Melnikova Takes Over All-Around Lead, Qualifies to All Four Event Finals

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Angelina Melnikova

Remember the start of the 2020 quad four years ago in Montreal when Angelina Melnikova of Russia, who was only 17 at the time, finished 16th in the all-around and missed every event final?

She questioned herself and her talent on social media, leaving the competition completely demoralized, especially as her teammates all thrived alongside her, but this competition was also the turning point in her career. From here, she spent the next few years slowly building up throughout to become one of the best in the world by the time the Tokyo Olympics came around, and now, 21-year-old Melnikova is undoubtedly the top gymnast currently competing, with her dominant performance in qualifications at world championships just additional proof of what we already knew.

After leading her team to gold and then picking up two individual bronze medals in Tokyo, Melnikova was going to take a break, but why slow that momentum when she’s still physically in some of the best shape of her life? That’s how she looked in podium training, and it was even better during qualifications, where she had a few little glitches – her second vault, the Lopez, was a bit rough, she bent her knees to correct her van Leeuwen flight, and she had a stumble on her double layout on floor – but she was ultimately incredible, finishing up the final subdivision with a 57.065 to take the all-around lead more than a point ahead of the Americans, Leanne Wong and Kayla DiCello.

Best of all, Melnikova was at her all-time best on beam, where she was so precise and lovely on every skill to finally make the apparatus final for an event that has been elusive throughout her career at the highest levels, including at European championships, world championships, and the Olympic Games. Not only did she qualify, but she landed in second place with the second-highest execution of the competition, coming behind China’s Luo Rui in both aspects. Her score of 14.033 is nearly a personal best at the international level (she received a 14.1 at the Friendship & Solidarity meet in Japan last year, and a 14.05 at Jesolo in 2017), and it was much-deserved, as she showed one of the most controlled and effortless-looking sets in the field.

Melnikova also qualified second into the floor final, and fourth into both the vault and bars finals, with room for improvement on both. It’s a level of dominance we’ve seen only from Simone Biles in recent memory, and though the field isn’t at its most competitive, I think she’d still be in a similar position regardless of the field, because she was just that good. Seeing her transformation over the past four years has been the best part of following the sport this quad, and I hope she sticks around for years to come, because she’s living proof that age, time, and experience are gifts, not a detriment.

The rest of the Russian team performed well for the most part. Vladislava Urazova crashed her Yurchenko double on vault and missed a flight series on beam, though she still qualified to the all-around final in fifth place, and she also made the bars and floor finals. She was strong on both in prelims, with just minor errors but mostly great form, especially on floor, where her body positions on most of her skills are divine.

Urazova getting in on bars meant Maria Minaeva was left out on her one event, which was unfortunate. She has my favorite routine from the Russian group, but she came in really high and close on her Shang, and was pretty piked down on her Nabieva as well. Otherwise, she was great, and I do think she and Urazova (who were just 0.033 apart) should have been swapped in the rankings, but it is what it is.

Finally, Yana Vorona was incredible on beam, just taking a couple of steps back on her double tuck dismount, but the rest of the routine was pretty strong overall, and she qualified fifth into the final with a 13.633, with room for improvement in her execution.

Olympic champion Rebeca Andrade of Brazil was outstanding on her first two events, and she leads both the vault and bars fields going into finals. She was out of bounds on her first vault, the Cheng, but her Yurchenko double soared, looking easy for her and getting her to a 14.800 average, nearly half a point ahead of the rest of the field. On bars, she performed crisp, tight skills with almost no adjustments or hesitations, earning a 15.1 with an 8.8 E score, the highest of the day again by nearly half a point. China’s Wei Xiaoyuan has her beat on difficulty by two tenths, but Andrade showed that she’s still the biggest threat in the field if she can again hit the way she did yesterday.

Beam was a bit of a weak spot for Andrade, who wobbled or had major form breaks on nearly every skill. The judges were pretty lenient with her, so she was able to sneak into the final when she tied Murakami Mai exactly with a 13.4 total, 5.6 D, and 7.8 E (the two tied in eight place, so both will compete in the final, meaning the beam final will have nine gymnasts). But the judges have been pretty easygoing with most of the gymnasts on beam here, with the exception of Luo Rui of China in comparison. She still rightly leads the field, though, and she had the misfortune of competing in the first subdivision, so I’m sure when she’s up against the rest of the beam field, the E scores will make a bit more sense.

The South Koreans were also a highlight on the final day of qualifications, with Lee Yunseo finishing 10th all-around, just ahead of Shin Solyi in 14th. The two got off to a bit of a shaky start on beam, which is not the strongest event for either, but they quickly made up for it with excellent floor performances – Shin is the first reserve and Lee is the second reserve for the final, scoring 13.1 and 13.016, respectively – and then bars was a standout for Lee, though she ended up just missing the final after significantly breaking down into a pike while in handstand. Her correction was great, as was the rest of her set, and she still managed a 14.066 to get a reserve spot, but with the mistake, it just wasn’t enough for the final, unfortunately.

