After several days of competition, the 2016 European Gymnastics Championships came to an end with event finals, where the top 8 athletes on each piece of apparatus competed against each other for the title of best in Europe. With the Seniors competing in the morning and the Juniors in the afternoon, new champions were crowned, while others managed to repeat past victories.
On vault, Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland was the best among the finalists with an incredible Rudi with a small hop back, followed by a somewhat messy DTY with a low landing and a step out-of-bounds, which resulted in a score just below 15 to lead the competition. Second place finisher Ellie Downie of Great Britain was half a tenth behind Steingruber despite performing slightly lower difficulty, thanks to a clean and nearly stuck DTY and a very floaty Lopez with just a small hop back. The bronze medal went to Russia’s team captain Ksenia Afanasyeva (wearing a very peculiar leotard) also presenting a DTY and a Lopez but with some bent knees and steps on the landings. In fourth place was Italy’s new senior Sofia Busato with her amazing DTY and a FHS layout half with the smallest hop in place, finishing just a tenth behind Afanasyeva. Downie’s teammate Claudia Fragapane managed to achieve fifth place after a DTY and a Lopez with her usual execution problems and a step out-of-bounds, followed by Teja Belak of Slovenia in sixth after upgrading her FHS tuck full to a FHS layout full and performing a solid Yurchenko 1.5 as her second vault. The last two places were claimed by Zsofia Kovacs of Hungary due to a low scoring second vault (Tsukahara layout) bringing down her average score despite her high and clean DTY, and finally Poland’s Katarzyna Jurkowska-Kowalska who unfortunately put her hands down on her Tsukahara layout full after performing a beautiful FHS layout half as her first vault, though that didn’t seem to affect her too much and she was able to leave the podium smiling and happy with herself.
On the uneven bars final, news started even before the competition begun when the Russian Federation decided to swap Angelina Melnikova for Daria Spiridonova who had been kept out of the final due to the two-per-country rule but presented a higher chance of medaling on the event. Unfortunately Russia’s strategy did not result in a Gold medal as this went to Becky Downie of Great Britain after presenting a clean and upgraded routine with a 6.9 difficulty score capped off with a stuck full-in dismount. Daria Spiridonova was, however, able to secure the Silver medal upping her difficulty by four tenths from qualifications after bringing back her Komova II and connecting her Pak to the Van Leeuwen, while her teammate Aliya Mustafina finished in third place with the Bronze medal after presenting a very confident and fluid performance that earned the highest execution among all 8 finalists. In fourth place was Germany’s Kim Bui with the prettiest Bhardwaj you’ll ever see and with some leg separation on her Van Leeuwen as her only visible error, though I guess the judges didn’t agree since she had the lowest execution among the hit routines. Next was Zsofia Kovacs competing in her second final with a solid routine marred by some unpointed feet and a step on the landing, followed by Giulia Steingruber who managed to reach the final despite qualifying in ninth thanks to the two-per-country rule (one of the few times this rule had a positive outcome). Steingruber’s routine had her usual form issues and a super cowboyed dismount but she was still able to improve her qualifications score in over a tenth and mistakes from other competitors allowed her to finish in sixth place. The last two places belonged to Gabby Jupp of Great Britain after a fall on her Van Leeuwen and Martina Rizzelli of Italy after a big mistake on her stalder half, though she fought hard and refused to fall off the apparatus, managing to regroup and finish her routine successfully.
Continuing on to the balance beam, this final was a real finding among beam finals this quad, with everyone scoring above 14 and avoiding falls or major mistakes. In this dream-like beam final, Aliya Mustafina of Russia was able to conquer her nemesis event and win the Gold medal after finally hitting her flight series and sticking her double tuck dismount to finish half a point above second place Marine Boyer of France. Boyer was able to bring a beam medal to France for the second year in a row after a 6.3-difficulty routine that included a round-off to an actual layout and a spin series before a great double pike with just a small hop, leaving the whole French team teary-eyed. Bronze went to Catalina Ponor, the sole representative of Romania in event finals, after some missed connections and wobbles, as well as a stuck double pike to finish things off nicely. Closely behind in fourth place was Ilaria Kaeslin of Switzerland despite having one of the lowest difficulty scores thanks to a very beautiful performance that included a Y turn, a Kochetkova and a BHS+BHS+LOSO series. Next was Angelina Melnikova of Russia after a somewhat wobbly routine with a wonky wolf turn and a big step on her low double pike, followed by a three way tie for sixth place with Belgium’s Gaelle Mys, Marine Brevet of France and Becky Downie of Great Britain all scoring 14.066.
Finishing Senior event finals, Giulia Steingruber was able to win her second Gold medal of the day debuting two H tumbling passes in the same routine, a double double and a full twisting double layout, and matching them with sky-high leaps and very expressive choreography. In second place was Ellie Downie, winning her second Silver medal of the day and third of the competition after a solid routine that included a 1.5 twist to double arabian to stag jump and a beautiful Dos Santos II, while the Bronze medal went once again to Catalina Ponor performing a very confident exercise with a high double layout, a quadruple turn and a triple twist with some messy legs. Just outside the podium was first place qualifier Claudia Fragapane after some bouncy landings and a cringe-worthy double layout dismount that made everyone’s ankles scream in pain. In fifth place was Netherlands’ Mara Titarsolej with a typical Dutch floor routine that included a Memmel turn to illusion and a double arabian paired with lovely choreography and beautiful leaps, followed by Marine Brevet who presented the lowest difficulty in this final but was awarded with the highest execution alongside Steingruber after a clean performance aside from a small step out-of-bounds on her double layout. The final two spots were occupied by Gaelle Mys of Belgium and Amelie Foellinger of Germany with solid routines but some shaky landings and form issues.
Overall, Giulia Steingruber was the clear winner of Event Finals winning Gold on her favorite events, vault and floor, in front of her home crowd and setting herself as a real contender for a medal in Rio, while Aliya Mustafina, Ellie Downie and Catalina Ponor were also able to take home two medals each for their strong efforts. Counting just two falls and one big mistake across 32 routines, these event finals proved to be some of the cleanest of the whole quad and revealed a very optimistic prospect for the coming Olympics.
Full results can be found here.