Sheesh. Phew. Other sound effects.
Well…we knew a team would count three falls on high bar in the final. We just didn’t necessarily have the right team in mind.
The ultimate standings of the men’s European final informing us that Russia won gold and Great Britain took silver may look like a normal, ho-hum result, exactly as expected coming into the championship, but the sack of crazy that was this final took us on many strange and mind-altering journeys before arriving at its anticipated ending.
Through five events, a Russian performance squarely in the OK-not-great category had opened the door to a somewhat unanticipated challenge from the Brits. Now, there were still highlights from Russia on those first five events, mostly involving Dalaloyan and Belvavskiy, but a seat drop (bad kind) from Nagornyy on floor, Lankin getting caught in a dust devil on his rings dismount for some reason, and Nagornyy having an intimate moment with the left rail on PBars took the Russians somewhat off track.
Over those five pieces, Russia trailed its scoring pace from qualification by four whole points. Simultaneously, Great Britain was accomplishing the exact opposite. Resolving the floor and vaulting problems from the first day (and receiving some lovely gift baskets on PBars, let’s be honest) allowed the Brits to gain four points on their own pace from the first day. All of that combined to mean that Russia’s presumed MASSIVE advantage wasn’t quite so massive going to the final event.
The Russians led the Brits by just about a point as the teams rotated to high bar, and given Russia’s double-fall performance in qualification and general Russianess, Great Britain had realistic cause to hope for an upset and a gold medal with one event remaining.
But then came what can only be described as a Freaky Friday situation where Russia and Great Britain swapped brains, the British immediately walking off the precipice into a volcano of unexpected mistakes—Cunningham falling on a Tkatchev (a Tkatchev!) and a Yamawaki (a Yamawaki!), and Hall falling on a Kovacs. That took the pressure entirely off Russia as the Russians suddenly had a three-fall buffer to work with in their own high bar performances.
A buffer they didn’t need, as Russia actually hit three whole routines consecutively—though it must be said that it sure was a careful rotation. The kind of rotation where everyone is playing it so safe and hesitating when they don’t need to be hesitating that you’re afraid they’re just going to turn to dust on a Stalder or something because they’re trying so hard to avoid mistakes.
The mistakes didn’t come, and Russia ended up taking gold by a margin of 3.9. So, maybe you can argue that GB’s three falls on high bar didn’t end up altering the final placements (though falls typically end up resulting in the loss of more than a point in the final score), but it sure would have been close. And it sure would have put the pressure on Russia’s final performances had Great Britain hit.
To the bronze medal! The fight for bronze ended up being about which team could fall apart the least—and that team was France! Congratulations! It was a wildly triumphant day for the French, taking bronze mostly on the strength of the profound and remarkable non-dramaticness of their competition, and by rising to the occasion on pommel horse in the final rotation to clinch 3rd by a solid margin over the rest of the options.
We saw a few special routines from France, like Loris Frasca nailing a Kas 2/1 and Tommasone doing Tommasone things on pommel horse, but mostly it was about a committed effort not to implode.
Which brings us to Germany in 4th place. Germany was the odds-on favorite to take the bronze medal coming into the final and probably should have done it. But also Germany. Bretschneider falling on high bar because he missed his hand placement on a 1.5 turn while hitting all the actual difficult parts pretty much summed up the Germans’ day. Further mistakes on vault from Nick “he’s got Ashton Locklear eyes” Klessing and pommel horse weapon Nils Dunkel, paired with an all-around hoppy day from everyone, meant that Germany ultimately didn’t have much chance to catch the steadiness of France.
Fifth place went to the Swiss, which may end up seeming somewhat disappointing because they had a real chance at a medal here. One fall in each of the first three rotations took the Swiss exactly three points off medal pace, but given the low expectations we had for this extra-depleted Swiss team coming in, fifth place isn’t bad at all. With even one of Yusof or Braegger available, you have to think the Swiss would have repeated as team bronze medalists.
Spain won’t be overly pleased with its performances to place 6th, throwing in too many major misses to have a hope of keeping pace with teams that had higher scoring potential going in anyway. The 10.0 from Abad on horse also did not help. But, Spain will be excited by the trajectory of this team. A 6th-place finish is Spain’s best team performance at Euros since 2010, and while small baby boy Nicolau Mir had a rough day in places, he’s going to be quite good in a couple years. Expect Spain to keep improving on this result.
Boy, it was a roller coaster day for Turkey. Turkey led the entire competition—even Russia and Great Britain—after three events and was still in medal position after four events. Then came the unpleasantness.
It must be said that Turkey’s mid-meet placement was misleading since the Turkish team had to finish on its two weakest events by far, floor and horse. Turkey was never going to be able to keep that medal-winning pace up, especially because the team came in without three internationally competitive horse routines (having to use Samiloglu just to put up a number).
Still, Colak was fantastic on rings and Arican and Onder nailed PBars to earn that high early placement. Sadly, things did take a turn toward the end of the meet, with Onder suddenly coming down with a case of the Ukraines on his final three routines for some misses that he will be disappointed by. That bumped Turkey down to 7th rather than challenging the scores from Germany and Switzerland.
But also, Turkey made the team final and kept it close for a while. It’s a big deal.
And last but not least, special mention must be made of Italy. Oh Italy. Italy was so excited to get into the team final when few people expected that was possible. And then, on the very first piece of gymnastics done by anyone on any team in the final…WOMP.
0.000. MEET OVER.
I’ve never identified with anything more than this entire scenario.