Without Aliya Mustafina, how will Russia fare at Worlds?

Russia’s Aliya Mustafina.

Russia’s Aliya Mustafina.

Russia will soldier on, but the news that Aliya Mustafina is unlikely to be part of the team for the upcoming World Championships in Stuttgart is bound to give the world’s number two team some pause.

Mustafina, the two-time Olympic uneven bars champion and the dominant figure in Russian women’s team for nearly a decade now, announced at this weekend’s Russian Cup in Penza that she was “most likely” out for October’s Worlds in Stuttgart due to a calf rupture sustained earlier this year. Mustafina, who turns 25 at the end of September, will be taking some time to regroup before attacking the home stretch of her third Olympic run with “a brand new energy.”

Though you never really know with Russia, this development is in keeping with Mustafina’s career trajectory. Injury has always kept her from Worlds in the year before the Olympics, and she’s always come through the next summer with some of the best performances of her career. She’ll be missed in Germany, but Mustafina understands that it’s better to sit out Worlds and go to the Olympics than vice-versa, and so will her many admirers.

For the Russian team, meanwhile, this poses something of a problem. Mustafina was a key part of Russia’s silver medal performance at the 2018 Worlds, contributing on everything but vault as Russia slotted themselves ahead of China and behind the United States. Her absence, and the lack of truly sturdy scores across the board to replace her and 2018 World team member Irina Alexeeva, who is no longer competing elite, opens the door for a host of hungry teams -- Canada, Brazil, Japan, Great Britain, Germany -- to potentially land on the podium.

Fortunately for Russia, the seeds of change are already sprouting in the form of elegant juniors Vladislava Urazova and Elena Gersaimova, who came through to win gold and bronze, respectively, at the Russian Cup. Urazova was particularly impressive, unseating defending champion Angelina Melnikova by almost two points (57.732-55.932), and that 57.732 is the third-best all-around score in the world so far this year. Gersaimova finished in bronze medal position, but within striking distance of the leaders, tallying 54.165. 

2018 World team members Lilia Akhaimova, European Youth Olympic Festival bronze medalist Yana Vorona, also still a junior, and national champion Angelina Simakova rounded out the top six. Indications from this competition logically point to a world team composed of Melnikova, vault/floor specialist Akhaimova, Simakova, bars specialist Anastasia Ilyankova and two-time Olympic vault medalist Maria Paseka, with Varvara Zubova, Ksenia Klimenko and/or Tatiana Nabieva standing by as alternates. This makes for a team strongest on vault and floor, which are not generally Russia’s best events, so Worlds for them could be odd indeed.

Urazova, Gersaimova, and Vorona, though technically juniors, were allowed to compete in the senior division at the Russian Cup thanks to a clause that allows juniors who will be seniors in the Olympic year to get some necessary experience at this domestic competition. While a smart move, that isn’t going to help the Russians in Stuttgart. It could end up as a competition where Russia underperforms, only to come back and reestablish the status quo next year as Urazova and Gersaimova officially enter the senior arena.

For now, it’s still unofficial. A star was born when Urazova captured all-around silver and uneven bars gold at the Junior World Championships in June, but an Olympic hopeful emerged at the Russian Cup.

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Kohei Uchimura's sweet message of encouragement to Mai Murakami: 'Let's work hard together'

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Kohei Uchimura can relate to what Mai Murakami’s going through. At a low time for both of Japan’s biggest gymnastics stars, Uchimura, the reigning “king” of the sport, reached out to Murakami to offer words of comfort after both were left off teams that will represent Japan at the World Championships in Stuttgart this fall.

Injuries have hindered two-time Olympic champion Uchimura’s progress, culminating in a dismal showing at the Japanese national championships earlier this spring and effectively ending his chance to be named to the world team. Murakami, for her part, was essentially declared ineligible for Stuttgart after she opted to skip one of the world qualifying events earlier this spring due to a back injury. Due to the perplexing (and seemingly ironclad) selection procedures by the national federation, Murakami was out of the running even before the running had concluded.

So a little commiseration was definitely in order. “Let’s fix it and work hard together,” was the gist of an e-mail Uchimura recently sent to Murakami, the 2017 world floor champion told Yahoo Sports Japan. “I was so happy to hear from someone like him, because I was a bit depressed and I thought, ‘I’m not alone,’” she said.

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Both Uchimura and Murakami are beloved international stars, though certainly not the only ones capable of doing Japan proud on the international stage. Japan’s men’s world team is made up of national champion Kakeru Tanigawa, his older brother Wataru Tanigawa, 2010 Youth Olympic all-around gold medalist Yuya Kamoto, world team gold medalist Kazuma Kaya, and 17-year-old newcomer Daiki Hashimoto. Olympians Asuka Teramoto and Aiko Sugihara will lead the women’s team, which also includes Nagi Kajita, Hitomi Hatakeda and Akari Matsumura.

The Japanese men have already qualified a full team to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by dint of finishing third in the team competition at last fall’s Worlds in Doha. The Japanese women, who have yet to punch their tickets to Tokyo, should meet that goal safely even without Murakami, since all they need to do is finish inside the top 12 in Stuttgart. They were sixth in 2018.

Competition for the four-person Olympic team is bound to be intense in Japan, where both the men’s and women’s teams are deeper than ever. But neither Uchimura, who wants to finish his storied career before his public in Tokyo, nor Murakami are giving up. “I sent a reply saying ‘I will do my best,” Murakami noted. “This encouragement is the best medicine.”

Related: Is Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura done with gymnastics? Maybe not.

Blythe Lawrence is a sportswriter from Seattle. Follow her on Twitter @rockergymnastix.

Skye Blakely, Sydney Barros, Kayla Di Cello to rep USA at Gymnastics Junior World Championships

Left to right, Sydney Barros, Konnor McClain, Kayla DiCello and Skye Blakely. Photo: USA Gymnastics.

Left to right, Sydney Barros, Konnor McClain, Kayla DiCello and Skye Blakely. Photo: USA Gymnastics.

There is a moment when everyone realizes that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are just a year away, which sets off a scramble of speculation and anticipation that will culminate only with the Games’ opening ceremony on July 24, 2020. But Friday, the naming of the U.S.’s first ever junior world team allowed a glimpse into the more distant future, at the gymnasts who may be at the eye of the Olympic ring-festooned media storm come 2024.

Skye Blakely, Sydney Barros and Kayla Di Cello will represent the U.S. later this month at the inaugural junior worlds in Gyor, Hungary from June 27-30. Junior worlds is an initiative of International Gymnastics Federation President Morinari Watanabe, who wanted to create a big stage for talented younger performers not age-eligible to compete at the senior world championships or Olympic Games, and by elevating junior competition to a world event, new storylines emerge earlier, elongating or jumpstarting careers, which is likely to raise the profile of gymnastics, and all for the good.

The competition is a full-fledged world championships, meaning there will be team, individual all-around and event finals for both women and men. The team competition is restricted to the 24 countries who sent athletes to last summer’s Youth Olympic Games, though no woman who competed at the Youth Olympics will be able to represent their nation in Gyor; all of them now have turned their eyes to Tokyo.

The U.S. team was named following a selection competition dominated by Blakely, a promising 14-year-old from Texas who posted 14-plus scores on vault, bars, and beam. Of the three U.S. juniors to compete in Hungary, however, only DiCello will be old enough to compete at next summer’s Olympic Games. But when it comes to 2024, each team member -- and the mega-talented traveling alternate, Konnor McClain -- will have a head start.

Blythe Lawrence is a sportswriter from Seattle. Follow her on Twitter @rockergymnastix.

Third ACL injury will keep Rebeca Andrade out of Stuttgart Worlds

Rebeca Andrade suffered the third ACL injury of her career Friday in Rio. Photo: Brazilian Gymnastics Federation.

Rebeca Andrade suffered the third ACL injury of her career Friday in Rio. Photo: Brazilian Gymnastics Federation.

An ACL injury to her right knee will keep Brazilian star Rebeca Andrade out of this fall’s World Championships, but the 20-year-old has already vowed that she “won’t rest until I’m 100 percent again.”

Andrade sustained an injury to her right knee doing a 2.5 twist through to front layout full during a qualification for the Brazilian National Championships Friday in Rio de Janeiro. Though initially thought to be a sprain, an MRI showed damage to the ACL, according to a press release from the Brazilian Gymnastics Federation.

"She will need to undergo a surgical procedure and the technical staff, along with the medical team, are scheduling their return to training in about six months and competitions around eight months," said Brazilian Olympic Committee spokesperson Rodrigo Sasson.

“Unfortunately this injury happened, but be sure I won’t rest one day until I’m 100 percent again. I’m strong and confident that everything will work and the best is yet to come,” Andrade wrote on Instagram Saturday. “This is normal when the sport you practice requires a lot from your body and I was ready for everything.”

