Following the first all-around World Cup competition at the American Cup in Newark in early March, the series continued with its second installment in Stuttgart, Germany on the weekend of March 17th and 18th, featuring gymnasts from the top countries in the World.
On Saturday the women’s competition took place with birthday girl Tabea Alt of Germany taking the title in front of a home crowd with a total of 54.199. No better way to celebrate your 17th birthday than with a gold medal around your neck and an entire arena singing you Happy Birthday! She started her day with a DTY on vault with a somewhat low landing that forced her to take a step to the side, scoring in the low-14s. Unfortunately things would get worse before they’d get better and she only posted in the mi-12s on bars after having a big swing break after her jaeger and then falling on her double layout dismount. Still, she proved to be a great competitor and was able to comeback from that bars routine to have the best beam routine among all the gymnasts, which included a layout mount, a daring side aerial to LOSO to LOSO series and a double pike dismount with just a small hop to score just above 14. Finishing on floor, Alt showed expressive and elegant choreography together with difficult tumbling such as a tucked full-in with just a tiny step, a front tuck through to double tuck with a hop back and a nearly stuck double pike as her last pass for 13.500. Despite being on the gymnastics fanbase radar since her junior years, Tabea has proved time and again that she really is one of the best gymnast on the German team and it’s amazing to see her win in such a strong international field.
In second place was Olympian Angelina Melnikova of Russia with 53.732 after some issues throughout the competition. On vault she performed a solid DTY with a hop back on the landing for a low-14, while on bars she had her highest score of the day with 14.400 after hitting her routine albeit with some hesitation on her inbar full and toe-on full before dismounting with a full-in with just a tiny hop. Unfortunately her last two events didn’t go as well as the first and she only scored in the mid-12s on both. On beam she counted a fall at the end of her BHS to BHS to layout series and also had a big wobble after her L turn, whereas on floor she didn’t have any falls but had trouble controlling her landings, taking two big steps out-of-bounds on her double arabian and landing her piked full-in very low with another step outside the floor area. Her solid double layout and stuck double pike couldn’t do much to improve her result and she had to settle for silver. While she was hyped as the next Russian star before Nationals a few weeks ago, Angelina didn’t manage to meet those expectations and once again underperformed here, missing out on what should have been a relatively easy win for her. She’s got the difficulty and the execution to be a champion but she still struggles with hitting her routines when it counts which has kept her away from the top spot on the podium. Once she matures a bit more and finds her confidence to deliver under pressure, she should become one of the world’s best.
The bronze medal belonged to American new-senior Morgan Hurd with 53.265 after also counting mistakes of her own on her senior international debut. Similar to the two top finishers, Hurd also showed a DTY on vault taking just a hop back on the landing for 14.366, while on bars she had a solid routine, including an inbar full to Tkachev, a Ricna release and a full-in dismount with a tiny hop for a score in the low-14s. However, she was unable to continue this successful performance on beam where she counted falls on her standing full and BHS to LOSO series, as well as a big wobble on her side aerial and a bunch of missed connections to bring her score into the low-11s, despite a solid full-in dismount with a hop forward. Nonetheless she managed to finish her day on a high note with a hit routine on floor that included a brand new double double with just a hop back and a front layout to front double full combined with creative choreography and flexibility that really captivated the audience. Unlike the two other medalists, this was Hurd’s first competition as a Senior and already against such a strong international field away from her home country. Despite the falls on beam, her other three events were solid and she should keep on improving her consistency and confidence in the near future to match her already fantastic flexibility and execution.
In fourth place was the second German Pauline Schaefer with 53.231 after a generally solid competition, while in fifth was Eythora Thorsdottir of the Netherlands with 50.632 after issues on most events and a fall on her beam mount. Zhang Jin of China was sixth with 50.032 after struggling a lot on bars and Alice Kinsella of Great Britain was seventh with 47.099 after counting three falls into her all-around total.
After the women’s competition on Saturday, Sunday was time for the men to show off their skills and Olympic Silver medalist Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine ended up taking the title with 84.899. Rocking a new outfit for team Ukraine, Vernaiev didn’t start his day as he would expect with just 13.533 on floor after messy landings on most of his passes and touching his knee on the mat after the double front. He was however able to recover from this rough start to have strong performances on pommels and rings scoring in the low to mid-14s on both before moving on to vault where he presented his traditional Dragulescu, landing a bit low and taking a tiny step forward for 14.700. On parallel bars he was fantastic as usual with very steady handstands and solid double front half-out dismount with a small step, receiving his highest mark of the day, 15.600. But Oleg would not be Oleg if he didn’t struggle on high bar and this time was no exception, counting a fall after trying to muscle up a handstand but eventually hopping off for a score in the mid-12s. While his performance was marred by some mistakes, Oleg’s difficulty and correct execution on most events still allowed him to finish on top on the podium and take yet another gold medal for his collection. Hopefully he can fix his consistency issues in the near future so that he can be in top form later this year at Worlds for another Verniaiev vs Uchimura showdown.
In second place, just about three tenths behind Verniaiev was Japan’s Kazuma Kaya with 84.398 after a generally solid performance across all six events. He started off with his no BHS routine on floor with hops on most of his landings but no major mistakes for a score just below 14, followed by another successful exercise on pommels for a mid-14. On rings he had some issues with false grips and very high should on his cross positions, but finished well with a full twisting double layout with a step, before moving on to vault where he landed his Tsukahara 2.5 twists with a hop out-of-bounds to receive scores in the mid-13s on both events. Just like Oleg, Kaya also had his highest mark on parallel bars with 14.900 after a solid routine capped off with a stuck double front half-out dismount, while on high bar he posted in the mid-13s after hitting his exercise but receiving some execution deductions.
Rounding-up the podium was Sun Wei of China taking the bronze medal with 82.898 after solid routines on most event with the exception of floor and vault. Adding to his low difficulty score on floor, Sun also had low landings on most of his skills and went out-of-bounds on his front full to front 1.5 twists which kept his score in the low to mid-12s. In a complete 180 turn, he then had his highest score of the day on pommel horse, after performing cleanly his routine for a mid to high-14. On rings he posted in the mid-13s after low difficulty and shaky handstands plagued him throughout the exercise, while on vault he received a 13.866 after putting his hands down on his otherwise clean Tsukahara triple. Sun moved on to show great releases on parallel bars, finishing with a double pike dismount with a hop back for a score in the mid-14s and lastly on high bar he performed some difficult skills and connections, such as a layout Tkachev to straddle Tkachev half, a layout Tkachev half and a double twisting double layout dismount with a step for a 14.000. While he hasn’t yet been selected for any of the top Chinese teams, Sun keeps showing progress on multiple events and if he continues down this path, he should soon find his place representing his country at the highest level.
Beyond the three medalists were Nikita Ignatyev of Russia in fourth place with 82.799, James Hall of Great Britain in fifth with 82.665, Lukas Dauser of Germany in sixth with 81.797, Allan Bower of the USA in seventh with 81.699, Oliver Nicola Hegi of Switzerland in eighth with 81.165 and Sebastian Krimmer of Germany in ninth with 76.964.
As another step in the all-around world cup circuit, this competition showed once more the strength of the gymnasts from the top countries in the sport of gymnastics, as well as what can still be improved on each of their performances. Next we will have the final all-around world cup competition in London on April 8th for another great display of gymnastics as we get closer and closer to the first big competition of the year with the European Championships in Cluj-Napoca at the end of April where all countries from Europe will try to put forth their best athletes in the sport.