After the competition at Melbourne in February, the apparatus World Cup moved to Baku for one more stop before the final event in Doha in the last weekend of March. While this year’s hasn’t been the most attended series ever, some strong gymnasts have showed their skills and performance level as their prepare for the bigger meets later in the season.
On vault, Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan managed to once more take the gold medal with an average of 14.333 after successfully landing her front layout full and her Tsukahara 1.5 with just a hop forward. She might be turning 42 this year but she’s still fighting for medals. Right behind her was Australia’s Emily Little who averaged 14.067 for a solid DTY with a small step back and a Tsukahara full with a hop back, while the bronze medal belonged to Teja Belak of Slovenia, receiving a 13.750 average for her front tuck full and Yurchenko 1.5, both landed with a small step forward. Outside the podium was Marina Nekrasova of Azerbaijan in fourth place with 13.700, Argyro Afrati of Greece in fifth with 13.283, Tjasa Kysselef of Slovenia in sixth with 13.116, Gaya Giladi of Israel in seventh with 13.117 and lastly Rosanna Ojala of Finland with 12.233.
On the uneven bars, Ukraine’s upcoming star Diana Varinska won the title with a total of 13.933 after an incredible routine that included a Tkachev half to jaeger and a Maloney to clear hip full, finishing with a full-in dismount with a step back. The silver and bronze medals belonged to two Australians, Rianna Mizzen and Georgia-Rose Brown, respectively. Mizzen showed her intricate routine once again, starting with her fantastic opening sequence of Weiler to Weiler half to Maloney to Hindorff to pak but also showing some leg form issues and an overarched handstand for 13.600, while Brown had much lower difficulty but performed cleanly with just some leg separation on her Maloney and cowboyed double front dismount for 13.366. Behind the medalists were Wang Cenyu of China in fourth with 13.033 after sitting her double front dismount, Angelina Radivilova (previously Kysla) of Ukraine in fifth with 12.533, Yulia Inshina of Azerbaijan in sixth with 12.300 and Ekaterina Tishkova of Azerbaijan in seventh with 12.200. Shang Chunsong of China also qualified into this final but opted not to compete here so her 1.533 score makes absolutely no sense and remains a mystery to the entire gymnastics community.
The balance beam final took place on Sunday with Catalina Ponor of Romania taking the title with a score of 13.833 after a solid routine that included her new LOSO mount, a switch leap to full twisting BHS and an Onodi to split jump to Omelianchik. Unfortunately she also had some balance checks and took multiple steps back on her double pike dismount, which keep her score a bit below what she’s actually capable of. In second place was fellow veteran Vasiliki Millousi of Greece with 13.633 who had a wobble on her LOSO mount but was mostly solid in the rest of her routine, showing fluidity in her movements despite some missed connections and finishing off with a gainer layout dismount with the tiniest of steps. Emily Little was then able to add another medal to her collection, grabbing the bronze on beam after nailing her performance which included a solid front tuck mount and another front tuck on the beam with a small step forward, as well as a Johnson half and a nearly stuck double pike dismount, but also some balance checks throughout her routine. Outside the podium were Marina Nekrasova in fourth place once again with 13.100, Wang Cenyu in fifth with 12.833, Emma Nedov of Australia in sixth with 12.500, Goksu Uctas Sanli of Turkey in seventh with 11.766 and Ofir Kremer of Israel in eighth with 10.466.
Finally on the last final of the competition, floor exercise, Catalina Ponor had another great performance to take another gold medal home after posting a 13.433 for her floor performance, which included a nearly stuck double layout opening pass, but also some form issues on her 2.5 twist and a very low landing on the double pike dismount, forcing her to take several steps forward and nearly put her hands down. Emily Little finished off her competition with yet another silver medal with 13.400, missing the gold by a very small margin. She started her routine with a messy double wolf turn and a double layout with just a hop back and continued with solid tumbles throughout, even sticking her front tuck thorough to double tuck but her difficulty was lower than Ponor’s and she wasn’t able to the reach the top of the podium. Quite far from these two top finishers, Marina Nekrasova finally got her medal after finishing fourth on both vault and beam, posting 12.833 for her hit albeit messy performance that featured a tucked full-in with a stumble forward and a double arabian with a step back, as well as a double L turn, a double tuck and a 2.5 twists to finish. In fourth place was Ioanna Xoulogi of Greece with 12.633, followed by Turkish girls Goksu Uctas Sanli in fifth with 12.500 and Doga Ketenci in sixth with 12.433. Gaya Giladi of Israel was seventh with 12.000 and lastly Maria Butckikh of Georgia was eighth with 11.900.
On the men’s side, Tomas Kuzmickas of Lithuania took the floor title with 14.166, outscoring stronger competitors thanks to his clean performance, while Wang Hao of China won pommel horse with 15.400, surpassing pommels superstar Kristian Berki of Hungary due to his higher difficulty. Olympic Champion Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece easily won rings as expected with 15.466 and young Australian Christopher Remkes won vault with an average of 14.866 after a powerful Dragulescu landed with a big step back and a stuck Tsukahara double pike. On the bar evens, Liu Rongbing of China won parallel bars with 15.133, while Naoto Hayasaka of Japan took the title on high bar with a score of 14.333.
With only one more competition to go in this apparatus world cup series, gymnasts from very different countries gathered in Azerbaijan to once again put on a show and display some of the best gymnastics in the world. While most of the top countries have chosen not to send athletes to these smaller meets, the up and coming programs see this as an opportunity to gain experience and confidence on an international stage, all the while collecting some money for their results. Hopefully, as we move towards world cup events that actually enable people to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games, the participation will increase and the bigger programs will join in, creating an even more competitive atmosphere for all the athletes. In the meantime, let’s take these opportunities to enjoy some of the lesser known gymnasts who can easily go unnoticed in the bigger meets and that can turn out to be very pleasant surprises for the gymnastics fanbase.
Full results here.