Baku 2015: event finals preview

Some facts about the event finals:

  • There are only 6 athletes competing in each final and there is an one per country rule
  • The only countries to qualify one athlete to each final are Russia and the Netherlands,
  • The only athlete who managed to be in the top 6 on each event, and would have made each final if there wasn’t an one/two per country rule is Russia’s Seda Tutkhalyan
  • The only athlete we will see in 3 finals is Giulia Steingruber (SUI) but Aliya Mustafina would also have achieved the same thing if it wasn’t for the one per country rule.
  • There are 5 athletes we will see in two finals: Aliya Mustafina (RUS), Lieke Wevers (NED), Seda Tutkhalyan (RUS), Andreea Iridon (ROM) and Sophie Scheder (GER)
  • Russia is the only county all athletes from which managed to be in the top 6 and get a qualifying score for at least one event final.

Vault

2014 European vault champion, Giulia Steingruber (SUI) didn’t manage to defend her title at Montpellier but she now has one more opportunity to prove that she is the best vaulter of Europe. She qualified into first place and she enters the finals as the absolute favorite to win the gold medal. She is capable of the most difficult vault we’ve seen in the competition so far: a rudi, and she executes it absolutely brilliantly. During qualifications she performed a full twisting yurchenko as her second vault but she is capable of a powerful double full. Maybe she’s planning to go for it at finals, maybe she’s a bit tired and will choose to play it safe. She is the top contender for the gold medal regardless.  (start value 6.200 + 5.00/5.8)

Russia’s Seda Tutkhalyan qualified into the finals in second place. She showed a much improved DTY, which was much higher and more powerful than the one we saw her doing at YOG. However, there was still a big leg separation during her block and here knees were bent during the rotations. Her second vault was a rather low Lopez. She only revealed this skill this year so it’s not surprising to see that she isn’t very comfortable with it yet. Seda has clearly plenty of work to do on this event, but in this relatively weak field she should have no problem winning a silver medal if she lands on her field. So there’s not really a reason to worry, right? Well WRONG, there are those two pictures that keep me awake at night.

tumblr_npvo40URR21rfhun2o1_400 tumblr_npvo40URR21rfhun2o2_400

This really looks like an amanar attempt, an unsuccesful amanar attempt, a scary and dangerous amanar attempt. Now, do I really think that Seda will try to do an amanar at event finals? No, I really don’t. But I also didn’t think that Maria Paseka would do an amanar at Montpellier, I certainly didn’t think that Ksenia Afanasyeva, out of all people would attempt an amanar at Montpellier. But they did! So I will be holding my breath until I see that she’s going for a 5.8 vault.

( start values: 5.800/6.3? + 5.600)

Lisa Top, qualified third into the finals. She is Netherland’s vault and floor specialist and the 14.133 she received for her vault during the first day of the competition was the highest score we saw from her country. Unfortunately she did not qualify into floor finals after a fall during qualifications. That means that this is her only chance to win an individual medal. Her first vault is a strong front handspring tucked full which definitely set her apart during qualifications, where everyone was competing yurchenkos, while her second vault is a full twisting yurchenko. So far, The Netherlands have medaled in every single final they’ve participated and I am sure that Lisa would love to keep this great success going for them. (start value 5.3 + 5.0)

Gabriela Janik, who qualified in 4th place, is Poland’s most succesful gymnast in those championships, since she is the only one to make it into an event final, as well as into the AA finals. She has the same first vault we’ll see from Lisa Top, a front handspring tucked full and she executed it brilliantly at qualifications. In fact she earned one of the highest execution scores we saw during the competition for it and posted a strong 14.4 for her team. I’m not sure what her second vault is, but it starts out of a 4.6. That means that she has a disadvantage in difficulty and she’ll really have to be perfect if she wants to be in the mix. (start values: 5.300  4.600)

Commonwealth vault finalist Kelly Simm of Great Britain hasn’t had the best competition of her life so far. She had a fall on bars during qualifications, she did not make finals on her best event and she had a rough beam routine during the AA. However, here she has an opportinity to make up for those disappointing moments and win her country’s first medal at those games. During qualifications she performed a Lopez and full twisting yurchenko but in the past she has competed a solid DTY. If she went for it during finals she would tie Seda Tutkhalyan for the highest difficulty score and she would have a fantastic chance to be on the podium. The truth is that she is not the cleanest athlete, and there will always be deductions for bent knees, piked hips and leg separations on her vaults. But a good start value and solid landings could make up for that and put her on the top 3. It would really be a shame to see team GB leaving Baku empty handed and this really is their best chance for a medal. (start values: 5.600 + 5.00/5.8)

Ana Derek of Croatia grabbed the very last spot of the finals. The 6th place she earned during qualifications is probably the most succesful finish of her career so far and she is her country’s only event finalist. That means that no matter what happens tomorrow she will have a lot of things to celebrate after this competition. Her vaults are a tsukahara with a full twist and a front tuck half out. She is capable of executing them both beautifully and landing them well. Her second vault actually looks way too easy for her and I would love to see her upgrading it in the future. (start value: 5.200 4.800)

BARS

So far, Aliya Mustafina has won every final she has entered and she could very well win a third gold medal at the uneven bars. She is by far the most succesful athlete of the competition on this event since she has been an Olympic and European champion as well as a world medallist and she would certainly love to add a European Games title to this resume. She came to Baku with a brand new combination, an inbar 1/1 + maloney + pak + maloney 1/2, and she nailed it both times she competed it. Her handstands are as great as they could possibly be, her jaeger is nice and high and her dismount is as solid as it gets. She’s also extremely consistent on this event and the judges always love her so there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be considered the top contender for this final. (start value: 6.5)

The only person who could potentially challenge Mustafina is Germany’s Sophie Scheder. The 2012 junior European bars champion has had a very succesful senior career so far, making it to European and World finals. She usually does not disappoint int qualifications, but when it’s time to fight for a medal she often has a couple of minor mistakes that take her out of contention. This time, her difficulty is so much higher than most of her competitors’ that she could win a medal even with some imperfections, but she can’t even afford small errors if she wants to win gold over Aliya. Just like her biggest opponent, Sophie performs an inbar full into a transitions combination, an inbar 1/2 into a sky-high jaeger and a full in dismount. She has fantastic lines and executions and she knows how to hit her handstands. Sophie was hoping to win an AA medal but a fall on this event was very costly. After that disappointment I’m sure she’d be delighted to prove that she can hit her routine and be one of the best in Europe. The only question is whether or not she can catch her church, that cost her an AA medal. (start value: 6.5)

Noemi Makra is Hungary’s only event finalist and I have to say that nothing made me happier during the first day of the competition than to see her qualifying. She has been struggling a bit this year and only competed bars at Montpellier but now she is back into the AA. She didn’t seem quite ready on beam and floor but she earned a solid 14.4 score for a bars set we didn’t get to see. Noemi doesn’t have the most fluid swing on bars and her maloney is typically very low but other than that she has nice, clean execution and a good level of difficulty. Her church is probably my favorite out there. The judges are typically pretty harsh on her but I’m hoping that this won’t be the case at Baku. Maybe, this is finally her time to shine. (start value: 5.9)

European finalist and Olympic UB finals reserve Celine Van Gerner doesn’t have the hardest routine we will see. In fact her start value is only a 5.3. But she is one of the cleanest gymnasts out there and her execution makes up for the lack of difficulty. Her jaeger is ridiculously high, her pirouettes are spot on, her bail always finishes into a handstand and she gets great amplitude during her dismount. I don’t know if this is going to be enough for her to win a medal but I definitely wouldn’t count her out. Considering that she beat both Ugrin and Iridon during qualifications and that the judges are typically not too kind with Noemi she could have a chance. (start value: 5.3)

