In Preparation for Euros: The Friendly Meets

With European Championships coming up this week in Glasgow, we recapped all of the national meets that happened leading up to the team selections, and now it’s time to take a look at all of the recent international meets to see how our favorite teams are stacking up.

HEERENVEEN FRIENDLY

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Nina Derwael

With just a team of three along for the ride despite (obviously) not competing at Euros, Japan ended up topping the senior team podium by nearly a point with two-time Olympian Asuka Teramoto also winning gold in the all-around while Hitomi Hatakeda won the bronze and Nagi Kajita finished fourth. These three were great across the board, though bars and beam were especially tidy, though the beam event final didn’t go quite as well as they’d hoped for any of them.

For those actually in contention for Euros, the Netherlands won silver followed by Great Britain with bronze. I was especially impressed with Naomi Visser here, who won silver in the all-around for a fully hit performance, the best I’ve seen from her, with bars a standout. Though Visser wasn’t originally given the all-around spot for Euros, an injury to Eythora Thorsdottir means Visser is now in, and she should be expected to help the team most on bars.

The real standouts for the Dutch team here were 2016 Olympic champion Sanne Wevers and two-time Olympian Céline van Gerner on bars and beam. Both are looking fabulous and in close to top form, with Wevers’ beam final performance one of the best routines of the meet, getting a 14.750 with a 6.1 D score thanks to her excellent control, poise, and fluidity throughout.

All of the British ladies had falls on beam, and they also weren’t quite at their best on bars or floor, though they’re without the majority of their senior ‘A team’ and while they might not be one of the top squads coming into Euros this year, they’ll have home field advantage and will absolutely be able to challenge for several individual medals.

National champion Kelly Simm had the team’s best all-around finish, placing fifth before also winning the bronze on bars, and we also saw great work from both Lucy Stanhope and Alice Kinsella on vault. Commonwealth Games bars champ Georgia-Mae Fenton unfortunately had falls on bars in both days of competition, but the big positive here was the return of Becky Downie, who nailed bars on the first day of competition and then shared the gold in the final.

The Belgians didn’t field a full team here, so they didn’t contend in the team competition and then went home before event finals. Axelle Klinckaert is getting stronger in the all-around, finishing eighth with a mostly strong performance, though of course 2017 European champion (and world bronze medalist) Nina Derwael was on fire, getting a 15.300 on bars after she debuted her brand-new Nabieva before hitting her eponymous skill into an Ezhova to Chow to Pak to Chow half and then nailing her toe full to full-in dismount.

In the junior competition, only the Dutch and Belgian gymnasts competed, with the Dutch outscoring the visitors by about three points to win gold. Sara van Disseldorp topped the podium followed by teammate Astrid de Zeeuw, while Belgium’s Stacy Bertrandt was third.

SAINTÉ GYM CUP

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Louise Vanhille, Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos, Lorette Charpy, Marine Boyer, Juliette Bossu, and Coline Devillard

France’s seniors showed true potential for a team medals at Euros here, going 40+ on every event but floor thanks to great contributions from every single athlete on the team.

2017 European all-around bronze medalist Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos led the all-around with a 54.950, putting up especially strong work on bars and floor, while Lorette Charpy got the silver with bars and beam her standouts. Marine Boyer struggled on floor, but had a fantastic vault and put up the top score on beam, 2017 European vault champion Coline Devillard was solid on vault and had one of the better floor routines of the day, and though Juliette Bossu had a fall on bars, she has generally been pretty consistent with this routine and could be an individual medal contender on the event in Glasgow.

Without three of its top seniors, Germany struggled a bit to bring the difficulty, especially on bars, where the team usually is able to gain an edge. 2017 world beam champion Pauline Schäfer led the team with a bronze all-around finish, followed closely by Kim Bui in fourth, who had a fall on bars but looked great on floor. The Germans had a bit of a scare from Sarah Voss, who passed out due to hydration after beam, so they were a little behind without being able to count a floor score from her (but thankfully she’s okay!), and both Leah Griesser and Emma Höfele rounded out the team, Griesser looking lovely on beam and floor while Höfele helped the squad on vault.

