In her first competition in exactly two years, 2012 Olympic medalist Viktoria Komova made it through her all-around performance at the Voronin Cup with only small mistakes and a fall on beam, winning the silver medal with a score of 51.800.
The meet, held annually to honor Soviet Olympic champion Mikhail Voronin, featured mostly Russian gymnasts in the senior women’s competition, though a handful of international competitors were also on hand. Even so, the low-pressure meet allowed Komova, now 23, to get back in the groove of competing again without any expectations. With multiple injuries keeping her out of contention for Rio last year and worlds this year, Komova finally looks healthy again, and she seemed relaxed and confident out there with her teammates in Moscow.
After crashing some Yurchenko doubles in warmups, Komova stuck to a simple full for the meet, earning a 13.8 for an NCAA-esque attempt, and the remainder of her scores ranged from 12.55 to 12.75, mostly due to downgrades in addition to the beam fall. On bars, she looked clean until her giants before the dismount, but a lack of inbars and four toe-on skills (the maximum is three) brought her difficulty down by more than a point based on what she could potentially get to. She also lost half a point from her credit requirements, as her toe full — the fourth of her toe-on skills — wasn’t counted, leaving her without a pirouetting skill, getting her to just a 4.7 total.
On beam, the best Komova moment was her standing arabian, with her chest position nearly perfect on the landing. The fall came on her punch front, landed much too off to the side for her to hold onto, and her double tuck dismount was a little low with a big hop forward, though she did have some nice saves on other skills, like her split ring jump and side somi. All of the mistakes were definitely because she seemed to be holding back a bit, opting for tentative rather than aggressive in an effort to stay on, but I think once she gets more experience and goes a little harder, this could be a valuable program for Team Russia.
But my favorite moment of Komova’s comeback was her choreography on floor. The tumbling itself is okay enough for this point in her comeback — a double arabian, double pike, double full, and double tuck, none all that powerful with the double tuck giving her the most trouble at the end — and the dance elements were good, minus some hopped-around turns, but I think this is the best overall routine she’s had, with her choreography and music having real artistic potential. There were a few moments where she looked like she was phoning it in a bit, likely because she had bigger things to focus on, but when she does this set fully committed on a major stage, it’ll be a knockout.
I hope she gets that opportunity. As solid as this performance was for a return to competition, she still has a long way to go before she’s internationally competitive on any event, and the way she looks now, she’d struggle to be top three on any event at a fully-attended domestic meet. She didn’t make any event finals here due to the two-per-country rule, which was a shame because I would’ve liked to have seen a follow-up day for her to correct her beam and floor errors.
But I also think she far exceeded expectations here by just getting out there and doing all four events with no meltdowns. For this point in her comeback, and for this time of year when most gymnasts are in hiatus, Komova is exactly where she should be, with a solid seven months left before she has to be ready for Euros.
Five other Russians rounded out the top six, with Angelina Melnikova taking the all-around title, Uliana Perebinosova placing third (though missing out on a medal due to the two-per-country rule), Daria Skrypnik in fourth, Tatiana Nabieva in fifth, and Viktoria Trykina in sixth.
Melnikova looked a little sluggish here, which was to be expected, falling on her layout and dismount on beam, in addition to her form just being a bit loose and sloppy on all of her events. But the silver lining here is that the beam dismount fall came on a major upgrade — a tucked full-in rated a G! With all of her issues, I don’t think this is necessarily what they should be focusing on (in fact, boosting her difficulty is the least of her concerns), but it was cool to see her go for it, even if she did face-plant.
That aside, she hit her Yurchenko double with some form issues, her bars were a little labored and messy (complete with what was basically a double stag handstand just before her dismount in the event final, where she won silver with a 13.633), and on floor, she was quite messy in her all-around performance, though she kind of fell apart in the final, taking out her double layout but nonetheless crashing her double arabian, skidding forward on her double tuck, and taking a large step back on her double pike, before which she took several huge breaths, showing exactly how exhausted she was. She finished last there, with a 10.966, and got the silver in the vault final.
The other Russians in the top six were kind of unremarkable, many of them young seniors who were once promising but who have shown in the last year or two that they were unable to make the transition to the senior level despite standing out as juniors. Perebinosova did win the bars title, earning a 14.333, but her form has definitely deteriorated between last year and this year, and hasn’t strengthened any since we last saw her.
Hilariously, Nabieva was the only Russian to hit beam in the all-around competition, though sadly, her difficulty was too low and her performance not strong enough to get her in the final, where both Trykina and Maria Kharenkova were able to get in despite their mistakes in prelims. Nabieva isn’t yet a serious contender on any event if coming back to international strength is her goal, but I always love seeing her compete, and she had a kind of funny moment on floor where her music didn’t work, and it looked like she was just casually leaving the arena mid-performance…which she’s done before, so it wouldn’t have been shocking if this was the case.
Kharenkova competed only beam and floor here, and though she fell on her layout in prelims, she showed a lot of attack both in that routine and in her finals routine, where she stayed on despite a few wobbles throughout, earning a 13.3. Her all-around floor routine was great, earning a 14.2, but a low front tuck out of her whip whip through to 2½ caused her to get a lower-than-usual floor score, though her 13.066 was still nearly a point higher than the rest of the competitors in this field.
I hope Kharenkova’s comeback is taken as seriously as Komova’s, though I’m worried, because after Kharenkova’s return at the Russian Cup, Valentina Rodionenko all but brushed her off despite the fact that she showed some of her best work on beam and floor in years, whereas Komova showed easy and tentative routines in her own comeback and yet Rodionenko is hailing her as a hero of the program.
