Women's qualifications were no less compelling than the men's, as the perceived pecking order of the U.S. women's team took a big hit. With world champion Jordyn Wieber finishing the day as the third American all-arounder, finishing behind Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, the U.S. women will have to put individual interests aside immediately with Russia breathing down their collective necks for the team gold.
Wieber's situation reminds me of what happened to Shawn Johnson in Beijing, where she performed well but couldn't get the same scores on floor exercise that she had received in the U.S.
In London, the field sort of came back to Raisman, who merely did what she has done all summer. At Visa championships and Olympic trials, her four all-around totals ranged from 60.20 to 60.75. Douglas, on the other hand, scored between 60.65 and 62.05, and Wieber went from 60.65 to 61.70.
In London, all three were one bad landing from one another: Raisman, 60.391; Douglas, 60.265; Wieber, 60.032.
Regardless of which Americans are in the all-around final, Russia's Viktoria Komova established herself as the one to beat. She topped the field with a 60.632, and that's with a wobbly beam and unstable on floor. But since she vaulted her Amanar reasonably well, she no longer is conceding points to anybody on any event.
Douglas is equally balanced across the four apparatus, so she might have a better chance than Raisman of defeating Komova. But the Olympic glare will be blinding, so we'll see how much Douglas learned at the pressure-packed Olympic trials a few weeks ago.
Russia, which placed second to Romania at the Europeans, was a much better team today. But it will need to improve Tuesday to defeat the U.S., if both teams hit. This should be a two-team race for gold, with Romania battling China for bronze.
Great Britain did well to qualify fifth, but it will have a lot of ground to make up to reach the podium. Not so for Beth Tweddle, who topped the uneven bars standings with 16.133, the highest score of the meet. She took the risk of combining virtually every element and dismounted with a tucked double-double, to boot.
"I've thought about this competition and this bar routine for so long and to produce my best score this Olympic quad in qualifying — it couldn't be any better," Tweddle said. "I spoke to Louis Smith (top pommel horse qualifier) about the crowd and pressure and what to expect, and he said they lifted him. And it was definitely the same for me today. The atmosphere was incredible."
2006 world champion Vanessa Ferrari also impressed, leading Italy to the team final in seventh and qualifying third to the floor final, where she mounted with a tucked double-double. Her gradual return to form from six years ago has been impressive.
"She is the best arrow of the Italian team," coach Enrico Casella said.
Canada's eighth-place finish, which knocked out Germany, was somewhat of a surprise since it competed without Peng Peng Lee. But the team did well under the circumstances.
Finally, not enough can be said about six-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina, who qualified fourth for the vault final at age 37. She'll need to do her best to win a medal, but for sure, nobody else in the women's apparatus finals will have as much experience when the green light goes on.