Italy’s Tea Ugrin hasn’t put a foot wrong during those entire championships. She may be young and inexperienced but she proved that she can handle the pressure and hit 8 out of the 8 routines she has competed. Uneven bars finals will be the last time we see her competing in Baku so hopefully she’ll manage to produce an other solid routine and finish strong. She is much improved on bars, where she has beautiful inbar work and a super high gienger. She is Italy’s only event finals and therefore Italy’s only chance to medal but I’m not sure whether or not this is a realistic goal for her if everyone hits. However that doesn’t change the fact that she has had a fantastic competition and she should be one of the top contenders for Italy’s worlds team. (start value: 5.9)

Talking about young athletes who proved they can handle the pressure, Romania’s Andreea Iridon managed to overcome her nerves and she hit her uneven bars routine for the first time this year. Her set is not spectacular and in my opinion, it doesn’t live up to the potential she showed a couple of years ago but it still is very valuable for her country. You really can see the difference between her work and her teammates’. Her gienger actually has amplitude, her swing isn’t laboured, her ricna is nice and high, she hits her handstands and she doesn’t rush through the entire routine. This will probably not be enough for her to be among the three best gymnasts of this competition but hopefully she will be able to perform well and build more confidence going to worlds. (Start value: 5.6)

Unfortunately, some athletes who were clear medal contenders won’t be competing because of the one per country rule. Elisabeth Seitz of Germany must be very frustrated since she had the exact same score with her teammate but lost the spot in the final due to a tie breaker. This is really unfortunate especially because she had a rather rough competition at day 2 and she would love to go out there and prove how good she really is. 2011 UB world champion, Viktoria Komova had a mistake during her new combination but still had one of the highest scores of the entire competition. Unfortunately she won’t have the chance to prove she can perform this skill well, since her teammate Aliya Mustafina qualified ahead of her. Same goes for Russia’s Seda Tutkhalyan.

Two athletes who I was hoping to see in those finals are Lieke Wevers and surprisingly Kelly Simm. Lieke has gorgeous lines, beautiful form and great style. Her UB set during the AA finals certainly was one of the highlights of the day. Kelly doesn’t really have any of those qualities, but she has the most difficult release of the competition: an inbar piked tkatcev that could get named after her in the code of points. Unfortunately Lieke didn’t have the best routine during qualifications and Kelly had a fall.

BEAM:

The top contender for this title is once again a Russian. This time, it’s first year senior, Seda Tutkhalyan who really impressed the entire world with the difficulty and control she showed on this event during qualifications. Everyone always knew that is a spectacular beam worker. After all, she competes the most difficult skill we will see during this entire competition, the most difficult skill we will see during any competition on beam: a layout with a full twist. She also performs a high layout, a front aerial to sheep jump, a switch leap + switch half combination and a double pike. The problem is that as a junior she could rarely hit a routine unless she significantly watered down. But that doesn’t seem to be the case any more. It looked like Seda was going to be an other Russian headcase but instead, she didn’t have any falls at Torino last month or at Baku. Her beam during qualifications wasn’t just very hard, it was also extremely solid. If she can perform like that in the finals there’s no doubt that she will win one more gold medal for her country. (start value: 6.3)

Switzerland’s biggest star, Giulia Steingruber must have delivered the routine of her life during qualifications and she earned an impressive 14.4 to qualify into second place. It’s crazy to think how far this girl has come during this quad. In 2012 more people saw her as a potential floor and vault specialist and now, she’s one of Europe’s best all arounders. She clearly has put lots of work on this event and she has a world class routine full of difficult elements, like a bhs + layout and a front pike. The highlights of this routine for me are her mount sequence (switch leap mount + front aerial + jump series) and the original dismount she has created, the Steingruber. She still has quite a few small breaks throughout her routine and she is often shaky on this event so it will be really interesting to see how she does. (Start value: 6.0)

