After a rough start to her year, Eythora Thorsdottir again proved this weekend why she’s the best in the Netherlands, hitting all four routines in the national all-around competition to break her all-around record with a 58.058 to win gold.
This year’s Dutch Championships featured 18 Olympic hopefuls, nine looking to make the team for the Netherlands and nine reaching for Belgium’s squad, which will be named tomorrow. In the combined all-around, Céline van Gerner of the Netherlands followed Thorsdottir with a 56.883 for the silver medal while Belgium’s Axelle Klinckaert was third with a 55.584.
Thorsdottir hit her DTY for a 15.033, not the most powerful but also not scary and she also landed well. She had a good effort on bars for a 14.233, and performed gorgeously on beam, with a few bobbles, but the sissone to side aerial to Korbut was excellent and she also debuted a brand new triple full dismount, which looked great.
Floor was her obvious standout, with her creepy new routine beginning with an awesome angular broken body position that America’s Next Top Model posing coach Benny Ninja would definitely call high fashion. Taking a page out of China’s book, she opened with a great triple full to punch front tuck before continuing to show off great extension in her leaps, more fabulous choreo, a nearly-stuck double tuck, a Memmel turn to illusion turn, and a clean 2.5 to finish with a 14.325.
2012 Olympian van Gerner, now 21, had to sit out at worlds last year but slowly eased her way back into things in 2016 and looks ready to take on her second Games. Her FTY on vault was big and clean with just a hop back, and she showed that she has one of the country’s best bar routines with a toe-on to toe half to huge Jaeger and stalder full to full-in dismount, getting a 14.333.
On beam, van Gerner showed steady work for a 14.3, nailing her split leap to side aerial, huge switch half, tour jeté half, and double tuck dismount. Her one issue was a big wobble on her roundoff layout series, but she did a great job to pull it back on. Her floor routine is mature and gorgeous, and has a great balance between the dance and tumbling aspects, with a stuck tucked full-in, 1.5 to front full, and double tuck looking just as clean as her excellent leaps, coming together for a 14.25.
I have to say, I’ve thought for several months that the team would include both Thorsdottir and van Gerner alongside the Wevers twins, but the fifth spot has been such a question mark. With Lisa Top out with a PCL injury and Noël van Klaveren recently announcing her decision to withdraw, my favorites for this spot have been Mara Titarsolej with her impressive floor and Tisha Volleman, who recently brought a DTY into the mix.
But this weekend, 20-year-old Reina Beltman, whom we haven’t seen compete in over a year, really put herself up as an option as well. Placing fifth overall and third among the Dutch women, Beltman had a superb day in the all-around with a 54.983, hitting all four routines including especially promising work on bars and beam, routines she repeated just as well in the event finals on Sunday, where she picked up beam silver with a 14.25.
The problem is that this team is already pretty deep on beam and I don’t think Beltman would get a spot there in qualifications, considering Thorsdottir, van Gerner, and Lieke Wevers will likely do the all-around while Sanne Wevers is pushing for the bars/beam spot. Beltman has one of the more difficult vaults with her tsuk full, though showed a low landing with a few steps back this weekend, and while she hit floor, her difficulty just isn’t high enough to take her for that event.
Titarsolej was ninth overall and fourth among the Dutch, earning a 54.0 after a rough vault and a fall on beam. Her floor, however, has been super consistent all season and placed fifth at European floor finals. It was just as good here, earning a 14.1 opening with a double arabian with a couple of steps back before going into a stuck front full and a 2.5 with a hop.
As the other option, Volleman was 14th overall and seventh among the Dutch with a 52.175. Her DTY unfortunately didn’t go as she hoped, and while I love her fun and energetic floor routine, she unfortunately came up short to sit her 2.5, one of only two passes in her low-difficulty routine. She did a clean FTY to place silver in vault finals, and hit both bars and beam on Sunday as well, but I think at this point Titarsolej could make the most sense.
But you also have to consider Vera van Pol. It would mean putting up a weak floor routine in qualifications, but they could drop that and her vault – a Yurchenko 1.5 – looks fantastic and could add much more to the team’s overall qualifications score than Titarsolej’s floor would add. She got a 14.233 on the event in the all-around competition and then a 14.5 – second only to Thorsdottir’s DTY – in the vault final, where she averaged a 13.85 for gold.
With van Pol, you run the risk of a weak back-up on bars and beam, and you’d have to hope no one makes a mistake in qualifications on floor so they won’t have to count hers…but essentially, she could be in a sort of McKayla Maroney role, because it doesn’t matter where the tenths come from as long as they’re there. I still think Titarsolej will get the spot but van Pol is probably the next best option unless Volleman’s DTY picks up steam.
Lieke Wevers didn’t have the best day, placing 10th overall and fifth among the Dutch. It was her first all-around competition since worlds, with her start to this year a little slow as she hasn’t been at full strength. She hit her first vault back, but her 2016 bars debut didn’t go as well, with an extra swing after she broke form during her toe full and then crashing her double front to her knees. Still, the routine showed promise, especially with her awesome Church to pak connection and then with her toe-on to Maloney to bail as well. That combo is supposed to continue into a toe full to toe shoot, so hopefully now that she’s gotten this out of the way, she’ll be able to lend an excellent routine to the team.
On beam, Wevers missed her side aerial combo, turning it into a side aerial to cartwheel, and taking a sizeable wobble. A check on her front aerial caused strife as well, and there were some wobbles on turns and on her side somi as well, giving her just a 13.3. On floor, her Schindler’s List routine was gorgeous and heartbreaking, with excellent work on her leaps and turn sequences, though her tumbling seemed a bit tired, with a stumble forward on her opening double tuck and a skid on her 2.5.
Her twin Sanne, who only competes bars and beam, had a fantastic day on her two events and then came back to the event finals on Sunday to absolutely destroy it on beam, posting a 15.65 with a 6.6 d-score. Yes, her execution score was generous, as most national competitions tend to be, but this routine is so beautiful and unique, I need it on the podium in Rio.
Opening with a roundoff full-twisting back handspring mount, she continued with super difficult skills and combinations, including a double L turn, side aerial to side aerial, front aerial to wolf jump, perfect triple pirouette, full L turn to opposite pirouette to double pirouette to split leap, switch to full-twisting back handspring, and a Steingruber dismount with a slight hop.
Beyond these, the only other Dutch gymnast in Olympic contention was Kirsten Polderman, who was 16th overall and ninth among the Dutch with a 50.2. Bars is normally where she stands out, but she unfortunately didn’t do well there this weekend, with just a 12.967 on the event.
On the Belgian side, Klinckaert came into this meet with tons of fantastic upgrades, including a DTY vault and a full-twisting double layout on floor. Her DTY was pretty great, aside from being a little short on the landing, to earn a 14.6. On bars – her weak event – she hit everything very well, showing a nice line and strong handstands for a 13.767.
She busted out a standing arabian upgrade on beam, and nailed her layout series, though counted a fall in both her all-around and event final performances, and then on floor she scored in the high 13s both days, unveiling a brand-new routine to replace her frog routine, though this one is just as fantastic in her choreo and performance level. Her full-twisting double layout landing was a bit low, but she hit her double layout and nearly stuck her tucked full-in and double pike. It’s a very difficult routine, and she won the gold for it in finals. With a little work on the opening pass, this could be a stellar set, so I hope we get to see that in Rio.
Second for Belgium and fourth overall was the two-time Olympian Gaelle Mys, who looks like she’s gearing up for her third Games. Mys made the beam and floor finals at Euros earlier this month, and got a 55.326 all-around here, getting stronger and stronger as Rio gets closer. Beam and floor continue to be her strong points in addition to her super strong FTY, but she’s becoming more consistent on bars as well. She was the floor silver medalist in event finals here, earning a 13.633 for her mostly strong set.
Nina Derwael, who got injured three months ago and made her return to the all-around here, was third for Belgium and sixth overall with a 54.667. Her vault was strong, and she earned a 13.9 in the all-around on bars, catching her tricky Bhardwaj and hitting all of her connections as well, though she unfortunately pinged off on her van Leeuwen, suffering a hard fall. Still, a 13.9 is great with a fall, and she’s generally so clean, this is going to eventually become a high-scoring routine (she also won the silver with a 14.2 in event finals).
Her beam had mostly gorgeous skills, though there was the occasional wobble and a couple of missed connections, earning a 13.467, and then she got a 13.5 on floor for her gorgeous routine, though it’s her least difficult, opening with a double tuck and continuing with a 1.5 to front full, and a 2.5. She makes up for the lack of difficulty with her expressive performance and beautiful extension, though, and this ended up being one of her best performances of the weekend.
Behind Derwael was Cindy Vandenhole in seventh with a 54.384, Rune Hermans in eighth with a 54.251, Senna Deriks in 12th with a 52.666, and Julie Meyers in 13th with a 52.575. Laura Waem competed on all events but vault, with a pretty rough performance on Saturday, though she came back to win the bars title with a 14.55 for her lovely and difficult work and generally she puts in good contributions on beam as well. Julie Croket only performed on bars and beam, but didn’t have particularly strong sets on either, due to yet another injury.
Of these, I was impressed with Vandenhole on bars, though she did have a bit of a struggle in the final with just a 13.3 there, and her beam isn’t quite strong enough to consider using in a final. Hermans doesn’t have a ton of difficulty, but can compete about equally well on all four events, and ended up winning the bronze medals on both beam and floor for her careful work there.
Deriks’ standout event is bars, where she comes in with a big d-score and lovely work, winning the bronze with a 14.15 after falling on Saturday, but I think her difficulty overall is too weak to make her a top contender for the team, which can also be said about Meyers, though I hope both of these ladies will return in the next quad to help lead the program.
Belgium will actually name their team in just about six hours, at 11 am local time. If I had to guess right now, I’d say it’ll be Klinckaert, Derwael, Mys, Waem, and Hermans. This is the most balanced option, though given how strong they are as a bars team overall, this kind of limits their potential on that event…though Hermans has a solid routine of her own and is capable of coming within a few tenths of Deriks’ and Vandenhole’s scores in addition to adding routines everywhere else, which these two can’t do (at least not as well). I do see Deriks sneaking in as a bars specialist over Hermans, but with either decision, this is shaping up to be a strong team.
I will feel gutted for Croket if she doesn’t end up making it, as she was actually the top choice for 2012 and earned the spot then but an injury forced her to back out, giving Mys her second opportunity to earn her rings. But this year, there’s just so much depth and I don’t see Croket as a top three option on any event, though I give her so much credit for fighting back from injuries and contributing to the team’s Rio qualification in April.
But still, even in my sadness for Croket, it’s nice to be able to say that Belgium for once has the bittersweet problem of too much depth. Typically they’re nowhere close to this selection struggle when putting together a team puzzle, but at the moment they have nine options for five spots, showing truly fantastic growth in their program even in just the past two years.
Article by Lauren Hopkins