Always one of the most highly-anticipated events of the Olympic Games, gymnastics looks set to take much of the spotlight on day four at Rio with both the Artistic and Rhythmic competitions reaching their medal-winning stage on Tuesday August 9.
For the uninitiated, individual gymnasts will compete in their respective disciplines before joining forces with the rest of their peers for the team event. The Artistic team event comprises of four unique sets of apparatus: the vault, the uneven bars, the balance beam and the floor.
Each individual competitor is given a score for each discipline, and these are added together to confirm which countries have secured a podium finish. The Rhythmic competition takes on much the same format but with group performances rather than individual.
The idea is to score as many points as possible for routines judged in categories such as technical difficulty, timing and, of course, rhythmic discipline. There are two routines to perform, including one with balls and one with hoops and ribbons, and the two scores are added together to give an overall figure.
The American Artistic team, starting as bookmakers’ favourites for the title, will be led by the incomparable Simone Biles, the first female gymnast in history to win three consecutive world titles. And how about this for a resumé:
And all of this at the age of 19. She is without a doubt a precocious talent. Biles will be joined in Team USA by Laurie Hernandez, the 2015 world junior champion and still just 16-years-old, Aly Raisman, the 2012 Olympic individual all-around gold medallist Gabby Douglas and Madison Kocian.
Raisman and Douglas were part of the gold medal winning team in London, so their Olympic experience will be essential in helping Hernandez through the inevitable nerves.
Can anybody stop this awe-inspiring American outfit? China finished second to them at the World Championships in 2015, so surely they stand as good a chance as anybody. What will be a worry is that at that same competition they only had one performer, Shan Chunsong, rank inside the top ten for individual all-around.
In Fan Yilin however they do boast an uneven bars world champion in their ranks. The Russian quintet cannot be wholly overlooked either, particularly as their squad contains the London 2012 individual silver and bronze medallists Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina.
This pair teamed up within the team event as well to secure a further silver medal for their country, while Maria Paseka is the reigning vault world champion. But it is the Americans who very much deserve to be favorites in this event.
When it comes to Team Gymnastics, they haven’t finished outside of the medal places since the Seoul Olympics of 1988. At 1/20 with bet365, the US are unbackable but warrant such a short price without a shadow of a doubt.
Despite all of the controversy surrounding Russian athletics at the moment, one event in which they are sure to shine is the rhythmic gymnastics, which remains very much an Eastern European stronghold.
Russia have won the team gold medal at each of the last four Olympic Games, and individually Yulia Barsukova, Alina Kabaeva and Yevgeniya Kanayeva (twice), have each claimed top spot in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 respectively. The team’s confidence heading into Rio is certainly justified.
In Yana Kudryatseva, the ‘angel with iron wings’, they boast arguably the most outstanding rhythmic gymnast on the planet today. But Russia will need to be wary of the threat posed by Belarus, the silver medallists at the London Games who also enjoyed multiple successes at the Rhythmic World Championships in 2015.
They picked up the silver medal in the team event, while Melitina Staniouta earned herself a pair of bronze medals in the ball discipline and the all-around rankings. But at 2/5 with bet365, it really is hard to see past the Russian team adding a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal to their collection.
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