The ladies from Mexico were a little rough around the edges, but even with world vault medalist Alexa Moreno not competing, they still managed to get an athlete into the vault final, which was great to see. Natalia Escalera had a solid Yurchenko 1½ for her first set, and then also hit a tsuk full, averaging a 13.633 to finish sixth going into the final. It’s not quite the difficulty level Moreno has, but for this field, it was exactly what she needed.

Emma Slevin of Ireland was a joy to watch in the final subdivision, and she became the first Irish gymnast to make a final at world championships just six months after becoming the first to make one at Euros. In sad news, though, Tjasa Kysselef ended up missing the vault final after hitting her Yurchenko 1½ but then sitting her handspring front tuck full, finishing 14th, a real shame when she had the ability to finish among the top four.

A full list of all qualifiers is below.

ALL-AROUND STANDINGS

1. Angelina Melnikova RUS 57.065
2. Leanne Wong USA 55.749
3. Kayla DiCello USA 55.700
4. Hatakeda Hitomi JPN 53.798
5. Vladislava Urazova RUS 53.065
6. Filipa Martins POR 53.032
7. Wei Xiaoyuan CHN 52.865
8. Carolann Heduit FRA 52.765
9. Anastasiia Bachynska UKR 52.665
10. Lee Yunseo KOR 52.540
11. Naomi Visser NED 52.266
12. Asia D’Amato ITA 52.099
13. Alice D’Amato ITA 52.098
14. Shin Solyi KOR 51.400
15. Yelizaveta Hubareva UKR 51.265
16. Ruby Stacey GBR 50.765
17. Georgia-Mae Fenton GBR 50.690
18. Celia Serber FRA 50.499
19. Rose Woo CAN 50.466
20. Maria Ceplinschi ROU 50.399
21. Emma Slevin IRL 50.165
22. Jennifer Williams SWE 50.032
23. Stefanie Siegenthaler SUI 48.864
24. Marlies Männersdorfer AUT 48.798

VAULT STANDINGS

1. Rebeca Andrade BRA 14.800
2. Elisabeth Geurts NED 14.350
3. Asia D’Amato ITA 13.816
4. Angelina Melnikova RUS 13.783
5. Csenge Bacskay HUN 13.666
6. Natalia Escalera MEX 13.633
7. Nancy Taman EGY 13.533
8. Ofir Netzer ISR 13.516

R1. Audrey Rousseau CAN 13.499
R2. Coline Devillard FRA 13.450
R3. Aruna Budda Reddy IND 13.353

BARS STANDINGS

1. Rebeca Andrade BRA 15.100
2. Wei Xiaoyuan CHN 14.733
3. Luo Rui CHN 14.500
4. Angelina Melnikova RUS 14.466
5. Zsofia Kovacs HUN 14.433
6. Vladislava Urazova RUS 14.366
7. Elisa Iorio ITA 14.183
8. Filipa Martins POR 14.133

R1. Lee Yunseo KOR 14.066
R2. Becky Downie GBR 14.000
R3. Alice D’Amato ITA 13.966

Maria Minaeva of Russia (14.333) is not included in the standings due to the two-per-country limitations.

BEAM STANDINGS

1. Luo Rui CHN 14.566
2. Angelina Melnikova RUS 14.033
3. Pauline Schäfer GER 13.733
4. Leanne Wong USA 13.700
5. Yana Vorona RUS 13.633
6. Ashikawa Urara JPN 13.533
7. Kayla DiCello USA 13.500
8. Murakami Mai JPN 13.400
Rebeca Andrade BRA 13.400

R1. Becky Downie GBR 13.333
R2. Elisa Iorio ITA 13.100
R3. Asia D’Amato ITA 13.000

Konnor McClain of the United States (13.466) and Vladislava Urazova of Russia (13.166) are not included in the standings due to the two-per-country limitations.

FLOOR STANDINGS

1. Murakami Mai JPN 14.166
2. Angelina Melnikova RUS 14.100
3. Leanne Wong USA 14.000
4. Kayla DiCello USA 13.800
5. Vladislava Urazova RUS 13.433
6. Hiraiwa Yuna JPN 13.400
7. Maria Ceplinschi ROU 13.300
8. Anastasiia Bachynska UKR 13.100

R1. Shin Solyi KOR 13.100
R2. Lee Yunseo KOR 13.016
R3. Elisabeth Geurts NED 12.966

Hatakeda Hitomi of Japan (13.333) and eMjae Frazier of the United States (13.166) are not included in the standings due to the two-per-country limitations.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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