Sophie Scheder is going to represent Germany in this final as well. I am very impressed with how well she has done on beam so far. Her start value is relatively low and she doesn’t have any huge skills but all the elements she performs are well executed. On top of that she has been ridiculously solid during team and all around finals and she has gotten some of the highest execution scores we’ve seen. One of my biggest concerns about Sophie’s Olympic chances is that until now she only had one stand out event, the uneven bars. But it seems like she could be very valuable for her team on balance beam too, especially if she upgrades. (start value: 5.4)

My favorite athlete competing in this final is without a doubt Romania, Andreea Iridon. This girl is special and she has a style that we rarely see on beam these days. Her routine includes lovely original skills and combinations, like a 1.5 Y turn, a switch leap + Y turn and a front aerial + scale and everything she does is just so clean and so elegant. She’s also one of the few athletes who bothers to have actual choreography. Her low to beam work after her front aerial is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen on beam during this entire quad. Andreea, who had been very inconsistent for the first half of the year, seems to have finally gotten it together and she has performed brilliantly so far. Hopefully she will manage to keep her nerves under control and continue Romania’s long tradition on this event. She really is one of the country’s best chances for a medal. (start value: 5.9)

An other athletes who really has shined during those games is Lieke Wevers. She led the team to a bronze medal at the first two days of the competition and then she grabbed an other bronze on the All Around after performing brilliantly on all four events. Beam really is where she shines. Just like her sister, she is famous for her fantastic difficult turns. Most of her acro elements are well executed aerials and she always sticks her gainer layout dismount. She shows elegance, clean lines and lovely execution. During the AA finals the judges didn’t give her the full start value, they probably thought that her jump or her flight series weren’t really connected. If this doesn’t happen again she has a good chance to win her third medal at Baku. (start value: 5.6)

Commonwealth bronze medalist, Georgina Hockenhull is the last athlete who qualified into the finals. In my opinion the judges were a bit too harsh for her during qualifications, probably because she was only competing in the first subdivision. She is a lovely beam worker, with nice lines and flexibility. She upgraded her flight series to a side aerial + loso which is one of my favorite combinations to watch and she performs an original front aerial + switch leap + johnson. Her dismount is a double tuck. During the team competition she was GB’s saving grace on this event, and if she manages to handle the pressure and hit her routine her chances for a medal are as good as everyone else’s. (start value: 5.7).

The two athletes who won’t compete even though they were in the top 6 are Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova who were both outscored by their younger teammate.

Notably absent from those finals will be Vasiliki Millousi of Greece, who had a big wobble during qualifications. She managed to save it and stay on the apparatus but the damage had already been done. Turkey’s Tutya Yilmaz also showed fantastic difficulty but didn’t quite have the necessary execution to make it into the top 6. Other beautiful beam workers I wish could be there are Italy’s Giorgia Campana and Tea Ugrin, Poland’s Kataryna Zukowska, France’s Marine Brevet and Hungary’s Noemi Makra

FLOOR

This is the fourth final to which Aliya Mustafina qualified in first place. She came into Baku with a brand new routine, with new choreography, new tumbling and new dance elements. Her exercise is nowhere near perfect and she doesn’t seem completely comfortable with her new tumbling passes and turns combinations just yet. However, I believe that all the problems she has had during Baku are things that can be fixed during a couple of months and that her routine shows lots of potential. I just hope she eventually gets new choreography because this routine leaves a lot to be desired. Her double lay out is better than I expected it to be but it is quite low and she has her usual twisting form issues. Her opening turns combination is one of the most exciting pieces of gymnastics we’ve seen on floor at Baku but it has given her a fair amount of trouble. An other gold medal is certainly not unrealistic for her. After all, she had the highest score in qualifications. But she will have to perform much better than she has so far in order to win it.  (start value: 6.1)

