The Russian team, which included three of the country’s most promising juniors were the top contenders for the Massilia team title, but they had to settle for silver after major mistakes on the uneven bars and shaky balance beam routines. Despite having lower difficulty, the French ladies performed beautifully, hitting routine after routine and they managed to win the gold medal in front of their home crowd while Romania earned the bronze. Belgium finished just outside of the medals, after having several falls and mistakes and the Italian team was fifth. The three French teams that qualified through the Massilia Open all had a fair amount of trouble and did not manage to challenge for the top 5.
Unsurprisingly, Russia’s Angelina Melnikova, who is the reigning European All Around champion and the unofficial Russian Cup All Around champion, earned an other gold medal for her impressive collection. She started her competition with a strong floor routine, sticking both her piked full in and her double pike. Her two whips + double tuck combination and her double L turn + Y turn were beautiful as well. Her double wolf turn + double turn combination is a bit sloppy and her third pass is only a double full but she certainly shows good potential on this event. She had her usual form issues on her double twisting yurchenko, but she got good height and distance and she only had a tiny step on her landing so she posted the highest score of the day on this event. Then, she moved into her highest scoring event, the uneven bars, where she delivered a beautiful routine, nailing her inbar + inbar full + komova + pak combination, her van leeuwen and her inbar half + piked jaeger before sticking her full in dismount. The 15.0 she received on this event was well deserved in my opinion, and I’m sure she will be connecting her pak salto to her van leeuwen very soon. She finished on balance beam, fighting all the way through her routine. She had several wobbles, but she managed to stay on the apparatus and she showed excellent height during her layout and her double pike while also performing a perfect double turn. This gold medal is a great way for Angelina to finish a stunning junior career and hopefully, it will be a good confidence boost for her as she transitions into the senior ranks. She definitely has lots of work to do but right now, she clearly is Russia’s top junior and she could very well be part of the discussion next year.
Marine Brevet from France did not show any signs of fatigue at the end of a long season, and she had one of the best competitions of her life, to win an All Around silver medal, right behind the Russian rising star. She performed a lovely full twisting yurchenko on vault and a gorgeous floor routine, which included powerful tumbling and elegant choreography. She stepped out of bounds on her opening double layout but her form during this skill was excellent, she nailed her double tuck, she showed gorgeous flexibility during her leaps and she attempted a Mustafina turn for the first time. She received her highest score of the competition on balance beam, after nailing her switch leap + switch half, her front aerial, her Y turn and her side aerial. She had a bit of bent knees during her back handspring + layout step out flight series and her double pike dismount was a bit low but she certainly had a stunning routine. We haven’t gotten a video of her bars yet, but her 14.050 indicates that she had an excellent set. She qualified into the balance beam and the floor exercise finals so we will be seeing more of her. Marine has had a busy year, competing at multiple international competitions like the Jesolo Trophy, the FIT challenge, the European Games, the Romania vs France friendly meet and of course, the world championships. This is a great way for her to end her season and hopefully she’ll get some well deserved rest before starting her preparation for what could be the most important year for her career.
Romania’s Diana Bulimar also had an excellent competition, after a disappointing performance at worlds and she won a well deserved bronze medal in the All Around. She posted the highest score of the day on floor exercise, where she performed a double layout, a piked full in, a high double tuck and a stuck double pike with a bright smile on her face and she stuck her full twisting yurchenko on vault. She took out her hindorff on the uneven bars, but she hit her shaposhnikova, her clear hip full + tkatcev and full in dismount for a solid 13.700. I definitely thing that the hindorff is a great skill for her and I hope to see it back next year. Then, she performed an excellent balance beam routine, nailing her back handspring + layout, her front aerial, her side somi and her double pike dismount to post the third highest score of the day on this event. Overall, she looked much more confident and much more well prepared than she did at Glasgow and this is understandable. She had a knee surgery during the summer, she wasn’t even ready to do a full floor routine on hard surface in September and she just did not have enough time to perfect her routines for worlds. Hopefully, she can stay healthy and upgrade her routines so she can help her country as much as possible in 2016.
The lovely Natalia Kapitonova from Russia finished in the fourth place, less than two tenths away from Olympic medalist and European champion Diana Bulimar. Floor is not her strongest event, but she delivered a solid routine to begin her competition. Her two whips + double tuck combination was excellent and she put her 2.5 + front tuck and her double pike on her feet, despite some lack of control while also almost completing a Mustafina turn and showing a lovely double L spin. She nailed her full twisting yurchenko on vault and she posted the highest uneven bars score of the day, after hitting her stalder full + komova + pak combination, her van leeuwen, her inbar full + tkatcev and her toe on full + full in dismount. Her beam is also very promising. She was clearly nervous and this was obvious even from her mount, but she handled the pressure and she stayed on the apparatus. Her back handsprings + layout flight series were impressive, her wolf jump + front tuck combination was fabulous and her double turn was absolutely lovely. She had a big wobble after her Y turn and her side somi and she took a bit step after her double tuck, but she’s certainly one to watch on this event. Natalia doesn’t have much international experience, so I was definitely impressed by how well she handled the pressure. I’m not sure if she will be ready to compete against the seniors next year, particularly because she can only post big scores on the uneven bars. However, it’s great to see that Russia has talented juniors like her and I’m hoping to see more of her during the next quad.
