15-year-old Thais Fidelis of Brazil had a great conclusion to her European trip this weekend, finishing with the gold medals on beam and floor at the Osijek Challenge Cup event finals.
Fidelis, the 2016 Brazilian junior all-around champion, has some extraordinary skills on both of her best events, but so far in her senior career, she’s struggled with hitting them consistently. With mistakes keeping her out of the finals at Jesolo in April and three more falls in Koper last week, she’s been unable to show what she can truly do, though in Osijek she got closer to that level.
It wasn’t a perfect meet for her. In fact, she qualified last into the beam final due to a fall, and her gold medal-winning routine in finals came with wobbles on her back handspring to arabian, switch to switch half, and switch ring. This was the first time this year she didn’t fall, though, and despite the mistakes, some of her other skills — her triple series, front aerial to jumps, and punch front — were solid, getting her to a 13.467. Sometimes one hit routine is all it takes to boost confidence, so mistakes aside, this was a big victory for her and hopefully going forward, she’ll be able to build on this and get even better.
Her floor in Osijek was incredible. She’s been a bit more consistent here, but her performance in Osijek was one of the better floor routines I’ve seen this year, with some minor bounces on landings her only issues. Her 1½ through to double arabian had a step forward out-of-bounds, she hit her whip to triple with a little bounce, stuck her double tuck, and had a small bounce back on her double pike, earning a 13.733 to win in what was actually a pretty strong final.
Her teammate, 2016 Olympian Flavia Saraiva, also had a good meet in Osijek, getting some major redemption after her terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day in Koper last week, where she fell on her choreography on beam and then busted her ankle on a new pass in the floor final, missing out on what could’ve been gold medals for both.
In Osijek, she placed fifth on bars with a 12.8 for a mostly hit routine aside from a late turn out of her pak that caused her to kip cast out of it rather than go straight into her toe shoot, though the rest was great and she continues to show some major improvements on what has generally been her weakest event.
Like Fidelis, she’s struggled to stay on the beam this year, falling on both routines in Koper and then also missing in qualifications here, but in finals she stayed on to win the bronze with a 12.933, wobbling on several of her skills (including her layout series and punch front) and nearly falling on her back handspring mount, though she got the control back pretty quickly and continued with a good enough routine.
Her floor was her best event, earning the silver with a 13.633, just a tenth behind Fidelis. Her piked full-in was insanely good, and she hit her 1½ to front full, whip to double tuck, and double pike cleanly, with only some bounces on the landings.
The Russians also had a mostly good time in Osijek, with Anastasia Iliankova winning the gold on bars and silver on beam, Lilia Akhaimova winning floor bronze, and Evgeniya Shelgunova not medaling, but performing relatively well on bars and floor.
Iliankova wasn’t at her very best on bars in finals, but a ‘weak’ routine for her was still stronger than pretty much everyone else, with only some random form errors holding her back from a score higher than a 14.2. Iliankova’s uniquely-constructed routine is one of my favorites, but her inbar to Hindorff to pak connection was marred by a messy pak, and she had a few other little mistakes in the interior, though left a lasting good impression with a stuck full-out.
Her beam earned the silver with a 13.333 with various deductions throughout, including a layout that was literally a pike, some big wobbles, and a short illusion turn, though the beam rotation overall wasn’t cute, so her mistakes weren’t much compared to what we saw in other routines.
Akhaimova started her weekend with hit vaults, though her lower difficulty didn’t give her a shot at the podium, and she finished fifth with a 13.667 average. On floor, she ended up winning the bronze with a weak beginning, stepping back on her double layout and stumbling a bit on her piked full-in, but the second half of her routine was fabulous, including a stuck double arabian and a stuck tucked full-in. I’ve always loved that she is basically the opposite of Russian on this event, and now that the country is lacking in depth, with more routines like this we might actually see her begin to make major teams thanks to what she can do here.
Poor Shelgunova walked away with no medals, placing fourth on bars, eighth on beam, and fifth on floor. I think she beat herself up a little, based on some comments she made on social media, but she’s continuing to show big improvements on bars and her floor performance was actually quite spectacular. Her form will always hold her back from making podiums, but accomplishments can’t always be measured by medal count, and I think various issues aside, she has lots to be happy about.
Except beam. Like Saraiva last week, Shelgunova had a hilarious beam fall, hitting her layout stepout mount and subsequent side aerial + layout stepout + layout stepout series somewhat easily, but then falling on a punch front. She shook it off and climbed back on only to fall a second time…on her choreo. I don’t think I’ve seen something like that at an elite competition before, and here we are with two choreo falls in the same week. #blessed
But as for the good, aside from leg form issues and low releases on bars, she hit some great handstands and stuck her double layout in what was probably the best set I’ve seen from her. And on floor, she showed an unmatched level of artistry in addition to some decent tumbles, especially on her opening double layout. So good for her.
Hungary continues its rise as one of Europe’s best thanks to Boglarka Devai, who won vault gold, and Zsofia Kovacs, who got the silver medals on vault and bars. Devai showed a huge DTY with some loose leg form and a hop back for a 14.467, and then a nicely-executed Lopez with a step back for a 14.133 to average a 14.3, while Kovacs averaged a 14.034 for her beautiful DTY and tsuk full, which came up a little short on the landing.
