This year’s Russian Junior Championships, held over the weekend in Penza, saw a dominating performance from Ksenia Klimenko, who led all-around qualifications and finals to take the overall title by two points with a combined score of 109.595.
Klimenko, last year’s espoir champion, earned scores of 54.466 and 55.129 in this year’s all-around competition, scores that would’ve gotten her the gold at last month’s senior championships. The 13-year-old from Surgut also won the titles on bars and beam, earning scores of 13.9 and 14.2, respectively, for a pair of clean routines, and she also hit in the vault and floor finals, placing fifth on vault with a 13.15 average while posting a 13.3 on floor to win the bronze.
More important than her scores was the fact that Klimenko hit all twelve routines at this competition, a huge feat considering that the senior-level gymnasts in Russia struggle most with consistency from one day to the next. She has tons of promise on beam especially, another weak spot for the Russians, so while she won’t reach the senior level until 2019, if the Rodionenkos play their cards right with her, they could finally have another reliable gymnast for team final events.
Anastasia Agafonova won the all-around silver with a combined 107.660 while Varvara Zubova won the bronze with a 105.834. Agafonova had a great performance in qualifications, hitting all four events with bars a standout, earning a 54.128 total that day while Zubova struggled on beam, her best event, missing the final.
Rounding out the top eight were Daria Belousova in fourth with a 104.332, Valeria Saifulina in fifth with a 104.034, Ksenia Kamkova in sixth with a 101.064, Alina Stepanova in seventh with a 100.428, and Vlada Kotylarova in eighth with a 100.399.
Saifulina won the vault title thanks to her improving Yurchenko double and also placed fifth with a hit routine on beam, while the floor title went to Belousova, who showed very clean and polished work for a 13.566.
Anna Subbotina, who is expected to compete for Georgia beginning this year, won the vault silver, Kamkova won the vault bronze, Viktoria Gorbatova won the bars silver and beam bronze while Agafonova flip-flopped her results, winning the bronze on bars and the silver on beam, with her beam especially lovely, and Zubova picked up the floor silver, showing clean skills and solid tumbling for a 13.4.
In the espoir division, Olga Astafyeva took the all-around gold with a combined score of 104.564 after reaching a 52.929 in qualifications and a 51.635 in the final. The 12-year-old also medaled on all four events in finals, getting the silvers on bars, beam, and floor as well as the bronze on vault.
The silver all-around medal went to Irina Komnova with a 104.425 while Elena Gerasimova picked up the bronze with a 103.934. Other top all-arounders at the espoir level were Vladislava Urazova in fourth with a 103.132, Yana Vorona in fifth with a 101.064, Arina Strukova in sixth with a 99.369, Rukhshona Azamova in seventh with a 97.934, and Anastasia Ogorelysheva in eighth with a 96.136.
Komnova won two event medals in addition to her all-around hardware, posting a 13.266 to top the bars final as well as a 13.5 to win floor, and she also got the bronze on beam, earning a 12.333. Urazova won vault with a 13.8 average in addition to placing a close fourth on floor with a 13.066, and Gerasimova put up the top score on beam with a 13.633 for her skilled performance, while also picking up the bronze on floor with a 13.133. Other medalists included Alina Shklokova with the vault silver and Strukova with the bars bronze.
The European Youth Olympic Festival, open to juniors born in 2002 and 2003, isn’t until July, but I’d say pretty confidently that Klimenko and Saifulina are locks with the potential to pull off a sweep, as Klimenko could stand out in the all-around and on every event but vault, where Saifulina will pick up the slack. Zubova will likely be the choice thanks to her experience and her ability to be a contender on beam, if she hits. Agafonova was great here, but without a standout event, it’ll be hard to justify her over one of the other three.
There’s also Angelina Simakova to consider. Simakova, 14, is probably the strongest in this group but has been dealing with injury, causing her to miss this competition after killing it to win the junior competition at the WOGA Classic in February. If she’s healthy, Simakova will be a top choice for EYOF, but I could see them wanting to hold back on sending her anywhere if she’s not fully recovered, as she is expected to help out the team a great deal in 2018.
Full results from the junior championships are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins