After the junior competition on Saturday morning, the afternoon brought the senior gymnasts into the arena for their own show of gymnastics. While some people considered this session a bit disappointing after such great performances from the younger kids, there were still great moments to enjoy from the older girls’ meet.
In the team standings, the American seniors followed the win of their junior teammates and took the gold medal, albeit with a considerably lower score: 167.950 versus the juniors’ 171.850. First year seniors Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker and Victoria Nguyen were joined by Olympic alternate Ashton Locklear who only competed on bars and beam, while the other girls all competed all-around. On vault, the Americans started off with three hit DTYs for scores in the mid-14s from McCusker and Hurd and a low-14 from Nguyen, but they went on to have some issues on bars, counting a mid-13 from Hurd after a fall on her van Leeuwen, adding to a fantastic 15.050 from McCusker and a high-14 from Locklear. McCusker, Nguyen and Locklear all managed to hit their beam routines to bring three score in the low-14s for the team total and lastly on floor, their highest score came from Hurd who posted in the low-13s after landing her double double a bit low and out-of-bounds, while both McCusker and Nguyen only reached the high-12s range after a fall on a double tuck from the former and out-of-bounds deductions from the latter. As a whole, this team doesn’t seem as strong as we’re used to see from the Americans. Still, three of them are just now entering the senior ranks and should improve their performances and their consistency as they get some more experience. Some people were already on their feet saying the the US dominance is close to its end, but if you look at the juniors, I don’t think they will have much trouble maintaining the status of biggest gymnastics powerhouse in the world.
Narrowly outscoring the Russians after a generally very good day, the Brazilian girls managed to take home the silver medal with a total of 164.650. Featuring Olympians Flávia Saraiva and Rebeca Andrade, Olympic alternate Carolyne Pedro and junior superstar Thaís Fidelis who became a senior this year, the team put forward some very good work, especially on vault and beam, and showed tons of promise for the future. On vault, both Andrade and Saraiva performed DTYs, receiving a 15.000 and a low-14, respectively, while Pedro showed a FTY for a high-13. Next on bars, they all hit their routines but their difficulty still isn’t very high, keeping their scores in the 13s range, with Andrade and Sariva receiving in the mid to high-13s and Pedro posting a 13.000. Unfortunately, they had several issues on beam, counting three scores in the mid-13s after Saraiva fell on her switch ring, Andrade touched the beam on that same skill and Fidelis had a very low double pike dismount to finish her routine. They were, however, able to comeback strong on floor, hitting all their routines to receive mid to high-13s from Andrade and Saraiva and a 13.000 from Fidelis. While this wasn’t a perfect competition, the Brazilians showed their strong show in Rio wasn’t just a one-time thing and proved they want to continue among the best in the world in the sport. With some of the older more experienced girls retiring or taking a break after the Olympics, these younger athletes will get their chance to compete at the highest level and show they too can achieve great results for their country’s program.
In third place, just half a tenth behind Brazil, was the Russian team of Natalia Kapitonova, Daria Spiridonova, Elena Eremina and Angelina Melnikova with a final score of 164.600, after some issues throughout the day. On vault, Melnikova performed a DTY to score in the mid-14, while Eremina showed her Yurchenko 1.5 to post in the low-14s and Kapitonova did a FTY for a mid-13. Moving on to bars, Eremina was, surprisingly, their highest scorer with a high-14, after specialists Spiridonova and Kapitonova both had mistakes, with the former scoring in the low-14s and the latter posting in the mid-13s after falling on her toe-on full. Beam wasn’t much better, with Melnikova presenting the only hit routine of the team for a score in the low-14s, while Kapitonova had a rather shaky performance and Eremina fell on her LOSO mount, both posting in the low-13s. Floor, on the other hand, was a hit for them, but their low difficulty and built-in execution errors kept them from reaching very high scores, counting two scores in the mid-13s from Eremina and Melnikova and a mid-12 from Spiridonova. Despite their incredible talent, the Russian gymnasts continue to struggle quite a bit with consistency and endurance, which is holding them back and preventing better results. If they could work on those two issues, they could once again become an equal rival to the Americans, making for much more competitive and entertaining meets.
Beyond the three team medalists, France was fourth with 160.200, featuring Juliette Bossu, Marine Boyer, Lorette Charpy and Melanie de Jesus dos Santos, followed by Italy with Desirèe Carofiglio, Giada Grisetti, Noemi Linari and Martina Maggio in fifth with a total of 159.750. Team Canada composed of Audrey Rousseau, Broolyn Moors, Jade Chrobok and Shallon Olsen was sixth with 156.750 and a mixed team of Italians Sara Berardinelli and Caterina Cereghetti and Belgians Nina Derwael and Senna Deriks was seventh with 156.500.
