Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland made her mark at the 2015 Doha World Challenge Cup in Qatar this weekend, winning the gold medals on vault and floor for her excellent performances, while adding the silver on beam.
The bars and beam gold went to former Worlds vault medalists Youna Dufournet of France on bars and Phan Thi Ha Thanh of Vietnam on beam. Dufournet was a bit of a surprise, jumping up six spots after falling apart in qualifications, while Phan snuck ahead of Steingruber to capture the title by just a tenth; she also earned the silver medal on vault.
The competition was also good for Romanians Diana Bulimar and Laura Jurca. This was Bulimar’s return to major international competition after injuring her knee last year, and she came out with silver on bars and bronze on beam, while her young teammate Jurca in her senior debut placed 4th on these two events before winning the silver medal on floor. Though floor is typically a signature event for the powerful Bulimar, she fell in qualifications and placed 10th, missing a finals spot by just two tenths.
Other podium spots went to Teja Belak of Slovenia with bronze on vault, Jessica Diacci of Switzerland with bronze on bars, and Ilaria Käslin of Switzerland with bronze on floor.
On vault, Steingruber earned a 14.575 average with a Rudi and an FTY, not a tremendous combination of difficulty but more than what she needed to win the title by over half a point. She gets a lot of power on the Rudi, though her form is a little weak, with her legs apart and her body piking pretty heavily near the end, though she still managed a 15.1. Her FTY looked a little cleaner but she still showed a pike in her body line and had a hop back, earning a 14.05.
Phan first competed a DTY, which didn’t get a great block and was very short on the landing…it actually looked like she crashed it to her knees, but she stood up so fast, I’m not sure the judges picked up on that, as she still earned a 14.3 for her effort (8.5 in execution). She then went for the Rudi, also to her knees and quickly stood up, but the much more obvious this time (she also put her hands down) and the judges definitely penalized her, as she earned just a 13.9 for an average of 14.1.
With Phan’s issues, Belak looked like she might actually sneak ahead; although her vaults are easier, she’s typically reliably clean. Her front handspring tuck full had very noticeable form issues, including big leg separation on the pre-flight and flight, and she earned a 14.050. Her second vault was a Yurchenko 1.5, which ended up having a bit too much power, forcing her to kind of run out of it with very large steps, earning just a 13.775 to finish with a 13.912 average.
Of note was Michelle Timm of Germany. I argued that Timm should have been on Germany’s Worlds team last year in place of Elisabeth Seitz, as they were short vaulters and Seitz was recovering from injury, only able to compete on bars, an already stacked rotation for the team. Timm placed 4th here, competing a handspring front layout half and an FTY for a 13.862, just 0.05 behind Belak. Both were solid efforts, and I hope she gets the chance to continue to attempt to make the vault podium at World Cups even if she may not be competitive for a Worlds team in the future if/when their stronger vaulters like Nadine Jarosch and Janine Berger return.
The vault field overall was super close after Steingruber, with the 2nd through 8th place vaulters all landing within 0.375 of one another, and the last four spots all finished in under a tenth of one another, making it the most competitive field of the weekend. Tjasa Kysselef of Slovenia, Ayelen Tarabini of Argentina, Hiu Ying Angel Wong of Hong Kong, and Courtney McGregor of New Zealand all showed very strong efforts and all deserve recognition!
Dufournet has been struggling with her bars this year, first at French Championships and then in qualifications at Doha. Even in finals, it wasn’t really a killer set, as she had some form issues throughout and stumbled forward on her double layout, but at least she hit, including her Church to pak combo. Her score of 13.65 was just enough for gold, though it was thanks more to her supreme difficulty – a half point higher than anyone else – than how well she does it.
In second, Bulimar looked much cleaner, earning a 13.6, just 0.05 below Dufournet with 0.7 less in difficulty. She had very nice work, some small form issues aside, and hit a clear hip full to Tkatchev, bail to Ray, and full-in with no major problems, looking happy with her effort.
I was very impressed with Diacci’s routine here. She was originally named to Switzerland’s Worlds team last year, but was removed two weeks prior when she began showing weaknesses in her performance after not training seriously enough. Looks like that kicked her into gear, as she had a very nice set in Doha, with only minor form issues, catching a Jaeger and hitting her big double layout. Very nice work.
In terms of other contenders, Jurca had a nice big Hindorff in her bar routine, and also caught a Giengerbut her swing looked a little jerky and she looked like she had some handstands that were either too short or went over, giving her a 13.175 for 4th place. Ana Filipa Martins had a rough time on the event after earning bronze at Cottbus just last week; she had multiple falls earning a 10.75 for last place.
On beam, Phan looked elegant, showing a few bobbles (notably on her front aerial and switch to side somi) but for the most part looking clean, finishing up with a great double pike for a 14.25. She looked thrilled, and even though she qualified first on the event, I think she seemed surprised (and very happy!) about the outcome, especially in very narrowly defeating top contenders like Steingruber and Bulimar.
Steingruber had a slight difficulty edge, and mostly looked super steady, aside from a check on her punch front and side somi, though she did have some more noticeable form issues. She hit her eponymous dismount with just a small step, and finished with a 14.125.
In Bulimar’s set, her only major problem was a big wobble on her full turn, of all things. Otherwise, she looked very good and Romania should be thrilled to have her back in their beam lineup this year. Her double pike dismount was very strong, and though her knee is heavily taped, she definitely doesn’t look like she struggled with an injury. Her score was a 14.025.
Jurca had a nice routine, though her difficulty was a bit low compared to the others in this final and there was nothing really remarkable about it…just a nice solid set, finished off with a double full. Hypolito, 2nd going into the final, placed 5th after grabbing the beam on her flight series and going a bit overtime, though otherwise I was impressed with her ability to still compete such strong difficulty.
After a mostly great routine, Martins had a shocking fall here on her 2.5 dismount, which she landed a bit too far forward on her toes and then somersaulted out of. She left the podium and greeted her coach with a laugh, like, “how does this even happen!?” so I’m glad she was still in good spirits because otherwise it truly was a solid effort.
Finally, Tarabini fell on her bhs loso (and also came off laughing to her coach) while Antonia Alicke of Germany fell on her switch half and had a few other nervous wobbles. She is an exquisite gymnast, reminding me a bit of Australia’s Georgia Simpson, and she did a fantastic job making this final to begin with. She was a year ago considered not really a threat for Germany, and not much was expected of her at the Youth Olympic Games, but really seems to have come into her own and could actually be a bright spot on beam in the future if she can get a bit more control.
Steingruber on floor showed off a powerful full-twisting double layout, stuck double layout, open double tuck (bounced back a bit), and a double pike, showing great improvement on this event for a big 14.55, definitely a Worlds final-worthy routine.
In silver medal position was Jurca, who has a very energetic routine that got the crowd clapping along, complete with a full-in, triple full (slightly underrotated), 2.5 (hopped over), and a double tuck for a 13.8.
The Swiss Käslin in third opened with a nice triple full (hopped slightly around at the end), a double tuck (a little underrotated), and a very quickly-twisted 2.5, bringing in a 13.750 to capture the bronze by about a tenth.
Martins was right behind her in 4th, showing her best routine of the week, though unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to medal. Tarabini also had very nice work, as did Valerija Grisane of Latvia; Sasa Golob of Slovenia went out of bounds in hers, as did Claire Martin, on her double tuck; while Martin’s routine was artistically stunning, her tumbling is very low difficulty and sometimes comes up a bit short.
Full results from the meet are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Photo thanks to Doha Gym