Over two months have passed since the 2016 Olympics wrapped up in Rio and after some smaller meets with mostly unknown competitors, it was finally time for some of the big stars to return to competition. As such, this first week of November was pretty busy in terms of gymnastics meets, albeit with some lighter and more relaxed formats that allow for an easier return to competition for the athletes, as well as a different experience for the fans of the sport.
The first competition was the 33rd Arthur Gander Memorial, taking place in Chiasso, Switzerland on November 2nd. This competition is held since 1984 in honor of Arthur Gander, Swiss gymnast in the 40s and 50s and FIG President between 1966 and 1976, who greatly contributed to the establishment of rules and norms for the sport, in what was the first draft of a gymnastics code of points, while also promoting innovation and expansion of the sport to new countries. Unlike most competitions, at this meet gymnasts don’t have to compete in all apparatus, but rather choose their best and highest scoring events. In the first round, women compete on two events, while men compete on three and their scores are added up to produce a ranking, from which the top six move on to the final round where both men and women compete yet another event of their choice. The final score is then obtained from the sum of all event scores (three for women and four for the men).
This year, first-year Senior Angelina Melnikova of Russia took the Gold with a score of 42.800 after presenting a nearly stuck DTY for a mark in the high-14s, followed by a somewhat shaky beam routine, that included a fall on her side somi but also a great BHS to BHS to layout series and a super high double pike dismount for a score in the low-13s. In the final round, she elected to compete on bars where she had a solid performance with lots of inbar work and a high piked jaeger for a 14.750, despite some short handstands and a small hop on her double tuck full dismount.
In second place was Dutch star Eythora Thorsdottir with 40.950, though she could have scored much higher if not for a big mistake on vault, where she just presented a Yurchenko piked after a bad block instead of her usual DTY. She ended up getting a 12.750, despite usually getting about two points higher on this event, a score that could have brought her in close competition with Melnikova for the Gold medal. Thorsdottir went on to compete her delightful and captivating floor routine, with just a step out-of-bounds on her 2.5 twist dismount, getting the highest score of the day on the event (14.000) for her great performance, before finishing on beam with yet another amazing display of beautiful gymnastics for a 14.200, once again the top score on the event. It truly makes you wonder what could have been if she had hit the vault she was planning to compete but at the same time, she was able to comeback from a really bad of the competition for two incredible routines and should be very proud of herself and her results.
The bronze medal went to 30-year-old, three-time Olympian Jessica Lopez of Venezuela with a final score of 40.700 after a downgraded but solid routine on bars that included her ambitious connection of Maloney to clear-hip full to Tkachev to Gienger and a nearly stuck double front dismount for a score in the mid-14s, as well as a low-difficulty (5.2) but well executed floor routine that featured a triple twist, double pike, double twist and 2.5 twist dismount for a 13.700. In the final round, Lopez opted to compete on beam where she unfortunately had a fall on her layout and some wobbles throughout the exercise for a score of 12.650.
The remaining top six competitors were Caterina Barloggio of Switzerland in fourth with a total of 39.400, despite counting a fall on bars in the final round, mostly due to an especially solid beam routine capped off with a stuck Gainer layout dismount that brought her a score in the high-13s. In fifth place was German Carine Kröll with 39.200 after solid efforts on vault and floor, but losing a full point on beam after falling on her Dick mount, while Barloggio’s teammate Ilaria Kaeslin finished sixth also with 39.200 after a quite low FTY and a fall on her LOSO on beam, as well as some messy landings and general subpar performance on floor. Outside the final round were Angelina Kysla of Ukraine in seventh with 29.200 after a fall out-of-bounds on her double pike dismount on floor, Victoria Kayen-Woo of Canada in eighth with 25.650 after some extra swings and multiple form issues on bars and finally Swiss Thea Brogli in ninth with 24.500 after low landings and steps out-of-bounds on floor, as well as a fall on her FTY vault.
On the men’s side, Olympic Silver medalist Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine easily took home the Gold with a score of 60.800, over three points ahead of second place. Verniaiev started on pommels where he had some mistakes but managed to stay on for a score in the mid-14s, moving next to rings where he present a very solid routine capped off with a double double dismount with just a small step for a high-14, before finishing the first round with a very high Dragulescu vault again with a small step to the side to score in the mid-15s. For the final round, the Ukrainian gymnast chose his pet event, parallel bars, where he had one of his best performances ever to finally get his full difficulty of 7.2 and a huge total of 16.150.
Matching his female teammate, the Silver medal went to Ducth gymnast Bart Deurloo with 57.700 despite competing with a giant brace of his leg that makes me scared for his life at every move. He started on vault by performing a Tsukahara 2.5 with a small hop to score just below 15, followed by a solid performance on floor unfortunately marred by two out-of-bounds deductions, which brought him a score in the low-14s. To finish the first round, Deurloo competed on high bar where he scored in the mid-14s, after great release skills but also the usual late pirouettes because finishing turns in handstand is a foreign concept for the male gymnasts. In the final round, the Dutch chose to perform on pommels, showing solid albeit not perfect execution for a 14.100 and managed to edge out third place finisher Igor Radivilov of Ukraine, who had been ahead of Deurloo in previous rotations.
As such, the second Ukrainian of the competition had to settle for the bronze medal after a total score of 57.050. Radivilov started out pretty well with an excellent performance on rings that got him the highest score of the day on the event (15.400), moving next to floor where he had a very wild landing on his double front, taking multiple large steps and ending up completely out-of-bounds, which brought his score down to the low-13s despite a 5.8-difficulty. On the third rotation of the first round, he opted to compete on one of his best events, vault, but fortunately he didn’t go for the triple front and instead presented a very high and stuck Dragulescu, albeit with his usual cowboying in the air for a score in the low-15s. In the final round, Radivilov performed on high bar, which has never been a highlight for him, and once again had major form issues and a big step on his double twisting double layout dismount, for just 13.350, allowing Deurloo to surpass him at the last minute.
The remaining top six gymnasts were Marian Dragulescu of Romania in fourth place with 56.200, after good results on vault and floor, his favorite events, but much lower scores on pommels and parallel bars, where his difficulty didn’t go beyond 5.3. In fifth place was Marco Rizzo of Switzerland with 55.950 after falls on pommels and vault, though his performances on rings and floor were much stronger, while in sixth was his teammate Benjamin Gischard with 55.600, despite three great showings on floor, rings and vault which got him tied with Radivilov for second after the first round, only to count two falls on pommel horse in the last rotation, putting him completely out of medal contention. Outside the final round were Arthur Nory of Brazil in seventh with 42.500 after some mistakes on high bar and generally lower difficulty than the top players, René Cournoyer of Canada in eighth with 42.450 after solid showings everywhere but being held back by his low difficulty, Lukas Dauser of Germany in ninth with 42.150 after mistakes on parallel bars and high bar, Nikita Ignatyev of Russia in tenth with 41.600 falls on vault and floor and finally Paolo Principi of Italy in eleventh with 41.000 after falls on pommels and vault and mistakes on floor.
As a whole, this meet showcased the current level of some gymnasts that have continued on training after Rio but it’s still very close to the Games and most have opted to take a break to rest their bodies and minds and live life outside of gymnastics instead of going straight back to training at the highest level immediately. Still, this is a very interesting and spectacular competition format and gives the audience and gymnasts alike a different perspective of the sport without the pressure of bigger meets.
Full results here.