On bars, I actually thought Kovacs should’ve gotten gold over Iliankova. Kovacs was much cleaner, hitting her toe on to toe full to Maloney to pak to van Leeuwen beautifully in addition to catching her toe half to piked Jaeger and landing her full-in well for a 14.133, less than a tenth behind Iliankova. Despite Iliankova’s more noticeable mistakes, Kovacs was only 0.033 higher in execution, so I’m guessing it was Iliankova’s stuck dismount that really stood out in the judges’ minds whereas Kovacs had a step on the landing. But overall, Kovacs had the better routine of the two, so this was the one ranking I didn’t agree with at this meet.
Kovacs also qualified first into the beam final, but only earned a 12.433 for sixth after missing her front aerial to switch side combo and then falling on her side somi, though the rest was fantastic, including her flight series and nearly-stuck double tuck.
Kysselef was actually a bit of a surprise, as her teammate Teja Belak was expected to fight for gold, and yet she landed both of her blind vaults — a handspring front layout full and a Yurchenko 1½ — short on her heels, sitting them both to place last with a 12.95. Kysselef ended up averaging a 13.933, with her form messy in the air on both her handspring front tuck full and her Yurchenko 1½, though her landings were great.
Janik was also a bit of a surprise, coming in with one of the stronger D scores, but generally hindered by her form. She did have some messy bits, but overall this was a fabulous routine (probably her best I’ve seen!), with a Maloney to bail to toe full to Ray, giant full to Gienger, a great handstand before her toe on to Tkachev, and a double front landed low with a hop, earning a 13.4.
The Croatian vaulters, Tijana Tkalcec and Ema Kajic, both performed well on their event to finish sixth and seventh in front of a supportive home crowd, while their teammate, 2016 Olympian Ana Derek, placed sixth on floor with a 12.533 with a hit, but not super solid routine.
New senior Ioana Crisan of Romania made it to every final she attempted, hitting all three to place sixth with a 12.433 on bars, fourth with a 12.633 on beam, and seventh with a 12.467 on floor, while her teammate Maria Holbura finished eighth on bars for a hit but messy set, where she competed only a flyaway dismount.
Slovakia’s Barbora Mokosova, who won bronze on floor in Koper last week, ended up seventh on bars with a fall out of her toe full and fifth on beam with a 12.467. New senior Diana Varinska of Ukraine missed out on the bars final, but made beam and floor, finishing seventh on beam after falling on her flight series and nearly falling again on her split leap to side aerial, though she actually had a great floor performance, ending up fourth with a 12.9 after hitting a 1½ through to double tuck, 2½ to front tuck, and double full. Finally, Marlies Männersdorfer, a surprise in the floor final, placed eighth on that event with an 11.733 after stumbling forward on her opening double tuck.
As for the men, Kirill Propopev of Russia won floor with a 14.767 after mostly good tumbling runs, including a front 2½, double double, and front full to front double full, though his flares alone got the gold medal from me. They were beautiful. He was followed by Artem Dolgopyat of Israel with a 14.7 for silver, showing mostly super clean tumbling and a stuck double double, and Krisztian Boncser of Hungary with a 14.133 for bronze.
The pommel horse final was a dumpster fire, but 17-year-old Rhys McClenaghan of Ireland made everything worth it, looking beautiful and clean for a 14.267 to win gold by a huge margin ahead of hometown boys Robert Seligman in second with a 13.567 and Matija Baron in third with a 13.533. On rings, Arthur Zanetti was a clear favorite, earning a 14.9 for gold over Nikita Simonov of Russia with a 14.4 for silver and Eyal Glazer of Israel with a 14.233 for bronze. Zanetti went last, and when the camera panned to the top three in the standings watching him finish, they all kind of sadly nodded, knowing they were about to get bumped down a spot each because Zanetti was so clearly the best of the bunch.
Audrys Nin Reyes of the Dominican Republic was the vault gold medalist with a 14.484 average for his super cowboyed but stuck Dragulescu and clean tsuk 2½, while Ilya Yakauleu of Belarus won the silver with a 14.2 for his handspring 2½ and tsuk 2½ and Israel’s Andrey Medvedev got bronze with a 14.134 after sitting his handspring double front pike but showing a beautiful tsuk double pike.
Finland’s Heikki Saarenketo was just one one-thousandth behind Medvedev with a 14.133, and I’m still in a rage about this, because Medvedev got the higher ranking with a fall while Saarenketo’s two vaults — a tsuk 2½ and a handspring Rudi — were easier but one million percent cleaner. Normally I don’t get super bent out of shape about winning with falls when the scores are far enough apart to justify it, but this was as close as it could possibly be, and Saarenketo absolutely should’ve gotten the bronze over Medvedev.
The parallel bars final saw Jossimar Calvo of Colombia narrowly get gold ahead of Sergei Eltcov of Russia, 14.767 to 14.7, while Jose Fuentes of Venezuela got bronze with a 14.167. And on high bar, local dude Tin Srbic won with a 14.367, performing a cool layout Tkachev to straddle Tkachev half combo and a nearly-stuck full-twisting double layout. Bart Deurloo of the Netherlands had a great routine, sticking his double-twisting double layout, but he basically caught his Cassina on his elbow, which definitely held him back a bit, and he ended up with silver earning a 14.333, and Eltcov got his second medal of the meet on this event, earning a 14.1 for bronze after being late on a few pirouettes, but showing a lovely one-arm swing and strong work on his Cassina, layout Kovacs, Kolman, Kovacs, and double-twisting double layout with a step.
Full results from the competition are available here. After a full season of world cups and challenge cups, we now have a break for a few months, with the next challenge cup to be held in Szombathely, Hungary in about three months.
Article by Lauren Hopkins