Subdivision 3 sees the return of two significant forces on the Romanian team: Sandra Izbasa and Octavian Bellu.
Olympic champion Sandra Izbasa is back in action for Romania, as is Octavian Bellu.
The very blonde Izbasa, the 2008 Olympic champion on floor exercise, will compete all but uneven bars as she makes her comeback from a torn Achilles in September 2009. And Bellu, who helped coach Romania to an upset gold in Rotterdam 23 years ago, has rejoined the women's squad after a five-year separation.
The Polish women, 21st at the 2006 Worlds, are hoping for another top-24 finish to keep their 2012 hopes alive. The team's leader is 2008 Olympian Marta Pihan-Kulesza, one-half of the only married couple competing in Rotterdam. Her husband, Roman Kulesza, is on the Polish men's squad. Look for Pihan-Kulesza to do well on balance beam and floor exercise.
Romania: Uneven Bars
Romania begins on uneven bars, which is not Romania's weakest event currently. While the team does have some strong bars routines from Ana Porgras and Cerasela Patrascu, Romania's current lineup is now least impressive on vault. The team has some low start values and its higher-valued vaults aren't usually performed cleanly. Izbasa's clean Yurchenko 1 1/2 may be the team's highest score.
But Romania's lack of difficulty on vault also can be seen as part of their larger game plan by the coaching: keeping the gymnasts healthy in order to peak for 2012. Why have a gymnast vault Yurchenko 2 1/2s in 2010 if it means she'll be too hurt to challenge in 2012?
After bars, the Romanians will rack up points on balance beam and floor exercise, where they have chances of individual medals. The exquisite Porgras will be tough to beat on balance beam, and she showed a sharper routine at the Romanian championships in September. Izbasa's new floor exercise routine is refreshing in that it only has three tumbling runs, and the folk melodies of "Hava Nagila" and "Kalinka" always gets the audience clapping.
Brazil: Balance Beam
The Brazilian women have their own comeback story in Jade Barbosa, who has been injured and/or at odds with the Brazilian federation since the 2008 Olympics. Barbosa plans to do two vaults in qualification, and could medal if she competes full difficulty in finals.
Barbosa is last up for Brazil on all events except balance beam, where national champion and three-time Olympian Daniele Hypolito will close.
Israel: Floor Exercise
Israel's top gymnast for the past several years has been Ukrainian Valeria Maksyuta, but Roni Rabinovitz brought the best recent result for the country with the bronze medal on floor exercise at September's World Cup in Ghent.
Next Up in Subdivision 4:: Belarus and Iceland.
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