D’Amato, Maggio Earn Historic All-Around Podium Finish as Italy Tops Qualifications

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Martina Maggio and Asia D’Amato

A strong and confident Asia D’Amato ended a years-long dry spell for the senior Italian women at European Championships yesterday, winning the country’s first gold medal since Vanessa Ferrari on floor in 2014, and its first all-around title since Ferrari did it in 2007.

But while D’Amato took the lead for the team with standout routines on all four events, never once scoring below a 13.5, it was truly a team effort in Munich, with each athlete performing clean, difficult, and lovely gymnastics to make sure they wouldn’t count any scores below a 13, getting them to the top of the standings with a 165.162, more than three points ahead of second-place Great Britain.

It wasn’t a perfect day, and with all of the glory, it ended on a kind of sad note as Martina Maggio – in a position to win the all-around gold herself – fell on bars during the team’s final routine. She was sad for a minute, but immediately lit up when she saw that despite the mistake, she too would make the podium, earning a 53.965 to win the bronze medal – the first Euros medal of her senior career – while making history with D’Amato as the first two Italians to share a Euros all-around podium together, a reflection of the massive progress this team has made over the past few years.

In addition to the team’s all-around and team successes, every athlete qualified into an individual final, with D’Amato getting in on vault and beam, Maggio on floor, Giorgia Villa on bars and beam, first-year senior Angela Andreoli on floor, and Alice D’Amato on bars with a 14.566, a score that put her three tenths ahead of the rest of the field. Her qualifications routine was stunning, and her reaction to her score was an emotional one, coming only moments after her twin sister took over the all-around lead. It was a beautiful day, with the team proving once again that they are unstoppable on their path to collecting another team medal at this year’s world championships.

Speaking of world championships, the team’s first-place finish in qualifications here not only got them safely into the Euros team final, but it also qualified them to Liverpool 2022, along with 12 other teams, including Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Romania, Finland, Austria, Ukraine, and Sweden, in that order.

Though everything still needs to be verified by the FIG, both this as well as the individual qualifications wrapped up yesterday, with all teams, all-arounders, and apparatus specialists having secured their spots for worlds. A total of 24 teams, 49 all-arounders, and 20 specialists ultimately made it, with nearly half of the all-around athletes making the cut following yesterday’s competition as 24 women rounded out the field.

Back to the competition at hand, the Olympic bronze medal-winning British women did a fantastic job to come in second to Italy yesterday, earning a 162.129 with quite a few mistakes and lots of room to grow. It was still a pretty strong competition for the team, and especially for Alice Kinsella, who just weeks after leading the team at the Commonwealth Games again took on the veteran duty of guiding the ladies here, winning an all-around medal while she was at it.

Kinsella started out a bit weaker than she’s capable of with her Yurchenko double on vault. But her bars were fantastic, as was her beam, despite a big stumble back on the dismount, and she sealed her fate with a standout floor routine, tallying a 54.132 for the silver medal, a big win after missing out on the podium in Birmingham. The team’s other all-arounders, Jessica Gadirova and Ondine Achampong, both had falls and were unable to contend. Jennifer Gadirova seemed to not yet be back at a hundred percent, competing only on beam and floor here, while Georgia-Mae Fenton rounded out the team on vault and bars, contributing a 13.9 on the latter.

She and Kinsella qualified into the bars final together, while Jessica Gadirova got in on vault and floor, Jennifer Gadirova on floor, and Achampong was the sole British gymnast to reach the final on beam.

It’ll be hard for the other teams here to upset either of these two for the gold, but both France and Germany are within a fighting shot, with France qualifying in third with a 159.131 and Germany in fourth with a 158.730.

I really thought the French team here could possibly finish in the top two, but they ended up being at a bit of a disadvantage on beam and especially on floor – while both Italy and Great Britain each put up three routines at a 13.5 or better on that apparatus, France counted two scores in the 12.0 range, with a 13.2 their highest.

They were also held back by a couple of falls from key competitors, burying both Aline Friess and Morgane Osyssek deeper in the all-around standings than they’re capable of, though Carolann Heduit was mostly on point, earning a 53.699 to narrowly miss the podium ending up in fourth place. Despite Friess and Osyssek making mistakes, both were also standouts, with Friess hitting her handspring rudi on vault for a 14.333 while Osyssek reached the floor final with a 13.2, and the team also saw the calm and consistent work we’re used to from veteran Marine Boyer, while Lorette Charpy returned from an injury earlier in the season to put up the team’s best bars performance with a 13.833.

Germany was my favorite for getting an upset bid into the top three, but with Elisabeth Seitz not yet back training floor, the team was forced to put up a slightly injured Sarah Voss on that event, where she wasn’t able to perform any double salto passes. Voss was also downgraded on vault and had a scary fall on her beam dismount, though considering the circumstances, I thought she did a great job, especially in focusing on the smaller details of each routine.

Kim Bui, who will retire at age 33 following this meet, and Emma Malewski, the youngest member of the team at 18, both really stepped it up overall, with Bui finishing eighth and Malewski finishing 14th in the all-around, both with incredibly solid days (bars was of course the standout for Bui, who will appear in the final, while Malewski earned one of the top scores on beam with a 13.5). Seitz ended up contributing a Yurchenko full on vault in addition to a 14.2 bars set, making the final along with Bui, while Pauline Schäfer looked a little nervous on beam, though still got into the final with a 13.166.

Rounding out the top eight teams that have qualified into the final were Belgium in fifth with a 155.663, the Netherlands in sixth with a 155.464, Hungary in seventh with a 153.496, and Spain in eighth with a 152.864, a little under a point ahead of Romania, which missed the final after finishing ninth with a 152.063.

Even without their star performer’s routines, the Belgians looked fantastic, led by someone who will perhaps be another star performer, Lisa Vaelen. The Olympian ended up fifth in the all-around with a 53.699, hitting a handspring rudi on vault along with equally excellent routines across the board. She’s fifth going into the vault final, and is also a reserve for both bars and floor while coming close on beam – 14th place – showing what a solid, well-rounded gymnast she has become.

Naomi Visser led the Dutch team with a 53.265 all-around score, enough for sixth place. She did have a few breaks on beam, holding her back on an event that was a tough one for the team to get through as a whole, but she otherwise looked great, as did Vera van Pol, who doesn’t have the difficulty to be a major contender, though I thought she looked super solid and very clean here.

There was some heartbreak with Hungary’s performance, as Zsofia Kovacs counted two falls on beam as well as another on her bars dismount, which came at the end of an otherwise fantastic routine that would have qualified at or adjacent to the top of the field had she stood up the double front. She still managed to finish ninth all-around with a score of 52.765, meaning that she would have likely reached or surpass a 56 without those falls, a score that would have given her the top international all-around score of the year so far in addition to putting her into gold medal contention here. Knowing what could have been is a bit of a bummer, but falls aside she looked better than ever, especially on beam, where the routine outside of the falls was tremendous.

Finally, Spain was a very happy surprise for me, as the team included only one of the four 2020 Olympians along with mostly inexperienced or out-of-practice athletes who had a lot to prove here. Led by Tokyo competitor Alba Petisco, who earned a 13.1 on beam to make the final while finishing 12th in the all-around with a 52.132, the team did exactly what they came here to do, which was to both qualify to worlds and make the team final. I really thought only the former would be possible, but they happily proved me wrong, fighting past a couple of errors to show some great work, with Laura Casabuena – who only started competing elite in 2020 and just made her international debut in June – especially promising, coming back from falls on vault and beam to do standout work on bars and floor.

I didn’t have high hopes for the Romanians getting into the team final, but was happily surprised that they nearly did it even with Ioana Stanciulescu missing the competition due to a knee injury. Of course, this brought last-minute changes – and drama – with the line-ups as an injured, sick, and unrehearsed Silviana Sfiringu was expected to go up on all four events. I admired her tenacity here, and despite a few mistakes and decreased difficulty, I was impressed with how she ultimately performed, putting up the top score for the team on vault, and the second best on beam.

Initially, Romania was going to scratch her on floor, but when Antonia Duta fell in the second spot, the coaches rushed Sfiringu to the podium, where Ana Barbosu – the team’s star – was waiting for what she thought was her turn. Instead, Sfiringu performed a barely-choreographed and heavily downgraded routine without having really recently trained it at all, which is so dangerous and unfair to her. The labored skills and fall were not surprising given the circumstances, and even if she was begging to go up and save the team – something I doubt – there should have been a coach or someone there to say no, this is not safe.

Thankfully, she’s fine, and maybe her heroic moment will even get her a bit of respect from the national team staff, but I hope in the future they prioritize the health of their athletes over trying to make a team final at continental championships. There’s a lot of hype about the juniors right now, who performed fabulously again here to win the silver medal as a team just weeks after winning gold at the European Youth Olympic Festival, but Sfiringu, Stanciulescu, and so many others were once doing big things just like these juniors are, yet their senior careers have been drastically less successful and it’s fully because of how the Romanian program manages them. I am hesitant about being excited about any Romanian junior until I can see that she’s still healthy and capable at 17 or 18, but given that Larisa Iordache is the only “promising junior” in the past decade who went on to have a largely successful – if not always healthy – senior career, I don’t have a lot of faith in how things are running, and this is just one of many examples why.

Back to the positive, I was happy that Barbosu was able to accomplish pretty much all that was expected of her, resulting in a 53.032 all-around score, good enough for seventh place. She hasn’t been doing the Yurchenko double this year, and she looks a little weak on that apparatus in general, but while I’d like to see her get more competitive there and on floor, I’m also glad they at least seem to not be pushing her to do the most when it’s unnecessary right now in 2022. More importantly, she’s hitting and working on consistency, and it’s really paying off, especially on bars where the team needs her most.

