The European Beam Finalists

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I think it’s historically a rule that all beam finals have to involve the most bizarre turns of events. Those who you think will land on the podium don’t even make it to the final, girls who have had complete mental breakdowns in the recent past win medals…there’s no rhyme or reason to winning a beam medal; you just have to hope your stars are aligned on that particular day.

In Montpellier, Romania’s Andreea Munteanu found herself the event champion despite qualifying 4th into the event. With a history of being hit or miss, she didn’t exactly have a breakthrough performance here, but did manage to hit a considerable amount of difficulty without any major errors, and that’s about all you can hope for in events like these.

Becky Downie‘s silver medal was absolutely shocking, however. Just a month earlier, Downie fell multiple times from beam at British Championships, and then balked her dismount twice before just hopping off and walking away. Six months earlier in Glasgow, she had a similar meltdown in event finals at the Commonwealth Games, and was just about the least likely gymnast I had in mind for a podium finish on this event. But everything clicked for her here, and she managed to make it through her difficult set with relative ease.

Another pleasant surprise was Claire Martin winning bronze in front of a home crowd after qualifying 6th on the event. Though her routine is gorgeous and is always a crowd favorite, it’s never been difficult enough to do much damage in a final, but with everyone else around her falling apart, her efforts were rewarded, and very rightly so.

Below, check out a play-by-play for all beam routines in the European event finals, including scores and videos if available.

1. Andreea Munteanu, Romania, 14.366

Working with a 6.1 difficulty – the highest in this event final – Munteanu had the best shot at the title if she could only hit. Though she had a moment of weakness on her very first skill, wobbling and bending at the hips on her front aerial, she was able to calm down to hit her split to wolf jumps, bhs tuck full with the tiniest check, and switch to back tuck with no major problems. Her switch side landing was a little scary, as she over-rotated the twist a quarter too much, perhaps inventing the switch 3/4? But she went on to hit a solid front tuck, switch side, side somi, and full turn before going for her big triple full dismount, which she landed a tad short but corrected with a large step forward. It was definitely a ‘routine of a lifetime’ kind of moment when she finished, and while there were definitely moments where her form looked a bit shady, it was definitely a routine she could be proud of.

2. Becky Downie, Great Britain, 14.300

As if one silver medal wasn’t enough, Downie wanted to make sure she was making the best of her time in France. She showed none of the trepidation that worried fans a month earlier, beginning with great work on her front punch, side aerial to layout stepout, full Y turn, and switch to sissone. Her full turn to front aerial to split jump moves a little slowly and she had a check on the jump at the end, but it’s a beautiful series. She then hit her side somi, switch ring (though her head kind of snapped back there and I thought she was going to get whiplash!), and finished things off with a double pike, taking just a small step forward on the landing. An excellent showing for the Brit who was never expected to come out with this big of a placement in this final.

3. Claire Martin, France, 14.200

This gorgeous beam worker made the French crowd very happy with this routine. Beginning right away with some beautiful choreography, she then sailed through her bhs loso series, nailed her full L turn, and hit a lovely Onodi and side aerial, which weren’t connected but should be. Her front aerial to sissone to side somi was a bit slow at the start but was a beautiful effort, and she hit her switch to switch side, although the split on the second leap was a bit under what it should have been. The crowd went nuts before she dismounted, and then got even louder as she landed her excellent double pike. She’s soooo beautiful on this event, it took everything in me to not cry upon the realization that she might actually medal, so of course I feel she is more than deserving of the bronze!

4. Claudia Fragapane, Great Britain, 13.900

Talk about polar opposites back-to-back! Though it’s refreshing to see vastly different gymnasts with incredibly different styles both perform well on a single event. Fragapane isn’t necessarily lovely to watch here, but she’s very quick and efficient, and of course powerful. She began with a switch to wolf jump before her bhs layout series, though the layout was definitely a bit piked. She hit her full turn easily, and then went to her front aerial, also with no problems. The standing full had a bit of a scary landing for a moment but she held on to great applause, and then I’m not sure if the crowd understands what a sheep jump is supposed to be because she did her traditional form (which reminds me of a crab for some reason) and got more applause there as well! Her side aerial was solid, and she finished with a very powerful double pike, taking a small bounce back on the landing. Definitely one of her stronger beam routines this year, though I wish we could see her boost her difficulty a bit with more connections! She has lots of great singular skills but very little bonus added, which is too bad.

5. Vasiliki Millousi, Greece, 13.266

I don’t think very many people counted on Millousi in this final, but I’m so glad she made it in, qualifying 8th by just half a tenth over Romania’s Andreea Iridon. She actually balked her mount at first, but when she hit it – a roundoff loso onto the beam – she got huge and much-deserved applause. SO good. Her bhs loso was solid, she hit her switch ring, the front aerial to sheep jump was nicely connected, and her full turn was as natural as breathing. The side somi was hit well, and then so were her switch leap to ring leap and side aerial. She unfortunately finished with a double pike crashed forward to her head, which for me was probably one of the worst moments of this competition, as the rest of the routine was breathtaking and she didn’t deserve to go out like that. She was so close to a medal, and it was heartbreaking to see her crumble in the last moment.

6. Maria Kharenkova, Russia, 13.200

Speaking of crumbling, this poor kid couldn’t catch a break in event finals. Beginning with a strong punch front, she went on to her flight series, a bhs bhs layout. It looked like she’d landed with no problems, but then she simply lost her footing and popped off the side. Ugh. She was back on in a flash to perform her front aerial to sheep jump (a slow connection and the jump was a bit weak), a side aerial, a switch leap to back pike (also connected a bit slowly), a full L turn, a switch ring, a switch side (a bit weak), and a great double pike dismount, taking just a small step on the landing. As with Millousi, you just can’t help thinking that this could have medaled had it been hit, as she qualified first with a 15.033 miles ahead of everyone else…what a different final this would have been if no one struggled!

7. Pauline Schäfer, Germany, 13.100

Another bummer of a routine here, though it definitely had its great moments, including the backwards split mount. Schäfer hit her bhs loso easily, paused between the front aerial and side somi (the latter of which had a slight bobble), and hit a gorgeous double turn to start. The trouble came on her eponymous skill, the side somi half, which was unfortunate, but she continued with a full turn, side aerial with a check, switch to sheep, and gainer layout dismount. Her side somi half when she hits is one of my favorite skills, so it was a real disappointment to see her struggle there, though the rest of her routine made up for that issue.

8. Sanne Wevers, Netherlands, 11.666

Ahhh, yet another routine I wanted to make the podium. I don’t think I ever would have guessed she’d make it for bars over beam! This was a real storm of a routine, sad after her beautiful opening choreography followed by the double L turn. She moved on to her lovely side aerial to side aerial combination, but then stumbled on her front aerial, the first mistake. Her triple spin was to die for, even if she did land it with a check at the hips, but of course she fell on the easiest turn in her pirouette-heavy routine – a single L turn. She fought for it, but ultimately came off, and then had a big check again on a double pirouette. Her hop full turn to split jump looked effortless, but the “end it soon” beep sounded when she still had several skills to go. She hit a dynamic switch leap into a full-twisting back-handspring, a super cool combo, and finished with a gainer layout.

This began as a very happy and upbeat post, and I really enjoyed seeing Munteanu, Downie, and Martin all do so well, but from Millousi on down my heart broke a little bit more with each routine, and now I’m sufficiently depressed so it’s time to call it an evening.

Full results are available here, and don’t miss the vault and bars recaps as well!

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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