Gather ’round dear peasants! The 32nd European Gymnastics Championship, sponsored by Surgery, has arrived on our shores.
The story of this competition is how everyone you have ever heard of is broken into a thousand pieces and not competing (the latest official victims being Becky Downie, Anamaria Ocolisan, and Eythora Thorsdottir). On the fun side, that means chaos. Some unexpected nations/people are going to make finals, and significant portions of the traditional order of things have been thrown directly into the garbage.
Here’s your US-time schedule for the women (the men start next week):
Thursday, August 2
5:00am ET/2:00am PT – Women’s Senior Qualification Sub 1
(CZE, DEN, SLO, BUL, IRL, GEO, LTU, SWE, LUX, CYP, CRO)
8:15am ET/5:15am PT – Women’s Senior Qualification Sub 2
(UKR, SVK, TUR, ISL, POL, FIN, AUT, LAT)
11:00am ET/8:00am PT – Women’s Senior Qualification Sub 3
(NED, BEL, ESP, NOR, POR, AZE, GRE, ISR)
2:00pm ET/11:00am PT – Women’s Senior Qualification Sub 4
(RUS, FRA, GBR, GER, ITA, HUN, ROU, SUI)
Friday, August 3
5:00am ET/2:00am PT – Women’s Junior Team/AA Sub 1
(RUS, FRA, POL, AUT)
8:15am ET/5:15am PT – Women’s Junior Team/AA Sub 2
(GBR, GER, ITA, FIN, IRL, GRE, ISR, LAT)
10:45am ET/7:45am PT – Women’s Junior Team/AA Sub 3
(NED, ROU, ESP, SUI, HUN, DEN, BLR, AZE, SWE, SLO, CYP)
1:30pm ET/10:30am PT – Women’s Junior Team/AA Sub 4
(BEL, UKR, CZE, NOR, TUR, ISL, LUX, POR, LTU, BUL, SVK, ARM)
Saturday, August 4
8:00am ET/5:00am PT – Women’s Senior Team Final
Sunday, August 5
5:00am ET/2:00am PT – Women’s Junior Event Finals
9:30am ET/6:30am PT – Women’s Senior Event Finals
As for streaming, the finals on Saturday and Sunday are being carried by a number of outlets like Flo and Eurovisionsports, so you’ll be able to find something that works for you. While it didn’t initially appear that anyone was carrying qualification or juniors, the outlook is becoming increasingly encouraging that we’ll get something from Flo or FranceTVSport or UEG on facebook, which live streamed video of podium training today.
On to the event!
Despite Russia’s requisite team selection drama and the surprising omissions of Komova and Ilyankova, Russia‘s team of Melnikova, Simakova, Perebinosova, Akhaimova, and Alexeeva will nonetheless enter the competition as the favorite to win team gold with the highest scoring potential of the bunch.
If Simakova and Akhaimova are on, Russia should have the biggest vaults, and this team was selected to give Russia an edge over the other contenders on floor. This is absolutely not the most relaxing bars team Russia could have come up with, but everyone competing bars is capable of 14s. Beam is also an event.
But, watch out for France. France’s team of De Jesus Dos Santos, Boyer, Bossu, Charpy, and Devillard stands out for being an actual full-strength, first-choice squad among an entire continent of injuries. For that reason, France comes into the competition as the most likely silver medalist and the nation with the best shot at upsetting Russia, especially if Russia has some beam problems.
France is bringing two exceptional beam workers in Boyer and De Jesus Dos Santos and should have the three internationally competitive routines on each event required to make a hearty stand for medals. France’s best ever team showing at a European Championship is a bronze medal (achieved on two occasions), so this team will be hoping to make history.
Even with the injury problems, I’m not counting out Great Britain in the race for the medals. The absences of Ellie Downie, Amy Tinkler, and Claudia Fragapane certainly put a dent in GB’s scoring potential (fully healthy, Great Britain would probably be the gold medal favorites), and now we can officially add Becky Downie to that list, which means GB is really hanging on for dear life.
Taeja James will officially replace Downie on the team, but on the start lists, she is not listed as competing any events. Instead, Stanhope is going in for Downie on bars and Simm on beam. The other medal contenders will feel as though their chances have increased exponentially, and we have to worry about GB’s bars more than we did before.
Still, GB’s medal prospects will mostly come down to the well-documented, historic terror that is British beam at major competitions. Hit beam, and Britain can still medal here. Miss beam, and the prominent omission of the Welsh beamers Methuen and Bevan on this squad will loom large, especially because it currently looks like GB isn’t even using five team members.
Germany is in a similar pickle without Seitz, Scheder, and Alt, so while the team should put up a few phenomenal numbers (like Bui on bars and Schäfer on beam), when it comes to the fill-in routines from Leah Grießer and Emma Höfele, we don’t really know if we’re going to get competitive 13s or…just some 11s. I still like Germany as a team-medal spoiler, but we’ll learn a lot from qualification about how competitive those third-best routines on each event really are.
As the injuries from these other countries were coming in, the Netherlands began to emerge as an increasingly compelling medal contender. That status was sadly knocked down a peg or eight by the injury to perfect swan Eythora Thorsdottir, which may just put too much strain on a national team that is excellent, but not especially deep.
With a lineup of Wevers, Thorsdottir, and Van Gerner, the Netherlands looked like one of the strongest bars and beam teams in the entire field. Wevers and Van Gerner should still keep the scores quite high and will be event final contenders on both pieces, but it’s now worth wondering whether the UB/BB total will be high enough to make up for not having the big vault and floor scores. The performances of Volleman and Van Pol on the power events therefore become even more significant.
The most exciting part of the entire competition may be the knock-down, drag-out race to make the top 8 in qualification and advance to the team final. Beyond maybe the top two favorites, we have some serious team parity going on right now.
I do expect all five teams mentioned above to advance to the team final, but it’s not a guarantee. No scores are dropped in qualification (it’s 3-up, 3-count just like the final), so there’s no buffer against a meltdown. Go up and miss three straight beam routines in qualification, and it doesn’t matter who you are, there will be many nations waiting to pounce on that.
The next teams waiting in line are Italy and Belgium. As is the common story, these two nations at full-strength would be much more compelling contenders for medals, but Italy has had to dig far down into its pool of depth to come up with a team of five seniors this year, and Belgium is bringing just four athletes because of injuries.
Both should still be expected to make the team final. Italy is one of the deeper European countries, so while having to use routines from Linari and Cereghetti doesn’t make for ideal scoring potential, they are still bodies who exist in space and can put up reasonable 12s to complement the (hopefully) 13s from Grisetti and Basile, and the DTY from Busato.
Belgium may be competing with only four but two of those four are Nina Derwael and Axelle Klinckaert, which means a lot. Those two should carry the scores, so even though not having Rune Hermans probably keeps Belgium from sugar-plum dreams of beating Germany, the routines are still there to make the top 8 as long as they get some hits out of Brassart on events she wasn’t necessarily expecting to compete.
There were a few too many 10s on beam at the Belgian Championships, but as long as a repeat of that scenario is avoided, things should be OK.
That’s 7 reasonable-seeming favorites for the 8 spots, but the fight for that last spot (or last couple spots if we have a meltdown) is going to be goooood with a bunch of teams in contention, including Romania, Spain, Hungary, and even Ukraine.
Romania has never failed to make the team final at a European Championship. Ever. That streak is in jeopardy this year but not a lost cause quite yet. Of course, the great terror is bars, where Romania will be hoping for a rotation of 12.4s. That’s not a great number by any means, but it would keep the squad close enough to contention.
Anamaria Ocolisan is out following podium training, and Laura Iacob will replace her on the three events she was supposed to compete. It’s a huge blow to the scoring potential on vault and floor, where Romania is going to lose about a point and a half compared to the team it traveled with.
Terrible news for Romania, good news for…
Unlike basically every single one of these other countries, Spain has been adding to its roster these last few months instead of crossing people off, with the returns of Ana Perez and Helena Bonilla making Spain look much more competitive than it did even this spring. Cintia Rodriguez doesn’t have to do all the work. I do worry about Spain not having big enough vaults to keep pace, but if Perez can deliver a floor number to get the team out of the 12s and she and Raya deliver high bars scores, Spain is a very appealing prospect.
