After a close competition in yesterday’s qualifications, 2016 Olympic silver medalist and 2017 European floor champion Angelina Melnikova defeated first-year senior Elena Eremina for the Russian Cup all-around title in Ekaterinburg today.
Melnikova made it through her second straight day with no falls or major mistakes, earning a 57.650 to top the podium. The 17-year-old earned a 14.325 for her mostly clean DTY with a large hop back, a 14.825 on bars with only minor issues throughout her difficult set, a 14.075 on beam with a couple of wobbles throughout (I actually thought this routine was better than her qualification routine despite it scoring lower), and a 14.425 on floor, where she stumbled out of bounds on her opening double arabian and out of her Memmel to full turn series in addition to bouncing out of every landing (conversely, I thought this routine was weaker than her day one routine and yet it outscored it by half a point).
Again, with Melnikova, it was more about seeing her kill it here than about any of her scores. After the rough start she got this season, watching her go eight-for-eight is kind of remarkable. After a growth spurt, some of her form has definitely deteriorated slightly compared to her early years in the sport, but she’s no longer letting that affect her confidence, which is incredible to see…and I think her form will slowly return to what it once was. Seriously, earlier this year, she looked totally done. That combo of winning a gold medal at Euros and then getting some time off to focus on training was super helpful in terms of bringing out the old Melnikova, and she looks so much happier now as well.
16-year-old Eremina went for her DTY on vault today, and while it started out looking clean, she didn’t get much of a block off the table at all and kind of lost her way during the second twist, crashing it about a quarter short for a 12.85. On bars, Eremina earned a 14.7 after changing things up a bit, competing a Nabieva to Pak and then taking a second to kip cast before going into a van Leeuwen, whereas in qualifications she did the Nabieva to Pak right into a Chow. Her layout Jaeger was a little less piked than it was yesterday, but some of her handstands were more muscled and didn’t quite reach vertical, so I’m guessing the drop in difficulty and overall performance quality was just because she was tired or something.
Eremina was about as good as she gets on beam, earning a 14.3 for a steady routine with no major mistakes, and she got a 14.25 on floor, going back to her tucked full-in instead of doing the double layout she debuted yesterday, more evidence supporting my theory that they’re just trying to hold off on pushing too much difficulty day after day. The opening skill was solid, though, as was the 1½ through to 2½ to punch front tuck and the triple full, and her total score of 56.100 was still excellent considering the fall and the downgrades.
Now get ready for some fangirling because my darling Maria Kharenkova again killed it on beam and floor, helping her to a 55.475 all-around to win the bronze medal after an especially insane 15.15 on beam, the highest score of the meet. She’s held back from being competitive against Eremina and Melnikova due to only an FTY vault and a weak bars set, where she got a 12.55 for a routine with quite a few form errors and super short handstands on more basic skills, though she got through it well today, capping it off with a stuck double pike dismount.
But beam was phenomenal. The 15.15 is probably a bit high, but hey, I don’t even care. Kharenkova nailed her punch front tuck, layout series with a step back, split leap to front aerial to ring jump, side aerial to switch leap to split jump, switch ring, ring leap, and double pike dismount with just a small step, and I will fully admit to crying while watching it. I just love watching kids who at one point seemed done end up coming back and looking fantastic, which is also how she looked on floor, earning a 14.125 with a double layout, whip whip through to 2½ to punch front bounced out of bounds, and two sky-high double backs, one tucked and the other piked.
She is fabulous right now, period. I’m really pulling so hard for a team that includes her over Maria Paseka, even though I know Paseka will almost assuredly end up going, but as much as I love Anastasia Iliankova‘s bars, Eremina and Melnikova both have bars sets that could realistically make the final, whereas Kharenkova would be pretty much their only medal shot on beam, and could contend with Melnikova for a medal on floor. Why can’t the teams have five people this year?!
Either way, no matter what happens with Kharenkova, she threw a huge wrench into the team puzzle this year, coming into this meet as someone who hadn’t competed in over a year and who wasn’t even on Valentina Rodionenko’s radar and then completely turning the tables as a gymnast who could legitimately medal at worlds. If she does end up getting left behind for Montreal, she should still be someone who could make big strides for the team going into the 2018 season.
Aside from these three, the rest of the all-around field wasn’t all that thrilling. After qualifying third, Uliana Perebinosova ended up struggling on nearly every event in finals, finishing seventh with a 52.300, and Natalia Kapitonova had a much better day than she managed yesterday, but rough work on beam and floor still held her back considerably, with her total score just a 51.675 for eighth place.
Others in the top ten included Eleonora Afanasyeva in fourth with a 53.850, Viktoria Trykina in fifth with a 53.600, Polina Fedorova in sixth with a 53.150, Ksenia Artemova in ninth with a 50.300, and Viktoria Gazeeva in tenth with a 50.275, while Elizaveta Kochetkova, a once-promising new senior, struggled yet again to finish 12th with a 49.200.
The Russian Cup continues with event finals over the weekend, where Melnikova will hope to continue her hit parade to medal on all four, while Eremina will be hoping for big scores on everything but vault, Iliankova will push for medals on bars and beam, and Kharenkova will hope to continue doing big things on beam and floor.
Full results from the competition are available in English here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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