Baku 2015: Halfway through team finals

Russia entered the competition as the absolute favorite team to win this title and they did not disappoint. They were the only team to not have any scores below 14 today as well as the only team to show three double twisting yurchenkos on vault. All three athletes showed improvement on this event. Aliya still needs to clean up but her form looked slightly better than in the past and she stuck her vault cold. Seda’s DTY was quite higher than it usually is, even though her bent knees are quite distracting and Vika performed this difficult vault for the first time since the previous quad. I have to say that I was very worried about whether or not they’d be ready for this skill and the photos of Seda apparently crashing an amanar during podium training didn’t make things any better so I’m very happy to see them all delivering good solid vaults for their first rotation. Then, they moved to uneven bars, where they were as fantastic as expected. Seda started things of with a solid routine, including a beautiful double front dismount and Aliya proved once again that nobody in the world can hit a handstand as well as she does. She revealed a new combination and she now has an impressive 6.5 routine with some room for upgrades. I’m sure her maloney will be a Komova 2 soon enough. Vika performed a new opening combination as well and she unfortunately struggled with her van leeuwen. Her routine was otherwise as beautiful as ever since she showed fantastic fluid swing, gorgeous lines and beautifully executed elements. After a performance like that there was no doubt that Russia would finish the first day of the competition on the top of the scoreboard and it will be very hard for anyone to challenge them. Of course, beam is always a huge test for them and floor is still a question mark for Aliya and especially Vika. I have to say that the photos of their DLOs we saw from podium training aren’t exactly promising. However, their high start values make it possible for them to win even with one or two falls (but please girls, no more than that)

Russia had a comfortable two points lead over the second team, Germany who also performed admirably. The stars of the team, Elisabeth Seitz and Sophie Scheder posted the exact same scores on vault and bars, earning an identical two event total. They showed two solid FTYs that earned them a 14.033. Their bars however, were so much more than solid. It was known from the beginning that they would shine on this event and they definitely lived up to the expectations since they both scored 15s. I didn’t see a video of their routines but I don’t really need one to know that Sophie has stunning lines and beautiful form and that Eli is absolutely spectacular. It will be very interesting to see who of those two athletes will end up qualifying to the AA finals. I personally hope it will be Elisabeth, since Sophie already made UB finals. The third member of the team, Leah Griesser, had a good vault but struggled on bars. Hopefully she’ll have her chance to shine at the second day of the competition. It’s important to remember that even though Germany has a significant two points lead over the next teams, they are not guaranteed of a medal. Bars is by far their strongest apparatus and they took full advantage of that but they are quite inconsistent on beam and they don’t have much difficulty on floor. They have a great chance to get away with a medal which could very well be silver, but they are definitely not in the same position as Russia and there’s much less room for mistakes in their case.

In third place, we have Hungary, the country that was the biggest surprise of the competition. I don’t think anyone expected them to be in the mix, let alone be in third place. But they counted two impressive 14.066 for their excellent full twisting yurchenkos and they also delivered on bars. Noemi Makra, who hasn’t really had any stand out moments so far this year, delivered an excellent bars routine that earned the 5th highest score of the competition on this event. Taking into account the one per country rule, she will be the 3rd qualifier into event finals which is obviously a massive success. Dorina earned a 13.366 for an other hit routine. And the most amazing thing for this team is that they are excellent in the two remaining events. Beam and floor is where both Noemi and Dorina excel. They show good difficulty, originality and style so if they manage to perform to the best of their abilities anything is possible.

Netherlands was only a few tenths behind them, after posting solid scores above the middle 13s throughout the two events. Their highlight was Lisa Top’s 14.133 on vault. On bars, Celine earned one of the highest E scores of the day to make up for her relatively low difficulty while Lieke posted a solid 13.6. Her execution score was a 7.8 so it’s fair to guess that she had some amount of trouble (probably with her dismount). This lovely team will continue their effort tomorrow on two more events. Their beam is excellent. Celine has scored as high as 14.7 this year and Lieke is absolutely beautiful to watch and she performs the most impressive spins we’ll see during that competition. Their floor is definitely not weak either. Lisa Top has some of the most powerful tumbling in the competition and Lieke Wevers typically scores in the high 13s. She minimizes deductions by only performing two tumbling passes and she makes up for her weak tumbling with gorgeous turns. Netherlands is a much improved team with tons of talent and promise and winning a medal here would be a huge boost for their confidence and their program heading into worlds. And it’s definitely not an unrealistic goal if they manage to stay consistent.

On the 4th place, and only 2 tenths behind them we have Switzerland. Giulia Steingruber, the absolute leader of this team posted the highest score of the day on vault, with her massive rudi and Jessica contributed with a solid 13.8 for her FTY. Unfortunately, they weren’t as succesful on bars, where Catarina had an unfortunate routine, with 3 falls and both Giulia and Jessica scored a bit lower than they normally do. This is obviously not ideal for the team but it doesn’t take them out of the running. They can make up for those 13s tomorrow on balance beam, where both Jessica and Giulia are quite strong, while Catarina is very consistent. And of course, Giulia should be able to deliver a big number on floor exercise, where she is a European medalist and world finalist.

Italy is only one tenth behind them thanks to their solid scores on vault. Tea scored a 13.9 for a lovely DTY while Alessia posted the only score above 14 for this team with her layout half out. Giorgia Campana unfortunately struggled on the uneven bars, where she was hoping to make it to finals so the team didn’t count any of her scores today. Hopefully she’ll manage to get redemption with a great balance beam routine. Thankfully, young Tea Ugrin managed to score a 13.766 which was enough for her to make bars finals under the 1 per country rule. Alessia’s 13.366 is not spectacular but it’s enough to keep them in the running. This Italian team doesn’t follow the country’s tradition of strong floor workers. Their tumbling is rather weak and they are not expected to get any massive scores on this event. This means that they’ll have to really nail their balance beam routines in order to maximize their chances for a medal.

Great Britain, whose two events total was about 3 tenths higher than Italy’s had a solid rotation on vault. Charlie Fellows performed a good FTY and Kelly Simm didn’t do her DTY but she still posted a strong 14.2 for her Lopez. However, things didn’t go their way on bars where Georgina Hockenhull only scored 11.166 and Kelly Simm did not manage to break 13 despite an impressive 5.8 start value. Charlie, who is proving herself as a solid team player, saved the day with a 13.7 with a very clean routine featuring lots of transitions and a markelov. I am worried about their medal chances, not because I don’t think they can’t get over a rough bars rotation but because beam is next. Of course, it’s a difficult event for every single team, but Great Britain has a history of having mistakes there and Kelly and Charlie aren’t really renowned for their beam work. However, they have one of the strongest floor line ups in the competitions and that should help them get closer to the podium.

Only three tenths behind them, we have the beautiful French team. They had a terrific vault rotation, with Marine Brevet performing one of the best FTYs of the competition and Valentine Pikul earning a 14.1 for one of the few tsukahara vaults we saw during qualifications. They didn’t have a disaster on bars but they also didn’t perform as well as they could have. Marine had a couple of hesitations during her routine before having a rather rough landing on her dismount and she scored a few tenths lower than she normally does while Valentine Pikul gave a few tenths away on deductions and only earned a 7.733 E score. This hurts their chances quite a bit, especially because, in my opinion bars was their best events. They are also strong on balance beam, where they show both elegance and difficulty but once again consistency is an issue. And unlike GB they can’t make up for possible mistakes on floor exercise since they don’t have big start values. They have lovely choreography though, so no matter what happens they’ll be enjoyable to watch.

Belgium is standing on the 9th place only 2 tenths away from France. Just like so many other teams, they had three lovely FTYs that all scored in the high 13s. On bars, Gaelle had the most scary fall of this competition during a pirouette but thankfully, she didn’t hurt herself and managed to continue her routine without any problems. Of course her score was quite low but her two teammates managed to compete well and earn two very decent scores. I’m not sure if a medal is still within their reach, even though they are very beautiful on beam when they hit. However I’m very excited to watch them perform and Gaelle’s floor and beam are two of the routines I’ll make sure not to miss.

This is a sentence I never thought I’d write, but Romania qualified a full point behind Belgium after a rough competition. Their biggest advantage was having 2 double twisting yurchenkos in a competition where most teams perform FTYs. Laura performed hers beautifully, earning an impressive 14.8 but Silvia earned a 14.3 for hers. That would be ok if they managed to get through bars but that unfortunately never happened. The team was always hoping to count Laura’s and Andreea’s scores on this event, since Silvia is particularly weak here. But Laura had three falls, along with her usual form breaks and only managed to get a 10.433. Silvia tried to make up for that but she had a fall on her dismount as well. That fall in combination with her very low 4.8 difficulty caused her to score a 10.5. Thankfully, Andreea Iridon, who hadn’t hit a single routine this year so far, managed to overcome her nerves and delivered a solid set for a 13.7. I am sure that Romania will come back fighting tomorrow and I believe they’ll hit their routines, but I am not sure if that will be enough to put them on the podium. They are strong on beam and floor and I can’t wait to see them performing, but their start values are not big enough to bring huge scores and at this point, I’m not sure if scores in the high 13s/low 14s will be enough to make up for their disastrous bars rotation. Of course, it’s not over until it’s over and nobody can guarantee how things will go down tomorrow. Hopefully, the young Romanian athletes will manage to put what happened today behind them and perform as well as they can. Then, even if they don’t win a team medal they should be able to qualify into event finals.

As you can see, most teams are only a couple of tenths away from each other. That means that one single step in the landing, one form break, on wobble really could make the difference between bronze and 4th place so it should be an exciting competition.

You can find the results of the competition here

photo from here

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