Two-time Olympians Brittany Rogers and Ellie Black are bringing gold medals home to Canada following top performances on vault and beam, respectively, while Daria Spiridonova won on bars and Larisa Iordache won on floor during event finals at the Summer Universiade in Taipei.
Rogers, who qualified third into the final, managed to take advantage of mistakes from leader Maria Paseka as well as Black, both of whom had rough outings in what was probably the messiest vault final I’ve ever seen. While Rogers doesn’t really have top-notch form on either vault, she had an excellent landing on her DTY to earn a 14.5, giving her a solid lead over the rest of the tight field with a 14.25 average despite some form issues on her Lopez.
Russia’s Lilia Akhaimova also crept up the rankings, winning a surprise silver medal with a 13.983 average after placing fourth in qualifications. She got a 14.3 for her quickly-twisted DTY, on which she took a step out-of-bounds, and then performed an easier front pike half for her second vault, earning a 13.666 with some messy leg form but a mostly controlled landing, taking just a small step back.
After coming into this meet with a killer Amanar that earned a 15.0, Paseka landed her same vault in the final with super straight and locked legs, causing her to launch forward out of her landing and put her hand down on the mat for only a 13.9. It looked super painful, but she was able to continue with her Lopez, which was quite messy, with a step to the side and out-of-bounds on the landing, earning a 13.933 to average a 13.916 for bronze.
It also wasn’t Black’s best outing on vault, with her handspring front full ending up pretty piked with a deeply seated landing and a hop back to stand it up, earning a 14.341 which I actually thought was a little high. She then went for a tsuk 1½, but this one ended up being even weaker than the first, with loose form in the air before landing low with a hop forward and sideways out-of-bounds for a 13.366 to average a 13.853 for fourth.
Rounding out the field were Gabriela Janik of Poland in fifth with a 13.400, Yamilet Peña of the Dominican Republic in sixth with a 13.266, Dorien Motten of Belgium in seventh with a 13.183, and Elisabeth Geurts of the Netherlands in eighth with a 12.733.
All in this group but Janik had falls, with Janik getting a pair of 13.4s for her tsuk full and handspring tuck front full, both a bit messy. Peña hit a massive but wild DTY, looking like she just kind of throws herself at the table to see what’ll happen, a technique she also employed on her handspring front layout half, on which she took about a hundred steps backwards before crashing to her back.
Motten and Geurts came in with lower difficulty and were kind of just happy to be in the final, with neither looking too fussed over their falls. Motten actually had a pretty decent tsuk full for her second vault, though crashed her handspring layout half — which was actually basically a pike — on her back while Geurts showed a lovely Yurchenko 1½ but then landed her handspring front pike a little too far back on her heels before sitting it.
In all, there were four falls in this eight-woman final, which is kind of atrocious for something at this level, but for me watching at home sleepy and ready for bed at midnight, it certainly made things entertaining with the rankings getting a bit shaken up. Despite Rogers’ win, however, I don’t think it’ll have any impact on her worlds selection, as there’s frankly no room for her as a vaulter on the team, not with the two all-arounders and Shallon Olsen taking up the country’s three vault spots. That DTY and Lopez combo is the most popular combo this year, with at least ten gymnasts also doing it, and many at a stronger level than Rogers showed this weekend. If Rogers can bring her Mustafina back and fix some of her form, she’d make more sense than Olsen as someone who could contend on vault and bars in Montreal rather than Olsen on just vault, but based on what she did this week, it’s still pretty clear to me why she wasn’t chosen for Canada’s nominative worlds team, especially as she missed the bars final with just a 12.9 in qualifications, having yet to hit a bars set in competition all year.
Speaking of bars, this event final in contrast to vault was incredible, with hit and mostly clean routines from everyone, though the judging was super confusing and kind of ridiculous. One of the weaker routines, though, belonged to gold medalist Spiridonova, who ended up somehow pulling off the win despite a routine that was, to be frank, not all that cute. Her form has truly weakened over the past year, with her Komova II the weakest of her skills in this finals routine, though she also had short handstands, a late toe full, and a hop on her dismount, and yet somehow she earned the highest execution score by several tenths, which makes zero sense. #WorldGoldMedalistBonus
Kim Bui of Germany had her best routine of the season, though, knocking out a hop change to piked Jaeger to pak, Maloney to Bhardwaj, van Leeuwen, toe full to Gienger, and a high, stuck double tuck for a 14.066, looking cleaner than she ever has across the board. It was unfortunate to see Spiridonova take the gold over Bui, who downgraded her dismount in an attempt to reach for a higher level of execution, which she totally did, though apparently it wasn’t enough to impress the judges.
In third, Black ended up surprising over more ‘traditional’ bar workers with a huge set that included a Maloney to Hindorff, Shang, hop change to piked Jaeger, and a stuck tucked toe front half, all performed aggressively. She did have some form issues, most noticeably on some transition elements, but for someone who isn’t known for being a bar worker, she still had quite the performance here and a routine like this should help her in her all-around medal bid this fall.
