Belgium Struggles in Friendly Win

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Belgium may have had a successful outcome at the friendly meet they hosted against Sweden and Austria over the weekend, but the journey to the top of the podium was full of moments that left fans questioning whether this seemingly strong team could qualify as a team to the test event.

To begin with some bad news, Julie Croket – finally back after nearly a year out to injury – started out her day with a very nice floor routine, posting a 13.2 for the fourth-best score of the day. But then as her team moved to vault, she became injured in warm-ups and was forced to leave the competition.

Croket has had possibly the worst injury luck for Belgium, first losing the Olympic spot she earned in 2012 and now doing damage to her ankle in the first meet back since last year’s Worlds. Her injury status is unclear as of right now, but if it causes her to miss Worlds this year, the team might be in jeopardy.

This is unfortunate, because on paper they look like a great team, even without Croket. But they showed their true colors on beam, where multiple falls – including two scores in the 10.0 range – meant a 50.15 on the event, over three points lower than their next-weakest. Beam aside, they’re actually quite good, with multiple clean FTYs, some excellent bar work (Cindy Vandenhole and Lisa Verschueren had the best scores of the meet there with scores of 13.7 and 13.6), and beautiful floor routines, where the whole team tends to shine.

Gaelle Mys, who has competed as an all-arounder at two Olympic Games (including as Croket’s replacement in 2012), was the only one with a truly consistent day, winning the all-around title with a 54.4 and posting top three scores on all four events, including the meet-high of 14.2 for her flawless beam.

In second place was Rune Hermans, a new senior who posted the floor high of 13.6, though struggles on beam brought her to a 52.783 all-around. Verschueren and Vandenhole placed fourth and fifth after their disastrous beams, though they looked good elsewhere, especially on bars.

The others to compete routines for the host team included Laura Waem with a 13.1 on bars and new senior Jelle Beullens with a 12.65 on beam and an 11.85 on floor. Waem was an all-around finalist at Worlds last year, but has been dealing with injury ever since, and Beullens has sat out with injury since before the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, where she was supposed to compete but had to back out at the last second. Neither is physically well enough to compete at a meet like Worlds, but it’s looking like they might have to if the team wants to make it to the next step.

Emma Larsson of Sweden led her team to the silver medal in Belgium, posting an all-around score of 52.033 for bronze.She had the strongest vault of the day with a 14.033, and showed mostly clean work everywhere in her program. The other Swedish all-arounders – Ece Ayan and Lovisa Estberg – both posted sub-50 all-around scores, though Estberg deserves credit for her great floor, and then Kim Singmuang had the second-highest bars score of the day with a 12.7.

Most exciting was the return of Ida Gustafsson, who has been out due to injury since the 2013 World Championships, where she qualified in 32nd. She competed everywhere but vault and looked a little shaky on everything, but with her extended absence, she may just need to learn how to compete again…and even with her errors, thanks to the Belgian splatfest, she still managed to post the third-best score on beam with a 12.8.

The Swedes may have had a setback, however. Marcela Torres, the 26-year-old national champion originally from Argentina who excels on vault, received just a 9.466 on that event and then scratched the rest of the meet. I haven’t seen anything about injury online anywhere, but her score and scratches make for legitimate concern.

Austria placed third in the meet, with Lisa Ecker their top earner after hitting a 49.916 in the all-around for sixth place. Jasmin Mader was ninth with a 49.016, Marlies Männersdorfer was tenth with a 44.833, and Erja Metzler was 11th with a 44.766. They also saw action from Olivia Jochum on every event but vault, where her score was marked as a zero, so it’s possible she sat it. Their best routines came from Mader with a 13.466 on vault and a 12.7 on bars, and then Ecker with a 12.65 on floor.

Full results from the meet are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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