As we get closer to the Rio Olympics, many are pitting the current all around favorite, Simone Biles, against the current reigning Olympic champion Gabby Douglas—a fiery discussion fueled significantly by their recent 1-2 finish at last year’s World Championships. The internet has come alive with comments from fans of both ladies. Douglas fans proudly assert, “She’s back, and next year she’s going to dethrone Simone!”. Supporters of Simone quickly retort, “Get real! Simone is miles ahead of Douglas. She’ll never be caught.” But seldom is this argument discussed with cold, hard, technical facts. That is the job of today’s discussion. We all should agree that Simone is the clear favorite. But could Gabby Douglas truly overtake her? Based upon the mathematics of the sport and the potential upgrades of each woman, Does Gabby truly have a shot against Simone next year?_ _ Let’s find out….
**Note: This discussion will assume that both ladies will “hit” during the competition. Obviously, if Simone falls off the beam three times or breaks her toe on the low bar, Gabby will win. For the sake of this argument we must assume that both competitors are operating at peak performance.
Let’s begin by discussing the E score of each lady on each piece of apparatus.
Vault E score:
Simone: At the recent world championships, Simone’s E scores ranged between 9.5 and 9.7. She has been competing this vault at this level for years now, and it is hard to imagine her doing any differently next year. Her consistency bodes well for her on this event and also makes it easy for us to predict her E potential for next year.
Gabby: Her E scores ranged from 9.4 to 9.5. If she upgrades to an Amanar (which will be discussed in Part 2), we must take into account that a forward vault landing usually incurs less deductions of low chest, piked form, etc., and would therefore go up a tenth or two.
The winner? Both have good take-off, clean form and flight, and solid landings. Although very comparable in execution, it is easy to see the judges giving Simone a slight E score bump because of her height and distance. Simone +0.1 points
Bars E score:
Gabby: A wide range for her this year, going from 8.55 to 8.933. Although a personal opinion of mine, I found her execution to be among the best and perhaps a bit underscored…
and dare I say Simone a bit overscored?
Simone: 8.566 to 8.8 were her World’s E scores. What she lacks in smoothness of swing and form, she makes up for with smart composition and stuck dismounts.
The winner? Even with upgrades, I imagine both women will maintain similar execution on a very consistent event for them. Gabby +0.2 points
**Beam E score: **
This is the event where, on any given day, E scores can fluctuate widely. A bobble here or an arm flail there can make a huge difference. We must rely heavily on past records.
Simone: She tends to hover around 8.7 (give or take a couple of tenths depending upon the day). Again her stuck dismounts, secure turn, and generally solid acrobatics help to offset the occasional misstep or wobble.
Gabby: This is perhaps the hardest score to evaluate. Neither beam routine at worlds was among her best, and yet she scored around an 8.3 on each (adding back the point had she not fallen). I have no doubt she will improve in this area and bring her “A” game next year. If we examine her hit routines from the past, she could find herself right up there around 8.7 also.
The winner? So hard to say as every day can change, but it seems that Simone comes out slightly on top because of security of landings and consistency. If both women hit, slight E score edge to Simone +0.1 points.
**Floor E Score: **
Gabby: This is the apparatus that has impressed me the most about Gabby’s comeback. Her control of landings and presence on the floor is commendable. Even with her stuck landings, her scores seem to hover around 8.5, in large part because of issues on turns and dance elements. These should be much cleaner by next year, and I would suspect her E score could go up by a couple of tenths.
Simone: She consistently operates around 9.0. Credit high chest and smart composition (i.e. limiting turns), I believe. Most likely this won’t change much next year for Miss Consistency.
The winner? I recognize that I might be slightly optimistic in my evaluation of Gabby’s floor E score potential, but I don’t think the gap will be very large. Simone +0.2 points.
So after our evaluation of E score potential, we give the lead to Simone by 0.2 points. In the world of Gymnastics, such a small margin is practically negligible and could go either way on any given day. Simone may be the favorite in execution score, but it all will be determined by the all-important D scores. Stay tuned for part 2 where will discuss likely upgrades for each lady and make a final prediction for whether or not Gabby truly has a legitimate shot at catching Simone….
Article: Robbie Cruz
Photo Cover: Myriam Cawston