The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

State of the Russians Address

Viktoria Listunova is the 2021 Russian national champion. Certainly the greatest beneficiary of the postponed Olympics, the 2021 senior performed the closest thing this competition had to a clean two-day meet, establishing a large advantage over the mere peasants through a fully secure and confident performance on day 1, and then withstanding a beam fall during the parade of nightmares that was today’s all-around final to retain that #1 position.

But seriously, my summary of this all-around final is

with the subheading

It is predominately Listunova’s floor, which has scored 14.3+ on both days of competition (using a couple swigs of Russian domestic floor scoring) with a whip-whip-triple and difficult dance elements, that allows her to establish an all-around lead, though her other events have also clearly progressed since the last time we saw her in competition. In this meet, she transformed from Next Star to Current Star.

Mimicking the circumstances of 2019 junior worlds, Listunova held off a close all-around challenge from her partner in Russia-Saving, Vladislava Urazova. Urazova actually recorded the higher AA score on day 2 thanks to her clearly more comfortable DTY on vault and superior bars work, but beam struggles on both days of competition brought her totals “down” and allowed Listunova to stay ahead. Once again, parade of nightmares.

Nonetheless, Urazova is performing a back handspring mount directly connected to back handspring layout stepout on beam, and that deserves its time in the sun.

Through the first two days, this competition has not been as glorious for for Angelina Melnikova, who finished clearly behind her two new challengers in bronze position after falling on beam both days—day 1 on a wolf turn, day 2 on a split jump from side position—and struggling on bars both times as well, catching too close on her piked jaeger on the first day, and then getting through it on the second day only to botch a pirouette. Melnikova has, however, looked quite strong on floor and will be hoping to redeem the competition in some respect by continuing that in the event final.

Despite the falls, those three are currently 80 million steps above everyone else in the all-around right now, so basically if you’re penciling in your draft of a Russian Olympic team, it should be Melnikova, Listunova, Urazova, and whoever gives Valentina the largest barrel of moonshine that week.

Yana Vorona made a pretty good argument for herself on day 1 by sitting third in the all-around—ahead of Melnikova—but she had a wild collapse on day 2, falling on her DTY and falling on three different passes on floor to end up with just a 51.733. So that didn’t help. The Crow (her Google translate name) was, however, fairly solid on beam on both days, which basically counts as a saintly miracle at this meet, hitting her signature split jump to immediate front tuck both times.

There is certainly always a market for “someone we trust to hit beam” and she did that.

But also doing that was Elena Gerasimova, who hit beam twice to nestle herself ultimately into 4th place in the all-around. Gerasimova has fallen a bit behind the Listunova-Urazova duo with whom she rose the ranks because she doesn’t have the difficulty to keep up with them on vault and floor. That’s why she wouldn’t be viewed as the same kind of favorite to make an all-around-focused Olympic team, but she’s showing that she can nonetheless provide an important beam routine to support them.

Among the veterans who had a tougher time, Lilia Ahkaimova will not be pleased with her performance, ending up in 7th all-around after a 51 on day 2. Recently, Akhaimova has seemed a fairly likely nominee to get an individual Olympic spot even if she doesn’t end up contributing enough to make a four person team. Especially if Russia earns the full +2—which they will be heavily favored to do if Euros go on—a logical use of those two spots would be someone like Iliankova for bars (she qualified first into the bars final here and will also appear in the beam final), complemented by Akhaimova for vault and floor.

Thus far, however, Akhaimova has fallen on floor both days of competition and has struggled enough landing her handspring rudi that it’s not differentiating itself from the DTYs of the top all-arounders. Akhaimova will be in both the vault and floor finals (as well as the beam final, though that’s less important for her) and could use a recovery performance to finish out the competition.

A heartening 9th place in the final all-around standings belonged to Elena Eremina, who went through the competition hitting pretty solidly for her current routine competition. She’s not able to do anywhere close to 2017 difficulty anymore, but this is the most comfortable we’ve seen her look with her Career Part 2 routines. She’s now in her “I’m doing NCAA composition and hitting with it” phase. Valentina celebrated this by not looking up from her iPad for the entirety of her floor routine.

In qualification, Maria Kharenkova injured herself in the takeoff on her opening double pike on floor, an injury that has now been confirmed as an Achilles. Helpfully, no one came up to the floor to assist her in her time of need, so she just kind of had to slowly log roll off the FX. It was saddest of times, it was also kind of the funniest of times. But mostly saddest. Kharenkova had actually qualified for the beam final as well, so that extra sucks.

There are some Olympic implications to this injury as well as Kharenkova is currently the second alternate for an Olympic spot if any athletes who qualified for themselves through the 2019 worlds AA are forced to pull out. Her position would also become significant if the European Championships are ultimately canceled this year, in which case those Olympic spots set aside for Europe are supposed go to Megan Ryan (IRL) and Maria Kharenkova (GEO) based on their results from 2019 worlds. (Argyro Afrati of Greece would then be next in line.)

In conclusion, Uliana Perebinosova was the true beam champion.

Event final will stream here on Saturday and Sunday.

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