After Simakova won the all-around gold on Saturday, the Russian juniors split the event final gold medals to complete an individual medal sweep at this weekend’s Elite Gym Massilia in Marseille, France, where Aleksandra Shchekoldina finished first on vault, Ksenia Klimenko won bars, and Angelina Simakova landed at the top on beam and floor.
It actually wasn’t even a particularly strong meet for them, aside from a couple of fabulous performances here and there, but it was an even worse meet for everyone else, with all three Russian ladies ready and waiting to take advantage of those mistakes.
Simakova, the star of this meet for Russia, started out with the best junior performance on beam by far even with some wobbles on her switch ring and bhs loso loso flight series. She was the only gymnast who didn’t fall, though, so her mistakes were nothing in comparison, and her score of 13.0 was a point higher than the silver medalist.
On floor, Simakova also won the gold, putting up a 13.2 for a solid and well-choreographed set that included a 2.5 to front full, tucked full-in with a step, triple full, and a double tuck to finish and she won the silver on bars with a 13.933, hitting her inbar to inbar half to piked Jaeger, toe full to pak, Maloney to giant full, and double front with a step.
Her only really serious mistakes of the week came in the vault final, where she ended up placing fifth after crashing her Rudi and then sitting her handspring front full, which seemed like a fluke as she hit both pretty well in warmups. But even with that rough performance, it was nevertheless a fantastic weekend for Simakova, who will become a senior next year and could add some much-needed depth to Russia’s vault lineup in addition to also contributing as a top all-arounder. I hope she’s able to hold onto her current level of consistency while building on her skill level everywhere but vault because she’s fantastic.
Dealing with a bit of an ankle injury, Klimenko ended up being downgraded at this meet, and the injury caused her a few problems on beam, where she finished last with just a 9.633 after falling on her side aerial to layout stepout and on her switch ring, while many of her other skills — like her switch half, tour jeté half, and ring jump — were all messy and wobbly.
She clearly wasn’t rattled in the slightest, though, coming back a couple of rotations later to win the bars title with a 14.4 for her super impressive routine that included a stalder full to van Leeuwen, toe half to piked Jaeger to pak, Maloney to lovely laid-out Gienger, and a blind change into a double front half-out, tons of big skills and connections that all look really polished, and she still has another year ahead of her before reaching the senior level, so there’s a lot to look forward to from this kid.
Shchekoldina only competed in the vault final, where she won the title by just over a tenth with great power and control on both her FTY and DTY. She missed out on the floor final after falling on her Memmel turn, of all things, but that double double of hers is so promising in what has been a weak floor lineup for Russia over the past few years, I think she could definitely factor into a few future team situations.
It was a long weekend for Ana Padurariu of Canada, who basically performed three full all-around sets, winning the Open all-around gold, the Masters bronze, and then competing in three event finals on Sunday. She was definitely a bit tired, and while it wasn’t her greatest meet, she still walked away with three medals, even with two falls on beam.
I actually loved Padurariu’s beam falls, which is a weird thing to say, but though she fell twice, she actually didn’t come off the apparatus either time, showing tremendous fight to stay on. At the start of her routine, her double wolf turn got a little wild and she fell onto the beam, and then she split the beam at the end of her side aerial loso loso, but she pulled herself around from under the beam with her legs, much to the delight of the crowd. The rest of her routine was a little nervous, with wobbles on most of her skills, but she finished up with a strong double pike and ended up with the bronze even with her super low 11.133.
Padurariu got a second bronze on bars, following the two Russians with a solid performance that included an inbar half to piked Jaeger, inbar piked Tkachev to pak, and a stuck full-out, and she also got the silver on floor, stumbling on her 2.5 to front half, but hitting both the piked full-in and double pike well enough for a 13.1.
French gymnast Carolann Heduit was another junior standout to me, coming back from an ankle injury that caused her to miss out on EYOF this summer to win the silver on vault here. She took steps on both her DTY and FTY, but her 13.733 average thanks to her overall higher difficulty gave her an edge over the rest of her competitors.
She also came into the competition hoping to fight for a bars medal, but she unfortunately fell after her inbar full to Maloney to Ricna series, which was also supposed to connect into a pak. She got back on to hit her piked Jaeger and double front half-out well, though, and had the second-highest difficulty in the junior competition with this set. Like Klimenko, she still has another year before turning senior, so it’s great to see her at such a strong level already and I’m sure she’ll get even better looking to the future.
From the Canadian junior team, Zoé Allaire-Bourgie had a great day in event finals, getting the vault bronze with a 13.333 average for her solid FTY and Yurchenko layout, and she also placed fourth on bars with a clean routine that included a Maloney to pak, clear hip to giant full to blind change to piked Jaeger, and full-out with a step, earning a 13.533. Beam is really her event, though a rough routine in qualifications didn’t allow her to advance to the final. Once Padurariu moves up into the senior ranks, Allaire-Bourgie — a first-year elite — is looking like the one to watch in Canada’s junior pool for the next couple of years.
While the junior beam field was a bit of a mess in the final, French gymnast Sheyen Petit put up a solid effort to take the silver despite a fall on her bhs bhs loso series. Petit had a pretty difficult routine overall, coming back from that early fall to hit her switch ring, excellent front aerial to split jump to Korbut, and a double full with a hop to score a 12.0, and she also showed solid work in her tumbling on floor, placing fifth with a 12.2.
