Emily Whitehead, Tjasa Kysselef, and Aruna Budda Reddy
After qualifying last into the vault final at this weekend’s world cup in Melbourne, and after almost a decade of finishing with a collection of silver and bronze medals on the world cup and challenge cup circuit, Tjasa Kysselef of Slovenia finally got her gold medal.
The 24-year-old missed her front tuck full in the qualifying round, averaging just a 13.0 but still managing to snag a spot in the final thanks to her relatively high level of difficulty compared to the rest of the field. In finals, the front tuck full was no problem, just hopped forward slightly, and she went on to nail one of the strongest Yurchenko 1½ vaults I’ve seen her compete, just stepping forward on the landing.
A 13.8 for both vaults meant she would take a 13.8 average, about a tenth lower than the top qualifier, Australia’s Emily Whitehead, and Whitehead’s vaults looked good enough to challenge for the title in the final, with a gorgeous tsuk full that had only a small hop back, but a step to the side on her Yurchenko 1½ took her out-of-bounds, limiting her score there and bringing her average down to a 13.699 for the silver.
Less than a tenth behind her for the bronze was Aruna Budda Reddy, who has been representing India at the world level for about five years now, though this was her world cup debut, and what a debut it was, as she became the first Indian gymnast in history to medal at this level.
Qualifying in second, Budda Reddy improved her landings on both vaults in the final, showing lovely work with her clean handspring front pike half and again with her tsuk full. Her form wasn’t as tight on the latter, but it was a great upgrade for her, and she averaged a 13.649. Going into the Commonwealth Games, with Olympic teammate Dipa Karmakar still out of the picture as she fights to return from injury, Budda Reddy won’t be a top contender for a vault medal, but with two clean sets like these, she’ll definitely be close enough to potentially sneak in.
In this super close final, Australia’s Georgia Godwin was less than a tenth from making the podium, averaging a 13.583 for a clean and powerful tsuk full, which she piked slightly at the end, and a handspring front pike half, the same vaults as Budda Reddy’s but not quite as polished today on either.
And then less than a tenth behind her was China’s Liu Jinru with a 13.499, who showed up with both of her vaults downgraded. With her tsuk double and Rudi, this would’ve been the easiest final ever for her, but she had just a tsuk full and handspring front pike half, landing the first with a hop out-of-bounds while the pike saw a wild landing with a hop back, taking her out of contention.
It’s worth noting that her form for these simpler vaults was excellent compared to her form on the more difficult sets, though, so I’m glad she played it safe this early in the season, especially as she hopes to someday take over Wang Yan’s role as “the vault kid” in China.
As for the rest, Pranati Nayak had the same combo as pretty much everyone else, but her tsuk full was a bit weaker, putting her in sixth with a 13.416. Charlotte Ryan of New Zealand had a gorgeous Yurchenko full that picked up a 13.7 (one of the highest single vault scores of the day!) but she unfortunately opened up a bit too late on her tidy handspring front tuck, sitting it for a 12.85 average. And Singapore’s Nadine Joy Nathan unfortunately crashed both of her vaults, landing her FTY on her knees and then sitting her handspring front tuck to average an 11.966.
The bars final was a bit disastrous, with the majority of the good routines actually coming from the weaker bar workers. Du Siyu, a new senior from China, was strong in her set, though, winning the title with a 13.766 to upset teammate and fellow new senior Chen Yile, who counted a fall.
Du had a solid set with her Chow to Pak, aggressive Maloney to giant full to Tkachev to Gienger series, a Healy to Ling to Healy half, and a double layout with a hop back. Aside from a few picky form issues, she proved to be a reliable competitor, and with one of the most difficult bars sets in the world, it’ll be fun to see how she progresses in the sport especially with so many top athletes retiring over the last year.
Chen, who qualified first with a 14.233, began her finals set with a fall on her first element, the Chow. She just didn’t get enough lift, leaving her hands unable to grasp the bar, but when she started from scratch, the entire routine was gorgeous from start to finish, including on the Chow to Pak, Maloney to Gienger, Healy to Ling to piked Jaeger, Healy half, and full-in with a small hop to earn a 13.133 for the silver medal.
We saw Australia’s Georgia-Rose Brown pick up the bronze with a 12.1 after a mostly good routine until she stumbled back and sat her double front dismount. She had a few small form issues throughout, including flexed feet on her Chow to Pak and then an arched handstand as she went into the blind change before her dismount, but I thought the Maloney to Gienger and toe half to Jaeger worked well for her, and most of her issues are easily fixable.