Hungary managed a historic result in 2016 by making the team final, and while a repeat looked possible for a while, the injury to Zsofia Kovacs may be just too much to overcome. Still, veteran Dorina Böczögö has returned to her scoring-leader ways in 2018, new seniors Sara Peter and Nora Feher deliver depth Hungary hasn’t always enjoyed, and Noemi Makra is a viable replacement for Kovacs on bars. It will have to go perfectly, but it’s not unrealistic to think Hungary can still put up a competitive team total without Kovacs.
Let’s talk about Ukraine. As you’ll see below, Ukraine’s misleading domestic scores tell a hilarious story about the team’s competitiveness. No, Ukraine is not going to medal as a team at the European Championship (Diana Varinska actually could get an individual medal, which would be a big enough deal). Still, a secure day from Varinska and some high 12s from the supporting characters en route to a competitive score in qualification is not a preposterous idea. It could happen, which means Ukraine is among the vaguely legitimate contenders to make the team final.
For comparison purposes, these are the current European national team rankings, using the same principles as the monthly rankings but including only the athletes entered in this competition and using only athletes slated to compete that event on the start list.
NOTE: The three bolded, counting scores are the ones slated to compete on the start list. Not necessarily the highest three on the team.
|1. RUSSIA – 170.430|
|2. FRANCE – 169.533|
|M De Jesus Dos Santos||14.600||14.500||13.933||14.200|
|3. UKRAINE – 167.916|
|**As an experiment, I excluded Ukraine’s scores from crazy national championships to see where the total would be then. I had to go back farther than six month because otherwise there aren’t enough scores, but the team total is around the 158s if the craziest numbers are excluded.
**I had to go back farther than six months to get a bars score for Osipova because she hasn’t competed bars in centuries but is on the start list to do so.
|4. NETHERLANDS – 162.416|
|Celine van Gerner||12.700||13.550||13.700||12.933|
|Vera van Pol||14.067||13.366||12.367||12.900|
|5. GERMANY – 161.950|
|6. GREAT BRITAIN – 161.600|
|7. BELGIUM – 160.383|
|8. POLAND – 159.666|
|9. HUNGARY – 158.800|
|10. SPAIN – 158.617|
|11. ITALY – 158.600|
|12. CZECH REPUBLIC – 157.900|
|13. ROMANIA – 157.533|
|14. SLOVAKIA – 156.150|
|15. TURKEY – 153.616|
|Goksu Uctas Sanli||14.050||12.100||13.050||13.050|
|16. SWITZERLAND – 152.866|
|17. AUSTRIA – 151.867|
|18. PORTUGAL – 151.850|
|19. FINLAND – 151.049|
|20. AZERBAIJAN -150.998
|**Had to expand the field longer than six months to get a full team score|
|21. SLOVENIA – 150.632|
|**Had to expand the field longer than six months to get a full team score|
|22. ICELAND – 150.581|
|23. NORWAY – 149.350|
|24. DENMARK – 147.232|
|25. GREECE – 140.749|
|26. LATVIA – 139.747|
|**Had to expand the field longer than six months to get a full team score|
Without Steingruber and Paseka, the vaulting field is quite open this year. Like…really open. Come one, come all if you’ve got a second vault. Even if it’s bad. It doesn’t really matter right now.
The conversation should begin with defending champion Coline Devillard. She has the difficulty, but the crashed-sideways rudi we saw briefly in podium training isn’t exactly auspicious for her chances this year. So, we look to the Russians. All three of the Russian vaulters (Akhaimova, Simakova, and Melnikova) are electing to throw two vaults. Melnikova’s DTY/Lopez would be very competitive this year, Simakova can Yurchenko in addition to her rudi, and Akhaimova has a Tsuk full to go along with her first vault, which is going to be either a rudi or a handspring layout 1/2.
With a rudi, the second vault won’t need to be that difficult to be in medal contention. Expect a couple Russians to be right in the medal mix.
