The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Women’s Euros Preview

SCHEDULE (US Times, links to streaming)

Thursday, December 17
6:45am ET/3:45am PT – Senior Qualification 1 (UKR, ROU, HUN, TUR)
8:45am ET/5:45am PT – Senior Qualification 2 (CZE, CRO, LAT, LUX)

Friday, December 18
6:00am ET/3:00am PT – Junior TF/AA 1 (UKR, ROU, CZE, SLO)
8:00am ET/6:00am PT – Junior TF/AA 2 (TUR, HUN, CRO, BUL)

Saturday, December 19
7:30am ET/4:30am PT – Senior Team Final

Sunday, December 20
2:00am ET/11:00pm PT – Junior Event Finals
7:00am ET/4:00am PT – Senior Event Finals

TEAM

The senior team competition will be a fight between Ukraine and Romania, one will come down exclusively to who has the fewest meltdowns in the team final. Because as we all know, “who do you trust more to hit, Ukraine or Romania?” is a trick question.

On paper, these teams are very close, although that paper is also riddled with domestic scoring and coffee stains. Ukraine’s most compelling avenue to victory is through bars, where the team’s scoring history is much stronger and where, by contrast, the best case scenario for Romania would be having to count only one score in the 11s and no one going to the hospital with a grip stuck in her ear. (That’s not where you put it?)

Ukraine has the ability to pick up multiple points on bars, but establishing that advantage is incumbent on the entire team hitting. Eeesh. If even one of the Ukrainians falls, and Iordache and Sfiringu get the grown-up scores they’re capable of, then bars scoring isn’t even that disparate between the two, and the clear team advantage would go to Romania.

I’d give Romania the slight edge on vault for being more consistent and having the best individual vault from Iordache. On floor, Romania should have the bigger routines, especially if they perform like they did at national event finals, though keep in mind that both Varinska and Radivilova sometimes score secretly well on floor. Romania’s strategy for victory will be to do better on vault and floor and then just be exactly the same amount of disastrous as Ukraine on bars and beam so that Ukraine can’t establish an advantage anywhere.

Of significant note, Romania has made a team change, subbing Daniela Trica back in for Maria Holbura just like I wanted them to and complained about plenty. I’m not saying it was all me, I’m just saying I’m currently in charge of Romanian gymnastics. Please direct all inquiries to Daniela Sofronie.


As for the others, Hungary should advance to the team final comfortably and be in compelling position for bronze, though the Czech Republic and an unproven-but-talented Turkish squad will be thinking, “Hey, why the hell not?”

The team final has been reduced from 8 teams to 6 teams just to ruin my life, so it seems the remaining three teams (Croatia, Latvia, and Luxembourg) will be fighting for a single position in TF. It’s a fight that I’m way too excited about because it will probably be determined by who has more people who can get a 7 on bars. Doing a single giant and then advancing to the team final is my passion.

Croatia is the only team among the trio with a full squad of five, but Croatian gymnasts almost never compete the all-around at international meets and only rarely have bars routines. They currently do have three athletes on the start list for bars, and I’m hoping they don’t pull what the men’s team did and put up a start list then decide not to compete most of the events. Croatia really should go for a full team score because there’s a very good shot at making the team final compared to a four-member Latvian team and three-member Luxembourgish team.

And you better believe I’ve crunched those numbers. Basically, as long as Ana Derek does her thing on beam and floor and Christina Zwicker competes like she did in Szombathely, Croatia’s peak score is about four points higher than that of Latvia and Luxembourg, who are actually pretty close to each other. So Croatia has several more points of disaster buffer.

EVENT FINALS

There is no senior all-around title awarded at Euros this year, but we’ll still all be checking to see who won and it will probably be Iordache. Silviana Sfringu, Ioana Stanciulescu, Anastasia Bachynska and Anastasia Motak are the other top athletes registered for all four events, and then additional gymnasts like Barbora Mokosova and Aneta Holasova will be hoping for high finishes.

There will, however, be event finals, and most of the aforementioned individuals will be favorites to advance to those finals and win medals. Iordache, Sfiringu, and Stanciulescu will all be eyeing medals on beam and floor depending on who doesn’t get 2-perred, and Iordache and Sfiringu should contend on bars as long as Sfiringu hits her full difficulty. And I’m just putting it out there that Iordache is registered to compete 2 vaults.

Ukraine will be hoping for a Varinska title on bars, and while Bachynska has less difficulty, she’s still miles ahead of most of this field and can contend. If it’s a good day for Motak, she and Varinska can be right there on beam, and Bachynska, Radivilova, and Varinska are all capable of sneaking into the low 13s on floor, which is about what it will take to be among the floor stars here.

Outside of those countries, Marina Nekrasova of Azerbaijan will be competing vault here as a compelling title pick. At last year’s event, she finished just 0.017 ahead of Hungary’s Csenge Bacskay, who is also competing here. Nekrasova will also look to fend off Radivilova and Motak (who has a DTY), as well as competitive vaulters Dominika Ponilizova and Tijana Korent.

Zsofia Kovacs hasn’t been the same athlete lately, but she really should be able to make the bars final here, with a shot at beam as well. Ana Derek is competing just beam and floor, and on both events she’ll be Croatia’s best hope to snatch a result. Bars is the weakest event in this year’s competition, so athletes who can entertain the possibility of 12s, like Zoja Szekely and Elisa Hämmerle and several of the Czech athletes, will view bars as their best shot to make an event final.

MEN’S RECAP

Last weekend brought us the men’s competition, and like the women’s, the team final was always going to come down to two countries. This time, Ukraine and Turkey. Turkey qualified in first place, but then the dramas came.

Turkey’s secret weapon in 2020 is newly Turkish Abdelrahman Elgamal, who has provided the team with its much-needed third score on several apparatuses to make the squad much more competitive in a team-score format. Right before TF competition began, however, Elgamal suffered a Peszek-2008-qualification and was rendered unable to compete vault and floor, two of his most important events. Turkey was forced to throw in Colak on floor and Samiloglu on vault with severely backup-level routines, and they gave away quite a bit to Ukraine. Still, Turkey wasn’t completely completely out of it heading to the final event, but then all three of the Turkish athletes fell on high bar…so yes they were completely out of it, with Ukraine taking the team title and Turkey settling for silver.

The event finals brought a few pretty expected results, like Artem Dolgopyat taking the floor title—though Yahor Sharamkou had qualified ahead of him after sticking a triple back—Igor Radivilov taking the vault title despite nearly dying on one of his vaults, world champion Ibrahim Colak taking the rings title, and Ferhat Arican winning PBars. Elsewhere, we had some surprises, with Matvei Petrov claiming Albania’s very first European title on pommel horse and most shockingly of all, Lithuania’s Robert Tvorogal upsetting Tin Srbic to win high bar, even though Srbic hit. Pretty sure no one saw that one coming.

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