In Preparation for Euros: The National Championships

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen a dozen or so meets held in Europe as federations are preparing for this year’s European Championships, which will be held next month in Glasgow.

We’re taking a look at all of the recent national championships to break down how everyone’s looking as the big event nears, which you can check out below, and tomorrow we’ll be back with a recap of the friendly meets that have taken place this month.

ITALIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Elisa Iorio, Giorgia Villa, and Sara Ricciardi

The juniors were the queens of this event, with 2003-born Giorgia Villa and Elisa Iorio taking the top two spots on the podium, but it was 21-year-old Sara Ricciardi who made waves when she surprised to earn the top senior ranking, winning the bronze medal with a 53.100.

Ricciardi’s experience is limited mostly to the smaller domestic meets in Italy. Her appearance at Jesolo this year was only her second international competition in her six seasons at the senior level, where she was the sixth-best among the Italians, and 25th overall, not really standing out as a potential contender for a major team. Ricciardi didn’t even have an FIG license until five days ago when the federation realized their senior outlook is pretty bleak at the moment and Ricciardi, who will attend the Euros selection camp next week, could be exactly who they need to help the team.

Defeating several top seniors at nationals — including fourth-place Martina Maggio, fifth-place Martina Basile, seventh-place Francesca Linari, eighth-place Giada Grisetti, and 15th-place Elisa Meneghini (the Olympian had falls on bars, beam, and floor and earned just a 48.600 total) — Ricciardi also holds the distinction of being the only senior to qualify into all four event finals, where she won the bronze on vault, beam, and floor.

Meneghini, originally on the nominative roster for Glasgow, is now no longer invited to the selection camp, and given the strengths of the rest of the team, Ricciardi seems most likely to replace her, though bars still won’t be cute for the seniors (all of the bars talent at the moment is in the junior program, though Grisetti is lovely on the event and could put up a big score if she hits…though her hit rate this season is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30%).

Floor champion Lara Mori, who only competed two events here but won the all-around and floor titles at the Mediterranean Games, is looking likely to lead the team in Glasgow. I think Maggio and Basile will round out the team of Mori, Ricciardi, and Grisetti, though Linari, Caterina Cereghetti, and vaulter Sofia Busato are also in the mix.

The D’Amato twins have been going back and forth with injuries this year — Alice injured her ankle at Gymnix and isn’t back on floor while Asia is dealing with nagging back pain and missed nationals — but both are going to camp and look likely to head to Glasgow on the junior team alongside Villa and Iorio.

These four can get the job done in the team competition on their own, and were the only ones listed on the nominative roster, but given the injuries it would make sense if they brought along a fifth gymnast even if she doesn’t compete, and Camilla Campagnaro (sixth at nationals with a 51.100), Giulia Cotroneo (tenth with a 49.800), and Alessia Federici (who competed only bars and beam, making both finals but struggling in both) are the three who will fight for that last spot.

SPANISH CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Ana Perez

This year’s Spanish Championships was a battle of “who can stay on the beam” but that event aside, 2016 Olympian Ana Perez was on fire, hitting a solid vault while also posting the top scores with clean sets on bars and floor. Helena Bonilla, back from over a year away after sustaining an elbow injury early in 2017, won the silver medal and put up the second-highest bars and beam scores with a strong day of her own, while Cintia Rodriguez, the bronze medalist on floor at last month’s Mediterranean Games, finished third all-around in addition to sharing the gold on floor.

These three are the clear leading contenders for Euros, with vault champion Nora Fernandez — who finished fifth here after a rough beam set — also likely to head to Glasgow. Paula Raya held the last spot on the nominative roster, but her performance here didn’t inspire much confidence while Marina Plomer was able to outscore her by nearly a point in the all-around and match her on floor in addition to winning gold on beam and bronze on vault.

Plomer lacks international experience, and her beam win here was likely a fluke with everyone else failing to hit, and Raya is coming off of a silver medal on bars at the Mediterranean Games, so I don’t think this will be enough to oust her…but it was nice to see a couple of other second options — like first-year seniors Andrea Carmona, Sara Coll, and Violeta Sanchez in addition to Plomer — show the potential to step in if needed.

Alba Asencio was the junior all-around champion with a 49.167, beating the rest of the field by over a point with Alba Petisco winning the silver and Claudia Villalba taking home the bronze. All three are no-brainers for Glasgow, with fellow nominative gymnast Berta Pujadas winning the gold on beam to keep herself in the mix, and then Lorena Medina should round them out on bars and beam, though I was super impressed with Aida Valencia with her strong work on vault and floor, where she won the gold and silver medals, respectively.

HUNGARIAN EVENT CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Dorina Böczögö

With the announcement of Zsofia Kovacs‘ abdominal injury that could keep her out for the season, Hungary is nevertheless looking like one of the stronger teams going into Euros thanks to a surprising amount of depth that will mostly make up for the loss of the country’s star and reigning European silver all-around medalist.

