After barely making the team final last year and a lackluster 2015 season, gym fans rightly wondered if Romania would be in big trouble at world championships this year.
Fear not. Larisa Iordache and Catalina Ponor are back, and they’re in top shape, taking Romania from a “will they make finals?” team to a “watch out, Russia and China” team. In her first meet back since competing at the 2012 Olympic Games over three years ago, Ponor looks about as good as we can expect considering her minor injury setbacks, and Iordache looked fabulous in her return, posting a 58.15 in the all-around with a big 15.1 on beam.
Ponor’s strongest event was beam, where she earned a 14.9 for a routine that had only a few minor bobbles. Her roundoff layout was solid, and it looks like she’s trying to connect her switch half to her full-twisting back handspring, which would be awesome (I believe in her old routine, she connected the back handspring to a switch leap so the switch half would be an upgrade).
She also showed a lovely Onodi to front aerial to split jump, slowly connected but getting there, and then she struggled on her switch leap to Omelianchik, unable to hold the handstand position, but basically turning it into a Shushunova so if you didn’t know the difference, you wouldn’t know there was a problem. She finished up with a double pike with just a step, showing that with a fully hit routine, she could easily be a contender for an event finals medal there this year.
Her DTY vault was big, the only problem that she was a little loose in the knees, but she’ll get there. On floor, she opened with a stuck double layout and then hit her whip whip through to piked full-in a little short, but still impressive considering the difficulty. Her triple was basically tucked, as if she feared the landing and didn’t want to tweak her heavily wrapped left ankle, so hopefully that’ll be cleaned up with time, and she hit her double pike to finish with a 13.95, not bad at all.
Iordache began with a solid DTY, and then showed a FANTASTIC routine on bars. Yes, she fell on her Church, but it’s a crazy big routine and for the most There were some form issues during the pirouettes on her opening sequence – which is a stalder full to Maloney to clear hip half giant half to Jaeger – but it’s a cool series, and then after the fall on her Church, she showed a Tkatchev to pak, van Leeuwen, and toe full to full-in, earning a 13.7. Very impressive work from her, considering it’s always been her Achilles heel.
On beam, Iordache posted a big 15.1, showing lots of wobbles and form breaks but hitting overall. She competed a bhs tuck full, a roundoff to layout (which was a bit piked), a double turn with a break at the hips, a wobble on her switch to switch half, a solid front aerial to wolf jump, a side somi, and a triple full dismount to finish. Then on floor, she nailed her double double, had an out-of-bounds on her full-in, and finished well with a triple full and a double pike. Considering she is still working out the kinks, I think once a few details get ironed out, she’ll be right back at the level she showed a year ago.
While Iordache and Ponor were the stars of the show, a hell of a lot of credit has to go to Ana Maria Ocolisan, who was the second-best all-arounder of the afternoon with a 56.85 after nailing her DTY and showing consistency throughout the rest of her routines – including a 14.05 on bars, which basically makes her a no-brainer for the worlds team. She’s also been out for the majority of the year, and inspires a lot of confidence for the team if she continues with these consistent results.
Also competing for Romania were Laura Jurca, Silvia Zarzu, and Diana Bulimiar. Jurca finally hit a solid all-around performance, posting a 55.45 after solid routines across the board. She still doesn’t have any standouts, but she could be dependable when it comes time for worlds. Zarzu struggled on her DTY and hit floor for a 13.8, while Bulimar – competing for the first time since her knee surgery in June – fell on bars but hit beam for a 14.25.
France also had a great day, with all three of their all-arounders looking clean and solid. Marine Brevet was the third-best of the day with a 55.85 and I believe that was with struggles (possibly a fall) on beam, where she only earned a 13.25 (she’s normally capable of scores in the low 14s). Louise Vanhille and new senior Loan His posted scores of 55.8 and 55.15, respectively, with Vanhille getting the best bars score of the day with a 14.5 for her impressive routine.
Claire Martin didn’t compete on vault and had a fall on bars, but her beam was outstanding, going 14.65, and she also hit floor for a 13.9. Camille Bahl got a big 14.75 on vault and showed a 13.6 on floor, while Grace Charpy – a new senior testing the international waters – earned a 13.55 on vault and a 13.15 on bars.
At the end of the day, host Romania defeated France 227.050 to 223.450, inspiring confidence for a fantastic go at this year’s world championships. Compare this to their 2014 worlds qualification scores of 219.261 and 214.062 – it’s a world of difference for the two squads, who will now focus on fine-tuning in their preparation over the next month.
Full results from today’s competition are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins