Preview: Can US Women Hold off Russia and China in the Team Final?
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Following four days of qualification at the 2011 World Gymnastics Championships, the first medals will be awarded this evening in Tokyo following the women's team final.

The U.S. squad led qualification comfortably, where the Americans had a near-perfect effort. But the other teams have room for improvement if they upgrade their routines and nail them. Russia and China could sail by the U.S. if either hits perfectly.

The Japanese made the final as well, adding another level of excitement and emotion to the action at Yoyogi Stadium.

And as always, the three-up, three-count team format means one disastrous could shake up the standings.

Using qualification scores and submitted lineups, let's a take a look at the eight teams in this evening's final:

1. United States
Sabrina Vega14.33314.366
Jordyn Wieber15.43314.80015.23314.566
McKayla Maroney15.53313.833
Alexandra Raisman14.66614.93314.833
Gabrielle Douglas14.866

United States
Strengths: Difficulty, consistency
Weaknesses: Artistry, uneven bars

The U.S. is down to five gymnasts after injuries to Anna Li and Alicia Sacramone. The team now has just one gymnast with world championships experience, Alexandra Raisman, and four first-year seniors. But inexperience didn't phase the U.S. in prelims, when the Americans nailed 20 routines. The U.S. won the two previous pre-Olympic worlds (2003 and 2007), and could do it again in 2011.

2. Russia
Ksenia Afanasyeva14.43314.325
Viktoria Komova14.53315.73315.40014.491
Anna Dementyeva14.20014.400
Yulia Belokobylskaya14.133
Tatiana Nabiyeva14.51614.883
Yulia Inshina14.566

Strengths: Artistry, difficulty
Weaknesses: Consistency

Aliya Mustafina led Russia to victory in 2010, but the reigning world champion is out with a knee injury this year. But superstar Viktoria Komova has emerged as the new team leader, outscoring all other gymnasts in qualification. The big question about Russia is if Komova and Nabiyeva will attempt Amanars on vault in the first rotation. If they stand them up, this could put Russia on track to defend its title. But European champion Anna Dementyeva, who has been a rock all year in competition, will need to do better the errors she showed in qualification. And the untested Yulia Inshina will be the first up on balance beam.

3. China
Huang Qiushuang14.60014.900
Yao Jinnan14.86614.56615.06614.533
Tan Sixin13.86613.96613.933
Sui Lu15.40014.600
Jiang Yuyuan14.000

Strengths: Artistry, difficulty
Weaknesses: Vault, consistency

The Chinese won worlds in 2006 and may just have the lineup to do it again. Lack of relative difficulty on vault and floor is a problem, but the Chinese more than make up for it on uneven bars and balance beam. The team gave away valuable points in qualification, and have benched Olympic champion He Kexin in the final in favor of Tan Sixin, though both erred in qualification. A perfect effort this evening could put the Olympic champions back on top.

4. Romania
Catalina Ponor14.76615.00014.200
Ana Porgras12.66614.400
Diana Chelaru14.63314.233
Amelia Racea13.66614.733
Raluca Haidu14.36613.833
Diana Bulimar14.400

Strengths: Experience, balance beam
Weaknesses: Difficulty on vault and uneven bars

Romania lacks the difficulty this year to challenge for first place if all teams hit. Romania was not its usual consistent self in qualification, where national champion Ana Porgras fell twice, and ended up fourth. Catalina Ponor is back, but Sandra Izbasa is out with an injury. Coach Octavian Bellu said Tokyo is merely a step on the road to the 2012 Olympics, meaning he won't be demanding full difficulty and perfection this year. If the other teams commit serious errors, Romania could climb back into the medals.

5. Japan
Koko Tsurumi14.93314.26613.666
Rie Tanaka13.96614.46613.400
Yuko Shintake13.500
Asuka Teramoto13.96614.68314.366
Kyoko Oshima13.350*
Yu Minobe13.933

Strengths: Experience, home crowd
Weaknesses: Difficulty, vault

The host Japanese will add excitement to the final, where a bronze medal is not out of reach. World all-around bronze medalist Koko Tsurumi is elegant and fun to watch, and veteran Rie Tanaka is the emotional favorite. If two of the top four teams have a nightmare outing, Japan could take advantage. The team was forced to call in alternate Kyoko Oshima, however, Yumi Iizuka tripped and cut her leg in qualification. Iizuka had an Amanar, which would have given valuable points to Team Japan.

* Did not compete in qualification, score is from 2011 NHK Cup

6. Australia
Ashleigh Brennan13.76614.12513.600
Georgia-Rose Brown13.600
Emily Little14.533
Larrissa Miller14.30013.600
Lauren Mitchell14.30013.60014.03314.391
Mary-Anne Monckton14.166

Strengths: Artistry, experience
Weaknesses: Depth

Australia won its only world team medal, a bronze, eight years ago in Anaheim. But the team is weakened this year by injuries to several key gymnasts. Lauren Mitchell will do all four events, but sore ankles caused her problems in preliminaries.

7. Germany
Kim Bui12.50013.533
Oksana Chusovitina15.16613.800
Nadine Jarosch14.20013.70014.000
Elisabeth Seitz14.63314.43313.80013.866
Pia Tolle
Lisa Katharina Hill14.000

Strengths: Experience
Weaknesses: Balance beam

Germany was a shocked seventh in qualification, punching a ticket to the team final and the 2012 Olympic Games. The team should impress on uneven bars and five-time veteran Oksana Chusovitina should vault to a big score, but lack of overall difficulty means the Germans won't challenge for a medal.

8. Great Britain
Beth Tweddle14.43314.433
Hannah Whelan13.66613.43314.40013.966
Jennifer Pinches13.900
Danusia Francis13.46614.033
Becky Downie14.233
Imogen Cairns14.03313.491

Great Britain
Strengths: Uneven bars
Weaknesses: Vault

The British nabbed the eighth and final spot to the 2012 Olympic Games awarded in Tokyo. From now on the team has nothing to lose, but can gain lots of experience for next summer's Olympics in London.

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