First-year senior Haley de Jong of Canada swept the senior competition at the Salamunov Memorial in Maribor this weekend, marking an impressive return after dealing with injuries that have held her back so far this season.
The meet was the first all-around and international competition for de Jong at the senior level after the 16-year-old was forced to miss both Elite Canada and Gymnix early in the season. She competed on beam in the first rotation of prelims during this summer’s Canadian Championships, but injured her elbow in the warmup before floor and was forced to withdraw for the rest of the meet.
She’s back now, though, and even with some mistakes on bars and beam in her all-around performance, she still managed to win the gold by a whopping five points. Thanks to a clean Yurchenko full and a standout performance on floor, de Jong was unmatched at this competition, earning a 50.450 to take the title.
In the event finals the following day, she hit both bars and floor to improve her scores by a great deal, and also reached the top average on vault in addition to performing an excellent floor set to take all four gold medals. Though the field was overall much weaker than de Jong’s level, she didn’t rely on higher difficulty alone. In fact, her work in event finals was some of the strongest and most confident I’ve seen from her. It was the perfect meet for de Jong to get her feet wet before the future Georgia Gym Dog dives back into more competitive meets in the future.
Petra Furac of Croatia won the silver medal with a 45.300 in the all-around, followed by Austria’s Linda Hamersak with a 45.050 for bronze. Rounding out the top eight were Viktoria Vydurekova of Slovakia in fourth with a 44.900, Ema Kuklovska of Slovakia in fifth with a 44.450, Kirsty Caruana of Malta in sixth with a 43.300, Sana Grillo of Malta in seventh with a 42.950, and Neli Struc of Slovenia in eighth with a 40.500.
Furac also won the vault and floor silvers, Hamersak won the silver on beam, 2015 Slovakian worlds team member Radoslava Kalamarova returned to competition on just two events to win the silver on bars, Suzanne Buttigieg of Malta won the vault bronze, Vydurekova won the bars bronze, Christina Meixner of Austria won the beam bronze, and Caruana won the bronze on floor with a beautifully-executed routine.
In the junior division, the British gymnast Chiara Bunce — who now competes for Slovakia — won the all-around title with a 47.850 in addition to winning gold on floor and silver on bars and beam. Her floor was definitely the standout of the junior meet on both days of competition, and I’m excited to see how she’ll continue to grow as she prepares to represent Slovakia as a senior next year.
Her teammate Karolina Takacova was the silver medalist in the all-around with a 46.100, while Christina Zwicker of Croatia won the bronze with a 45.700. Rounding out the top eight were Ronja Reuss of Austria in fourth with a 44.750, Ira Bencinic of Croatia in fifth with a 44.050, Maya Shaaban of Egypt in sixth with a 43.700, Selma Halvorsen of Norway in seventh with a 42.900, and Alia Mostafa of Egypt in eighth with a 42.850.
Mostafa won the vault final with a 12.850 average, competing two different family vaults with her first hit especially well, while Reuss won the silver with a 12.5 and Malta’s Ella Borg won bronze with a 12.275. On bars, the Slovakians Takacova and Bunce took gold and silver with Egypt’s Farah Ibrahim taking the bronze, and after Bunce on floor, Mostafa took silver and Bencinic took the bronze.
I was especially impressed with Zwicker’s beam during the all-around competition, though a fall and some missed connections in the final caused her to place only fifth. Bencinic, her teammate who placed fifth with a fall, also showed a strong level of difficulty, and both seem to be following in the footsteps of 2016 Olympian Ana Derek with their style and flair on this event. Sarah Halvorsen won this event with an 11.7 for what was a very strong routine for her, while Bunce and Takacova were again standouts, as Bunce took the silver and Takacova took the bronze.
Full results from the competition are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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