The Novara Cup was held on October 10 in Novara, Italy and it was the last major international competition before the Glasgow world championships. Italy, Romania and Spain, who have yet to announce their official world teams, used this meet as part of their selection process and the gymnasts had one final chance to prove that they deserve a ticket to Glasgow. The Belgian athletes and Venezuela’s Jessica Lopez were able to test their routines before competing at the world championships.
Unsurprisingly, the gold medal went to Romania, which was represented by all the contenders for the country’s world team with the exception of Catalina Ponor. The star of the team was once again Larisa Iordache, who did not only lead her team to a first place finish, but also placed first in the All Around and posted the highest score of the competition on every single event. She chose not to perform her silivas on floor, probably because she doesn’t want to put any extra pressure on her body just weeks before worlds, but she nailed her tucked and piked full ins, her triple twist, her memmel + illusion turns connection and her double pike. Her double twisting yurchenko on vault was the best of the night and her bars routine was beyond impressive. Her clear hip half after her maloney was a tiny bit rushed, but her jaeger, her church + pak and her van leeuwen were very well performed and she stuck her full in dismount. The 14.850 she earned for her effort, was a full point higher than the next best score of the team. She finished her competition on balance beam, where she nailed her back handspring + tucked full and her round of + layout. Her triple twist was slightly under-rotated but she certainly showed that once again, she is a top contender for the world beam title (But well, we’ve said that before…). Larisa was injured for the biggest part of the year, but nobody would have guessed that based on her performances. She continues to show incredible difficulty, artistry and consistency and hopefully, she will be one of Glasgow’s biggest stars.
Diana Bulimar was also extremely impressive, considering she had surgery only months ago. She started with a fabulous floor routine, nearly sticking her double layout and piked full in and showing great energy and personality. Her full twisting yurchenko on vault had great height and distance and it definitely looks like she could upgrade it in the future, but that’s probably not a wise choice for her. On bars, she was having an excellent routine, hitting her shaposhnikova, catching her hindorff and nailing her clear hip 1/1 + tkatcev combination but then, she fell on her bail to handstand. Despite the fall, both her execution and her difficulty on this event are so much better than they were earlier this year, and if she can hit her routine she will be incredibly valuable to Romania, especially since she brought back her full in dismount. Her beam set, which included a back handspring + layout, a front and a side aerial and a double pike dismount performed in combination was very solid and it earned the third highest score of the day.
Unfortunately, they youngest members of the team were not as successful as their more experienced teammates. First senior Laura Jurca hit her routines on three events and only had major problems on the uneven bars. However, she only posted mediocre scores on beam and floor and this is a shame because she really is not a mediocre gymnast. Someone who showed as much potential as she did as a junior should not struggled to break 14 and should not lose to athletes like Mariani and Verschueren. She still is a reliable All Arounder for the Romanian team but I still believe she can be so much more than that. The highlight of her day, was posintg the second highest score on vault. Her teammate, Silvia Zarzu only finished 18th in the All Around after major mistakes on her worse and her best event, the uneven bars and floor exercise. This performance does not maximize her chances to go to worlds, but considering how little competition she has, she still is a major contender. The lovely Andreea Iridon put a smile to everyone’s face when she hit a clean bars set. However, the smile was quickly gone when she had a scary fall on her double pike dismount, after having a shaky beam routine. Ana Maria Ocolisan, who is expected to contribute a solid score for Romania on the uneven bars only posted a 12.850 on this event. Thankfully, her double twisting yurchenko was very powerful and her floor routine was clean.
The Italian team earned the silver medal, only a full point behind Romania. After all the falls and mistakes we witnessed during the recent Italian championships, it was great to see the athletes looking much more confident and actually hitting their routines in this competition. There were some mistakes and there’s lots of room for improvement but the team is definitely on the right path right now and I may or may not have cried a bit when the injured Martina Rizzeli got on the podium jumping on one foot. One of the most important things happening for Italy in this competition was the return of two times Olympian, world and European champion Vanessa Ferrari, who has been struggling with health issues for the entire year. Ferrari looked good for someone who has had as many problems as she has, but it’s clear that she is not at full strength yet. Her bars routine included difficult pirouetting and flight elements, but her swing was more labored than usual and she had plenty of legs separations and short handstands during the exercise. Her floor routine was solid, and the stuck double layout in the beginning was beyond impressive but her full in was low and she struggled to keep her tumbling passes clean. She showed brilliant control during her beam mount and her split leap + front aerial + split jump, her switch ring and her sheep jump were impressive, but she fell on her flight series. Her vault was very well performed but it was only a full twisting yurchenko. Vanessa is a legend for Italian gymnastics and I strongly believe that if she stays healthy, she will be able to achieve great things in the future. However, I wouldn’t want her to push herself too hard and end up being hurt again, especially when her country already has a group of talented athletes who are definitely contenders for the team finals even without her.
