The first day of event finals at the Koper Challenge Cup are done and dusted, with the gold medal on vault going to Rebeca Andrade of Brazil and the gold on bars going to Larisa Iordache of Romania in what ended up being a ‘no surprises’ competition for both events.
Andrade came in with a solid lead on vault in qualifications. She competes the same vaults as silver medalist Boglarka Devai, who also recently won the bronze on vault at Euros, but Andrade’s execution really set her apart both days, though she was especially strong in finals.
First up was her Lopez, the Yurchenko half-on front layout half-off. She piked it down a tiny bit near the end, but overall it was a very strong effort, huge and gorgeous with only a small bounce on the landing, earning a 14.5. Her DTY was also fabulous, excellent in the air and flared out on the landing, though a large lunge back on the landing took a bit from her E score, getting the same as the Lopez did (9.3) for a total of 14.7.
Her average of 14.6 put her nearly half a point ahead of Devai, who was a little loose and messy on her DTY (even more apparent after seeing Andrade do it a few minutes earlier) for a 14.1, and then had a lunge back on her Lopez, though her form was cleaner in the air than it was on the double, earning a 14.2 for a 14.15 average.
Teja Belak of Slovenia, a finalist at Euros this year, won the bronze in front of a supportive home crowd. Her first vault, the handspring front layout full, was a little messier than usual with tucked knees throughout the entirety of the flight, earning a 14.25. She was a bit cleaner on the Yurchenko 1.5 for her second vault, but landed off-center with a hop forward and sideways that took her just over the line to incur an out-of-bounds penalty, earning a 13.8 to average a 14.025.
In fourth was Ellie Black, back for her first competition since making history as Canada’s best Olympic all-around finisher last summer. She hoped to come back earlier this year, but ended up rehabbing a foot injury that limited her, so yesterday’s qualifications performances were her first competitive routines in nine months. She did well enough to make the finals on all four events, with a few downgrades, though we’ll likely see her bring more of her skills back as it gets closer to worlds.
Black actually upgraded one of her vaults between qualifications and finals, bringing her first vault back up to the handspring front layout full, difficulty that helped her go from sixth yesterday to fourth today. She had a great landing there, but was super piked throughout the vault with tucked legs at the end, earning a 14.35. Her second vault was a tsuk layout half, piked with a lunge forward for a 13.1 to average 13.725.
Rounding out the field were Tijana Tkalcec of Croatia in fifth with a 13.45, Michelle Timm of Germany in sixth with a 13.4, Anastasiia Bieliaieva of Ukraine in seventh with a 13.2, and Rose-Kaying Woo of Canada in eighth with a 13.15. Among these, there was nothing incredibly good or shockingly bad.
The first three all competed a combination of FTYs and handspring front pike half-outs, and all were pretty similar in terms of form. Woo also performed an FTY, but her second vault was only the front pike without a half, putting her at a difficulty disadvantage compared to the rest.
Like Andrade, Iordache also led her field in qualifications, and performed a similar-quality routine today to finish first once again, with a 13.8 total. Her routine was one of the cleanest of the bunch, with only minor form issues throughout and a small hop on her toe full to full-in dismount. The Maloney to clear hip to Tkachev to pak was performed especially well, and while she’s not a natural on this event, her hard work has been clear so far this season with this routine basically a gift to Romanian bars.
Thanks to her difficulty, Black pulled off the silver medal, tying Iordache’s 13.8, though her execution was about half a point behind Iordache, causing her to lose the tie break. In the end, the ranking was correct; Iordache was much cleaner than Black, who had major mistakes on a couple of her elements, like a fully straddled pak and missing a foot on her van Leeuwen.
She got through some pretty big skills and connections, though, including a Maloney to Hindorff and a Shang, which had form issues but were performed with confidence. She also downgraded her dismount from her usual Moors to just a tucked toe-front half. Thanks to the dismount requirement disappearing in the code, it’s now fine for her to simplify things, but I’d imagine if she wants her routine to be even more competitive, she’ll bring the layout back eventually.
Flavia Saraiva of Brazil ended up in third place for a solid set that included a toe full to Tkachev, piked Tkachev to pak, and double front dismount with a lunge forward, earning a 13.45. It was a narrow win ahead of the Slovakian gymnast Barbora Mokosova in fourth with a 13.4. I believe Mokosova was a tiny bit cleaner and more fluid on bars (there’s something clunky about Saraiva’s swing and general style whereas Mokosova is a little more smooth), but it honestly could’ve gone either way. Mokosova had a standout connection series with a pak to stalder to Maloney to bail to toe full to Ray, but she looked frustrated when hopping back her double pike dismount, which ultimately cost her the medal.
In fifth place was the new senior Caitlin Rooskrantz of South Africa, a kid who has the talent and skills to finally get her country back to the Olympic Games. She has a pretty solid routine here, with a Maloney to pak, van Leeuwen, piked Jaeger, hop change to straddle Jaeger, and hop change to layout 2.5 dismount, though some of her form throughout just needs to be cleaned up a bit, and in today’s competition, she also finished the hop change into the Jaeger quite a bit late, taking her out of the medals race with a 13.15 finish. But either way, it was an improvement from her qualifications performance, and she was smiley and happy after she finished.
Woo, in her second final of the day like her teammate, finished sixth with a 12.95 and Yana Fedorova of Ukraine finished seventh with a 12.55, both with hit but slightly messy and easy routines (Fedorova had only a layout dismount), while Timm — also in her second final — finished eighth with an 11.6 after arching over her clear hip full and hopping off.
On the men’s side, the U.S. guys — Eddie Penev and Donnell Whittenburg — finished first and second, respectively, on floor with scores of 14.4 and 14.3, while Bram Verhofstad of the Netherlands won the bronze with a 13.9, getting the medal on a tie-break win over Brazil’s Arthur Zanetti.
Hometown favorite Saso Bertoncelj of Slovenia upset Hungary’s Krisztian Berki on pommel horse, with Bertoncelj getting the gold with a 14.9 while Berki got a 14.6 for bronze after competing a lower level of difficulty than we’re used to seeing from him (I didn’t see the routine, so I’m not sure what went wrong, but he was awarded only a 5.8). Between these two was Zoltan Kallai with a 14.7 for the silver medal.
Finally, on rings, Whittenburg surprisingly finished off the podium with a 14.2 for fourth place while the podium included Zanetti with a 14.85 for gold, Marco Lodadio of Italy with a 14.55 for silver, and Kiu Chung Ng of Hong Kong with a 14.4 for bronze.
Event finals wrap up tomorrow, with beam going to be especially exciting as Iordache and Saraiva go head-to-head with huge routines. They’ll also see heavy competition from Thais Fidelis if she hits, and if Black brings back some of her difficulty, she too could fight for a spot on the podium. On floor, Saraiva and Fidelis will be the clear standouts, though again Black also has potential to challenge, as does Germany’s Carina Kröll, the floor champion at Cottbus in November.
Full results are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins