The series of spring World Challenge Cups continued this weekend with our annual whirlwind two-stop tour of the mid-level agricultural centers of eastern Europe, starting with Osijek, Croatia. Here’s what went down.
The Artem Show turned out to be the Artem Show, to the surprise of zero.
With a massive difficulty advantage over the rest of the competitors and among the field’s most comfortable landings (aside from a near bout of vomiting-off-starboard while trying to hold the stick on his side pass, but never mind) Dolgopyat distanced himself from everyone else and took gold my nearly 6 tenths.
Primarily on the basis of extra difficulty, Kirill Prokopev of Russia took the second position, while also continuing to take first position in the “he would be an offensive stereotype of a Russian man if he weren’t an actual person” contest. This is what Americans think all Russian people look like. Just to be clear, in our heads he’s saying, “Vodka Vodka Mother Russia Nesting Doll Babushka” over and over again on a loop. Don’t worry about it.
Our Chilean prince Tomas Gonzalez did win the bronze, but in unacceptable news, he was given an execution score lower than both of the top two, largely the result of a couple short landings early on with small hops forward. But, his E score did not appropriately reward his superior execution of skills in the air or the way he moves choreographically into his cartwheel before the wide-arm handstand, and you need to break down the gates of the FIG about it.
Elsewhere, we saw extremely stylish work from Luka Terbovsek of Slovenia in fourth, with lovely twisting and tucked positions and some very secure landings on his early passes. Also a small infant child named Krisztofer Mezaros of Hungary sneaked into the final somehow and had a learning experience.
The women’s vault final proved deeper than in Zhaoqing…in that we had the full complement of eight contenders for the final.
Still, as the only contender with two vaults of 5+ in D score, world cup veteran Teja Belak entered as the comfortable favorite. Despite being saddled with the burden of wearing her Heart of the Ocean leotard again, she successfully hit both vaults on both days of competition to win the title. We’ve seen meets lately where Belak will qualify well then struggle with the handspring front full in the final, but this time there was little issue aside from some lunges on landing.
By showing somewhat more landing control, Angelina Radivilova gave Belak a run with a comfortable full and something in between a Podkopayeva and a Lopez (credited as Lopez), though with a disadvantage of 6 tenths in D, she wasn’t able to make up enough ground.
It looked for a while like Yana Fedorova might sneak in for the bronze medal. She went fairly early in the order and doesn’t have a lot of difficulty, but she happened to find a Willy Wonka golden ticket while landing her handspring front tuck for the single highest execution score of any vault in the final. That held up until the very end, when when Tjasa Kysselef used her 1.2 D advantage to move ahead. Kysselef landed both her vaults short with multi-lunges back, so it was a nail-biter as to whether she would move ahead of Fedorova for 3rd, but she managed it by just a smidge.
Home national hope Tijana Tkalcec came in as the other gymnast with the potential difficulty to snatch a medal, but she happened to pull her own kneecaps off on a handspring pike 1/1 attempt, shooting them into the crowd and knocking out an old lady. So while she did exceptionally well not to sit that vault down, the execution deductions were enough to take her out of the medals.
As far as pommel horse finals go, this was actually pretty non-fallsy. We had one fall from Noah Kuavita of Belgium, and sadly Luka Kisek of Slovenia got recruited for a CW series in the middle of his routine, which distracted him enough during his dismount that he only kind of went up to handstand before shooting sideways and just deciding to be done. But for the most part, the story of the pommel horse final was impressive saves and clean routines rather than crazy falls.
I know. Boring.
In the end, national treasure Robert Seligman was able to use his glorious execution to take first place over the more difficult and flare-filled routine from Nikolai “don’t call me Mykola” Kuksenkov. What Seligman has going for him is the absence of that characteristic little pike in the hips during every circle that even some of the best horse workers have. He makes a point of showing a totally horizontal position every time, so even though his routine doesn’t look as difficult as others and includes a fake-o dismount, he’s going to beat most people on execution when hitting like this.
It must be said, however, that the real highlight of Seligman’s performance here was the extended curtain call he took to thank the Croatian crowd because at one point he sort of jogged toward beam and I thought he was going to do a celebratory beam routine, which would have made my life.
In the race for bronze, it was Ivan Tikhonov who just out-touched Kirill Prokopev on execution. Horse things. Whatever.
Oofers. So it wasn’t the best bars final in the world. We’ll get the rough parts out of the way first. Because there were a lot of them.
