Another day, another “what the hell is going on in Russia?” competition at the 2015 Russian Cup.
Actually, vault wasn’t so bad. I mean, it was, but not for those at the top. Maria Paseka claimed the vault title by a huge margin after hitting both her Cheng and her Amanar very well, earning individual scores of 15.467 and 15.8 to average a 15.634, making her insanely competitive as we get closer to World Championships.
The true battle on vault was for silver, with Seda Tutkhalyan and Ksenia Afanasyeva both competing a DTY and a Lopez, sharing d-scores and hoping to outdo one another. Afanasyeva had the stronger DTY, going 14.8 to Tutkhalyan’s 14.667, but Afanasyeva’s Lopez was a veritable mess, going 13.867 to Tutkhalyan’s 14.133, a score earned with a step out-of-bounds. In the end, Tutkhalyan averaged a 14.4 for silver while Afanasyeva pulled in a 14.334 for the bronze.
Here’s where the mess came in. Alla Sosnitskaya finished fourth with a 13.634 after falling on her DTY to earn just a 13.2 there, though she did hit a somewhat decent Lopez for a 14.067. Behind her was Anastasia Dmitrieva with a 13.5 (she also had a fall on her DTY but hit a pretty solid Lopez), Evgenia Menovschikova with a 13.434 (she performed a clean tsuk full and front pike), Anastasia Sidorova with a 12.817 (hit FTY, fall on her half-on back tuck), and Lilia Akhaimova with a 12.783 (out-of-bounds on her Yurchenko 1.5, and a fall on her half-on back pike).
Eight finalists and four falls doesn’t make for a very inspiring vault final, though the three who can actually contend for the Worlds final all finished relatively unscathed, so let’s move on to bars.
First, there was yet another unofficial win here in Penza, with Viktoria Komova earning a 15.3 after hitting her gorgeous routine valued at a big 6.8. Unfortunately for Komova, she had two falls in qualifications and was left out of the official finals scenario, but was allowed to compete an exhibition so she could get some practice on her double double dismount. She was strong from the beginning, hitting her opening Komova II to pak to van Leeuwen, the inbar half to layout Jaeger (still a bit piked but not enough to downgrade it), the toe full to piked Tkatchev, and the double double onto a thick mat, taking just a step back on the landing. It was definitely a Worlds medal-worthy routine, and about time we’ve seen something of that caliber from the Olympic medalist!
The actual official champion, however, was Sosnitskaya. Yes, Sosnitskaya won a bars gold medal. What a world. To be fair, her routine has been looking better this season, and she showed some very clean skills, her mess of a pak salto aside. She posted a 14.733 there, which based on the other talent in the final, should’ve been around fourth place, but alas. No one else felt like showing up and hitting, so Sosnitskaya is our champion.
If you think that’s entertaining, try this on for size – Tutkhalyan got second. But listen to this – she added a BHARDWAJ to her routine. And it’s GOOD. A little close, but I was very impressed. She’s not a typical Russian bar worker with the thousands of inbars all in a row, but she has a routine that works for her and could up her game in the all-around for sure if she stays this consistent with it (for the record, she hit this routine all week). Aside from the Bhardwaj, she did arch over on her toe full before the Tkatchev, but regained composure enough to fight for the connection and then she hit her double front, earning a 14.5. Good for her.
Then we have Spiridonova down in third with a 14.433. It was all due to a weird fluke, too. You could tell she was off the second she kip casted to handstand…she was a little short there, and then her arms just kind of collapsed on her inbar full, her second skill. Very bizarre. She got back up and competed it from the Komova II to pak to van Leeuwen, all of which looked good, and then she hit her Jaeger and toe full to full-out well. Considering she’s been such a rock this week, you have to give her a break, but it was such an odd fall, you have to wonder if the rest of her week has just eaten up all of her stamina.
Evgeniya Shelgunova finished fourth with a 13.8, looking mostly okay, form issues aside (especially on that pak…yikes).
In fifth was Paseka, who should’ve been on the podium but wasn’t after rolling out of her double front dismount to earn just a 13.767. She also missed her connection from her toe full to Maloney, taking an extra kip cast between the two, and then she caught her pak kind of close but held on to it. Again, stamina could have something to do with it, as she’s also had a pretty solid week, but it was a shame to see her lose her momentum in a final like that.
Maria Kharenkova placed sixth with a 12.7 (she had a big form break on her toe half, fell on her Jaeger, and took a step on her dismount), Viktoria Kuzmina was seventh with an 11.667 (she had issues with some pirouettes and had to hop off, and then crashed her dismount), and Yulia Biryulya was last with an 11.5 (her fall came on her Maloney, and then she put her hands down on her dismount).
This time, nine routines and five with falls. Seven falls total in the rotation, and eleven falls total for the day. Instead of improving from qualifications, the Russians collectively got even worse when they need to be at their best considering their most consistent gymnast isn’t with them this season. We’ll see how tomorrow goes with beam and floor, but at this point if I were Valentina Rodionenko, I’d be starting to question my methods. It sounds harsh, but there are no more excuses. This team is much too talented to compete the way they do, and they can kiss the podium goodbye if this is what Worlds looks like.
Full results thus far are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins