Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The 2012 Olympics, 2020 Style - Part Deux

Since a lot of people seemed to be interested in my last post, regarding the Big Four countries and how they would have done in London if the new 2020 rules were in effect, I've decided to do the other four countries that were in the Team Finals--Canada, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan. My fear is that the new rules is going to make the gap between the Big Four and these nations even greater. To begin with, the gap is sizable--there was a difference of over four points between the fourth place team, China, and fifth place Canada. Canada was over thirteen points out of last place. The last place team, Japan, was seventeen points out of last place. The US could have dropped a score completely and still would have got in sixth place. The difference between the Big Four and other countries really is significant, and now that four all arounders are needed, I suspect that this will grow.

The second change is that, with really one exception, the athletes that I am dropping from the country's team would not make it to the Olympics at all--there are not any real specialists left. McKayla Maroney, Maria Paskea, Catalina Ponor, and He Kexin should all have easily qualified to the Olympics as specialists--all four of them won individual medals. This is not the case with the next four. The number of athletes from this country has indeed shrunk now.

So, what happened to Canada, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan?

5. Canada (Original score: 170.804)

Canada was a real surprise at the Olympics--they did so well! Their best athlete, Peng Peng Lee, was injured earlier in the year, and many people thought that this would really hurt their chances of getting into Team Finals. In the end, though, they not only qualified, but got their best result ever. Part of that, though, was because they could really use each athlete--everyone competed on at least two events. In the end, I dropped Brittany Rogers, since she was the weakest all arounder. There's a chance she might have made the Olympics as a vault specialist--she did qualify to the event finals--but I'm not sure. Would losing her vault really hurt Canada?

Not as much as you think. Their score does drop by about .7, which is pretty sizable, but Victoria Moors' vault from the Canada Cup (essentially their Olympic Trials) actually scored higher than Brittany Rogers did. Vault was not the issue for Team Canada after all.

What is real notable is that all four dropped scores are scores that weren't from finals; the only two changes are Moors' vault (which, as discussed above, was actually better than Brittany's), but the only drop in scoring is bars--Dominique Pegg's score is essentially .7 less than Brittany's was, so that is where all the harm is done. Bars, which I had not even considered, is where the new system really harms Canada. True, the drop is less than a point, but certainly the new system has done Canada no favors.

6. Great Britain (Original score: 170.495)

GO ENGLAND! Okay, now that I got that out of the way, I knew from day one that this new system was really going to hurt GB because they would lose Beth Tweddle. Beth Tweddle is probably the only athlete who (should have been) a shoo-in as a bars specialist. Her score on bars is huge, almost 1.5 higher than the next athlete. It's just hard to replace. So I was rather nervous when looking at the Great Britain score.

Whew, it wasn't that big of a drop. Just a little over three tenths. This is mostly due to the new scoring system taking out Jennifer Pinches' balance beam from Team Finals, which was a disaster (multiple falls, I believe). Gaining Rebecca Tunney's 1.3ish on beam really helps with losing Beth--although I wouldn't necessarily take it as a certainty, since Rebecca Tunney has unfortunately had a history of falling on beam at inopportune times. Additionally, Imogen Cairns' floor from British Championships was actually higher than Beth's TF score (although, like I talked about in my last post, that is possibly an inflated score), so that is where the cushion comes from.

But even with this drop, the Great Britain team does overtake Canada and gets into fifth place. The new system might have them lose their fantastic bar worker, but it also covers their mistakes--and that is needed, especially for a program that is not quite as used to major team final pressure (and let us face it, there's nothing more stressful than the Olympic Team Final at home). Good for them! They would be happy with the new system.

7. Italy (Original score: 167.93)

There was a drop between the Big Four and Canada/Great Britain, but there is another decent drop between those two and Italy, of over two points. Italy has definitely had an interesting ten years in gymnastics, with Vanessa Ferrari winning the World All Around title back in 2006. That has brought some popularity and attention to gymnastics in Italy, so they've got some decent new athletes come in, like Erika Fasana and Carlotta Ferlito. Because of that, I don't think that the new system will harm them that much--particularly since they really brought three solid all arounders. Regarding who to drop, it doesn't look like Giorgia Campana was even competing vault or floor in 2012, so she was an easy choice to drop.

