Padurariu Completes Sweep in Liberec

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Ana Padurariu and Jade Chrobok with Gemini coach and 1980 Olympic AA champ Elena Davydova

After winning the all-around and team gold medals at the Olympic Hopes Cup on Friday, 14-year-old Ana Padurariu of Canada completed her sweep with four event medal wins on Saturday, taking home the golds on vault, bars, beam, and floor in what was one of her strongest competitions to date.

Beginning on vault, Padurariu hit both a Yurchenko full and the next step up Yurchenko 1½ to average a 14.35, winning the title by about two tenths ahead of teammate Victoria Jurca, who won the silver with a 14.175. Hungary’s Sara Peter then took the bronze with a 14.075, edging out Great Britain’s young talents Amelie Morgan and Taeja James, who placed fourth and fifth with scores of 13.95 and 13.75, respectively.

Hungary’s Nora Feher hit both of her vaults, placing sixth with a 13.4, and the two Czech gymnasts, Dominika Ponizilova and Lucie Jirikova, were seventh and eighth. All three of these gymnasts showed beautiful work, but had difficulty slightly lower than the top competitors here, which became the deciding factor for the podium with everyone doing an excellent job with their execution.

On bars, Padurariu was far ahead of the game with her impressive routine that featured inbar work — including an inbar piked Tkachev, a skill she “accidentally” learned when she struggled with toe-on skills — and a fantastic nearly-stuck full-in dismount for a 14.

Behind her were Jade Vella-Wright of Australia in second with a 13.45 and then Feher in third with a 13.35, both of whom hit their routines well with only minor form issues. I actually didn’t see any of Vella-Wright’s on the stream, unfortunately, but I did see Feher’s routine and was super impressed with her difficult skills, including her toe full to Maloney to pak, toe-on to van Leeuwen, and Endo to Jaeger! Feher is only 14, and yet her bar routine is more advanced than many seniors in her country, and it will only continue to get better as she advances through to the senior level.

Most of the routines in this final were done well, with Jade Chrobok placing fourth with a 12.95 (I was actually surprised to see her execution so low, at only a 7.65 despite no real major issues, but judging was tight for many routines) and Chiara Bunce of Great Britain in fifth with a 12.7. Morgan and Vendula Merkova of the Czech Republic both had falls, tying for sixth place, and Adela Merkova hit her routine, but placed eighth with a score of 12. Her set is promising, with some intricate front giant work and two releases, but she definitely struggles a bit with form and the rhythm of her swing, and thus wasn’t able to really contend even though she hit.

Padurariu, who boasts a ginormous start value on beam, was a little more tentative in her work on Saturday than she was a day earlier, and she had slight bobbles and a big stumble back on her double pike, though her side aerial + loso + loso series was incredible, and she still managed a solid score of 14.2 to safely secure her third gold of the day.

Her teammate Chrobok, who is also her club teammate, was the silver medalist, performing some equally difficult skills, including a beautiful double spin! She had only a slight bobble on her side aerial + loso combo, and earned a 13.75 for her performance. James, who fell in her all-around beam routine and yet still made the final, had a great comeback on Saturday, winning the bronze with a 13.35 after showing one of the best-executed routines, including a perfect bhs + bhs + loso series.

Vendula Merkova finished only five hundredths behind James with one of the best routines I’ve seen her do, earning a 13.3 with the highest E score on this event with an 8.1. She hit her Kochetkova, Onodi, full Y turn, bhs + loso, switch ring, full L turn, front aerial, and a 1½ dismount beautifully, though she was a tiny bit downgraded, performing the Onodi and Y turn separately rather than connecting them.

In fifth was Morgan, who hit her routine for a 13, Regina Medved of Hungary in sixth with a hit routine for a 12.6, and then two falls rounded out the bottom two, with Ponizilova earning an 11.55 for seventh and Hungary’s Csenge Bacskai earning an 11.4 for eighth.

Padurariu sealed her sweep with a 14.1 on floor, opening her routine with a solid piked full-in, and finishing things off with a stuck double pike, the perfect exclamation point on what was an incredible week. Jirikova won the silver with incredibly clean work of her own, earning a 13.55, while Morgan got the bronze with a 13.45.

There was another fourth place for Chrobok, who had a 13.3 for her hit set, Noemi Jakab of Hungary had an excellent routine to finish fifth with a 13.15 (she has a great bit of choreo where she does a back walkover into the corner before going into her run for the double full), Zoe Simmons of Great Britain hit her adorable swing routine complete with a solid punch double front to stag for a 13.1, Adela Merkova showed lovely and clean work for a 12.75, and Vella-Wright had a fall, finishing eighth with an 11.8.

Once again, the Olympic Hopes Cup showcased some of the most promising juniors who won’t reach the senior levels for another couple of years, so as good as everything was this weekend, there’s still so much time left for them to perfect skills and routines before they have to make an impression at the senior level. Some of the most successful gymnasts here in Liberec won’t reach that point until 2018 or even 2019, but they showed here little glimpses into how much they can help their countries in the future.

Full results from the Olympic Hopes Cup are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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