Farah Hussein fell on a post-Shaposh Tkatchev, Angelina Radivilova missed a Ricna (and still nearly snatched a medal on the basis of her difficulty advantage over most of the field), Farah Salem peeled off on the low bar on what I believe was a toe shoot attempt but ended up being a tuck 1/1 to mat-splat, yet it was Barbora Mokosova who truly won the fall competition when she overbalanced a pirouette toward the end of her routine because the crowd thought it was a dismount and was over the moon with screaming cheers to celebrate her fall.
You know how commentators say, “This crowd really knows its gymnastics” even when it’s an obvious lie? This crowd really did not know its gymnastics.
So that leaves us with four competitors remaining. Elina Vihrova of Latvia hit her routine, but it had just two D-value elements and wasn’t going to challenge even some of the people who fell, which leaves us with the medalists.
Anastasia Agafonova took gold despite losing her wallet on a clear hip full and having to add a couple extra swings to find it. She enjoyed enough difficulty advantage that she retained the top position despite that major error, though it did keep things interesting. Nora Feher was the most impressive of the final, going through cleanly with competitive difficulty, but since her D was still nearly a point lower than Agafonova’s, she was relegated to second.
All the falls meant that a competent but unremarkable routine from Yana Fedorova with a D score in the 4s and requisite D elements like a Shaposh and a Jaeger was enough to take bronze despite dismounting with a Nastia flyaway. Safety won the race here.
That’s right. Parallel bars was held on the first day of finals. The third event in the men’s order. The meet organizers are still at large.
We had some manner of an upset in this final as top qualifier Ilias Georgiou of Cyprus suffered an odd mistake, losing his grip and performing an accidental front toss to “this is a hammock now, PBars is stupid and this is a hammock. End of biography.” Same.
That opened things up for some of the other top qualifiers, and we ended up with a tie for first place between Robert Tvorogal and Sercan Demir, broken in favor of Tvorogal due to his superior execution. Tvorogal is always at these competitions being sort of clean and there and finishing 6th, so it was nice to see him get a gold.
I did have issue with the bronze medal, which went to Russian baby child Alexander Kartsev, who struggled on a couple handstands and fully slammed the bar with his leg on dismount and still came out with a reasonable E score and ended up ahead of the cleaner routine from Karl Idesjoe of Sweden.
Day 2 of finals began with the men’s rings competition. You know, like you definitely don’t.
There were a couple of issues in this final, with Sergei Krivunets of Russia dismounting to his face place, Pavel Gulidov of Israel dismounting to his hand place, and Ilias Georgiou struggling mightily on every strength hold.
We often hear, “Well, it’s going to come down to sticking those dismounts” about a rings final, but this one really didn’t. It kind of came down to not falling on those dismounts, but mostly it came down to the top two—Nikita Simonov and Alexey Rostov—being so much better than everyone else in every way, specifically their smoothness of positions and the duration of their strength holds. Simonov was just a little more precise in that department, and had a little more difficulty, to take a justified victory here.
Third somewhat surprisingly went to Yunus Gondogdu of Turkey over Andrea Cingolani of Italy. I thought Gondogdu would have been deducted more harshly for some short holds and uncertain handstands, including a big struggle toward the end where he nearly brought the rings together, but he still got the better of Cingolani, who did admittedly have some short holds of his own.
Like Zhaoqing last week, this beam final was first-up-competition-over—though not with nearly the degree of obviousness we saw in Li Shijia’s victory. Here, Angelina Radivilova went up first and hit a fairly comfortable routine with just a normal amount of regular balance checks, showing enough difficulty advantage to look solid for the win at that point, though definitely not a sure thing.
It was falls from some of her most likely challengers that sealed the win for Radivlova, as Nora Feher came off on her series and Anastasia Agafonova had an absolute nightmare of a routine, coming off twice, falling onto the beam on another occasion, and wobbling on nearly every skill. Ultimately, the 5.300 execution score she received was a charitable one.
Osijek does that thing where you have to wait in the lone doctor’s office chair for your score, and then move to the podium of doctor’s office chairs if your score is in the top 3. Watching Agafonova miserably wait for her score instead of being allowed to crawl into a dresser drawer and hide from Valentina—and then watching her have to sit there miserably on the chair podium for a while because she went so early in the order—was a serious mood and I felt understood.
Meanwhile, everything’s fine in Romania now. No trouble at all. Root dee doo. Carmen Ghiciuc and Alexandra Mihai hit their routines both days of competition to place 2nd and 3rd respectively. Mihai had a few more checks than Ghiciuc, but I was also impressed with the potential in her dance elements and am looking forward to seeing that routine more. Unfortunately, it was balance checks that took Croatian hope Ana Derek down to 4th place by only the smallest margin. Derek has the best built-in skill execution in the entire final but showed a larger bend at the waist on an acro series, and I think that made the difference.
I also want to note Fabiola Diaz of Peru, who acquitted herself exceptionally well representing a program we don’t typically see hitting routines in finals at these events. She had one of the surer beam routines here in the actual elements, but I think the rhythm deductions just destroyed her E score. There was a lot of pausing, but a lot of ability.
OK, here’s where I really don’t understand Osijek screwing around with the event order so much. High bar is supposed to be last, and that’s also where you have big star and national hope Tin Srbic competing. Wouldn’t you want that to be last? The big crescendo of the meet that keeps everyone in their seats until the end? I don’t get it.
Anyway, it wasn’t much of a crescendo because Srbic came off the bar on a pirouette (a pirouette, my friends) to finish out of the medals. Next to Dolgopyat, he was the biggest favorite in any final here, so the door was very much open for an unexpected winner.
That winner turned out to be Alexey Rostov, who…you know…good routine. Kolman, layout tkatchev, stuck DLO 1/1 dismount. The kind of thing that wins. My favorite routine, however, came from silver medalist Alexander Kartsev, who shows particularly lovely extension on his Stalder elements, but it’s still a very sparse routine at this point in his career and was never going to have the difficulty to challenge a hit from Rostov.
After a disappointing first couple finals, Ilias Geogriou came through here with a solid hit for bronze, putting him just ahead of Turkish veteran Umit Samiloglu, who did amazingly well to save a Cassina on one arm and continue his routine while barely missing a beat, but that issue was enough to take him out of the medals.
I also want to mention Paolo Principi, who finished last here but showed some elements like the Walstrom (Yamawaki 1/1) that we don’t see in every damn routine, so that was pleasant.
In the floor final, we did see a difficulty advantage come into play in that most of the gymnasts had similar execution but the medalists were able to distinguish themselves through D score. Uniquely, that difficulty advantage was (mostly) not built on tumbling but on getting actual credit for actual dance elements.
Ana Derek came back from the disappointment of missing a medal in the beam final to win gold in front of the Croatian crowd, a gold earned through leap execution and turn extension. I mean, her first pass down the diagonal is a combination of leaps, and with some D leaps in that combination, it’s basically more valuable than starting with a double pike. Alexandra Mihai of Romania took bronze with a similar approach, having twice as many D-value dance elements in her routine than D-value acro elements and building her difficulty that way.
That’s always a risky game because split 1.5 and double L downgrades are so likely, but they both showed definite completion of those elements to get their difficulty scores and get their medals. Sandwiched in between them for silver was Angelina Radivilova, who did perform the most difficult tumbling of the final with elements like a double Arabian and a 3/1 (which she kept in bounds solely through the use of miracles), but she dropped down to second because of a lack of control in some of those landings.
Fourth place belonged to Anastasia Agafonova, who has pretty execution in leaps and turns but not quite enough content at this point to get a big score. Still, that execution kept her ahead of Maria Holbura, who showed a full-in during her routine but got hit with a pretty massive “We’re still using Pirates of the Caribbean?” deduction to drop her to 5th.
Tienna Nguyen also made an appearance in this final and has continued showing the L-to-wolf double turn that she submitted at worlds last year. It’s a skill I’m still kind of surprised she’s allowed to do given the “you will show one shape and one shape only per skill” attitude of the code of points. But, you know, cool. I do wonder what the judges are doing with it because it’s like a single L turn, and then most of the second turn is done in between the positions, and then she sort of finishes in wolf pose. I guess that’s how you’d have to do it, but I imagine she’s opening herself up to a whole load of deductions for doing so much of that second turn outside one of the prescribed positions.
You know, the last event. And weirdly, no one even died.
The closest thing to a death was me, when the FIG’s inability to handle decimal points caused yet more problems in trying to differentiate the 3rd-5th places. Andrey Medvedev in 3rd, Daniel Aguero in 4th, and Sergei Krivunets in 5th all ended up with the exact same total scores, but because this meet decided to round up (typically FIG meets don’t round up their 9.166s to 9.167, but suddenly we’re doing that this time) Medvedev and Aguero finished with 14.284 averages to Krivunets’ 14.283 average, and then Medvedev took the bronze because of his superior single vault score.
It was going to be Medvedev for bronze regardless because of the single-best-vault tiebreak, but FIG pull your life together.
Meanwhile, gold went to Shek Wai Hung after he performed a massive Tsuk full-in like a monster. Comfortably hitting his Dragulescu second vault allowed him to distance himself from the rest of the field. Medvedev was really the only one who could have caught him, but he sat down his handspring front double pike attempt to drop down to third. In between the two was Andrea Cingolani, who did not have the difficulty of the others but showed superior landing control on his Kas 1.5 and Roche to manage a very comfortable duo of E scores.
Next week, it’s on to Koper!