The all-around finals at the European Games delivered a day of…not surprises? At least not at the very top, where #1 qualifiers Angelina Melnikova and David Belyavskiy both snatched the all-around gold medals that were rightfully theirs.
Melnikova’s victory was, of course, not without the requisite Russian WAG amount of drama. Some hesitations on bars and grabbing the beam on her layout (which counts as enough of a miss that you are freed from having to run naked through the streets) meant that Melnikova did not develop the edge on the rest of the field that she might have otherwise. Why they’ve brought that layout back into her routine, I…sigh. It may be the first ever routine composition decision based purely on spite.
P.S. Vanessa Atler’s Comaneci called and said no it’s not.
Those errors meant that Lorette Charpy ended up leading the competition much of the way as she put together a remarkably solid and unterrifying performance amidst this house of horrors of an all-around final (more on that later). Charpy enjoyed an advantage of about 4 tenths on Melnikova heading to vault, which was the final piece for the leaders (also more on that later). But, since Melnikova has a DTY and Charpy an FTY, that scenario was always going to favor Melnikova, and she came through with a strong enough vault to move ahead of Charpy and win the title by a little over 3 tenths. That Melnikova had a difficulty advantage of 1.3 over Charpy yet gave a point back on execution illuminates what a smoothly executed day it was for Charpy, with her composed beam routine standing out in particular because…she didn’t just plummet to the ground at every moment. Truly remarkable.
Few others had such a strong performance—although one who did was Charpy’s teammate Aline Friess, who took an unexpected 4th place with 52.699, though we didn’t get to see her routines, so I don’t have a lot to say about that. Huge result for her, and a 6-tenth improvement on her 4th-place performance at French nationals.
It looked to all the world like Diana Varinska had taken herself out of medal contention in the first rotation with a fall on her between-the-bars Jaeger, but she…hit her other three events? And on a day like this, that was enough for 52.699 and a comeback bronze medal.
Some of the other potential medalists were not so lucky with their mistakes. Varinska’s teammate Bachynska fell on every possible skill—and then again just sneezing at the hotel—to finish 14th out of 18 gymnasts with a sub-50 total, while Denisa Golgota fulfilled the prophecy on bars in the first rotation and there was no coming back from that. Georgia-Mae Fenton had qualified in 2nd place, but she struggled to get her DTY around today and looks to have had a problem on beam to finish 8th overall.
Another gymnast who withstood being semi-disastrous to claw back to a respectable all-around finish was Aleksandra Schekoldina. She fell on her acro series on beam in the first rotation and it looked like it would be another one of those days, but she hit the remaining pieces, which meant she finished 5th. Have I mentioned that this meet wasn’t cute? But definitely fun.
Except for the psychotic breakdown that is the European Games format. Building on having 18 people in the AA finals, and 6 people in event finals, and a one-per country rule for event finals, the European Games also decided that the lead group in the women’s AA would start on bars instead of vault, and that apparently the new four-event order for the women goes high bar, floor, uneven bars, vault. At least, that’s how I read this graphic.
WHAT IS THIS IMAGERY? Lorette’s score of 13.500 on Sad Mustache just wasn’t quite enough for gold.
European Games did have to run the men’s and women’s all-arounds simultaneously, which is why this weird rotation order happened—otherwise there would have been floor exercise conflicts since they both have to use it. But of course the women were the ones who had to change their procedure, and the women’s competition ended a rotation before the men’s so that the culmination of the meet just had the men on the floor and the women standing around. Organizers of multi-sport events forget that we don’t tolerate your “women are the side show” nonsense in this sport.
In that men’s all-around final, David Belyavskiy had qualified with an advantage of more than three points over the next-closest competitor, so even though he gave away bits and pieces here and there and finished the day about a point lower than his qualification total, he was never truly challenged for the gold and just had to stay on the apparatuses to win and do so by a full point.
In encouraging news for the recently deceased, Belyavskiy’s closest challenge came from one little Oleg Verniaiev, who only had a couple arms fall off here and there this time en route to an 84.632 and his best all-around meet result in quite a while. Perhaps there’s hope he can get back to his old self after all. New Witch Doctor must be working.
Also overcoming a single nasty along the way was Vladislav Poliashov, who fell on pommel horse early in the meet—an event that typically needs to be a big score for him—but recovered to hit his remaining pieces to take the bronze, just a few tenths ahead of Petro Pakhniuk in 4th, who played his now-usual “qualification was bad and this one was good” game.
For a while, it looked like we would have a compelling medal challenge from Marios Georgiou, who performed well on the first couple pieces, but he suffered an attack of the gravity monster on HB with a nasty fall and could not complete his routine, dropping him all the way down to last and making everything terrible.
The #2 qualifier was Artur Davtyan, and while he put up a pretty similar day to the first (except with a crazy vault that got away with an 8.8 E score because there are no rules in men’s vault’s house), the improvements made by those with higher scoring potential dropped him to 5th place.
#3 qualifier Robert Tvorogal missed on high bar this time and was therefore not able to recreate his performance from the first day, but like Davtyan, he probably didn’t have the scoring potential to medal anyway with people like Verniaiev hitting (ish) today.
European Games action continues tomorrow with all 10 event finals, beginning at 6:00am ET/3:00am PT.
Saturday also brought the first day of event finals at junior worlds, and on the women’s side, the story was the continuation of Russian dominance. Russia won half the medals available today to bring its WAG medal count up to 6, versus 3 for China, 2 for the US, and 1 for GB.
On vault, the US earned its lone medal of the day with a gold for Kayla Di Cello, who performed a DTY and FTY. I was pleased to see Di Cello get rewarded for her amplitude on those vaults because it was superior to that of the rest of the field. Many of the other Yurchenko vaults we saw were successfully landed, but pretty short with obvious egg-beater legs. Meanwhile, Viktoria Listunova is the hero of my lifetime.
The single best vault of the entire final, however, belonged to Jennifer Gadirova with her stuck Y1.5. She won the overall execution award, but without a DTY, she wasn’t able to pass Di Cello and had to settle for a very gratifying “we know your name now” silver medal. Vladislava Urazova did not have the same level of execution of the top two medalists, but her difficulty (DTY and Y1.5) put her in third place.
Top qualifier Sydney Barros had nailed an excellent DTY in qualification but came up short on the landing this time (also a little off line), which dropped her to 5th place.
On bars, Russia bestowed upon us what were clearly the two best routines of the final, with Urazova taking gold and Listunova with silver. The only controversy there was whether the order of the two should have been reversed, but their difficult, clean work was the class of the field. They’re nearly ready for seniors with those routines, just needing a couple more tenths of difficulty to get up with the best in the world. For the bronze, it was a tightly packed race that went to Wei Xiaoyuan by just a hair over Skye Blakely and Ou Yushan.
I mentioned yesterday that the US bars workers would need a little help to medal here because they don’t have the difficulty, and Blakely didn’t get quite all the help she needed. She did what she could do and performed the cleanest routine of those bronze-contending three, but her difficulty was a couple tenths lower, and that made the difference. Kayla Di Cello, meanwhile, had a major arch in a handstand, which she did excellently to pull back and continue the routine, but it was a large enough error to drop her out of contention. Belgium’s Betrandt and Louon went 7th and 8th, not quite at the level of the other members of this final but also showing us that Nina could have heirs in time.
On the men’s side…some things happened? I mostly just want to talk about Shinnosuke Oka, who is a cool 16 inches tall and the future king of earth. Following his AA victory, he flared his way to a silver on pommel horse and came pretty close to medaling on rings (RINGS) despite his routine being a “you think I can do strength holds?” moment. Felix Dolci of Canada (who also took silver on floor) was a step above in his composure on rings and ended up winning that rings gold by just a breath over Diogo Soares of Brazil, who showed us tons of potential with a planche lower to Maltese and a stuck double double tuck dismount. The US had its best showing on rings in qualification, and Isaiah Drake used his Rami Malek energy to place 4th in the final, and Garret Braunton took 6th, both less than 2 tenths out of the medals.
The pommel horse final featured 5 hits out of 8, which is pretty good, and Oka and his teammate Takeru Kitazono (and their good buddy ALL THE FLARES) were the stars of that final, with Edvins Rodevics of Latvia hanging on for bronze. On floor, Ryu Sunghyun used the top D score of the final to win, followed by Dolci and then Nazar Chepurnyi of Ukraine. The US’s Matt Cormier finished 6th on floor and is really into doing this military-man-salute thing that’s giving me serious teenage boy PTSD.
Mostly, we need to talk about how this event has made all the athletes do little dances for their intro videos and it’s the best worst thing I’ve ever seen. If you missed it, imagine telling a lot of 16-year-old boys that they have to show off some dance moves and it’s going to be filmed. It was that.
Junior worlds is back on tomorrow with the final day of event finals, beginning at 8:00am ET/5:00am PT.