Silvia Zarzu surprised as all by qualifying into the event finals over her much more famous teammate Laura Jurca. Initially, I wondered whether or not the coaches would consider pulling her out of the final so Jurca, who has higher difficulty gets to compete. Laura’s shaky performance during the AA finals gave me the answer to this question. Silvia showed a brand new 1.5 + triple combination and she nailed the rest of her tumbling passes for a solid score. She has had a rather rough championships, having costly falls on both bars and beam so an individual medal would definitely be very important to her. During her interview, she sounded determined to fight and prove herself. (start value: 5.7)

Lieke Wevers was an other gymnast who surprised us by qualifying third into the finals. She can’t tumble. There are 12 years old athletes with more difficult tumbling passes than her. But I couldn’t care less about that because from the very first moment she steps into the mat she wins me over. She’s so graceful, so elegant, so expressive. She puts her heart and should into her dance and she has brilliant music and choreography, she’s poetry in motion. Her turns are also a piece of art. I know that a good floor worker is supposed to have a good balance of artistry and power and I know Lieke doesn’t have this power, I know she isn’t a complete gymnast on this event. And yet, out of all the routines we’ll see in this final, hers is the one I’d go back to watch over and over again. (start value: 5.4)

The next qualifier, Giulia Steingruber couldn’t possibly be more different. Unlike Lieke, she is a powerhouse and she performs the most difficult tumbling pass we’ve seen at Baku: a full twisting double layout as well as a huge double layout. The truth is that we still haven’t seen her nailing her floor routine during the European Games. She hasn’t had any major mistakes, but she has had a fair mount of trouble at controlling her landings and the judges didn’t overlook that. If she does what she’s capable of there’s no doubt that she’s going to win this, but the question is whether or not she’ll manage to do that even though she’ll be exhausted after four days of competition.

Lisa Verschueren is the only Belgian gymnast who managed to qualify into any event finals. She doesn’t have any big tumbling passes, but the skills she performs are always well controlled and clean. I absolutely love the amplitude on her 1.5 + frony full combination and her double wolf turn is the prettiest one I’ve seen all year. She doesn’t have the typical classical style everyone loves and I’m sure her choreography is not everyone’s cup of tea but she certainly shows some interesting work. Her music is original and powerful and she works very well with it while also making eye contact with the audience. Belgium has been quite succesful during those games with Gaelle Mys finishing 6th in the AA and the team being in the top 10. Lisa was a huge reason why they achieved this success and it would be great to see her shinning in the individual finals as well. (start value: 5.4)

Valentine Pikul of France is the last gymnast who made it into the finals. She has been her country’s most succesful gymnast, since she is the only one who made it into the AA and EF. Her floor routine really is fantastic. It includes a high full in, a double pike and a double tuck. Her choreography is very consistent with the style we usually see from French athletes and that couldn’t possibly be a bad thing. It’s dynamic, it’s powerful, it goes well with her music and it catches the crowd’s attention. She fell on this event during the AA finals, so a succesful performance here would be a great redemption and a great finale to a very succesful competition for her. (start value: 5.4)

Τhe athletes who missed this final due to the one per country rule are the lovely Laura Jurca of Romania, Russia’s Seda Tutkhalyan and Belgium’s Gaelle Mys who actually tied her teammate and lost the tie breaker. I will really miss Laura’s charisma, Seda’s fierceness and opening combination and Gaelle’s elegance.

Unfortunately, some of the best tumblers of this competition didn’t manage to make it into the finals. Great Britain’s Kelly Simm performed a brilliant routine during qualifications, hitting her double layout and her whip + full in. She is not a clean gymnast and I understand that she gets lots of deductions because of her weak form and her poor leaps but I think she may have been a victim of the tighter scoring we usually see during the first subdivision. Netherland’s Lisa Top, has fantastic forward tumbling, including a Dos Santos and she was expected to challenge for medals on floor. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the routine she was capable of during qualifications, where a fall and a step out of bounds caused her score to be very low. Dorina Boczogo of Hungary, who is capable of a piked full in and a clean double front also didn’t manage to be in the top 6.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s