Verniaiev and Melnikova Win Memorial Gander


The 33rd Arthur Gander Memorial held in Switzerland yesterday saw a bunch of this summer’s Olympians ease their way back into competition mode in a fun format that allows the gymnasts to pick which events they’d like to perform. The women compete two events in the first round while the men compete three, and then there’s one last round featuring six finalists in both the men’s and women’s categories, with the gymnast who earns the highest three-event score winning the title.

16-year-old Angelina Melnikova of Russia won in the women’s field, earning a 42.8 for her three events. Melnikova opted for vault and beam in the first round, performing a DTY with a great landing and minor form issues for a 14.9, but looking a little nervous on beam with slight wobbles throughout the routine and then a fall on her side somi for a 13.15.

She came back from the fall with a lovely double pike dismount, and easily moved on to the final, where she sealed the deal with a lovely routine on bars. Melnikova’s bars set included an inbar to inbar full, Komova II to pak, van Leeuwen, inbar half to piked Jaeger, and a full-in dismount for a 14.75. It’s not as clean or precise as some of her teammates who have similar routines, though it was more than enough for this meet.

Melnikova actually did have some big competition from the Dutch gymnast Eythora Thorsdottir, who walked away from Rio as the best all-arounder in Olympic history for the Netherlands. Unfortunately, Thorsdottir began her competition with a botched vault, missing her block for her DTY after coming up what looked like a little too crunched on the table, and performing just a simple back pike off, landed low with a step forward. She’s capable of a score in the high 14s there, but instead received only a 12.75 with her D score cut down to a 4.0.

She moved on to a beautiful performance on floor, where she initially dealt with some music difficulties, but she handled it with humor and moved on to delight the crowd with her excellent work on her choreography and on her tumbling. She opened with a triple full to punch front tuck, and went on to hit a double tuck, double L turn, double Y turn to illusion, and 2½ with a step out-of-bounds for a 14, getting her a finals spot even with the vault errors.

In the final, Thorsdottir opted for beam, hitting her split leap to side aerial to Korbut down into her low beam choreo beautifully, and then attacking the rest of her set, which included an illusion turn, split leap to front aerial to jump series, L turn to split leap to Y turn, and a 2½ dismount for a 14.2. This score pushed her up to a 40.95 for her three-event total, less than two points behind Melnikova. Had she hit vault the two would’ve really battled for the title, though I’m glad she was able to finish safely and without injury despite what could’ve been a scary mistake!

In third was the legendary Jessica Lopez, the 30-year-old I assumed would retire after making history in Rio this summer, but who just keeps on going because why not? In the first round, Lopez went for bars and floor. Bars were slightly downgraded from what we saw in Rio, though she hit well, including on her tricky Maloney to clear hip full to Tkachev to Gienger and on her double front dismount, earning a 14.35.

Lopez looked lovely on floor, earning a 13.7 for a solid triple full, double pike, double full, and 2½. She easily earned a spot in the final, where she went for a beam routine. She fell there, receiving a 12.65, though still ended up in third place with a 40.7 for her three-event final score.

Swiss gymnast Caterina Barloggio was fourth with a 39.4 overall score, hitting great beam and floor routines in prelims (her beam was especially solid!), though she had a fall on bars in the final, missing her piked Jaeger for a 12.55.

The German first-year senior Carina Kröll was fifth with a 39.2, hitting a handspring front tuck half with a hop and then reaching a 13.55 for her “Hit the Road, Jack” floor routine, which had mostly low-difficulty tumbling, though it was done nicely, and she included a double Y turn to illusion turn as a bonus! Her beam was actually pretty nice, including a lovely illusion turn, but due to a fall on her mount, she earned only a 12.25 there.

Switzerland’s Ilaria Käslin was the last of those who made it to the finals, performing an FTY and a beam routine with a fall in the first round, though she made mistakes on floor in the finals for a 12.9 there and a 39.2 overall.

Angelina Kylsa of Ukraine, Victoria-Kayen Woo of Canada, and Thea Brogli missed the finals, placing seventh, eighth, and ninth respectively. Kysla had a nice FTY, but most of her landings on floor were short, and then she stumbled back her double pike to sit it out-of-bounds for the finish, getting a 26.2 total. Woo had a fall on bars and finished with a 25.65, while Brogli had mistakes on both vault and floor for a 24.5.

In the men’s field, Oleg Verniaiev ran away with the meet, earning a 60.8 for his four events even with a fall on pommels. The Ukrainian came back to hit both rings and his Dragulescu vault, however, and then the Olympic p-bars champion showed us why he got gold there, getting credit for all of his skills for the very first time, showing up the rest of the field with a 7.2 D score and a 16.15 overall in finals.

Bart Deurloo of the Netherlands was second with a 57.7 after an impressively clean vault as well as hit routines on floor and high bar in prelims and then a hit pommels routine in finals, while Verniaiev’s teammate Igor Radivilov — who recently married Kysla! — was third with a 57.05. He didn’t go for his insane triple front on vault, but got great height out of his Dragulescu, which he stuck cold for a 15.15 in prelims; in finals, though, he fell on high bar and was unable to challenge Deurloo for second.

Romania’s Marian Dragulescu was fourth with a 56.2 after a great eponymous vault of his own as well as solid work on floor for a 14.5; mistakes on p-bars held him back in prelims, and then his pommels difficulty was just far too low for him to keep up with some of the others on the event, though he did have one of the best-executed routines of the day there.

The Swiss gents Marco Rizzo and Benjamin Gischard placed fifth and sixth with scores of 55.95 and 55.6, respectively. Rizzo’s best work came on floor and rings, though he had errors on pommels and then on vault in the final round, while Gischard showed fantastic work on all three of his first-round routines, including a brilliant tsuk 2½ on vault for a 15.05, though he fell apart on pommels in the final round, earning an 11.9 after falling onto the horse midway through his routine, and then slipping a second time, coming off the apparatus shortly before his dismount.

Those who didn’t make the final included Arthur Nory of Brazil in seventh with a 42.5, Rene Cournoyer of Canada in eighth with a 42.45, Lukas Dauser of Germany in ninth with a 42.15, Nikita Ignatyev of Russia in tenth with a 41.6, and Paolo Principi of Italy in 11th with a 41.

Full results from the Memorial Gander are available here. Most of these competitors will travel to Zurich to compete in the Swiss Cup on Sunday, where a similar format will be followed, though with the men and women pairing up to create teams.

Article by Lauren Hopkins


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