I must begin this time with some pretty big news. You might want to sit down for this. I don't really know how to say it but...the US women won the team gold medal. I know. Totally blindsided. That's life, isn't it? You never see it coming. The beautiful thing about sports is that on any given day, anything can happen.
Man, Japan and China's race for the men's team gold medal tomorrow has some big shoes to fill. How can it possibly be as exciting as USA vs. [scene missing]?
-But really, the US margin of victory over China was only 5.174 this year. Pitiful. Have some self-respect, ladies. Imagine if Simone had fallen five times on floor. You would have...still won.
-OK, here's how it played out. The US team entered the arena, unzipped their warmup jackets, and were immediately awarded the gold medal. WE DID IT! And then Gabby did such an excellent job putting on her grips that she got another gold medal, then the organizers were so impressed by the "ode to a weeping willow's vagina" leotard (thanks to Spanny, that's all I can see now) that they created a special Georgia O'Keefe tribute gold medal expressly for the United States, and then Simone smiled and six more gold medals popped out.
-We get spoiled by the US team. They're just doing the backstroke in their money bin, lighting cigarettes with those podium bouquets, while the other countries are going, "Might we have a brass farthing to buy a sack of crumbs, please?" And they're like, "NO! Stop getting poor all over the rug. AH HA HA MY WINNINGS."
-But when a victory is this inevitable, it is hard to appreciate the performance as much as it probably deserves. The Americans can only meet expectations. They can never exceed them, regardless of how well they perform, because the expectations are hitting every routine and winning everything. And it happened again. The US went 12-for-12 for the 4th consecutive team final, and we just go "Yawn, toss another bag of diamonds in the diamond room." Yeah, you nailed every routine when the pressure was on yet again with only a couple minor wobbles across four events. So what? I almost did laundry tonight. Who's the real hero?
-The most dramatic thing to happen to the US team today didn't actually happen. After Martha exacted her fall-punishment on Brenna by redacting her right in the mouth, there was some concern that Brenna had already been sent to a B.O. mine to spend the rest of her days working off her debt in the Kim Kelly Memorial Chain Gang, meaning she wouldn't be given the honor of putting on a leotard and standing a safe distance away from the competing team members. HORROR. But she was introduced. And she got her medal. So, problem-that-never-existed solved?
-In summary, the US went to vault and hit some routines, then went to bars and hit some routines, then went to beam and hit some routines, and then went to floor and hit some routines. Particularly impressive were Simone's "I only wobble on choreography" beam routine, all the crazy-super-stuck tumbling passes on floor, and Maggie Nichols nailing four events as the only US all-arounder. Maggie's AA score didn't even display on the scoreboard. It was just a picture of a unicorn holding a chocolate cake. Maggie chocolate-unicorned in the AA.
-Because of US inevitability, we have to look to the podium race for the real drama. And we got it, with TEAM GB quite deservedly edging out Russia to win a first ever team bronze and teach us what it is to feel things again. I almost experienced joy, you guys. They were just so happy, and crying. Kind of a lot. All over the place. Ellie Downie is basically the origin story of how the Clyde came to be. Is there anything more heart-warming than "I thought I fucked it up for everyone, but I really didn't" tears? She was so depressed after bars, and then so opposite of that!
-After the early Ellie Downie fall, things didn't look great, but then the team made the smart choice to drink a Simone potion right before beam, which allowed them to hit all three TF beam routines for the first time since the War of the Roses. Becky Downie really stepped up her performance today, hitting her famous bars set and then moving to beam to broker Middle East peace during a punch front, but the introduction of big vault and floor scores from Tinkler and Ellie Downie is really what made the difference for GB this year.
-But, Great Britain was able to achieve this glorious victory mostly because Russia laid a big old Russia today, missing four consecutive routines in the middle of the meet. I know I use the expression "beautiful disaster" a lot, but Vika Komova has invented a whole new category: the gorgeous apocalypse. No non-Dutch person performs as beautifully as she does, but then there's the whole never-ever-not-falling thing. If she were a US gymnast, Martha would have already used up the entire earth's supply of white-out in punishment-redacting her from all the rosters.
