Ukraine Defeats Romania: A Postmortem

Well it didn’t go great!

Following a fairly dominant qualification performance in which Romania outscored Ukraine by 4.600, the Romanian team looked to be resting on a cloud of chocolates heading into a European team final that was theirs for the winning.

That favorite status, however, ignored Romania’s virtuosic ability to find new and creative ways to fall apart on bars. Ioana Stanciulescu led off Romania’s bars rotation with a 9.800 that eliminated Romania’s entire potential advantage in one fell swoop. Fell being the operative word. The 9.800 (and 4.600 execution score) looks a bit harsh for what was basically your run-of-the-mill two-fall routine, but the second fall (after a missed Ray) was handstand based, with Stanciulescu repeatedly going over on a handstand and trying to correct before ultimately deciding it was a lost cause and hopping off. It was that avalanche of handstand deductions PLUS the subsequent fall that made the score look even worse than the routine actually was.

Sfiringu also had problems on bars, throwing in a rarely seen accidental tucked Jaeger that ended up torpedoing her execution score and giving her an even lower total than she received in qualification when she actually fell (scoring here was also much tighter on bars and floor than it was on the first day).

Ukraine didn’t try to do a ton on bars—Varinska and Bachynska both dismounted with double tucks and Varinska went for only a 5.1 D score, the lowest for any of the Ukrainian or Romanian athletes despite being Varinska. That not trying to do a lot strategy was quite effective compared to Romania’s light-the-toilet-on-fire strategy and gave Ukraine an advantage of more than 4 points because of bars alone.

Romania’s hopes, however, were not fully dashed at this point, and the comeback began almost immediately with a beam rotation in which none of the Romanians even fell (!) and several of them showed excellent potential in the medium of nearly falling but courageously flailing and staying on. The one fall in the lead-group beam rotation came from Anastasia Motak, who missed her front pike combination and also received an overtime deduction because she was born, lived, and died during a preposterous dismount preparation display that I will spend the rest of my life watching.

That beam consistency-ish helped Romania claw some of the margin back, and moving to floor, Romania used its superiority there to progressively close the gap with each routine, particularly a stellar comeback showing from Stanciulescu that earned the highest floor score of the day. Suddenly, going into the final routine from Larisa Iordache, Romania needed only a score in the 12.9s to win the team title. That seemed supremely doable for Iordache since she went 13.433 in qualification for a routine without her best landings.

Then, things took another turn. Iordache was forced to bail on her third pass, an intended back 2.5 to front tuck, where she was able to complete only a double full. This was a particularly big deal because it meant that her routine no longer included a front tumbling element—worth 0.5 in composition requirements. That left Iordache with a D score of just 5.0 and a total of 12.766, putting Romania less than two tenths behind and giving Ukraine the European team title.

Shades of Mattie Larson in the 2010 team final here, though in Larson’s case the situation was more extreme because she also lost the combination pass composition requirement, which no longer exists.

In 2010, the discussion was that Larson could have just added a random front tuck or front aerial in her choreography to get that front-acro 0.5 back and fulfill the requirement, though the rules have since changed to prohibit such things. Now, the front tumbling element must be part of an actual acro line, so it would not have been a simple matter for Iordache to improvise and meet the requirement. She would have had to ad lib an entire tumbling pass that she doesn’t train.

Now, she did still have one pass left in her routine and would have ended up gaining value by ditching her double pike and replacing it with some nothing like, say, a front handspring + front tuck (there must be at least two elements for it to be considered an acro line). While she’d lose three tenths in skill value, she’d gain five tenths in composition, so it would have been worth it—but expecting someone to do a cost-benefit analysis like that in the middle of her floor routine is a lot.

And so the team title went to Ukraine, despite a total even lower than the team achieved for a pretty rough qualification performance two days previously. That one beam fall was the only true blemish, where overall Ukraine defied multiple decades of heritage and used slow-and-steady-wins-the-race to defeat the wildly chaotic (and much more fun to talk about) Romanian performance. But who am I kidding, the actual reason Ukraine won was Anastasia Bachynska’s hair.

In other worlds, Hungary met expectations by winning the bronze medal, once again proving itself to be the best bars team in the competition. Hungary’s qualification score would actually have put the team in really close contention to win, but things did not quite go ideally on beam and floor today. Hungary still enjoyed a significant margin over Turkey in fourth place, the Czech Republic in fifth place, and Croatia in sixth place.

Meanwhile, Luxembourg’s qualification score was higher than Croatia’s TF score. What, you thought I wasn’t going to shoehorn a Luxembourg moment in here?

24 thoughts on “Ukraine Defeats Romania: A Postmortem”

  1. Bachynska’s hair is a tragedy. I don’t know why she would do that to herself.

    The highlight that was missed in this wrap-up is Ana Derek’s tumbling.