This was a terribly sad meet for Switzerland, which started out on floor with a season-ending injury for Giulia Steingruber, who tore pretty much everything in her knee. Without Steingruber and now Lynn Genhart, who fractured a vertebra, the team is not going to be expected to do much in Glasgow, though Ilaria Käslin was strong in the all-around here and could be a contender for the beam or floor final.

BUDAPEST FRIENDLY

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Barbora Mokosova

The Hungarians dominated the team competition in Budapest, coming ahead of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria with especially great performances on bars and floor. First-year senior Nora Feher and two-time Olympian Dorina Böczögö led the team with fantastic all-around performances, with Feher winning silver in the all-around and earning two of the top bars and beam scores, while Böczögö finished fourth and topped the field on floor. Though the team is missing 2017 European silver all-around medalist Zsofia Kovacs, they’re still looking like one of the stronger squads going into Euros, with Noemi Makra back and looking great on bars, while Boglarka Devai is trying a Cheng on vault and Sara Peter is a confident gymnast on every event.

Aneta Holasova continues to be the standout for the Czech Republic, finishing third in the all-around and on every event but bars, while first-year senior and standout vaulter Dominika Ponizilova finished fifth all-around and first on vault, and Lucie Jirikova was sixth with a solid performance of her own.

Slovakia is all about 2016 Olympian Barbora Mokosova, who won her first world cup medal on bars in Koper last month and looks better than she ever has in her career, winning the all-around and topping bars after a fantastic day. For Austria, the performance was full of struggles, with Jasmin Mader‘s 12th-place all-around finish the best for the team, while national champion Marlies Männersdorfer ended up 14th.

The junior field was also dominated by the Hungarians, with the girls sweeping the top five all-around spots led by Bianka Schermann with gold, Zoja Szekely with silver, Hanna Szujo with bronze, Csenge Bacskay in fourth, and Regina Medved in fifth. These five also took the majority of the top-three spots on each event, but Ceren Kaya of Austria surprised to finish at the top on floor while Tamara Kalasova of the Czech Republic was second on beam.

PIEVE DI SOLIGO FRIENDLY

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Elisa Iorio and Giorgia Villa

This friendly in Italy saw most of the top junior teams from Western Europe coming together for what ended up being a decisive but unexpected win by the Italian girls, who were nearly five points ahead of the rest of the field.

Elisa Iorio and Giorgia Villa won gold and silver in the all-around, separated by just about a tenth while Iorio had the best bars score and Villa topped the podium on vault and floor. They also saw great work from Alice D’Amato, who isn’t yet back on floor after suffering an ankle injury in March, but she put up a solid FTY and strong work on bars and beam. Her twin, Asia, was out with a back injury that also took her out of nationals, but Asia was mostly just resting up, and will still compete on the Euros team this week, with Alessia Federici joining the foursome to help out wherever needed.

The French juniors had a four-point lead to get the silver over Great Britain, which won the bronze. Carolann Heduit again had an incredible meet to lead the French team, winning bronze in the all-around and on beam, but her teammates were all right up there with her, with Claire Pontlevoy and Julia Forestier tying for fourth while Alizée Letrange-Mouakit was sixth. I was especially impressed with Forestier’s beam, which was the best of the day earning a score of 14.000…this has always been a strong event for her, but this performance was the best I’ve ever seen her, so it’s crushing that just a couple of weeks later, she suffered a hand injury and had to withdraw from the team.

Great Britain’s leader Amelie Morgan struggled a little on floor, placing eighth all-around, though her DTY looked excellent and she also put up some clean work on bars. The rest of GB’s juniors aren’t quite at a super competitive level, and some falls here didn’t help their team campaign, but Ondine Achampong had some nice work on beam and floor, and Halle Hilton was gorgeous on beam, placing second on the event.

