We’re a few days late here, having traveled to Fort Worth, Texas to cover the NCAA Championships in the U.S., but we were overjoyed to see Switzerland’s Giulia Steingruber pull off the gold medal.
In our preview, we mentioned that with the relatively weak field and Steingruber’s own recent success, it could actually be her year. She was able to take advantage of some of Maria Kharenkova’s weaknesses to pull ahead of the Russian by about seven tenths after finishing behind her in qualifications. Her win makes her the first non-Russian European champion since Vanessa Ferrari of Italy pulled it off in 2007 and the first Swiss gymnast to win the title in the event’s history.
Steingruber started her day off on beam, always a tricky jumping off point, but she hit one of the best routines I’ve seen her do, including a bhs layout series, front pike, and gainer full dismount. She earned a 14.566 on floor for her full-twisting double layout, double layout, double tuck, and double pike, which she came very close to sticking – the perfect end to fantastic routine.
On vault, she continued the fight with a near-stuck Rudi for a 15.266, and though her bars didn’t score very well due to some form issues (like split legs on her pak and a few short handstands), the 13.666 was more than enough to seal the deal.
Kharenkova was good in her pursuit of the title, and for someone who isn’t a true all-around gymnast due to her general weaknesses on everything but beam, she still managed to climb to the top. I don’t think her chances would be strong at a fully-attended meet, however, so even though she came out with silver she showed that there’s still work to be done if she wants to be able to contend in the future.
Beginning on bars, Kharenkova had a decent set, including a shaposh to pak salto, Maloney, piked Jaeger, and full-twisting double tuck dismount. Unfortunately, while her skills looked good, she took an extra swing and earned just a 14.066. She gave an event finals-worthy performance on beam (something she sadly could not do during the actual event finals!), hitting her bhs bhs layout, side aerial, and sheep jump with no problems before dismounting with a double pike, taking a step. There were a couple of small bobbles, and then her switch half was a little short, but her 15.0 score gave her a nice boost for the remainder of the competition.
She brought in a 14.133 on floor, where she competed a double arabian to stag, 1.5 through to double tuck (with a step), a whip whip through to triple full, and a double pike (finished out-of-bounds), and then earned a 13.933 for her FTY with a hop back.
Great Britain’s Ellie Downie was the bronze medalist, managing to edge out Erika Fasana of Italy by about a tenth. While there was no true standout event, she was consistent across the board, beginning with a 14.233 on bars. She muscled a front toe-on handstand right at the start, but had an excellent Maloney to tkatchev, toe full to piked Tkatchev, and double layout with a step back.
On beam, she had a wobble on her double turn but was otherwise good, and hit her 2.5 dismount with a hop for a 13.891. Her floor had some miscues, like a step out of her Dos Santos, a hop back on her double arabian, and a step back on her double tuck, receiving a 13.666, but she finished with a huge DTY on vault to earn a 14.833, securing her spot on the podium.
While Fasana had a mostly good day, her best events – vault and floor – weren’t performed quite as good as she’s able to hit them. Her DTY on vault was a bit short and she looked tucked during the entirety of the second twist. On floor, she hopped over on her double double, had a very bent body line in her full-in double layout, and hopped back on her double pike. The full-in is a great new addition and gives her an additional two tenths in difficulty, but I’m afraid she loses far more than she gains.
There was nothing majorly wrong with her bars or beam; they’re just not very strong events for her in general and both had noticeable form issues. On bars, she hit her toe full to Maloney to giant full, a Ray, a bail to toe shoot, and a double layout with a hop for a 13.5, and on beam she performed a bhs layout, side somi, front aerial, and a nice double pike dismount for a 13.941.
I was happily surprised to see Marta Pihan-Kulesza fight for the 5th place spot, and this is probably my favorite moment of this meet. The 27-year-old from Poland looked especially great on floor, hitting a 2.5 to front full, double arabian to stag, triple spin, and front double full for a 14.166.
Claudia Fragapane performed well on floor, hitting her full-twisting double layout, double arabian (with a sizable step), triple full (also with a step) and stuck double layout for a 14.533, though a fall on her side somi in her very wobbly and messy beam took her out of the running for the podium. I don’t think she would have challenged even if she did hit this one routine, actually, though the fall obviously didn’t help.
The rest of the day saw a few decent routines – especially Daria Spiridonova on bars, and then Laura Jurca’s solid DTY and Ana Filipa Martins with her clean work on floor – but I’m afraid there were more falls and mistakes than the gymnasts would have liked.
One fall, from Jonna Adlerteg of Sweden on floor, resulted in an ACL tear that will keep her out for the remainder of the year. Adlerteg was favored to finish on the uneven bars podium, but when she fell in qualifications, she said she hoped the all-around final would be her redemption. Floor was her first event, and she was rushed to the hospital immediately after, sadly forced to scratch the remainder of the competition.
Overall, in a year with a weaker-than-usual field and some very young competitors making their major senior international debuts, it wasn’t a bad outing. Without mistakes from gymnasts like Eythora Thorsdottir, Claire Martin, Daria Spiridonova, and Diana Bulimar, perhaps the competition would have been a bit tighter at the top.
I still think the ‘right’ gymnast won in this case, as Steingruber showed true prowess on three of her four events, and she was able to hit her weakest event well enough to earn an okay score. Up until bars, she was absolutely on fire, showing us some of her best work in her career, and you could tell she was building up to the gold from the second she stepped out on beam. It’s very exciting for her as she continues working to be called possibly the best Swiss gymnast of all time. The European Championships all-around title is absolutely a major step on that path, and we hope we continue to see great things from her leading up to the Olympic Games.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Photo thanks to Giulia Steingruber Official Facebook