The new system doesn't make too much of a difference--all of the dropped scores were not from Team Finals. The only score where Preziosa counted was balance beam, which was the only event she actually competed in Team Finals. In fact, the only major change is counting Ferlito's uneven bars, which drops the team score by about .8. So does the change hurt Italy? It does--but now that I've gone through seven teams, there's clearly a trend of scores dropping about .7-.8. Italy is dropping the normal amount, so it isn't that devastating.

8. Japan (Original score: 166.646)

I love the Japanese team. They aren't always the most difficult routines, but I feel that the Japanese team always competes with an elegance and artistry that is entirely their own. Their leotards are fun and look like modern art pieces. They've been a bit of a stagnant team recently, neither improving nor on the decline, but I wonder if the success on the men's side (with Kohei Uchimura) will eventually come over to the women's side.

Anyway. This was a difficult team to figure out. Koko Tsurumi, who I thought was a decent all arounder, only competed vault and uneven bars in London despite scoring well on beam in the Japanese Championships and scoring better than Rie Tanaka. I can't find out whether she was injured or not, but since she was recently in the all around, I kept her on the team. Asuka Teramoto competed all four events in Team Finals and was also an easy decision. Rie Tanaka competed three events and did the all around in qualifications, so she was also an easy keep. The real question was between Yuko Shintake and Yu Minobe, since those two both were about even in the all around. I chose to keep Shintake since she scored higher at Japanese Championships.

Wow--just as I thought I saw a trend, Japan ends up gaining over 1.2 points with the new system! Yuko Shintake's scores are almost all dropped, so it isn't a huge change. The balance beam score is almost entirely new, but it was not like any major falls were taken out. Even Rie Tanaka's floor, while low, wasn't disastrously low for her. But there are minor increases among each event that just helps Japan. This way they get to overtake Italy and get into seventh place.

But here is what I do not understand--the athletes on this team were not the top four all-arounders in Japan. In fact, as far as I can tell, they weren't even close. According to the Japanese Championships, which was the most recent scores I could find for Japan prior to the Olympics, Rie was first, Asuka was fourth, Yuko was sixth, and Koko was seventh. So--out of pure curiosity--what happens when we include the top four all arounders?

Now, I know that there was probably some unfair bonuses since it was home judging--but the Japanese Championships were in April, so the athletes should have improved! But when you include the top four all arounders, the score is up by over three points--they're almost up to competing with Canada and Great Britain! Now I'm confused about why the Olympic team was those women originally (injuries, maybe? I can't see anything). Well, I said that Japan was on the rise--and the new system is definitely benefitting them. So here we go.


Well, I thought that the difference between the top and the bottom would increase with the new scoring system--and it turns out I was wrong. The original spread between first and eighth was 16.95 points, but it is now 16.058--so almost a point. Now, that really isn't that big; it is almost negligible. So the only big difference, now, is the number of athletes that are competing per country.

Beth Tweddle is really the only specialist in the lot (and possibly Brittany Rogers). Losing Giorgia Campana and Yu Minobe is unfortunate, but we've seen in Italy what happens when an athlete becomes successful--it helps the whole country's program in the end because kids want to learn and compete. That might be happening in Japan. If Campana and Yu are lost, that is unfortunate for them, but it might benefit the sport itself--and there's something to be said about that.

But this is the Olympics--and shouldn't it also be about the best possible athletes competing? Well, if that was the case, there would be no per-country rules in finals and half the athletes would be from the US. The Olympics has multiple goals. The World Championships has one--the best in the world competing--and they aren't changing the rules.

Originally I was firmly against this rule change, but after looking at this data, I'm a bit more okay with it. The Team Finals aren't being ruined. It's still just as competitive and interesting. True, we are losing some wonderful moments, like McKayla's beautiful Amanar and Beth Tweddle doing bars in the Team Finals in her home country. But there's now room for other wonderful moments too. So I think, after all, I am okay.

I might do the other teams that qualified to London this weekend.

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