Perez Tops the Podium in Spain

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2016 Olympian Ana Perez added a few more national titles to her collection with her Spanish Championships all-around win in Madrid this weekend, where she also picked up the gold medals on vault and floor.

It wasn’t the best meet for Perez, who has generally been performing very well this year, coming close to a world cup all-around medal in London and making all-around finals at European Championships. But with falls on both bars and beam, Perez still managed to post her highest total of 2017 with a 53.450 thanks to a major upgrade — a DTY.

Scoring a 14.6 on vault, Perez was easily able to top the field there, with the second-best vaulters over a point behind her, making Perez a shoo-in for the all-around title even with her falls. She had one of her better performances on floor, looking clean and solid for a 13.7, and even though she did have falls on bars and beam, the field is so weak at the moment, she still ended up with the bronze medals on both thanks to a good cover-up and strong comeback.

Perez, 19, was thrilled with her win and is now going to take some time to rest and recharge before putting in the work that will go into preparing for world championships this fall.

This meet was actually all about the veterans reigning supreme, with Perez’s former worlds teammates Claudia Colom and Cintia Rodriguez placing second and third, respectively. Colom had a mostly good day aside from a struggle on bars, but she ended up with a 50.967 to come in a step ahead over Rodriguez, who reached 50.450 with her lower-difficulty vault. Rodriguez was a standout on beam and floor, though, winning the beam title with a 12.9 and earning the bronze on floor with a 12.85, while Colom got the silver medals on both of these events.

I expect these three will be the ones leading the way going into worlds, with the last spot completely up for grabs unless Spain opts to take these three as all-arounders to get a better shot at landing in the final. That’s what I’d do at this point. Though there is more talent in the mix just beyond this top group, no one has a standout event that would come close to making an event final, so they might as well capitalize on their top all-arounders.

Another solution this year could be to bring gymnasts who are a bit younger or inexperienced. Since there really isn’t anything on the line right now, this is the time to get gymnasts out there on a world stage so they can be prepared if or when the team needs them to contribute in the future, especially as next year they’ll hope to qualify a full team to worlds in 2019. We already know how much Perez, Colom, and Rodriguez can contribute to a team, and it looks like these three will continue to carry the team this quad, but that still leaves plenty of holes that this quad’s younger gymnasts will need to fill, so sending a couple of these kids to worlds this year might be ideal.

Those who rounded out the top eight at nationals could fit that category, including Paula Raya in fourth with a 50.300, Laura Bechdeju in fifth with a 49.750, first-year senior Marta Sanchez in sixth with a 48.350, Carolina Sanchez in seventh with a 47.883, and Paula Norberto in eighth with a 47.217.

Among this group, Raya actually looked pretty great aside from a minor disaster on beam. She posted the second-highest vault score and tied Rodriguez for third-best on floor while also winning the bars title with a 13.15 for her hit set. Raya, an alternate for worlds in 2015, came close to finishing on the podium this weekend and showed with four hit routines, she’d be capable of matching her teammates, so if nothing else, it’s great to see her add to the depth in Spain, which could really help in future team situations.

Bechdeju, who reached the senior level last year but was out for most of the season due to injury, looked better this weekend than she has in recent meets, despite her usual struggles with hitting beam. In a weak bars session, her 12.7 on that event ended up being the second-best score of the meet, though I wouldn’t necessarily consider the event a real standout for her. But again, it’s all about depth, and she could certainly add to Spain’s depth at some point in the future.

No one else managed especially strong scores on any event in the senior field, with Marina Plomer — ninth all-around with a 46.750 — the only other medalist, tying Raya for the silver on bars with her 13.5.

Something of interest, though, was first-year senior Denisa Florea showing up at nationals. Florea came up through Deva in Romania and placed sixth at Romanian Junior Championships last year, but she recently began living and training in Valencia with the goal of competing internationally for Spain.

She was kind of a mess here, falling multiple times across all events, competing downgraded routines and looking like she has regressed a ton since last autumn. Florea placed 15th in Madrid with just a 43.000 all-around, putting her among the weakest in the country, but I’m sure some of this has to do with all of the changes she’s faced with coaching in the past few months.

Either way, it’s an interesting switch, especially considering Olivia Cimpian has also recently defected from Deva. Hopefully Florea will get back to a solid level soon enough because she’s another one who could potentially help out in the future.

In the junior division, Emma Fernandez won the title with a 50.100 while Celia Gonzalez was the silver medalist with a 48.400 and Alba Asencio won the bronze with a 48.150.

Fernandez had a great competition, winning bars and also medaling on vault and floor, though she did count a fall on beam. Still, she seemed the most put-together among the juniors, which should bode well for her as she’s preparing to lead Spain’s European Youth Olympic Festival team next week.

Gonzalez struggled on bars and beam but hit her other two events and won the vault title, while Asencio had falls on bars but was solid on beam and floor, winning the gold medals on both.

Rounding out the top eight here were Lluna Casanova in fourth with a 47.467, Lorena Medina in fifth with a 46.700, Ines Paterna in sixth with a 46.600, Mar Palliso in seventh with a 46.533, and Carlota Rodriguez-Fischer in eighth with a 45.650. Medina won the silver medal on beam, but was too far behind on bars to contend for the all-around podium, and Paterna had the opposite problem, winning the silver on bars but falling multiple times on beam.

Most shockingly was definitely Violeta Sanchez down in 11th with a 45.000 all-around. Sanchez, a young member of last year’s European Championships team expected to compete at EYOF next week, had an abysmal meet on bars, earning just a 7.95 with multiple falls.

She did redeem herself with the silver medal on vault and the bronze on beam, so I don’t think her bars score will put her EYOF in jeopardy, especially as she’s capable of reaching nearly five points higher than that with a hit routine. Overall, she’s still a better option than most juniors at the moment, and hopefully she’ll be able to get her problem areas under control.

In addition to Fernandez and Sanchez, Andrea Carmona is on Spain’s nominative roster for EYOF, but she was absent from the competition this past weekend. I’m not sure if she’s injured or just trying to stay healthy for next week’s meet in Györ, but should she not end up being able to compete, Gonzalez and Asencio could both be worthy replacements, depending on where Spain would most need coverage.

Full results from Spanish Championships are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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