The Americans captured the American Cup, Simone Biles steamrolled the competition in Stuttgart, and Aliya Mustafina conquered England via Birmingham. But Tokyo -- who’s going to take it all in Tokyo?
The 2020 Olympic city is hosting the fourth and final FIG All-around World Cup event of the year this weekend, and while the lineups have been shuffled like a deck of cards almost since the day they were announced, the final competitors list makes the podiums no less difficult to predict. All the same, here’s a modest auguring about who’s going to land in the top five in the women’s competition, with a bit of context as to why.
GOLD - Morgan Hurd, USA. The 2017 world all-around champion and 2018 world bronze medalist has proven time and again that not only does she do extremely difficult gymnastics, she can hit her routines when it really matters. Despite a December elbow surgery, Hurd is ready for this competition or she would not have been tapped for the assignment. She may not throw some of her most difficult tumbling in Tokyo, but if everything goes moderately well, she shouldn’t need to either.
SILVER - Ellie Black, Canada. Expect the unexpected from Ellie Black: whether it’s breaking into the medals at the American Cup after hurting her knee in podium training or becoming the comedic heart and soul of the Superstars of Gymnastics show in London, the 2017 world all-around silver medalist is full of surprises. Black struggled mightily on uneven bars early in her elite career but has transformed it into her potentially highest scoring event, which says something about her ability to improve and adapt. Going four for four in Tokyo will see her in good stead for another podium.
BRONZE - Asuka Teramoto, Japan. One of the world’s undersung gymnasts for the past six years, tiny Teramoto has everything it takes to make onto the podium in Tokyo, including a good Rudi vault. Already a veteran of two Olympic teams, the quiet 23-year-old rock of Team Nippon will be taking advantage of the Tokyo World Cup to try out new routines, which might lead to problems or re-announce her as one of Japan’s preeminent gymnasts. Here’s betting it’ll be the latter.
4. Aiko Sugihara, Japan. Japan’s pirouetting sensation, a member of the 2016 Olympic squad, is a very well balanced gymnast with pretty presentation and plenty of difficulty. After a foot injury kept Sugihara from performing at last year’s world chapmpionships, but the 19-year-old is back and may wind up in a private duel with teammate Teramoto for a spot on the podium.
5. Ksenia Klimenko, Russia. Weak vaulting is likely to keep the deserving Klimenko, perhaps the most classical and fluid gymnast from Russia since the great Anna Pavlova, from rising much higher than fifth unless all of the leaders have multiple falls. After a frustrating performance at the Russian Championships last month, here’s hoping the Youth Olympic uneven bars champion uses this meet to rebuild her confidence.
Others who will challenge for the top five? There’s 2018 Youth Olympian Lee Yunseo, China’s talented but internationally inexperienced Liu Jingxing, Brazil’s Carolyne Pedro and Carina Kroll, one of the rising stars of a deeper-than-ever German team. One of the beauties of gymnastics, however, is that you never can tell what will happen on the day -- anything is possible.