With the world cup all-around and apparatus competitions done for the season, we now look forward to the start of the world challenge cups, which are similar to the world apparatus cups but will not act as qualifiers to the Olympic Games.
This season’s challenge cup series kicks off in Koper, Slovenia, and the field is actually stronger than several of the earlier world cup fields we’ve seen this year, probably because gymnasts are now coming back from breaks and hiatuses as they look toward preparing for bigger international meets like world championships in the fall.
One of the biggest names we’ll see in Koper is two-time Olympian Ellie Black, who made history last summer with Canada’s best Olympic all-around finish of all-time after finishing fifth in finals. Black was hoping to come back earlier this year to compete in a couple of the world cup all-around meets, but a foot injury has held her back a bit, so this will be the first time we see Black since she competed in Rio.
Black, along with 2016 teammate Rose-Kaying Woo, is expected to compete all four events, which should be good all-around preparation as they go into Canadian Championships two weeks later. Woo, who competed every event but vault in qualifications at the Olympic Games, returned earlier this season at Elite Canada and Gymnix, and will hope to show a higher competitive level in Koper now that she’s had a few more months to train.
Larisa Iordache, who just won the bronze medal on beam at European Championships, will compete bars and beam, and the young Brazilian Olympians Rebeca Andrade and Flavia Saraiva, both of whom won medals at Jesolo earlier this month, will compete a few events apiece, with Andrade expected to be a medal threat on vault and bars while Saraiva will be fighting Iordache for gold on beam. These two will be joined by new senior Thais Fidelis, who has a huge start value on beam, and could also be in the mix for a medal there.
Other names to keep an eye on include European vault bronze medalist Boglarka Devai of Hungary, her teammate Noemi Makra (she’s still coming back from injury but will give bars and beam a try), Caitlin Rooskrantz of South Africa making her senior debut (she’s fabulous and could be a big deal for her country this quad), and the Slovenian vault queens Teja Belak and Tjasa Kysselef, both of whom competed very well in Cluj last week.
These will be just two of the 16 gymnasts host country Slovenia will send. In addition to Belak and Kysselef, the women’s field will see bars standout Ivana Kamnikar and 2008 Olympic beam standout Adela Sajn, and on the men’s side, Saso Bertoncelj, Alen Dimic, Rok Klavora, and Ziga Silc will be the big names.
Also in the men’s competition, the U.S. is actually sending a few guys, including Eddie Penev, Donothan Bailey, and Donnell Whittenburg, and Hungary’s Krisztian Berki will hope to come back strong on pommel horse after his disappointment winning silver due to a technicality at Euros. A couple of the Brazilian men should be in the medal mix, Alexander Shatilov of Israel will fight for a medal on floor, Bart Deurloo of the Netherlands will hope to impress on high bar after a rough fall in Cluj, and Jossimar Calvo of will compete on all six events, where he’s sure to be a standout.
The competition begins May 12. A full list of competitors is below.
|Francisco Barretto, Jr.
|Man Hin Jim
Kiu Chung Ng
|Ka Man Leung|
|Ahmad Abu Al Soud
Boudewijn de Vries
|Slavomir Michnak||Barbora Mokosova|
Jose Luis Fuentes