The most recent FIG World Challenge Cup meet wrapped up today after four days of competition in Osijek, Croatia. Ruby Harrold proved she’s still got it on bars, winning gold there with a 14.125, and veteran Jade Barbosa nailed her beam set to earn that title with a 14.225.
But it was Puerto Rico’s Paula Mejias who stole the show this time around with her two surprise gold medals on vault and floor. Not considered a favorite on either, Mejias qualified fourth into the vault final and third on floor, but she walked away a two-time champion after proving to be the most consistent.
The 21-year-old has had terrible luck on vault, her best event, in the past year. At the Central American & Caribbean Games last winter, a costly step out of bounds put her in fourth place, off the podium by half a tenth. She then had a shot at medaling at the Anadia World Cup in May, but was unable to compete a second vault after injuring herself on her first attempt. Her rough patch continued at the Pan Am Games this July, where again she seemed a sure shot for the podium but then balked her tsuk double to earn a zero, finishing last.
Finally, this time around, everything went her way. Mejias averaged a 14.125 to take the title on vault and then hit a fantastic floor routine for a 13.55, giving her a solid two-tenth lead to walk away with her second gold of the meet.
On vault, Mejias competed her tsuk double very nicely, just landing with her chest down and a hop forward to earn a 14.375. She then went for a handspring front tuck 1.5, which she hopped over to the side and out of bounds to incur a three-tenth penalty, though she still managed a 13.875 to sneak in for the gold by less than a tenth.
In second place was another happy surprise, with new senior Boglarka Devai of Hungary averaging a 14.088. Devai began with a big DTY, taking a large step back on the landing for a 14.275, and then performed a tsuk full with a big bounce back for a 13.9.
Bronze medalist Franchesca Santi of Chile is no stranger to the Challenge Cups, having earned her first bronze on vault in Sao Paulo in May. This time around, she averaged a 13.988 competing the same vaults as Devai – a DTY with a low (and painful-looking) landing and a step out-of-bounds for a 14.1, and then a tsuk full, a bit low but clean for a 13.875.
Marcia Vidiaux, the Cuban first-year senior who has wowed fans since her explosive debut at Anadia, qualified first into the final and was expected to take the title by a huge margin, but she landed her tsuk double half a twist shy, getting it downgraded and losing a big chunk of execution for a 13.925 when she’s capable of a full point higher. For her second vault, she went for the handspring Rudi, but landed that one about a quarter shy and was still twisting into the ground as she landed before dropping to her knee, earning a 13.125 to average just a 13.525.
Also coming up short was Teja Belak of Slovenia, another Challenge Cup veteran with a nice collection of medals this year, including silvers from Varna and Ljubljana as well as bronze from Doha and Cottbus. This time around, she had a very deep landing on her handspring tuck full for a 13.775 and then sat her Yurchenko 1.5, bringing in a 12.9 to average a 13.338 for last place.
Others in the final included Nancy Mohamed Taman of Egypt who performed two very clean efforts to average a 13.763 for fourth place, Valerija Grisane of Latvia with another set of super tidy but low difficulty vaults to tie Videaux for fifth with a 13.525 average, and local girl Ana Derek of Croatia who averaged a 13.475 after hitting a great handspring tuck full but crashing her tsuk full to her hands and knees, though she walked away from the apparatus in good spirits.
The bars champion in Osijek was none other than Great Britain’s Ruby Harrold, a Worlds finalist on the event who has spent much of the past year out due to injury. She returned to competition at the British Team Championships last weekend, but on every event but her specialty, so this was our first look at her in action since Nanning.
Harrold competed a busy and exciting routine, including a Maloney to Bhardwaj (the catch on the latter was a little shaky but she had no problems keeping in rhythm), a van Leeuwen to Zuchold to toe full, and a double front dismount with a step forward. The routine is out of a 6.3, though it did have many noticeable form issues and earned only a 7.825 in execution to total a 14.125, but at Osijek that was nearly a point ahead of second place so she had nothing to fear. Now it’s just a matter of tidying it up if she’s hoping for a spot in Glasgow.
Annika Urvikko of Finland placed second with a 13.275. She hit her shaposh to bail to clear hip full with several form issues, caught her clear hip to piked Jaeger, and then hit her double front well and looked happy, though her somewhat low difficulty and form breaks added up to a 13.275, lower than what she’s capable of there.
