The first day of qualifications at the world cup in Cottbus wrapped up earlier today, and with tons of depth here – especially in the men’s field! – it means getting into the finals was nearly as hard here as it is to make a worlds final, and the finals will be very exciting on most of the apparatuses.
Today, women competed to qualify into the vault and uneven bars finals, while men competed on floor, pommel horse, and rings. Read on for more about how each went, including who made it, notable misses, and what we can expect in the finals.
None of the major players who have been dominating on the international vault scene competed here, so the difficulty wasn’t incredibly high throughout, with a Yurchenko double from a few athletes the most impressive in the competition.
Manila Esposito of Italy leads the field with a 13.383, competing a Yurchenko 1½ on her first run for a 13.633, and then hitting a slightly easier second vault for a 13.133. Her lead isn’t tremendous, though, with Great Britain’s Ruby Evans hitting a Yurchenko double in her senior debut. She earned a 13.9 there to average a 13.2, though despite hitting higher difficulty there, her much simpler second vault gives her the same combined difficulty as Esposito, which could make things super close in the final.
The legendary Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan qualified in third with a 12.866, earning a 12.7 for her first run and a 13.033 for her second. She’s pretty downgraded here compared to what we’d see at a world championships-level event, and she could have some challengers coming in ahead of her to medal. Typically Chusovitina will play it safe in qualifications and then upgrade one or both vaults in the final, so we could be in for some surprises, especially as she’ll be using this series to attempt to qualify for world championships…but given that it’s her first outing this season, she may want to continue warming up to her full potential and wait until Doha to go for more.
Also qualifying were Laura Casabuena of Spain with a 12.799, Alice Vlkova of the Czech Republic with a 12.733, Laia Font of Spain with a 12.716, Agata Vostruchovaite of Lithuania with a 12.600, and Dildora Aripova of Uzbekistan with a 12.549. As you can see, it’s a pretty crowded group beyond the top two, with everyone from Chusovitina down to Aripova within about three tenths of one another, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see an entirely different order on Saturday.
The reserves here are Maria Tronrud of Norway and Katrina Jurevica of Latvia, both with scores of 12.483. I was hoping to see Viivi Nieminen of Finland make this final, but she had a fall on her first vault leaving her down in 13th place, and I also expected big things from first-year senior and EYOF/Euros vault finalist Nazanin Teymurova of Azerbaijan here, but with a zero on her first vault, she ended up down in 19th, while Ushioku Kohane of Japan, who made her international debut here but is known domestically for her Yurchenko double, fell on that vault and didn’t compete a second, putting her in 20th.
Also notable was Poppy Stickler of Great Britain debuting a Yurchenko double here. She earned a 13.366 for that vault, which – based on the score – looked hit with some heavy deductions and an out-of-bounds penalty, but it’s a massive upgrade from the full she competed last year. She competed a full for her second vault, so the two-point penalty kept her away from challenging for the final, but it was still an exciting upgrade and I’m looking forward to seeing her continue to finesse it this season.
We saw several world-class routines in the bars qualifications today, most notably from Alice D’Amato of Italy with a 14.500 and Elisabeth Seitz of Germany with a 14.100. If both hit in the final, it’s going to be difficult for anyone else to get close to these 2022 European medalists – Seitz took the gold at home in Munich last year while D’Amato was less than half a tenth behind her for the silver, so I’m excited to see another showdown between them!
The one with the most potential to come in for an upset is Elisa Iorio of Italy, who is back in international competition for the first time in a year after dealing with injuries. She looked a little labored here, but still managed a 13.766 with a 6.2 start value, which matched her teammate for the highest D-score of the competition. I think if she can tighten up a bit, she can cross the 14 threshold, so hopefully she comes in strong on Saturday to fight for the top spot.
Another one to watch is first-year senior Meolie Jauch of Germany, the 2022 EYOF bronze medalist on this event who earned a 13.7 here. Her difficulty is slightly lower than the rest of the top performers here, but not by much, and she’s another one who can add tenths with a little bit of tidying up. It would certainly make a great impression for a first-year to land on a podium with decorated senior veterans, so I’m hoping for big things for her this weekend!
Also qualifying were Lucija Hribar of Slovenia with a 13.033, Yelizaveta Hubareva of Ukraine with a 12.766, Kokufugata Azuki of Japan with a 12.733, and Julie Erichsen of Norway with a 12.7. None of these athletes have the difficulty to become part of the fight without mistakes from the top four in the finals, but based on these scores someone like Seitz or D’Amato could have a fall and still finish ahead of the rest of the group, so it would have to be pretty major drama to see surprises here.
Just outside of the final are Tisha Volleman of the Netherlands with a 12.700 and Anna Lashchevska of Ukraine with a 12.566. I believe Lashchevska had a fall, but she would definitely be a medal contender with a hit routine, so it’s a bummer to see her not make it!
I was also surprised to see Filipa Martins down in 17th with an 11.566, as she’s another I was hoping to see as a challenger here. Tonya Paulsson of Sweden, in 11th with a 12.466, also had a fall but still finished with a really strong E score – a 7.466 – so despite the mistake, it’s great to see that the rest of her work was so strong.
MEN’S FLOOR EXERCISE
This final has some of my absolute favorite MAG floor workers in the entire world, so this is one of the finals I’m most excited to see on Saturday! 2020 Olympic champion Artem Dolgopyat of Israel leads the field with a 14.833, while Milad Karimi of Kazakhstan was right on his heels with a 14.6, and if he can keep his finals nerves down here, he has a great shot at getting an upset win with a few small adjustments.
The next six who made it in are all within just a little over a tenth from one another, making this one of the most unpredictable finals of the weekend. There’s Benjamin Osberger of France in third with a 14.066, Aurel Benovic of Croatia in fourth with a 14.000, Kaya Kazuma of Japan and Sebastian Gawronski of Poland tied in fifth with a 13.966, Dmitry Patanin of Kazakhstan in seventh with a 13.966, and Milan Hosseini of Germany in eighth with a 13.933, while first reserve Filip Lidbeck of Sweden is also very close, in ninth with a 13.9.
Of these, Benovic could have a shot at cleaning up a bit and reaching the podium, but the rest are so close in difficulty and did so well here, I think it’s going to be mistakes that end up spreading out the field a bit, unless anyone shows up with upgrades. Osberger had the lowest difficulty and the highest execution of anyone who made this final, but he is capable of improving his execution even more, so he’s also absolutely one to watch.
A lot of guys who I thought had potential for this final ended up missing out, including – most notably, in my eyes – Casimir Schmidt of the Netherlands with a 13.7, Illia Kovtun of Ukraine with a 13.5, Eamon Montgomery of Ireland with a 13.433, and of course, Carlos Yulo of the Philippines, who ended up down in 20th place with a 13.4, I assume due to a fall. It was also surprising to see Omar Mohamed of Egypt down in 43rd with an 11.7, and Miwa Teppei of Japan in 48th with an 11.066.
Of all of the finals we’ll see on Saturday, this one looks the most like a world championships final. With a number of Olympic and world medalists rounding out the eight who qualified, and with the lowest qualifying score a 14.6 – for context, the lowest qualifying score at worlds was a 14.366! – it means we’re in for a real treat here, especially as this is an event that always comes with the most opportunity for surprise.
Leading the field was Nariman Kurbanov of Kazakhstan with a 15.2. He’s had a ton of success on the world cup level and always seems to qualify into the finals at the biggest events each year, but then falls short of making the podium, with the most heartbreaking instances when he finished fourth at worlds in both 2021 and 2022. I think there are a few guys who could potentially upset him for gold here, but if he can compete the way he did today, he’ll at the very least stay on the podium.
Next in line is Olympic silver medalist Lee Chih-Kai of Taiwan with a 15.033. Lee missed worlds last year – do to the birth of his child, if I remember correctly? – but he finished just off the podium in fourth place at Asian Championships in June after some mistakes in that final, so he’ll be hoping to turn things around with a big hit here.
I was super impressed with Gagik Khachikyan of Armenia finishing third today with a 15.0, which I’m pretty sure has to be his personal best by, like, half a point? He’s an all-arounder with some great routines elsewhere, but at just 20, is now starting to show signs of being able to specialize on well, following in the footsteps of pretty much all of his veteran teammates – including the 2022 world bronze medalist on this event, Harutyun Merdinyan, who was in line to make the final until the very last routine bumped him down to ninth place.
Also qualifying were Abdulla Azimov of Uzbekistan in fourth with a 14.8, 2022 world champion Rhys McClenaghan of Ireland in fifth with a 14.733, 2022 world silver medalist Ahmad Abu Al Soud of Jordan in sixth with a 14.6, 2020 European champion Matvei Petrov of Albania in seventh with a 14.6, and 2020 Olympic bronze medalist Kaya Kazuma of Japan in eighth with a 14.6. I’m sweating just thinking about this one, especially as a few of these guys will likely have a few extra tricks up their sleeves in finals.
Merdinyan is the first reserve with a 14.566, ahead of relative newcomer Hur Woong of South Korea, who made his major international debut at this same meet in 2019 but hasn’t really been on the radar since then. He earned a 14.433 here.
The biggest misses for me in this final are probably 2022 Euros bronze medalist Nils Dunkel of Germany in 14th with a 13.933, perennial favorite Filip Ude of Croatia in 16th with a 13.833, and Illia Kovtun of Ukraine in 26th with a 13.533, to name a few, and there were a number of guys who could normally make world cup finals, or even medal, but the depth today – a total of 63 guys competed on this event in total! – kept the final to a very elite few.
This was another super difficult final to make, with a number of regulars finishing outside the top eight, but the lord of the rings himself Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece had no problems finishing at the top of the field, earning a 14.733 and showing he’s ready to qualify for world championships after missing out last year, as he didn’t attend any of the world cups.
Behind him was Mahdi Ahmad Kohani of Iran, who continues his rise on this apparatus, and showed great work today to earn a 14.666, ahead of last year’s world champion Adem Asil of Turkey, who earned a 14.633. His teammate and fellow world champ on this event, Ibrahim Colak, is back from an injury that kept him pretty limited last season, and sits in fourth with a 14.6 after qualifications, while world finalists Artur Avetisyan and Vahagn Davtyan of Armenia are in fifth and sixth with scores of 14.533 and 14.5, respectively.
Rounding out the final are more specialists, Ali Zahran of Egypt with a 14.4 and Vinzenz Höck of Austria with a 14.3, while the reserves are Sokratis Pilakouris of Cyprus with a 14.133 and Nikita Simonov of Azerbaijan with a 14.1.
Just out of contention was Igor Radivilov of Ukraine in 11th with a 14.033 – his difficulty was at a 5.6, which is much lower than usual, so I assume either something went wrong with his skills or he’s just slowly easing his way back into competition. Another I was expecting to make it was Konstantinos Konstantinidis of Greece, but it looked like he must have had an issue in his set, as he’s just 25th with a 13.0.
Article by Lauren Hopkins