Four Russians, Four Golds in Japan

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Despite being one of the final meets of the 2015 elite gymnastics season, the Toyota International Cup in Toyota City, Japan featured no shortage of top talent.

Four members of Russia’s worlds team competed at the event, with each bringing home a gold medal, including 2015 world vault champion Maria Paseka on vault, 2015 world bars champion Daria Spiridonova on bars, 2012 Olympic silver medalist Viktoria Komova on beam, and 2015 worlds floor silver medalist Ksenia Afanasyeva on floor.

The competitors also included many of Japan’s top worlds performers, like Mai Murakami, Asuka Teramoto, and Sae Miyakawa, as well as legend Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan on all four events (she would’ve earned a 54.35 had there been an all-around race!), Phan Thi Ha Thanh of Vietnam, and gymnasts from Canada, Germany, and Hungary to round out the field.

Even with her Cheng downgraded to a Lopez, Paseka led the field by over half a point, averaging a 15.025 to notch the win. She had a step back on the Lopez and showed some form breaks on the Amanar, but overall had a very strong performance and was a no-brainer for the title.

In second on this event was Murakami, who totaled a 14.425 after clean performances on her DTY, which had great form in the air but a hop on the landing, and tsuk full, also well-executed and hopped back. First-year senior Boglarka Devai of Hungary placed third a quarter of a tenth behind Murakami, earning a 14.4 after performing the same vaults – an excellent DTY with a step back and a slightly messy tsuk full.

Phan Thi Ha Thanh also showed clean efforts on her handspring front pike half and her DTY, though the latter lacked height, placing fourth. Afanasyeva was fifth with a clean but low DTY and a Lopez, also low and landed with her hands touching to count a fall. Miyakawa also struggled, placing sixth after hitting her Lopez but sitting her second vault, which I believe was also downgraded.

Right behind Miyakawa was Chusovitina in seventh, attempting the Produnova but getting downgraded to a handspring front tuck in addition to missing the landing. It’s possible she balked the Produnova to avoid a rough landing after a low block, but either way she was only rewarded for one tuck off the table. Her second vault, a tsuk 1.5, was great, however, with just a slight hop on the landing.

Repeating her worlds gold on bars was Spiridonova with a slightly downgraded and slightly messy routine, including several steps back on her tucked full-in dismount, earning a 14.5 to take the title by a mere tenth. Teramoto posted a 14.4 for a clean routine that included a stalder full to Gienger, stalder half to Jaeger, and a solid full-in, and Noemi Makra of Hungary won bronze and wowed the crowd after showing huge skills like a toe-on to Maloney to Hindorff, Church, Jaeger, and excellent double layout dismount for a 14.3.

Murakami also put up a solid effort here, placing fourth with a 13.9, though her difficulty of 5.6 wasn’t quite enough to put her on the podium. She had a couple of small errors here, but overall a very confident routine. Chusovitina managed fifth place with a 13.1 for her hit – if slightly messy – routine, Sarah Voss of Germany was sixth, and then shockingly down in seventh was world bars champion Viktoria Komova, who fell twice (on her Komova and layout Jaeger) in addition to taking a couple of steps on her dismount for a 13.0. Did you ever think we’d live in a world where Chuso beat Vika on bars?!

Komova did come back strong on beam, however, earning a 14.6 for gold for a very clean set that had only a tiny wobble on her standing arabian and a slight step on the dismount. Makra picked up a second medal here, tying Japan’s Yu Minobe for silver with a 14.3. Both were incredibly stable, with only minor form issues for Makra and a nearly stuck dismount for Minobe, who also had a beautiful Onodi.

Just off the podium was Japanese worlds team member Sakura Yumoto, who had a slight wobble on a leap and stepped forward on her dismount, though was otherwise clean for a 14.25. Spiridonova was fifth with a 13.7, starting out strong but wobbling a few times near the end, and Chusovitina was sixth with a 13.65, showing a near-perfect routine in terms of balance and stability, though getting docked for some form issues throughout.

Finally, on floor we saw Afanasyeva repeating her worlds gold with a 14.5. As the last up, she was mostly clean, taking a couple of steps out of her 2.5 but otherwise showing great control in both her tumbling and dance elements.

Miyakawa took silver with a 14.45, sticking her full-twisting double layout cold to start, and then showing an awesome new upgrade – a front full to tucked double front, up from the front layout to double front she showed at worlds. Her double double in the third pass was strong, though she put a foot out-of-bounds on the landing, and she also added a wolf turn, the upgrades increasing her d-score now to a 6.5. For her final pass, a double layout, she landed very low with both knees bent and one leg forward, but for her first time competing with upgrades, it was an excellent set. Kudos to her!

The bronze medal went to Phan Thi Ha Thanh, who earned a 13.65 after an overall solid routine aside from a big step back on her double pike. Teramoto was fourth with a 13.4, going out-of-bounds on her double pike, Makra was fifth with a 13.35 after sticking her piked full-in cold but stumbling her closing 2.5, and Chusovitina was sixth with a 13.1 for her routine, showing lots of power and control on all skills though she was heavily deducted due to her lack of attention to detail with her form.

Overall, it was actually quite a good meet considering the awkward time of year, when most elites are happily on hiatus from competition, instead focusing on training and preparing for the next season. On top of seeing these high-level competitors performing at nearly full difficulty, it was also great to see a couple of upgrades. With about six weeks to go before we see the next elite competition, the Toyota Cup was a great way to ring out 2015.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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