A healthy Andrade is one of Brazil’s best chances a medal at the World Championships and Olympic Games. She memorably won vault at last fall’s World Cup event in Cottbus, Germany, and posted a very competitive all-around score at the DTB Pokal Team Challenge in Stuttgart in March. Andrade had prepared a new floor routine to popular Brazilian funk piece “Baile de Favela (Favela Dance)” for the 2019 season. Before the injury on her third tumbling pass on Friday, Andrade had shown a full twisting double layout and a double layout.

The powerful Andrade is considered Brazil’s top all-around gymnast and part of the powerful 1-2-3 Brazilian punch of Andrade, Flavia Saraiva and veteran Jade Barbosa that lifted Brazil to fifth place in qualification at the 2018 World Championships, where they ultimately finished seventh. The team, currently overseen by Valeri Liukin, is easily expected to earn a team berth to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo at the World Championships this fall.

“We have already talked with our team of coaches and doctors to put the recovery plan together for Rebeca immediately after the surgery. Firstly, it must be stressed that she is very strong and confident in her recovery," Liukin said, according to the Brazilian Federation. "Rebeca is one of the most technically advanced gymnasts in the world today. The degree of difficulty that she performs in her series is very great. Many injuries occur under these conditions and she was injured for trying to do her best. We are very confident that she will return to compete at the same stage in which she is.”

Once considered a career-ending injury, a torn ACL is not as debilitating today thanks to state-of-the-art treatment methods. Andrade can already testify to this: she tore her ACL in 2015 and recovered to finish 11th in the all-around at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where she qualified fourth to the final. A second ACL injury kept her out of the 2017 Worlds in Montreal.

“The first time was very painful.” Andrade has said of her two ACL injuries, noting that the support of family, particularly her mother, has helped her in her toughest moments. “The next time I was already mentally prepared to what I was going to go through. When I talk to my mother it’s like everything is going to be all right. She says I have unwavering strength and faith.”

Blythe Lawrence is a sportswriter from Seattle. Follow her on Twitter @rockergymnastix.

Play-by-Play: Women's qualifications at the 2019 European Championships, Subdivision 1

Marine Boyer of France.

Marine Boyer of France.

Rotation 1: French gymnasts Marine Boyer and Lorette Charpy, as well as Russia’s Anastasia Ilyankova and Maria Paseka and Ukraine’s Anastasia Bachynska, grace subdivision 1.

Anny Wu (SUI), VT: FTY, small hop. Bit of a lack of amplitude.

Lorette Charpy (FRA), UB: Stalder Shaposh half. Toe blind to pike Jaager. Ricna to Pak. Toe Shasposh half. Toe full to giants to full twisting double tuck, small hop forward.

Anina Wildi (SUI), VT: Nice handspring front pike half. FTY second vault.

Anastasia Ilyankova (RUS), UB: Shang. Toe Tkatchev half to Ezhova. Stalder Maloney to Pak. Toe Shaposh half. Toe full to full twisting double tuck with a step. 14.133.

Anastasia Bachynska (UKR), FX: Full in. Double pike. Big step on front 1/1. Lovely presentation and expression. Easy looking double tuck to end with a small hop. 12.4.

Valeriia Osipova (UKR), FX: Full in pike with a step back. Full in tuck, again a little stutter on the landing, maybe 0.1. Double tuck, small hop back. Where the Ukrainian are magical is in the selection of music and the choreo they do.

Alba Petisco (ESP), BB: Bhs, bhs, layout and dances around on the beam to save it (she does). Double tuck dismount with a step back.

Rotation 2:

Anastasia Bachynska (UKR), VT: Yurchenko 1.5, wonderful in the air but a fairly big step forward. 14.0, 9.0 E. The step was really the only thing wrong with it.

Lorette Charpy (FRA), BB: Roundoff, layout stepout mount. Bhs, layout. Humphrey turn to wolf turn double. Switch to jump to Korbut, a tad offline. Split half. Looking very clam, purposeful. Double pike with a step forward.

Alba Petisco (ESP), FX: Double pike to hands and knees opening pass.

Christina Zwicker (CRO), BB: Bhs, layout. Front layout dismount. 10.333.

Sanna Veerman (NED), FX: Good Arabian double front to open, small hop. Nice folksy piece of music that the crowd can clap along to. Double tuck, bounces back a bit. 1.5 to front 1/1. Tourjete half to Popa. Double full to end, a little stutter on the landing.

Jade Vansteenkiste (BEL), VT: Excellent high FTY, just a hop/step back.

Marine Boyer (FRA), BB: Front aerial, small check. Split to tuck half. Nearly comes off on roundoff, layout, has to grab the beam. Switch to switch half, nice. Wobble on full turn with leg up. Side aerial. Split leap to sides somie. Split half. Double pike with a hop back. Likely no final.

Rotation 3:

Alba Petisco (ESP), VT: FTY, stpepb back. 13.333.

Valeriia Osipova (UKR), UB: Lovely exercise, full of stalders. Tkatchev. Double pike dismount.

Demet Mutlu (TUR), BB: Comes off halfway through, didn’t see on what.

Sanna Veerman (NED), VT: Yurchenko 1.5, nice! Just a hop forward. Little bit of leg form in the air as well.

Jade Vansteenkiste (BEL), UB: Hit routine. Double pike dismount, small hop. 12.733.

Lorette Charpy (FRA), FX: James Bond — fast at the beginning, a violin'-y “Skyfall” at the end. Full turn with leg up. Double front with a hop forward. Double tuck, small bounce back. Tourjete half. Front 1/1. Double pike.

Anastasia Bachnyska (UKR), UB: STalder to Maloney to Pak, great. Toe shoot Shaposh. Toe full — lovely 00 to Tkatchve. Blind to pike Jaeger. Just a double tuck (she went for it with the half in podium training and fell) but stuck cold. Smart play.

Marine Boyer (FRA), FX: Jazzy routine, fun to watch. 2.5 to punch front. Switch half. Double turn with leg up. Double tuck, a bit awkward on the landing. Double pike.

Rotation 4:

Maria Paseka (RUS), VT: Cheng to her hands and knees. That one was not even close. She didn’t have the block she needed off the table, bent her legs to try to get the twist around, and just came down on all fours. She’s all right though, but no vault final for her, likely. She looks deflated standing there at the end of the runway. 13.5 for that. Vault no. 2: Amanar, and it’s great. Man.

Jade Vansteenkiste (BEL), BB: Punch front mount.

Lorette Charpy (FRA), VT: Excellent, well-controlled FTY, small hop. Controlled is one word for Charpy’s gymnastics — she’s very almost careful in many of the things she does, even flying through the air.

Anny Wu (SUI), FX: 2.5, overcooks it and has to put her hands down. Double pike, steps back.

Valeriia Osipova (UKR), BB: Off on roundoff, layout mount. Bhs, layout, step back. Side somie. Side aerial. Switch to split leap. sneaks around a Tourjete half. Lovely lines, very classic Ukrainian presentation. Front aerial. Switch half. Falls again on double tuck dismount. 10.266.

Christina Zwickjer (CRO), VT: Yurchenko layout. 10.9.

Anina Wildi (SUI), FX: Pretty piece of music. Full in tuck, step back. Punch front to layout full. Double tuck, low landing but stands up. Double turn with leg up.

Quick hits: Women's podium training at the 2019 European Championships

Giorgia Villa of Italy.

Giorgia Villa of Italy.

8:10 p.m.: A DTY on vault from Thorsdottir! A very good one, too. My, my. Overall, she looks the best she’s looked since Rio. Watch out, Europe.

8:00 p.m.: A French update. Coline Devillard, the 2017 European champion on vault, floated a handspring Rudi like it was nothing at all when France was on vault during the first rotation, while compatriot Melanie de Jesus dos Santos did timers for what I assume was a DTY, which is what she normally competes. Devillard flies so high on the Rudi that she actually surpasses her own height off the table, which is why this vault looks so impressive. As long as she can control her landing, she’ll be in the final.

Devillard is coached in all this by France’s Thomas Bouhail, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist on vault and 2010 world champion on the event. Bouhail suffered a serious knee injury in a fluke fall off high bar at the end of 2011, which ended his career, but in Devillard’s vaulting I fancy I see a bit of Bouhail’s spirit.

De Jesus dos Santos is hands down one of the best all-around gymnasts in Europe on any day, but she was supposed to do just two events here due to a recent hand injury.

Sanna Veerman of the Netherlands is particularly daring, and technically very capable. On floor she’s doing whip to immediate full in, and working on a DTY on vault. At the moment she’s not quite getting it around, but we’ll see what happens on the day.

7:56 p.m.: Watching Eythora Thorsdottir on floor is an experience, always.

7:46 p.m.: It’s probably not fair to call Slovenia’s Adela Sajn a face from the past, since she’s competed off and on since her appearance at the 2008 Olympic Games. But here she’s doing two events — beam, which has become her specialty these past few years, as well as floor, to a piece called “I Was Born in Mexico” by the London Metropolitan Orchestra.

