A new experience for the British Senior team, going into a major final in first place, knowing that the title was a possibility. These gymnasts are creating these new mile stones all of the time through their progression on the world stage of gymnastics. It seems that at every championship we are in new territory, not so long ago in Europe, a team final spot being a certainty was new ground broken, now suddenly it is only a question of gold or silver.
Today it was silver, the title will wait a little longer, but I am absolutely certain it will come. Russia deserve high praise for their performance, their veterans, Mustafina, and Afanasyeva, plus younger stars Melnikova and Spiridonova came out fighting, and looked more like the Russia of old than they have done for some time. Seda Tutkhalyan the only one of their gymnasts to make a major error, and another fall in competition very much puts her Rio hopes in jeopardy. They will aim to bring back world vault champion Pasaeka for Rio, as well as have Afanaseva back on floor which will be another big boost to their total.
As the top two qualifiers, the teams rotated together, and in Olympic order. Russia went first on each piece.
Starting on vault, three double twisting Yurchenkos from Russia, up 0.15 from their qualifications score, they were off to a good start.
Ruby lead off for GB, 14.766 (5.8, 8.966 E) for her double twisting Yurchenko, just a fraction down on her qualifying score, but great great vaulting from her. Clean on, good block, fully rotated and centered, well landed with just the small pace.
Claudia up next, again the double twisting Yurchenko. 14.733 (5.8 D, 8.933 E) and exactly the same score as in qualification. A little off line on landing, as she tends to come off of one bent arm which takes her off at an angle, and room to stretch out more in the second flight for a higher E score, but well vaulted, and just a fraction down from her highest score of 14.80 this year, so very consistent.
Ellie rounded off the rotation with her double twisting Yurchenko, and vaulted superbly to equal her highest score of 2016. You know it’s a good vault when the gymnast blocks so high she disappears from the screen. Ellie is so clean on, and keeps the same high level of execution in the second flight. Legs extended and locked together, body fully stretched, landed in the centre, just a small hop to the side. It will be a shock if she doesn’t make history by becoming the first British European vault medalist tomorrow. 15.10 (5.8 D, 9.3 E) the second highest E score of the day, and well deserved.
Rotation one over, Russia improved by 0.15, GB by 0.033. very close as expected, on to bars.
This final was won by Russia, not lost by Great Britain. Whatever happened with the British team after Russia went up on bars was irrelevant in terms of the outcome. In previewing the championships, I said that Russia are simply the strongest team in the world on this piece, they left at home a world champion, and another gymnasts that can regularly score over 15 here.
Melnikova went up first, 14.966 just to open. Spiridonova, the joint world champion next, she missed her connections in qualification, and was edged out the the apparatus finals. Not today, 6.8 D score, and 15.366 for a 0.6 improvement. Olympic champion Mustafa anchored the team with 15.333. Those familiar with Mustafa know never to count her out, she is forged from iron when she’s needed to step up for her team, reminiscent of the great Soviet team leaders of the past. 45.665 for Russia, up over 0.8 from qualification.
Starts lists for tomorrow’s apparatus finals are out, and Russia has substituted Spiridonova into the bars final, taking Melinkova out. They are perfectly entitled to do this, and it’s no surprise at all, as Spiridonova is world and European Champion.
Gabby up first on bars, and a huge test for her, after so long away from major finals. The most beautiful cast to handstand to open, the simplest skills done flawlessly are always so enjoyable to see. Late on the toe full, she took the extra upstart handstand, then another toe on, into the Van Leeuwen to high bar. Good Jaeger, then BIG toe on Tkatchev. Pak to low bar, another nice cast, the Maloney back to high bar, straight into the Gienger between the bars for the 0.2 connection bonus. Strong double straight to finish, 14.383 (6.1 D, 8.283 E)
Ruby went up second, she’s made a big upgrade to her routine this year, and absolutely went for it with a huge Tkatchev from her Markelov ready to go straight into the Bhardwaj. The Thatchev was just too big today, she missed the bar completely so counted a fall, and wouldn’t have got the credit for the skill, or of course the three skill combination of D-D-E for 0.4 in connection bonus. She remounted, upstart cast, then went for the toe on, but obviously didn’t feel right so repeated it into the Van Leeuwen, then linked it to the Zuchold, both very well done. Toe full, shoot to high bar, then a nice toe half on top of the bar, Jaeger, double front dismount with small step.
It’s a big gamble to upgrade so much, this is now a 6.6 routine, so one of the highest out there. It was absolutely the right choice to test it on a big eight twelve weeks from the Olympics, if she hits, we have another 15 for the team total. The time between now and Rio should she be selected will be used to decide whether the new work is consistent enough for a team final, or whether to play safer with the old routine and a guaranteed high 14’s .
Anchoring the team, Becky was brilliant on bars today. Over 15 again a consistent score for her with the 6.4 D routine. Secure in all her releases, crisp turns, good casts, and clean lines throughout. great quality bar work as ever, and a very well deserved equal highest E score of the day on this piece as a reward. 15.0666 (6.4 D, 8.666 E)
Half way through, and Russia had forged ahead with 90.380 to GB’s 87.214. As I said, they won this final on bars with the sheer quality in their highly difficult routines.
Beam next, I mentioned earlier that Tutkhalyan fell, so Russia carried a 13.633, Mustafa and Menikova tied for top beam score of the day with 14.800 each . Mustafina rising to the occasion once again, and Melnikova the previous junior AA champion, an exciting and consistent new talent.
Gabby up first again for GB, strong start with punch front to W jump, then secure through the flick flick layout series. A new double spin to back spin connection, well negotiated, then then then change ring. The biggest error in the routine came on the leap, a sizeable wobble, but brought back under control, Gabby was 0.1 down on her possible D score, and it may have come here if the judges felt she didn’t achieve the 90° leg bend required. Free cartwheel, then sissone to straddle jump, for the requirement. Nice change leap to back tuck connection, and safely through the change half, just the dismount to go. Well landed on the double pike, a good start for the team. 14.10 (6.0 D, 8.1 E)
Gabby came to Europeans for bars and beam, she has competed and hit four out of four so far. I am thrilled for her having fought so hard for so long to return to competition, and even more so to see her do so well.
Claudia up next, time to test the big routine in a high pressure final. In my opinion it was one hundred percent the right choice for her to compete full difficulty, why wouldn’t she with the upgrades to test out? Coming into the championships she had competed the new routine four times, with only one fall, the fall wasn’t on the flick full twist. Four outings for that series, four successes.
I actually thought Claudia was going to hit today, in qualifications I thought she looked nervous and unsettled, today I thought she looked calm and determined. A adjustment needed on the standing Arabian, but firmly dealt with. Change to sheep jump, solid. The flick full her foot slipped down the side of the beam, and she was off. A small wobble on the free cartwheel, then a bigger one on the standing full, but snapped back into line. W jump to split jump, she was quite short on split so the E panel would have taken more from her there. A little low in the chest on the double pike dismount, and a step forward, not the routine she would have wished for.
Like Ruby on bars, from now till Rio should she be selected, will be spent working hard on the consistency, and the only people fit to make the decision on what she should be performing are those that have seen the hit rate day in day out in training, and at the various trials they will be doing where they will often compete two beam routines each time. We will find out how she’s been doing when we see which skills she comes out with if she takes to the beam in competition one in Rio. 13.266 today (6.2 D, 7.066 E)
Becky Downie had a bad day on beam, the usually very solid front somi to start, she came off, then again on the next skill, the free cartwheel layout. A disastrous start for her. Nice range and extension in the change to change half, a small wobble at the end. Becky went for the connection for the back spin to free walkover, but missed the sissone after the arco skill for the extra bonus. Side somi no problem, then she really went aggressively for the for the change to ring today, and did it well. Strong double pike to finish, but two falls at the beginning brought her score down to 12.533 (5.9 D, 6.633 E)
Before I move on, a little thought about Ellie Downie as I’ve had several messages as to why she wasn’t competing on beam. Had this been an AA competition as well, I have no doubt that she would have at least in qualification, however I imagine the logic went something like this: Ellie we know can score well on beam of course, she is the highest British scorer so far this year, with 14.90, she has also scored mid 14.’s. Everything this year, and I mean EVERYTHING is about the journey to Rio. Usually we see our gymnasts peak for Europeans, come down a little again, then peak for world championships in October. Olympic years are different, there isn’t the time between Europeans and Olympics to do this, so everything leading up to the games is part of the testing and selection process. Claudia is a team final beamer, she has been for years now, she needed to compete here to test the new routine in a high pressure situation. Gabby hasn’t competed in a major final for two years, so again needed to be tested. It’s not a case of Ellie being good enough, it’s of no stone left unturned in the build up to Rio selection.
So, four falls counted, and still in silver medal position. The team went to floor to finish with pride.
Russia came though floor without any major problems, they would be impossible to catch.
Ruby started the team off , no footage of her routine as yet, but 13.933, so a little down on her qualification score of 14.20, but not a huge amount in it, so safe to assume she went well.
Ellie next, and I was really happy yesterday to see that Laurie Hernandez has new music heading into Rio, so I don’t have to read for the millionth time that Ellie should’t have the same music as her (which she didn’t exactly anyway).
So strong in the opening tumble, Ellie is so clean in her work, and deserves appreciation for this. She added the stag jump to the one and a half to double arabain today for 0.1 bonus. The piked double Arabian was huge, and she had an akward looking bounce out but looked to be ok. The new change to ring though to change full works well for her, then two and a half to punch front stuck. Nice tour jete full, then finishing with a double pike, a little short on landing, so a bounce forward. Good routine, and 14,433 with two landing deductions means she’s heading for a big score here when she hits.
Claudia finished the British challenge in style. Right up till the final tumble, it was one of her best routines. Full twisting double layout to W jump to open, then piked double Arabian with a new stag jump added. Change to ring, to tour jete full, butterfly into the corner,then a very clean well rotated triple twist. Tour jete half, double spin, and into the corner for the final tumble. The double layout landed really low, so a deduction there, and more for the big step she needed to keep on her feet. Still 14.833, if she stays on her feet it will be gold or silver in finals, from the scores, I think the judges are looking to give it to her should both she and Giulia Steingruber hit.
In the end Russia took the title by nearly five points. Congratulations to them, a well deserved victory. They counted a one fall to our four, so even a clean competition could’t have beaten them today. Congratulations too go to France, so delighted with their bronze medal.
What we know now about British gymnastics is that we, with Russia, are leading Europe by quite some way. Four falls counted, and still a silver medal, unthinkable even a few years ago. Finals tomorrow, and the opportunity for more medals, then back to home gyms, back to Lilleshall for more hard work on the lessons taken from here.
Congratulations to the team, and coaches, not only some great gymnastics on display, but also on social media after the competiton, a mixture of pride and humility, accountability and magnanimity. Not only great gymnasts, great role models.