A Preview for the Individual Apparatus is HERE
With Women’s Europeans already underway, the men’s competition starts on Thursday the 23rd with senior qualifications and the team final is on Saturday the 11th. It doesn’t appear that there will be a stream for qualifications and unfortunately I won’t be in Glasgow to give updates that day, although I will be there for most of Friday’s junior team final and for both days of senior finals. I’ll talk about the contenders for event finals in a different article later, but for now, who are the main contenders for the team competition?
2016 Podium- 1. Russia, 2. Great Britain, 3. Switzerland
Prediction- 1. Russia, 2. GB, 3. Germanty
Defending Champions Russia will go in as strong favourites to win a 3rd consecutive title. As is usual for Russia, their weakest event should be high bar, while they are most likely to bring in huge totals on floor, vault and especially parallel bars. Their big difficulty gives them a distinct advantage over the competition, however nothing can be taken for granted and Russia does have a reputation for inconsistency. So while they do have a bit of wiggle room for mistakes, they can’t afford too many of them and there will be a lot riding on their less experienced gymnasts being able to handle the pressure.
The last time Great Britain placed off the podium at European Championships was in 2008, and while the British National team has been riddled with injury lately, most of their best gymnasts have escaped unscathed and are ready to put up a fight. They had a bit of a rough go of things at a recent friendly meet in Germany and will need fewer scores in the 11s than they got here to maintain their podium streak, but aside from this there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be the main challengers for Russia and repeat their silver medal. As usual, they will be looking to gain points over everyone else on pommel horse, with other event highlights likely to be floor and vault. This is actually the first major team event for 3 of the 5 gymnasts on this team, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure.
And then there’s Switzerland. At the start of the year I was expecting them to be able to repeat their much celebrated bronze medal from 2016 but their gymnasts keep dropping like flies. Without Pablo Braegger, Christian Baumann or Eddy Yusof, this rising team are extremely depleted and their chances of defending their bronze medal are incredibly slim – in fact even just making the team final would be an achievement. While Switzerland have made a name for themselves as one of the top 10 teams in the world, they’re still a small national without much depth. One of the newcomers to the team is Henji Mboyo who was a junior in 2016, and having showed at the friendly meet that he’s capable of delivering some good scores, I’m excited to see how he performs and if he can take advantage of this opportunity and start to push his way into the Swiss A team. The strongest events for this team should be high bar and parallel bars, with rings always being a weak point for them.
My current pick for the bronze medal is Germany, who looked incredibly solid and even beat GB at the recent friendly meet. While they would probably want Lukas Dauser on the team (plus Philipp Herder being left at home comes as somewhat of a surprise), they still have 3 members of their 7th place finishing Rio Olympic team here. This goes to show that Germany has a good level of depth right now, which is impressive because they looked to be in a bit of a worrying position after Fabian Hambuchen’s retirement. As you would expect, parallel bars and high bar should be the highlights for this team, and they will need to rack up as many points as possible on those events to make up for their well-known weakness on pommel horse, where they will just be hoping to get through 3 routines without disaster.
In a similar position to Switzerland is 2016 4th place finishers and Olympic Team Finalists Ukraine. While they have gained back brilliant gymnast Petro Pakhnyuk, his recent injury will be keeping him off floor and vault, where he could have put up very valuable scores. This team only has 2 of the gymnasts which got them to the Olympic team final, the most notable loss here being that of World and Olympic pbars Champion Oleg Verniaiev. Ukraine do still have gymnasts here who could challenge for individual medals, but a shot at matching or improving their Team result from last seems very unlikely and they will mainly just be looking to make it into the team final, aided by some of the bigger scores they can bring on rings, vault and parallel bars.
There are a number of teams who should also have a strong impact in the team competition and could potentially sneak into the medals if things go their way: Spain (Mediterranian Games Team Champions), Turkey (Med Games Team Silver), France (Med Games Team Bronze) and the Netherlands (Qualified a team to Rio 2016). With this many teams in contention, I anticipate a very closely fought battle just to reach the team final, and then again in the push for medals. With it being a 3-up-3-count system in qualification as well as finals, no one can afford any mistakes here. I expect teams need to be pushing for the 250 mark in order to challenge for medals.
I am SUPER excited to see how Turkey do, as they have had quite the breakthrough as a team recently. Ahmet Onder can bring in big scores on almost every event, combined with Ferhat Arican’s solid AA program and a couple of very notable routines from other gymnasts, the future looks very bright for this team and I really hope they have a great result here.
Spain are looking stronger than they have in a while, led by Nestor Abad and with a few strong up and coming talents. Winning the Med Games title this year, they will be looking for big numbers on floor to bring them up the rankings, with their other notable events being parallel bars and rings.
France are slightly down from their ideal team, having to call in alternate Edgar Boulet to replace an injured Paul Degouy as well as rings legend Samir Ait Said currently out of competition (fortunately a far less dramatic injury than his last one- he is still aiming for worlds!) however their bronze medals at both Med Games and the recent German friendly were not far off the 2nd place teams or that 250 mark I previously mentioned.
The Netherlands also have a fantastic team, and although we haven’t really seen them in a big team situation yet this year I expect big things from them. With 3 of their Rio Olympic team members combined with 2 gymnasts with notable individual achievements (Bram Verhofstad- 2017 Worlds Floor finalist, Casimir Schmidt- European Games Vault medalist) this is kind of a dream team for them right now and probably my favourites to pull off a minor upset for bronze if they can get pommel horse and rings under control and hopefully bring their total up with big scores on floor and especially high bar.
I have to give an honorary mention to team Cyprus here. They had their big breakthrough at Commonwealth Games, placing a close 4th and also placed 5th at Med Games (with Italy taking 4th). They are unlikely to challenge for the team final, but definitely a team to keep an eye out for in qualifications nonetheless.
Other countries sending full teams are: Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Belarus, Coratia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland and Romania.