Nina Derwael, the 16-year-old from Belgium who made history by reaching her country’s highest all-around finish at the Olympic Games this summer, returned to the sport three months after her performance in Rio to win big at the Blume Memorial in Spain.
In an international field that included a handful of fellow Olympians, Derwael stood out with her excellent and solid performances on all four events, earning the top scores on all but vault in addition to nabbing the all-around win with a total of 56.15. Already known for her difficult and intricate work on bars, for which she earned a 14.5 here, Derwael also showed incredible work on beam, hitting brilliantly for a 14.45, and then put up a beautiful performance on floor, earning a 13.25 with lower-difficulty tumbling but highlighting strong execution and lovely choreography to seal the deal on her huge win, the first all-around title of her senior career.
First-year senior Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France wasn’t a big contender for her country’s Olympic team this summer, but only because she spent much of the previous year injured and didn’t come back into the mix until less than two months before the Games. Here, she showed why she would’ve been a threat had she been healthy, coming back strong from a fall on bars to still end up with the silver medal with a 54.4 after solid work on beam and floor, and posting the highest vault score with a 14.3.
2016 Olympian Seda Tutkhalyan had a pretty rough day, beginning with a near-crashed DTY for a 14.2 and sitting her bars dismount for a 13.2, though she did manage to make it through beam and floor without any major errors, earning scores of 13.7 and 13.15, respectively. Thanks to her difficulty, she finished the competition with a 54.25, good enough for bronze, though she definitely looked a bit disappointed with herself after the majority of her events. I had hoped that with the pressure of the Olympics behind her, she’d be able to get a more solid head for competition, especially as so many of the top seniors are now moving on from the sport or taking extended breaks, giving Tutkhalyan and some of the other younger kids the chance to reign over the next couple of years. She’ll be back at Elite Gym Massilia this weekend, so hopefully she has a much better time there and gets to enjoy herself a bit more.
The junior Lorette Charpy, who qualified in fourth place into the all-around at Euros this year but ultimately finished 12th after falls in finals, placed fourth with a 53.95. I only saw her floor, which looked solid, but she reportedly had great work on beam as well, and hit vault nicely, though had mistakes on bars though still finished second with a 13.25 thanks to a mostly rough field there. Charpy reaches the senior level in 2017, and should be a main contributor to the team in the wake of some recent retirements following this summer’s Olympic Games.
Hungary’s Dorina Boczogo placed fifth with a 51.6, showing her best work on vault and floor, typical for the 24-year-old two-time Olympian, while Spain’s Claudia Colom finished sixth with a 51.45 after a fall on bars, normally her best event. Her teammates followed behind her, with Ana Palacios in seventh with a 49.3, junior Marta Sanchez in eighth with a 48.6, and junior Violeta Sanchez in ninth with a 46.
At the end of the day, I was thrilled to see Derwael get the win here, if only because she along with some of her young teammates are going to be the future of the sport in Belgium as they continue competing throughout the early half of the next quad. With the recent retirements of Julie Croket and three-time Olympian Gaelle Mys, who announced the end of her career today, Derwael is now one of the most experienced seniors on the Belgian team and has so much potential going forward as both a leader and as a gymnast who can continue to create history for her country, especially as she has what it takes to make future world finals and possibly even medal podiums on bars. The consistency of her performance in Barcelona following her incredible experience at the Olympic Games is exactly what she needs going forward to make her one of Belgium’s best ever, and I’m so excited to see what else she can bring to the sport.
Full results from the Joaquim Blume Memorial are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins