Kysla Nabs First Mexican Open Title

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Angelina Kysla, the Ukrainian who qualified in 47th place at the Olympic Games this summer, hasn’t had much time off this year. The 25-year-old married Olympic teammate Igor Radivilov once the Games were over, and then immediately got back to training and competing, making her return to the sport at the Arthur Gander Memorial earlier this month.

Since returning, Kysla has competed in four meets, winning the Swiss Cup mixed pairs competition with teammate Oleg Verniaiev, getting the bronze medal on bars at the Cottbus World Cup, and then, this weekend, posting a personal best 54.4 to win the all-around title at the Mexican Open, her first all-around competition since Rio.

Kysla has been a regular at the Mexican Open this quad, competing every year since 2013, where she placed fifth all-around but won a blinged-out $10,000 GK leo as a reward for her artistry and elegance at the meet. She was fifth again in 2014 and then placed fourth in 2015, slowly climbing the ladder before reaching the top spot on the podium this weekend.

The meet, spread out over two days with vault and bars on the first and beam and floor on the second, was a great one for Kysla. Wearing the golden leo she won three years earlier, Kysla looked fantastic with only a few bobbles and hiccups, earning the second-highest scores on every event across the board on her way to all-around gold.

On vault, her FTY was crisp, flawless, and nearly stuck, earning a 13.975, and though she took an empty swing after her Maloney on bars, she covered it up well, finishing with a pak, toe-on to van Leeuwen, front giant full to Jaeger, and a double front with a step back for a 13.25.

Kysa’s beam is super ambitious, and though she wobbled throughout on most of her big skills, she was good to stay on, an issue that plagued nearly every other competitor on this event. She ultimately earned a 13.125 for a routine that included a switch to back tuck, front aerial to front aerial flight series (which she actually Mustafina-ed in warm-ups, botching the second aerial to land on her hands and then hop off, though it looked much better in competition), split leap to side somi, and a double pike dismount, landed a bit short with a step forward.

Finishing up on floor, Kysla had a killer routine, featuring a whip whip through to double tuck, a 1½ through to 2½, and a double pike stuck cold to seal the win with a 14.05.

Her closest competitor was Carolyne Pedro, the 16-year-old Brazilian Olympic team alternate who placed second at Brazilian nationals a couple of weeks before her performance here. Pedro also had a clean FTY on vault and a lovely and promising bar routine, earning the top score of 13.9 for her toe full to Maloney to bail to stalder to Ray, Jaeger, and double front with a small hop.

On beam, she unfortunately had a fall on her tentative switch to back tuck, but she hit the rest well, including a tour jete, bhs loso, Y turn, front aerial into her jump series, and a stuck, albeit cowboyed, double tuck dismount, earning a 12.525. She came back nicely on floor, however, earning a 13.65 after hitting a double arabian, 2½ to punch front, double tuck (again with the second flip cowboyed, though the landing was strong), and a double pike with a step back to finish.

Everyone’s favorite “never gonna quit” superstar Oksana Chusovitina was the bronze medalist here with a 52.225 after some watered-down routines and a fall on beam. Chusovitina has been getting around following her seventh Olympic Games this summer, helping out the Japanese club Asahi Seimei at a couple of All-Japan meets in addition to giving a boost to the third-league German club Herkenrath, placing first all-around in the second Bundesliga competition in October.

Chusovitina was coachless at this competition, getting by with some help from Pedro’s coach Iryna Ilyashenko, Kysla’s coach Inna Korobchinskaya, and fellow 2016 Olympian Catalina Ponor, who didn’t compete on the first day and instead spotted Chusovitina on vault and bars (that’s her in the purple in this video). On vault, Chusovitina went for a tsuk full with solid form for a 14.25, and while her bars were simple with no real releases, she hit them well enough, earning a 12.15 for a routine capped off with a full-out, a skill that bears her name in the code of points.

Unfortunately, Chusovitina had a fall on her layout series on beam, earning a 12.475, though the rest of the routine looked strong, especially on her awesome punch front pike mount and solid double tuck dismount. On floor, she brought it home with a full-in, front full, and nearly-stuck double tuck for a 13.35 to wind up in third place all-around.

Beyond the top three, the competition was sadly a bit rough. I was really looking forward to the young Italian gymnast Giada Grisetti, who was a standout junior in Switzerland but then opted to change her nationality so she could follow her coach to Italy. The tall 16-year-old has gorgeous lines and skills that really set her apart on both bars and beam, and her warm-ups on both were beautiful, though unfortunately she was plagued by mistakes in Mexico, placing fourth but with only a 49.775.

She got started earning a 13.7 for her slightly piked FTY on vault, but then counted two falls on bars when she made uncharacteristic mistakes. Her hand slipped on her normally perfect Maloney, and though she tried to fight back, she eventually hopped off to chalk up again. When she repeated the skill, it was perfect, and she performed it nicely into a bail to stalder full to Ray. Her Tkachev was a little low, causing her swing to be a little off, and she once again hopped off the high bar. She finished up with an inbar half to Endo half to double front, but was only able to bring in an 11.05 with the errors.

Beam is another event where Grisetti can show off beautiful lines, but she unfortunately couldn’t hold on to her layout stepout series, landing it a bit off-line to fall early in her routine. She followed it up with a full Y turn, front aerial with a wobble into her jump series, a lovely Onodi, and a side aerial to sissone to ring leap. I think she’s supposed to link the Onodi into the side aerial making that series even more impressive, but a slight balance check caused her to play it safe. She finished up with a clean double full dismount and a 12.6 total, and then wrapped things up on floor, earning a 12.425 after hitting a triple full to start and a double full to end, though she sat her middle pass — a double tuck — to walk away from this meet with four falls in total.

The first-year senior Victoria Mata of Mexico has pretty much zero international experience and very low difficulty, but she didn’t let that stop her from enjoying herself on what was often a super tense competition floor. Mata, who was fifth with a 48.4, had a couple of falls on beam, but otherwise looked to be a strong mental competitor, and she even had the best save of the night when both feet slipped on her switch leap at the start of her routine.

Her strongest performance came on floor, where she earned a 13.15 after hitting a near-stuck tucked full-in, a clean double full, and a stuck double alongside some of the loveliest leaps in the competition. She has a lot of promise, and will hopefully be a gymnast who continues to grow and contribute to international teams as she gets older.

We were also supposed to see 17-year-old Nora Fernandez of Spain contend in the all-around, though the former worlds competitor had a nasty fall on her beam dismount on what was an otherwise excellent routine. Her foot slipped going into her double pike, and she landed it right on her head, which was terrifying to witness. Thankfully, she stood up on her own, and after getting a preliminary check-up, came back into the arena to watch the rest of the rotation, though she did have to withdraw from the remainder of the competition.

The big non-all-around competitor here was Ponor, making her return to the sport after competing in her third Olympic Games this summer. With no vault or bars, Ponor had the first day pretty free, and in addition to spotting Chusovitina on her events, she was one of the loudest cheering sections for all competitors, which was fun to see.

But when she came back the following day, she had nothing but the competition on her brain, and she seriously looked better than she did in Rio, earning a 15.1 for her fantastic beam set and a 14.3 on floor, winning the gold medals on both in addition to taking home the fancy GK leo as an artistry award.

On beam, Ponor worked a 6.1 D score with ease, hitting a switch ring, Onodi to front aerial, layout series with a slight bobble, the always impressive switch to Omelianchik, and a superb double pike dismount with just a small step back. The 29-year-old was equally explosive on floor, opening up with a killer whip whip through to piked full-in before nailing a triple full (only slightly under-rotated) and a sky-high double pike.

It was awesome to see her back in action, and she seems insanely serious about going forward into the next quad. I didn’t expect to see more than just exhibition-style routines here, but instead we got routines that are way more high-caliber than most other post-Olympic sets, and we got Ponor’s old kickass confidence to match. She seemed to lack this under the stress of her comeback earlier this year, which included a sad test event performance followed by a lackluster Olympic Games, but now that the pressure is gone, she’s having a blast on that floor and it’s so much fun to watch.

The final competitor at this meet was Miriana Almeida, the 18-year-old 2014 worlds alternate who spent most of the past two years out with injury. Competing all events but bars, this was Almeida’s first appearance back on an international stage since last May, and it was a great one, with a 13.925 on vault for a slightly messy but hit handspring front pike half, a 12.95 on beam, and a well-deserved 13.65 on floor, the third-highest score there after she nailed her double layout, front full, and double tuck, almost stuck.

I ended up at the Mexican Open on a whim after my vacation to Nicaragua got shut down when the coast got slammed with a simultaneous earthquake and hurricane (I know, right?). As fate would have it, Mexico City just happened to be my layover city en route to Managua, and so I stayed put, only to realize that I was there exactly when the Mexican Open would take place. My first non-gymnastics trip in almost two years magically became a gymnastics trip, and I’m so happy it did. The venue was awesome, the competitors were superb, and I met a few gym fans who follow the site and were so enthusiastic about sharing their favorites in the sport.

I took lots of videos of the meet, which you can watch on my YouTube playlist, and full results are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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