**Note on the appearance of the site. I was trying out a new format. There were some things I liked (stylistically and the mobile version) and some things I didn’t (the organization of posts on the desktop version), so I’m back to the old way for now. I reserve the right to keep playing around because there are also some functionality issues I’ve never been quite happy with on the old one.
Honestly, the most noteworthy feature of the Paris World Cup was the gigantic size and volume of the crowd—I mean, especially when we’re used to elevens of silent people.
This was particularly evident in the men’s floor final, when the phalanx of children in the crowd were instructed to scream ALLEZ (either that or AHHHLJKEDHFLKSHDLSHD, hard to say) on every tumbling pass. It was…sure a thing. But of course, they all lost steam about 2/3 of the way through the final because they were expending too much energy too early. So if you went up later in the order, you just got the sputtering of an old steam engine. Anyway…
Sunrise, sunset. A Japanese gymnast you’re not sure whether you’ve ever heard of before shows up to a world cup event and is so dramatically better than everyone else that the competition is immediately halted and he is showered in glory. We know this tale. This time, it was Kazuki Minami’s turn, as he arrived in this final with a 6.6 D score, nailed the majority of his landings, and won gold.
Artem Dolgopyat will be a bit disappointed that a couple landing issues took away a possible gold medal for him. He didn’t have the D score of Minami, but he also landed well short on a randi with a large lunge forward that in itself would have accounted for the final two-tenth difference between them. Kirill Prokopev was able to endure a short randi landing of his own to place third, though for me his performance was not quite strong enough to defeat Dmitri Lankin in the head-shaped-like-a-perfect-cube standings. The rivalry goes on.
Great Britain’s lean drink of floor twisting Hayden Skinner took 4th with a 6.5 D score, which was exceptionally offensive because it knocked Tomas Gonzalez down to 5th despite Gonzalez being perfect in every possible way (until the dismount, but even that was not a large issue), and while he did win the E score crown, it wasn’t a 10, so invalid.
Also Rayderley Zapata showed a 6.5 D score and felt medium about it.
In this situation, I’m the judge who doesn’t understand.
Also, William Emard looks exactly like if Andrew Rannells got squished. #analysis
Horse with things coming off of it
It seemed like we were in for a disaster in the horsey final after Artem Dolgopyat fell, and then favorite Lee Chih Kai had an unmitigated two-fall disaster of a routine (and the crowd didn’t even ALLLLEZZZZZ like banhsees through all of his flare work, so what were you even doing there), and then Cyril Tommasone shot sideways like an arrow on his attempt to get to handstand on his dismount and had to re-dismount.
Things got better from here, however, with Thierry Pellerin hitting for bronze, and then Kirill Prokopev hitting for silver, and then Joshua Nathan hitting for a surprise gold after he went full straddle-town on a Russian travel (less a leg break, more a full split). Nathan has the difficulty and is coming off a win from last week, but I thought that error would compromise his E score enough to give the title to Prokopev. Nonetheless, Nathan held on by a tenth. He was similarly surprised.
Strong boy muscle pull
It’s a tie! Samir Ait Said and Ali Zahran finished equal on both D score and E score in this final. I thought Zahran was a bit stronger, a bit more secure in strength positions and was going to take it, but it’s also rings, so whatever. They both held their dismount sticks with a little lean, so it’s a tie!
Hoeck and Molinari were the only ones in the final with the difficulty to match but both had some execution things, Hoeck nearly having to bring the rings together to correct a handstand and not sticking his dismount, and Molinari having similar handstand trouble and not holding crisp positions for quite as long as the top scorers.
That allowed Kentaro Yunoki to sneak in for bronze despite having one of the lower D scores of the group.
Like horse, vault started off terrifyingly with the first three vaults of the final all yielding falls—two from Emard and one from Zapata. The quality of the vaulting (kind of) improved from there so that we ended up with five falls in total and a 72% hit rate for the final. A C- is honestly not that bad for a men’s vault final. Good improvement. See me (but just Adria Vera for unrelated reasons).
