Qualifications day today, day one of competition for the British ladies out in Romania, and the opportunity to try to qualify for tomorrow’s AA final, and Saturday and Sunday’s Apparatus finals. The British WAG have been a growing force in European competition for several years now, and today they once again took a step up in terms of strength, and intention on their way to the goal of becoming the strongest European nation.
The first subdivision got underway with Claudia and Alice opening their competition. Claudia now a veteran on her fourth European Championships, and Alice not only on her first, but her first major senior international championships, and flown in on Tuesday to take the place of the injured Georgia-Mae Fenton (sending you even more good wishes Georgia-Mae), no podium training, straight into competition.
Claudia competed on beam and floor as expected, she is yet to return to four pieces, focused for now on her strongest apparatus, as she returns after Rio and Strictly. The group started on vault, Alice competing her full twisting Yurchenko well, nice block, good extension, straight down the middle with a hop back for 13.433
On to bars, and we didn’t see Alice’s routine, but reports from those in the arena say that she was clean, and went through well. What we don’t know as yet was whether she included both her upgrades, as we don’t have the full D and E scores available. She did do her new piked Jaeger, but I’m not sure about the Ricna until the scores come through. There is no live scoring this year, we are usually spoiled with score breakdowns coming through instantly, so the delay is something different to deal with for this championships.
Beam, and Claudia’s turn to start her competition. She was strong once again on the standing Arabian to open, neatly through the change leap to W jump, ever so slightly off balance, but dealt with immediately, her experience showing. She went a little off line in the air on her flick to straight back, causing her to land a little of line, but again very sharply dealt with, minimising the deduction. Claudia’s biggest error came on the standing full, she actually landed with one foot slipping down the beam causing a big wobble, but she was absolutely NOT coming off, and used her leg strength to push back up again. This is the sort of fight we like to see, determination to stay on if there is any possible chance to. Tuck jump half side on, a little tentative today, lovely W full which although I keep saying it, I’m going to carry on, it’s a great skill choice for her. Flick, flick, clean easy double twist opened early with a stuck landing. Good routine overall for 13.200
Alice we didn’t see, so again difficult to report on. She did have a fall on her new series, the incredibly difficult free cartwheel layout layout. This is still being consolidated, didn’t come off today for her, everything crossed for tomorrow. 12.366
Finishing on floor, Alice up first, and her lovely ‘Fiddler on the Roof routine’. She came off the vertical axis in her Memmel spin a little, but kept her heel off the floor. Opening tumble one and a half to two and a half, clean twisting, stuck landing. She was the tiniest tiniest bit short on her triple twist, so a pace to the side, but certainly more than far enough round for credit, and really, nearly fully rotated. Again excellent form on her twisting, legs straight and locked together. Split full through to change half, there will have been a little bit taken in deduction here as she didn’t quite hit full split, but she really isn’t at all far off. Punch front through to clean double twist, stuck double pike to finish, again very clean through the entire skill 12.800
Great stuff from Alice, her dance is light and elegant, her tumbling as I say very clean throughout. This young gymnast stepped up onto the big stage today and presented herself as a real contender for British teams as the quad progresses, well done Alice.
Finishing the rotation, up stepped Claudia Fragapane. Claudia has always had a confidence in her floor work and performance, but for me she has really grown since her time in Strictly. She commanded the floor and the audience, part performer, part gymnast, full routine, and I loved watching her compete like that. Full twisting double straight to open, well we must assume so, as the camera person couldn’t keep up with her height! Stuck landing, great start. Huge double Arabian landed on the beat of the music second tumble, change to W through to split leap full to jump full turn, clean and in control throughout. Change half leap, big double straight with a hop back, again good clean work from her. Split one and a half, big double pike to finish. Claudia deserves praise not only for her performance quality, but how much work she has clearly put into her execution ready for this year, well done Claudia 13.766
On to subdivision three, and the second pairing of Brits. Welcome Ellie and Becky Downie to 2017 Europeans.
Starting on bars, and I held my breath. It’s not at all from lack of belief in these phenomenal gymnasts, but rather such dynamic work brings great risk, and it’s a lot more relaxing when everyone starts on vault or floor!
Becky up first, forward toe circle with half turn to Chow Shap to high bar, big swing out, uprise into the Hindorf. Toe full to Ricna, into the Pak to low bar, smooth and clean work. Maloney to high bar to the new Gienger, upstart handstand, giant into the full out with a small hop 14.433.
Great work as ever from Becky, strong, dynamic, great swing, releases and transitions. So Becky has a choice for the final, she has more to put in, she can raise the Hindorf to a Shang by piking it, and the Ricna to a Downie also by using the pike rather than the straddle. She will likely need to do at least one to reclaim her title, and we have often seen her raise her difficulty for finals. We shall see.
Ellie up second, and as we saw at the British, she’s continued to make big strides on this piece as she builds her AA difficulty. Opening with the forward toe circle half, then Maloney to high bar, into the Hindorf. She was a little late on the toe full, but linked it well to the big piked Tkatchev and immediately into the Pak. Van Leuween to high bar, wind up giants into the very well stretched double straight with a hop back, great start 14.266
On to beam next, Ellie up first, cleanly onto the beam, good punch front landed upright. The huge standing Arabian she took a pace to control, but control it she did, with authority and confidence. Change to change half, clean and secure, then safely through the double spin. Flick layout dynamic and confident, then the new series split leap to free cartwheel which she performed well, but could sharpen the connection more. Far better to be safe and sure going into the free cartwheel though. Clean two and a half twist stuck landing, great routine, and great opening half to her competition 13.466
Becky started beam beautifully, clean and floaty through the free cartwheel layout, lovely change leap, then a little short on the change half, and slightly out of line meaning she needed to save it rather than adding the new back tuck. Sissone full spin, beautiful carriage as usual, I say it time and again, but Becky really is a class act on this piece. Free walkover to split jump, she was a little short, and a little off, but dealt with it with minor adjustment, just a small wave of the arms to settle herself again. Good side somi, then she attacked the change to ring well, a wobble on landing, but from the angle we see it, she should have received credit. Double pike dismount, she was low on landing, but pulled it round, and for someone struggling with her knees at present did a very good job. 13.333, qualifications complete, well done Becky.
A little side note, Ellie’s cheering, support, and encouragement of her sister which you can clearly hear on the video was one of my highlights of the day.
Ellie went to floor, she looked fierce, strong, and ready while she waited, if she was nervous, there wasn’t a hint of it on her face. For me this is Ellie’s best routine to date, she seems very comfortable with the style and choreography, which then transfers into her performance. Nice split jump full to start, then the big double double which she’s doing so well. Clean one and a half through to stuck double Arabian landed bolt upright, then change through to split one and a half, or perhaps one and a quarter today, I’ll have to check the E score when I see it. Big double pike to finish, very very good routine 13.900
Finishing on vault, the two vaults we are used to seeing from Ellie, big double twisting Yurchenko to start with for 14.566 which I think was the highest individual vault score of the day. She was high, clean, straight, and right down the middle with just a hop back, great vaulting.
Second vault the Lopez, and you can see how hard Ellie has been working toward the Cheng, as this vault is starting to look more like a timer for it with the extra height and time she’s generating. Legs locked together on entry, and all the way through, big lift, clean turn, straight down the middle. My guess is that we will only see Ellie’s Cheng when it is of a similar quality, and that’s exactly how it should be, no hurry at all. 14.300 for the Lopez today, and a 14.433 average.
So qualifications done, and how did they fare?
Congratulations to Ellie and Alice on qualifying for the AA final tomorrow, Alice placed 16th overall, and qualified 14th, a great result for her in her first senior Europeans, with the potential to finish even higher tomorrow. Ellie qualified in first place by 1.316, a big margin, but she has to do it again tomorrow to take the title. Whether she does or not, this was a commanding performance, a statement of intent, and you know, she looked like the European Champion the whole way round.
Top Eight AA
1. Ellie Downie (GBR) 56.198
2. Zsofia Kovacs (HUN) 54.882
3. Tabea Alt (GER) 54.866
4. Elena Eremina (RUS) 54.698
5. Eythora Thorsdottir (NED) 54.598
6. Kim Bui (GER) 53.632
7. Melanie de Jesus dos Santos (FRA) 53.333
8. Martina Maggio (ITA) 53.315
Congratulations go to Ellie again on topping the vault standings, great vaulting and completely deserved. Be aware though, in qualification Maria Paseka used the double twisting Yurchenko and the Lopez as Ellie did, in podium training she performed the Amanar and the Cheng, so is favourite for the title going in.
Top Eight Vault
1. Ellie Downie (GBR) 14.433
2. Maria Paseka (RUS) 14.412
3. Coline Devillard (FRA) 14.267
4. Boglarka Devai (HUN) 14.233
5. Teja Belak (SLO) 14.216
6. Zsofia KOVACS (HUN) 14.174
7. Angelina Melnikova (RUS) 14.166
8. Tisha Volleman (NED) 13.966
Two bars finalists, Becky qualifying in fourth, Ellie in sixth. As I said above, Becky can up her difficulty, either by 0.1 which I think we might see from her adding in the Downie, or by 0.2 by also adding in the Shang. She certainly has a shot at retiring her title should she be able to perform to her best here.
Top Eight Bars
1. Eli Seitz (GER) 14.566
1. Nina Derwael (BEL) 14,566
3. Elena Eremina (RUS) 14.466
4. Becky Downie (GBR) 14.433
5. Zsofia KOVACS (HUN) 14.366
6. Ellie Downie (GBR) 14.266
7. Kim Bui (GER) 14.133
8. Melanie de Jesus dos Santos (FRA) 14.100
Two beam finalists as well, both Ellie and Becky qualifying, in 7th and 8th respectively. We all know, anything at all can happen on beam in a final, so I won’t even hazard a guess as to potential placings here!
Top Eight Beam
1. Larisa Iordache (ROU) 14.566
2. Sanne Wevers (NED) 14.300
3. Eythora Thorsdottir (NED) 14.233
4. Catalina Ponor (ROU) 14.066
5. Tabea Alt (GER) 13.700
6. Marine Boyer (FRA) 13.700
7. Ellie Downie (GBR) 13.466
8. Becky Downie (GBR) 13.333
Finally onto floor, and the top two qualifiers in Ellie and Claudia. Can they repeat this for an unprecedented British 1-2 in finals? Absolutely, will they? I can’t wait to find out.
Top Eight Floor
1. Ellie Downie (GBR) 13.966
2. Claudia Fragapane GBR 13.766
3. Elena Eremina (RUS) 13.633
4. Lara Mori (ITA) 13.533
5. Eythora Thorsdottir (NED) 13.366
6. Angelina Melnikova (RUS) 13.233
7. Kim Bui (GER) 13.166
8. Pauline Schaeffer (GER) 13.133
Nine final spots attempted, nine achieved. A wonderful start by the British team with so much promise of what’s to come over the next few days. Ellie also makes history once more, by becoming the first ever British WAG to qualify for all European Final. I have feeling she’s far from done making history yet.
Good luck ladies in all of your finals, we’ll all be cheering you on.