So close. So close that it cuts all the deeper.
I am, of course, speaking of the most important competition at this year’s European Championships—Luxembourg’s quest to advance to the team final.
It started so beautifully, with our valiant queens hitting 3-for-3 on both bars and beam while the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Latvia played a little game of “the beam is COVID.” But as is typical of life, it got bad almost immediately, and a fall on a final-routine Yurchenko full (a vault fall!) was enough to drop our 3-member Luxembourg team a mere 0.6 behind Croatia for the final spot in the team final. You had it. You HAD it. You were one vault away.
Truly, I blame us most of all. I mean, we couldn’t find EVEN ONE family-money American Level 9 whose parents hide their gold bars under a Luxembourg chateau to join this team and give them the luxury of dropping falls? We should have tried harder.
Luxembourg ended up with the #3 team score on beam in the entire competition, behind only Romania and Ukraine, and—to add to our pain—Lola Schleich jussssst missed the beam final on a tiebreak. But seriously, they’re all pretty legit on beam, as is Celeste Mordenti on bars. Buy a ticket for this bandwagon, because I’m driving and will immediately get too scared and stop.
On the bright side, Croatia’s sixth-place qualification finish means that Tina Zelcic will be performing her 1.1 D score bars routine, where she basically just shoots to the high bar and jumps off, in the team final. One must always find a reason to keep going, and Tina Zelcic’s bars routine is my new reason to keep going.
Anyway, up at the “top places” with the “good teams,” the preliminary fight between Romania and Ukraine turned out to be the Romania show. The Romanians looked quite a bit more secure in their routines and better prepared—and didn’t even have to count a score in the 11s on bars! (Let’s be honest, Carol made the trip to Turkey to judge bars and floor, but still…) Only Sfiringu fell during the bars rotation, which counts as a Romanian hit.
Meanwhile, Ukraine had to endure misses from both Varinska and Bachynska on bars, undercutting the team’s one advantageous apparatus and allowing Romania to skate to first place by 4 and a half points overall. It was not a strong day for Varinska, who also fell on beam and who does not seemed to have thrived after her COVID diagnosis in quite the same way Larisa Iordache has. As the old saying goes, when life gives you COVID, be Larisa Iordache bye.
Iordache won the unofficial all-around title by nearly two points over her teammate Sfiringu and advanced to every single event final with no ranking worse than 3rd, recording the strongest score of the day on both beam and floor. She has a legit shot to Simone this meet.
Today’s performance solidified Romania as the favorite to win the team title, though Ukraine does have quite a bit of room to grow because there were…more a few falls. A trouble spot for Ukraine is Bachynska, who has missed a lot of time recently and did not look fully back in qualification. The team relies pretty heavily on her routines.
Third-place qualifier Hungary will be pleased with how the competition went—at least the second half on vault and bars. The Hungarians went 154.129 to finish less than a point behind Ukraine, even though Ukraine was supposed to be well clear of any challenger teams. On the strength of a DTY and #1 UB score from Zsofia Kovacs, Hungary recorded the top team score on both vault and bars, just edging out Ukraine and Romania on vault and blowing them out of the water on bars.
Turkey pushed through well enough to qualify to TF in 4th place—but a distant 4th place, with the team medals looking set heading to Saturday barring a true volcanic catastrophe—and the Czech Republic qualified in 5th on the strength of having a full team and multiple people who could hit a Yurchenko full. Because otherwise it didn’t go great. On the non-vault events combined, the Czech Republic ranked behind Luxembourg. And yes, I am evaluating everything based on how it compares to Luxembourg. You got 2 Luxembrougs on vault, but only .4 Luxembourgs on beam.
With Croatia in 6th and Luxembourg in 7th, Latvia was left to finish in the final position, as Elina Vihrova could only carry the team so far.
Vault Final Qualifiers
1. Zsofia Kovacs – 14.049
2. Anastasia Motak – 13.933
3. Larisa Iordache – 13.716
4. Csenge Bacskay – 13.683
5. Dilara Yurtday – 13.433
6. Ioana Stanciulescu – 13.383
7. Elina Vihrova – 13.383
8. Tijana Korent – 13.383
Pre-competition contender Marina Nekrasova competed only a Tsuk layout as her second vault so doesn’t appear to be at full strength and did not have the difficulty to make the final. That leaves us with three DTYers in the top three spots, who look like medal favorites thanks to their D scores. Kovacs showed the best DTY while Iordache struggled with her landing. If Iordache lands normally in the event final, she should move up several tenths.
Bars Final Qualifiers
1. Zsofia Kovacs – 14.133
2. Barbora Mokosova – 13.566
2. Larisa Iordache – 13.566
4. Zoja Szekely – 13.333
5. Anastasia Motak – 12.700
6. Yelizaveta Hubareva – 12.666
7. Christina Zwicker – 12.600
8. Elina Vihrova – 12.500
The fall from Diana Varinska upsets the hierarchy here, where Kovacs once again looks like a compelling choice given how clearly she dominated the qualification field. An actual hit from Zoja Szekely (with the highest D in the finals field) has her in solid position, and—wonder of wonders—a Croatian gymnast has made it to a bars final with Christina Zwicker putting the entire team on her back on bars and beam to get them to the team final.
Beam Final Qualifiers
1. Larisa Iordache – 13.633
2. Silviana Sfiringu – 13.100
3. Anastasia Bachynska – 13.000
4. Elina Vihrova – 12.733
5. Anastasia Motak – 12.733
6. Bilge Tarhan – 12.366
7. Christina Zwicker – 12.100
8. Elisa Hämmerle – 12.066
Iordache has a major advantage here, in both difficulty and Iordahce-ness. Keep an eye on Anastasia Motak, who was very shaky in her qualification routine for 12.733 that barely broke 7 in E score, and has the potential to raise that number quite a bit. Daniela Trica, added to the Romanian team at the last minute, justified her spot with a counting 12.866 on beam but got 2-perred out of the final.
Floor Final Qualifiers
1. Larisa Iordache – 13.433
2. Antonia Duta – 13.200
3. Angelina Radivilova – 13.066
4. Lihie Raz – 12.933
5. Dorina Böczögo – 12.633
6. Diana Varinska – 12.500
7. Zoja Szekely – 12.466
8. Goksu Uctas Sanli – 12.400
Iordache will also be the major favorite on floor as she…didn’t even really do that well to qualify in the top position. She went OOB once and staggered on most of her landings, so she has the potential to lift that score a lot. One of the big surprises was Antonia Duta taking the second spot in the final for Romania over the more heralded, greater difficulty from Sfiringu and Stanciulescu, who placed 3rd and 4th and missed the final. This will be the only final for Diana Varinska, who did not perform up to her normal level here either, but who did? A miss from Bachynska kept her among the top 2 Ukrainians.
We continue with the juniors tomorrow, senior team final on Saturday, and event finals on Sunday. Links.