As the gymternet’s biggest Finland stan since the second Maisa Kuusikko emerged on the junior scene with a bang in 2018, I was so excited to watch this team – the best in the program’s history, which also included Sani Mäkelä, Kaia Tanskanen, and Ada Hautala – do exactly what they were capable of, finishing 10th with a 151.162 to become one of the top 24 teams in the world, only a few years after the nation finished 32nd at worlds in 2018.

Kuusikko was of course outstanding, recording the best all-around score of her career with a 52.198 to finish an impressive 11th all-around, beating her own 13th-place record from 2021. She’s becoming a total package gymnast with consistent and strong routines on every apparatus, though her best work still comes on vault and bars. Mäkelä also recorded a personal best all-around score with a 49.665, and both Tanskanen and Hautala contributed to the total, making this a true team effort.

I was also absolutely thrilled about Austria – 27th at worlds in 2018 – coming together to get into the worlds mix, with this very solid team counting zero falls into their 146.863 total, finishing 11th. Ukraine finishing 12th with a 146.528 was also a big deal, coming here without three of its top competitors and with the unimaginable weight of the war on their shoulders, while Sweden secured the final spot with a 145.996, an accomplishment the team managed with only four competitors and having to count three-for-three on floor.

For teams that came close but missed out, the Czech Republic had a fantastic competition going and looked potentially capable of landing a spot over Sweden, but finishing on bars – the team’s weakest event – proved to be a disadvantage, and they finished less than a point shy of making it happen. I also expected to see Switzerland as one of the qualifiers here, but a disastrous beam performance kept them out of the race, though I loved watching them climb up from that first rotation and kill it throughout the rest of their meet.

The top all-arounder not part of a team was 2020 European floor medalist and 2020 Olympian Lihie Raz of Israel in 19th with a 50.166, leading the pack of qualifiers to world championships. This group also included Camille Rasmussen with a historic performance for Denmark, Maria Tronrud of Norway, Lucija Hribar of Slovenia, Halle Hilton of Ireland, Aneta Holasova of the Czech Republic, Zala Trtnik of Slovenia, Thelma Adalsteinsdottir of Iceland, Klara Peterkova of the Czech Republic, Juliane Tøssebro of Norway, Emma Slevin of Ireland, Mariana Parente of Portugal, Valentina Georgieva of Bulgaria, Sevgi Kayisoglu of Turkey, Emilia Kulczynska of Poland, Ofir Netzer of Israel, Anina Wildi of Switzerland, Freja Petersen of Denmark, Bengisu Yildiz of Turkey, Elvira Katsali of Greece, Tatiana Bachurina of Cyprus, Tara Vella Clark of Malta, Hildur Gudmundsdottir of Iceland, and Petra Furac of Croatia, who earned the final spot reallocated from the host country berth, not needed here since Great Britain will send a full team.

Though Azerbaijan did not qualify an all-around spot here, both of the athletes who competed at Euros – Milana Minakovskaya and Samira Gahramanova – will earn berths via the apparatus world cups, with Minakovskaya snagging a spot on bars while Gahramanova takes a spot on floor.

Other European athletes to get in through the world cup series, joining all-around qualifiers from their nations, include Tjasa Kysselef and Teja Belak of Slovenia (both on vault and beam), Wiktoria Lopuszanska (vault, though she injured her knee in podium training this week, so whether she will be able to compete or not is unknown) and Ada Ogieglo (floor) of Poland, Selma Halvorsen (vault and floor) and Mari Kanter (bars and beam) of Norway, Ella Borg of Malta (bars, beam, and floor), Lucie Trnkova of the Czech Republic (beam and floor), and Göksu Üctas Sanli of Turkey (floor).

Nations that are currently active on the European continent that will not have representation at world championships this year include Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Serbia (which did not send athletes to Euros), and Slovakia, along with Russia and Belarus due to the FIG’s sanctions against them related to their participation in the war in Ukraine.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

9 thoughts on “D’Amato, Maggio Earn Historic All-Around Podium Finish as Italy Tops Qualifications

  1. Pingback: D'Amato, Maggio Earn Historic All-Around Podium Finish as Italy Top Qualifications | Olympic Games 2024

  2. “I was impressed with how she ultimately performed, putting up the second-best scores for the team on both vault and beam.” But didn’t Silviana actually score the best, not just second best, on vault?

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  3. Wow! Super impressed with Mariana Parente managing a spot for Portugal. Without Filipa Martins doing AA, I thought we would be out of representatives at Worlds. Great to see such a young gymnast follow on her footsteps!

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    • I was really happy to see it, too! Really wish Martins had been healthy enough to go to the world cups (or that the world cups were held later in the season) but glad to see Portugal will have some representation in Liverpool!

      Liked by 1 person

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