And before we knew it, the last all-around competition in the World Cup circuit was upon us in London. With the top nations trying to maintain their spots in the rankings and gather some much desired prize money, everyone was ready to give it their all and finish this series on a high note.
On the women’s side, Stuttgart World Cup Champion Tabea Alt of Germany took the gold medal once again with a total of 54.598, improving on her previous win by about four tenths. On vault, she presented a stuck DTY albeit landed a bit low for a score in the mid-14s, while on bars she got a high-13 for her routine that featured a toe-on full to Maloney to pak, a van Leeuwen, a piked jaeger and a double layout dismount with a step back. Unfortunately, she didn’t repeat her fantastic perform on beam from Stuttgart and crashed her double pike dismount here, despite hitting her layout mount, a side aerial to LOSO to LOSO series with a wobble and a switch ring to score just below 13. Lastly on floor, she had a solid exercise, starting off with a full-in landed with a step back, followed by a front tuck through to a nearly stuck double tuck, a great double L turn and a double pike with a tiny step to finish. After an amazing junior career and a somewhat iffy first year as a senior, it’s great to see Tabea finally find her footing and achieve great things for herself and her team. With Euros starting this week, she is one of the front runners for the all-around podium.
In second place was Victoria Nguyen of the USA with 53.832, going on her first solo international assignment as a senior, after performing in Jesolo the week before. On vault, she too presented a DTY, taking a big step to the side and stepping out-of-bounds to post in the low-14s, whereas on bars she had some issues, losing her swing on her pak salto, but hit her inbar full to Maloney to Gienger and her layout jaeger, before sticking her double layout dismount to receive a high-13. Sadly, even though she managed to stay on, her beam routine was rather shaky, showing wobbles on almost every skill and scoring just 12.866. Still, she should some interesting connections such as a BHS to LOSO to LOSO, a front aerial to ring jump, a side aerial to back tuck and switch to Onodi to sheep jump, as well as a Y turn, a switch ring and front tuck, finishing with a 2.5 twists dismount with a step to the side. At last, she hit her floor routine cleanly, showing a full-in a bit low landed with a hop forward and bouncing her leg back, a triple twist with a step back, a switch ring to switch full, a front double full with a step to the side and a back tuck with a step back. Even though she had some serious injuries during her last year as a junior, Nguyen was always a fan favorite as a young gymnast and it’s good to finally see her compete with the “big girls”. She still has a lot to improve on but should become one important player for team USA.
Competing in front of a home crowd, Amy Tinkler of Great Britain took bronze with a total of 53.433 after a generally solid day. She started off on vault, showing a fantastic DTY with a stuck landing right on the central line for a mid-14 and she continued with her great performance next on bars, hitting her toe-on full to Maloney to Tkachev connection, her van Leeuwen and her Markelov, before sticking her full-in dismount for a final score in the mid-13s. Unfortunately, much like the other two medalists, she had some issues on beam, grabbing the beam on her gainer LOSO to LOSO series, showing some short leaps and counting some considerable balance checks on her wolf jump full and front aerial, which together with her 4.8-difficulty, caused in part by the absence of her standing full and a downgraded double full dismount (albeit stuck), brought her score down to just 12.000. She was, however, able to finish on a high note, performing an entertaining floor routine and completely captivating the audience with her full twisting double layout with a hop forward, a double layout with a step, a front full with a step forward, a switch full and a double pike with a hop forward to finish her exercise, posting in the low-13s. After her fantastic show in Rio that resulted in a bronze medal on floor, Amy has enjoyed some opportunities outside of gymnastics and some doubted she would be back in competition shape so soon, especially after scratching floor at the American Cup and only competing on bars at the recent British Championships. Despite all of this, she had a rather decent day here in London and seems on the right track to get back to the highest level of gymnastics. She hasn’t been selected for the European team but hopefully she will continue to improve and be ready just in time for Worlds in October.
Less than two tenths behind Tinkler, Ana Perez of Spain was fourth with 53.299 after a super hit competition day where she also got the top score on beam with 13.233. Russian Angelina Melnikova was fifth with 52.599 after falls on beam and floor, a low DTY on vault and some errors on bars, while Ilaria Kaeslin of Switzerland was sixth with 50.699. Tisha Volleman of the Netherlands was seventh with 50.465 and Jinru Liu of China was eighth with just 47.665 after a fall on vault caused a small ankle injury that lead to more falls on bars and beam.
Also expected to compete here was Georgia-Mae Fenton who was selected to replace Ellie Downie for this meet, but unfortunately she got injured on her ribs during warm-ups and had to withdraw from the competition to protect herself. She was later selected for the European team but was also forced to miss this competition due to injury. It’s still not clear if these two injuries are related but given the short amount of time between them, it’s possible she just wasn’t fully healed from her first injury and needed some more time before coming back to competition. Hopefully she will have other opportunities to show her skills on the international stage and help team GB achieve important results.
