Session two of women's qualification at the 43nd World Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo brings our first look at a medal-contending team: seven-time world champions Romania. Led once again by legendary coaching duo Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang, Romania is not going for gold but instead is very wisely using this event as a build-up toward next summer's Olympic Games.
World champion Ana Porgras
Mixed Group 13: Vault
Mixed Group 13 features Croatia, including 2008 Olympian Tina Erceg. Teammate Tijana Tkalcec is a World Cup veteran and has two vaults planned, but typically does not have enough difficulty to qualify to a final at worlds.
Portugal is also in this group, but has only two gymnasts entered after a late injury forced out national champion Ekaterina Kislinskaya.
Venezuela: Uneven Bars
Venezuela starts on uneven bars, meaning star Jessica Lopez will have to nail her first routine if she hopes to make the finals. Her exciting new routine is worthy of an event final for the 2008 Olympian. Lopez' routine is lengthy with four releases, but she fell on her dismount at the Ghent World Cup. She will need to nail it today if she wants to make history.
Romania: Balance Beam
The Romanians will easily qualify to the team final, so the only question is which of their gymnasts will advance to the individual finals. They begin on their traditional best event, balance beam, with a packed lineup that includes a European champion in Amelia Racea, a world champion in Ana Porgras and an Olympic champion in Catalina Ponor. Any of the five gymnasts in their lineup could be finalists, but only two will make it.
Romania is weakened on floor with their loss of Sandra Izbasa (at home resting with a sore Achilles), but have four potential finalists in Ponor, Porgras, Diana Bulimar and Diana Chelaru. Porgras' routine is the most artistic and stylish, and she's upgraded to a double layout mount.
Izbasa will also be missed on vault, where none of the Romanians will try to make the final. Uneven bars is still Romania's weakness; Porgras is the only one with a final-worthy routine, and she has been inconsistent all year.
Mixed Group 3: Floor Exercise
Mixed Group 3 is an all-Scandinavian lot with three gymnasts each from Denmark and Finland. Neither nation has made much of an impact on women's gymnastics internationally, but it is always interesting to follow their progress.
Next Up in Subdivision 3:: Australia and Mixed Groups 6 and 7!
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