2017 European vault bronze medalist Boglarka Devai is now attempting a Cheng, and while she hasn’t hit it yet in competition, it’s a huge upgrade that still keeps her near the top of Hungary’s vault rankings, and she won the silver medal with a fall both there and on her DTY, though the rest of her events remain weak in comparison.

Two-time Olympic veteran Dorina Böczögö is back and nearly better than ever, winning the floor gold in addition to the silver medals on bars and beam with some of the highest difficulty on the team across all three events, and Noemi Makra is getting over injuries and has decent routines on bars and beam, which will get her onto her first major team since she competed at Euros over two years ago.

Some of the greatest strength of this team comes from first-year seniors Nora Feher and Sara Peter, who are already exceeding expectations. With so many programs not able to bring in new seniors who can contend on the same level as their veterans, the opposite is true in Hungary, with both Feher and Peter looking fantastic, following in the footsteps of Kovacs, Devai, and Makra last quad. At the apparatus championships, Feher won the bars and beam gold with beautiful routines (and she also picked up the silver on floor) while Peter won the gold on vault and the bronze on beam and floor, continuing to show promise after a successful apparatus world cup season this spring.

In the junior competition, Csenge Bacskay won vault with a 13.650 average for her two clean efforts and then also won floor with a 12.900, Zoja Szekely won bars with a 13.200 for a difficult routine that she’s getting better at controlling, and Hanna Szujo won beam with a tidy and confident set that earned a 13.000. These three in addition to Bianka Schermann (silver on vault and beam, bronze on bars and floor) are pretty much set for Euros, with the fifth and final spot most likely going to Regina Medved, who had a rough meet here with several falls, but outside of those top four, she has the most potential to help the team.

POLISH CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Marta Pihan-Kulesza

In one of the more entertaining shocks of the season, two-time Olympian Marta Pihan-Kulesza, who retired in 2016 with a big sendoff in Italy and had a baby last year, returned to competition here and won the gold a little over two tenths ahead of Gabriela Janik, who has been holding down the fort in the absence of the Olympians.

Pihan-Kulesza looked fabulous here, skipping out on a couple of the finals, but winning the silver medal on beam in addition to her all-around win. Like Sara Ricciardi in Italy, her results at nationals prompted the Polish federation to immediately apply for her FIG license, meaning it’s pretty likely we will see her in Glasgow next month.

Janik also had a very strong finish in the senior all-around competition, winning the silver with a 52.067 while also picking up the gold medals on vault, bars, and floor in addition to the bronze on beam, going eight-for-eight here, while 2016 Olympian Katarzyna Jurkowska-Kowalska returned to the all-around for the first time since Rio after spending last season focusing on beam. She ended up fourth all-around after a weak performance on bars, but she easily won the beam gold and along with Pihan-Kulesza and Janik, should end up being a bright spot at Euros.

Wiktoria Lopuszanska isn’t quite at the level of her older teammates, but showed nice work across the board for the bronze in the all-around, and though she made some mistakes in the apparatus finals, she won the silver on bars and the bronze on beam, showing herself to be a great option for the team competition in Glasgow, though the final spot is anyone’s guess. Veteran Klara Kopec was on the initial roster, and though she kind of underperformed here, I think she has the potential to add the most in terms of helping the team, but I can’t see her being a top-three option on any event now that Pihan-Kulesza’s back.

On the junior scene, Dagmara Pyzio won the gold with a 48.233, the clear standout followed by Kaja Skalska with a 45.916 for silver and Wiktoria Giemza with a 45.650 for bronze. Pyzio is fabulous, but she’s only 13 and unfortunately isn’t eligible for Euros, though both Skalska and Giemza are miles ahead of the majority of the junior field and have potential to pull in decent results with hit routines, and though Wanda Mnich struggled on bars here, she’s one to watch for on beam and floor, while fourth-place Brygida Urbanska was also full of potential on these two events.

SWEDISH CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Jessica Castles

With her Swedish national title, British transplant Jessica Castles won her second all-around gold medal in the span of a week after also winning at Nordic Championships days earlier. Castles — who turned 16 on the 16th, a golden birthday for sure! — still trains outside of London, but she is quickly becoming Sweden’s star, and though the federation isn’t sending a full team to Glasgow, putting the focus on individual achievements instead, Castles is one of two gymnasts who will make the trip next month.

The other is Jonna Adlerteg, who is still competing on only bars, but at a level that could see her on the podium at Euros. The gold medalist on this event at both Swedish and Nordic Championships, Adlerteg is working a ton of difficulty with only minor technical issues, and her event finals performance in Sweden brought her a total score of 14.450, among the stronger bars scores in the world this year.

Three-time Swedish all-around champion Marcela Torres ended her golden reign here with Castles’ win, but at almost 30 years old, she still performed well enough for the silver medal, scoring a 49.300, and Alva Eriksson won the bronze with a 46.450.

This meet also marked a couple of strong returns, with Ece Ayan and Julia Rumbutis both competing for the first time in over two years. Ayan, a member of the 2015 worlds team, competed only on beam, winning the bronze, while Rumbutis, who represents Georgia internationally, competed on beam and floor, winning the silver and bronze on these events in finals. Rumbutis won’t compete at Euros this year, but she’s hoping to be the first female artistic gymnast to earn an Olympic spot for her country.

In the junior competition, major up-and-comer Tonya Paulsson — the Nordic all-around silver medalist and bars champion who also qualified a spot at the Youth Olympic Games in June — won the title with a 49.150, followed by newcomer and fantastic vaulter Izabella Trejo in second with a 46.200 and Nathalie Westlund in third with a 45.950. Paulsson, a clear standout in this field and someone who first came to our attention with her super clean bars basics at 12, also won the bars, beam, and floor titles here, and will be the sole junior representative for Sweden at Euros.

AUSTRIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS

European Games Baku

Marlies Männersdorfer

After some uncharacteristic falls from Jasmin Mader, Marlies Männersdorfer was able to upset her, taking the gold with a 48.950 while Mader won the silver eight tenths back with a 48.150 and Bianca Frysak took the bronze with a 46.400.

Austria doesn’t have a ton of depth, but Mader (who also won gold on floor and silver on bars) and Männersdorfer (who had a weak finals performance but still managed the silver on beam and the bronze on floor) do a great job leading the program and they’ll be joined this year by Elisa Hämmerle, a contender for the 2016 Olympic spot until she was injured at the test event and had to miss over a year of competition. Hämmerle is still only competing on bars and beam, and while she fell in prelims here, she actually looked fantastic on both events, coming back to win the gold on both in finals, and she has the ability to break a 13 on both if she can hit strong routines.

Frysak, who won the silver on floor in finals, isn’t as strong as the other three, but she’s still quite a bit ahead of the rest of the squad, while Alissa Mörz and Tamara Stadelmann are also both up for the final spot at Euros, with Mörz hoping to be selected for what she can contribute on vault and floor.

Ceren Kaya led the junior field with a 46.900 to take the all-around title by more than two points, followed by Mirjam Trbara in second with a 44.400 and Nicol Wimmer in third with a 44.300. These three in addition to Pirjo Wolfisberg (fifth all-around with a 42.350) and Lorena Böhmberger (eighth with a 41.650, though she generally has strong routines on bars and floor) are looking like the most likely Euros team, with Christina Wegscheider — who didn’t compete here — also in the mix.

IRISH SUPER CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Meaghan Smith

Former Canadian gymnast Meaghan Smith, who began representing Ireland internationally last year and is currently the two-time national all-around champion, was once again the standout at Ireland’s “Super Championships,” where apparatus medals were contested.

Smith, 20, easily won the vault, bars, and beam titles by about a point on each ahead of the other senior competitors, and with a fall on floor, she still managed to finish second among the seniors (and seventh overall). She’s a strong vaulter, but her beam was the true standout here, earning a 12.950 with a 5.0 D score after showcasing a solid acro series, a great switch side half, and overall steady work.

Gymnastics Ireland confirmed Smith as the sole representative for Euros, as Ireland’s other top seniors like Tara Donnelly and Casey Bell did not compete here and won’t be ready in time. Others of note who competed here included Rebecca Geddis, Ellie Bowe, and Aisling Fuller.

A full team of juniors will compete in Glasgow, with Youth Olympic Games qualifier Emma Slevin leading the charge. Slevin, who was outstanding at the YOG meet in Baku, was the top junior on her two events here, winning junior bars with an 11.350 and her floor score of 12.450 was the highest among gymnasts in every division.

The others we’ll see on the junior team are Jane Heffernan (second on beam, though falls on floor put her in last place there), Kate Molloy (first on vault and beam, second on bars, third on floor), and Blathnaid Higgins (second on vault and floor, third on bars), and though she’s not age eligible for Euros, espoir gymnast Lily Russell also had a very strong meet, posting the third-best beam score and fifth-best floor score among every age division even at her young age.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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8 thoughts on “In Preparation for Euros: The National Championships

  1. Great summary, thanks! What is your prediction for the best 8 teams – apart from Italy in this list, and Russia, France, etc… I saw the same question as a reply to one of your twitter posts – feel free to copy-paste 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think top 8:
      For sure: France, Russia, Netherlands, Great Britain

      Most Likely: Belgium, Italy, Germany

      Fighting for Spot 8: Romania, Ukraine, Hungary

      Possible Upsets: Poland, Spain

      Like

      • I think Belgium is better than the Netherlands. Eythora is in a terrible shape coming back from injury and even can’t understand why she was selected having by other possibilities like Naomi and Sanna Veerman. Belgium has Nina exploding and bars and definetly AA podium contender. Belgium won Sttugard Cup.

        Like

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