Kharenkova at full strength could fill some major gaps next year, whereas Komova is looking like she could maybe be a competent gymnast again, though isn’t close to being internationally ready and would really only contribute on bars at this point, already a stacked field for the Russians. I’m giving Komova more time to get herself back to a top standard, but right now it looks like Komova is being praised for a C on an exam while Kharenkova is being scolded for a solid A-, which is so Russian and so unfair.
Finishing seventh with a 49.800 but getting the bronze all-around medal was 2016 Olympian Irina Sazonova of Iceland, while fellow Russian-born Yuliya Inshina of Azerbaijan was fourth with a 49.350. Inshina actually looked the best I’ve seen her in a while, though she ended up melting down in the bars final, while Sazonova wasn’t quite at full strength, though she did end up pulling off the bronze on bars with a hit routine.
I was impressed with Thea Nygaard, the Norwegian who missed worlds due to a concussion sustained in training, though she came back a couple of weeks later to help her team to the gold at Northern Euros. Nygaard finished fifth with a 47.950, struggling on bars, generally her weakest event, but she made all four finals and looked especially strong on beam, finishing fourth.
Other all-arounders included Marina Nekrasova of Azerbaijan in seventh with a 46.600 (she had a bars meltdown in the all-around competition but actually looked pretty great here, showing a gorgeous Yurchenko 1½ in the vault final before getting the bronze on beam and then the silver on floor), Anastasiya Dubova of Latvia in eighth with a 46.450, Eleni Eliades of Cyprus in ninth with a 43.050, Sigrun Sigurdardottir in tenth with a 42.950, and Anastasiya Theocharous of Cyprus in 11th with a 42.300.
The vault gold went to Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan, competing a handspring front layout full and a tsuk 1½ for a 14.333 average, while Eleonora Afanasyeva got the bronze, showing a better Yurchenko double than she’s been doing previously this season to average a 13.850. Another event standout was Indonesia’s Rifda Irfanaluthfi, this year’s Southeast Asian Games champion who won the bronze on floor here with a 12.1; she also competed on beam in prelims, but a fall kept her from making the final.
If the Russian senior all-arounders looked tired and off-season, the juniors were excellent. Aleksandra Shekoldina, who will be a senior in just about a week’s time, won the gold with a 54.550, finally bringing everything she can do all together in one competition after struggling to make this happen earlier this season (and struggling to make it happen in event finals as well, though she still won the bars gold with a 12.6 after a fall).
As solid as she was in the all-around, I do feel like she will be another Perebinosova or Skrypnik, someone who will always generally be able to knock out decent bars sets but who won’t have enough to offer elsewhere to make a difference on teams. Part of this is me getting tired of feeling excited by Russian juniors like Perebinosova and Skrypnik only to see them not hack it as seniors, but no matter what happens in her future, at least she adds some much-needed depth.
While Shekoldina isn’t someone I’m screeching about, 13-year-old Vladislava Urazova — who got the silver medal with a 54.150 and had a good day on everything but bars — is. Urazova also won the vault and floor gold here, with her floor routine in finals a highlight at this competition for both the junior and senior divisions. Her skills aren’t super difficult, but she performs like a pro, and the tumbling elements she competed were high and clean, including her double tuck, double full, a front double full, and a 2½.
I also really enjoyed Urazova on beam, where she’s very steady and shows great promise, hitting her layout stepout mount, a beautiful triple wolf turn, a layout series, an Onodi, and a 2½ dismount. She fell on her side somi in the all-around, unfortunately missing the event final, but showed tremendous promise and likely would’ve won the gold in that final as well.
Varvara Zubova took the beam gold with one of her stronger routines, and generally looked good on this event on both days of competition, a good sign going into her senior career. She was third all-around, missing a medal due to the two-per-country rule for weak performances on other events, while Elena Gerasimova, 13, was fourth.
The “official” third-place spot and bronze medal went to fifth-place Anastasiya Miroshnichenko of Uzbekistan, who put together a solid performance everywhere but beam to earn a 50.375. It’s hard being an Uzbek gymnast when you have Chusovitina there bound to take every Olympic spot from now until 2056, but every so often we get a couple of promising girls who can at least add to team depth at various competitions around the globe, and Miroshnichenko is one of them.
Anna Subbotina, the Russian transplant who now represents Georgia, was fifth with a 49.000 and also picked up the vault silver with a 13.567 average, Elina Vihrova of Latvia was sixth with a 48.975, Maria Lastouskaya of Belarus was seventh with a 47.650, and newcomer Lona Häcker of Germany, just 12, was eighth with a 45.975.
Vihrova will be one of my favorite ones to watch on the new senior scene in 2018. She wasn’t quite her best in this all-around performance, but managed to pick up the bronze medals on bars and beam in addition to placing fourth on floor. Her scores tend to trend in the 12-range when she’s hitting, so her difficulty isn’t exactly through the roof, but she generally does hit, and those scores are miles beyond what most Latvian gymnasts are currently bringing in, making her a game-changer for them after Latvia failed to earn a spot in Rio. The daughter of Igors Vihrovs, Latvia’s first Olympic gold medalist in any sport who now hopes to coach his child to the Games, Vihrova is absolutely one to keep an eye on in the coming years.
Other medalists at the junior level included Darya Yassinskaya of Kazakhstan with a 13.533 average for the bronze on vault, three-time EYOF champion Ksenia Klimenko of Russia was the bars silver medalist here (she only competed this event in prelims), Russian Daria Belousova was the beam silver medalist with a 12.333, and Uzbekistan saw more success with Dildora Aripova getting the silver medal on floor with a 12.8.
Full results from the Voronin Cup are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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