A. Russian Championships
So, um, it was Russian Championships. To best sum things up, this was the most composed performance of the meet.
After two days of competition, the women’s AA gold went to Angelina Simakova by a margin of 4 tenths, an important comeback competition for her after being limited last fall and competing only beam in the worlds team final. It does look like she missed on vault on the second day, but overall that counts as hitting here. The mostly solid performance allowed her to outpace pre-meet favorite Angelina Melnikova, who finished 2nd instead of 1st largely because of an absolute nightmare on floor, particularly on the second day when she fell twice on the first two passes, had a major struggle on a third, and SWEETIE WE’RE WORRIED ABOUT YOU. Over the other three events, Melnikova was the strongest at the competition.
But because of errors from the top two, it was Aliya Mustafina who recorded a higher score than either of them on the second day en route to a bronze medal overall. Mustafina brought back vault here (FTY) in preparation for her participation in all-around world cups this month, looked strong on bars obviously, had an acro series on beam which counts as a victory, and turning-turning-turning-through-the-years-ed her way to something competitive on floor. The four-event D isn’t there to get the huge AA scores, but no one is taking her spot any time soon.
That’s especially true as we also learned this week that Irina Alexeeva has elected not to continue on the Russian national team and will instead start NCAA this fall.
In other news, Tatiana Nabieva made all of our dreams come true by coming to play and finishing 7th all-around but also still just mostly chilling and breathing and throwing out a cursory arm flick as floor choreography. Best of both worlds. Simakova hitting beam in the foreground on her way to the AA title is definitely the undercard of that video to the FML breathing in the second half of Nabieva’s routine. She is art.
I was also pleased to see the 5th-place performance from our favorite veteran Daria Elizarova—you may recall she went to worlds for Uzbekistan in the 2012 quad, but she has been back to representing Russia for the last two quads. She has kept on trucking and keeps finding ways to bolster our misplaced dreams that she’ll make a major Russian team after all this time, because that would just be so cool. Elizarova was the most composed of the major players flopping around on vault in the AA final with her solid handspring pike 1/2, and she showed some impressive Chinese fusion in her cuisine by performing a 3/1 + punch front on floor.
Also important—Elena Eremina returned to competition here. She’s not nearly back to her normal level yet and didn’t record big scores, but it served as a progress point in her comeback. Seda Tutkhalyan is also still a person, thankfully, and had some successful moments on beam—also giving us this hilarious wolf turn on floor, so it was a win-win.
On the men’s side, Artur Dalaloyan had a full Russian Championships nightmare on the first day and withdrew from the second day of AA competition, allowing Nikita Nagornyy to run through to the title. Surprising news also came with the apparent sudden retirement of Nikolai Kuksenkov, although it remains to be seen if this is a real retirement or a Russian retirement. I mean how many times Alyssa have we heard about Russian gymnasts retiring and then…see Nabieva above.
B. This weekend
This weekend counts as your slow weekend in this busy elite season—with the swirl of all-around world cups and apparatus world cups taking a break for a week. Instead, this weekend you just have Gymnix, event finals from Russian Championships, and another US elite qualifier. So I guess that counts as slow.
At Gymnix, the senior Team/AA competition takes place tonight at 7:00 ET. The US team (Blakely, Eaker, Finnegan, Shchennikova) will go against three Canadian squads—the likes of Padurariu, Onyshko, Dennomee, and the Woos are distributed among the first two teams and the third group is all Team New Babies 4Ever. They’ll be joined by senior teams from Australia, Belgium, and Japan, with Belgium testing out some of its new seniors to see if anyone can break into that impervious five of Derwael, Klinckaert, Hermans, Brassart, and Deriks that has been the obvious Belgian team for a while now. Australia has been taking a similar approach in recent meets (partially because of necessity since several of the most important seniors have been out with injury) to see who among newer athletes like Sayer and Romi Brown and Chipizubov can provide internationally competitive scores.
In the all-around, Ana Padurariu just broke 55 at Elite Canada, so you’d think she comes into this one as the favorite for the AA title unless perhaps the GAGEs have stepped up their other, less-famous events. That should be interesting.
Saturday brings the junior team/AA competition at 6:30 ET, where the US junior team (Blakely 2, Greaves, Lippeatt, Morgan) will face off against against the Canadian team led by Zoe Allaire-Bourgie—in a similar position to Ana Padurariu in the seniors, a proven scorer with a great shot at the AA title but still vulnerable to one of the lesser-known Americans suddenly going “I’M HERE NOW.”
Gymnix also has an open challenge division (two subdivisions at 9:10 ET and 1:40 ET on Saturday) for the athletes who will not compete as part of teams. Of note, several US elites including Emily Lee and Addison Fatta will be there representing their clubs, as will basically every other Canadian who didn’t make one of the three teams, a couple more of the Australians (including Chipizubov competing in this group), and some assorted international elites.
Even finals for everyone are Sunday at 1:30 ET. The competitions will be streamed.
Russian Championships continues with event finals on Saturday and Sunday in the wee hours for us in the US. Youtube will be your friend.
KPAC will be hosting elite qualifier sessions all day today and into tomorrow morning.
C. American Cup and Jesolo
For a look back on American Cup and Jesolo from last weekend, check out the live blogs of those events and this week’s GymCastic, where we ran through all the things but mostly our inevitable and predictable obsession with all of the Russian juniors at Jesolo.
For the US gymnasts, the most interesting development coming out of those competitions was the sheer intensity of the non-Simone all-around standings right now. For competitions in the last six months, this is how everyone’s peak AA score stacks up:
Biles – 60.965
McCusker – 57.350
McCallum – 57.000
Wong – 56.765
Lee – 56.466
Hurd – 56.465
Malabuyo – 55.899
The usual grains of salt apply—some of these scores are domestic, some of them international; some were achieved with falls like Lee’s 56.466 at Jesolo; some were achieved at loose meets like McCusker’s 57.350 from selection camp or McCallum’s 57.000 from Pan Ams, while others were achieved at worlds like Hurd’s 56.465. But if anything, those grains of salt tighten the affair even more.
These performances also put some pressure on specialists like Carey. When you have people in this group of AAers getting 14.5s and 14.6s regularly on vault and you have Lee and Malabuyo going comfortably into the 14s on floor at Jesolo, it means Carey’s scores on those events have to be that much stronger to say, “you absolutely need my specialties on a worlds team.”
In the rush of last week’s meets, I also didn’t get much (any) chance to discuss English Championships, where new senior Amelie Morgan dominated the field to win the AA title by 1.750, ahead of Kelly Simm in 2nd and Alice Kinsella in 3rd. Georgia-Mae Fenton took 4th but did win floor, which is of continued importance for her in proving that she has a second event for team-score contribution.
Meanwhile, Ellie Downie showed bars and beam, winning bars with a 14.500, and Danusia scored 53.150 competing as a guest, which would have put her 3rd in the AA standings, ahead of athletes like Kinsella and Fenton. She also recorded the highest beam score of any division in the competition. Boom.