Russian Men Take Senior and Junior Team Titles

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As expected, after a commanding lead in Thursday’s prelims despite a rough start with a couple of falls on high bar, the Russians topped the podium by a decisive four points ahead of the host team from Great Britain in today’s team final at European Championships.

The British men led on floor thanks to a steady set from James Hall, who opened with a solid Randi, followed by solid hits from Max Whitlock and Dominick Cunningham, whose excellent routines contributed to a half-point edge at the start thanks to a fall from Nikita Nagornyy on his front double full to double front. Cunningham’s tumbling lines were especially wonderful, with near-perfect landings across the board, including a stuck triple full for his last pass.

For the Russians, both Dmitrii Lankin and Artur Dalaloyan hit super strong sets, so Nagornyy’s low score wasn’t a huge issue. Both Nagornyy and Lankin hit their triple backs almost too easily, with Lankin coming back to nail his 3.5 to front full, 2.5 to front double full, and a solid triple full to finish, and then Dalaloyan hit his front full to Randi, front layout to front double pike, double double, 2.5 to front double full, 1.5 to Rudi, and a triple full to finish, with some of the most gorgeous twisting I’ve seen in men’s gymnastics, earning a 14.633 for the highest score of the day on this event.

Both teams had to fight through pommels with two of the top guys on this event, Whitlock and David Belyavskiy, not looking quite as good as they’re capable of. After solid hits from Hall and Joe Fraser for the British team, Whitlock struggled through his routine, losing a considerable amount of difficulty after not getting credit for his Wu, and showing some form breaks as well. For the Russians, both Nagornyy and Nikolai Kuksenkov hit nicely, but while Belyavskiy had to work through some weak and muscled skills, the Russians managed to top the Brits on this event, narrowing the gap between the two as they went to rings.

Rings offered a great opportunity for the Russians to surpass the British men. Both Fraser and Hall did well for guys who aren’t naturals on the event, and the team’s specialist here, Courtney Tulloch, reached a solid 14.733 after looking a little weaker than usual in some of his positions, especially on his new eponymous skill. The Russians looked much better here, with Nagornyy and Dalaloyan both getting solid work in, though after a fantastic routine of his own at the end of the rotation, Lankin unfortunately put his hand down on his double front pike dismount (and I’ve pretty much never seen one of the guys look more upset than he did).

Even with the fall, however, the Russians were able to surge past the Brits by about a tenth, and then continued to gain ground on vault, where Nagornnyy more than made up for his floor score, almost sticking his Dragulescu to post the top score for the team with a 14.866. Dalaloyan was a bit short on his Yurchenko triple and took a large step out of bounds, but still scored a 14.5, and Lankin had a large step on his handspring Randi, but he was good enough in the air for a 14.8.

For the British team, both Cunningham and Tulloch — who fell in prelims to miss the individual final — hit easily this time around, with Cunningham’s 14.9 for his Yurchenko half-on front double full the highest of the day. Hall also hit a strong vault of his own as the leadoff here, taking just a step forward on his landing, but Cunningham crushed it on his Yurchenko half-on front double full, nearly sticking it cold, while Tulloch had just a step back on his huge Dragulescu.

Russia continued to expand their lead after a phenomenal p-bars performance, though their total score wasn’t quite as high after Nagornyy struggled through his Makuts to score just a 14.3, low for what he’s capable of. The other two, Belyavskiy and Dalaloyan, had zero problems, though, with Belyavskiy’s routine especially gorgeous for a 15.466. While the British men aren’t quite as strong here, all three hit and the judges seemed to love them, and they ended up only a point back from Russia going into the final rotation.

Given that high bar was where the Russians lost a ton of ground in Thursday’s competition, all the Brits had to do was hit and hope Russia once again wouldn’t be on top of things, but unfortunately for the Brits, it was them who had a bad day here. After an otherwise solid day with no major errors, Cunningham opened the rotation with two falls, on his Tkachev and Yamawaki, followed by a surprising fall from the normally super-consistent Hall on his Kovacs.

Fraser’s 13.9 for his excellent routine in between the two ended up being the best the team could do, so the Russians barely had to fight anymore to get that title, but fight they did. They began with two hit routines from Belyavskiy and Kuksenkov to pretty much seal the gold, with Belyavskiy entertaining the crowd with his German giants before hitting his dismount a little low while Kuksenkov delivered his effortless layout Tkachev, German giants, and full-twisting double layout dismount with a tiny hop.

After the first two went up, Nagornyy only needed a little over a 10 for the team to get the win, which he got fairly easily with his superb Tkachev-heavy routine that also saw him hit a clean and floaty full-twisting double layout dismount.

In the end, it was Russia with a 257.260 for gold and Great Britain with a 253.362, with high bar ending up being the downfall for the Brits, who had an otherwise spectacular day. While it looked like it was going to come down to the wire for Russia, having counted a couple of falls and mistakes earlier in the day, the Brits practically handed the meet over to them at the last minute.

It wasn’t the thriller we all wanted, but I still think the stronger team won, and the British guys still managed to put on a great show at home, high bar aside.

The French team ended up getting the bronze, coming up a bit short on rings compared to other teams, but mostly getting through the day with fantastic work and absolutely zero major mistakes.

Julien Gobaux was the picture of consistency, competing all six events very well with his landing on vault and clean work on parallel bars especially strong. Loris Frasca was outstanding on floor and vault, performing a beautiful kaz double full on the latter for a 14.9, the highest of the day. Axel Augis competed all events but floor, showing especially beautiful work on p-bars and high bar, performing a Cassina, Kolman, and solid dismount on the latter.

