Anastasia Motak, Yelizaveta Hubareva, Angelina Radivilova, Anastasiia Bachynska, and Diana Varinska
The competition was never going to be the same at European Championships this year as a majority of federations withdrew due to COVID-19 concerns, but that doesn’t mean the team final was any less exciting, as it all came down to a nail-biting wait for the very last score to come in to see that Ukraine would get the upset over Romania.
Despite a commanding five-point lead in qualifications, multiple mistakes on bars combined with weaker rotations on beam and floor brought Romania down much closer to Ukraine’s level in the final. The Ukrainians also had a few mistakes, and counted a fall on beam, but with a much-improved performance on bars, the team was able to hold steady, finishing with a 154.663 to Romania’s 154.496 to win the first European Championships team gold medal in the country’s history.
Romania started out with a one-point edge on vault, competing three Yurchenko doubles to compared to Ukraine’s one Yurchenko double and two Yurchenko fulls. Both Larisa Iordache and Silviana Sfiringu were able to break a 14 here despite minor form and landing deductions, while Ioana Stanciulescu was a bit rough in hers once again, landing hunched over and taking a big hop out-of-bounds to get just a 13.500 (I think they should’ve just had her do the full, which likely would have outscored her double even with the difficulty deficit).
For Ukraine, Anastasiia Motak performed a double, and though she had the best landing in the rotation, her form in the air was a bit weak, with bent and crossed legs throughout, leaving her with a 14.000. Anastasiia Bachynska competed only a full instead of the 1½ she did in qualifications, but she was clean and solid with just a tiny bounce to get a 13.533, while Yelizaveta Hubareva had a clean full of her own, just lacking the amplitude off the table and confidence on the landing that Bachynska showed.
The bars rotation started out on a horrifying note for Romania, as Stanciulescu fell twice, first missing her Ray and then after losing her rhythm during her pirouette work, causing her to attempt to adjust several times before hopping off. In addition to the falls, she also struggled with some form throughout, looking off on her Maloney to Tkachev and coming up super short on the handstand before the blind change into her Jaeger, so she was only able to bring in a 9.800 here instead of the 12.5+ they were counting on from her. With just one routine, Romania went from a solid lead to a major deficit that they’d have to spend the rest of the final digging themselves out of.
Iordache had a few breaks in her set, with some leg separation in her Maloney to clear hip and then again on the Pak out of her Tkachev, while she showed more significant form breaks in her van Leeuwen. The rest wasn’t bad, though, and she put up a 13.100 to lead the team on this event, though the team would count another mistake from Sfiringu, who fought to get through the front giant into her piked Jaeger, causing her to struggle with the release, and so her Jaeger ended up being a bit of a tucked mess caught close to the bar. It was honestly impressive that she not only stayed on there, but also continued with no problems into the rest of the routine, though she did take a significant hit to her execution score to earn just a 12.166, at least a point down from what she’s capable of with a truly hit set.
In contrast, Ukraine was excellent on this event. I talked about how bars would be Ukraine’s advantage in my preview of the competition, but I don’t think I realized exactly how important the apparatus would end up being. Motak started out with a 13.033, just showing a number of minor form issues throughout, but she was mostly lovely in her Komova II to Pak, inbar to inbar half to straddle Jaeger, and double layout. Diana Varinska put up a hit routine today, getting her Chow to Pak, Maloney to clear hip full, Tkachev to mixed grip into an immediate straddle Jaeger, and toe-on to high double tuck with pretty much no problems aside from her usual technical faults to earn a 13.233, while Bachynska was just a bit sloppy in some of her handstands, but overall looked very strong in her set to cap them off with a 12.833.
At the halfway point, Ukraine had a three-point margin ahead of Romania, but in qualifications, Romania led Ukraine by two points on both beam and floor, so they still had the ability to not only still win, but to do it by a significant amount if they could only hit like they did on Thursday.
Beam isn’t a brilliant event for Ukraine overall, and the team started out with a fall from Motak on her front handspring to front pike series in a routine that saw other issues as well, including a wild landing and fight to save her front handspring to front tuck, a missed split in the latter half of her switch leap to switch half, a stumble out of her back tuck, significant pauses throughout, and a messy triple full dismount that landed short with a step forward.