Boglarka Devai is the defending bronze medalist, going DTY/Lopez in last year’s final. If she’s on track with both of those vaults, she will challenge again, and Tisha Volleman finished not far behind Devai in last year’s final with the same program of vaults.
Others with solid DTYs will be in contention if they choose to perform a second vault (and they therefore should)—for instance the likes of Sofia Busato, Denisa Golgota, and Sarah Voss. Busato showed a 5.0 second vault to win the Italian vault title this year, and Golgota finished 4th at Jesolo with a Tsuk full as her second vault. Keep them in mind, as well as some of our beloved Challenge Cup vaulting queens like the Slovenians, Teja Belak and Tjasa Kysselef, who could very well make the final here, along with someone like Marina Nekrasova of Azerbaijan or Dominika Ponizilova of the Czech Republic or Gabriela Janik of Poland. In an open field like this, they could make the final.
Bars is the highlight event final at Europeans this year. As long as the right people make the 8. You have your missions.
The gold medal favorite will be Nina Derwael, who has been scoring 15.3s this year, has the difficulty edge on everyone else in the field, and has developed tremendous consistency over the last year or so. Still, it’s far from just a Derwael show. We know Georgia-Mae Fenton has the difficulty to win a medal on bars if she gets through the meet with two hit routines.
Also, Russians. Duh. Angelina Melnikova and Uliana Perebinosova are both very capable of medal-winning scores and going comfortably into the 14s for hit sets. I mean, it will be a miracle if Perebinosova hits two routines in a row, but this event is already so weird that there’s a 100% chance she will suddenly turn into a rock starting now. (Alexeeva can also get 14s, but she’s probably the third-best Russian on bars which means she would need a teammate to miss in order not to be per-countried out of the final.)
Speaking of people who can go well into the 14s, Kim Bui and Diana Varinska should also be in the top echelon of this conversation. That group would make for such a treat of a final, and it’s not even done yet because of Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos—as well as her teammate Juliette Bossu if she repeats what we saw at the French Championship. Both also realistic contenders.
Jonna Adlerteg of Sweden is another to root for, someone who can score extremely well if she hits. Unfortunately, she has chosen the deepest European event as her apparatus on which to be excellent. I wouldn’t count out the Dutch either, though they probably need help in the form of misses from some of the favorites to get into the final.
The fight for the beam gold will be another delight, as I look forward to seeing the current Olympic champion Sanne Wevers go against the current world champion Pauline Schäfer and another beam queen in Marine Boyer. If everyone hits, that’s probably my podium, but it’s beam, so of course everyone is not going to hit.
I quite like Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos as a contender here, and of course don’t count out Angelina Melnikova or AMERICAN MENTALITY for Russia, providing Russia gets through qualification without falling apart emotionally.
Katarzyna Jurkowska-Kowalska has been able to rack up the big beam numbers in past competitions here and there and may be Poland’s big hope, and while Diana Varinska is mostly known for bars, she can pull out a real beam score as well.
Without Thorsdottir, the Netherlands is probably putting all its hopes on Wevers, but Celine Van Gerner is quite proficient at beam as well and could get into the 8.
And as for the British, their beam scoring potential is right in the…oh I do like to kid.
Like vault, floor is not the deepest event for the Europeans right now. The gold medal favorites are probably the defending champion Angelina Melnikova as well as Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, the two who really bring the big and might be able to snatch a 14 at some point.
With its floor-focused team, Russia will hope to put a second person into the floor final (either Akhaimova or Simakova), and France may put a second person in as well depending on how Marine Boyer performs. Most importantly, it won’t be an acceptable floor final unless Axelle Klinckaert is in it, so that will be an issue to watch on the qualification day. It must be done.
Elsewhere, if you can get a 13 on floor, you’ve got a shot at making this final. Romania’s best chance for a medal likely comes here from Denisa Golgota, I’d put Tisha Volleman and maybe Pauline Schäfer in the mix, and while all of Great Britain’s serious floor medal hopes are missing this competition, I could see Alice Kinsella sneaking in depending on how things go.
There are a couple big players on floor right now and then a whole lot of 12.7s, and this final could go about 1500 different directions.