This weekend belonged to Daniele Hypolito, the 31-year-old Brazilian veteran making a bid for her fifth Olympic Games, this time on home soil.
She and several of her teammates, including Rebeca Andrade, Lorrane Oliveira, and Carolyne Pedro, competed at the most recent world challenge cup in Sao Paulo, and Hypolito snagged the gold medals on all three events she competed, averaging a 14.125 on vault on Saturday before going on to reach scores of 14.35 on beam and 13.95 on floor on Sunday. While the competition wasn’t very well-attended, with most European gymnasts too busy focusing on their upcoming continental championships to travel to Brazil, some of the finals in Sao Paulo were nevertheless top-notch.
On vault, Hypolito performed a Yurchenko 1.5 with excellent form and a small hop before then sticking her Yurchenko half-on piked half-off, much to the joy of the wild fans there to see her. Germany’s Michelle Timm was a few tenths behind her, averaging a 13.85 for silver, hitting her handspring front half (which I believe she tried to compete in a layout but she was mostly piked and was credited as such) as well as a decent FTY, a little tentative with a step on the landing. Annika Urvikko of Finland was third with a 13.7, hitting a solid handspring front pike half of her own, but looking a little messy and off-center on her FTY, taking a step out-of-bounds.
Due to the small field, only six ended up being in the vault final, with Catalina Escobar of Colombia placing fourth with a 13.475, Esperanza Fernandez of Argentina placing fifth with a 12.75, and Camila Vilches of Chile placing sixth with a 12.1. Escobar started out with a wild DTY, taking a big step off the mat, and while her Yurchenko half-on front pike was much cleaner, she still had a landing issue, once again taking a step to the side.
Fernandez struggled a bit, with her FTY landing a bit short and then sitting her handspring front pike after landing it far back on her heels. Vilches, meanwhile, stumbled back and sat her tsuk back pike before looking rough on her handspring front layout half, arching back too much when she left the table and then landing short and putting her hands down on the landing.
The bars title went to Jessica Lopez of Venezuela. The 30-year-old showed a huge set with a 6.4 difficulty, including a layout Jaeger to pak (with leg separation on the latter), a Maloney to clear hip full to Tkachev to Gienger, and a clean double front dismount with a step back for a 14.65. While there are a few cleanup spots, Lopez looks fantastic, and her win combined with Hypolito’s three meant the average age for gold medalists in Sao Paulo was 30.75!
Silver medalist Rebeca Andrade, 17, led the field after qualifications, and while she was fabulous in finals for a 14.5, it was just shy of reaching Lopez’s score. Andrade nailed her stalder full to Tkachev to clean pak to stalder to van Leeuwen, piked Jaeger, and giant full to full-in with a hop, and the crowd again was thrilled to see a hometown girl do well. Kim Bui of Germany, who returned to competition just a few weeks ago after being out with injury for a year, tied Andrade to earn a silver of her own, hitting a Jaeger to pak, Maloney to Bhardwaj, van Leeuwen, giant full to Gienger, and a near-stuck full-in.
Also in the bars final was Lorrane Oliveira of Brazil in fourth with a 13.9, Ailen Valente of Argentina and Simona Castro of Chile tied in fifth with a 12.8, Maria Stoffel of Argentina in seventh with a 12.3, and Escobar in eighth with a 12.0. Oliveira had mostly clean work aside from a few minor adjustments and a hop on her double front, Valente had a few form issues but otherwise hit, Castro was clean but caught her bail with her legs apart and had to readjust her body position with an extra swing, Stoffel had a few form breaks, and Escobar had a fluke fall on her Maloney.
Hypolito came back on beam with one of her steadiest sets ever, hitting her layout stepout mount, a bhs bhs layout series, and a double pike with a step for a 14.35, coming off the podium looking so happy with that performance. She was quite far ahead of the rest of her competition, with Castro winning silver with a 13.05 and Andrade winning bronze with a 13.0. Castro had a few nervous bobbles but had a great fight to stay on, and hit some strong amplitude on her switch side before hitting her 2.5 with tiny steps. Andrade, meanwhile, had a fall on her opening flight series and a few other wobbles, but in a relatively weak field, she still managed a solid enough lead above fourth place to stay on the podium.
Other finalists included Timm in fourth with a 12.35 after a fall on her roundoff layout, Valente in fifth with a 12.2 for a hit (albeit slightly shaky) routine, Bui in sixth with a 12.15 after putting her hands down on her hop full turn, Lopez in seventh with an 11.75 after falling twice on her layout series, and Fernandez in eighth with an 11.5 after a fall on her bhs loso loso series.
For her final gold of the weekend, Hypolito posted a 13.95 on floor. She didn’t bring in her Brazilian-themed music yet, but did a good job hitting her 1.5 to front double full (though her foot went out-of-bounds on that landing), 2.5 to front layout, a double tuck with a hop, and a whip to low double pike. It wasn’t her best work, but for this competition it was more than enough, and she managed the win by a solid four tenths.
Bui picked up her second silver here, still with downgraded tumbling after her knee injury took away some of her more difficult passes. Opening with a double tuck, she also hit a lovely 2.5 to front pike, a clean double full, a gorgeous triple spin, and a double pike with a hop to bring in a 13.55. Tying for bronze were Pedro and Castro with scores of 13.3. Pedro went out-of-bounds on her double arabian, hit her double pike with a hop, looked good on her 2.5, and had a nice landing on her cowboyed double tuck. Castro hit a solid double pike, a double full with a hop, and a 2.5 to finish, getting her second medal of what was a very successful meet for her.
Urvikko was fifth with a 12.9, Valente was sixth with a 12.7, Timm was seventh with a 12.5, and Stoffel was eighth with an 11.65. These were mostly strong routines, though Stoffel had a few rough landings, including taking her double arabian completely off the mat and landing her double tuck out-of-bounds.
Full results from the Sao Paulo Challenge Cup are available here. Next up on the challenge cup circuit is the Anadia competition, held June 23-26 in Portugal.
Article by Lauren Hopkins