The Italian stars of the Novara Cup were Carlotta Ferlito and Elisa Meneghini. Carlotta finally hit the upgraded bars set that has given her so much trouble during the last two competitions. She hit her maloney + bail combination, she performed a high jager and landed her double arabian dismount. Her beam routine was a bit shaky and she had a major wobble after her layout, but she managed to stay on the apparatus and perform her front aerial + sheep jump, her switch ring and her double pike dismount. On floor she only had minor errors during her full in, her triple twist and her double pike and she put up a great show for the audience, who seemed to love her sassy choreography. She definitely has lots of work to do on vault, where she performed her yurchenko 1.5 with bent knees and a large step forward. Carlotta finished second All Around and on the balance beam. Meneghini had a big legs separation during her bail to handstand, but she was clean during her jaeger, her tkatcev and her double arabian dismount on bars. Then, she performed the best beam routine we’ve seen from her during the year. Her back handspring + back handspring + layout step out combination was perfectly in line with the beam, her sheep jump and her johnson were beautiful and her double pike dismount was sky high. She only had tiny balance checks after her front and her side aerial, but she is certainly finding her good old self on this event. Her double layout and her two whips into double tuck on floor were very well controlled and she performed a clean yurchenko 1.5 on vault. She won bronze medals on the All Around and the floor exercise. Erika Fasana, was apparently was having some issues with her legs, so they decided to scratch beam and to only perform watered down routines on vault and floor. That strategy worked out well for her, since she hit her maloney + giant full, church and ray on bars and stuck her full twisting yurchenko on vault. Even without her full difficulty, she managed to win the silver medal on floor exercise after landing her double layout, her full in and her double pike. Hopefully, she will be able to bring back some of her hardest tumbling and especially her yurchenko double at worlds.
Enus Mariani also had a fantastic competition after struggling for the entire year. The 2012 junior European champion has had lots of physical and mental issues during her entire senior career but it looks like she’s finally getting over all the struggles. She started the competition on her best event, the uneven bars, where she showed a gorgeous ricna, a high jaeger and a beautiful bail to handstand before dismounting with a double layout. She also hit her beam routine, which included a split leap into a front aerial, a switch half, a split jump into a side aerial, an Y turn and a double pike dismount. She also brought back her tucked full in on floor. She landed it out of bounds, but it’s great to see this skill again from here, even though she is not needed in Italy’s floor line up. The recently crowned national All Around champion, Tea Ugrin, had a really rough competition, falling on two events. She was having a great bars set, hitting her maloney + bail and her inbar full + gienger combinations but then, she sat down her dismount. She put that behind her and hit a beautiful beam set, which included a gorgeous switch ring, a side aerial into a split jump and a double tuck dismount but then, she had even more trouble on floor. She put her hands down during her full in, she landed her triple twist very low and even though her leaps were absolutely stunning, she only scored a 12.550. Lara Mori had an unfortunate fall on her back handpsrings + layout step out + lay out step out flight series on balance beam but she hit the rest of her routines. Her stalder full + ricna combination and her ray on bars were beautiful, and she didn’t even have to muscle through her endo half like she usually does and she stuck her tucked full in and her double tuck on floor. Tea and Lara are definitely on the bubble for the Italian team and one of them could end up being the alternate at worlds, so I’m sure their successes and mistakes during this meet will be taken into serious consideration.
On third place, we have the Belgian team, who won the bronze medal with a comfortable lead over Spain. As expected, they don’t have the difficulty we saw from Italy and Romania, and they definitely had some problems during the competition but they are an absolutely beautiful team, full of unique work. They started with a rather disappointing balance beam rotation, full of falls and mistakes and then they had a couple of rough full twisting yurchenkos on vault but their bars and floor were very impressive. Their top All Arounder was European Games team member Lisa Verschueren, who finished in a very impressive sixth place after a great competition. She was shaky on beam, but she had a clean routine on bars, which included a jaeger, a beautiful pak salto, a maloney + bail combination and a double front dismount with a step back. She posted a respectable 14.0 on floor, after nailing her double tuck, double pike and 1.5 + front full combination and she had a solid full twisting yurchenko on vault. First year senior Rune Hermans nailed her double wolf turn, front and side aerial and 2.5 twists dismount on balance beam. She really did a great job with this routine, and the fact that she delivered it after her teammates had made mistakes makes it even more impressive. On bars, she started her routine with a toe on full + maloney + bail combination. She lost her back tension during the bail but managed to save it and perform her jaeger and full in dismount. Her full twisting yurchenko on vault was among the team’s best and she had no problems with her floor routine. Two times Olympian Gaelle Mys went out of bounds on her double front twist + front tuck combination but she nearly stuck her double tuck and her double pike. On beam, she wobbled after her onodi, her flight series and her front aerial + sheep jump and she took two steps after her double pike dismount, but she showed difficulty and elegance throughout her routine. She also had a solid bars set, which included a toe on full, a jaeger and a double front dismount. Laura Waem posted the highest uneven bars score of her team. She is capable of impressive skills like a weiler half + chow + pak salto, a maloney + bail and a toe on full + nice tkatcev combination. She had plenty of legs separations throughout her routine but she stuck her full in dismount. She unfortunately had a fall on balance beam but her side aerial + back tuck combination was excellent and her floor routine, which included a triple full and a double tuck was a joy to watch. Cindy Vanderhole started her competition with a fall on her side aerial but she recovered well from that and posted solid scores on vault and bars while first year senior Jelle Beullens performed a double tuck and a double front twist on floor, where she showed fantastic energy and choreography. The Belgian team really stood out to me thanks to their amazing choreography and artistry. Each gymnast who took the floor showed an incredibly choreographed routine, full of unique movements. Their music selection, their choreography and their performance quality are completely different to anyone else’s in the world right now and they all did an excellent job selling their routine to the crowd. We saw lots of attitude, lots of smiles and lots of personality from them and it’s been a really long time since I enjoyed a floor line up that much.
Spain finished in fourth place after having some ups and downs during the competition. The most anticipated gymnast of the team definitely was Roxana Popa, who made her return to competition for the first time since she had an ACL surgery less than a year ago. The Spanish star only competed on the uneven bars, where she showed world class difficulty and posted the highest score of her team and the third highest score of the entire competition. Her routine included a jaeger, a ray + pak combination, a very impressive toe on full + maloney + gienger and a stuck double layout dismount. Spain desperately needs athletes who can deliver scores higher than 14, so Roxana is valuable to them even if she only competes on one event. Claudia Colom also showed an incredible level of difficulty on the uneven bars, where she performed a high ray, a messy bhardhwaj, a maloney + gienger combination and a double layout dismount. On floor, she competed a piked full in, 2.5 twists, a double tuck and a double pike and she had a solid FTY. Unfortunately, she fell on her balance beam dismount, after having a rather shaky routine. She is a rather messy gymnast and she needs to clean up her routines on every event, but it’s definitely refreshing to see athletes from smaller programs throwing big skills like she does. The team’s top All Arounder was Ana Perez, who finished in 15th place. She stuck her full twisting yurchenko and had a strong beam routine, performing a solid front tuck, an L turn and a johnson. She had small wobbles during her flight series and her side aerial and had one big step back on her double tuck dismount but she did a good job overall. First year senior Nora Fernandez probably had the cleanest and the straightest yurchenko full in her team and she performed a strong double tuck and a stuck double pike on floor exercise, where she also showed beautiful leaps and elegant choreography. I was really impressed by her clean ray and her gorgeous double layout dismount on uneven bars. Natalia Ros was obviously nervous on balance beam, where she had a major wobble during a simple full turn, but her johnson and her 2.5 dismount were very well performed. She has plenty of potential on the uneven bars, where she’s capable of a van leeuwen, a jaeger, a beautiful pak salto and a maloney + bail + toe on full combination. She unfortunately had a big step forward on her double layout dismount, but she’s certainly one to watch in the future. On floor, she showed fun choreography and a stuck triple twist, but she fell on her double pike. Paula Raya showed beautiful choreography and a strong double pike on floor as well as a solid bars routine, but she struggled on the balance beam, where she only scored an 11.750
Two times Olympian, Jessica Lopez finished 7th in the All Around after only hitting her routines on two events. She had the third best double twisting yurchenko of the night and she posted the second highest score on uneven bars after a spectacular routine. Her piked tkatcev + pak salto was quite messy and her maloney + clear hip full + gienger + tkatcev combination was a tiny bit rushed but her layout jaeger and double front dismount were absolutely beautiful. She has some polishing up to do before Glasgow but she’s definitely world class on this event. She was second after two rotations but then, everything went wrong on balance beam. She performed a brand new switch ring in her routine, she hit her back handpsrings + layout combination with only a small wobble and she stuck her 2.5 dismount but she had a fall on her side aerial. Then, she fell on her whip + triple on floor and only performed an 1.5 + layout as her second tumbling pass. Her new choreography is very elegant to watch though.
photo credit: Ginnastica Artistica Italiana.
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