Maria Kharenkova had a fantastic end to a fantastic season at the Voronin Cup in Moscow earlier this week.
In a field of queens on the Russian squad, Kharenkova is more of a worker bee, flying under the radar and getting the job done. With Aliya Mustafina’s gym skipping drama, Viktoria Komova’s hot and cold and hot again comeback, Ksenia Afanasyeva’s injuries and ailments, and Maria Paseka’s newfound technical awesomeness, it was easy to miss Kharenkova’s excellent performance history this year, winning all-around medals in all competitions she entered and showing surprising consistency, hitting all but six of the 43 routines she competed in 2015.
Unfortunately, her misses came in her most public routines; low key competitions and qualification rounds are no problem for Kharenkova, but in situations like event finals at European championships and the team finals at worlds, she buckled under the pressure.
At Voronin, she went in as one of the biggest names, so I have to admit to worrying that she wouldn’t fare well. But she looked relaxed and confident in all of her performances, faltering only slightly on floor during the all-around competition, which she won by half a point over Anastasia Dmitrieva, posting a flat 57.
In event finals, she pulled out a somewhat surprising win on bars with a 14.0 thanks to a weak field, and then she showed an excellent beam routine to win gold there as well, earning a 15.166. If only she could hit like that at worlds!
Dmitrieva’s all-around performance was good enough for silver, posting a 56.45 after a fall on bars. She was also the vault silver medalist, averaging 14.349, in addition to picking up the bronze medals on beam (13.766) and floor (13.833), despite mishaps on both. Her standout performance was her all-around beam, where she hit one of her best routines ever for a 14.95.
Because of the two-per-country rule in place at this meet, Evgeniya Shelgunova and Polina Fedorova were left off of the podium despite technically placing third with a 55.95 and fourth with a 55.6, respectively. Shelgunova did go on to get a bronze on bars despite a fall, however, earning a 12.966.
The all-around bronze went to Wakana Inoue of Japan, who earned a 53.6 after a fall on bars. Inoue also won beam silver for a lovely routine that earned a 14.466 and floor silver with a 13.966. Her teammate Yurika Yumoto, in her first international assignment as a senior, placed fifth with a 52.7, and also earned fifth on beam (13.266) and eighth on floor (11.466).
Poor Vera van Pol of the Netherlands was in the fourth place spot in the all-around…and everywhere else at Voronin! Her scores of 12.633 on bars, 13.3 on beam, 13.6 on floor, and 53.25 overall left her just tenths away from the podium at each turn, making it a somewhat disappointing day despite placing near the top of the pack in each field.
2014 worlds silver medalist Alla Sosnitskaya of Russia was right behind van Pol in the all-around with a 53.0 after disappointing performances everywhere but vault, the only place she earned a spot in event finals. There, she earned a 14.416 average to win gold, and then 2015 worlds team member Seda Tutkhalyan was the floor champion with a 14.133. Tutkhalyan performed everything but vault in prelims, and her floor was actually one of her better sets, including a whip whip to double tuck stuck absolutely cold.
It was also great to see Valeryia Tsekhmistrenka of Belarus competing. If you remember, she was one of the two originally named to the Belarusian worlds team only to be replaced by the Americans. She had a bit of a rough day on bars, and posted a 48.05 in the all-around. As one of the only gymnasts with two vaults, however, she did make it into the final there and landed on the podium averaging 12.849.
The junior division saw Natalia Kapitonova emerge as a surprisingly consistent competitor, posting a 58.15 to win the all-around title over the much more hyped Angelina Melnikova, who fell on bars and brought in a 56.75. The two young stars went back and forth in event finals, with Melnikova grabbing gold on vault (14.716) and floor (14.066) while Kapitonova picked up two more on bars (15.066) and beam (13.866). Melnikova fell in the beam final to earn a 12.066 for sixth place, while Kapitonova won silver on floor with a 13.766.
Natsumi Hanashima of Japan was the bronze medalist with a 55.3, looking clean and composed on all four events. While she was unable to topple either of the Russian stars for any gold medals, she was very successful in event finals, earning vault and beam silver as well as bars bronze; on floor, she was fourth, with teammate Hitomi Hatakeda getting bronze. Hatakeda also got bronze on beam in addition to her fourth place all-around finish with a 52.8 after falls on bars and floor.
While these four dominated the podiums, the Russians Viktoria Gorbatova and Ulyana Perebinosova also medaled, with Gorbatova getting vault bronze with a 13.766 and Perebinosova earning bars silver with a 13.766.
In addition to the above, the competition featured gymnasts from a very diverse mix of countries, including Iceland, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Uzbekistan, Sweden, Latvia, Israel, Georgia, Moldova, and Kyrgyzstan. As the final meet of the 2015 elite season, it wasn’t the most intense or competitive meet, but it offered a great look at some of the unsung heroes from Russia’s senior program as well as two rising stars who could make an impression next year.
Article by Lauren Hopkins