There are a million challenge cups each year, but as usual, Cottbus stood out as one of the best in 2016, with a top-notch international field that saw a couple dozen competitors vying for the eight finals spots on each event.
Germany typically sends a host of top international competitors to the meet they host, so it wasn’t surprising to see them pull in the biggest medal haul for the women at three total, but it was cool to see neighboring Poland not only match them, but also top them on beam and floor! The Netherlands and China also saw success at two medals apiece, while Uzbekistan and Slovenia each got one.
Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan was their medalist, winning vault gold even with a downgraded second vault. Her 14.7 average was enough to get the job done nearly half a point over the young Wu Jing of China, who finished with a 14.35 for silver, while typical vault standout Tjasa Kysselef of Slovenia — who made five world cup vault finals in 2015 — won the bronze with a 13.966.
Kysselef actually defeated her teammate Teja Belak, who has slightly more difficulty and generally ranks at least one spot higher at most meets, but Belak had an uncharacteristic fall on her first vault to average a 13.599 for seventh. Another medal contender, first-year senior Liu Jinru of China, missed her second vault after hitting a rough Rudi to score a zero there, averaging only a 7.166.
Other competitors in the final included Gabriela Janik of Poland in fourth with a 13.949 (she had a beautiful second vault!), Lisa Top of the Netherlands in fifth with a 13.933, and Antonia Alicke of Germany in sixth with a 13.666.
On bars, it was a German who won the gold, with Sophie Scheder earning a 14.9 on her clean routine which has been so impressive this year; you can tell she’s really gunning for the Olympic final in what will be the most difficult field to get into. She was followed by China’s Zhu Xiaofang with the silver; Zhu had the same 6.4 D score as Scheder, but was noticeably not as clean, though she still earned a 14.733. Janik, who just missed out on a vault medal, ended up with the bronze after earning a 13.266, showing mistakes but coming out ahead of quite a few other routines with falls and larger mistakes.
Simona Castro of Chile had one of the better routines of the day but not the difficulty to carry her through with only a 4.9 D score; she earned a 13.1 for fourth and seemed happy, though I kind of would’ve liked to see her medal over Janik’s messier set. Nora Fernandez of Spain was fifth with a 12.966, Chusovitina was sixth with a 12.766 (not a typical routine for her but she has to do the all-around at the test event in a month!), Top was seventh with a 12.366, and Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands was eighth with a 10.766 after an unusually rough routine.
On beam, Katarzyna Jurkowska killed it, hitting a 14.033 for gold slightly ahead of Scheder, who won the silver with a 13.9. Wevers came back from her bars disaster to win bronze with a 13.666, but she mostly got to that stage thanks to her difficulty, which towered over the other competitors at a ginormous 6.3. She had a fall and would’ve easily won gold without it, but that D score made it super easy for her to make it through.
Chusovitina placed fourth here with a 13.366, Ioanna Xoulogi of Greece placed fifth with a 12.866, Fernandez was sixth with a 12.833, Dilnoza Abudsalimova of Uzbekistan was seventh with a 12.366 (she’s lovely to watch and cheered a ton for Chuso on the sidelines!), and Belak again struggled as she did on vault, placing eighth with an 11.633 (she’s another one who has to do the all-around in Rio next month to earn an Olympic spot, so this was a sort of practice for her and it didn’t go as well as she may have hoped).
Top showed an awesome floor set to win the gold with a 13.6, her only issue being some steps out-of-bounds. Jurkowska got her second medal of the day with a silver after posting a 13.533, while Scheder got her third medal of the day with a 13.333 for bronze, showing clean work but very low difficulty.
Fourth place was a three-way tie between Angelina Kysla of Ukraine, Marta Pihan-Kulesza of Poland, and Castro. All three had similar D and E scores to earn total scores of 13.233, and it’s a shame they didn’t each get a tenth higher so we could’ve seen our second four-way medal tie in the past six months! Alicke was seventh here with a 12.366 after some mistakes, and her fellow 2014 Youth Olympic Games competitor Veronika Cenkova of the Czech Republic was eighth with a 12.2.
Article by Lauren Hopkins