7:26 p.m.: A few notes on the final subdivision, which contains a doozy of talent, including Russians Angelina Melnikova, Angelina Simakova, Dutch star Eythora Thorsdottir and Great Brits Alice Kinsella and Claudia Fragapane, as well as Ukraine’s Diana Varniska and Angelina Radivilova:

Through two events, the Russians look prepared, certainly more prepared than they looked at last month’s Russian Championships. Melnikova’s bars were particularly calm, and if Simakova struggled slightly, it was nothing that won’t be ironed out before the competition. Even on balance beam, Melnikova wasn’t too frazzled the whole time, and Simakova nailed a bhs, layout, layout combination.

Thorsdottir too looks in very fine form, steady and fit. After missing last fall’s world championships, she’s likely very hungry, and this is her moment if she can seize it. She’s ditched the roundoff, layout to two feet mount she missed twice at the DTB Team Challenge in Stuttgart, opting to play it safe, at least in prelims, which is a smart decision.

The British also look very well prepared to tackle this. Kinsella, whom we last saw as a green first year at the 2017 Worlds, is fitter and more focused. She’s added a double layout on floor and also has a DTY on vault. Fragapane, despite only being named to the team as a replacement to the injured Kelly Simm, was dynamite on floor. Only Simone Biles can do a double layout as easily. Frags opens with a full twisting double layout, does a double layout second pass, an Arabian double front third. Unless something goes really awry, I smell a final.

Radilova, who has toiled for years in the shadow of the best in Europe, also looks calm and confident. She seems to have the potential to surprise.

5:50 p.m.: Pretty leos and plenty of expression from Belarusians Ganna Metelitsa and Aliaksandra Varabyova here. The Belarusians were coached for a time by Ukrainian wizard Oleg Ostapenko, the man who coached Viktoria Karpenko. Ostapenko is now back in Ukraine and is the personal coach of Diana Varinska, who will appear in the next subdivision. Belarus seems to be doing okay, even if Metelitsa and Varabyova look a little bored waiting in the line on bars — once on the apparatus, both had impeccable form and great extension.

5:05 p.m.: Between Asia and Alice D’Amato, Alice has had the more podium training so far. Asia, however, seems to possess more explosive powerful than her sister.

Golgota on bars: Good stuff. And I don’t even mean that in a good-for-a-Romanian kind of way. Good amplitude on her Tkatchev, good transitions, good double front dismount.

4:53 p.m.: Golgota on vault: DTY (good) and Tsuk full (not bad).

Ilaria Kaeslin of Switzerland is struggling with her blinds and toe stalders on bars. Seems like a timing issue — she’s just not quite sure where and when she needs to shoot. On a more positive note, she showed an improved FTY on vault. She finished on a good note, however.

4:43 p.m.: Elisa Iorio, bars. Fantastic set through and through — gorgeous Ricna to Pak, Maloney to uprise stalder blind to Ezhova, stalder Shaposh half to high, double front dismount.

4:26 p.m.: It seems like quite awhile since the Czech Republic has had so much talent at one time. Lucie Jikikova was terrific in the last subdivision, and Aneta Holasova, currently on floor, is also a strong tumbler and quite good on balance beam, judging by her recent world cup performances.

4:15 p.m.: Carmen Ghicuic on floor: 2.5 to punch front, a little lack of amplitude. Double tuck, low landing. It’s so strange how the dynamic of Romanian floor changed in about three years. It used to be chock full of things that got bonus points and contained little in the way of choreographic garnish. Ghicuic is the opposite — this is just lovely, the choreo superb and full of feeling, and there’s a great moment where she does a back handspring into middle splits. The tumbling, while not an afterthought, is also not really the highlight.

New routine for Golgota too, and much heavier than the last one. Full twisting double layout first pass. Not the prettiest position on the FTDLO, but obviously it’s something that’s still being refined. Double Arabian. Switch side full. Ah, here’s the Romanian floor we know! Double turn with leg at altitude. Full in tuck, hands down. Double wolf turn. Switch ring to Tourjete half. Double tuck.

4:11 p.m.: Marina Nekrasova of Azerbaijan’s handspring front pike (layout?) on vault is really excellent in person. Like, almost Ellie Black in Tokyo good. At least the one she just did. Her second vault appears to be a Tsuk 1.5. That one she sat down. This time, anyway — she made the next one with just a little hop to the side. This is a sub of strong vaulters — also over there right now is Alice D’Amato of Italy, who has a nice clean DTY.

4:02 p.m.: Two subdivisions down, two to come. Sub 3 features Romanians Denisa Golgota and Carmen Ghicuic. The determined Golgota is best on floor, which is where the Romanians are starting. And hey — looks like she’s got a full twisting double layout. She did one with a spot. The first one was a bit pikey.

3:24 p.m.: One of the most impressive things about Giorgia Villa is how very balanced a gymnast she is. She doesn’t have a weakness. There are big skills and combinations on every single event — the DTY on vault, quality tumbling on floor, the roundoff full twist and double pike on beam. She’s all there on bars as well — her routine is long, the combos are tough and trendy, she has a Bhardwaj just because it’s cool, and her swing is robust. Yes, certainly a candidate — maybe the main candidate — for the all-around title.

3:21 p.m.: Hungary’s Cenge Bacskay wants to make vault finals. She’s done about five double twisting Yurchenkos, each one better than the last, and then moved on to Tsuk fulls, I believe. With 2018 European vault champion Boglarka Devai absent from this competition, the title is up for grabs. Maria Paseka will have something to say about it all, no doubt, but why not a final for first year senior Bacskay here?

3:15 p.m.: Old school cool. Latvia’s Anastasija Dubova does a unique little stoop over release skill off the top of her routine, connected with a Pak salto, giving her routine this cool vintage feel. The 2018 version below.

3:09 p.m.: As you’d expect, big tumbling from the British: Morgan pens with roundoff, full in tuck, and Downie shows 1.5 to Arabian double front. Terrific choreography to both routines too — complete routines, you might say.

Over on bars, Enghels from Belgium has a most impressive set of stalders and great inbars as well. But the best thing of all is her dismount — a perfectly done, sky-high double front half out. Final? It’s very possible.

2:55 p.m.: Over on beam, we find Romania’s Nica Ivanus, the first Romanian training today. She showed an FTY on vault earlier. Beam: Bhs, layout to two feet. Side aerial. Switch to ring jump. Side somie. Walks into a roundoff, double tuck dismount (hands down.)

On the same apparatus, Morgan’s bhs, layout, layout has shown up too, and it looks on point.

2:50 p.m.: A darkhorse emerges. Look out for Hungary’s Csenge Bacskay, who got everyone’s attention by throwing a Nabieva on bars during the first rotation here. Impressive tumbling on floor as well.

2:35 p.m.: Pauline Schaefer’s original skill on balance beam boggles the mind live. It just looks like something that shouldn’t be possible.

As Marta Pihan-Kulesza trains, this time it’s husband Roman who stays with one-year-old Jagna, who today has her tricycle in the arena. Terrific floor set to “The Pink Panther,” really her signature routine, with 2.5 to punch front opening pass and good Arabian double front to single stag jump and front 2/1. Baby Jagna made a lot of noise after Marta was done — cheering for mom, of course.

Olympians Marta Pihan Kulesza and Roman Kulesza with daughter Jagna following men’s podium training at the 2019 Euros.

Olympians Marta Pihan Kulesza and Roman Kulesza with daughter Jagna following men’s podium training at the 2019 Euros.

2:19 p.m.: Italy’s Asia D’Amato, another exciting new senior, did a clean floor routine except for her Arabian double front, but she just went out there and drilled one into the ground.

Lucie Jirikova of the Czech Republic does one of the best Assassin’s Tango"s of the past several years. Loads of elegance in this routine — and a cool double front to open the show.

2:12 p.m.: Belgium’s Fien Enghels, another new senior, will delight you with her floor routine.

Giorgia Villa, however, had difficulties with her first routine, a splashy, happy Italian opera piece. She fell on her double layout, landed a full in and went to her back on her third pass, front double full. But, you know, training.

1:47 p.m.: Good things are happening over on bars as well. Sweden’s Jonna Adlerteg, who won silver on this event at the 2013 Europeans, looks in great shape. Terrific clear hip pike Shang (thanks, Twitter) to Pak, Bhardwaj, the works. A wonderful routine to watch.

1:40 p.m.: Giorgia Villa, beam: Roundoff, layout stepout, mount. Roundoff, tucked full. Double turn. Lots of kicky, steppy choreo, which she makes work for her. Switch to side aerial. Switch, split jump. And a roundoff, double pike she lands low on. Still, that was VERY impressive right out of the box for her here.

The Italians are wearing take-no-prisoners black, by the way. They mean business.

1:35 p.m.: Big gymnastics already in subdivision two, from the British, who are starting on vault. Seeing a DTY from Amelie Morgan and big air from Ellie Downie on the same skill. Downie’s is terrific — Morgan’s was at first a little low, a little underrotated, but am assuming that she’s just getting used to the podium.

Poland’s Marta Pihan-Kulesza marched out with a huge smile on her face, looking thrilled to be doing this. On bars, she showed a Shaposh to Pak. Toe Shaposh to bail to Ray, clear hip blind, etc.

11:35 a.m. With a light spot from her coach, Maria Paseka of Russia breaks out her much improved Cheng (roundoff, half on, 1.5 twist off). It’s not perfect — there’s still a large leg separation as she comes onto the table, but it’s hard to deny that it’s an impressive vault that she lands well. Two of those done, she moves onto the Amanar, and does at least two of those, both with good landings. Looking like a solid vault.

Bachynska on beam: Makes her handspring front tuck, falls on some kind of switch half. Oh Ukraine, the things you do to us.

11:24 a.m.: Anastasiya Bachynska, the hope of Ukraine, who showed a nice Yurchenko 1.5 on vault earlier, looks good on uneven bars here as well. Her full twisting double back dismount gave her some problems in 2018, and she’s changed it to a double back half out, though she missed that too in her full routine. (Gymnastics is hard.) Still, lovely work overall.

11:16 a.m.: Lorette Charpy has become a Bond girl. The French star is debuting her new floor exercise here, and it’s a pleasing medley of Bond hits, from the fast chase stuff to Adele’s “Skyfall.” Charpy sat her opening double front during her full routine, but I don’t expect that to hinder her in the competition. The image of her after her first pass, fingers poised to form a gun, will likely be one of the iconic photos of her career.

10:39 a.m.: Valeriia Osipova of Ukraine shows a nice Yurchenko 1.5 on vault.

On floor, Veerman, performing to Andre Rieu and Johann Strauss Orchestra’s “Bella Ciao,” shows powerful tumbling. It’s a big piece of music that draws the eye to the floor, which is a nice for the gymnast. All eyes will certainly be on Veerman when she performs this routine.

10:32 a.m.: Marine Boyer didn’t train bars, but she looks solid and focused on balance beam. Her first time up on the beam we get her flight series and a well done double pike dismount.

Over on floor, look out for both Sanna Veerman of the Netherlands and Alba Petisco of Spain. Both have terrific Arabian double fronts. Petisco also tumbles double pike, double full and double tuck in an upbeat, drum-filled floor set.

10:16 a.m.: Tale of two halves for Ilyankova on bars — she doesn’t show a full routine, just pieces. She also does more turns than anyone else. Just an open double tuck dismount to this point.

Over on beam, Spain looks like Spain — pretty gymnastics, and risky skills, like a roundoff, layout stepout mount for Alba Petisco.

10:09 a.m.: Marine Boyer cheers Lorette Charpy through her full bar routine (sans dismount) with all the fervor of the old-time Romanians. (“Pousse!” she cries. “Allez, bien la. Dur. Bien! Pousse! Allez, allez.” Etc.) Charpy, for her part, does very well.

It takes Ilyankova three tries but she finally gets through the first half of her routine — and it’s a doozy — clear hip pike Tkatchev, toe Tkatchev half to Ezhova. There’s real wow factor there, but also a kind of solidity, the same you see from Mustafina. She swings with lots of strength — you don’t fear that she’s going to fly off and crash.

9:55 a.m.: Unlike the men yesterday, the women march in for podium training. Over on bars, we’ll see the French and the Russians and likely a dozen people with their smartphones out. The Swiss and the Irish are on vault, Belgium’s Jade Vansteenkiste on floor.

Nobody’s monkeying around — Vansteenkiste does two tumbling passes and her 2018 animal-inspired floor routine — triple full, 1.5 to front layout 1/1 and choreography that evokes all the animals in the forest and jungle.

Over on bars, Ilyankova shows a very nice clear hip pike Tkatchev but misses her first toe Tkatchev half. Alas.

SZCZECIN, 9:30 a.m.: This one is going to be interesting.

With some of the biggest European stars like Russia’s Aliya Mustafina and Belgium’s Nina Derwael missing from this European Championships, the door is wide open for new ones to emerge — or for those who have long rested in the shadows to get their much-deserved due.

Let’s start with the newcomers. Italy’s Giorgia Villa, the 2018 Youth Olympic champion, is making her senior European debut here, and the Italians have reason to be excited — Villa is the best gymnast from Italy to emerge since Vanessa Ferrari stunned everyone to win the world all-around title in 2006. Italy’s whole team is young and packed with talent— in addition, we’ll see Alice and Asia D’Amato and Elisa Iorio. If there were a team competition here, I’d bet on Italy to podium.

Russia of course remains a gymnastics powerhouse, especially on the European scene. It comes to Poland with the intention of winning medals, and it should. The team is led by two-time Olympic vault medalist Maria Paseka, who should easily win the vault title here given what she’s been doing on the world cup scene, and Russia has strategically sent specialist Anastasia Ilyankova here to challenge to win bars. (Without Derwael in the mix, that will be significantly easier for her to do.) The all-arounders are more of a mystery. Rio Olympian Angelina Melnikova might be the on-paper favorite for the all-around title, but she has so often failed to seize the moment (most recently at last month’s Russian Championships, when she gave the title away to newcomer Angelina Simakova) that her supremacy is certainly in question here.

Don’t count out the French — the most experienced team on the floor, they’re starting strong all-arounders Lorette Charpy and Marine Boyer, the extremely talented Melanie de Jesus dos Santos, vault star Coline Devillard. All are capable of taking medals, and this could be a banner championships for them.

Ukraine brings beauty and grace in Anastasiya Bachynska, Valeriia Osipova, Angelina Radivilova and bars star Diana Varinska. Whether they bring consistency is another open question. Great Britain has a solid, experienced team in world medalist Claudia Fragapane, national champ Ellie Downie and 2017 world team member Alice Kinsella, but the potential of Youth Olympic all-around silver medalist Amelie Morgan, here in her first senior Euros as well, may be the most intriguing thing of all.

Elsewhere, there’s just lots of beauty — from the Netherlands’s Eythora Thorsdottir, whose fado-flavored new floor exercise is a masterpiece of gymnastics as theatre, from Swiss veteran Ilaria Kaeslin, who should win Longines Prizes of Elegance on a daily basis, from Germany’s Leah Griesser and 2017 World beam champion Pauline Schaefer, from Poland’s Marta Pihan-Kulesza, competing in her native city, breaking the stereotype that a mother cannot be a top contender, and ready to stun everyone on floor exercise, her best event.

It’s Euros. Get excited.

Play-by-Play: 2019 Tokyo World Cup, Women's All-around Final

Morgan Hurd of the USA.

Morgan Hurd of the USA.

Rotation 1:

Morgan Hurd (USA) VT: Good DTY, hint of legs in the air, drifts off to the right. Wow -- she was really off on the takeoff of that, but saves it with just a fairly big step to the side. 14.233 with 0.1 for going over the line.

Aiko Sugihara, JPN, VT: Really nice Yurchenko 1.5, small hop. Gorgeous in the air, and just floated all the way through. Hi there Aiko! 14.1.

Asuka Teramoto, JPN, VT: Terrific handspring Rudi, very nearly stuck. Asuka comes off the podium with a smile, and with good reason: she's done this vault for years and received very little acclaim for it. That was the best one ever, though! 14.6. Wow.

Lee Yunseo (KOR), VT: Yurchenko full, some legs and a small hop. Better and higher than we saw at the American Cup last month, in any case. 13.166.

Ellie Black (CAN), VT: WOW. STUCK handspring layout front full. A tad piked in the air as always, but whatever — that was gorgeous. Everyone's having the best day of their lives on vault at the Tokyo World Cup. Maybe there's something in the water. Maybe it's the equipment. 14.500.

Liu Jingxing (CHN), VT: Tidy FTY with a couple of tiny steps back. 13.1.

Carina Kroll (GER), VT: Handspring front tuck half, a little low on the landing and maybe just a smidge underrotated, but stuck all the same. Can't remember the last time so many have stuck or nearly stuck their vaults! 13.033.

Carolyne Pedro (BRA), VT: Very good FTY, small hop on the landing but nothing much else to take away from it. 13.5.

Ksenia Klimenko (RUS), VT: Yurchenko layout with a small step back. Wise choice to do the simpler vault after landing the full on her hands and knees in warmup. 12.1.

After one: It's Asuka Teramoto, then Ellie Black, then Morgan Hurd after a marvelous vault rotation at the Tokyo World Cup. Hurd may not have gotten the start she wanted, but she's capable of making up the difference. Her competition is looking good, however.

Rotation 2:

Aiko Sugihara (JPN), UB: 12.866 for clean routine with full twisting double tuck dismount. Short on a couple handstands, though.

Asuka Termaoto (JPN), UB: Inbar blind to pike Jaeger, Nice Ricna. Stalder full to Gienger. Blind to pike Jaeger. Bail to Ray. Great high full twisting double tuck, small hop on the landing. Cool new routine for her. 13.266.

Lee Yunseo (KOR), UB: Inbar full. Inbar Shaposh to Pak to stalder, misses feet on toe on into her stalder, has to stop and opts to jump off an rechalk. The rest was clean. 12.133.

Ellie Black (CAN), UB: Toe Shaposh to clear hip uprise Tkatchev. Toe Tkatchev, hop change to pike Jaeger. Pak. toe shoot Shaposh half to high. Full turn. Toe on front half tuck dismount, stuck. 13.533.

Liu Jingxing (CHN), UB: Huge toe Tkatchev but falls on it, just cast too far out. Would have been amazing. Pak. Maloney to inbar Gienger. Blind to full spin to Jaeger. Beautiful double layout, stuck. Highly impressive routine despite the fall. 12.333.

Carina Kroll (GER), UB: Stalder to toe full, finished out of handstand, Maloney to Pak, nice. Ray, labored handstand before blind to Jaeger. Toe half. Same dismount as black -- toe on front half tucked, misses and lands on her hands and knees. 10.766.

Carolyne Pedro (BRA), UB: Shaposh to Pak. Toe full to Maloney to bail to Ray. Blind to Jaeger. Toe stalder half turn (finishes out of handstand), giants to double tuck. Very clean in the interior, underwhelming dismount. 12.566.

Ksenia Klimenko (RUS), UB: Off on opening stalder full. Uh-oh. Repeats the skill to toe Shaposh half. Toe blind on high -- has to improvise -- to pike Jaeger to Pak. Maloney to inbar Geinger. Blind to double front half out, underrotated and crashed. Poor kid is in tears as she walks off the podium. 10.966.

Morgan Hurd (USA), UB: Inbar Shaposh to uprise stalder full to Tkatchev. Ricna to Pak. Ray. Inbar blind. Inbar to full twisting double tuck, hangs on for the stick. Really correct handstands in that routine. Score in the blog. 14.300.

After two: Ellie Black and Asuka Teramoto both remain in striking distance of Morgan Hurd entering the third rotation. Black is 0.5 back, while Teramoto trails by 0.667. Afterward things open up -- Sugihara, currently fourth, is more than 1.5 points behind Hurd.

Rotation 3:

Asuka Teramoto (JPN), BB: Front aerial, split jump, straddle jump. Double turn. Onodi. Switch to side somie. Bhs, layout. Side aerial. 2.5 twist dismount, tiny hop. Solid as ever on beam. 13.333.

Lee Yunseo (KOR), BB: Back dive mount. Double wolf turn. Split leap to switch half. Front aerial, jump. Side aerial. Side somie. Bhs, layout, balance check. Switch to split jump full, not 180. 2.5 twist, slightly underrotated. Best routine from her so far. 11.933.

Ellie Black (CAN), BB: Switch leap mount. Double turn. Solid punch front. Bhs, layout to two feet, so aggressive! Really giving nothing away. Switch to switch half to bhs. Side somie. 2.5 twist, small hop forward. Terrific set. 13.733.

Liu Jingxing (CHN), BB: Back dive mount. Roundoff, layout to two feet, wobbles, no connection to jumps. Switch ring to bhs, lovely. Front aerial to split jump to back tuck. Split half. Big wobble on jump near the end. Nice double tuck dismount. 13.6.

Carina Kroll (GER), BB: Roundoff, bhs mount (falls). Bhs, layout, nice. Split leap to split half, wobble. Illusion turn, very nice. Side aerial. Side somie. Switch to split jump. Bhs, 1.5 dismount. 11.4.

Carolyne Pedro (BRA), BB: Split leap mount. Switch to Tourjete. Split half. Bhs, layout, small adjustment. Punch front, another small wobble but nothing serious. Front aerial to split to bhs. Back tuck. Double tuck with a tiny hop back. Huge improvement from Stuttgart! 12.233.

Ksenia Klimenko (RUS), BB: Switch, scissone, wolf. Side aerial, layout stepout, pretty. Side somie. Front aerial to ring jump. Front handspring to front tuck, too forward, grabs beam, makes it look like choreo (judges won't be fooled though). Overtime. Front 1/1 dismount. 12.633.

Morgan Hurd (USA), BB: Wobble on standing full. Side aerial, check. New standing layout, layout combo, great. Front aerial, pause, ring jump, wobble. Tiny wobble before split half. Save of the year so far on switch ring. Double pike, shuffle back. Overtime, I think? 12.933 gives the lead back to Black.

Aiko Sugihara (JPN), BB: Wolf turn double. Side aerial, wobble. Bhs, layout. Front aerial to ring jump, wobble. Very nice switch ring. Double pike with step/shuffle back. She looks thrilled to have that one done. Lots of elegance to this routine, but her own move, the double turn with leg at head, is absent. 13.0.

After three: Fantastic beam routine moves Ellie Black ahead of Morgan Hurd with just one routine left to perform. Hurd will need to be 0.3 better than Black on floor to win the meet. Teramoto's only 0.567 off the lead as well.

Rotation 4:

Carina Kroll (GER), FX: 1.5 to front layout/tuck full. Wonderful double turn with leg at head to illusion turn. Tourjete 1/1. Double tuck, steps back and out of bounds. Double full, two small steps back. Switch to switch half. Well performed. 12.533.

Ksenia Klimenko (RUS), FX: 2.5 to punch front, tidy, teeny hop forward. Double tuck, hop back. Double turn with leg at head. Switch half. 1.5 to front full. Double wolf turn (sigh). 12.833.

Lee Yunseo (KOR): Double turn with leg at head. Double pike. Triple twist. Nice presentation. Double wolf turn. 1.5 to front layout 1/1. Double tuck, a bit low to end. And a Wenson finish, something seen more in Aerobic gymnastics — google it. 12.266.

Carolyne Pedro (BRA), FX: Arabian double front mount, well done. Double turn with leg at head, not quite finished. Switch ring. 1.5 to double tuck. Switch 1/2. Ends with double pike. 12.833. So she gets her 51! 51.132 overall score.

Liu Jingxing (CHN), FX: Fast music. Full in tuck, small step back. Double tuck. Double turn with leg at head. Punch front to double full, bounces out of it, loses her footing and has to put her hands down. Oops. Double pike, underrotated and Melnikovas it. 11.5.

Aiko Sugihara (JPN), FX: New routine for her. Double layout, didn’t get the punch she needed, underrotates and falls. Too bad — her day was going so well! Floaty 2.5 to front layout though. Double turn with leg at head. Double turn with leg up. Double tuck. Switch ring to switch. Lovely expression in the choreo as well. 12.0.

Asuka Teramoto (JPN), FX: Double turn with leg at horizontal. Two whips to 3/1, stuck. Asuka's come to play! 1.5 to 2.5. Front 2/1. Switch ring to switch 1/1. Excellent double pike. Great finish! 13.6.

Morgan Hurd (USA), FX: New routine! Double double tuck, a tad underrotated, steps forward. Double layout, stuck. Switch ring. Switch 1/1. Loving the beauty in this set! Front layout to front 1/1. Double pike, small bounce back. Hurd's capable of a little better on floor, but for someone who had elbow surgery in December, that was still pretty darn good. The tumbling's quite good, but the artistry, expression and musical interpretation were next level. 13.6.

Ellie Black (CAN), FX: Popa. 2.5 walkout to double tuck. Front layout 1/1 walkout to double tuck, tries to stick, has to step back and out of bounds. That may do it for her. Double full, sticks that. Like Hurd, excellent choice of music. She doesn’t do a routine — she gives a performance. But was it better than 13.3? No — 13.266 will be good for silver, however!


GOLD - Morgan Hurd, USA, 55.099
SILVER - Ellie Black, CAN, 55.032
BRONZE - Asuka Teramoto, JPN, 54.799
4. Aiko Sugihara, JPN, 51.966
5. Carolyne Pedro, BRA, 51.132
6. Liu Jingxing, CHN, 50.533
7. Lee Yunseo, KOR, 49.498
8. Ksenia Klimenko, RUS, 48.732
9. Carina Kroell, GER, 47.732

2019 Tokyo World Cup Preview - Women

The Americans captured the American Cup, Simone Biles steamrolled the competition in Stuttgart, and Aliya Mustafina conquered England via Birmingham. But Tokyo -- who’s going to take it all in Tokyo?

The 2020 Olympic city is hosting the fourth and final FIG All-around World Cup event of the year this weekend, and while the lineups have been shuffled like a deck of cards almost since the day they were announced, the final competitors list makes the podiums no less difficult to predict. All the same, here’s a modest auguring about who’s going to land in the top five in the women’s competition, with a bit of context as to why.

Morgan Hurd of the USA.

Morgan Hurd of the USA.

GOLD - Morgan Hurd, USA. The 2017 world all-around champion and 2018 world bronze medalist has proven time and again that not only does she do extremely difficult gymnastics, she can hit her routines when it really matters. Despite a December elbow surgery, Hurd is ready for this competition or she would not have been tapped for the assignment. She may not throw some of her most difficult tumbling in Tokyo, but if everything goes moderately well, she shouldn’t need to either.