The bronze medal went to Thauany Araujo of Brazil, who jumped up quite a bit after qualifying last thanks to looking a little cleaner, aside from a slight arch over on her bail. Araujo also finished up with a double front dismount to earn a 13.175, slightly edging out Peru’s Ariana Orrego, who hit her routine well for a 13.025, including a big Tkachev and a double layout dismount.
The other four finalists all counted falls in their routines, including Barbara Mokosova of Slovakia on her toe full (a pretty nasty fall to her back) to earn a 12.15 and Simona Castro of Chile on her arabian double front dismount to earn a 12.025.
Rounding out the final were Vidiaux and Belak with two more mishaps to follow up their vault dramas. Videaux finished seventh after muscling a stalder half and losing her swing before hopping off to earn an 11.775, though she hit a ginormous Tkatchev and was otherwise pretty confident. Belak was sadly last again with an 11.375 after missing her Jaeger, though she had a good finish with a stuck double front.
Jade Barbosa of Brazil was the beam champion, showing off beautiful lines from beginning to end. Starting with an excellent roundoff loso mount, she continued to hit a super solid roundoff layout, and had extreme precision on her leaps, jumps, and turns, an effortless side aerial, punch front, and switch to back tuck, and then a double pike with a step back for a 14.225…and I think they sold her a bit short there, honestly.
The silver medal went to Dorina Boczogo of Hungary, who earned a 13.575 after performing her famous mount, a front aerial slowly connected to a front toss to back tuck, a switch ring with a slight check, a side somi with a break at the hips, and a double tuck dismount with a step back.
Isabella Amado of Panama started out a little rough with a big leg up on her bhs bhs layout series, but continued well enough to win the bronze with a score of 13.45. She kept going with a front aerial to her jump series, a sheep jump, switch to back tuck, switch side, punch front, and double pike dismount with a step back.
Just outside of medal contention was Rebecca Tunney of Great Britain, looking very mature in her international return (and her signature bun is still there). This was only her second meet back after British Team Championships, and she was a bit shaky, wobbling on the first three skills in her routine and competing just a bhs back tuck for her flight series, preparing for several seconds and still landing awkwardly. The best feature of her routine was her big double pike dismount, and she finished with a 13.2.
There surprisingly weren’t many big errors in this final. Tjasa Kysselef of Slovenia (fifth place with a 13.125), Ariana Orrego of Peru (sixth with a 12.6), and first-year senior Kitti Honti of Hungary (seventh with a 12.5) all hit. The only finalist with a fall was bars medalist Araujo on her bhs loso loso, though she redeemed that with her huge and gorgeous switch half and a big near-stuck double pike, both of which she seemed happy about, though she was only able to reach a 12.375.
Mejias was back with a floor win, earning a 13.55 after attacking her 2.5 to front layout full to big applause, a double arabian to stag, and a whip to double tuck. It was a great effort, and a wonderful performance, very deserving of the top prize.
The tie for second was between Tunde Csillag of Hungary and Vidiaux, who finally got her medal. Csillag opened with a big double layout (with a step out-of-bounds) and a piked full-in, while Videaux’s energetic routine included a whip to triple full with a bounce, a nicely-controlled 2.5 to front tuck, a tucked full-in with a bounce, and a double tuck to finish. Both of these gymnasts earned scores of 13.3 to finish together on the podium.
Castro finished a couple of tenths away from the podium for her strong routine that earned a 13.125, Kysselef placed fifth for her clean but relatively easy routine that brought in a 12.775, and then Derek tied her with her biggest mistake just a step out-of-bounds.
Boczogo was a podium favorite, and opened with an excellent double layout, but a big stumble out-of-bounds on her piked full-in and a knee down on her double front left her unable to challenge, and she finished seventh with a 12.7.
In last place was Turkey’s Tutya Yilmaz, an exciting new senior who is good at making finals but tends to lose it under pressure. With a great personality and a cut of Carly Patterson’s flashy big band music, she is a crowd pleaser for sure, but she was short on all of her passes, putting her hands down on her piked full-in, taking a step on her tucked full-in, brushing her hands down on her double tuck, landing her double pike low, and then stumbling out-of-bounds on her pirouette of all things…I don’t think the line judges caught this, but she might want to move that skill away from the edge! It’s the kind of routine you want to love, and all the power to her, as she really tries to make it a huge routine, but unfortunately she scored a 10.95 after her multiple issues.
Full results are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins