Last quad, when the Belarusian federation opted to get passports for American gymnasts so they could qualify to the Olympic Games at a time when no actual Belarusian gymnasts were at a high enough level to make an Olympic berth happen, I hoped this incident would light a fire under the Belarusian gymnasts going forward.
The country put together a great young junior group at European Championships last year, with Hanna Traukova a real standout. The 15-year-old marked her senior debut this weekend with an all-around win, scoring a 46.470 after a mostly good day, aside from some struggles on bars.
Traukova defeated Sviatlana Lifenka, an experienced international competitor, who won the silver medal with a 44.660, and Natalia Malaeva was third with a 42.610. Surprisingly, one of last year’s standout juniors Diana Tishkovets only placed fifth with a 42.330 after low difficulty and some bars errors, and Dziyana Hramko, a new senior last year who competed at Euros, was all the way down at 11th place with a 38.520 after a disastrous performance on beam that earned only a 4.7.
In the junior all-around competition, Dziyana Kirykovich, a young member of last year’s Euros team, earned a 47.510 with no major issues, a score that would’ve given her the senior title. Aliaksandra Netsiazhenka was second with a 44.400 and Darya Matyushenko was third with a 44.020, with Netsiazhenka struggling on beam and Matyushenko making mistakes on bars.
The combined junior and senior event finals saw four different event winners, with the golds going to Lifenka on vault with a 12.512 average, Traukova on bars with an 11.7, senior Viktoria Zhuk on beam with a 12.73, and Kirykovich on floor with a 12.35.
If anything, Traukova showed here that with a hit bars set in her all-around competition, she’s capable of scoring around a 49+ which in this current code of points is pretty solid and likely to make a Euros all-around final. In addition to the bars win, she also won floor silver with a 12.33, and placed fourth on beam with an 11.63.
Kirykovich had a rather rough finals experience, falling on bars to place eighth with an 8.43 and then also falling on beam to place sixth with a 10.8. Lifenka probably had the best outing overall, winning bronze medals on beam and floor in addition to placing fourth on bars, while the junior Netsiazhenka also had some success, winning silver on bars and beam.
So even with last quad’s American-Belorusian tom foolery, it doesn’t seem that Belarus is stepping it up. Yet. If anything, we saw at this meet that there’s a good amount of potential in Traukova and Kirykovich especially, so hopefully they’ll be able to keep building on their experiences so they can hopefully qualify to the Olympic Games on their own merit in the near future.
Full results from the Valkina Memorial are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins