The 2012 women's Olympic gymnastics qualifications are over, and the top eight teams are primed and ready to challenge one another for gold on July 31. Which squads have the best chances of making the podium at the close of the competition?
It's probably easiest to start with the teams that are most likely competing purely for pride and Games experience. Included in this group are the three bottom-qualifiers, Teams Japan, Italy and Canada. Although the gymnasts from each nation are clearly talented, each team lacks multiple high-scorers, which is a must when aiming for a team victory.
Team Great Britain, whose members qualified in fifth position, are also unlikely to challenge for a medal. But given their status as home nation favorites, it would be imprudent to rule them out quite yet.
The other four groups in the mix, including teams representing Romania, China, Russia and the US, all have legitimate medal hopes and will tussle for podium placement. Team USA enters the final as gold medal favorites, but their performance will hinge in part on reigning World Champion Jordyn Wieber's ability to shake off the disappointment of not making the All-Around competition. If she's able to maintain her composure and focus, Team USA will have an excellent shot at gold.
But claiming gold probably won't be as easy as they'd like. Team Russia, headlined by Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina, turned in a stellar--and surprising--set of routines that left them just 1.434 behind the US at the close of qualifications.
Team China is also still a legitimate threat. Despite numerous errors, they still managed to qualify third. If they can collect themselves and deliver their best during the finals, they could repeat their 2008 Games win. Also legitimate spoilers-in-waiting? The ladies of Team Romania, including Larisa Iordache and Sandra Izbasa, who both qualified for the All-Around final.
The 2012 women's Olympic gymnastics Team final will take place at 8:30 a.m. PT. The event will be broadcast live via NBCOlympics.com.