SILVER - Ellie Black, Canada. Expect the unexpected from Ellie Black: whether it’s breaking into the medals at the American Cup after hurting her knee in podium training or becoming the comedic heart and soul of the Superstars of Gymnastics show in London, the 2017 world all-around silver medalist is full of surprises. Black struggled mightily on uneven bars early in her elite career but has transformed it into her potentially highest scoring event, which says something about her ability to improve and adapt. Going four for four in Tokyo will see her in good stead for another podium.

BRONZE - Asuka Teramoto, Japan. One of the world’s undersung gymnasts for the past six years, tiny Teramoto has everything it takes to make onto the podium in Tokyo, including a good Rudi vault. Already a veteran of two Olympic teams, the quiet 23-year-old rock of Team Nippon will be taking advantage of the Tokyo World Cup to try out new routines, which might lead to problems or re-announce her as one of Japan’s preeminent gymnasts. Here’s betting it’ll be the latter.

4. Aiko Sugihara, Japan. Japan’s pirouetting sensation, a member of the 2016 Olympic squad, is a very well balanced gymnast with pretty presentation and plenty of difficulty. After a foot injury kept Sugihara from performing at last year’s world chapmpionships, but the 19-year-old is back and may wind up in a private duel with teammate Teramoto for a spot on the podium.

5. Ksenia Klimenko, Russia. Weak vaulting is likely to keep the deserving Klimenko, perhaps the most classical and fluid gymnast from Russia since the great Anna Pavlova, from rising much higher than fifth unless all of the leaders have multiple falls. After a frustrating performance at the Russian Championships last month, here’s hoping the Youth Olympic uneven bars champion uses this meet to rebuild her confidence.

Others who will challenge for the top five? There’s 2018 Youth Olympian Lee Yunseo, China’s talented but internationally inexperienced Liu Jingxing, Brazil’s Carolyne Pedro and Carina Kroll, one of the rising stars of a deeper-than-ever German team. One of the beauties of gymnastics, however, is that you never can tell what will happen on the day -- anything is possible.

Russian coaches: Mustafina declined Euros invitation

Aliya Mustafina. Photo: Elena Mikhailovna/SportGymRus.ru.

Aliya Mustafina. Photo: Elena Mikhailovna/SportGymRus.ru.

It’s no April Fool’s joke — unless of course the Russian Federation is pranking us all big time.

Russian star Aliya Mustafina voluntarily withdrew herself from next week’s European Championships in Szczecin, Poland, citing fatigue from having competed in three big meets in the past month.

Mustafina was never formally named to Russia’s Euros roster, which includes new national champion Angelina Simakova, 2016 Olympian Angelina Melnikova, vault specialist Maria Paseka and bars star Anastasia Ilyankova, as well as world all-around champion Arthur Dalaloyan, world bronze medalist Nikita Nagornyy, 2016 Olympic medalists Ivan Stretovich and Denis Abliazin, as well as Dmitry Lankin and Vladyslav Polyashov.

But the 24-year-old did so well at the recent world cups — particularly in Birmingham, where she was the only woman seemingly unfazed by performing under spotlights in a darkened arena — that Russian coach Valentina Rodionenko let it be known that Simakova was out and Mustafina was in for Szczecin.

Apparently Mustafina herself put the k-bosh on that idea. “Aliya herself refused to participate in the European Championship,” Rodionenko told news agency TASS. “Mustafina is at the wrong stage of readiness. She told us that it was hard for her to compete in two consecutive competitions, and the European Championship would be her third start almost without a break. Therefore, we freed her from the European Championship. But it was, I repeat, her decision.”

So there you have it — for today, anyway.

Jade Carey will have her ‘perfect 90’ on vault. Has she qualified for Tokyo 2020? Not yet.

Olympic qualification through the individual apparatus world cup events is a game of threes: if you’re a gymnast aiming for one of the four women’s and six men’s spots up for grabs to Tokyo 2020, your best three performances count toward your ultimate world cup rank.

The surest way to win the Olympic spot? Win your event at least three times over the eight-stop world cup series. That way, you achieve a number of ranking points that can only be tied, not beaten.

On Saturday, world pommel horse bronze medalist Lee Chih-Kai did just that. With victories on horse from the Cottbus, Melbourne and Doha World Cups, Lee has achieved the “perfect 90” — 90 world cup ranking points at 30 per victory. Since only a gymnast’s best three performances are taken into account, Lee simply can’t do any better.

Has Lee sealed his Olympic spot? No. Not yet.

The question follows: what happens if one gymnast wins pommel horse -- or uneven bars, or floor, or beam, or anything -- at three world cups, and another gymnast wins the same event three times at three other world cup events? Who gets the spot? The International Gymnastics Federation has a tiebreaker in place, which is as follows:

Criteria 5.JPG

The U.S.’s Jade Carey, for the moment at least, is in a slightly different boat. She has two victories on vault and one second place finish. Her second place came behind Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade, who is highly likely to help Brazil qualify a full team to Tokyo at this fall’s World Championships, thus disqualifying her from earning an individual spot through the world cup series. The FIG has confirmed that points will be redistributed in such a way following the 2019 World Championships that if a gymnast becomes ineligible to win the world cup series, her points are deleted and everyone behind her moves up.

After that disqualification, the points will be redistributed among the eligible competitors -- and Carey will have achieved ninety. After that, the only way she wouldn’t have the spot is if someone else, say a Maria Paseka, also racks up three wins and her total score is higher than the sum of Carey’s scores, she’ll get the spot, but only then.

So Carey can sleep easier for now. Lee too has to hope that the three scores he’s laid down are enough — while Carey has Paseka hot on her heels, Lee may feel pressure from Japan’s Kohei Kameyama, the 2013 World champion on pommel horse, who won in Baku two weeks ago, and could potentially win more. The game is not yet up, and won’t be until next year.

Play-by-Play: 2019 Birmingham World Cup, Women's All-around Final

Aliya Mustafina of Russia.

Aliya Mustafina of Russia.

Rotation 1:

Riley McCusker (USA), VT: DTY, hands down, just not enough lift off the horse. Great form, though. She does that occasionally in warmups, and it’s quite early in her season, so perhaps it’s not too surprising to see it happen in competition. 13.133.

Nagi Kajita (JPN), VT: Yurchenko full, zero push off the table, lands short but keeps it on her feet. 13.033.

Carolann Heduit (FRA), VT: Poppy Yurchenko full, good in the air but again not the surest of landings, almost an ankle twister. Seems to be catching here, these landings. 13.366.

Liu Jieyu (CHN), VT: Yurchenko full, comes off to the table veering to the right, small hop forward. Best landing we’ve seen so far. 13.033.

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), VT: Her daring DTY, two small steps backward, some form in the air, but frankly great to see. More confident than in Stuttgart a week ago, too. 14.366.

Leah Greisser (GER), VT: Very nice handspring front pike, basically stuck. Okay, tiniest of hops. But really nice.

Victoria Woo (CAN), VT: FTY, well done, small hop back. Best delivered FTY yet here. 13.666.

Ellie Downie (GBR), VT: Great powerful DTY — a little too much power, frankly, big hop back, then smaller hop back. But goodness, in the air it was fabulous! 14.3. Worth it for the best vault seen so far, landing notwithstanding.

Thais Fidelis (BRA), VT: Tidy FTY, small hop. Could be just a little more extended, but really, she did her job. 13.566.

Rotation 2:

Nagi Kajita (JPN), UB: Nabieva! Nice. Pak salto. Toe Shaposh half. Stalder blind, legs split very long on that, to Jaeger. Drops off on a pirouette gone wrong. Very low full twisting double tuck, nearly touches her hands down. 11.766.

Carolann Heduit (FRA), UB: INbar full to Maloney. Uprise Ricna, nice. Inbar Tkatchev to Pak (leg form), toe Shaposh half. Blind to pike Jaeger. Double front with a step back. Nice set from the 15-year-old from Angers! 13.9.

Liu Jieyu (CHN), UB: Maloney to clear full to Tkatchev and comes off. Second fall on pike Jaeger. Full twisting double tuck dismount. 9.933.

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), UB: Stalder 1/1 to Maloney to Pak to toe Shaposh half, stalder blind to pike Jaeger. Toe 1/1 to full twisting double tuck, small hop combined with a small sigh of relief. 14.366.

Leah Griesser (GER), UB: Toe full to Maloney to Bail to stalder 1/1 (out of handstand) to Ray, a bit of a dead hang, stalder full to toe blind to pike Jaeger. Double front dismount, small hop. Leah runs off the podium smiling. 12.566 — fair, given some built in form deductions.

Victoria Woo (CAN), UB: The Birmingham crowd thinks Victoria’s last name is the funniest thing they’ve ever heard. Shaposh to clear full. Toe stalder. Bail to toe shoot back to high. Clear hip blind to pike Jaeger that ends as a straddle Jaeger (hmmm), double layout with a hop. Well. 12.033.

