After two days of qualifications at the first world cup of the year, the women from China lead on all four events going into finals.
2016 Olympic bronze medalist Wang Yan has the lead on both vault and floor, while Olympic alternate Luo Huan is currently first on bars and Liu Tingting, who was supposed to compete in Rio until an injury sidelined her, is first on beam. In addition to their top-ranked spots, Luo is currently second on beam, while Liu is second on floor and third on bars.
In her return to competition, Wang performed nearly at peak difficulty on both of her events. She had the highest combined level of difficulty on vault with both a tsuk double and a Rudi, coming up a little short on both and landing poorly (and out-of-bounds) on the tsuk, though the Rudi landing was great, chest position aside, averaging a 14.216 to take the lead.
On floor, Wang earned a 13.433 after hitting a short double layout with a big step forward, a triple full to front tuck with a hop, a 2½ to front layout, and a double pike with her chest down and a bounce back. While her tumbling was pretty solid, I found myself most impressed with her performance quality, which has improved so much in the past year. Her routine was fun and cute, and she did a fantastic job engaging with the choreo and the crowd.
Now, the other two. Beam wasn’t perfect for either, but they proved to be beam goddesses with their new routines, both of which perfectly encapsulate everything that is going to be epic about the new code. Say it with me now: mixed connection series. I melted at these routines, both of which could’ve been Olympic medal contenders last summer had this code been in effect.
Liu has a 6.2 D score, which is tremendous, and she executed nearly all of it to perfection. She’s better on this event than she ever has been. With a punch front mount, incredible front handspring to front tuck series, switch ring to back handspring (well, they’re meant to be connected though she took a sizable pause in her qualification routine), split leap to side aerial to split jump, breathtaking front walkover to Yang Bo to Korbut, front aerial to stag, and double tuck with a hop, Liu walked away with a huge 14.666 after getting a one-tenth penalty for going overtime.
Though Luo’s routine was a bit wobblier, it was just as interesting and fabulous, including a Yang Bo to back handspring, roundoff to layout to stag jump, phenomenal front aerial to split jump to Onodi (with a big wobble on the last skill, but still, this series was drool-worthy), and a double pike with her chest down and a step back for a 14.366.
Both routines were out of this world. Everything I want in a beam routine. And the best thing is, as the quad moves forward and more programs continue to adapt beam sets to the new code, this set won’t be an anomaly. This will be the norm. Or at least it will in spirit, even if not everyone reaches Liu’s level of finesse. I’m probably naively hopeful here in wishing for creativity from every great beam worker rather than getting overdone copied trends, but I’m going to keep that hope alive for at least a little while longer. But check back with me in four years when I’m like “ugh another front aerial to split jump to Onodi!?”
Speaking of lack of creativity, Luo and Liu have nearly the same exact routine on bars, with the one difference being that Liu does her Ono half before her Ono to Healy to piked Jaeger series while Luo does hers after. Luo scored a 14.4 for hers while Liu was at 14.066 due to a few short handstands and other noticeable faults. The routines both also have a Maloney to pak, van Leeuwen, and double layout, both of which were clean and solid for both gymnasts. They’re not quite at the same level as some of the other Chinese bar workers, but both are promising.
On floor, Liu finished right behind Wang with a 13.4, landing her triple full a little crooked before going into a wonky front tuck with a hop sideways, though the rest looked good, including her double L turn, 2½, and double tuck.
Aside from the Chinese, the Australians were also out in full force, earning eight of their eligible eight finals spots with 2012 Olympian Emily Little taking the lead going into medal contention on both vault and floor. On vault, her tsuk full and DTY were both really solid, earning the highest E scores of the day to help her average a 14.133, less than a tenth behind Wang despite being at a vastly lower level of difficulty. She also finished third on floor with a 12.633, hitting a double layout, tucked full-in, front tuck through to double tuck, and a double pike, with small hops on all four. She did struggle to hit beam, but her seventh-place finish still landed her a finals spot there.
2016 national champion Rianna Mizzen had a killer outing in Melbourne. Competing only on bars, she earned a 14.1 to fit between Luo and Liu on the event, performing an incredibly difficult 6.0 routine that included a killer opening sequence: Weiler to Weiler half to Maloney to Hindorff to pak. So good. She actually had to muscle the handstand going into her first Weiler kip, which made me worry about what was to come, but she got it back under control so quickly and had no other major errors in the routine. There were some minor things here and there, like leg separation on a few skills, but she ended with a difficult toe full to full-in and the biggest grin on her face.
Newcomer Naomi Lee qualified third on vault with clean performances on her FTY and tsuk full to average a 13.183, Georgia Rose Brown had a rough outing on bars but still qualified fourth there with an 11.533, Emma Nedov hit beam with a few wobbles and a step off the mat on her double pike dismount to qualify fourth with a 13.2, and Georgia Godwin qualified sixth on floor with a 12.4.
So, China and Australia had the big outings here, but 2016 Olympic beam champion Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands was the one everyone wanted to see. Unlike the Chinese, she hasn’t really altered her beam much to fit the new code, which is understandable. She hasn’t been in the gym 24/7 since Rio thinking about what’s next. She’s still doing the side aerial to side aerial combo for her acro series, for example, though this series is no longer worth any bonus so her difficulty isn’t exactly what it could’ve been.
But she still looked fabulous, showing a break halfway through her L turn to pirouette to double spin to split leap series and low amplitude on the wolf jump full out of her back handspring mount (which was so floaty I thought I was watching it in slow motion), but otherwise looking strong, especially on her triple turn, which was absolute perfection. A 13.866 here was more than enough to finish third in qualifications, and while she’d need a lot of work to tackle the Chinese in finals, she still should finish on the podium pretty easily.
I loved seeing 23-year-old Ang Tracie back in competition, making the finals on all four events with a fourth-place finish on floor her best. Ang, a veteran of the world cup circuit who competed at worlds in 2015, had problems on vault and bars on day one, and fell on her side aerial to layout stepout beam combo on day two, but I loved watching her floor routine, which showed tons of personality and solid tumbling, especially on her nearly-stuck final pass.
New Zealand also sent a couple of young kids making their world cup debuts, a new generation replacing the last, most of whom have gone off to college, competing for NCAA programs in the United States. Caitlin Todd competed internationally for the first time here with a fourth-place finish on vault, practically sticking a handspring front tuck and landing a tsuk layout with a step back to average a 13.033, while new senior Estella Matthewson was sixth on beam with an 11.833 and fellow new senior Isabella Brett was fifth on floor with a 12.433 after hitting her double tuck, 2½, 1½ to stag jump, and double full.
With barely enough competitors to fill the eight final spots on each event, this wasn’t exactly the most competitive world cup qualification round we’ve seen. But the super high competitive level from some of the gymnasts made it worth it, as did the fact that we actually got to see some lesser-known gymnasts featured in prominent roles, gymnasts who might not even get a slight nod at larger competitions like world championships.
Article by Lauren Hopkins