the mix on uneven bars.
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