Ellie Downie (GBR), UB: Off on toe full, her first element. Eek. Starts again: toe full to kip to Maloney to uprise Tkatchev. Falls again on pike Jaeger! Hmm. Pike Tkatchev, Pak salto, toe Shaposh half, double layout with a hop forward. 10.5. Ellie blows kisses.

Thais Fidelis (BRA), UB: Maloney to Pak. Toe SHaposh half. Blind to pike Jaeger. Tkatchev. FUll turn. Easy double tuck dismount. Composed exercise. 12.233.

Riley McCusker (USA), UB: Stalder 1/1 to Maloney to uprise Tkatchev. Ricna to Pak. Toe Shaposh half. Blind to front giant to her excellent Fan dismount. 14.4.

Rotation 3:

Carolann Heduit (FRA), BB: Roundoff, bhs mount. Side aerial to layout stepout, small hesitation but all right. Switch to split to back tuck (fall). Balance check on double wolf turn. Switch ring. Front aerial, split, bhs. A little rough on some of her transitions, but an impressive roundoff, bhs, double pike dismount, landed with a couple steps back. 11.666.

Liu Jieyu (CHN), BB: Back dive mount. Switch ring. Bhs, back tuck, tentative landing but doesn’t come off. Front aerial to split jump. Small check after double turn. Split half. Switch, wolf. Double full with a step backward. 12.2.

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), BB: Well, she only needs 10.2 to go into the lead, so if an 11.6 disaster happens again like last week in Stuttgart she’ll still lead. Switch half. Ring jump. Side somie. Bhs, layout, balance check but not a bit problem. Double turn and jumps off. Fight, Aliya, fight! Split to side aerial. Front aerial, fights for it. Split jump to…arm movement. Switch, wolf. Double tuck, small step. Well. Better than last week in any case. 11.866.

Leah Griesser (GER), BB: Jump to splits mount, oohs from the crowd. Off on bhs, layout. Switch to switch half. Front aerial. Side aerial, small hesitation. Side somie, another tiny hesitation. Interesting dismount combo: Valdez, bhs, 1.5 twist. 11.3.

Victoria Woo (CAN), BB: Back dive mount. Bhs, layout, excellent. Front aerial to split. Double turn. Side somie. Split half. Side aerial. Switch to scissone. 2.5 twist with a step forward. One of the only truly solid routine we’ve seen yet on beam. 12.6.

Ellie Downie (GBR), BB: Switch leap mount. Side aerial. Switch to switch half. Front tuck (fall). Nearly comes off again on double turn and PEOPLE IN THE ARENA ARE SCREAMING. Bhs, layout, wobble, more screams. 2.5 twist dismount, deep squat and step, but hangs onto it. 11.5.

Thais Fidelis (BRA), BB: Bhs, layout, layout, lovely. Switch to split half. Front aerial, split, bhs. Split ring leap. Side aerial. Punch front. She really knows where the beam is, and is making sure to put her feet down on all her skills. Double tuck dismount, small hop. Along with Victoria Woo, best routine we’ve seen yet. Beam so far as been a fallfest. 12.933.

Riley McCusker (USA), BB: Middle splits mount. Humphrey turn. Wolf double. Split leap to front aerial to straddle jump. Bhs, layout (falls). Switch to switch side, misses her foot a little but stays on. Side aerial, split jump, back tuck, wobble. Bhs, bhs, double tuck dismount, hop back. Riley takes a drink of water, looks at the camera and shrugs as if to say, “Well, what happened happened.” 12.166.

Nagi Kajita (JPN), BB: Roundoff, layout to two feet (fall). Beam has been brutal today. Front aerial, pause, split, wolf. Bhs, layout, pulled it back on but could have easily come off. Switch ring. Full turn with leg at head. Switch. Side aerial. 2.5 twist with hops to the side. 11.366.

Rotation 4:

Liu Jieyu (CHN), FX: Triple full, a little underrotated, step forward. 2.5 twist to call it a front pike. Switch half. Pretty piece of music. Triple turn. Double tuck, step back. Sticks her double full to end. 12.7.

Nagi Kajita (JPN), FX: 1.5 to Rudi. Beautiful Mustafina turn. Dramatic tango music. 2.5 twist. Double turn with leg in amplitude. Switch ring to Tourjete half. Double tuck. 12.833.

Ellie Downie (GBR), FX: 1.5 to Arabian double front, huge, gorgeous, small hop forward. Open double tuck — that’s usually a double double, but good idea to save herself for Euros and not risk things under the spotlights here. Split jump full. Double pike, hop forward. Switch side half, a little wonky.

Leah Griesser (GER), FX: Enchanting routine, a beautiful fusion of music, choreo and expression. Double tuck. 2.5 wtwist. Wonderful double turn in amplitude to illusion. 1.5 to front layout 1/1. She really does justice to the music, and moves in a very special way. A treat to watch. 12.8.

Victoria Woo (CAN), FX: Double layout, small hop back. Double turn with leg up. Switch to switch full. Triple turn. Punch front to 2.5 twist. Another lovely routine, expression-wise. Double pike, stuck. Very nice routine. 12.8.

Thais Fidelis (BRA), FX: 1.5 to Arabian double front, steps out of bounds. Open full in tuck. Double tuck. Switch ring to split ring. Double pike. Very dramatic symphony music. 13.1.

Carolann Heduit (FRA), FX: Whip to double tuck, small bounce out of it. Double pike. Double turn with leg up. 2.5 to muscled punch front. Chase movie music. Double wolf turn, double turn with leg at head. Double full. Dramatic closing pose, a bit Ivana Hong-like. A routine not completely void of deductions, though for the most part she acquitted herself well. Needed 12.9 to assure her a medal, gets 12.7.

Riley McCusker (USA), FX: New floor routine for Riley! Cello music, a bit playful, a bit dramatic, suits her long lines very well. Full in tuck, stumbles around a little on the landing. Front 2/1 to front tuck to stag jump. Double pike. Double tuck, hop back. 13.366.

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), FX: Beyonce’s “I’m a Survivor” and a medley of other things. Full in today, all right. Double turn. Double tuck, hops out of it. Double turn with leg at head. Switch ring. 1.5 to front layout 1/1. Double full. 12.966.

GOLD - Aliya Mustafina, RUS, 53.564
SILVER - Riley McCusker, USA, 53.065
BRONZE - Thais Fidelis, BRA, 51.832
4 - Carolann Heduit, FRA, 51.632
5 - Victoria Woo, CAN, 51.099
6 - Leah Griesser, GER, 49.799
7 - Ellie Downie, GBR, 49.333
8 - Nagi Kajita, JPN, 48.998
9 - Liu Jieyu, CHN, 47.866

Quick hits: Doha World Cup finals, Day 2

Jade Carey of the United States.

Jade Carey of the United States.

Men’s Vault:

Jorge Vega Lopez (GUA), VT: Excellent handspring Randi, great in the air, great height, just a large step to the left due to underrotation. He compromised the landing rather than give away any execution deductions in the air. 14.266. Second vault Tsuk 2.5, similiar issue with the landing — underrotated, big step. 14.033, 14.149 average.

Loris Frasca (FRA), VT: 1st reserve is in this final due to injury to Chris Remkes. Very good Tsuk triple. Frankly looks like he could add another half twist to that if he wanted. 14.666. Then Dragulescu, some steps back but not bad. The French have produced some excellent vaulters over the years — Thomas Bouhail, Benoit Caranobe, etc, and he’s the latest. 14.6, 14.633 average.

Tseng Wei-Sheng (TPE), VT: Falls backwards on Tsuk double pike, too much backward momentum but very good in the air. 13.833. Handspring double front, again too much rotation, big steps forward. Still, promising. 14.241, 14.037 average.

Giarnni Regini-Moran (GBR), VT: The 2014 Youth Olympic star shows off a Randi, sizable step back, small amount of helicopter legs show up in the slo-mo, but otherwise very good. 14.8. Half on front double full, small hop forward. Nice job. 14.5, 14.65 average.

Yang Hak-seon (KOR), VT: The rejuvenated 2012 Olympic champion shows his vault, the Yang, handspring front triple full, and it's beautiful. Just a step forward. Form, rotation, speed, a wow jump in every respect. 15.466 is a wow score too. Tsuk triple, hop back, excellence again. 15.066, 15.266 average.

Igor Radivilov is going to really have to bring his A-game to top 2012 Olympic vault champion Yang Hak-seon, who just threw down a fabulous Yang and excellent Tsuk triple. Yang.is.back.

Artur Davtyan (ARM), VT: Dragulescu, amazing, stuck. Coach is jumping up and down, as he should be. Well! 15.058. Davtyan takes a seat to the side of the runway, to...rest? Anyway, second vault is Tsuk 2.5, gives it away with a huge step to the side. 14.333, 14.695 average.

