London 2012: Will Romania's Women Gymnasts Be a Threat to U.S. in Olympics?

Robin JutkiewiczCorrespondent IIIMay 11, 2012

TOKYO, JAPAN - OCTOBER 07:  Raluca Haidu of Romania performs on the Floor aparatus in the Women's Qualification during the day one of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships Tokyo 2011 at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on October 7, 2011 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

The prestigious European Championships are in full swing in Brussels, Belgium as gymnasts fly and flip in anticipation of the Summer Olympics 2012.

Romania’s women posted a reasonable lead over Russia Thursday, pulling ahead in the team competition by 4.91 points with Great Britain placing third. In this round, Romanian Larisa Lordache edged out Russia’s Anastasia Grishina in the all-around, 60.132 to 57.799. No all-around medals are at stake in the competition.

To put her results in perspective, at the AT&T American Cup last March, Lordache won bronze with a 59.332 in the all-around, compared to USA teammates Jordyn Weiber’s 61.032 and Alexandra Raisman’s 60.832. Less than two points separate the trio, thus clean lines and stuck landings could be the difference between Olympic gold and the rest of the pack.

With all three women in top condition, this Olympic rendezvous is ripe with expectation and the pressure is definitely on.

A huge disappointment for the Russians was Aliya Mustafina who after tearing her left ACL at the European Championships in 2011 is battling to come back. Her last major win was first all-around at the 2010 World Championships. Thursday evening she blew her second pass on floor with a fall on a full twisting, layout front. Mustafina never recovered during the routine, followed by a shaky bar set and less than pristine vaults. She failed to qualify for any individual events.

Don’t count Mustafina out though. She still has an excellent shot at making Russia’s Olympic team. This gymnast did not become a champion without nerves of steel, though she does have more work ahead of her.

Other notables include Great Britain’s Hannah Weylan who qualified on beam and floor, taking fourth place on each as well as third all-around. Her teammate Rebecca Tunney will continue on to floor finals and Ruby Harrold qualified for bars. Missing in the Great Britain lineup is Beth Tweddle. An international competitor since 2001, the 27-year old is undoubtedly the most decorated of British gymnasts and a model to young athletes throughout England and fully expects to represent Great Britain in London.

Italy posted their team high scores with a 41.966 second place finish on floor exercise and fourth as a team. Erika Vasana took sixth overall, the only gymnast on her squad to compete in the all-around.

Four other countries have advanced to the team finals. From fifth to eighth they are France, Spain, Germany and Belgium. The European Championships competition will finish up on Sunday.