The Voronin Cup was held from December 15 to December 16 at Moscow, Russia. The competition included athletes from multiple countries, including Japan, Netherlands, Israel, Belarus, Serbia and Moldova but as expected, the Russian gymnasts were the stars of the competition.
Two times world team member Maria Kharenkova ended up being the most successful senior of the competition after winning four gold medals (team, all around, uneven bars, balance beam). During the All Around finals, she started her effort with a lovely uneven bars routine, showing clean form during her maloney + pak, her van leeuwen and her piked jaeger. She didn’t bring back her inbar stalders and she landed her dismount with her chest quite low but she didn’t have any major mistakes. Then, she moved into her best event, the balance beam, where she delivered an impressive routine with only minor mistakes. She hit her front tuck + sissone, her two back handsprings into a layout and her switch ring and she showed a new switch leap + back tuck + sheep jump combination. She had a big wobble after a rather sloppy switch half and she took a big step backwards on her dismount but she still posted the highest score of the day on this event. Unfortunately, she wasn’t quite as impressive on floor exercise, where she didn’t manage to control her landing in her 1.5 + 2.5 combination and had to take several steps forward after landing her whips + double tuck very low. However, she debuted a clean piked full in as her first pass. Τhis didn’t raise her start value, since it replaced her double arabian, but it’s great to see her working on new tumbling passes and she will now have a nice variety of skills to choose from in the future. In the absence of Russia’s best uneven bars worker, Kharenkova won the gold medal on the uneven bars after hitting her routine during the title on this event. Her full in dismount was once again very low, but this is understandable, since it is the end of the year and we can’t expect the gymnasts to be in their top form. Then, she easily won the balance beam title after showing an even better routine than the one she performed during the All Around finals. She didn’t completely avoid small wobbles, but this time she nailed her two back handsprings into a layout and her switch half and she stuck her double pike dismount. It was great to see Masha hitting every single routine and getting to finish her year in a high note with this competition. Hopefully, she can continue to upgrade and show consistency so she can be in the mix next year.
First year senior Anastasia Dmitrieva also had a great competition, winning four individual medals. It looks like she had some trouble on the uneven bars during the All Around finals. This event has always been her weakness but the 12.9 score she received indicates that she had a major mistake. Thankfully, she was able to put that behind her and she did a great job on the three remaining events. She nailed her switch leap + switch half, her round of + layout, her switch ring and her front aerial into her jump series and she had a great save after landing her front tuck low on balance beam. I was particularly pleased to see her hitting her round of + layout right after three of her teammates had just had major mistakes on this same combination. She started her floor routine with a messy landing on her double layout, but she didn’t give much tenths away with her full in, her two whips + double tuck and her double pike so she was able to post a solid score. Her vault was a well executed Lopez, which helped her secure a silver medal. The following day she earned a silver medal on vault, with a full twisting yurchenko and a lopez. She didn’t post a high score on beam after touching the beam after her round of layout and having a big wobble on her front aerial but she still got a bronze medal because almost every gymnast in the final had a major mistake. Then, she got another bronze on floor, where she landed her double layout and her tucked full in a bit low. I wish she could sell her routine as well as she did in the past. She was such a great performer as a junior and she gave us some delightful performances at the beginning of the year but she just doesn’t have the same sparkle anymore. Anastasia does not have the highest start values and I don’t think anyone was surprised not to see her name in the recently announced Rio squad (which is obviously not final). However, she’s quite a lovely gymnast, with some impressive skills and she’s a reliable back up for the Russian team. She has been one of my favorites since she was a junior and I’d love to see her being more successful during the next year and the following quad.
Seda Tutkhalyan was probably the front runner for the All Around title. However, she never received a score for vault so I assume she only competed on three events, and unfortunately, she only hit one of her routines. She started struggling from her very first routine of the day, on the uneven bars. She attempted her maloney + bhardwaj combination and she managed to catch it even though she was quite off. However, she fell on her van leeuwen right after that. She did not manage to recover from that mistake and she also had major problems on balance beam, where she fell on her layout and had a huge wobble on her layout full. She hit a downgraded floor routine, which included a piked full in, 2.5 twists into a front pike and 1.5 twists into a barani but the damage had already been done. Unfortunately, those mistakes prevented her not only from winning an All Around medal, but also from qualifying into the bars and beam finals, where she could have shined. However, she got her redemption by winning the floor title, after landing all of her tumbling passes without any problems. She brought back her 1.5 + front full for the finals and her memmel turn was much more solid, so she scored a 14.133. It’s so frustrating to see such a talented athlete struggling so much with consistency. Seda could have easily won multiple gold medals during this competition and during the entire year, but instead, she ended up falling over and over again. With the Olympics less than a year away, she doesn’t have much time to prove she can be consistent, but we can only hope to at least see her hitting more than five routines next year.
Polina Fedorova had a solid competition in the All Around finals. She had a lovely beam routine, which included a switch ring, a front aerial + sheep jump, an illusion turn, a full turn + side somi and a 2.5 dismount to score a 14.500 on this event. Then, she gave us a strong performance on floor, where she showed a lovely double L + illusion combination, she nearly stuck her triple twist and performed strong double backs. I really loved the double full + front tuck she performed as her third tumbling pass. It doesn’t get any bonus so she will probably bring her 2.5 + front tuck back soon, but it was lovely to see.
