The battles for all-around and team medals in today’s WAG competition at the European Youth Olympic Festival was a nail-biter, with the all-around medalists within a tenth of one another, while the three teams to make the podium were within eight tenths.
Romania and Italy showed up ready to go bright and early this morning, and then had to hang on through the end of the fourth subdivision to see if they’d remain at the top, though everything was ultimately settled by the third, as Germany and France proved to be the only teams capable of challenging.
It was truly a dream day for the Romanians, who came in as one of the strongest teams and didn’t disappoint, hitting great routines on floor and vault before going three-for-three on bars, the biggest win for the team known for its struggles there. On beam, they ended up counting a fall from Amalia Ghigoarta after Sabrina Voinea fell earlier in the rotation, but she was so good otherwise, she still managed a 12.0 on that event, and the team did so well elsewhere, they were able to take the title – a first for the team since 2011 – with a 102.950, almost half a point ahead of their closest competitors.
Though all three on the team contributed to the score in different ways, it was Amalia Puflea who stood out as the leader, hitting all of her routines to count scores on every apparatus. This consistency along with her tidy and precise work on vault, beam, and floor especially helped her win a silver medal in the all-around competition with a 51.650, and she also finished second on both beam and floor, qualifying into both finals.
Ghigoarta finished fifth with a 50.550, making the bars final in sixth place with a 13.0, and Voinea – held back by a weak but improved, and hit!, bars set in addition to her beam fall – finished 12th, and qualified to the finals on both vault and floor.
I pegged Germany as the top contender along with Romania, but after the first rotation where both of its top competitors had falls on beam, I thought they’d be lucky to make the podium. The team came back like pros, though, putting up one of the best floor rotations in the bunch, followed by the best rotations on vault and bars. It was a flawless comeback, and though the team trailed France throughout its entire subdivision, it closed the gap more and more as each rotation came and went, and with two stellar bars sets from Helen Kevric and Meolie Jauch, the team was able to jump ahead to win the silver medal with a 102.500.
Not only did the team have this great success in the end, but Kevric ended up pulling off the all-around win with a 51.750, just a tenth ahead of Puflea. Her Yurchenko double on vault earned the top score of the day on that apparatus with a 14.0, and her equally good Yurchenko full helped her earn the top average going into the final, and she also earned the top bars (13.35) and third-best floor (12.85) scores of the day, making her blunder on beam pretty insignificant when all was said and done.
Jauch also had a great comeback from her own beam fall, finishing seventh all-around with a 50.050 and second on bars with a 13.35 to make the final, while Marlene Gotthardt finished 16th with a 48.650 and secured the final spot into the vault final.
Italy didn’t bring its top juniors to this meet, but as I said in my preview, its second-best options could have made a first-rate team for most other programs here, and the team delivered as promised! There were mishaps and falls here and there, but as a whole, they looked excellent, and didn’t count any falls into their final total of 102.150, which was more than enough for bronze.
July Marano ended up being Italy’s top all-arounder, finishing eighth with a 49.850, but the three weren’t separated by much, as Arianna Grillo finished 10th with a 49.400 and Martina Pieratti, who had a rough fall on her Yurchenko full in the final rotation, finished 13th with a 48.900. All three also made finals, with Marano qualifying first on floor with a 13.0 and fifth on vault with a 13.1 average, Grillo getting in sixth on beam with a 12.55, and Pieratti making it on both bars (fourth with a 13.25) and beam (seventh with a 12.55).
Though France had a mostly great day, counting no falls into its total of 101.750, the difficulty there was just a little lacking, with no routines that counted into the total given a start value above a 4.8, and most hovering around 4.5. They definitely made up for the lack of difficulty with some of the best execution across the board, especially from all-around bronze medalist Lilou Viallat, who didn’t score below an 8.05 in execution on any apparatus, but they fell just shy of the team podium when up against teams with much harder routines.
Viallat was lovely, though, with beam her most stunning performance, giving her a much-deserved first-place spot going into the final with a 13.0, and despite understated difficulty on bars and floor, she was clean and controlled enough to make those finals as well, qualifying seventh on bars with a 12.85 and fifth on floor with a 12.6. She finished with a 51.650 in the all-around, matching Puflea’s score, though a tie-break loss kept her one step lower than Puflea on the podium.
Also competing for France were Ambre Frotté, who was 15th with a 48.800, and Lana Pondart, who was 26th with a 47.200. Frotté came close to the bars final with a 12.4, finishing 11th there, while Pondart qualified eight on beam with a 12.5.
