Maybe the meldonium was the problem the whole time. THEORY.
This weekend saw the conclusion of European Championship Episode 1: You Only Want Me For My Chest Muscles, featuring the men’s team and event finals.
-In the team competition, the Russian men began their (allegedly) post-meldonium (allegedly) era (allegedly) in a blaze of wondrous glory as it seems that Nikolai’s morning meldonium was how Valentina had been delivering her witch’s hex potion to the team this whole time. Now free from this heinous curse, the Russians were finally able to throw off their shackles and transform into a nostalgia-inspiring and largely unrecognizable flurry of…like…good. Lots of good. Hitting 18-for-18 good.
-Russia might as well have rolled into the team final wearing those weird masquerade-ball masks with the huge beak because I don’t even know who was waltzing with us this weekend. Nikolai with the good hair hit all his routines, Belyavskiy landed a vault (with his feet no less!), and Abliazin only Abliazined once on floor. (I feel like he also may have stepped out of bounds randomly before one of his passes, but whatever. Abliazin things.) It was remarkable. We’ll never see its equal. Seriously. So I hope you’re proud of using up your hit for the year already, Russia.
-Following qualification, it was clear that Great Britain would have needed a hefty dose of splatty-splatty-bang-bang from Russia to win this thing, and Russia did not acquiesce, leaving Great Britain with a perfectly respectable silver after its own solid performance. All the Brits pretty much hit to their capabilities, improving on the team total from qualification, but GB did not have the difficulty to best a Russian performance that would have made things challenging even for a Whitlocked British team.
-As expected, the battle for third came down to Switzerland and Ukraine, and it appeared that Switzerland had opened the door for Ukraine when the sheer gravitational pull of Pablo Braegger’s earring sent him careering sideways into a brick wall on vault, followed by Oliver Hegi taking a page from Greg Marsden’s book and making a very good case for four-on-the-floor as he dismounted high bar.
-Braegger should take some advice from Belyavskiy, who has worked very hard to adjust his earring technique, and it clearly paid off on his team final vault.
-These Swiss falls would have given Ukraine at least an opportunity to snatch that bronze, but then poor old Igor lurched up to high bar and said, “NO THANK YOU PLEASE,” scoring a handful of loose change and taking Ukraine right out of the medal hunt. There was no coming back from that disaster, and Oleg’s own minor catastrophe on floor simply sealed Switzerland’s ultimately gigantic margin for the bronze.
-Medaling at home was a thrilling moment for Switzerland, especially coming on the heels of the even greater honor earlier in the day of receiving the Longines Prize for Hottest Team, just edging out defending champions Great Britain. It was a controversial result this year, but none of the teams had a perfectly clean competition, each showing some tremendous highs but also some ragged moments, so it seems charitable and appropriate to give it to the home-team Swiss, who should be recognized for their compelling but largely unheralded work.
-Oleg’s minor case of the Ukraines in the team final did not prevent him from once again winning the unofficial all-around, as he did during qualification, with a still respectable 90+ score. Although, he was somewhat challenged by Nile Wilson’s high 89. If he keeps this up, he’ll stop getting Niled out of finals all the time.
-A few other medals were also handed out this weekend, though the competitions went largely to form as Igor Radivilov’s neck pulled off yet another victory in the Dumbest Tattoo division, it’s fifth consecutive gold medal as it continues the race to catch Kohei. A career-first silver medal went to Marcel Nguyen’s arm, which has made a number of tremendous strides this quad to become more internationally competitive, and in another triumph for the home side, the bronze went to Pablo Bragger’s calf band for its life choices. Congratulations to all the victors.
-In the event finals, I think we can all agree that they didn’t exist because not only did La Femme Nikita Nagornyy callously and viciously steal the floor gold from our darlings Dr. Marian and Alex Shat-a-beard, but then Louis Smith fell on pommel horse. He still finished fourth with a fall because it’s pommel horse and everyone fell because it’s basically just a salad spinner, except as a sport. Nonetheless, the injustice is real.
-Oleg emerged with only two event medals, like a loser, winning vault and placing second on Pbars to Belyavskiy (scandal!) but he reneged on our arrangement on high bar, a title which ultimately went to Nile Wilson, making history as the first little egg to win gold at a European Championship.
-The competition will take a few days off and then resume with the junior women’s qualification on Wednesday.