Coming into this meet, there were really only two contenders for the bars title.
The enormous gap between Daria Spiridonova and Becky Downie at the top and then everyone else below them was so huge, they both could have landed on the podium with falls. There were no surprises in that sense, and the real battle here was for the bronze medal.
It would all come down to whoever had the best execution there, as in terms of start values, everyone was within five tenths of one another (with the average being about 5.8). In qualifications, it was Russia’s Maria Kharenkova who managed to pull it off with one of her best bar routines ever, though she ended up faltering when it counted.
In the end, it was Sanne Wevers, the gymnast with the lowest difficulty – 5.6 – but an incredibly clean routine, one of the best-executed of the entire meet at 8.6. She was definitely one of the more shocking medalists, and it was a close race at that, with 4th place Ellie Downie a tenth behind and 5th place Martina Rizzelli of Italy just over two tenths behind.
Below, here’s a recap of the final from start to finish, with scores and videos if available. Enjoy!
1. Daria Spiridonova, Russia, 15.466
Working with a 6.7 difficulty, the World bronze medalist was miles ahead of the competition. She began her routine with an inbar to inbar full to inbar shaposh, looking maybe a tad short on her first handstand but otherwise executing cleanly and fluidly as she moved from skill to skill. She hit her pak to van Leeuwen, and didn’t falter when she had leg separation on her inbar half before the piked Jaeger. Her toe full before her dismount was a little off-line but had no problems, and she did it right into her full-in, which had a few form problems with her legs apart in the first tuck and her chest down on the landing, but she had only the tiniest foot movement as she landed. Honestly, I think her 8.766 execution was a little high considering the noticeable form issues and iffy handstands, but there’s no one who ‘deserved’ to beat her, so the placement was definitely correct.
2. Becky Downie, Great Britain, 15.233
Downie also had a 6.7 start value in Montpelier, but the judges rewarded her about two tenths less than Spiridonova in her execution, which I thought was an accurate assessment. Beginning with her hop to front toe-on half to Chow right into her Shang, she looked calm and in control of her huge skills. Her toe full was a little rushed, but she hit her Downie with no problems before continuing to her pak salto and clean Maloney right into the Hindorff. Through this moment I thought the title was going to be hers, but then she got a bit lost on her giant half, her body bending over to the side, but she kept with it and hit a big full-in with just a tiny movement. Aside from that one scary moment, she did have a few short handstands, but overall it was a very tidy effort with few noticeable form issues.
3. Sanne Wevers, Netherlands, 14.200
It was definitely a bit surprising to see someone with the lowest difficulty, coming in at 5.6, manage to just tackle her routine completely, get super high execution, and win a medal. That’s exactly what Wevers did, working quickly and cleanly through her skills like she could do this routine in her sleep. I absolutely love her opening combination, beginning with a clear hip and then going into a shaposh to clear hip full to bail to toe shoot. She did a great job, performing solidly without rushing anything. Her giant full was clean, the Jaeger was big, and then she finished with a double layout with just a slight step forward, ending what felt like seconds after it began. Very smart bar work, though I would like to see her up her difficulty just a tiny bit.
4. Ellie Downie, Great Britain, 14.100
While I loved Wevers on the podium, I think all of us had a secret wish to see Downie on the podium right behind her sister! In the end, this wasn’t to be, though Downie did a fabulous job in her first European Championships as a senior and this bars final was no different. Like her sister, she opens her routine with a hop to front toe-on half, but then deviates a bit with slightly easier skills, going right into a Maloney to Tkatchev. Her toe full to piked Tkatchev was very strong, and then she went for a toe on to bail to toe shoot with no problems before winding up into a huge double layout, hopping slightly on the landing. With a 5.9 start value, Downie was judged a bit more strictly than others at the top, though it makes sense, as there were a few small issues (like a bit of a muscle-up on the front toe-on). But overall, it was a very nice final for her.
5. Martina Rizzelli, Italy, 13.933
Rizzelli is the kind of gymnast that makes me bite my nails, but I was pleased with how she performed here. With a Ricna to pak salto to start followed by a Maloney to bail to Ray, she had a good start, even if she looked to be a bit short on some elements. She performed a stalder half to a blind half with a tiny bit of leg form issues, and then had more separation on her stalder to stalder full, though you can’t really be too mad there as she does this skill directly into her full-in, which she landed with just a small hop. Form issues aside, she looked very confident on the apparatus, and seemed pleased with herself after finishing. I do enjoy when gymnasts attempt to dismount directly from a pirouette, however I have noticed both with Spiridonova and Rizzelli that the lack of momentum generated compared to dismounting from a giant totally wreaks havoc on leg form. They have to be losing more execution than the bonus is worth in difficulty?!
6. Giulia Steingruber, Switzerland, 13.766
I don’t think I’ll ever get over my joy of seeing Steingruber in a bar final. Though she started off a little iffy with a short handstand, her van Leeuwen was actually very clean, and she hit her toe full to Gienger to applause (though the body line on the full was a bit clunky). Her handstand between the pak and Maloney was also short, though the skills themselves looked solid, and she went right from the Maloney into a clear hip half (very short this time and I actually believe it was supposed to be a clear hip full but she just couldn’t get it over the bar to complete it). She caught her Markelov to gasps from the crowd (love it!), hit her final handstand, and then stuck her double front, making it a successful routine (from a 5.7 start value) despite the small issues here and there.
7. Maria Kharenkova, Russia, 13.433
It was so disappointing to see Kharenkova struggle here, though she honestly looked nervous throughout most of it, and seemed to rush her elements from the very beginning. She began with an inbar full (with some leg separation) to an inbar to an inbar shaposh to pak salto, and looked mostly sharp though she’s very visibly not as tidy as some of the others on this event. She caught her Maloney, but was short on an inbar half, bent her knees when swinging down through her front giant, and though she worked to muscle the handstand over the bar, she was just shy of making it and ended up hopping off. So close, as she just had a toe half to piked Jaeger left before her full-out dismount, which she hit with just a step over. Had she hit, she definitely would have retained the bronze medal position she had in qualifications, even though the routine overall wasn’t quite as good, so it was a shame to see her lose her momentum so close to the end.
8. Loan His, France, 11.666
His, a new senior with a very good shot at a medal, just seemed to have a big mental block during this routine, very sad in front of a home crowd. She definitely looked quite nervous, and after her first mistake just couldn’t pull it together enough to keep from making more. Beginning with a clean toe full to Maloney, there were no problems, but she came in much too close and over the bar on her pak. She tried to keep the swing going, but just couldn’t cast out of it and had to take her first big deduction when taking an extra swing to regain her momentum. From there she hit a nice van Leeuwen and caught her Jaeger, but then over-arched on a handstand and went into a dead hang before taking an extra swing to start it up again. She just couldn’t save it this time, however, and again struggled on the handstand and finally hopped off to regroup. It was definitely all mental, as she caught all of her big skills but just couldn’t seem to get the little things out of the way. The crowd was super supportive, however, and she was able to finish with a bail to Ray before her full-in dismount with a step forward.
Article by Lauren Hopkins