I was hardcore pulling for 2016 Olympian Yuki Uchiyama to get that bronze, though. Uchiyama kicked off the bars final with a gorgeous routine, featuring an inbar to inbar full right on top of the bar, going straight into a Chow to pak before going back up to the high bar for a piked Jaeger and her full-in dismount, which she stuck with a quick step out to salute. It was a great performance and she showed lovely lines, though Black pulled off the higher ranking due to her difficulty.
Tied for fifth were Iordache and Evgeniya Shelgunova with matching D and E scores of 5.5 and 8.3. Iordache was actually leading coming into the final, but a messy routine with a couple of missed connections in the final held her back. She performed a Maloney with her legs apart into a messy clear hip half that was supposed to be a full, causing her to have to rework the sequence into her piked Jaeger. Her leg form stayed consistently rough throughout the rest of the routine, and she also fell sideways out of handstand in her giant full going into her dismount. The fact that she got an 8.3 E score while someone like Uchiyama got only 0.033 higher while Bui got a lower E score is atrocious, and a testament to how bad the bars judging and ranking was in general.
Shelgunova had her typically messy leg form and a super low Tkachev in addition to short handstands and a low double layout, again begging the question how? regarding her E score, but hey. Leah Griesser of Germany finished seventh with a lovely routine for a 13.6, while Yumika Nakamura was eighth with a 13.3, also with very nice work, though her coach got dangerously close to touching her on a few skills.
In her third event final appearance and 11th competitive event at this meet, Black finally picked up a gold medal with a pretty solid performance on beam, earning a 14.133. With her awesome switch leap to split leap to switch half opening sequence, two solid punch fronts, a layout series with a small bounce back, some cool cat leap choreo, and a double pike with a small hop, Black had minimal deductions, with her biggest issues a break on her double spin and a couple of small checks.
I was shocked — and thrilled — to see Natsumi Sasada of Japan pick up the silver with a 13.833 for an overall excellent routine. Sasada has really struggled in the past year, but she killed it all throughout Universiade, finishing fifth all-around and making two event finals. She showed a renewed sense of confidence with her roundoff back handspring mount right into her jump series, a perfect punch front tuck, a solid flight series, and a stellar double pike with a small bounce. She did end up having a fall in the floor final, but overall, it’s great to see her back at a high level, especially as the team goes into worlds and could use some extra talent backing up the current team.
Iordache won the bronze despite a fall on her ‘layout’ full, which was actually super tucked and could prove dangerous should she get it credited as a tuck when she has a tuck full later on in the routine. She was three for three with beam falls this week, which is kind of a bummer, though even with the fall and other issues in finals (a messy double spin and an underrotated triple full dismount, most noticeably) she still pulled off a 13.666 in an otherwise underwhelming beam field.
Nearly everyone else in this final hit, just not at a super high level. Shelgunova was fourth with a 13.366, Rogers was fifth with a 13.266, Asuka Teramoto of Japan was sixth with a 13.233, coming into the final as a contender for gold though unfortunately counting a fall, Adela Sajn of Slovenia was seventh with a 12.933 for a clean but easier routine, and Spiridonova was eighth with a 12.533.
On floor, Iordache got her first event gold with a 13.8 after a routine that ended up being a little crazy with a few last-minute adjustments after she accidentally competed a double full instead of her 2½ to punch front, just not showing very good air awareness, which forced her to kind of hop it back a bit, a look of surprise on her face. Quick thinking kicked in, though, and she ended up doing the 2½ to punch front as her third pass before ending with a triple full, a little underrotated.
Replacing her double pike, a D skill, with a C-valued double full meant her difficulty was a tenth lower than it should’ve been, but seriously, that was one of the better “whoops, how do I fix this?” moments I’ve seen. Had she continued after the double full with the planned triple full third pass and double pike final, she would’ve lost even more in difficulty, causing her to sacrifice the gold with Teramoto at her heels.
Teramoto ended up with the silver for her own solid set, earning a 13.766 for a difficult set that included a whip whip through to triple full, 2½ to punch front, front double full, and a double pike to finish. Some of her landings were a little iffy, as was some of her form, but as Teramoto is generally known for her prowess on bars and beam, it was great to see her show off some of that power here.
In third with her second medal of the day was Akhaimova with a 13.533, doing her double arabian to punch front out-of-bounds and taking a little stumble on her double layout, but otherwise looking decent on her double tuck and tucked full-in to finish.
Black ended up in fourth just a tenth away from the podium with the cleanest set, though one half a point less difficult than the three medalists. Behind her were Pauline Tratz of Germany in fifth with a 13.066, her teammate Griesser in sixth with a 12.833, Daria Elizarova of Russia in seventh with an 11.8, and Sasada in eighth with an 11.133, the latter two both having falls. I was most bummed about Elizarova’s fall, as she came into this final with the top floor score from qualifications where she showed an incredible set, but she was unfortunately just a little off today.
At the conclusion of the Summer Universiade, Russia and Canada came away tied for the greatest number of women’s artistic gymnastics medals at a total of five apiece, both with two golds, two silvers, and a bronze. Japan follows with four, Romania — ahem, Larisa Iordache — with three, and Germany with one.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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