And thus, the European Championship comes to an end for another year. We’ve grown so much over the past five days. Last week at this time, we were all just little Olegs, tiny egg children gazing up at the world from our too-big pajamas with wide-eyed wonderment, and now we’re full-grown Berkis, all too aware of the unjust cruelty of a cold, cold world.
Just imagine…when we began, we didn’t even know that Kyla Roos had switched her nationality to Toorkey, a giant rabbit child was coming to eat our families, or that “I’m going to record an electronic version of ‘Que Sera Sera,’ and it will be a D+,” is a sentence a human person would say. So young. So naive.
But, before we part, we have several more lessons of the adult world to learn from the remaining five event finals. So, grab your face mask, your wooden stake, your onions, and your emergency contact information, because we start with men’s “vault.”
Men’s Body Chuck
First, by way of a social PSA, we really need to discuss the epidemic that is Artur Dalaloyan.
Young people these days are bombarded with constant images of his perfect TTY and his glorious twisting form, where he sticks landings and ascends directly into the sky to join Mount Olympus as a stream of rainbow-colored sour candies rains out of all his orifices. And yes, his vaulting is gorgeous, but it’s just one type of vaulting, and it’s not realistic for most people. To set him up as though he reflects a common level of vaulting for others to strive to achieve can lead to so many unrealistic expectations and body image problems among preteens and other vaulters.
Dalaloyan opened the Body Chuck final like a vicious tease, tricking us poor hopeful wretches who don’t know any better into believing that the days of watching experimental surgeries from the 1760s masquerading as a gymnastics event were finally behind us.
Alas, it was not to be. The subsequent parade of Dom Cunningham’s Yurchenko 2-and-a-sideways, Igor Radivilov’s elegant handspring bear crawl in search of the finest honey pot of all (could get it named at worlds), and Andrey Medvedev’s impression of Danny Devito getting drunk at a skate park brought us right back to earth.
Did they decide to play “Hava Nagila” after Medvedev’s vault? They sure did. A “Hava Nagila” of sadness. That’s a thing now. It’s like aloha. It means both hello and “who wants to go to the hospital?”
While no one was going to touch Dalaloyan (rude), both Dragulescu and Verniaiev did successfully manage to make a moving argument against genocide by continuing to be alive even after competing in a vault final (#WeAreAllVaultFinal) for silver and bronze.
A special medal of honor was also awarded to Artur Davtyan for his committed and continuing services to the Not Ugly Republic, Stop Making Your Legs Look So Janky and Homeless Division, though his difficulty was not high enough to break into the medals.
Romanian gymnastics is fixed now, you guys. No need to worry. Done and done. I can’t imagine anything going wrong from here. Cimpian 2020.
Presented with the burden of single-handedly determining whether there’s any life left in their country’s WAG program based on one beam routine (you’ll be fine, stop crying and sweating), Iordache and Ponor both admirably covered their feet in superglue, removed their brains from their bodies for temporary safekeeping, and performed remarkably solid routines on as-long-as-you-don’t-count-the-dismount-beam. (Yang Bo’s favorite apparatus.) (Too soon.)
Iordache did accidentally backwards-storm the Bastille on her dismount, while Ponor started a celebratory square dance a little too soon on her own, but in a final where the theme was landing layouts inside a rip in the spacetime continuum, performing a small dance or coup on a dismount was not nearly enough to take away a gold from Ponor or a bronze from Iordache.
The gold medal totally didn’t mean anything to Ponor. She always transforms into an eagle as part of a Native American origin story whenever she sees her beam score. Ponor never isn’t eating the Romanian flag in a single bite like she just got back from the Ranch and it’s the first object she saw.
Nadia had the duty of confirming that anyone who’s anyone in gymnastics can’t leave the house without a white pantsuit this season. But also of presenting the gold medal on beam, suction-cupping herself to Ponor for 78 hours to use each other’s body heat to stay warm in this winter of Romanian gymnastics.
Appropriately squeezing herself in between the two Romanians (I’ll have a diamond sandwich on multigrain, please) was Eythora Thorsdottir, who went, “Guess who has two thumbs, one palace in the stars, and didn’t fall today. This lady.” The revelation that Eythora can hit a routine in a final was good enough for silver, especially because everyone else had at least Level 3 Soup-Brain.
Ellie Downie was fine, but a little too wobbly, which ended her streak of medals and took her down to fourth. Although, she can now boast that she Simone’d by winning four of five individual medals. Sanne Wevers broke everyone’s hearts and even more connections in her own tentative set for fifth, and layouts were the problem for Boyer and Fragapane, Boyer improvising a hot-coal walk on hers and Fragapane ending her brief love tryst with the beam by whispering, “I leave you this locket of my thigh skin to remember me by.”
Tabea Alt, who was starring in This Is My Death Bed until the morning of the final, attempted an ill-advised comeback. Her routine consisted of I’m fine [vomit] + I can do acro skills [diarrhea] + maybe this was a bad idea [coma]. It didn’t help that she was given beam music that was basically a funeral dirge composed after an accident at the siren factory. (A.k.a. I need every single NCAA gymnast to use it starting next season.)
The PBars final began in chaos as Oliver Hegi attempted a brand new skill, a peach to one rail to Dragulescu vault over both bars, causing all the townspeople to flee to the nearest bomb shelter. It didn’t go awesome. But, he got back up and immediately botched his next skill, and that’s the important thing.
Medal contender Marcel Nguyen also got distracted by the cave painting of himself rising from the clouds to become a Greek god that has now fully consumed what used to be his arm (because of subtlety), leading to some wobbles and breaks and a sixth-place finish.
That left the road fairly clear for Oleg to show that he has been a good little boy lately and took a nap like he was supposed to, allowing him to be fully rested and far less cranky for the PBars final, taking gold. Oleg did have some small hesitations and arches that could have seen him end up in any order with 2nd-place Dauser and 3rd-place Nagornyy, but he also stuck his dismount, directly connected to Tongue of Victory.
And there’s no arguing with that.
He’s fine. That doesn’t look like someone who’s writing “Truckload of Ambien” a hundred times and tying them all to a prayer tree. I don’t know what you’re talking about. High bar will go fine.
Brace yourself. In perhaps the biggest season-ending plot twist of the entire championship, Angelina Melnikova hit a floor routine and it was, like…kind of good? She barely even threw her entire life into an incinerator and didn’t even dismount with “I’m afraid it’s inoperable.”
Hitting her passes even allowed her charmingly carefree choreography to look appropriate instead of darkly ironic.
Melnikova couldn’t believe her own fortune in escaping another sentence in the Seda Dungeon, so thrilled that she had to perform a flag-prance of wonder all across the podium.
Sadly, Fragapane took a gap year to see the world on a double Arabian, which meant that few contenders had the routines to challenge Melnikova for gold (Melnikova for gold, you guys.) Really the only one who might have was Ellie Downie. It could have gone either way between the two, though Ellie did have her own mixed-up files on a double Arabian, which may have been just enough to put her down to silver.
And now, may I present the most delicious judging of the day. Eythora performed what has become her usual lovely triple full directly connected to the 1984 VHS release of a video of squat exercises called Eythora’s Out Of Bounds Workout, expecting that would take her out of the medals despite the pristine remainder of the routine. Because of, you know, landing in a poop squat out of bounds.
Eythora, of course, had not counted on Mrs. Judge #4 Thorsdottir getting herself onto the floor panel and being like, “You had me at
Only Eythora could mime ripping your face off and eating it like a hyena-shark hybrid constructed in a Syfy Network lab and you’d still be like, “Oh, you. Go ahead. It’ll be fun.”
Out of gratitude for being so Eythora, the judges awarded her the bronze medal anyway, and Eythora was like, “You’re giving me what? Is this like a hidden camera thing? Are you a drug pusher?”
“I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING.”
Finishing second to Eythora on the facial-reaction medal stand was Kim Bui’s shocked cackle of “I almost medaled on floor, you guys. What life is this?”
Men’s Pipe Grip
A European high bar final without Epke or Fabian is like a judging panel without a Trevi Fountain full of scotch. How does it even work? Is it legal?
Fortunately, it does work and works fairly well. LESSON. We were quite spoiled early in the final with the clean and comfortable work of Boulet and Hall in the first two spots. If the cracking down on Hbar execution in leg form and handstands over the last quad ultimately gives us routines like this, then it’s a massively positive development. Take note, evaluation of split positions on the women’s side. Boulet and Hall just didn’t quite have the difficulty to get medals, the gold and silver being won by…get this…the Swiss.
Oliver Hegi hit a routine, you guys. In a final. And it was good. With a Def! He didn’t even fall before the routine began, then step in dog poop, realize he’s naked in front of the whole auditorium, get hit by a pie, and call the teacher mommy like he usually does. Only defeating Hegi was Pablo Braegger’s earring situation, still in full force, which performed all the difficulty ever invented, and in a mostly not-horrifying way, to run away with the gold.
But it wouldn’t be the high bar final without some courageous bungee-jumping into the Grand Canyon. Bart Deurloo gallantly kept up the noble legacy of Dutch high bar ruining your day, while Anton Kovacevic peeled off the bar into a force field made of quicksand during his dismount, only emerging several eons later with a bum knee, an air cast, and a lifetime of nightmares.
Which brings us to Oleg, darling Oleg, who was done wrong by the timing of the meet, allowing the mid-meet medal ceremonies to run so long that the high bar final infringed upon his nap time. He turned into a pumpkin almost immediately upon mounting the bar and tried to do a giant only to be like, “I don’t know what a giant is. It’s a fart. I can’t. I’m too tired. Go away.”
Oleg ultimately did get back up just to hurl himself into a dismount, but even the announcer was like, “Please stop. Just…you’ve been through enough.”
As have we all.