Daria Elizarova, who was an underdog for the podium, started with a solid bars set, hitting a lovely forward giant 1/1 + piked jaeger combination, a rather messy pak salto and a double arabian dismount with a step forward. She had some trouble on balance beam, where it looked like she balked on a leap and did a low double tuck dismount with a step sideways, but she was one of the few athletes who stayed on the apparatus and she performed a front tuck, a lovely switch half, a switch ring and a split leap into a side somi. Her big mistake came on floor exercise, where she fell on her opening tumbling pass. She is actually a strong tumbler and an excellent performer but it looked like she knew it was over after this mistake.
Alla Sosnitskaya, who had to miss the biggest part of the year after injuring her ankle at the European championships also had a fair amount of problems during the competition. She won the uneven bars title in the Russian Cup a few months ago but this time, it looks like she had major mistakes on this event and she only scored in the 12s. She continued to struggle on balance beam, where she fell on her round of + layout, had a big wobble on her front aerial and landed her double tuck very low. I still love her low to the beam pose and her illusion turn though. Thankfully, she was much more impressive on floor, where she showed two whips into
a double pike, a triple twist, a front full and a double tuck. This is obviously a downgraded routine and she didn’t get her memmel and her double L all the way around so her start value was pretty low, but it was definitely an improvement from the near death experience she had on floor during the Russian Cup. She received her highest score of the day on vault, where she performed a Lopez and qualified into the event finals. Unsurprisingly, she also won the gold medal on this event the following day, beating Anastasia Dmitrieva. Her second vault was a powerful full twisting yurchenko. This has been a rough year for Alla and it’s clear that she’s nowhere near her top shape yet. I hope to see her regaining her difficulty on vault and floor and showing consistency next year because Russia needs as many solid floor and vault specialists as they can get.
Rio eligible junior Natalia Kapitonova continues to exceed everyone’s expectations every time she competes. This time, she managed to win the All Around title over Junior European All Around champion Angelina Melnikova. She was the only Rio eligible junior to hit her bars routine during the first day of the competition, and she was impressive on balance beam, where she performed two back handspring into a layout, a wolf jump into a front tuck and a double turn while also showing a new 1.5 Y turn and an upgraded double pike dismount. The 14.700 score she received was a bit generous given the wobbles she had throughout her routine and her poor leaps, but she’s certainly improving on this event. She also had a solid full twisting yurchenko on vault and she hit her floor routine, posting an impressive 58.150 All Around total. She continued to impress in the event finals, where she won gold medals on bars and beam and a silver on floor exercise. She was absolutely gorgeous on bars, performing a lovely stalder full + komova 2 + pak combination, hitting a beautiful van leeuwen and landings her full in dismount very well. All three pirouettes she performed finished right into a handstand and all her flight elements had excellent amplitude so she certainly deserved to win the title. On balance beam, she was having a strong routine, starting with a fabulous back handspring + back handspring + layout series and hitting her difficult turns and combinations but she had a disappointing fall on her side somi. She got up and finished with a great double pike dismount and since everyone else in the final had low start values or major mistakes, she still got away with the gold medal. She also grabbed a silver on floor exercise, after sticking her two whips + double tuck combination and showing a lovely 1.5 + front full, a gorgeous double L turn and a strong double pike. She took a big step after her 2.5 + front tuck combination and she did not quite get her mustafina turn around but that was a beautiful routine from her. I still have a hard time seeing Kapitonova as a strong contender for the Olympic team, but she’s certainly doing everything she can to maximize her chances so I’m excited to see what she can do.
Angelina Melnikova, who was the front runner for the Junior All Around title started with major mistakes on the uneven bars, scoring only a 13.550. She recovered from that and hit her two back handsprings + layout, her switch ring and her front tuck on balance beam, with only some wobbles. She had quite a few landing deductions on floor, but her turns were spot on. She performed a new memmel + illusion combination, she hit her double L + Y turn and she actually made her triple wolf + double turn look pretty. At the end of the competition, she managed to win a silver medal behind Kapitonova. She continued to struggle during the beam finals, where she touched the beam on her new double wolf turn, fell on her layout and sat down her double pike dismount. Thankfully, she got her redemption on floor exercise, where she landed her piked full in, her two whips + double tuck, her double full and her double pike with only tiny hops to win a gold medal and then, she also became the vault champion of the junior competition. She still won one silver ( All Around) and three gold (floor, vault, team) medals but she didn’t perform as well as she could have. It’s needless to say that a few mistakes in the Voronin Cup is not going to make or break someone’s career, but Melnikova used to be a fairly consistent athlete, so it’s quite disappointing to see her having major mistakes at the last two competitions she attended. Hopefully, she is just tired after a long season and she will do a better job next year, when it will matter the most.
EYOF champion Daria Skrypnik, who recently had a rough competition at Massilia continued to struggle on her favorite event, the uneven bars, where she fell on her dismount during the All Around finals. It also looks like she only competed a full twisting yurchenko on vault. She hit her beam routine, which included a new side aerial + side aerial combination, but she had a couple of wobbles after her onodi and her switch leap and a big step after her 2.5 dismount. She was also successful on floor, where she started her routine with a beautiful stuck triple full and landed her 2.5 + front tuck and her double pike. Her ring leaps are absolutely stunning but she didn’t get her mustafina and her double L turn all the way around. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to qualify into the event finals due to the two per country rule, but she and Kapitonova won the team silver medal, so she won’t go home empty handed. Daria is still young so she can afford having a couple of disappointing competitions, but there will obviously be no room for error next year, when she will be competing as a senior, so hopefully, she will get it together by then.
photo credit: Yelena Michailova/Russian gymnastics