Belgium’s Nina Derwael, who showed massive potential at the recent EYOF, was expected to be one of the stars of the competition and she certainly managed to impress despite a fall on the uneven bars. She performed one of the cleanest balance beam routines of her career, showing lovely flexibility during her switch leap + ring leap and her front aerial + sheep jump combinations and nailing her back handsprings into a layout step out and her brand new Steingruber dismount. Her full twisting yurchenko was excellent and despite a short landing on her 2.5 twists, her floor routine was delightful to watch. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for her on her best event, the uneven bars, where she had a fall on her van leeuwen. However, she performed a new and spectacular stalder full + chow + bhardwaj combination, a lovely ricna + pak and a beautiful chow half and she still managed to score above 14 despite the fall. She will certainly need to work on her consistency in the future, but this is the perfect time for her to play around with new elements and see what works for her. The 56.300 All Around total she posted yesterday was higher than the All Around scores of any of the Belgian athletes who competed at worlds, and she did it with a fall. Of course, it’s always inaccurate to compare scores from different competitions, but there’s no doubt that Nina is already at the level of her country’s seniors and she is already working on upgrading her routines even more so she will be one of the major contenders for major teams next year. She now has a 6.6 start value on bars and this is an absolutely massive number for the Belgian team, who could definitely use a score around 15 at the Test Event.
Italian Enus Mariani had an excellent competition, hitting her routines on all four events. She handled the pressure brilliantly on the balance beam, showing a lovely split leap + front aerial, a split jump into side aerial and a back handspring into a layout step out. She had a bit of trouble with her Y turn but she finished with a powerful double pike dismount to receive a 13,950. Then, she hit her floor routine, even though she still is a shadow of her former self on this event. Her opening double tuck was well controlled and she stuck her double pike dismount but her form on her double full is similar to Mustafina’s. I just still miss this sparkle she had as a junior on this event. She has some lovely choreography, she has beautiful lines and dramatic music but the fire we saw from her when she was 14 is just not there. Thankfully, Enus did not have any problems with her full twisting yurchenko on vault and she hit her maloney + bail + stalder full, her jaeger and her ricna, to earn the fifth highest score of the day on the uneven bars. She wasn’t quite as clean as she has been earlier in the season but this is understandable for an athlete who is exhausted after participating in the pre worlds competitions and the world championships. This has been a hard year for Enus but it looks like things are finally coming together for her. She seems to have mostly recovered from her injuries and to have put her mental blocks behind her so I’m hoping to see her coming back strong and challenging for a spot on the Olympic team next year.
Rio eligible junior Marine Boyer, who was replacing worlds team member Louise Vanhille, proved that she is one to watch for the future by placing 7th in the All Around. She did not perform the double twisting yurchenko that helped her win the EYOF vault title earlier this year, but she had one of the best FTYs of the day, scoring a 14.4 and she showed a difficult beam routine, which included an excellent round of + layout combination, a switch leap + switch half and a double pike dismount. She had a big wobble after her L turn and she wasn’t very solid after her side somi but she fought to stay on and with her high start value, she could definitely be part of France’s future lines ups on this event. She was also clean on floor, where she performed 2.5 twists into a front tuck, a high double tuck and a double pike, as well as a mustafina turn. She is quite powerful and it certainly looks like she could upgrade her tumbling passes in the future. We did not get a video of her bars but the 13,600 score she received indicates that she hit her routine on this event, which is certainly not her strongest. I think that at this point, Marine is France’s top junior and I definitely consider her a strong contender for next year. Her country struggles on vault and she has an excellent double twisting yurchenko and she also has one of the hardest beam sets of her country while she’s also usable on floor so she could definitely fit into a major team.
Laura Jurca of Romania finished on a rather disappointing 8th place after having some struggles during the competition. It seems like she had major problems with her double twisting yurchenko on vault, only scoring a 13.550 and she wasn’t able to make up for it on the other events, even though she hit her routines. She showed some powerful tumbling on floor, but she stumbled on her tucked full in and she had a big step back on her double tuck. Her highlight of the day was balance beam, where she posted the fifth highest score of the day, qualifying into the event finals and it’s always great to see Romania getting high 13s on bars. During the year, Laura has probably competed in more competitions than any other athlete of a top team and it’s incredible that she still has enough energy to compete her full difficulty. Hopefully, from now on she will take a break from international meets and focus on upgrading and cleaning up her routines for next year.
First year senior Loan His from France had a great competition to finish a great season. She had a fantastic full twisting yurchenko and she posted one of the highest scores of the day on the uneven bars, where she performs difficult skills and combinations like a toe on full + van leeuwen, a church and a maloney + bail combination. Then, she hit her front tuck, her back handsrpings + layout step out, her side somi and her switch half on beam with only minor wobbles before dismounting with an easy but well performed double twist. She had some trouble controlling her landing on floor, where she stumbled on her tucked full in and took a big step after her double tuck, but she landed all her tumbling passes on her feet to score a 13.200. Loan is without a doubt one of the top contenders for France’s major teams next year and I’m very excited to see what she can do.
