What happened here? Well, let’s see. [That is meant to be read in the exact tone of Victoria Clark doing “Statues and Stories” in The Light in the Piazza, in case you’re looking for the full experience.]
Honestly, the fields were deeper than I thought they were going to be. This is far from the sparsest challenge cup we’ve seen. Doha and Zhaoqing are v jealous.
The big news from qualification surrounds Marta Pihan-Kulesza—because when doesn’t it—who has debuted a new “Vogue” floor routine that is destined to become iconic and…also just has full talking in her music?
We know she was not deducted for having floor music with words because it would 1.00 off, which was not taken from her score.
Basically, there are two issues at play here. On the one hand: go off. This routine is ten times more enjoyable than any Pose-A-Tron 3000. It’s a thematically appropriate and delightful use of words in floor music, and if all potential uses of words in floor music were like this one, we would all be clamoring for a rule change. I’m not clutching my pearls in horror. (I mean, I am because that’s my resting state, but not about this.)
On the other hand: …isn’t this very specifically against the rules? Why is an exception allowed here, but the rules still ostensibly prohibit MyKayleighlegra from doing that Shawn Mendes routine she wants to. Clarity, clarity, clarity.
“But, like, this one works and is good” is a sentiment I agree with, but is not sufficient as a rule.
Anyway, what else?
Pihan-Kulesza qualified in second position on floor because of that OOB situation, a few tenths behind Diana Varinska. MPK will still enter the final as the favorite because she has the most difficult routine, but expect Varinska and perhaps Angelina Radivilova to be right there with her. Varinska isn’t going to win any tumbling difficulty awards today (she mounted with 1.5 through to 2/1), but winning floor at a challenge cup is all about leaps and turns anyway and she has them. Lisa Zimmerman of Germany also qualified in third position, and with some of the most competitive D scores in the field, she has the composition to be a medal threat on all the events she qualified for (she missed the beam final).
Speaking of beam, all of humanity was devastated to see that Anastasia Motak, she of the delightful front aerial+front tuck from Ukrainian Nationals, had a disaster and finished in 9th, missing the final despite there being just 13 people in the entire qualification field. Varinska and Pihan-Kulesza just became larger favorites in that final. They have the most competitive routines and were among the -1 people who didn’t fall in qualification.
On bars, Motak had another nightmare and will miss the final. She has fulfilled her national prophecy and is part of the tradition now. In the final, Diana Varinska could probably just take a selfie of her own feet and win, but she too is Ukrainian, so you never know. Zoja Szekely typically has the most entertaining bars, so I was pleased to see her advance to the final despite barely breaking into the 6s in E score. She had just the one fall, which counts as a hit.
Ten women competed in vault qualification, with 8 advancing to the final, so it was only Elina Vihrova and Kaja Skalska missing out. Skalska’s 3.7 second vault was not difficult enough to contend, and Vihrova lost the execution tiebreak to Aneta Holasova for the final spot. Unsurprisingly, the top qualifier was Boglarka Devai, with her DTY easily ranking as the highest score of the day. She’ll be favored, but Radivilova can get up there, and Motak did advance to this final with her DTY, so she has the potential to snatch a solid finish. The difficulty those women have will probably elbow out challenge cup mainstay Tijana Korent, but she’ll be somewhere in the picture as she always is.
In men’s qualification, Milad Karimi advanced in first place on floor and has the difficulty to hold his fate in his own hands in that final, but it’s Milad, so people like Pakhniuk will also entertain a chance of winning. My favorite Rok Klavora is probably on the outside looking in, but he did successfully advance to the final.
Our eternal PH world cup mainstays successfully avoided disaster in qualification, with Nariman Kurbanov, Filip Ude, and Robert Seligman advancing in the first three positions—though it was Albania’s Matvei Petrov who showed the highest difficulty on the first day. Horse is probably the highest-quality group of any of the events here. The specialists turned up. You might have to watch it.
With nine competitors on rings, only poor Daniel Ponizil missed out on the final. Igor Radivilov qualified in first, just ahead of Vinzenz Hoeck, so it will probably come down to whether Radivilov dies on his dismount or not in the final to see who takes the title. 50/50.
Despite his difficulty, Radivilov didn’t have quite the same lovely time on vault, qualifying in just 4th place. But of course, he’ll be right in the hunt for the win if he hits on Sunday, contending with top qualifier Marian Dragulescu. Those two should be the class of the field, with Milad Karimi also there in case they both explode. 50/50. Actually this time more like 75/25 in favor of explosion.
PBars was the Ukraine special, even without Oleg in attendance, as Pakhniuk and Yevgen Yudenkov showed so much more difficulty (and hitting-ness) than everyone else to advance to the final in the first two positions, with Karimi in third and everyone else well back. Pakhniuk should enter the final as one of the clearest event favorites in the whole competition.
Alongside Tin Srbic, that is, who leads on bars by a massive margin and can still do more than he did in qualification. Hungary’s home specialist David Vecsernyes qualified in 2nd position, with Karimi and Pakhniuk right behind. It’s always nice to see Vecsernyes succeed because he’s always there, making finals and having that dismount and finishing 5th.
I will be dusting off the old live blog machine and doing both days of finals (9:00am ET/6:00am PT, streaming on Olympic Channel). Mostly, I’m hoping that COVID has not compromised the opportunity to put the handing-out-the-medals ladies in ridiculous folk costumes. Watching that unfold and talking about which of the men’s floor shorts are the best shorts will be 90% of the live blog.