After finishing less than half a tenth away from the podium in Friday’s bars final due to a fall, Liu Tingting of China came back to kill it on beam and floor a day later, winning the gold medals on both with solid, clean, and beautiful performances.
The 16-year-old, who missed out on Rio last summer due to an injury sustained only a few weeks before, looked especially incredible on beam, where her 14.466 was about a half point above the rest of the competitors. An immense 6.1 difficulty value helped her to that finish, but she was also so super tidy throughout the routine, performing multiple difficult connections with ease, completely setting her apart from the rest of the field.
I actually think her 8.366 E score was too low compared to how others with more noticeable mistakes were scored, but no matter, as she still ended up where she belonged — on top of the podium. Liu hit a powerful punch front mount, clean front handspring to front tuck acro series, a beautiful front aerial to split jump to Korbut, and a big double tuck dismount with just a step.
The only minor wobble in the routine came on her switch leap to sheep jump, but everything else was so solid and effortless, I really hope this ends up being a medal contender at worlds. I haven’t seen anything yet this year that compares to what she can do.
On floor, Liu had a narrow win to earn her second title of the day with a 13.366. Her difficulty was a bit low here, at just a 4.9, but she did most of it super well, including her triple full to punch front tuck that opens the routine. Her 2½ had a stumble forward, and she didn’t do her double spin, thus the lower difficulty than what we saw in qualifications…but otherwise, excellent work, and I have to say, she’s becoming quite the little performer, smiling big throughout the routine and even winking at the judges in her opening pose.
Second on beam was Romania’s Catalina Ponor, who had a good routine of her own and looks ready to challenge for a title at Euros in just a few short weeks. Aside from a large wobble on her layout stepout mount, she looked solid, coming back from that mistake to fight for the silver medal with a lovely switch leap to Kochetkova, Onodi to split jump to Omelianchik, front aerial to ring jump, and double pike with a small hop, earning a 13.9.
The bronze medal went to Luo Huan of China, one day after her brilliant win on bars. She had a few more noticeable errors throughout the routine, like a stumble on her layout mount and her chest down on her double pike, but she also did the most incredible series, featuring a front aerial to split jump to Onodi to split leap to wolf jump. She had a small wobble at the end of everything, but was otherwise so unbelievably fluid, I could seriously watch her do that all day.
Emily Little ended up in fourth with a 13.2, showing mostly clean work, but her level of difficulty didn’t really allow her to contend with the top three if all top three hit. Her one mistake was on her switch ¾, which had a wobble that actually took her around another half twist to steady it (new skill!), but otherwise she looked fabulous and I’ve been continuously impressed all season long with the improvements she’s making on this event.
She did come back to pick up the silver medal on floor with a 13.133, sticking her double layout and performing the rest of her tumbling nicely, putting a solid finish on her incredible world cup season. Little walks away with ten of a possible twelve medals and the overall season titles on vault and floor, a huge accomplishment, but even more impressive has been her dedication to becoming a stronger gymnast on all of her events. She honestly looks like a different gymnast in her confidence and demeanor, and now brings a new level of experience and strength to Team Australia as they hope to fight back from a weak showing last quad.
2016 Olympian Ana Derek of Croatia was fifth on beam for a hit routine, including a solid layout series, front aerial into a clean jump series, huge amplitude on her switch half, and a small hop on her tucked gainer full, earning a 12.833, but her real performance came on floor, where she had the most beautiful leaps at the start of her routine before hitting clean tumbling to earn the bronze with a 12.9.
There were definitely areas she could tidy up, like her landings, but overall it was an enthusiastic and beautifully-performed routine, and when the final floor score came up to secure her in the spot for bronze, I’m pretty sure you could hear her scream “YES!” from across the arena.
I was also impressed with Göksu Üctas Sanli of Turkey, sixth on beam with a 12.7 and fifth on floor with a 12.6, showing solid and clean work on both. Üctas Sanli was Turkey’s first ever Olympian — male or female — back in 2012. She retired shortly after the Games, got married, but then decided to come back to the sport last year and has shown a super strong start to her comeback, with great performances both here and in Baku last week.
Now 26, her routines are a little simpler than some of her competitors, with no big connections on beam but lots of well-done single elements, and some basic but incredibly clean tumbling on floor, especially on her double pike and double tuck. Turkey has a lot of potential this year, with several of last quad’s top seniors — including 2016 Olympian Tutya Yilmaz — returning, so Üctas Sanli will absolutely help them with experience and consistency as they hope to bring their program even further than they already have in the past five years.
Emma Nedov of Australia was hoping to finally medal here after making the finals but missing the podiums in Melbourne and Baku, but unfortunately she started off with a fall on her layout series, finishing with her hip angle a little too far off to the side, leaving her unable to hold on. The rest was gorgeous, though, showing beauty on her leaps and jumps and power on her punch front and strong double pike dismount, though with just a 12.433 she had to settle for seventh place.
This was a meet full of ups and downs for 2016 Olympian Zsofia Kovacs, who was fourth on vault and medaled with a fall on bars a day earlier. In the beam final, she had a big wobble on her front aerial and a fall on her bhs loso series, though she performed the rest well, finishing with a stuck double tuck for a 12.1.
On floor, she picked up another fourth-place finish with a 12.633, coming up a bit short on some of her landings, but it was great to see her bring back the double layout, and I’m sure as the season goes on, she’ll continue adding like she did here, bringing her back to a world class level on all four events.
We also got to see the Merkova twins, Vendula and Adela, on floor, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively. On their 16th birthday two days earlier, the twins qualified in the last two spots and got to meet hero Oksana Chusovitina, making it probably one of the happiest birthdays of all time.
While their difficulty was a little far behind the rest of their competitors — both compete a double tuck, double full, and front full as part of their tumbling with more of an emphasis on turn combos and lovely leaps — they both performed beautifully, with Vendula earning a 12.433 and Adela just behind her with a 12.3. It was an excellent senior debut for both, giving them a good start as they go on to lead the Czech program at Euros next month, where both have a shot at making the all-around final.
Chusovitina ended up last on floor, performing a full-in with a stumble back, a double tuck with a step, and a front full with a stumble for a 12.266. The seven-time Olympian doesn’t often compete floor, especially at apparatus meets, and in general it tends to be a weaker event for her, but as always, she seemed to have a blast out there, especially with BFF Svetlana Boginskaya at her side.
Now for the men’s competition. The vault final had tons of difficulty, but unfortunately the young and rising Australian super vaulter Christopher Remkes had a fall on his tsuk double pike, taking him out of contention for the podium as he finished sixth with a 14.233 average.
Le Thanh Tung of Vietnam, who led in qualifications, ended up getting the win with a 14.733 average after showing beautiful work on his handspring 2½ (the only issue was being a tiny bit short on the landing, with his chest pretty far down and a hop forward) and a nearly-stuck tsuk 2½.
Behind him was Artur Davtyan of Armenia with a 14.433 for silver and Heikki Saarenketo of Finland with a 14.366 for bronze. Davtyan performed a beautiful handspring 2½, but then took two steps back and out-of-bounds on his tsuk double full, while Saarenketo — who qualified seventh — was quite the surprise, showing a lovely tsuk 2½ and handspring Rudi, both excellent in the air. His difficulty was the lowest of the bunch, but he was able to more than make up for that with a brilliant performance, and it was nice to see that rewarded.
