On Friday it was time for the Women’s All-Around Final at the 2016 Russian Cup, in Penza. Adding together the results from the previous qualifications day, Angelina Melnikova was able to take home the Gold medal, followed by Seda Tutkhalyan with the Silver and Aliya Mustafina with Bronze.
Unlike day one, Melnikova had a much better competition in the AA Finals improving her total score in almost two points for 59.525. On vault, she once again vaulted a good DTY with a small hop back for a score just above 15, while on bars a few missed handstands prevented her from reaching the 15s, even though she got in the mid-14s on day one for the same routine with a fall. On beam, her routine had some wobbles, especially on her layout and sheep jump, but no big mistakes and she got nearly a point above her qualifications score (which counted a fall on the dismount). Finally on floor, Melnikova had another hit routine including a successful double wolf turn to double turn connection and a stuck double tuck for a score in the high-14s. With this result, Gelya has proven time and again that she belongs on the Olympic Team and how much she could contribute to the team on every apparatus.
Exactly a point behind Melnikova after the two day total was Seda Tutkhalyan, who also managed to improve her qualifications score by two points in the All-Around Final. On vault, her DTY wasn’t as clean as she’s capable of but still got a score in the mid-14s, while bars was a great success since she was able to perform her upgraded routine without mistakes for a score in the high-14s. This new routine gives her a boost in the all-around thanks to a 6.4 difficulty score but is unlikely to be used in team finals, given the usual depth of the Russian team on bars. Still it is a very original set that includes a Church to Pak, a Maloney to Bhardwaj, a Van Leeuwen and a not cowboyed double front dismount. Next on beam, she hit all her skills (yes, including her layout and her layout full) but downgraded her full-in dismount to a double pike, which proved to be a wise decision as she landed it with just a small hop, for a score of 15.100 that shows just how amazing things can be when she hits and how frustrating it is that this is such a rarity for Seda. Floor was also very solid for a score in the mid-14s, which got her a 59+ AA score. This competition once again showcased how much potential Seda possesses but her inconsistency still plagues her and could be an important factor for whether or not she makes the Rio team.
In third place, after uncharacteristic mistakes was Aliya Mustafina who improved her score in three full points but still didn’t get to 58. Her DTY was good with just a step back and she got a similar score to day one, in the high-14s, while bars once again were her lowest scoring event after a fall on a pirouette that kept her from reaching the 14 range. Apparently Aliya has been dealing with a wrist injury and the uneven bars used in this competition are new, which has made it difficult for her to get used to them in time and lead to the mistakes during qualifications and AA Finals. Fortunately beam was much nicer and she got a score in the high-14s despite some missed connections, such as Onodi to side aerial, and once again not having a proper acro series (she did front aerial to front walkover), which goes to prove that the composition of this beam routine should be completely changed because she almost never hits all the connections. Finally on floor, Mustafina improved her score immensely from day one, getting a 14.300 for a low difficulty but clean routine. Even though Aliya had many mistakes this weekend, her spot on the Olympic team is 100% assured if she’s healthy so this competition was used mostly to get some more experience with her new routines rather than to try to prove her value to the team (which has been proven a million times).
Outside the podium were Evgeniya Shelgunova in fourth after similar scores to day one, with mid to high-14s for her DTY on vault, high-13s for her bars, mid-14s on beam, her most improved event from qualifications, and mid-13s on floor, finishing with a total of 56+ on both days. In fifth place was new Senior Natalia Kapitonova with the highest score of the day on uneven bars among all-around competitors (15.350) but 13s on the remaining apparatus, while in sixth was also new Senior Daria Skripnik with low-14s on vault and beam, mid-13s on floor and high-14s on bars for a total of 56.550 on day two, third highest of the day. Unfortunately she had problems on day one and only scored 53.750, which brought down her aggregated score to only finish sixth. In seventh place was Tatiana Nabieva with mid to high-14s for her DTY on vault, around 14 on bars, mid-13s on day one but low-12 on beam on day two after a fall on her layout, and high-12s to low-13s on floor, while in eighth was Lilia Akhaimova with low-14s on floor, but high-12s to low-13s on the remaining apparatus. Lilia is rumored to be one of the alternates for the Olympic team but she doesn’t even have a FIG license so this is how messy things are in Russia right now.
Despite not competing in the all-around, Daria Spiridonova was given a spot in the AA Finals to perform her routines once again and prove she can be used in a team final situation. While on bars, Spiridonova performed to her usual level, with fluid connections and beautiful form and finishing with a stuck half-in half-out dismount, beam was not as she would have hoped, with a fall on her LOSO and wobbles on several of her other skills. These performances bring up even more questions about the Olympic team, considering Maria Paseka and Ksenia Afanasyeva won’t be doing beam and, if they’re both on the team, everyone else will have to hit on both team finals and qualifications, as they won’t be able to ditch any scores on this event in qualifications.
This All-Around Final managed to prove Russia currently has three very strong all-arounders, who could make finals and possibly medal at the Olympics, but also showed that consistency is still an issue, even for usually reliable players like Mustafina and Melnikova. Solving the Olympic Team puzzle is, therefore, still very far from finished and everything could still change in the next few weeks until the team finally leaves for Rio.