The U.S. Dominates Women's Olympic Qualifications
(8 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

As expected and predicted throughout the world, the U.S., led by three-time world champion Simone Biles, dominated the women's qualifications with a performance for the ages. The team scored 185.238, almost 10 points ahead of second-place China. To put that in perspective, the U.S. won the 2015 World Championships with 181.338. Of course, that was in the team final, where there is no throwaway score. In Rio, the preliminary format allows four gymnasts to compete on each apparatus, and the low score is dropped. Still, a women's score of 185 is uncharted territory under the current open-ended Code of Points, which was implemented at the 2006 World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark.

The remaining six teams to advance to the team final were, in order, Russia, Great Britain, Brazil, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. Canada placed ninth, less than 0.20 from the top eight, followed by Italy, France and Belgium.

The Americans' prelim performance included no falls and, as a team, they ranked first on every event but uneven bars, where Russia had the top total. Their biggest mistake came in the final rotation, when Aly Raisman had to save a side aerial on beam by bending at the hips. U.S. National Team Coordinator Marta Karolyi, who will retire after these games, might make her to do extra conditioning tomorrow for that error. But seriously, the U.S. women's program prides itself on consistency, which Karolyi believes is the result of disciplined training—and lots of numbers. It sure was on display today in Rio.

The U.S. swept the top three all-around spots, with Biles, Raisman and Gabby Douglas (62.366, 60.607, 60.131). So unless Raisman is unable to compete on Thursday, Douglas will not have a chance to defend her 2012 title.

1) United States: 185.238

The Americans set the tone on their first event, floor exercise, where defending Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas hit her best floor routine this year. Lauren Hernandez hit cold as well to set up Simone Biles, who was near perfect and scored 15.733. Defending Olympic floor champ Aly Raisman got the anchor position and also hit the routine of her life, but her D-score left her behind Biles.

Vault was the team's highest scoring event (46.966). Douglas's 15.166 (Yurchenko-double twist) was dropped after Hernandez scored a 15.200 for the same vault. Biles earned 16.000 for her Amanar and she nailed her Cheng Fei second vault.

Uneven bars resulted in the team's second-highest total (46.632). Raisman's 14.733 was eliminated as the low score, and Madison Kocian edged Douglas by 0.10 with her 15.866. Douglas's 15.766 was the only score that contributed to the team score, so it will be interesting to see how many events she competes in the team final. (She and Raisman both scored 14.833 on beam.)

Douglas was excellent on beam, as was Hernandez (15.366). Raisman was solid until her crooked side aerial, and Biles was superb with a 15.633.

2) China: 175.279

Starting on beam, China did reasonably well, considering it used only three gymnasts: Wang Yan, Shang Chunsong and Fan Yilin all hit without falls for a 43.332 team total. Despite some impressive tumbling, floor was China's lowest scoring event. Mao Yi went out of bounds and had a fall (11.700), and Shang was crooked on her 3.5 twist to piked front (14.10). Wang led the team with 14.666 (tucked double-double, 1.5 twist through to triple twist, punch front).

Scorewise, China's last two events went much better. Wang's handspring-rudi earned 14.933 and Yurchenko-double twists from Mao and Tan Jiaxin scored 14.816 and 14.766. Bars went even better, with Shang's 15.300 the top score, followed by a 15.266 from 2015 co-world champion Fan.

3) Russia: 174.620

Thee Russians' effort went from trainwreck to Caribbean cruise. Angelina Melnikova nearly fell off beam, and Aliya Mustafina appeared to jump off the apparatus after her front aerial combination went awry. Seda Tutkhalyan led the team on beam with an amazing roundoff layout-full and posted a 14.466. Daria Spiridonova pitched in a 14.266.

On floor, Tutkhalyan went out of bounds on her double layout, and Melnikova went splat on her double pike dismount. After Mustafina posted a clean 14.066, Spiridonova fell out of bounds on her first pass (2.5 twist, punch front).

When the team trudged to its next event, the sun finally came out. Nobody fell on vault or bars. Mustafina, the defending Olympic champion on bars, swung a great set to best 2015 co-world champ Spiridonova, 15.833-15.683. Tutkhalyan and Mustafina qualified to the all-around in fifth and sixth, respectively.

4) Great Britain: 174.064

The Brits could have easily placed second in prelims if not for the aborted floor routine of Ellie Downie. After mounting with a 1.5 twist through to Arabian double front, she came back with a piked Arabian double front. But when she attempted to follow a 2.5 twist with a punch front in her next pass, she under rotated the first skill but still went for the front. The awkward result was a half somersault that landed on her neck. She stood up and danced her way to a different corner and then stopped. She stepped off the mat and grabbed her head, and was eventually led out of the arena by trainers. She was given a 12.500 by the judges.

Amazingly, she returned for vault warm-ups, and competed an excellent Yurchenko-double twist and layout Podkopayeva. Downie's older sister Rebecca led the team on its first event, bars, with a 15.233. Elissa qualified to the all-around final, and teammate Claudia Fragapane, who followed Elissa on floor with a great routine (layout full-in mount, double layout dismount), is the first alternate.

5) Brazil: 174.054

The return of Rebeca Andrade from a torn ACL paid dividends for the home team in Rio. Her knee is healed, the proof being the 15.566 she scored on her Amanar vault. After four events, her 58.732 ranked fourth, behind the three Americans. Flavia Saraiva also made her mark on beam with 15.133, and her brilliant floor routine drew a huge response from the crowd.

If this team gets inspired in the team final, a medal is definitely within its grasp.

6) Germany: 173.263

The Germans rode the strength of their uneven bars total (45.699) with excellent performances from Elisabeth Seitz (15.466) and Sophie Scheder (15.433). Both made bars finals. Their 41.732 on floor, however, prevented them from climbing higher in the standings.

7) Japan: 172.564

Balance beam was Japan's downfall today, but its floor tumbling is on par with the top countries in the world. Mai Murakami, who ranked ninth all-around, made the floor final with a 14.566. Keep an eye on Japan in the all-scores-count team final. This team is talented.

8) Netherlands: 171.929

Just as it did at the 2015 World Championships, the Netherlands grabbed the last spot into the team final. Eythora Thorsdottir ranked eighth all-around, which included a fall on floor on a 2.5 twist dismount. The rest of her routine was sensational. Sanne Wevers scored 15.066 on beam to advance to that final in fourth place.

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