Last weekend’s South American Championships held in Cali, Colombia saw absolute dominance for the Brazilian team.
With veteran Daniele Hypolito at the helm alongside a recovering Jade Barbosa and a mix of athletes who could potentially play into the team dynamic at World Championships and next year’s Olympic Games, including Leticia Costa, Lorena Rocha, and Mariana Oliveira. The two young stars Rebeca Andrade and Flavia Saraiva sat this meet out, as did other top talent Julie Sinmon and Lorrane Oliveira, the four of whom are instead preparing to compete at the Pan Am Games in July.
Hypolito, turning 31 this year, is every bit as solid as ever, winning all-around gold while also topping the podiums for vault and beam and adding a silver on floor. She looks like she’s even upgrading, performing a 1.5 to front double full (out-of-bounds), a 2.5 to punch layout (stuck!), double tuck, and a whip to double pike in her floor routine. In event finals, she nailed her Yurchenko 1.5 and Yurchenko half-on piked full-off on vault. She did struggle a bit on bars, but overall it’s incredible she’s still going so strong at this level, and finished her all-around performance with a 54.068.
In addition to her individual success, Hypolito helped her team to gold a full six points ahead of Argentina and Colombia, who tied for second place. Hypolito contributed scores on all four events, while both Costa and Rocha notched three apiece, including a 14.033 from Costa on floor and the same score from Rocha on vault.
Costa finished second in the all-around with a 53.399, a great day for her minus some mistakes on bars, and she also went on to win the floor title with a 14.0 as well as the bronze on beam. Rocha made the bars final, though struggled to hit and placed 6th. The title there went to Barbosa, who was remarkably consistent in her performance on the event, getting a 13.733 in qualifications and a 13.7 in the final. She alongside Andrade and Sinmon could actually make for a pretty solid bar rotation, an apparatus that has given them challenges in the past.
The team’s success without four of their strongest gymnasts was remarkable, and could mean good things as they hope to qualify a full team to the Olympic Games they host next year. At this point, they’re probably a borderline team finals finisher this year, but if they keep going the way they’re going, they should definitely make it into the top 12 and secure a spot at the test event next spring.
Argentina and Colombia tied for second place with a score of 155.600. Argentina was bolstered by the all-around help from Merlina Galera, Ailen Valente, and Maria Belen, who placed 4th, 5th, and 9th individually. Galera’s floor was a highlight of the day, earning a 13.433, though she floundered in event finals and placed 7th.
Valente could have factored into the all-around podium though had a disastrous beam; her bar routine in finals was good enough for silver, however, earning a 13.075 after a 13.467 in prelims. They also saw good work from Camila Ambrosio, who placed 4th with a 13.425 in vault finals, and Paloma Guerrero, who had an exceptionally clean floor routine to earn a 13.725 for the bronze medal.
Colombia was without Catalina Escobar, though Melba Avendano, Marcela Sandoval, and Ginna Escobar stepped up to the plate in her absence. Avendano was the all-around bronze medalist, earning a 53.0 after especially strong performances on vault (13.833), bars (13.467), and floor (13.233); she also took home the vault bronze (13.475) and bars bronze (13.05), though mistakes in the beam and floor finals kept her off the podium there.
Sandoval posted a 50.667 with an exceptional beam routine (13.9) in prelims while Escobar had a 50.533 with vault (13.5) and floor (13.4) her standouts. Sandoval picked up the beam silver after posting a 13.1 in finals while Escobar’s 13.275 on floor kept her one spot away from the podium. Bibiana Velez competed on just vault and bars at this meet, while Lizeth Ruiz picked up the slack on beam and floor.
Venezuela placed 4th with a 150.643 without the assistance of star player Jessica Lopez, likely sitting this out to save herself for the Pan Am Games, as did many of the more well-known gymnasts here. They didn’t quite have anyone who could come close to taking her place, with Katriel de Sousa and Eliana Gonzalez their best all-arounders, placing 12th and 13th respectively. In addition to these two, Cindy Ruiz placed 7th in the vault final while Ivet Rojas placed 5th on bars.
Chile’s Franchesca Santi, well-known on the Challenge Cup circuit, earned the vault silver with a 13.975 for her FTY; the gymnast performed a DTY in the team competition, which I believe was her first attempt at the more difficult vault, and it went well, earning a 14.7.
The meet offered a nice preview of what we can expect from the South American countries at the Pan American Games beginning in just a few weeks, where these nations will be joined by the Central and North American teams like Mexico, Canada, Cuba, and the United States.
Article by Lauren Hopkins