I was excited to see Fien Enghels of Belgium challenge for a medal with her superb routine on floor, but she ended up having a fall early on and was unable to challenge, finishing sixth in addition to a fifth-place finish on bars for a hit routine. Her teammate Margaux Daveloose did end up on the podium, though, performing a typically fun and quirky Belgian routine with clean tumbling throughout, earning a 12.533 to win the bronze.
On vault, we also saw Emma Spence of Canada place fourth with a solid FTY and a low Yurchenko 1.5, averaging a 13.233, and Celia Serber of the France B team in sixth after stumbling her FTY off the mat before sitting her 1.5. Gabrielle Deslauriers of Gym Quebec in Canada was fourth on beam after falling on her sideways split jump half, and local gymnast Alison Faure of Pole Marseille was fifth on this event after a fall on her flight series. Finally, Laurie Gagnon of Gym Quebec ended up fourth on floor for a routine that included some excellent and dramatic choreography, with her tumbling mostly solid as well aside from a stumble on her opening double tuck.
The senior event titles were split between Canada and France, with Laurie Dénommée of Canada taking the gold on vault, Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France winning on bars, Rose-Kaying Woo of Canada winning on beam, and Juliette Bossu of France winning on floor.
Dénommée, who has looked ready for NCAA for quite some time with her clean and polished skills, had a big and clean FTY with a hop back and a solid handspring front pike half to average a 13.417 ahead of teammate Sophie Marois, who took the silver with a 13.333 after crashing her DTY and hitting a tsuk full. Amy Bladon, also from Canada and competing on the Open 2 team, ended up with the bronze with a 12.933 average for her Yurchenko 1.5 and low handspring front tuck.
The bars final was a little messy, but De Jesus Dos Santos managed to pull off the win even with a mistake, falling out of her toe full halfway through and having to repeat the skill before going into her solid full-twisting double layout dismount. The rest of her routine — including an awesome Komova II to clear hip to Galante to pak series — was great, though, and her 13.5 won the title by a tenth over teammate Lorette Charpy, who looked clean on her Chow half, toe half to piked Jaeger, Ricna, pak, and double tuck to earn a 13.4.
The Italian gymnast Giada Grisetti was a little messy in her set, with a few awkward moments where her skills just didn’t look correct. She has lovely lines, though, and did a nice job on her inbar full to Maloney to bail to stalder full to stalder to Ray series, walking away with the bronze after putting up a 13.367.
Just out of the medals were 2016 Olympians Senna Deriks of Belgium with a 13.233 and Vera van Pol of the Netherlands with a 13.2. Deriks looked a little messy on some elements, while van Pol actually had a surprisingly nice routine, given that this generally isn’t her event. Canadian gymnast Laurie-Lou Vézina competing on the Equifly team (a combination of Equilibrix and Gym Fly) was sixth with a 12.7, showing one of the cleanest routines though her difficulty was a half point lower than anyone else’s, though she had the most unique set in the bunch with a Ray, clear hip to toe half to Ezhova, to half to toe on to clear hip hecht, and a rarely-done clear hip hecht back tuck dismount.
Like the junior beam final, the senior final was chock full of falls and mistakes, though Woo made it through the least scathed, putting up a 12.8 for gold after a solid punch front into a jump, bhs layout (which was quite piked), switch ring, side aerial, front aerial to switch half with a big wobble that she fought to successfully control, and a double pike with a hop. She was just about a tenth ahead of Bossu, who got the silver with a 12.633 after hitting her bhs bhs loso with a huge wobble that she also fought to keep on, though the rest of her set was good.
Despite her fall on her front aerial, Marois nabbed her second medal of the meet, taking the bronze with an 11.967. Marois actually had a great routine until the fall, aside from a low switch half, and she was looking likely to take the title but unfortunately that fall ended up holding her back. Just behind her was Italy’s Sara Berardinelli with an 11.9 after falling on her side aerial loso, followed by France’s Louise Vanhille in fifth with an 11.8 after a fall on her bhs loso, and Germany’s Amelie Föllinger in sixth after a fall on her side aerial loso.
The floor title went to Bossu, who had the greatest combination of difficulty and execution in the bunch to put up a 12.967. Bossu hit a whip to slightly underrotated triple full, and front double full, and a front tuck in her crowd-pleasing routine, finishing less than half a tenth ahead of silver medalist Elisa Meneghini, who had solid tumbling on her tucked full-in, double tuck, front full, and double pike, but wasn’t quite as clean on her landings.
With falls from two of the top contenders in this field, it was a happy surprise to see the bronze go to Emma Höfele of Germany, who had what was probably the overall cleanest and most polished set of the day, though her low difficulty kept her from taking the gold. Höfele hit all three of her passes very well, with her double tuck especially solid and stuck, and while she’s not generally a threat to make any of Germany’s teams, it’s nice to see that they have lower-tier depth should they ever need someone on a team to just come in and hit a solid routine.
De Jesus Dos Santos crashed her opening full-twisting double layout to finish fourth with a 12.267, Naomi Visser of the Netherlands had a stumble on the 2.5 in her final pass to finish fifth with a 12.167, and my favorite for this event, Axelle Klinckaert, finished sixth with an 11.867 after hitting a great double layout but then coming up short on her piked full-in, sitting her front layout full, and stumbling her double pike out-of-bounds. Still, it’s great to see her back, and understandable that she’d be a little low-energy here given that she’s been away from the competition floor for so long.
As always, this meet was a fun one, and full of so many promising future stars in the junior division while the senior field was a good mix of world competitors winding down from a busy season as well as those who were kind of second-string gymnasts for worlds, but were still able to contend at a strong level here.
Full results from the competition are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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