Since we couldn’t do live coverage of Euros due to covering NCAA Championships on site in the same weekend, we decided to go back and take an in-depth look at everything in case you also missed the action!
We’ll start with vault. This was an interesting final because the sneaky Russians showed up looking okay in qualifications, but then surprised with Amanars on Saturday, shaking up the standings a little bit.
Maria Paseka was especially surprising. Not originally named to the team, she was flown in at the last minute when Alla Sosnitskaya was injured in training and then casually busted out an Amanar and a Cheng in finals to win the title. And her Amanar was the best I’ve ever seen her do! She’s shown tremendous improvement here, and while her execution is still slightly on the low side for vault, she’s definitely working herself up to contending for a medal at this year’s Worlds.
Aside from this, nothing was super out of whack. There were a few I wished would have made it – notably Tjasa Kysselef of Slovenia (who has been working the World Challenge Cup circuit and getting better every day) and Michelle Timm (I’m still mad about her not being named to Germany’s Worlds team last year) – though I think the final was an accurate depiction of the strongest vaulters who were there.
Without further ado, here’s everything that happened in the final, including scores and videos.
1. Maria Paseka, Russia, 15.250
So, Paseka started with her Cheng. It was a mess, to be perfectly honest, but it’s new for her so I’ll give it to her. Her legs looked like an open pair of scissors when she left the table, she was pretty piked, and she noticeably crossed her legs at the knees during the 1.5 twists, bending one of her knees as she prepared to land. The landing itself was rough, with her chest fully down, and the need to hop over across the mat to steady herself, but she stood it up so that’s a bonus.
But the AMANAR…it was actually pretty good. Sure, she had the leg separation on the pre-flight, and her hips were definitely slightly bent throughout, but she didn’t cross her legs AT ALL, which is a minor miracle. She looked thrilled with her effort, and her teammate was noticeably thrilled for her. It’s definitely one of her best attempts on an international stage, and with her supreme combination of difficulty and execution, she 100% deserved the title.
2. Giula Steingruber, Switzerland, 15.149
I do admit feeling a little bad for Steingruber, though I’m sure her all-around gold was more than enough to comfort her. Her vaults were definitely cleaner than Paseka’s, though still not ‘perfect’ so it’s not like she was cheated out of the title or anything. Besides, her difficulty is lower – like, by nearly a point – so the fact that she still came within a tenth of the win is awesome.
She did her Rudi to start, which had leg separation on the pre-flight, a little pike going into it, and slightly split legs during the flight, though she landed very well. Her DTY was pretty excellent, with a step back her only major deduction.
3. Ksenia Afanasyeva, Russia, 14.866
Like Paseka, Afanasyeva also whipped out an Amanar out of nowhere, though hers wasn’t quite as good as her teammate’s. The form wasn’t that bad, but she was a little off line and took a step out of bounds as she landed. She also performed a Lopez, which could definitely use some work. The Yurchenko half-on is a tricky animal, with the layout going forward off the table. For those who don’t have it quite down, there’s a huge arch as they try to whip it around, and then they basically go from the arch right through the layout position and into a slight pike. Afanasyeva’s layout wasn’t piked much at all, but the arch off the table needs to be fixed. She also took a step out of bounds on this vault.
4. Noel van Klaveren, Netherlands, 14.583
Van Klaveren was kind of a long shot for a title here because of her lower difficulty, though her start values were still quite strong, and she performed her DTY especially well. She looked clean in the air and got a ton of power, though perhaps it was too much power, as it forced her to bounce back several feet on the landing. Her second vault, the Lopez, was also pretty nice; I talked about that forward layout arch when discussing Afanasyeva’s version of the vault, and that didn’t happen here. She did get a little piked near the end, and took a big step off to the side…but I’d actually like an explanation as to how this had a lower E-score than Afan’s! They’re pretty close to equal, but if I had to reward one over the other I’d say van Klaveren’s wins. I do agree with the overall placement – it’s just this one vault I’m taking issue with.
5. Ellie Downie, Great Britain, 14.516
Poor Downie really was the most blindsided by the Russian trickery! Qualifying in second, she performed about as equally well in the final but had several jump above her with their stronger efforts on Saturday because she had no secret weapon of her own. Despite this, she looked great, showcasing a huge DTY (the step back was the only real issue), and then a big Yurchenko half-on front pike half, also with a step. Now she’s someone who knows how to come off the table facing forward! And she is clearly working her way up to the Lopez, as she looked perfectly straight after holding the pike position momentarily before the twist. Great job for her, but the lower difficulty unfortunately held her back. She’ll get there!
6. Claudia Fragapane, Great Britain, 14.083
Claudia, Claudia, Claudia. I give her credit for trying huge skills but I do wish she would take a lesson from Downie and hold off on the next level until she can master something a bit easier. Her DTY wasn’t too bad…her body is maybe a little loose when in the layout position, but she didn’t pike at all until right before landing. The Lopez, however…oh Frags. I know she can do it, because at British Championships she had a very nice effort on one of her attempts, but these moments are scarce. In event finals here, her arch coming off the table was pretty bad, and then she immediately swung through to a pike and was still under-rotated, landing a bit low and taking a step forward. Thankfully the judges downgraded it from the 5.6 to a 5.2, and her execution was also hammered – a point and a half off for this. I feel that if she just competed it as a pike, like Downie, her execution – and outcome – would be much better.
7. Camille Bahl, France, 14.066
It was great to see this new senior make event finals in front of a home crowd. She has a very nice DTY, aside from a bit of leg form while twisting, and nearly stuck the landing, taking just a small hop forward before saluting. She looked very happy with this, and then competed a solid layout tsuk for her second vault, coming in perhaps a bit too strong and bouncing back on the landing. It’s a good start, and I think if she can up her difficulty on the second vault, she’d be right up there with van Klaveren and Downie.
8. Teja Belak, Slovenia, 13.216
So far in 2015, Belak is 3-for-3 in nabbing vault medals on the World Challenge Cup circuit, having won two bronzes to start the year and then finishing less than two tenths behind Oksana Chusovitina for silver in Ljubljana earlier this month. She definitely ‘deserved’ this final and it was great seeing her make it in, even though she struggled a bit. But Belak deserves a ton of credit, as the vault final was her first time bringing out her handspring front layout full, a huge deal for the Slovenian program even if it didn’t go quite as planned. Interesting fact about Slovenia – their facility isn’t large enough for a true-to-length competition runway, so to accommodate things, they have to extend outside the door! So she sat the front full (which was also a bit messy) and then perhaps because she was rattled, also put her hands down on her Yurchenko 1.5, a vault she’s hit pretty consistently all season. A shame, but she still deserves a ton of respect for going all out in the final.
Here’s a photo of Belak about to vault at the Zelena Jama gym where both she and teammate Kysselef train. The gym also doesn’t have a floor – just a TumblTrak – and they have to dismantle their equipment at the end of each day. Luckily, a Slovenian national training center is under construction.
That wraps things up for vault! Check back soon for our thoughts about the rest of the event finals in Montpellier last week. For full results from Championships, click here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Photo thanks to the Russian Gymnastics Federation