I have to say I was most impressed with Ukraine managing to finish fifth with a 99.700, and that was with a few mistakes throughout. The only Ukrainian junior I’d seen this year was Anna Lashchevska at a few smaller meets, including Top 12 in France and Bundesliga in Germany, though her performances there weren’t indicative of what she turned out to be capable of! She was phenomenal today, finishing a shocking fourth in the all-around with a 50.800, and throughout her meet, she showed a great level of difficulty with a high level of technique and skill, making her one of the highlights of the competition for me.
In addition to her strong all-around finish, Lashchevska qualified fifth into the bars final with a 13.05 and third into beam with a 12.9. Ukraine also had Anastasiia Zubkova, who finished 17th with a 48.600 and qualified into the floor final with a 12.4, and Polina Diachenko, who finished 28th with a 47.150.
Of course, what continues to impress me most about all of the Ukrainian athletes is how they have been able to maintain such a high level of focus and commitment to the sport when their worlds outside of gymnastics were torn apart earlier this year. I was especially happy to see the Slovakian crowd give these gymnasts the loudest applause outside of their own athletes.
Finishing sixth with a 98.400 were the ladies from Great Britain, who I said coming in would be at a deficit compared to the top four teams, and though they had some excellent individual performances throughout, the team wasn’t as cohesive as some of the top programs were.
Abi Martin ended up being the top all-arounder for the team, finishing 18th with a 48.550. She hit everything I saw, with her usual standout, floor, not disappointing. She’s so powerful there, and while there are a few areas that could use polishing up, she’s so much fun to watch, and I’ll be glad to see this routine again, likely in the mixed pairs competition tomorrow in addition to being in the final later this week, as she qualified seventh with a 12.45.
Also competing were Evie Flage-Donovan, 21st with a 48.100, and Ruby Evans, 29th with a 46.900. Flage-Dononvan had a fall on floor, but everything else she did was great, including a high-pressure bars set where she had to anchor after a fall, while Evans had a bit of a heartbreaker here, falling on bars and also not hitting at her full potential on beam. She did show a Yurchenko double on vault, though, and that along with a big and clean full helped her qualify second into the vault final.
My biggest surprise of the day was the team from the Czech Republic, which came back from a few falls to count all hit routines and nearly upsetting the Brits, but ultimately finishing just over a tenth behind them with a 98.250 for seventh place.
Though top all-arounder Vanesa Masova was a little out-of-sorts today on most of her events, including falling on vault and beam, she showed incredible work on bars, while Sona Artamonova and Alice Vlkova were both on fire, doing phenomenal work on beam and floor. Vlkova ended up 19th with a 48.500 while Artamonova was right behind her with a 48.350, also qualifying into the beam final in fourth with a 12.8, and Masova was a bit further back in 33rd with a 46.100, but she did manage to sneak into the bars final with a 12.65.
Rounding out the top eight was Switzerland with a 97.650. Like the French squad, execution seemed to be more of a priority than difficulty, and while that lack of high start values did put them at a disadvantage, they were so good, even routines with falls outscored some hit routines from other programs.
Samira Raffin, who finished 11th with a 49.300, was a clear standout for me on every event. She’s definitely one to watch in the future, with her beam – despite a fall there today – especially impressive. Though she missed out on that final, she did qualify eighth into floor with a 12.4, so I’m glad her competition isn’t over yet! Her twin sister Kiara Raffin finished 23rd with a 47.750, and is one of the reserves for the floor final, while Lou-Anne Citherlet finished 25th with a 47.450, her top score coming on beam.
On an individual level, I had a few favorites, though the top honor must go to Elina Grawin of Sweden, who had a brilliant competition, finishing sixth all-around with a 50.350 in her major international debut. Grawin was absolutely stunning on every apparatus, but her best work came on bars, where her floaty Maloney to Pak, van Leeuwen, straddle Jaeger, perfect handstands, and high double tuck earned a 13.25 to qualify third into the final. Her work on beam was also breathtaking, earning a 12.6 to qualify fifth into the final, and though her difficulty is behind on vault and floor, her execution on both was to-die-for.
Going in all-around order, second on my list is Lucia Dobrocka of the host country Slovakia. I talked about her a little in my preview as a supreme up-and-coming talent for the country after she won a bunch of meets and medals in Central and Eastern European meets this spring, but what she did today blew past my every expectation for her, especially seeing her end up ninth with a 49.550, while also leading her team to ninth place, a massive result for the Slovakians. She didn’t make any apparatus finals, but is a reserve on both bars and beam, and while she doesn’t have any events that are massive standouts, she is equally excellent on all four.