Maia Fishwick of New Zealand was fourth with an 11.9, and Singaporean gymnasts Nadine Joy Nathan and Zeng Qiyan were fifth and sixth with scores of 11.633 and 11.6 respectively, all three of these gymnasts hitting their routines well. Fishwick had lots of ankle separations throughout, but otherwise showed potential, hitting her Maloney to bail to toe on to clear hip to toe shoot, straddled Jaeger, and stuck layout dismount, while both Nathan and Zeng had lovely Jaegers and double pike dismounts, just dealing with a few little form errors throughout.
Fan favorite Farah Ann Abdul Hadi of Malaysia was seventh with an 11.233 after falling on her Tkachev in addition to showing some short handstands, messy legs on her van Leeuwen, and a low double layout dismount with a few steps forward. I really enjoy watching her, and like many of the girls here, she’s gearing up for Commonwealth Games where I hope she’ll be able to stand out on a few events to make some finals.
Finally, Rianna Mizzen sadly finished last after a really rough day that included form errors and a fall. The Australian qualified in second thanks to her solid level of difficulty, but in the final she went for a Weiler half to Maloney to Hindorff opening series, and the counter rotation in her release ended up looking quite awkward, leaving her nowhere near in the correct position to grasp the bar.
She got back on for a Pak (straddled with bent knees), took an extra kip cast on the low bar before showing some messy legs on her van Leeuwen, and then arched over her toe full but brought it back before her full-in dismount, landed with a step.
It was unfortunate to see her have such a rough day at home, especially as she was hoping to improve from taking the bronze last year and looked like she could possibly make that happen based on her qualifications routine. But with the lack of depth in Australia right now, she’s still a top contender for making the Commonwealth Games team, and hopefully we’ll see her able to step it up again in the future.
Moving on to the men, we unfortunately didn’t get to see Milad Karimi of Kazakhstan fight for gold on floor after he broke his arm clear in half in p-bars qualifications. Instead, it was Kazuyuki Takeda of Japan, coming up from third in qualifications to take the title with a 13.933 thanks to a routine that wasn’t the most difficult in the bunch, but that did show a great level of control and expertise, even on his most difficult lines.
Opening with a piked double front with a small hop, Takeda was clean on his front tuck full to Rudi, 1½ to front double full, double full, and 2½ to stuck front full, his only major issue coming with his final pass, the triple full, which was just slightly short and hopped forward. Takeda, who competed all four events in qualifications to make all four finals, has been to several world cups over the past few years but hasn’t yet been able to crack Japan’s depth to make a major team, but he showed here that he could serve as a solid backbone to any future team this quad and hopefully we’ll get to see him reach that eventually.
China’s Ge Shihao, a baby in the MAG world getting his first big international assignment here, led qualifications and performed almost as well in finals, but despite tying Takeda’s 13.933, he lost the tie-breaker and got silver with his weaker execution. Ge showed tons of super difficult twisting passes in his routine, including a casual opening 3½ to Rudi, a tucked full-in, a front tuck full to Randi, a 2½ to front double full, a double full, and a triple full with a small bounce to finish, making him one to watch in the future if he can upgrade a couple of those.
In third with the bronze was the super clean Robert Tvorogal of Lithuania, sticking his double front to open before also nailing a front double full to barani, a 1½ to stuck front full, a double full, a whip to layout, and a 2½, showing that it’s not always difficulty that gets on the podium, as his clean but simple passes got him to a 13.633 and a spot on the podium despite his 5.1 difficulty being the weakest in the bunch.
Also simple but clean was Australia’s own Scott Costin, who had a front layout to front double full, tucked full-in, stuck arabian double front, 1½ to front full, double full, and 2½ with a step, matching Tvorogal’s 13.633 but finishing off the podium as his execution score was two tenths lower.
Rounding out the podium we saw Rok Klavora of Slovenia in fifth with a 13.166, Kyleab Ellis of New Zealand — who came in as the reserve in place of Karimi — in sixth with a 13.1, Carlos Edriel Yulo of the Philippines in seventh with a 13.1, and Christopher Remkes of Australia in eighth with an 11.2.
Klavora had a nice routine until the very end, when he stumbled back his arabian double front final pass and nearly sat it, keeping him from the podium after he showed great work on passes like his piked double front, front full to double front, and whip half to front double full to barani earlier in the routine. Ellis was also mostly strong, with a clean double layout and front layout to double front, but his 1½ to front double full caused him to step out-of-bounds and he also finished his tucked full-in a little low.
