Olympic Preview: Women's Qualification, Session 2
(2 votes, average 4.50 out of 5)

Russia headlines the second of five subdivisions of women's qualification competition on Sunday at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Vault: Italy

Vanessa Ferrari is back for Italy in her third Olympic appearance. She nearly quit four years ago after the 2012 Olympics, when she lost the bronze medal on floor exercise due to a cruel tie break, but decided to return for Rio. Chronic ankle and Achilles' tendon injuries have hampered her for several years. Carlotta Ferlito and Erika Fasana are both returning Olympians and world championships finalist.s The team is most impressive on floor exercise, where they are known for their strong tumbling.


Aliya Mustafina (2012)

Uneven Bars: Mixed Group 5

Mixed Group 5 contains two South American gymnasts in Ailen Valente (Argentina) and Catalina Escobar (Colombia), and American gymnasts Houry Gebeshian (a dual citizen of Armenia) and Kylie Dickson (recruited to compete for Belarus). The inspiring Gebeshian is making history as the first Armenian female gymnast to compete at the Olympic Games. This group also includes former French national team member Farah Boufadene, who is the first Algerian female gymnast at the Olympics.

Balance Beam: Russia

Russia, the defending silver medalists from the 2012 Olympic Games, is led by team captain Aliya Mustafina, the reigning Olympic champion on uneven bars, who won four medals in London. The team has been decimated by injuries that prevented Ksenia Afanasyeva and Viktoria Komova from competing in Rio, and the team is particularly weak on floor exercise. Fortunately for the team, injuries to Russian champion Angelina Melnikova (hamstrong) and world vault champion Maria Paseka (back) appeared to have improved significantly by podium training. Mustafina missed last year's world championships after tearing her meniscus, and she has also been plagued this year by back problems. Nonetheless she looked strong in training, and added upgrades to her uneven bars dismount and tumbling. Seda Tutkhalyan will do the all-around along with Mustafina, but she has yet to prove she can be trusted to hit under pressure. The fifth team member, Daria Spiridonova, is a gold medal contender on uneven bars, where she was part of the four-way gold medal tie at last year's worlds.

Floor Exercise: Mixed Group 6

Mixed Group 6 includes medal contenders Catalina Ponor (Romania) and Giula Steingruber (Switzerland), who both had the honor of serving as flag bearers during Friday night's Opening Ceremonies. Steingruber has solid medal chances on vault and floor exercise, and will try to make an impact in the all-around. Ponor, who turns 29 later this month, is still not 100 percent following surgery on her leg last fall, but is gunning for finals on balance beam and floor exercise. Remarkably, the triple Olympic champion from 2004 may try to compete in the all-around, though she has not competed on uneven bars since 2004. The Romanian women surprisigly did not qualify a full team to the Olympic Games, and Ponor will be their sole representative in Rio.

Zsófia Kovács, a first-year senior, is a bright hope for the Hungarian women and could make the vault finals if she stays clean.

Up Next: Great Britain, Germany and host Brazil compete in session three!

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