Kovacs Ready to Take On Euros

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At this weekend’s Elek Matolay Memorial invitational in Hungary, 2016 Olympian Zsofia Kovacs showed big skills and confident rcoutines, an important last step in her quest to earn a medal at this month’s European Championships.

Kovacs, who also turned 17 over the weekend, possibly looks even better than she did in Rio last summer, With a high, clean Yurchenko double, incredible and impressive connections on bars, and two hit routines on her weaker events, beam and floor, Kovacs managed a 56.202 in the all-around this weekend, one of the highest of her career thus far.

It was an easy all-around win for Kovacs, who also won the gold medals on every event but floor, which she didn’t compete. In finals she showed another clean Yurchenko double alongside a solid tsuk full for a 14.133 average, a bars set almost as good as the one she performed in the all-around competition, and one of her most solid beam sets, an event where she tends to struggle with hitting her connections and getting all of her skills credited, though right now she looks capable of handling it.

Kovacs will go up against some of the strongest all-arounders in Europe in neighboring Romania a couple of weeks from now, including Great Britain’s Ellie Downie and Russia’s Angelina Melnikova and Elena Eremina. If she medals, she’ll be Hungary’s first in two decades, making this one of the most important competitions of her life. But based on what she did this weekend, Kovacs is ready for it.

In second all-around was Barbora Mokosova of Slovakia, who is hoping to make the all-around final in Cluj. Mokosova reached a 52.768 total this weekend, hitting all four events well before going on to win the gold on floor as well as the silvers on bars and beam. Mokosova, 20, represented her country at the Olympics last summer and hopes to make it happen again this quad. This was only her second competition since Rio, but she absolutely looks ready to put up a strong performance at Euros this month.

Hungarian junior Nora Feher was the bronze all-around medalist, earning a 50.768 to out-perform several of Hungary’s Euros-bound seniors. Feher, who is limited by injury at the moment, is still a bit watered-down in some of her difficulty and I believe her injury is also affecting her performance on bars, but that aside she’s looking good in her final year as a junior, and once she’s healthy she’ll be a tremendous resource for the Hungarian team in the coming years.

In addition to her all-around bronze, Feher also won bronze medals on bars and beam while placing fourth on vault, though a fall in the floor final put her in last place on that event, where she was also a medal favorite.

Rounding out the category one all-around field, which included seniors as well as top juniors who reach the senior level next year, were Hungarians Boglarka Devai in fourth with a 50.402, Sara Peter in fifth with a 49.502, Noemi Jakab in sixth with a 49.402, and Dalia Al-Salty in seventh with a 48.635, while British-born Slovakian junior Chiara Bunce was eighth with a 47.636.

Among these, Devai is a standout on vault, getting the silver medal on the event behind Kovacs with her Yurchenko double and a Lopez, both of which could use a little bit of form work, but she shows a ton of power that could make her a medal hopeful in Cluj. Mistakes in other finals led to finishes off the podium, but vault is why she’ll be going to Cluj, and she looks solid and confident there.

Peter, a junior, had a very strong performance, tying Mokosova for the floor gold with a 12.834 while also winning the bronze on vault. She struggled through bars in her all-around performance, but the rest of her events showed great promise, especially with her clean (and upgradeable!) Yurchenko full on vault.

Veterans Dorina Böczögö and Noemi Makra both competed in this division as well, with Böczögö on all but vault while Makra competed vault and beam. Neither was really up to standard here, though both showed decent enough work on beam, and could continue to be of help there should the team need it in the future.

In the second category, Hungarian juniors Csenge Bacskay, Zoja Szekely, and Bianka Schermann led the field to sweep the all-around podium with scores of 49.801, 49.668, and 49.501, respectively. All three offer tremendous potential, with Bacskay an excellent vaulter and tumbler, while Szekely is working hard to build a strong bars routine and Schermann is a generally competent all-arounder, though she struggled a bit on beam in this competition.

Schermann came back to win the vault and bars titles while Bacskay won beam and tied for gold on floor despite her fall, her difficulty helping her out in an otherwise weak field. The two who tied her there were the Slovakian juniors Kristina Pychova and Lucia Simonidesova, who finished fifth and seventh in the all-around, respectively, while Hungarians Zsuzsanna Purguly and Hanna Szujo were fourth and sixth, and Slovakian Sara Dydi was eighth.

The third category gymnasts were mostly those at the espoir level, and featured another Hungarian sweep as Nikolett Szilagy won gold with a 45.168, Flora Beke won silver with a 44.035, and Roxana Sandor won bronze with a 42.901.

Rounding out the top eight were Slovakians Margareta Gondova and Lara Palinkasova in fourth and fifth, Nora Peresztegi of Hungary in sixth, Charlize Mörz in seventh, and Maja Borbas of Hungary in eighth. Gondova won the vault and bars titles, while Palinkasova won beam and Anna Szmirnov, who finished ninth all-around, got the title on floor.

Full results from the Elek Matolay Memorial are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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