Four athletes managed to hit both their vaults, with the group led by gold medalist Loris Frasca. With Frasca’s two 5.6 vaults, he was always going to have the edge in this field, and by hitting both of them successfully with good chest position and just landing hops, the win was never in doubt. Jake Jarman’s hair adventure took a worthy 2nd place. It’s like a built-in flat cap, but then the seas part when he runs so that he can see where he’s going. Inventive design. Technological progress.
Third place went to Adria Vera for a comfortably landed Shewfelt and Kas 1/1 and inner-ear piercing, which put him just ahead of Hayden Skinner, who performed the same vaults basically equivalently, though without an inner-ear piercing, so no luck.
Dismounts are hard. That was a lesson of this PBars final as potential medal winner Aleksandr Kartsev plummeted to the core of the earth on his dismount and had to put a hand down, finishing 7th. Dismount troubles were not as unkind to Sergei Eltcov, who nearly suffered the same fate but was able to jump sideways to a rock conveniently floating down the middle of the lava river just in the nick of time to save a fall and preserve a silver medal for himself.
With less difficulty than Eltcov, but also no lava-related disasters, was Kaito Sugimoto, who cruised to a win by showing obviously the cleanest routine in the final. Everyone else had little issues, which meant 3rd place was totally up for grabs and ultimately won by Ryan Sheppard who—despite callously assaulting his gastrocnemius when it contacted the rail mid-routine—managed to keep things going and nail his dismount for a bronze medal. Though the true highlight of Sheppard’s routine was fake-Olly trying to pronounce “Sheppard” with some sort of nonspecific eastern European accent. It was truly splendid.
Also, Tomas Gonzalez was in this final and got the second-highest E score because obviously. Not just floor, peeps.
It should not come as a significant surprise that old friend Sn Srbic took the gold medal here. I was a little concerned for him that he would fall to second place because he did have a late finish on a 1.5 and a fairly large lunge on dismount, but his form otherwise—in addition to his amplitude—carried him a couple tenths ahead of Sergei Eltcov, who used ALL THE KOVACSESESES (included a resplendent piked Kovacs) to match Sn on difficulty.
I thought Robert Tvorogal went through quite cleanly in his leadoff routine, as is his wont, but unfortunately for Tvorgoal, he had a challenger in the less-difficulty-but-clean department as Tang Chia-Hung outperformed him on execution to get the bronze medal. Tang did have a pretty large lunge on his dismount, but the fact that he was able to finish a full pirouette in vaguely vertical position was so groundbreaking that it earned Tang the silverware.
We very nearly went through an entire HB final without a fall, but then Nestor Abad in the final position was like, “OH I GOTS THIS” and took his dismount right to all fours.
The women’s vault final got a little funkadelic in places as we saw both Gabriela Janik and Paula Mejias struggle with their intended Tsuk vaults, having to bail out and perform an improvised rendition of the hit song, “I’m in Several Shapes, and I’m OK” instead. Janik had qualified in third place, so her new creative direction on her first vault opened up the podium for someone new.
Speaking of our old friend the podium, Oksana Chusovitina was on top of it again. Chuso performed her typical front lay full and Tsuk 1.5 with a bound forward and a little bit of leg form to get the win, as we have seen her do so very many times over the years. Given this year’s international vault field, I would be a little bit worried about whether Chuso was a shoo-in to make the final at worlds with these vaults and get her Olympic spot, but Chuso also performed the all-around in qualification in Paris and scored over 50, so home slice has got a backup plan in Stuttgart.
Placing 2nd was Sara Peter with her ample distance on both her DTY and Tsuk layout 1/2, which was sufficiently rewarded by the judges. Ultimately, the one able to take advantage of the Janik miss was Franchesca Santi of Chile, who really does have comparatively excellent layout position through her DTY (just landed in a little bit of molasses and had to step out of the area), and I was pleased to see that post-flight position rewarded with a bronze medal. Santi was all crying about how great winning a medal was, if that’s your kind of thing.
The level of today’s bars final was quite a bit higher than we have seen in the various challenge cup bars finals on the circuit this year, with some truly high-level routines both medaling and not medaling in this final. Instead of like, Claudette Flyaway finishing 4th just because she stayed on (no tea, no shade, except for both tea and shade).
