There are four women with a good chance of winning the all-around in gymnastics on Thursday: Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Viktoria Komova, and Aliya Mustafina. Unlike's Tuesday's team competition this is their chance for individual glory and a Wheaties box. If you don't have a favorite yet, let us guide you in your choice. If you do have a favorite but are confused by NBC's commentators and their weird way of rating scores, let us help you with this cheat sheet for figuring out how everyone's doing before all the scores are in.
What is this competition?
When little baby gymnasts say that want to win the Olympics, this is the medal they're talking about. And the rule limiting only two gymnasts per country brought Team USA's star Jordyn Wieber to tears when she didn't qualify for the finals. The all-around winner is the woman with the highest total when you add up all four events competed Thursday night. The prelims on Sunday night got them to the finals, but those scores don't carry over.
Gymnast: Aly Raisman, USA
Best Event: Floor. You'll want to look out for her four tumbling passes, in which she jumps high in the air or does several flips in a row. Raisman was the top qualifier to floor finals with a score of 15.325. She wins the crowd over with her song, "Hava Nagila."
Worst Event: Bars. Raisman just doesn't have a natural swinging rhythm. She can't change that now, but she can make sure her toes are pointed and her legs are straight. If you want to get a sense of whether she's digging a hole for herself, look at her legs. To keep herself in contention, she shouldn't score worse on bars than the 14.166 she got in prelims.
Chances: Raisman qualified in second place in prelims with a total score of 60.391. That's despite a low bar score, which means she can overcome her weakness, especially because she throws an Amanar on vault. But Raisman does have a history of making big mistakes in finals, like at the 2011 world championships. She's also not the delicate ballerina Katia Bachko reminisced about at The New Yorker. She has huge traps, and there is a sense among many fans that judges sometimes unfairly punish those who aren't dainty.
Gymnast: Gabby Douglas, USA
Best Event: Bars. Douglas gets the most height of any competitor on her release moves -- that's when she lets go of the bar and flips around before re-catching it. She doesn't have quite the difficulty of the Russians on this event, though, and scored a 15.2 in team finals. If she gets below a 15, she'll be in trouble. If she gets near a 15.5, she'll be doing well.
Worst Event: Beam. Douglas performs incredibly in practice, but she has a reputation for falling off in competition. Through prelims and the team finals, she's stayed on for several big performances in a row. When she does a leap and then a backflip right right after, you want to look to see if she moved smoothly between them without stopping. If she stops, her maximum total score drops.
Chances: Sometimes Douglas gets too excited and loses control, like when she ran out of bounds on floor in prelims. That's why she qualified in third place with a 60.265. She made no big mistakes during the team final, though, and scored a 61.465. That would have been good enough for first place. Douglas has the most difficulty of anyone. What matters is whether she makes it look good.
Gymnast: Viktoria Komova, Russia
Best Event: Bars. Komova had the highest bars score of anyone competing in the all-around, a 15.833. Look out for her transitions from low to high bar.
Worst Event: Floor. Komova gets tired, and if she doesn't land her tumbling pass, she sort of gives up, as the gymnastics blog Stoi points out. Watch to see if she gives away points there. In between tumbling passes, watch how beautifully she dances. Komova can afford a score in the high 14s on this event given her level of difficulty elsewhere.
Chances: Komova can be inconsistent. She made several major errors on beam in team finals, before the gold medal was out of reach for Russia. As with Douglas, her chances depend more on her head than her ability to do cool tricks.
Gymnast: Aliya Mustafina, Russia
Best Event: Bars. Look for Mustafina's super cool combination. In gymnastics words, it's a Pak salto to a stalder Shaposhnikova half. In normal words... okay it's hard to describe. Just look:
She scored a 15.7 on bars in prelims and team finals.
Worst Event: Beam. It used to be one of her best, but Mustafina's lost some confidence on the event. You'll know she's in trouble if she wobbles a lot, especially between skills that are supposed to be connected.
Chances: Mustafina qualified fourth (or fifth if you count Jordyn Wieber, who can't compete because of the 2-per-country rule) with a score of 59.966. In team finals, she bumped up to a 60.266. She's one of the toughest competitors, and she wants to prove she's really back after a knee injury last year. So if the others make big mistakes, Mustafina could win.
After Mustafina there's a big drop off -- Deng Linlin of China, who qualified 5th, had an all-around score that was two full points lower than hers. While there's a chance other gymnasts could medal Thursday, they would need at least two of the top four to fall. Distant contender Larisa Iordache -- brilliant on beam and the only Romanian with an Amanar -- has a painful inflammation in her heel that is holding her back. China's best all-around performer, Yao Jinnan, pulled her thigh muscle and didn't qualify. Her teammates Huang Quishang and Deng Linlin will have beautiful leaps on beam. Italy's Vanesa Ferrari rounds out the top group. She hasn't been her best since winning the world championships in 2006. But she has a cool floor routine that will be fun to watch.
Want more gymnastics? Check out our other GIF guides:
- What to Watch For in the Women's Gymnastics All-Around Finals, in GIFs