A few dozen elite women from around the globe competed at the FIG World Challenge Cup held in Cottbus, Germany this weekend, the first meet in this annual series that focuses on apparatus finals and generally attracts a huge field.
While the women’s field wasn’t super competitive, there were tons of bright spots on every event, especially from the four title winners, Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan on vault, Jonna Adlerteg of Sweden on bars, Andreea Munteanu of Romania on beam, and Marta Pihan-Kulesza of Poland on floor.
Chusovitina, dressed like Elsa from Frozen because she is the queen, vaulted a handspring layout full and a tsuk 1.5, the latter of which she stuck. Her form was about what we can expect from her at this point, especially on the handspring full, which was pretty piked and had severe leg form issues. But alas, she was good enough for gold by nearly a point, averaging a 14.875 between the two.
Slovenian teammates Tjasa Kysselef and Teja Belak hit for silver and bronze, respectively, finishing just 0.05 apart from one another and reversing their order from qualifications.
Kysselef came in with bright magenta hair that actually matched her leo, and hit a nice FTY with a bounce back in addition to a stuck handspring front pike half-out, while Belak hit an open but slightly messy handspring front tuck full (her legs were all over the place) as well as a Yurchenko 1.5, landed a bit to the side and stepping over the line. Her eyebrow game was also ON POINT.
Other vaults of note include Germany’s Pauline Tratz’s HUGE FTY (she earned a 14.075 there but only had a handspring front tuck as her second vault which limited her scoring potential by a great deal) and the lovely Argyro Afrati of Greece, who had an old school cap sleeve number in deep scarlet as she hit a solid handspring tuck half-out.
Bars champion Adlerteg didn’t have quite the success she had in qualifications, where she a 15.033, but still managed a 14.675 for a routine that featured a shaposh to clear hip full to Tkatchev, a hop before her Jaeger, a big Church to pak (she had some form issues on the latter), and a double layout dismount.
She still managed to finish nearly a point against silver medalist Kristina Pravdina, the former Russian who had her citizenship change to Azerbaijan approved late last year. Pravdina improved her score – and ranking – from quite a lot compared to qualifications, earning a 13.8 for her straddle Jaeger, toe full to Tkatchev to huge and clean pak salto, and a double front with a stumble forward. It’ll be a big routine for her adopted country, especially as she keeps working on the little details.
In third was Ana Filipa Martins of Portugal, who had a great clear hip to shaposh to bail to toe full opening combination before hitting her piked Jaeger and full-in dismount for a 13.475.
It was a bit of a messy routine, however, and I actually preferred Dorina Boczogo’s, but the Hungarian’s difficulty was quite a bit lower, taking her out of consideration. Boczogo was very clean and aggressive in her work, hitting nice handstands, a piked Jaeger, a solid pak salto, a stalder full right on top of the bar, and a near-stuck double pike dismount. She has a lot of individually strong elements, but it would be nice to see her connect a few so she can boost her difficulty there in the future.
In terms of falls, Evangelia Plyta of Greece unfortunately missed her Jaeger by a mile, though she hit a great Tkatchev to Gienger combo seconds earlier in what was overall a very impressive routine in terms of the difficulty she displayed. Belak, in a different leo from the one she wore in vault finals less than an hour earlier, also missed her Jaeger by quite a lot, though she finished very well, including hitting her double front dismount very well.
On beam, Munteanu wasn’t perfect, missing the connection between her front aerial and split jump to wolf jump combo and landing her triple full dismount a little short, but she managed a 14.4 after hitting everything else, including an awesome bhs tuck full, switch to back tuck, punch front, switch side, and side somi in what was easily the strongest routine there.
In second was Germany’s Kim Janas, who had only tiny bobbles here and there, but no major problems to earn a 13.875, actually a very respectable beam score in Germany, as they typically struggle here, making her a big threat in her first year as a senior. She took two big steps back after her double tuck dismount, but as I said, was otherwise mostly good.
Ana Perez Campos of Spain showcased a lovely mount, and was mostly clean throughout her exercise, with two big steps on her double tuck dismount also an issue, though she managed a 13.225 which was good enough for bronze, just a tenth ahead of Poland’s Katarzyna Jurkowska-Kowalska, who had a missed connection and more noticeable bobbles in her set.
I have to say, I was very pleased with Tzuf Feldon, a new senior from Israel who didn’t have very difficult work and showed a few nervous mistakes – like a big balance check on her Y turn and a bent back leg on her leaps – but she fought like crazy to stay on every step of the way, clean on many of her elements (especially her bhs loso and side aerial) and it’s honestly just impressive that she placed fifth in a big international apparatus final just months into her senior career when she’s not from a nation known for gymnastics.
The other three who competed here all had falls. Martins came off on her switch to back tuck, Caterina Barloggio of Switzerland missed her bhs loso, and Ayelen Tarabini of Argentina fell on her switch half.
Finally, they clearly saved the best for last on floor, as Pihan-Kulesza was excellent and energetic in her “Pink Panther” routine, which included a 2.5 to front tuck and big double arabian for a 14.225 to secure the gold. She’s been competing a lot this year, doing the Serie A meets in Italy as a guest every weekend, and she’s been hitting like crazy, which is all great preparation for Euros just around the corner.
Munteanu picked up her second medal of the day here, earning a 13.825 after nailing effortless twisting on both her triple full and 2.5 in addition to landing her double tuck and double pike well. In third place was Martins, who had excellent landings on her double pike, double full, and double tuck.
Tarabini, in a great comeback after her beam fall, hit a big double front in her opening pass but finished just over a tenth behind Martins for fourth place, there were a few stumbles from Boczogo and Lisa Ecker of Austria in their routines, and Afrati unfortunately landed her double tuck on her back after an otherwise good routine.
I was very excited to see Tutya Yilmaz here. The Turkish gymnast is in her first year as a senior, and she sometimes struggles with hitting when it counts, tending it to make it far in qualifications but then making mistakes when a medal is on the line (she handles these mistakes much better now than she has in the past, thankfully!). She is the best thing to come out of Turkey in quite awhile, however, and qualified into the floor final in third place with her big tumbling. Though she finished seventh here after sitting her double tuck and landing her double pike out of bounds, she had a big piked full-in and triple full, and just so much power even on her dance elements, which looked effortless. I can’t wait until she becomes a better mental competitor, as she truly is the future of her country’s WAG program and has so much talent on all four events.
Full results are available on The Gymternet, and keep your eye out for information on the men’s finals, coming soon!
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Photo thanks to Turnier der Meister