Two-time Olympian Catalina Ponor is a standout in a super-starry field of contestants set for the upcoming FIG World Challenge Cup in Doha, Qatar later this month.
The Romanian will join her 2012 Olympic teammates Larisa Iordache and Diana Bulimar as they continue their preparation for the Rio Test Event, where they’ll hope to lead their country in qualifying to this year’s Games. Ponor will compete only on beam, slowly easing her way back into her three events after an injury took her out last fall, while Iordache will do all but vault and Bulimar will compete on bars and floor.
The Romanians aren’t the only ones getting in as much practice as possible leading up to April’s qualifier. While Brazil has already named five members of their test event squad, there is still one spot up for grabs, which first-year senior Carolyne Pedro and 2015 worlds team member Thauany Araujo are both hoping to take, so a strong outcome here will be crucial in whether or not they’re considered. We should also see Rebeca Andrade compete here; Andrade, already named as one of the five, has nothing to prove in that respect, though she does need to show that she’s healthy enough to handle the pressure of major international competition. She’s expected to compete at Jesolo the week before this, and should be on bars and beam at both.
Getting ready for the test event is a theme at this meet. In addition to Romania and Brazil, we’ll also see some of Switzerland’s top contenders in Giulia Steingruber, Ilaria Käslin, and Stefanie Siegenthaler, while Germany is sending two young gymnasts with potential to fill some of the available spots.
Countries with individual test event spots are also represented, both by those who are already set to compete and are looking for more competitive experience – like Marcia Vidiaux of Cuba, Vasiliki Millousi of Greece, Farah Ann Abdul Hadi of Malaysia, and Ana Filipa Martins of Portugal – as well as those who are still fighting for the opportunity to compete in Rio.
With Hungary almost certainly giving one spot to Dorina Boczogo, their second spot will most likely go to world all-around finalist Noemi Makra or the hot young first-year talent Zsofia Kovacs. Sweden also has two spots, with Jonna Adlerteg and Emma Larsson considered the top hopefuls, though Marcela Torres – last year’s national champion at 26 – is a threat and this competition should help narrow it down for these three. Fierce vaulters Tjasa Kysselef and Teja Belak of Slovenia will continue to go head to head for their country’s one spot, and this meet could also be a big decider for the women from Turkey, Argentina, and Azerbaijan as well.
China is also getting in on the fun, sending three of their young gymnasts including 2014 world beam silver medalist Bai Yawen, who missed out on the worlds team last year due to a lack of consistency throughout the majority of her season. We’ll also see Xu Chujun as well as first-year senior Luo Huan. None of these are necessarily top contenders for the Olympic team this summer, but considering the little international experience most Chinese gymnasts get, this could be valuable as they attempt to make their dreams come true this summer.
The World Challenge Cup in Doha will be held from March 24 through March 26. A full list of MAG and WAG contenders is below.
|Tarik Soto Byfield|
Agus Adi Prayoko
Muhammad Try Saputra
Amalia Fauziah Nubuwah
|Farah Ann Abdul Hadi
Tan Ing Yueh
Ana Filipa Martins
Pham Phuoc Hung