      1. I also LOVE her hair!

        And the annoyingly oppressive comment of “I don’t know why she would do that to herself” makes me love it anymore! 😬

  2. I am absolutely in love with Stanciulescu’s floor, love that music. Really hope Romania doesn’t burn out her and Sfringu,

  3. Another solution to Larissa’s floor issue would be to just re-attempt the 2.5 to front tuck instead of the double pike

  4. I just cant for the love of god understand why nobody trains gymnasts in top programs like Romania or the US on how to act when your tumbling pass goes wrong, larisa could’ve dismounted with a front tuck, a front layout or whatever and that might have been enough for gold, same thing as for Mattie Larson. I’m like, have the coaches never read the damn code?

    1. Unfortunately, gymnasts are trained to be robots and that precludes thinking for yourself and eliminates the possibility of improvising.

      And I wish I was trying to be sarcastic or clever but I think that’s just the sad truth.

      1. But Motak improvised in her FX qualifications though. She missed the punch front out of the 3 1/2 twist and landed on her back. Therefore she changed her final tumbling pass to a 2 1/2 twist punch front, to ensure that she had the requirement fulfilled. She typically dismounts with just a 2 1/2 twist (and did so in PT) so she improvised and threw the punch front. if she can improvise, someone super experienced like Iordache can. Instead of double back to the 2 1/2 punch front.

    2. I feel like over the years we’ve seen several examples of gymnasts successfully improvising to make up for a missed connection or requirement on BB, but almost never on FX. Granted, these kinds of misses are more common on BB so maybe the athletes have more opportunity/incentive to practice a “plan B” there?

      1. Yes, we’ve seen some quick thinking over the years. Remember Lauren Mitchell at Worlds 2011 FX final. After missing her usual leap series, she threw in a couple of split leaps at the end of the routine. Scrappy as hell but a valiant effort!

      2. I think with Larissa it might have been a little more challenging due to her absence in competition and possible stamina. She knows she can easily do the double pike but doing the 2.5 punch front was probably too risky at this stage of her comeback. Also hindsight is wonderful and she would probably agree that even a tuck front through to a full twist would have been enough. But in that moment and having been out for so long without maybe knowing the gap to Ukraine as well probably accounts for keeping the routine the same x

    3. From a gymnast- floor routines are hard. all of your brainpower is going towards finishing the routine. On beam it’s easier to think for a second, but with constant music and choreo there is no time to think about the best possible backup option. The only way to do it is to just let your muscle memory take over. Hope that makes sense!

  5. Not tough to see why this was a problem. this is what happens when you force gymnasts to stay home for “safety” for months. What remains to be seen is how many injuries and careers will be ended in the name of “staying safe”. Just glad no one was seriously injured doing skills when out of shape. COVID is whatever it is but this competition makes it clear that the government regulations are destroy every other aspect of life. Hope it’s worth it. Oh wait. It’s not.

    1. Well, we can all be thankful that the government regulations gave you the time to come online and grace us with your hot takes.

      (You’re wrong, by the way. You should go to school.)

    2. @Leah Run along and lick some more doorknobs, little dRUMPfette bitch. If you hurry up and die it will be one more dose of vaccine for an actual deserving human 😀

  6. My gymnastics missing butt loved this competition. Very entertaining, gutted for Romania but happy for Ukraine. I am in the camp of loving Bachynska’s hair.

    Does Romania have a brighter future considering the return of Lari, the stronger new seniors, and Barbosu? Despite the 2nd place finish, they showed they have potential. Hope the coaches don’t squander it like they have been (imagine if Denise Golgota at her best was with this group).

    1. It all depends what happens with the team after Tokyo. If Iordache sticks around int the next quad they will have a strong 1-2 punch with Iordache and Barbosu (who had the highest AA score of anyone, junior or senior).
      But she isn’t age eligible until 2022. If Iordache, Barbosu, Stanciulescu, and Sfiringu stick around, the 2022 team should be back in at least the top 15 if not top 12. Adding Voinea in 2023, the team could be a team finals contender.
      We have to see what happens to the rest of the countries as well. Canada, Great Britain, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and Japan could potentially lose many of their senior team as they have many “older” gymnasts. I can see most of the Germans retiring, the Weverseseseses, Ellie Black, Shallon Olsen, and Brooklyn Moors, Becky Downie and Alice Kinsella. Hypolito, Barbosa, and maybe Andrade. Murakami and Teramoto.
      You never know until post Olympics, but Romania and Ukraine are certainly ones to watch. Especially because their juniors are very strong right now.

      1. Romania has had strong juniors in each of the last few quads. It’s when they move into the senior ranks that they strike problems. So many wasted talents eg Golgota, Iridon.

  7. Bachynska’s hair is like her homage to Marta Pihan-Kulesza. She just needs her own version of a Pink Panther floor routine to really make it work.

  8. Motak’s beam dismount! She’s thinking about the dismount and accidentally does the choreography twice, then realizes she did the choreo twice, freaks out, forgets what she’s supposed to be doing, wonders where she is in her routine and whether she is supposed to be starting her series or her dismount tumbling….hilarious. Also, I like the way that tucked Jaeger looks!

  9. So a punch double front (due to being a single element) is no longer a valid move on women’s floor?

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