I am obsessed with Yulo, who made his senior debut here having just turned 18 last week after killing it in junior competition, including winning several gold medals at Pac Rims in 2016. He had some errors here that held him back, including coming up short on his 3½, which caused the barani out of it to travel horizontally with no height and launching him out-of-bounds, but he had an awesome piked double front, 2½ to Rudi, and solid triple full to finish.
Finally, Remkes kind of imploded on floor, crashing all three of his double layout passes — the opening double layout with the triple twist, a full-out in his third pass, and his double layout to finish — as well picking up major landing error deductions pretty much everywhere else. His difficulty is insane, though, with a front double full to double front, front layout to piked double front, double double, and arabian double front side pass, so I applaud him for going all out in this final, but oof. This was a rough one.
If his ego (or butt) were bruised, he didn’t have long to get over it, though, as he also qualified to the pommels final and surprised to pick up the bronze behind Nariman Kurbanov of Kazakhstan in first and Lee Chih Kai of Chinese Taipei in second.
Kurbanov had nice lines and a lovely routine to win the gold with a 14.933, though I preferred Lee both in his style and flair — literally. His routine, which is nonstop flairs from top to bottom, was so controlled and beautiful, though his difficulty didn’t quite match Kurbanov’s and he finished a tenth behind with a 14.833 for silver.
Remkes wasn’t really a contender for a top spot, as his work was’t really fluid and he had some muscled elements throughout, but it was a hit routine in a messy final, and so he was able to edge out Japan’s Kohei Kameyama, who had a fall, by less than half a tenth. Kameyama, who had one of the most difficult sets here and was right up there with Lee in qualifications, unfortunately had lots of leg splits early on in his routine and then came off the horse when he tried to transition off the single handle.
Michael Tone of Australia was fifth with a 12.9, Kazuyuki Takeda of Japan was sixth with a 12.433, Weng Hao of China was seventh with a 12.4, and Kristijan Vugrinski of Croatia was eighth with a 12.2.
Tone was the only one among this group who didn’t fall, and it was kind of miraculous, as he had tons of form breaks but was always able to save it, including after bending his legs on his scissor elements, fighting through leg separation at the end of a traveling element, and then getting stuck as he pressed into his dismount, so kudos to him for refusing to come off!
As for Takeda, he muscled out of his scissor elements and then you could see his rhythm start to slow and he kind of gave up and came off before things got bad. Weng arched over a handstand so intensely it practically turned into a sheep jump and spent about 45 minutes correcting himself, which was impressive as hell, but then he hit his leg on the handle on a scissor element and came off, and he also dealt with some messy legs going into his dismount as well, while Vugrinski had split legs and bent knees throughout his routine and came off during a traveling element to finish last.
Rings was all about China, as Ma Yue and Wu Guanhua topped the podium in a close fight as Ma took the gold with a 14.8 and Wu wasn’t far behind, getting the silver with a 14.733, while coming in for the bronze was Japan’s Kazuyuki Takeda for his second medal of the day after winning on floor.
Ma and Wu definitely had the most controlled sets of the day while also boasting the highest difficulty, but Ma’s routine was especially gorgeous and finished with a stuck double double while Wu got a little wobbly on a handstand near the end of his set, and hopped on his full-twisting double layout. Takeda was also strong throughout, finishing with a 14.433 after putting up some tight handstands, a fluid double pike to double tuck to iron cross, and then landing his double double dismount low with a hop.
Compared to the rest of the field today, these three ended up being unbeatable, with Rakesh Patra of India in fourth with a 13.733, Keisuke Asato of Japan in fifth with a 13.533, Michael Tone of Australia in sixth with a 13.366, Michael Mercieca of Australia in seventh with a 13.066, and Yerbol Jantykov of Kazakhstan in eighth with a 12.4.
Patra actually had a really nice routine, just looking a bit short on one handstand while stepping back on his full-twisting double tuck, while Asato looked a bit arched throughout some of his work, as did Tone. Mercieca showed great work on his double tuck to double pike to straddle planche, but was swinging a lot before his full-twisting double layout dismount, which landed low, and Jantykov had a pretty easy set, but while it started out looking clean, he started to lose his strength on one handstand, bending his elbow and muscling back up before his front double pike dismount, taking a sizable deduction there.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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