In addition, Cyril Tommasone, the specialist who made the team for his work on pommels, delivered like a pro here with superb flares and a nice cover when his legs started to come apart near the end, and Edgar Boulet, who stepped in as the alternate, went for broke with solid routines on high bar and floor, getting his job done to recover on the former after catching his Cassina a little close and muscling out of it, while on floor his landings were pretty much all solid, especially on his stuck double front pike at the start of his routine.

The Germans had been really hoping for a medal here, and they were definitely the stronger team compared to the French, but with the great day the French men had, the Germans were unable to keep up after a few falls and weaker-than-usual routines.

Andreas Bretschneider had a fall on both pommels and then again on his watered-down high bar set, where he slipped off on his Rybalko, and he also landed his Roche super low, though he managed good work on p-bars and on floor, with just a couple of little stumbles on his landings there. The team was also relying heavily on Marcel Nguyen, who hit a solid Roche on vault before also looking fab on p-bars, but his landings on floor were a bit weak and he had a fall on high bar on top of that.

Nick Klessing unfortunately sat his Roche on vault, though he hit both floor and rings, and both Andreas Toba and Nils Dunkel had comparatively strong days, with Toba putting up the team’s best routine on pommels, while Dunkel stood out there and on p-bars, though neither of them had quite what they needed to lift the team out of their hole to catch the French.

They did come out on top of the Swiss team, though, by just over a tenth after Switzerland couldn’t come through on rings. Considering the Swiss team was without Eddy Yusof, Christian Baumann, and Pablo Brägger, this was an exemplary meet for the team, which saw the younger generation truly stepping up to keep the team in the mix for a medal.

Switzerland was led by Oliver Hegi, who was incredible on pommels, p-bars, and high bar, hitting a Yamawaki half, a huge Def, and a full-twisting double layout with just a step back there to help the team top that event. His 2016 Olympic teammate Benjamin Gischard was also on fire, leading the team on rings and vault while also coming in strong on pommels.

Henji Mboyo, one of the newcomers, struggled on rings and floor, but he was excellent on p-bars and high bar, helping the team reach the top three on both. Taha Serhani sat his Kaz 1.5 on vault, but he came back to put up huge routines on p-bars and high bar, and he also looked great on floor, and Noe Seifert, who replaced Yusof at the last minute, had a fall on pommels, but he contributed three strong scores across floor, rings, and vault.

I didn’t see a ton from the Spanish men aside from Nestor Abad, who had a beautiful and stuck kaz full on vault and looked great on all of his other events aside from pommels, where he sadly had a fall. Nicolau Mir was excellent on vault and p-bars, but he had a fall on high bar, and pommels overall was weak for the team, but Rayderley Zapata added solid sets on floor and vault to help make these two events the team’s best.

After the fourth rotation, the Turkish men looked like they were coming in to challenge for a medal, but falls on their final two events left them sadly far behind. Still, this was the first time Turkey made a team final at Euros, so just getting in was a huge deal, and their seventh-place finish is still record-breaking even if it wasn’t exactly how they wanted to wind up.

Ahmet Önder started out excellent on his first three events, but then missed his Kolman on high bar before stumbling back and crashing his triple full on floor and falling on high bar, an unfortunate end to an otherwise strong day. The team was the best in the competition on rings, and everyone who competed on vault, p-bars, and high bar was on fire.

Unfortunately, in addition to Önder’s fall on floor, Emre Gundogdu had a few stumbles in his own floor set and Ferhat Arican also struggled there, and then Umit Samiloglu fell early in his pommels routine, so even though Arican came back to try to get them on track with a solid set, their podium race had ended.

Finally, the Italians. SIGH. In their first routine of the entire meet, poor Andrea Russo came in super awkward and high onto the vault table, his hand fully slipping in his tsuk entry, causing him to flip over the table and then roll out of his ‘vault’ onto the mat, getting a zero. In a three-up three-count format, this meant that just a few second into the competition, Italy was completely out of the race, with no way of coming back from that fall.

Both Marco Sarrugerio and Marco Lodadio stumbled their own vault landings, and though the team came back for a strong p-bars rotation, Russo fell on his layout Tkachev and Tommaso de Vecchis missed his Kolman on high bar. This was all I saw of the Italians, but it looked like de Vecchis also missed floor, though some high points for this team were de Vecchis on pommels, Marco Lodadio on rings, and Ludovico Edalli on high bar.

It was a shame to see them fall apart after a shockingly great qualification, where they were a happy surprise into the team final, but even without Russo’s zero, the team wasn’t likely to be a top-five contender, so they can just chalk this up to a bad experience and hopefully get over it to come back strong for worlds.

In the junior competition, the British team looked unbeatable after insanely strong floor and vault performances, with their vault rotation on par with pretty much any of the top senior team final vault rotations thanks to incredible sets from Jake Jarman, Donell Osbourne, and Jamie Lewis, who placed second in the all-around after also looking fab on floor, pommels, and rings.

The Russians ended up topping the Brits by nearly a point, however, after the British juniors struggled on high bar in their final rotation. The Russians were comparatively strong there, in addition to also posting high team scores on rings and vault, and though pommels was a bit weak, it was a weak event overall for the juniors, and the Russians were still able to count all scores above a 13.1 to secure their gold medal.

Italy ended up taking the bronze a couple of points back from the Brits, putting up its strongest rotations on floor, vault, and high bar, while Nicolo Mozzato won the all-around with an 80.198, making him the only junior to surpass an 80 in the individual competition.

Rounding out the junior field was Switzerland in fourth with a 237.829, coming up less than a tenth behind the Italians, and then Ukraine in fifth with a 235.096, Germany in sixth with a 233.695, France in seventh with a 230.825, and Belgium in eighth with a 229.662.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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5 thoughts on “Russian Men Take Senior and Junior Team Titles

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