On the men’s side, Olympic silver medalist Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine once again took gold despite not having his strongest performance here. Starting on floor, he was generally solid in his exercise, featuring a double double mount and lost of twisting passes, but had some shaky landings to score just below 14. Next on pommel horse he posted in the high-12s, after having to muscle a handstand right before the dismount and presenting a very downgraded routine with only 5.3 in difficulty, whereas he had 6.1 in Stuttgart and 6.5 at the Ameircan Cup. He went on to hit his exercise on rings, finishing with a low double double dismount with a hop forward for a low-14, followed by a Dragulescu vault, landed a bit low and with a hop forward for a mid to high-14. On his pet event, the parallel bars, Verniaiev had some wobbles on his single rail handstand and downgraded about five tenths in difficulty since Stuttgart but stuck his double front half-out dismount to receive a high-14 for his effort, and finally on high bar he was forced to muscle a handstand and stumbled forward on his double twisting double layout dismount, touching his knee on the mat and scoring in the low-13s. While Oleg has continued to win medals in the competitions he has entered since Rio, his difficulty and consistency have suffered a bit since then and that’s something he definitely needs to work on if he wants to challenge Uchimura once again by the time Worlds come around.
In second place was Olympic alternate Donnell Whittenburg of the USA with a total of 82.665 after some issues on pommel horse and high bar. On his first event, floor, he showed some strong tumbles, such as a front double full to double front, a front full to piked double front and a double twisting double layout to score in the low-14s. Unfortunately, pommel horse has always been his nemesis and even though he was generally solid in his exercise, he had a small hesitation on his scissors and a iffy dismount, which together with his 4.7-difficulty brought his score down to the mid-12s. Next on rings he showed very good cross positions and made sure to open his fists to prove he wasn’t using any false grips, but had some shaky handstands before dismounting with a double twisting double layout with a small hop for a low-14. Just like Verniaiev, he presented a Dragulescu vault landed a bit low and with a hop to the side to score a 14.533, which he also received for his clean parallel bars routine, capped off with a double front half-out dismount with a small hop back. Lastly on high bar, he showed a layout Tkachev but was very late on most of his pirouettes and had an overarched handstand, finishing with yet another double twisting double layout dismount with a small hop to the side and scoring just below 13. While Donnell can be really good on the power events, like floor, vault and rings, he has constantly struggled with pommel horse and, to a lesser extent, with high bar, which severely affects his all-around chances. With the teams reduced to only four members in Tokyo, he will have to work every more on those apparatus to make himself valuable for the team, or just ditch them completely and focus on the individual qualification option as a specialist.
After placing 9th at the American Cup and 6th in Stuttgart, Lukas Dauser of Germany finally found himself on the podium here in London with a total of 81.698. On floor he showed a strong double double to star but had shaky landings throughout his exercise to score in the low-13s, while on pommels he had a clean routine but didn’t compete a handstand dismount and received just 12.433 due to his low difficulty (5.0 D-score). Moving on to rings, Dauser overarched a handstand right before dismounting with a double double with a step back for a score in the mid-13s, followed by a low-14 on vault for his stuck double twisting Tsukahara. As usual, parallel bars was his best event, receiving a 14.933 for his exercise, the highest score of the day on any event. Despite some form issues on his first uprise, he performed his 6.3-difficulty routine with ease, showing solid handstands and a somewhat low double front half-out dismount with a hop forward. He went on to perform on high bar, featuring a one-armed giant full, a Kovacs and a double twisting double layout dismount with a big step forward for a mid to high-13. Despite not being one of the top players for the German team, Dauser has consistently been competing on all four events for a while, which is not the case of some of his teammates who opted to focus on their strengths. This option for the all-around is quite beneficial for him and should help him stay among the strongest contenders for international teams for the time being.
Beyond the podium, British gymnasts Sam Oldham and Brinn Bevan were fourth and fifth, respectively, after issues from both. Oldham posted a total of 81.064 after sitting his double front dismount on floor and showing a big form break on a handstand on rings, though he was clean everywhere else, while Bevan finished with 80.465 after falling on floor and vault and also having a form break on pommel horse. Eddy Yusof of Switzerland was sixth with 80.431, followed by Luo Jianlin of China in seventh with 77.931 and Alexey Rostov of Russia in eighth with 75.965.
With the end of this all-around World Cup series, the overall awards were handed out to the top 3 finishers. Despite being an individual competition, rankings are based on the federation and not the gymnasts themselves, so results from different individual from the same countries are added together for the final standings. On the women’s side, Germany and the USA tied for gold, with Germany counting two gold medals from Alt at Stuttgart and London and a fourth place finish from Kim Bui at the American Cup, while the US had one medal of each color: a gold from Ragan Smith in home soil, a silver from Nguyen here in London and a bronze from Morgan Hurd in Stuttgart. Netherlands was third after Volleman finished seventh at both American Cup and London and Eythora Thorsdottir was fifth in Stuttgart.
On the men’s side, unsurprisingly, Ukraine took the title after Verniaiev gathered two golds (Stuttgart and London) and one silver (American Cup), followed by the Americans in second with a gold from Yul Moldauer at home, a silver from Whittenburg here in London and a seventh place finish from Allan Bower in Stuttgart. Lastly, China finished third with a bronze and a seventh place finish from Sun Wei, at Stuttgart and the American Cup, respectively, as well as another seventh place from Jianlin in London.
After these few weeks of the all-around World Cup circuit, this series has come to an end and bigger meets, like the European Championships, are just around the corner to gather gymnasts from all over the continent. While this circuit included a quite attractive prize money, most countries use it as a means to give their gymnasts some extra experience and test their readiness under the competition pressure. In that sense, the World Challenge Cup series will soon begin in Koper, Slovenia and will provide many more opportunities for the less experienced gymnasts to compete in a big arena, while also keep us company for the next few months as we all prepare for the World Championships in Montreal in October.