Serving as both the team and the all-around competition, the Saturday session also rewarded the best gymnasts across all four apparatus and, unlike previous years, the US did not sweep the podium as Andrade managed to sneak in to take silver. Still, McCusker was the all-around champion with a total of 56.600, recovering well after her lackluster performance at the American Cup a month before. On vault she presented a DTY with a tiny hop for a score in the mid-14s, while on bars she had the highest score of the day on any event, 15.050, after an amazing routine featuring a stalder full to Maloney to Tkachev, a Downie release, a Ricna to pak and a front tuck half back tuck out dismount with a step. She then received a low-14 for her exercise on beam after showing a triple wolf turn to double wolf turn, a solid BHS to LOSO to LOSO series and a switch leap to switch half but having a big wobble on her side aerial, before dismounting with a double tuck with a step back. Lastly on floor, she successfully performed a full-in with a hop back, a front double full to front tuck to stag jump and a double pike with a hop back but unfortunately fell on her double tuck dismount, landing on her back out of the floor area to score just 12.750. After seeing her heartbreaking performance at the American Cup earlier this season, it’s great to see her improve so much and regain her confidence in such a short amount of time. Hopefully she can keep this rhythm going into the Summer season and have a very successful first year as a senior.
Breaking the usual American podium sweep at this meet, Brazil’s gymnastics sensation Andrade took silver with 56.000 after a very good meet overall. Starting on vault, she showed a fantastic DTY with just the tiniest of hops for a 15.000, the highest score of the day on the event and the second highest of the day across all events, behind McCusker’s 15.050 on bars. Continuing her competition day, she got a high-13 on bars after showing very high releases and good swing, connecting a Tkachev to pak and dismounting with a somewhat low full-in with a hop. Her only issues of the day came on beam where she put her hands down after her switch leap half in an otherwise strong routine that included a solid front tuck, an interesting front aerial to split jump to BHS series and a double pike dismount with a small step back to score in the mid-13s. Finishing on floor, she had another good performance, presenting a full-in with a small hop on the landing, a 2.5 twist to front full with remarkable twisting form and just a hop forward, a stuck double tuck and a double pike with a step back to end her routine. After an ACL injury kept her out for most of 2015, Rebeca managed to make a comeback a la Mustafina during 2016 and have a great showing at the Olympics in her own country. Now, she seems even stronger and is expected to become one of the top AA contenders later this year at Worlds in Montreal, especially among the weakened field of a post-Olympic year.
Surprisingly in third place was Abby Paulson with 55.800, after a very succesfull day. While Abby has been on the American elite scene for a few years, she’s never been a front runner and this medal was actually very pleasant surprise for her. On vault, she still has a FTY, which she landed with a hop back for a high-13, while on bars she performed a toe-on full to Chow to pak to Chow half and a double front dismount with a hop forward, but struggled with some leg separation issues throughout her exercise, scoring in the low to mid-14s. She received a similar score for her beam routine, that featured a double wolf turn, a front tuck, a side aerial to LOSO to LOSO series with a wobble at the end, a well connected switch to switch half, a slightly short switch ring and a 2.5 twist dismount with a hop forward. Finally on floor, she performed a piked full-in with a hop back, a triple twist with a hop, a 2.5 twist to front tuck with a small hop forward and a 1.5 twists to front full with a tiny step out-of-bounds, together with a switch ring to switch full dance connection and a very interesting piece of down to the floor choreography for a final score of 13.600. Abby is a second-year senior and has been competing at the elite level since 2013, but never quite stood out among all the other American elite juniors. This time, however, she showed difficult routines, paired with strong execution and consistency, surpassing more famous competitors and proving she should be taken into account when it comes to choosing the US international teams from here on out.
In fourth place was Eremina with 55.750 after falling on her beam mount but looking solid everywhere else, while Saraiva was fifth with 55.400, also due to a fall on beam. 2016 Olympian Melnikova was sixth with 54.800 after big execution errors on both bars and floor, though she managed to stay on on both events and hit vault and beam cleanly, Nguyen was seventh with 54.550 after some execution issues on bars and her teammate Alyona Shchennikova was eighth with 54.500 after counting a fall and some other considerable errors on beam.
Despite only competing on two events, Locklear was able to hit both routine rather cleanly, posting a 14.750 on bars and a 14.000 on beam. On bars she was her usual self, hitting her handstands right on top of the bar and showing great execution throughout her skill, including her big connection of toe-on full to Chow to pak to Maloney to bail and a full-in dismount with a tiny step to the side. Surprisingly, her difficulty on beam is now one tenth higher than on bars (5.6 versus 5.5), featuring in her routine a triple and a double wolf turn, a split leap full, a front tuck to split jump to split jump half, a switch to switch half to back tuck series with a wobble and a stuck double tuck dismount. While it’s not exactly her choice to only compete on these two events, she must increase her difficulty if she wants to be relevant among such a deep field as USA gymnastics, since many of the all-around girls are now surpassing her on both beam and bars. Hopefully she can adapt her routine to better fit the new code (her bars routine is the exact same as last year except she downgraded all her inbars to toe-ons) so she can raise her D-score and challenge for a place on big international teams and maybe an individual spot at the Tokyo Olympics.
On Sunday, it was time for event finals, with team USA taking a total of four medals, while Russia had three. On vault, given the requirement to present vaults from two different families, only five gymnasts made the final, since that was the total number of athletes fulfilling that premise. Shallon Olsen of Canada eventually took the title with an average of 14.500 after showing a very nice and nearly stuck DTY, as well as Khorkina with a small step on the landing. Italy’s Sofia Busato was second, posting an final score of 14.175 for her slightly tucked DTY and a front layout half with a small hop back, and Melnikova was third with 14.025 after a solid DTY with a hop back and a Lopez with some messy form and a step to the side.
Moving on to bars, Eremina managed to hit her routine rather cleanly to take the gold with a score of 14.750 after showing a Nabieva to pak (though she was very close to the bar on the first release), a messy van Leeuwen, a piked jaeger and a toe-on full to full-in dismount with a few steps forward. All-Around champion McCusker was second with a 14.600, hitting her stalder full to Maloney to Tkachev connection but catching the last skill a bit too close, while also failing to connect the Ricna to pak and having some grip issues on the latter, before dismounting with her trademark front tuck half back tuck out with a step back. Despite her lower difficulty (5.5 versus 6.0 from the top two medalists), Locklear finished third, just half a tenth behind McCusker, after a fantastic routine, featuring a toe-on full to Chow to pak to Maloney to bail and a stuck full-in dismount.
On the balance beam, McCusker added another gold medal to her collection, receiving a score of 14.200 for her opening triple and double wolf turns, a BHS to LOSO to LOSO series, a switch to switch half, a side aerial with a considerable wobble and a double tuck dismount with a step back. The silver medal was shared between Brazilian beam queen Saraiva and European silver medalist Marine Boyer, both scoring 14.100 with the same difficulty score of 5.8. Saraiva had a somewhat wobbly routine but still performed two acro series (a BHS to LOSO to LOSO and a round-off to layout), a front tuck to split jump to Korbut, a front aerial to sheep jump and a nearly stuck double pike dismount, whereas Boyer had a balance check after her round-off to layout series, as well as sizeable wobbles on her switch to switch half and front aerial, but also showed a clean L turn to full turn, a side aerial to split leap to side somi and a double pike dismount with a step back.
Finally, on floor, there was another tie, this time for gold, with surprise all-around bronze medalist Paulson and crowd favorite Saraiva both scoring 13.900 for their hit routines. Paulson show a piked full-in with a big step back and out-of-bounds, a triple twists with a tiny hop, a 2.5 twist to front tuck with a hop forward and 1.5 twists to front full, as well as solid leaps such as a switch ring to switch full and a Gogean leap, while Saraiva started off with a somewhat low piked full-in landed with a small hop, followed by a 1.5 twist to front full with some steps back, a double pike with a hop forward and a double tuck with a step back, together with a very entertaining choreography and expressiveness. Just a tenth behind was Russian Melnikova in third after a generally clean performance that featured a double L turn to double turn, her two new tumbling passes: double arabian with a tiny hop forward and double layout with a step forward, a Memmel turn, a piked full-in with a step back and a double pike with a hop back to finish.
Aside from some world cups and smaller friendly meets, this was the first competition of the season (and the quad) for many of the gymnasts here and the first featuring a team event so it was to be expected that no one would be in their top shape. Still, girls like McCusker, Eremina, Andrade and Saraiva showed great difficulty level and clean execution and should get even better as they get some more experience under this new code of points. Additionally, with Euros taking place this next week, many federations used this meet as a selection factor or as preparation for the big thing for their athletes, reinforcing the role of the Jesolo Trophy meet as one of the most anticipated competitions every year. For those outside of the old continent, this was another opportunity to gain experience and get back into the competition atmosphere as they prepare to enter the later part of the gymnastics season with national and international championships leading the way to the big event of the year: the World Championships in Montreal in October.