In fourth was Felix Remuta of Germany with a 14.283 for his handspring double front with a huge hop forward followed up by a stuck tsuk 2½. Ferhat Arican of Turkey was fifth with steps out on his tsuk 2½ and handspring double front, Remkes in sixth hit a strong Dragulescu but then unfortunately was just a bit too far back on his heels with the tsuk double pike and sat it down, his teammate Clay Mason Stephens was seventh with a 14.216 with a stumble on his Shewfelt and a short landing on his Yurchenko half-on layout 1½, and Marian Dragulescu finished eighth with a 13.983, getting sky-high with his eponymous vault, but then landing it with his chest so far down that his hands brushed the mat before also looking a bit rough on his Yurchenko half-on layout 1½.
Now, I don’t know much about parallel bars in terms of skills, so I am sadly not fully able to appreciate the brilliance that we got from China’s Zou Jingyuan, who has a massive 6.8 start value and hit it beautifully, winning the gold medal by nearly a point with a 15.9. He actually got a 16.166 in qualifications, which seems impossible under this code, but yes, he’s the real deal and I don’t think anyone will be able to live up to what he can do. In finals, it looked like he arched over on a single-rail skill early in his routine, but he came back from that to have a spectacular performance, capped off with a stuck double front half-out dismount.
Also on the podium were Marcel Nguyen of Germany with a 15.066 for silver and Pablo Brägger of Switzerland with a 14.8 for bronze, while Arican finished just off the podium with a 14.766 for fourth place. Both medalists had minor glitches, like wild legs on some of Nguyen’s swinging elements and a muscled element and hop on the dismount from Brägger, but overall they were a bit cleaner than Arican, who had leg separation and knee bends throughout before nearly sticking his double front half-out.
Rounding out the field, we saw Pham Phuoc Hung of Vietnam in fifth with a 14.6, his teammate Dinh Phuong Thanh in sixth with a 14.466, the baby-faced Tomas Kuzmickas of Lithuania in seventh with a 13.966, and Davtyan in eighth with a 13.9. Both Kuzmickas and Davtyan had incredibly low difficulty compared to the others in this final, but they were so clean, with Kuzmickas showing a quick and smooth rhythm throughout while Davtyan looked near-perfect, though at a 4.5 D score, he was clearly unable to challenge.
The high bar title went to Xiao Ruoteng of China, who had a 14.533 for a routine that included a ton of huge Tkachev variations right off the bat, including a Liukin, layout Tkachev, layout Tkachev half, and straddle Tkachev half before also hitting a Yamawaki and a double double layout with a small hop. There were some elements that could have been a little cleaner, but overall, this was a fabulous routine, jam-packed with non-stop skills.
I actually preferred silver medalist Tin Srbic of Croatia, however, if only because he did release elements in combination, which I feel like has been surprisingly rare this season. With a big layout Tkachev right into a straddle Tkachev half looking fabulous, he went on to hit a layout Tkachev half, a clean Endo full, and a huge floaty stuck double layout full to finish with a 14.4. His one mistake was really his stalder 1½ at the beginning of his routine, which looked pretty messy, but overall this was excellent and I was happy to see another Croatian finish on the podium.
Christian Baumann of Switzerland ended up with the bronze, performing a Kolman, layout Tkachev, and double double layout dismount with a hop for a 14.166, edging out Mitchell Morgans of Australia, who finished fourth with a 13.833 after hitting a Cassina, Kovacs, and Kolman before landing a double double layout of his own with a step.
Robert Tvorogal of Lithuania was fifth with a 13.766 after catching a ton of strong Tkachev variations, Marios Georgiou of Cyprus was sixth with a 13.5 showing strong work on his Cassina and Kolman, Christopher Jursch of Germany was seventh with a 12.9 after arching over on a jam half, forcing him to re-start his swing mid-routine, and Kuzmickas was eighth with a 12.833, hopping off after losing his rhythm following his Tkachev half, though the rest of his work was super clean, including a stuck landing on his full-twisting double layout.
So this wraps up the 2016-2017 world cup series, and the world challenge cup series picks up after Euros, with the first being held in Koper, Slovenia this May. Full results from Doha are available here, and you can also check out the recap from the first day of event finals here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins