Yilmaz Göktekin, Abdelrahman Elgamal, Ibrahim Colak, Ahmet Önder, Ümit Samiloglu, and Ferhat Arican
In a year with only a handful of nations in attendance at European Championships thanks to COVID-19, almost every finish can be called “historic” but there was nothing I was looking forward to referring to in this way more than the Turkish men getting a team medal.
In fact, I’m pretty sure the concept of Turkey getting its time in the spotlight after everything these guys have accomplished this quad is the sole reason the federation jumped at the chance to hold these last-minute pandemic championships in Mersin. I’m almost certain that if no other programs opted to attend, Turkey would still insist on hosting the event, and I wouldn’t even care. I love this men’s team, and winning all the medals is what they deserve.
Minus a fall on pommels from Egyptian transplant Abdelrahman Elgamal – who was otherwise sensational, the only Turkish man to compete all six events to score an 83.232 total, though no all-around competition is contested here for the seniors – the team was on fire in qualifications, leading ahead of the Ukrainians by more than a point with a 251.594 to Ukraine’s 250.462.
Upsetting again in finals would take another near-perfect day, but then Elgamal injured his foot, and couldn’t compete floor or vault. Instead, Ibrahim Colak stepped up to anchor floor with a 3.4 start value after not competing the event since world championships in 2018, while Ümit Samiloglu, who hasn’t vaulted in a major international meet in a decade, threw a tsuk full on vault.
The performances were heroic for both, who looked so proud and happy to step up in this way for the team, but Elgamal is capable of scoring two points higher than these guys could manage on both floor and vault, so obviously it was a huge hit for the team. Still, the rest of the day went well enough that it looked like they were at least still in the running. Aside from Ahmet Önder falling on pommels and Ferhat Arican looking a bit nervous on p-bars, it was a good day for the guys, and they went into high bar just 1.2 points behind Ukraine, an event they led in qualifications. If they could just do a repeat of qualifications in the final, the gold wasn’t out of reach.
But this is where things got real sad, real fast. First up for Turkey, Önder went all-out with a clean Yamawaki and huge Cassina to start his set, but he was a bit too aggressive for his own good, and his Kolman flew so far over the bar, he didn’t have a prayer of catching, becoming the first casualty of the rotation for the host team. Next up, Elgamal and Samiloglu both missed their straddle Tkachev to immediate straddle Tkachev to mixed grip combos, especially a shame as they both otherwise had such strong routines, but the damage was done, and the three falls held the men back to just a 244.793 total, four points back from gold.
Ukraine was led in the team final by Petro Pakhniuk’s brilliant pommel horse and parallel bars routines, big numbers on rings and vault from Igor Radivilov, and a remarkably consistent performance from Yevgen Yudenkov. We also saw mostly strong work from Vladyslav Hryko, who had a shaky p-bars set with some short handstands and leg form breaks, but otherwise did great work for the team, while Roman Vashchenko had a good performance on rings, his one event.
The team wasn’t at a hundred percent in the final, starting out with a fall from Pakhniuk on his double front side pass on floor, and they also came into Euros with a few weaker-than-expected routines in the roster with Oleg Verniaiev not competing as originally planned. But still, in this field, they were expected to remain top competition, and despite Turkey’s challenge, they ended up with gold. Their team score in the final was about a point and a half lower than what they saw in qualifications, but Pakhniuk’s fall and a few small mistakes aside, it was a good meet for the team, all things considered.
No other team was really expected to factor into the race for gold and silver, but the other teams had their own race going on for bronze, though Hungary, third in qualifications, managed to hold onto its position in the final even as Israel put up quite a fight to get within about a point of challenging.
The Hungarians finished with a 240.393. Led by the phenomenal 19-year-old Krisztofer Meszaros, who hit every event including an absolutely fabulous floor routine that earned a 14.333 as well as a kaz full with a small hop that got a 14.033, the team actually had an incredible competition overall, with difficulty and a few minor mistakes really its only downfall. In addition to Meszaros, the veteran David Vecsernyes had lovely work on his three events, with high bar always a standout, with his one-arm front pirouette, Cassina, Kolman, straddle Tkachev to mixed grip, Yamawaki to Endo, and layout full dismount that flies up and over the rail scoring a 14.100.
In addition to these two, Benedek Tomcsanyi competed all six events and was pretty great across the board. His only real mistake came on floor, where he came in low from his 2½ and crashed the barani he attempted out of it, but otherwise, he hit everything I saw, with his pommels and p-bars routines especially strong, and while his high bar set was relatively simple, there was some really nice work throughout, including a stuck full-twisting double layout. Balazs Kiss, meanwhile, competed well on rings and on floor, with a front layout to double front a highlight for him there, and Szabolcs Batori competed just on vault for the team, doing a Rudi that was a bit messy and low, but he still pulled in a respectable score.
Israel is of course known for its specialist performances – like Artem Dolgopyat on floor and Andrey Medvedev on vault, with Alexander Shatilov the strongest all-around talent – but as a team, they’re a bit lacking and often have many gaps exposed on various events, making it difficult for them to find success in events like this.
Still, they got close here, scoring a 239.028 for fourth, and while some of the bigger scores were partly responsible – like Dolgopyat’s 14.866 for his excellent floor set (that double front full-in half-out will always kill me) as well as his 14.600 for his beautifully stuck kaz 1½ – I think they’ve also been figuring out the team dynamic this quad, and they’re really not as lacking as they used to be. Rings and p-bars are definitely behind, and they also had some mistakes from Medvedev here, with some stumbles on floor in addition to him dropping his Blanik to his back on vault (though it was gorgeous in the air!), but I was also pleasantly surprised with them as a whole, and continue to grow further impressed with Alexander Myakinin the more we see him compete. He was invaluable on pommels and high bar this weekend, and then Ilan Korchak rounded out the team with his best work coming on rings.
Also in the team final were Bulgaria in fifth with a 236.429 and Austria in sixth with a 235.325. Both teams had a couple of falls apiece, but even more highlights that I loved actually getting to see showcased in a team final.
For Bulgaria, Yordan Aleksandrov was excellent on rings, p-bars, and high bar, with the latter of these three my favorite…he had great form on his three Tkachev releases, a lovely Yamawaki to Endo, and a solid full-twisting double layout dismount. I was also impressed with his teammate, David Huddleston, who had strong work on all six events, including a nice kaz 1½ on vault, and a solid stuck double double on floor. Dimitar Dimitrov put up an awesome floor routine for the team, as well as a Kaz 1½ on vault, Hristos Marinov had a fall on his p-bars dismount, but was clean on rings to put up the team’s best score there, and Radoslav Rachev hit both vault and high bar for the team.
For Austria, my favorite was p-bars, where the work was mostly easy, but so, so, so clean. Severin Kranzlmüller was especially lovely to watch there, with very nice lines and handstands, capping off his routine with a solid landing on his double pike, but Alexander Benda was also great there and everywhere else, honestly, and I can’t mention Austria without talking about Vinzenz Höck on rings, where he had a few rushed moments in this specific performance, but his work was nonetheless impressive as always.
Ricardo Rudy also gets a mention for his lovely kaz full and clean work on floor and pommels, while Manuel Arnold did strong work on rings and p-bars. This was my first time seeing either of these two in a senior international competition, so kudos to them for helping the team get into the final in the first place. They both add great depth to the program, and hopefully this experience will help them grow to able to do even more in the future.
Team results are below, and we’ll be back tomorrow with a recap from the apparatus finals.
Team Final Results
1. Ukraine 248.963
2. Turkey 244.793
3. Hungary 240.393
4. Israel 239.028
5. Bulgaria 236.429
6. Austria 235.325
Team Qualification Results
1. Turkey 251.594
2. Ukraine 250.462
3. Hungary 241.961
4. Austria 239.226
5. Israel 235.760
6. Bulgaria 232.394
7. Czech Republic 232.160
8. Lithuania 229.194
9. Romania 227.296
10. Croatia 76.032
Article by Lauren Hopkins