She only brought in an 11.833 here, but both Bachynska and Varinska were able to reel things in a bit, with Bachynska just wobbling on her switch ring and taking a step out of her front handspring front tuck seires, but otherwise looking solid to score a 12.700, while Varinska had a few small checks throughout as well as a low landing on her switch half, but was otherwise good enough to get a 12.533.
Romania should have made up a lot of room here, but unfortunately, both Sfiringu and Daniela Trica were down quite a bit from what they’re capable of, and though nothing went wildly wrong for either of them, both had a number of adjustments, checks, and wobbles throughout their routines, including flight series saves for both, with Trica managing a 12.466 and Sfiringu coming in at a 12.366.
The good news was that despite these two struggling, Iordache had a dynamite set. I got scared early on when she wobbled and took a big step back out of her side aerial, because usually if a gymnast shows nerves on a side aerial, things aren’t going to go well…but she very quickly got herself under control, hitting a solid back handspring to tuck full, front aerial to split jump to back handspring, switch half, a double spin with a lovely little stylistic flair out of it, and a triple full with a step back. The judges gave her a 6.2 start value for her set, and with her relatively great execution throughout, she managed a 14.133 total score, which would ultimately narrow Ukraine’s three-point gap to just one point going into the final rotation.
Since Romania is so much stronger than Ukraine on floor, I didn’t think making up a one-point gap would be much of an issue at all, and Ukraine didn’t really bring in any routines that were cause for concern. Varinska had nice landings in all of her tumbling, and put up the easiest, but best-executed routine for a 12.466, while Angelina Radivilova hit her 1½ to triple full and arabian double front with a few form issues to come in for a 12.633, and Hubareva – who didn’t compete floor in qualifications – surprised with strong work throughout her routine, especially on her arabian double front and double pike, to pick up a 12.533 for the team.
Antonia Duta showed some beautiful work in her one event of the day, with lovely twisting form throughout, though she was about a quarter twist short on her triple full, and she also had a bounce back on her double tuck as well as a short leap early in the routine, starting the Romanians off with a 12.800. Up next, Stanciulescu was determined to make up for her low vault and bars scores, performing a strong piked full-in followed up by a tucked full-in, a clean 2½ to front tuck with a hop forward, and a double tuck with a hop for a 13.033.
These two set Iordache up for a promising finish. She’d need just a 12.934 to surpass Ukraine, and with a 13.433 on the event in qualifications, it seemed like all she had to do was hit and the title was Romania’s. The routine itself was good, with a piked full-in, small hop back on the tucked full-in, big bounce back on a double full, and a solid double pike to finish. The problem is that she normally competes a 2½ to punch front for her third pass, only she balked it to save the landing, but it meant she wouldn’t include any front tumbling in her set, and missing that credit requirement would automatically knock her score down by half a point, on top of her difficulty needing to be rearranged due to the skills she actually competed in that third pass.
After several torturous minutes, Iordache’s score came in as a 12.766, two tenths lower than what she needed, with her difficulty knocked down from a 5.7 to just a 5.0. It was a heartbreaking end to the day, as Iordache contributed the team’s top scores on both bars and beam, and while the final team total came down to that last routine, the loss wasn’t any more “her fault” than the silver medal happened because of her. Because without Iordache, I highly doubt Romania would have walked away with more than bronze.
Iordache looked absolutely devastated from the second the result was announced all the way up until receiving her medal, which I was so sad to see. With three years out of competition, including a period of time where doctors were telling her that she might never do gymnastics again, just seeing Iordache back in the sport at all – let alone leading a team on four events in a team final at Euros – is incredible, and I hope that once her disappointment about the color of today’s medal fades, she can realize that one mistake does not define her as a gymnast or as a mentor for this young team.
This competition is more about the journey for her than this one singular result, but even if you did have to judge her based on this one day, the facts are facts. Iordache was the only member of this team to contribute scores on all four events after doing the same in qualifications, and her all-around score for today’s routines was a 54.165, which is 35% of the team’s total. One routine may not have gone as planned, but even that was only because she was trying to play it safe, fearing that if she went for the actual pass, she might fall or make a larger mistake she couldn’t come back from (or worse, considering her history, been seriously injured). It’s nearly impossible to think on your feet on floor, but she did what she thought was best in the moment, and while it wasn’t ideal, it was better than the alternative of falling. And if the team had been in a better position coming into that split-second decision, it wouldn’t have been even remotely an issue, because a seven-tenth difficulty hit is not as bad as a one-point fall.
Again, while I’m sure the emotions are still raw right now, I hope Iordache can eventually see this and knows what she did for this team here in Mersin, and I’m looking forward to what she’s still capable of accomplishing in the apparatus finals.
Hungary took the final podium spot, with the team’s bronze medal a first in the country’s history thanks to an impressive competition on vault and bars. Zsofia Kovas was phenomenal overall, vaulting a solid Yurchenko double and hitting a super clean bars set with big releases and great attention to detail to get a 14.200 for both, while also leading the team with a 12.533 on beam, where she was mostly solid aside from a few minor concerns.
Dorina Böczögö contributed strong performances on both vault, where she had a clean Yurchenko full, and on floor, where she had the team-best 12.666, showing a big double front, double tuck, and double pike. Zoja Szekely was also solid on her two events, getting a 13.400 after hitting a big Church, Tkachev to Pak, Maloney to Gienger, piked Jaeger, and full-in, and then also earning a 12.166 on floor, while Csenge Bacskay competed a solid Yurchenko full, though had a fall on beam, and Mirtill Makovits made it through a clean bars set, but struggled on both beam and floor.
The Turkish team had a few errors today, but still easily swung into fourth place, and many of the routines we got to see on the stream were great, including hit bar sets from Bilge Tarhan and Dilara Yurtas, who had a lovely toe full, Maloney to Pak, Gienger, and double tuck for a 12.166, fantastic beam work from Tarhan, who hit a roundoff layout and double pike for a 12.100, three awesome floor routines from Tarhan, Cemre Kendirci, and Göksu Üctas Sanli, all of whom brought in a 12.033, and then two solid FTYs from Tarhan and Yurtdas, though the team unfortunately had what seemed like an injury here to Ece Yagmur Yavuz, who had a hard crash on her tsuk full.
For the Czech Republic, Aneta Holasova was back on all four events to help them to a fifth-place finish. Though she wasn’t back to full difficulty – and even took out some skills on bars to make the routine more manageable for her endurance-wise – I was happy to see her hit all of them well, with a solid Yurchenko full on vault, difficult Maloney to Hindorff combo on bars, fabulous triple flight series on beam, and excellent double layout and front pike through to clean layout full on floor. She posted the top scores for the team on every event but beam, where she had a large wobble on her full Y turn and again dismounted with just a layout, and she finished her day with a 48.099, which, considering the circumstances, is pretty impressive.
The team also saw great work from Dominika Ponizilova and Magdalena Coufalova on vault and floor, and Ponizilova’s scores were a bit low on bars and beam though we didn’t get to see either routine so I’m not sure if she had falls or just a number of smaller mistakes, while Sabina Halova put up a simple but lovely bars set, but had a fall on beam.
Coming into the final pretty lucky to be here after counting many falls in qualifications, Croatia wasn’t really giving their all today, which was evident in Ana Derek‘s heavily downgraded floor routine, where she performed just a front tuck through to a layout, layout full, and back tuck as her tumbling lines…though she was gorgeous, and the lack of difficult tumbling allowed her to pay full attention to her dance elements and choreography, which were gorgeous. Derek also hit beam beautifully, with a few wobbles, yet her performance overall was lovely.
Otherwise, Christina Zwicker struggled a bit today in a stark contrast compared to what we saw from her in qualifications, though she still had some lovely work on beam despite the fall, while Petra Furac competed all four events with vault and floor standouts for her, Tijana Korent hit a solid vault for the team, and Tina Zelcic made it through her simple but sweet bars set.
The competition continues tomorrow with junior apparatus finals beginning at 10 am, while senior finals take place at 3 pm (local time, with Mersin eight hours ahead of NYC). All streaming and live scoring links can be found here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins