D’Amato, Kovtun Win Memorial Gander Titles

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Alice D’Amato and Illia Kovtun

The annual Memorial Gander competition was held earlier today in Chiasso, Switzerland, where Alice D’Amato of Italy dominated in the women’s field while Illia Kovtun of Ukraine fought back from a rough start on floor to win the men’s title by just under a tenth.

D’Amato got off to a strong start on vault, where her Yurchenko double earned a 14.1, more than half a point ahead of the rest of the field. She continued with a great set on bars, showing mostly only minor form issues throughout, and though she did struggle a bit with the front full pirouette, finishing it at horizontal, she recovered well from that to hit the double front with just a small hop to earn a 14.25.

Opting to compete floor for her last event – the women only had to compete three here, and were able to choose which ones – D’Amato finished on a high note, landing the whip whip through to triple especially well in her opening tumbling line. Her double pike landed a bit deep with a hop forward, there was a hop forward out of the front double full, and she had a near fall out of the double wolf turn, but she was able to save all three mistakes from becoming larger dramas to earn a 13.45, the highest floor score of the competition to add to her 41.800 all-around total.

The others who finished on the podium here were not part of my predictions, but both Lena Bickel of Switzerland with the silver medal and Morgane Osyssek of France with the bronze had the strongest performances of the bunch, coming up with no falls on a day where beam was especially tragic for most of the athletes.

Bickel, this year’s national all-around silver medalist, looked fantastic, putting up a 13.55 for her strong vault and then following it up with a killer floor set that included a solid double layout, 2½ to front tuck, and double pike for a 13.2. There were a few wild moments in her beam set, including a big wobble on her flight series, a smaller one on the switch half, and then an iffy landing on the 2½ dismount, but compared to most, her routine was a success, picking up a 12.75 to bring her to a 39.500 overall.

It was also a pretty great day for Osyssek, who started out with a 13.3 for her Yurchenko full, and then opened her floor set with a brilliant double layout, which looked excellent in the air and was also landed very well. She ended up going a bit low and long on her full-in during the second pass, landing it out-of-bounds, but she finished well for a 12.4 and then matched Bickel’s 12.75 on beam, sharing some of the same issues – including a big wobble on the acro series – but ultimately coming out with a hit, capped off with a big double pike, to finish her day with a 38.450 to finish on the podium.

Eythora Thorsdottir was a favorite for a podium spot here, but she ultimately missed out by just a tenth after falling on beam, her final event of the day. She had one of the stronger Yurchenko fulls of the competition in the first round, earning a 13.35, and her bars set was excellent, earning a 13.55 for a set that included a Shaposhnikova to Pak, Maloney to bail, toe full to toe shoot, piked Jaeger, and full-out with a small hop. Her beam set started out with a big fight on her back handspring mount, but she looked like she calmed down instantly, showing a gorgeous full L turn to split leap to full Y turn with just a tiny adjustment. But right after that, she missed the flight series and also had a big wobble on the double spin shortly after, leaving her at just an 11.45 for an all-around total of 38.350.

The other two who qualified to the final round were Hatakeda Chiaki of Japan – finally making her international debut at 18! – in fifth with a 37.250 and Laura Casabuena of Spain in sixth with a 36.800. Both started out strong on vault and floor, but as with Thorsdottir, it was beam in the final rotation that kept both from reaching the podium, as Hatakeda missed her side somi while Casabuena had a really hard fall on her triple series, in addition to a second fall later on.

Also competing here but not advancing to the final were Bilge Tarhan of Turkey in seventh with a 24.650, Selina Kickinger of Austria in eighth with a 24.200, Chiara Giubellini of Switzerland in ninth with a 23.900, and Valeriia Osipova of Ukraine in 10th with a 23.650.

Tarhan had a mostly good competition, though lacked some finesse in her tumbling on floor, while the others all had falls that kept them out of the final, including Kickinger on her Jaeger on bars, Giubellini on her double layout on floor, and Osipova on her double tuck in her final tumbling line on floor – though it was great to see Osipova come back and hit an otherwise successful routine after dealing with a technical difficulty when she was initially supposed to perform and having to wait another half hour or so to get a second chance at the end of the rotation.

In the men’s competition, where the “all-around” title was decided by four events, it seemed like Kovtun might not have a shot at the podium after a mistake on floor in the first rotation, especially as his 12.95 there left him so far behind the rest of the competitors in this strong field. However, he bounced back with a strong set on pommel horse that earned a 14.2 and a mostly clean routine on parallel bars (though he could have been a bit tighter here and there) that earned a 14.45 before finishing with a Kasamatsu 1½ with a hop back on vault, going 14.55 there to wind up with a 56.150.

The number ended up just barely ahead of Yul Moldauer of the United States in second, with Moldauer showing mostly strong routines, aside from a slight hiccup near the end of his pommels routine (though he still managed a 13.5 there) and a downgrade on vault (he performed a Kas full instead of his usual Kas 1½, but executed it well enough to earn a 14.0). Everything I saw from Moldauer on floor (14.45) and p-bars (14.15) was pretty great, though it wasn’t quite enough to take over the lead, with his 56.100 leaving him only 0.05 behind in the title race.

It was nearly as close between silver and bronze, the latter of which went to Lorenzo Minh Casali of Italy with a 55.900. I thought Casali actually had the best day just based on what I was physically watching, with his only real mistake coming on his Kas double full on vault, where his landing was a bit weak with a big step off of the mat to earn a 14.3, a bit low for him. But otherwise, he was great, with really clean work on p-bars and floor to earn scores of 14.2 on both. Unfortunately, his difficulty level on his final routine – rings – was just a bit too low for him to stay in the gold mix, though it was great seeing him on the podium regardless.

Rounding out the top six who made the final were Joel Plata of Spain in fourth with a 55.850, Adem Asil of Turkey in fifth with a 55.750, and Kaya Kazuma of Japan in sixth with a 53.650. Plata had a great day from everything I saw, with all four of his routines landing between 13.85 and 14.05, with vault being his highest-scoring but also weakest apparatus. Asil started out the competition in the lead with a 14.7 on rings – fitting for the newly-crowned world champion! – but he was a bit weak on vault, p-bars, and floor, while Kaya struggled a bit throughout his day, with a rough pommels set, a near-fall on his p-bars dismount, and a miss on his Kolman on high bar.

Also in the men’s field but not making it into the final were Casimir Schmidt of the Netherlands in seventh with a 40.600, Vinzenz Höck in eighth with a 40.450, Dominic Tamsel of Switzerland in ninth with a 40.250, Lucas Desanges of France in 10th with a 39.600, and Taha Serhani of Switzerland in 11th with a 38.600.

Most of these athletes will travel to Zürich for the Swiss Cup this Sunday, November 27, though Italy will rest D’Amato and Casali with Martina Maggio and Nicola Bartolini competing instead, while Noe Seifert will replace Tamsel for the first Swiss team, Anina Wildi will replace Giubellini on the second Swiss team, Addison Fatta will join Moldauer to complete the U.S. team, and Ukraine will not compete. More information is available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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