The roster for this weekend’s Szombathely World Cup comes in at 58 gymnasts with the men and women combined, down from the 80 who initially signed up on the nominative list, many of whom aren’t going to be at a hundred percent after more than six months without competing. But nonetheless, this meet is an important step in coming back to the sport, and will likely serve as a litmus test for other local organizers planning their own international events in the coming months while the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus.
Several top gymnasts have backed out (including hometown hero and Olympian Zsofia Kovacs, due to a knee injury), as have entire countries (Bulgaria, France, Israel, and Slovakia are no-shows, as is the women’s team from Slovenia), but there’s still plenty to be jazzed about.
On the women’s side, I’m most excited to see Aneta Holasova of the Czech Republic, one of my favorite “small program” gymnasts since she was a young junior, now qualified to the Tokyo Olympic Games. Holasova is competing every event but bars, and if she hits, I’d consider her a medal contender on both beam and floor. The bronze medalist on floor at last year’s Challenge Cup in Paris, Holasova has hugely impressive and clean tumbling, and her beam is also a standout, so if she hits, expect her to take some of the higher scores here.
I’m also looking forward to see what Poland can offer. Though Gabriela Janik, the country’s qualifier for Tokyo, has withdrawn from the competition, she was replaced by the legendary Marta Pihan-Kulesza, who should be a showstopper on floor, and we’ll also see first-year senior Kaja Skalska, Poland’s most promising newcomer in the past decade who will compete all four events here, though bars is typically where she has her strongest skill level.
Ukraine’s arsenal is pretty mighty, featuring 2016 Olympian Angelina Radivilova, 2020 Olympic qualifier Diana Varinska, and first-year senior Anastasiia Motak, who won the national all-around title last month at just 15. Radivilova should be a big threat on vault and floor, while Varinska has the potential to medal on bars, beam, and floor, and Motak could potentially show a DTY on vault, with her beam also very impressive. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s scored here compared to the 14.4 she got at home under Ukraine’s notoriously wild domestic judging, but either way, it’s an incredible set and deserves some time in the international spotlight.
Hungary, the host country, will also have favorites on several events, with Csenge Bacskay, Boglarka Devai, Noemi Makra, and Zoja Szekely all some of the best the women’s program currently has to offer. Both Bacskay and Devai are international medalists on vault, with Bacskay winning the Youth Olympic Games silver in 2018 while Devai took the Euros title in 2018, so that could be a great opportunity for them to snag some early hardware. It’s been more than two years now since Devai has competed, however, so we’ll see what kind of shape she’s in and whether she’ll be able to capture the title at home.
Szekely will likely be a top contender for a bars medal, with her routine jam-packed full of releases and combos, while Makra will compete beam and floor. She’s been hit-or-miss on both in recent years, but her beam especially has great potential, so we’ll see what she can do on that apparatus, which will be even more unpredictable than usual after these athletes have had so much time away from the sport.
Also of note? On vault, world cup veterans Tijana Korent of Croatia and Jasmin Mader of Austria could be threats, Aleksandra Rajcic of Serbia has an impressive bars set, beam is anyone’s game but Lisa Zimmermann of Germany has shown some great work here in the past, and I love Latvia’s Elina Vihrova on all events, but floor is typically her best.
The Hungarian men’s program is hoping to clean up here, with high bar David Vecsernyes my favorite, but he’ll be going head-to-head with world champion Tin Srbic of Croatia, who is the favorite for the title. Milad Karimi, the 2020 Olympic quailfier for Kazakhstan, is also now a big name on the roster, and has medal potential on several events (with floor, vault, and high bar all likely), the legendary Romanian Olympian Marian Dragulescu will compete on vault only, Vinzenz Höck of Austria should be a top contender on rings, Croatian men Robert Seligman and Filip Ude are always highlights on pommels, Rok Klavora of Slovenia has a must-watch floor routine, Matvei Petrov of Albania is killer on pommels and p-bars, and the Ukrainian team should see top contenders in Igor Radivilov on rings and vault, Petro Pakhniuk on floor, pommels, and p-bars, Yevgen Yudenkov on floor, and Vladyslav Hryko on vault and high bar.
The competition begins with qualifications on Friday, October 2, with the women competing from 10 am until 2 pm, and then the men take over at 3:30 pm. Qualifications will be streamed on the Hungarian Federation’s website, but fair warning, the link is likely going to be geo-blocked.
Finals will happen over the weekend, beginning at 3 pm on both October 3 and October 4, with both days streamed via the Olympic Channel. All times listed are local to the competition, and Szombathely is currently 6 hours ahead of the U.S. east coast.
Article by Lauren Hopkins