-The flash floods began for Russia when Komova missed bars. Then, her teammates decided that this would be a really good time to express the nature of a Russian winter via movement in their beam routines, which meant that once Komova came up, there was only one option left to her: a meltdown. Charitably, she chose to start melting down right from the very first skill, so we weren't left in any suspense. Ultimately, it was that fourth missed routine in a row that gave GB the margin necessary to pull ahead.
-It certainly wasn't just Komova. Everyone except Spiridonova and Paseka had a rough day (because apparently this is a bizarro world where up is down, left is right, and leotard's aren't cut so high that I can see your Ponor). Throw all those mistakes into the mix, and nothing could stop them from emoting the pain of a nation all over the competition floor or help them hang onto third.
-The judges did their best to assist Russia, but it was to no avail. My squinting started on vault, when Russia's DTY execution scores started to get a little embellished, though that was consistent with many of the other teams. China also got the benefit of pretending that chest position isn't a thing in their vault scores. But the fancy judging got downright silly on floor for my beloved Ksenia "my floor music needs a life coach" Afanasyeva, when she botched two passes and put her heel down early on two of her double turns and still got a 14.500. Universally, the execution judging was more charitable today than it was in qualification (Simone got basically the same vault score for a clearly weaker landing), but a couple of these scores were over the line.
-I haven't said much about China yet because, for the most part, they had a solidly unremarkable day. Which, for a China WAG team in a TF, is like crawling into a bed made of Christmases. Of the 6 bars/beam routines, they hit 5, which is 26 more than I thought they would. Bars was infinitely more comfortable than in qualification, and Shang Chunsong even managed to go three whole routines without turning back into the pile of kindling that she was before that sorcerer made her human and granted her gymnastics powers.
-China was never going to pass the US, so the fall from Wang on beam didn't really matter since it was China's only real problem routine. The Chinese even got through floor pretty well, which is a minor miracle considering the way this team has been going lately. With Wang, Fan, and Mao all brand new, China has reason for optimism heading toward the Olympics. Unless Russia gets Komova a brain transplant and Mustafina a literally-every-body-part transplant, China will head to next year as a comfortable #2.
-We didn't see a great deal from the other teams, but the story for both Japan and Italy was losing it on beam in the first rotation and never being able to recover. Japan had to eat a 12.2 on beam. That was particularly deflating because they ended up just 2 points behind Russia in the final standings, so even a low 14 would have put them right in it because the other events went so well. Italy had more trouble on beam, starting with two falls, which opened up an insurmountable deficit and took them out of it immediately.
-Canada finished 6th, which is about what they could have hoped for/expected, though the performance was not ideal. Bars was a big ball of trouble (HELP US PENG AND VACULIK, YOU'RE OUR ONLY HOPE), especially after Brittany Rogers hit her feet 16 dozen times. Um, excuse me, bars? What were you doing just sitting there? Brittany Rogers is here. Worship, or get out of the way! Ellie Black also had a fall on beam in the final rotation, but by that point, Canada's placement was pretty much sealed. A perfect day perhaps could have seen them challenge the Russiatastrophe in 4th, but they'll take this finish. They're going to the Olympics. Mission accomplished.
-The same is true for the Netherlands. The victory was always making the team final. Today was just gravy. Pretty lumpy, watery gravy. The Dutch used up their good day in qualification, saving all of their mistakes for team final, including Lieke Wevers having a Brenna/Paul moment on bars, Lisa Top falling on vault, and the judges not getting the memo about Sanne Wevers being unimpeachable on beam. Ugh. This is Epke all over again. There was a bright spot for the Netherlands in that Eythora Thorsdottir won the "I'm obsessed with your floor routine" award, which is the one they were really gunning for anyway.
-One final note: GREAT BRITAIN EVERYONE. Sleep soundly knowing that you live in a world where the Downie sisters are world team medalists.