We’ll begin with the sad parts (the BBS special). Diana Varinska clattered to the ground and became only recognizable as a pile of limbs on her Tkatchev 1/2 attempt, losing a ton of D in the process as well and finishing 8th. Meanwhile, Georgia-Mae Fenton suffered the old British Athlete Special—something weird that ruins everything—on her dismount where she slipped backward like a fawn on a frozen pond and weirdly had to put her hand down.
In medal town, it was Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos who won the day—first because all 80 million people in the crowd were rhythmically screaming MELANIE in unison upon her introduction. But also because she did the most fantastically clean bars routine, even on elements like the Bhardwaj, which deservedly garnered her a gold medal even though her 6.1 D score was three tenths lower than the 6.4 shown by Anastasia Agafonova.
Agafonova was also strong, just not Melanie strong. I had some hesitation about Agafonova being named as Russia’s alternate for worlds (and I still do because she doesn’t bring a vault, an area where Russia kind of needs a backup), but her stellar performances on bars and beam here emphasize that she is in the worlds squad to be a legitimately valid replacement option for Spiridonova. The routines she showed here on bars and beam would outscore Spiridonova at worlds.
I did take some issue with the bronze medal, with Zsofia Kovacs beating out what I thought was a superior routine from Belarus’s Anastasia Alistratava (Belarus, 14s, bars, get used to it). Kovacs was well short on all of her cast handstands, though that did not really show up in her E score, which was nearly the highest in the final.
The surprise on beam was that we just had the one fall. Ganna Metelitsa had a sort of a…
…of a routine and fell before her set even started, getting off line on her initial bhs loso series and doing a sideways baby cartwheel off the side of the beam. But otherwise, no disasters. The only other reason for a lifetime of depression from the beam final was the withdrawal of Ellie Downie, and it better not be anything real because otherwise British Gymnastics would have to start filling out an official Petition to Cancel Worlds Due to Sadness and Our Floor Lineup document, and the deadline for that is soon. We need time to procure all the necessary forms.
Anastasia Agafonova followed up her silver on bars with a gold medal here, not Russia-ing it up even a little bit and only exposing the smallest of balance checks and some hip dysplasia while trying to land her double tuck. The primary purpose of this routine was so that Valentina can carry around video of it and resentment-play it to the worlds team members when they fall on beam.
Even more dramatic than Agafonova’s victory, however, was the remainder of the podium, which consisted of two (COUNT EM 2) Ukrainians, neither of whom fell—either in qualification or in the final—with Bachynska’s beautiful toes putting her in 2nd and Varinska taking 3rd. I know the spell will wear off sometime (I’ve seen multiple versions of Cinderella, ding-dongs), but I’m going to pretend it is eternal.
The beam final was not ideal for the French athletes, with Boyer suffering a gigantic hurricane-force wind on her layout series (though she did savvily adjust herself to be remain facing forward mid-way through her side aerial to avoid a check, and it ended up looking pretty cool). Melanie also did manage to stay on the beam but had a tremendous wobble-burger of her own on basically every skill.
Beam routine make Melanie feel:
You guys, I’ve been pondering this for a while now, but I think Marine Boyer’s best event might be floor now. Lately, she hasn’t really been the force on beam she was in 2016, but she led off this final with a stellar performance, the best executed routine of the group with choreography that I would find charming if I were capable of such things (thankfully I’m not, sounds exhausting).
Her routine was defeated only by Varinska in the final position, who was able to unite combination tumbling passes and D-value dance elements to get her D score up into solid 5.3 territory. If you’re breaking 5 on floor at a challenge cup, you’ve got a good shot, and Varinska definitely was.
For most of the rest of the competitors, major errors took them out of contention. Sira Macias fell on a 2.5 and Paula Mejias fell on a whip to double Arabian, while it was large, both-feet OOBs that compromised the performances for Kovacs and Alistratava. That left the bronze medal open to be won by Aneta Holasova, who only had a 0.1 OOB and has really turned into a well-rounded floor athlete with both difficult tumbling passes and non-traumatic dance elements.
Next week’s Guimaraes World Cup exists, but with a very small field, and the big deal of next weekend is of course going to be US women’s selection camp.