Emelie Petz, the top junior for Germany, crashed her vault and wasn’t at her best on beam, leaving her down in 10th place, far below her typical scoring potential, though she did put up the third-best scores on bars and floor with great work on both. For Switzerland, Lena Bickel was the strongest, finishing 15th overall, with Nina Ferrazzini not far behind, finishing 18th.

NORDIC CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Tonya Paulsson and Jessica Castles of Sweden

Norway proved once again to be the strongest team in the Nordic countries, winning the senior and junior team titles, but the Swedish gymnasts were most successful at the individual level.

Jessica Castles won the senior all-around, beam, and floor titles with excellent routines all weekend, while 2012 Olympian Jonna Adlerteg returned for the first time since worlds to easily win the bars gold — with a fall! At the junior level, Tonya Paulsson won the silver, coming within a tenth of topping the podium, while also winning the bars title and the bronze on floor, while newcomers Izabella Trejo and Jennifer Williams won the titles on vault and beam. Castles, Adlerteg, and Paulsson will be the sole representatives for Sweden at Euros, and all are looking capable of making finals with Adlerteg also hoping to get a medal on bars.

The Norwegian senior team ended up edging out Sweden by a tenth thanks to fantastic performances from all-arounders Thea Nygaard (silver), Sara Davidson (bronze), and Julie Søderstrøm (fifth place), while Juliane Tossebrø and Edel Fosse both looked great on floor, with Tossebrø winning the bronze. Mari Kanter led the junior team to gold with a fantastic all-around performance, getting the individual gold as well in addition to winning the silver medals on beam and floor, and the juniors got two spots in every final, with Aino Namtvedt also medaling, taking home the bronze on vault.

Denmark, the host team, doesn’t have the depth to do big things at these meets, but they had incredible individual results at both the senior and junior levels with Mette Hulgaard and Camille Rasmussen taking bronze in the all-around in their respective divisions. Hulgaard hit every event, making every final but vault, while Rasmussen made all four junior finals, winning the bronze on bars and snagging the floor title.

After vault and bars, it looked like Finland was going to easily take the senior title, but falls in every routine on beam as well as one on floor held them back to bronze. Their highest-ranked all-arounder was Enni Kettunen, who finished sixth and won the bronze on vault, while Sani Mäkelä looked excellent on vault to win the gold, Helmi Murto was super clean to get the silver on floor, and Maija Leinonen hit both bars and beam to get the bronze on both. The juniors also won team bronze, with two individual medals coming from Maisa Kuusikko on bars and Saara Kokko on beam.

Also competing here were Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Neither factored into the team decision, but Iceland did end up taking home a couple of vault medals, with both Agnes Suto-Tuuha and Vigdis Palmadottir getting the silvers in the senior and junior fields, respectively.

IZVORANI FRIENDLY

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Anamaria Ocolisan

Romania and Israel met for a friendly get-together in Izvorani a couple of weeks ago, where Denisa Golgota swept the senior all-around pretty easily, though the rest of the seniors looked pretty solid as well.

In addition to Golgota’s dominant performance, where she looked especially great on vault and floor, the biggest highlight was every senior hitting bars. Though they don’t have the difficulty to help them really contend here, they are making it through routines with decent enough scores that won’t completely destroy them, with Golgota earning a 12.600, Laura Iacob getting a 12.450, and Carmen Ghiciuc bringing in a 12.400. Iacob and Ghiciuc also looked great on vault and beam, while Anamaria Ocolisan brought back her DTY, hitting it very well in addition to a solid floor routine.

In the junior field, Silviana Sfiringu won the gold and led the team on vault, followed by Antonia Duta with the silver and the top score on beam, and Ioana Stanciulescu with the bronze. In addition, Ana Maria Puiu was fourth and won the bars title, Lisa Marchidanu was fifth and won on floor, and Daniela Trica was sixth.

The Israeli gymnasts didn’t really come into this meet as contenders, but it was nice to see them get some international team experience, though I believe the federation is opting not to send any of the seniors who competed here with weaker-than-expected results.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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