One month post-Tokyo, gymnastics is officially back for a competition with exactly equal significance to the Olympics: the Koper Slovenia World Challenge Cup. So let’s find out who earned eternal glory for themselves and their nations on the first day of finals.
Despite perpetually looking like he has just been sent to apologize for Chernobyl, Russia’s Kirill Prokopev earned the gold medal (or, at least, the clear circle assigned to the winner) on floor. Prokopev boasted the highest difficulty score in the final and matched that with among the strongest execution performances, showing off his flares-but-make-it-interesting, along with mostly solid landings and just one plate tectonics event on a double double.
That was enough to put him ahead of Canada’s resident Super Ball William Emard, whose relative control on landings earned him the best execution score in the final, though he ended up a tenth behind Prokopev overall. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Ilia Kovtun showed up going, “I’m an Olympian now suckkkassss” and stuck his first three passes. While he was a little hoppier after that, the strength of his early passes afforded him a comfortable margin in third place.
Riley Loos of the US (or “Riley LOOOO” according to our commentator who had a small seizure during his name apparently) took 4th. He was a little lower on both difficulty and execution than the medalists but nonetheless above the all-important 14 mark—and with an original element in tow, a back dive to planche, which was given B value because the FIG hates joy.
In the remaining spots, a human bull named Andrin Frey had some excellent passes but sadly lunged back to his home planet on a piked double Arabian, Krisztofer Mezaros suffered a momentary ice floe on a randi, Mario Macchiati had some OOB trouble of his own, and Lorenzo Casali had an odd mistake where he opened up early on one of his passes and did an accidental back 2.5 that destroyed his composition. The broadcast wasn’t really sure what to do with that because while everyone else got all their passes replayed, the first half of Casali’s was a replay of a crotch close-up while he chalked.
On vault, Slovenia’s own Tjasa Kysselef took the title, finishing the competition with the strongest vault of the entire final, a handspring front tuck full that was nearly stuck. The strength of that second vault put her a single tenth ahead of top qualifier Csenge Bacskay, who landed quite lock-legged on her Yurchenko 1.5 so didn’t score as well as she might have there (even though she still got the highest highest score of any vault in the final because nothing is real).
Those two were clearly the class of the vaulters, but Yana Fedorova did hang on for bronze from the first position with her vaults, highlighted by a perfectly acceptable Yurchenko full.
I’ll admit, this final was in danger of getting boring, so it was veteran Dorina Böczögo to the rescue with the most preposterous landing on her Yurchenko full, where everything except her spine tried to scream “LET’S CONNECT A BACK HANDSPRING OUT OF THIS” for some reason.
Canada’s Rachael Riley followed that up by revealing that you could do 50+25 for 75, then 5 plus 3 is 8, take that away for 67, 67 times 9 is 603, and then take away the 2 to get our target, 601. (Americans, please direct your IDGI texts to your assigned cultural liaison.) Also her 1/2 on front fling ended in a body slam.
Albania’s Matvei Petrov brought his big horse energy to the final in Koper to snatch the win, a well-deserved reward for a gorgeous routine. He did have to take it on a tiebreak over Ilia Kovtun, who had a higher D score but also a bit more hesitation up to handstand on his dismount (struggling up to dismount was a real theme here).
Filip Ude (“Filip OOOOOOD”) owned the best execution in the final—not a new experience for him—and successfully stayed on the apparatus—a somewhat rarer experience for him—to earn bronze despite coming in with one of the lowest difficulty scores. Among the clean hitters, only Zachary Clay of Canada missed out on a medal. He tied OOOOOOD overall but lost the tiebreak on execution, which is a shame for him because he also has quite pretty execution.
The top difficulty in the final belonged to Ahmad Abu Al Soud, but he botched his dismount and had to retry. Prokopev also looked more Chernobyly in this final, catching his leg going into scissor elements and ultimately finding himself unable to recover (in addition to dismount problems of his own).
Sadly for Slovenia’s Saso Bertoncelj, his legs transformed into a hearty soup 16 times during his routine and he had to pause for a short decade while trying to get up to handstand for his dismount, so he was not able to medal at his home event. Nonetheless, he did receive a Just Being Great ceremony before the medals were awarded as a thank you for being Slovenian, where he was bestowed with…a shopping bag of assorted items? It felt kind of retirement-y, but Bertoncelj has said he intends to continue.
In the bars final, two athletes distanced themselves from the field. Barbora Mokosova of Slovakia displayed the most composure and comfort with her composition to take the title, working through a somewhat crooked opening toe full but looking smooth from that point on. She ended up a couple tenths ahead of Hungary’s Zoja Szekely, who showed great speed and very competitive difficulty in one of her more solid routines. Everything is always right on the edge of running away from Szekely, but when she stays on as she did today, it’s quite an enjoyable routine. I wouldn’t have been offended by seeing her in first place here, honestly.
A worthy bronze went to Lucija Hribar of Slovenia, despite a balance check while standing on the springboard waiting to begin her routine. Hribar had the lowest D score of the final but showed much better amplitude and extension than the rest of the athletes throughout many of the same elements. A delight to watch. She ended up a half tenth ahead of Yana Fedorova, who had more difficulty and went through securely, but showed enough hesitations and elbows and knees that her E score was never going to be very high.
Bringing up the rear of the hitters was Aleksandra Rajcic of Serbia, but her 12.050 was also the highest score she has received at an FIG competition in 4 years. Same-bar releases proved the demise of the rest, with Yelizaveta Hubareva falling on a connected gienger, though she has the inbars to build up a huge D if she wanted to with a 5.4 here even though she dismounted with only a flyaway.
Antonia Duta Romania-ed a Jaeger, but she is also typical of many of the current generation of Romanians in that she’s not actually hopeless on bars. She has the toe point and the rhythm, but needs refinement and consistency. Emma Slevin of Ireland was showing very pretty work until a fall on her Jaeger. She stayed down for a bit after her fall but looked like she just got the wind knocked out of her and was able to finish.
Vinzenz Hoeck of Austria proved the lone Rings Captain to seriously hit his routine, which was enough for the gold medal. GB’s Courtney Tulloch would have been right in the mix for the title given the excellent positions he showed on the rings themselves, but he fell on his dismount. His difficulty is such that a fall dropped him only to sixth instead of last.
Russia’s Ilia Kibartas had a totally uneventful routine to take silver, and uneventful was really what it took today since many routines were…rather eventful. Even bronze medalist Andrea Cingolani had to eat a bucket of bolts out of anger after his routine.
Riley Loos had probably the cleanest routine of the final, with secure and vertical handstands and a stuck dismount, though his D score of 5.5 did not allow him to get into the medals with another 4th-place finish. Chris Kaji ended up keeping time like a grandfather clock for a while toward the end of his routine, and Mustafa Arca arched a handstand to sheep position, which kept both of them out of the medal hunt. Greece’s Stavros Gkinis finished last because he didn’t take his jet to go pick up Alexis. Also he fully tucked a handstand.