Belgium Reigns Over Romania

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In preparation for the Olympic test event coming later this month, the Belgian women hosted a friendly meet this weekend, defeating the visiting Romanians by nearly four points in what could be a preview of what happens in Rio.

The Belgian gymnast Axelle Klinckaert was the star of the meet, reaching a decisive win with her 56.5 finish after hitting all four events extremely well. Klinckaert, 15, has been working hard to upgrade, especially on beam and floor, where she is a standout performer in addition to showing big skills. Her 14.4 on beam was the best on that event, and she also posted the second-best score on floor and the third-best on both vault and bars. It was an impressive meet for Klinckaert, and I’m sure she’ll knock it out of the park again in Rio.

Her teammate Laura Waem, 18, was second all-around with a 55.6 after an equally good day. As always, she looked fabulous on bars, earning a 14.1 for a clean and lovely routine, but she also showed beautiful and calm work on beam, where her 14.3 was the second-best of the day. Like Klinckaert, Waem is expected to be a major contributor at the test event, and will also easily make the Olympic team, should they qualify a full team to the Games.

Two-time Olympian Gaelle Mys was fourth all-around with a 55.2, showing her best work on beam and floor, but looking super consistent everywhere, showing how much she has to offer this otherwise young and inexperienced team. 21-year-old Julie Croket, who was supposed to compete in London but had to withdraw due to injury, was sixth with a 53.95, 17-year-old Cindy Vandenhole, who made it to the all-around final at worlds last year, was ninth with a 53.75, and first-year seniors Senna Deriks and Julie Meyers placed 13th and 14th with scores of 52.4 and 52.2. Meyers is a bit behind in terms of her difficulty compared to everyone else, but Deriks has a fabulous bars set, and should get a spot on the test event team just for that. She earned a 14.6 in Mouscron this weekend, the highest among any competitor. Rune Hermans, 16, also competed this weekend on every event but floor.

The Romanian team had Diana Bulimar as its top all-arounder, and the oft-injured 2012 Olympian had a fantastic day, placing third with a 55.4 after standout performances on beam and floor. It’s good to see her looking both healthy and confident after a tumultuous few years, though I don’t know if that’ll be enough to help the team. At this point, it’s not about how good she is, but about how good her teammates are, and unfortunately most of her young teammates don’t match her caliber.

The other Romanian all-arounders included included 16-year-old Dora Vulcan in seventh with a 53.9, 15-year-old Maria Holbura in 10th with a 53.6, 17-year-old Silvia Zarzu in 16th with a 51.35, and 15-year-old Denisa Stanciu in 17th with a 50.95. Vulcan’s routines are easy, but she did good work on beam, and Holbura is actually quite promising on bars as far as Romanians go, but like Vulcan, she lacks big skills. Zarzu hit a decent DTY for a 14.55, the top score of the day on vault, but had falls elsewhere, and Stanciu is pretty low-difficulty across the board.

Veteran Catalina Ponor, 28, is hoping to make it to the Olympic Games for the third time, and if the team doesn’t qualify, I can see her going as an individual though the competition will be tough between her and Bulimar. Her routines weren’t her very best here, with a 14.3 on beam and a 13.8 on floor, but she likes to wait until she needs to be at her best to put on a good show, so I expect we’ll see that once she gets to Rio in a few weeks.

Andreea Iridon, 16, performed on bars and beam, and the former junior European beam medalist actually put up a pretty lovely routine there, earning a 14.2, but she continues to struggle on bars. That’s the event they need her for most, and yet she can’t seem to put together a hit routine. In 2015, she fell in all but three of her nine routines competed, which is concerning when they rely on her so heavily. She had a rough performance there at worlds, and so I don’t know if they’ll trust her enough to bring her to the test event with a potential Olympic team spot on the line.

The German team here placed third, but this shouldn’t really reflect how they’ll do at the test event, as all of their top gymnasts sat this meet out. Rather than a preparation meet for Germany, the team used this as a way to select gymnasts for the last couple of spots available on the test event team, which I believe will go to Leah Griesser and Pauline Tratz, based on how they looked here.

17-year-old Griesser didn’t compete all four events, but showed especially gorgeous work on floor, even though she did have a fall on beam. It wasn’t her best performance, but in comparison to everyone else, her track record speaks volumes and I don’t think this will really count against her. 16-year-old Tratz, meanwhile, was the top all-around finisher for the team, with a solid vault and good work on floor, the event the Germans need most.

The rest of the team included Maike Enderle in 11th with a 53.3 and her strongest work on beam, Sarah Voss in 12th with a 52.9 and her strongest work on vault, Carina Kröll on all events but floor with beam her best, and Amelie Föllinger on vault and floor, performing well on both.

Other seniors here included Ana Perez of Spain in fifth with a 54.35, showing fantastic work on beam, Elisa Hämmerle of Austria in 15th with a 52.2, also showing beam to be her best, and new senior Helena Bonilla of Spain in 18th with a 48.55 (guess what? beam was her best). Both Perez and Hämmerle should be at the test event coming up, with their countries allowed to take two gymnasts each.

The competition also featured a junior session with the Romanians beating the Belgians by over ten points. This should show how superb the young Romanians are and how much potential they have, if only their federation knows how to keep that talent moving up into the senior level, which has been an issue in the past.

The Romanians placed first through fifth, all in a row, with Carmen Ghiciuc getting the gold with a 54.4, showing promising work on all four events, but most importantly on bars. Alisia Botnaru was second with a 54.25 and posted the top beam score of 14.15, Ioana Crisan was third with a 54.15, also showing good work on beam and floor, Olivia Cimpian was fourth with a 53.25 after a fall on bars, and Denisa Golgota was fifth with a 52.85, nailing her DTY for a huge 15 (it even beat all of the senior vault scores!) but showing low difficulty and mistakes elsewhere.

Myrthe Potoms had the best finish for the Belgian juniors, earning a 50.75 with a clean FTY and steady work on beam. Rinke Santy was seventh with a 50.55 and her best work on bars, Maellyse Brassart was eighth with a 49.85 and nice work on beam, Chloe Leblicq was ninth with a 49.3, Alysha Senders was 10th with a 48.8, Britt Vanneste was 11th with a 48.75, and Manon Muller was 12th with a 48.35.

Full results from the competition are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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