My other big call-out goes to Nazanin Teymurova of Azerbaijan, who finished 24th with a 47.600, a score that includes two falls. I fell in love with Teymurova’s beam at the Stella Zakharova Cup last year, and she’s only gotten better both there and on every apparatus, proving herself as one of the top 25% of competitors at this competition despite the mistakes. She’s so precise and solid on every skill – though she fell on a cross jump on beam, she still earned a 12.0 there thanks to crushing it on every other element, and while her hand brushed the mat on a double tuck at the end of her floor routine, she started it out with an excellent full-in and 2½ to front tuck, which was a massive level of difficulty for this field. I hope we see her competing more and more over the next couple of years, because she’s absolutely one with all of the potential in the world.
The happiest moment of the meet for me was seeing Vileza Zeqiri of Kosovo perform a pretty solid routine on floor with legit skills that built her start value up to a 3.2, a massive improvement for a country that only got a courtesy score on floor the last time they had an athlete at this competition in 2015, because her skill level wasn’t up to code.
And the saddest? Seeing poor Pien van Daal of the Netherlands struggle so much, ending with an uneven bars routine that had six falls – some quite scary by the end – to earn an execution score of zero. My heart broke for her, especially as she’s capable of so much more on this apparatus and in general. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her to make her major international debut without a team there to support her, as she’s the only junior from the Netherlands who made the cut, and I hope she’s able to do what she needs for herself before coming back to competition at Euros in just a short time.
All-Around Final Results
1. Helen Kevric GER 51.750
2. Amalia Puflea ROU 51.650
3. Lilou Viallat FRA 51.650
4. Anna Lashchevska UKR 50.800
5. Amalia Ghigoarta ROU 50.550
6. Elina Grawin SWE 50.350
7. Meolie Jauch GER 50.050
8. July Marano ITA 49.850
9. Lucia Dobrocka SVK 49.550
10. Arianna Grillo ITA 49.400
11. Samira Raffin SUI 49.300
xx. Sabrina Voinea ROU 48.950
xx. Martina Pieratti ITA 48.900
12. Lili Czifra HUN 48.850
13. Ambre Frotté FRA 48.800
xx. Marlene Gotthardt GER 48.650
14. Anastasiia Zubkova UKR 48.600
15. Abi Martin GBR 48.550
16. Alice Vlkova CZE 48.500
17. Sona Artamonova CZE 48.350
18. Evie Flage-Donovan GBR 48.100
19. Leni Bohle AUT 47.900
20. Kiara Raffin SUI 47.750
21. Nazanin Teymurova AZE 47.600
xx. Lou-Anne Citherlet SUI 47.450
xx. Lana Pondart FRA 47.200
22. Atiye Karademir TUR 47.150
xx. Polina Diachenko UKR 47.150
xx. Ruby Evans GBR 46.900
23. Wiktoria Grzesikiewicz POL 46.600
24. Sainza Garcia ESP 46.400
Team Final Results
1. Romania 102.950
2. Germany 102.500
3. Italy 102.150
4. France 101.750
5. Ukraine 99.700
6. Great Britain 98.400
7. Czech Republic 98.250
8. Switzerland 97.650
Vault Qualification Results
1. Helen Kevric GER 13.725
2. Ruby Evans GBR 13.425
3. Sara Jacobsen DEN 13.300
4. Sabrina Voinea ROU 13.275
5. July Marano ITA 13.100
6. Nazanin Teymurova AZE 13.075
7. Alice Vlkova CZE 13.050
8. Marlene Gotthardt GER 13.050
Bars Qualification Results
1. Helen Kevric GER 13.350
2. Meolie Jauch GER 13.350
3. Elina Grawin SWE 13.250
4. Martina Pieratti ITA 13.250
5. Anna Lashchevska UKR 13.050
6. Amalia Ghigoarta ROU 13.000
7. Lilou Viallat FRA 12.850
8. Vanesa Masova CZE 12.650
Beam Qualification Results
1. Lilou Viallat FRA 13.000
2. Amalia Puflea ROU 12.900
3. Anna Lashchevska UKR 12.900
4. Sona Artamonova CZE 12.800
5. Elina Grawin SWE 12.600
6. Arianna Grillo ITA 12.550
7. Martina Pieratti ITA 12.550
8. Lana Pondart FRA 12.500
Floor Qualification Results
1. July Marano ITA 13.000
2. Amalia Puflea ROU 13.000
3. Helen Kevric GER 12.850
4. Sabrina Voinea ROU 12.650
5. Lilou Viallat FRA 12.600
6. Abi Martin GBR 12.450
7. Samira Raffin SUI 12.400
8. Anastasiia Zubkova UKR 12.400
Article by Lauren Hopkins