Italian Elisa Meneghini, who finished 10th in the All Around, impressed on floor exercise, where she posted the third highest score of the night. She started her routine with a powerful double layout, she stuck her full in and her double pike and she nailed her two whips into a double tuck. She was also solid on balance beam, where she performed two back handsprings into a layout step out, a sheep jump, a front aerial + split jump and a high double pike with only a couple of wobbles. I actually thought her score here was a bit low, especially compared to some others we’ve seen. She probably didn’t have the strongest yurchenko 1.5 or the strongest bars set of her career but overall, she had a good competition and she qualified into the floor finals, where she has an excellent chance to win a medal.
The other Belgian star, Axelle Klinckaert, who was one of the most successful gymnasts of the 2015 EYOF only finished 11th after a rough beam set. She nailed her upgraded back handspring + back handspring + layout combination and she showed a lovely switch half, a clean front aerial into her jump series and a difficult double pike dismount, but she unfortunately had a costly fall on her front tuck. However, she must have had the best full twisting yurchenko of her life, to receive a 14.4 on vault and she was very impressive on floor exercise, where she debuted a fabulous double layout as her opening pass. She also got great height on her full in, her double tuck and her double pike and she entertained the crowd with her energetic choreography. She hit her bars set, which includes a rather messy inbar stalder, a tkatcev, a bail to handstand and a full in, but this is clearly her weakest event. I always knew that Axelle was a talented, charismatic gymnast, but I never expected to see massive skills from her. We often see promising juniors from small countries choosing to play it safe and never upgrading their routines as seniors and I thought that this would also be the case for her. Because of that, I was pleasantly surprised to see her adding impressive skills into her routines in such a short amount of time and I hope to see her upgrading even more.
Russia’s Daria Skrypnik, who was a top contender for the uneven bars title and the All Around podium did not have the competition she would have wanted. She probably had the worse routine of her life on her best event, the uneven bars, where she only scored in the 13s. She attempted a brand new komova + pak + chow half combination in the beginning of her routine but it was quite messy. After that, she rushed her inbar half and she fell on her piked jaeger. She got up and finished her routine but she did not hit her handstands, she was late on her inbar full and she was low on her full in dismount. This was very disappointing, because Daria, who is the European and the EYOF champion on this event, could have easily won the uneven bars title. Her beam routine was quite shaky, and even though she has a nice variety of skills (Y turn, round of + layout, front aerial, illusion spin) she was not able to score well enough to make up for her disastrous bars set. She only performed a yurchenko full on vault instead of the double she’s capable of but when I was about to lose hope on her, I watched her floor routine and oh my god, this mustafina turn in the beginning was the highlight of the entire competition for me. It was just so beautiful! The rest of her routine was also strong since she almost stuck her triple twist and her double pike, she performed gorgeous leaps and she showed great power during her 2.5 + front tuck combination, even though she stepped out of bounds. Skrypnik is a stunning bars worker who could definitely compete against the very best of the world on this event but she will need at least one more strong apparatus in order to challenge for a spot in Russia’s Olympic team. She shows some good potential on the other three events so we can only hope that she will manage to upgrade her routines and be in the mix.
The lovely Claire Martin of France only competed on two events, but she had an excellent performance on both of them. She received the highest score of her career on balance beam, where she showed stunning execution and fluidity. Her back handsprings + layout step out combination was perfectly in line with the beam, her L turn was nicely controlled and her onodi and her aerials were beautifully executed. Her double pike dismount was quite low and I was surprised to see her getting credit for all of her questionable connections but I certainly enjoyed her routine. On floor, she had no trouble with her double tuck, her front full and her double pike and she captivated the audience with her gorgeous choreography.
Evgenia Shelgunova, who was Russia’s alternate at worlds had a rough competition, making mistakes on multiple events. It seems like she had a rough double twisting yurchenko on vault and then, she had major problems on the uneven bars, where she fell on a simple toe on after showing short handstands and very messy execution in every skill she performed. Her full in dismount was scarily low and her pak salto has not improved at all. Things didn’t get better for her on balance beam, where she hit a strong round of + layout, only to fall on her side aerial right after. She has a good level of difficulty, and she’s capable of a front aerial + sheep jump, a front tuck and a double pike, but her routine was shaky and her dismount was very low. The highlight of her day definitely was her floor routine. She went out of bounds on her piked full in but she landed her 1.5 + double tuck and her triple full and she stuck her double pike. Her form is as messy as always, but it was great to see her being happy with her routine and her choreography was quite nice.
Romanian juniors Maria Holbura and Andreea Ciurusniuc showed some nice tumbling on floor, with Maria performing a piked full in and Andreea showing an exciting whip + 2.5 twists + front tuck combination, while Italian Martina Maggio showed a switch ring, a sheep jump and two back handpsrings into a layout step out on the balance beam. She was also having a great floor routine, sticking her full in and her double tuck and showing gorgeous flexibility on her leaps, but unfortunately, she fell on her double pike.
Photo credit: sportgymrus.ru
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