Igor Radivilov (UKR), VT: Terrific Dragulescu, delivered as only a man who has trained a handspring triple front can. Just a little hop. 14.9. Second vault is a Tsuk double pike, lands like a dart, just a step forward. 14.933 for 14.916 average, well done.

Marian Dragulescu (ROU), VT: Dragulescu to his hands and knees. Didn’t have the block or the height he needed to do his own vault well. 13.6. Roundoff, half on, Rudi off, makes it look easy. 14.133 for second vault.

GOLD - Yang Hak-seon, KOR, 15.266
SILVER - Igor Radivilov, UKR, 14.916
BRONZE - Artur Davtyan, ARM, 14.695

Balance Beam:

Nina Derwael (BEL), BB: Roundoff, layout stepout mount. Bhs, layout. Solid as anything so far. Front aerial. Side somie. Switch, split. Triple (or 2.5?) wolf turn. Double (or 1.5?) wolf turn, small wobble. Gainer full off the end, just a small hop. She really gave nothing away in that routine. Almost complete mastery in both her exercises here and on bars. 13.633.

Marine Boyer (FRA), BB: Front aerial, split jump, tuck half. Roundoff, layout to two feet, just great. Switch, pause, switch half. Wobble on full turn with leg up. Side aerial. Split leap to side somie to split half, small wobble. Double tuck dismount, stuck! 13.333.

Adela Sajn (SLO), BB: The 2008 Olympian shows scissone, wolf jumps. Double turn. Side aerial to side aerial to side somie, sweet combo. Standing back tuck. Front aerial. Wolf jump full. Illusion. Roundoff, 1.5 twist dismount. Unique routine with unusual skill choice. 12.833.

Ting Hua-Tien (TPE), BB: The eponymous back dive mount causes gasps in the Doha crowd. Front aerial, split jump, straddle. Switch to ring jump. Bhs, back pike (falls). Side aerial. Front layout full dismount, step backward. 12.4.

Yumika Nakamura (JPN), BB: Back dive mount. Switch, split. Bhs, layout, balance check. Nearly comes off on switch ring. Side aerial. Nearly off again on front aerial. Double tuck dismount, lands low, step forward. 11.8.

Li Qi (CHN), BB: Press mount, Switch, sheep, bhs, lovely. Roundoff, layout to two feet to immediate straddle, impeccable. Front aerial, split, Onodi, double stag, awesome! Side aerial, straddle, Korbut. Double full, a tiny hop. Wonderful routine! 14.333 moves her into first.

Soyoka Hanawa (JPN), BB: Middle splits mount. Bhs, tucked full (falls). Nice bhs, layout, layout series later on. Switch ring, small wobble. 2.5 twist dismount, hop to the side. Ambitious routine, would be beautiful if she put it all together. 11.466.

Aneta Holasova (CZE), BB: Roundoff, layout stepout mount, more oohs from the audience. Bhs, layout, layout, nice! Front aerial to split. Very aggressive on this event. Switch, split, straddle. Bhs, bhs, double pike, just a step forward. So impressed with her go-get-it under pressure here. 12.8.

GOLD - Li Qi, CHN, 14.333
SILVER - Nina Derwael, BEL, 13.633
BRONZE - Marine Boyer, FRA, 13.333

Parallel Bars:

Ferhat Arican (TUR), PB: Front flip. English handstand, held with some imbalance, into Diamidov. Falls on peach half attempt (I think). There's not a lot of in-between with Arican -- he's brilliant or he comes off. Today, unfortunately, he came off. Stuck double front half out. 13.9.

Mitchell Morgans (AUS), PB: Front flip. Peach half, small hesitation. Peach. Giant full to English handstand to inside Diamidov, nice. Diamidov. Stutz. Stuck double pike. After Australia's very bad day yesterday, how nice for him to deliver this hit set! 14.566.

Vasilii Mikhalitsyn (BLR), PB: Front flip. Peach to English handstand, well done. Peach half, tidy. Inside Diamidov. Diamidov. Stutz. Front layout full twist dismount, something we don't see too often. Beautiful lines throughout. 14.383.

Matteo Levantesi (ITA), PB: Giant, giant full, English handstand, struggles to one handstand...Bhavsar. Gienger. Short on a couple of handstands and just a layout dismount. Hm. 12.866.

Zou Jingyuan (CHN), PB: The sort of routine that makes you feel glad to be alive -- and for him, it wasn't even his best. Overbalanced one handstand just a little, but it doesn't matter. He's going to win by like a point and a half. 15.7.

Vladyslav Polyashov (CHN), PB: Peach half. Giant to English handstand. Insuide Diamidov. Tippelt. Bhavsar. Small overbalance in one handstand. Front flip. Front straddle somie. Double front half out. Nice set from the best Russian gymnast you've never heard of...yet. 15.066.

Andrei Likhovitskiy (BLR), PB: Clear hip half. Giant. Peach. Tippelt. Hesitation on press handstand after back toss 1/4 to the side...Stutz. Double pike dismount, just a tiny step. 14.366.

Phuong Thanh Dinh (VIE), PB: Front flip. Stops briefly after a swing element but does his best to cover. The rest of the routine was solid. Double pike with a small step. Not sure that's going to give him bronze ahead of Mitchell Morgans...13.633.

GOLD - Zou Jingyuan, CHN, 15.7
SILVER - Vladyslav Polyashov, RUS, 15.066
BRONZE - Mitchell Morgans, AUS, 14.566

Women’s Floor Exercise:

Coline Devillard (FRA), FX: Double layout, bounds out of bounds. Front layout walkout to double tuck, stuck that one. Double pike, stepped back and may have put her foot out again, hard to tell. Dismounts with just a layout full. 12.4.

Vanessa Ferrari (ITA), FX: Double layout, small hop back. Music that makes you think of the ballerina in an old fashioned jewelry box. Full in tuck. Switch ring to Tourjete full combo. Kind of stumbles out of double turn with leg at head combo, covers well. Front layout 1/1. 13.3.

Kim Bui (GER), FX: Split 1/1. Great double layout, stuck. Tourjete 1/1. Bounces out of double tuck slightly. Swtch to switch 1/1. A fun, modern piece of music that suits her wonderfully. 2.5 to front pike, stuck. Double pike, step back. Enjoyable to watch. If every pass were like her first one, she’d be a medal contender, but unfortunately there’s not enough torque in this routine to really make her a medal contender. But it’s a well-delivered, enjoyable piece all the same. 13.033.

Varvara Zubova (RUS), FX: Full in, rather labored. Double tuck, hop back. Double turn with leg at head to illusion. 2.5 to punch front. Switch ring. Double pike, stuck. Dramatic symphony music and some cute choreo, but she doesn't make the tumbling lines look easy, frankly. 13.1.

Marta Pihan-Kulesza (POL), FX: Her "Pink Panther," an iconic routine. 2.5 to front layout 1/1, excellent. Arabian double front to rather underdone stag jump. Went for quad turn (I think) but won't get credit for it. Front 2/1 great though. Marta rounding into form before Euros in her hometown Szczecin. 13.233.

Lara Mori (ITA), FX: Whip to full in, almost too much power, steps back. Switch ring to switch side half. 2.5 to front layout with a hop. Triple full. Very entertaining performer, tons of energy and pizzazz. Double pike, a tad short, steps forward. 13.433 puts her first right now.

Jade Carey (USA), FX: Moors, excellent, bounces back but keeps it in bounds. Full twisting double layout, great landing. Double double, small hop back. Improved execution in her dance, though the tumbling is still the highlight. Double tuck, made it look easy. Hit routine! 14.466.

Marine Boyer (FRA), FX: A new routine for Marine for 2019 I believe! 2.5 to punch front. Switch half. Double turn with leg at head. Double tuck, perfect stick. Wolf turn double. Double tuck, too much power, stumbles back a little. 13.2.

GOLD - Jade Carey, USA, 14.466
SILVER - Lara Mori, ITA, 13.433
BRONZE - Vanessa Ferrari, ITA, 13.3

High Bar:

Alexei Rostov (RUS), HB: Cassina, legs a tad bent. Kolman, nothing wrong with that. Layout Tkatchev. Tkatchev half. Flexes feet on Tak full. Tak half. Hands down on dismount, double double layout. 13.291.

Randy Leru (CUB), HB: One arm giant. Liukin, stylish! Layout Tkatchev to Tkatchev to Tkatch half. Layout Tkatchev half. Stalders etc. Good high full twisting double layout with a tiny hop. 14.0.

Hidetaka Miyachi (JPN), HB: One of the recent greats on this event due to his mastery of Kovacs-style skills shows wonderful double twisting layout Kovacs, his own skill, followed by Cassina, Kolman, Kovacs, the kitchen sink. Wonderful set -- the audience adores it! Terrific speed too. Flares out his full twisting double layout dismount and allows himself some celebration. 14.3.

Milad Karimi (KAZ), HB: Yama. Cassina, nice. Kovacs, beautiful! Kolman too. Hop 1.5. Endo. And loses it on an inverts skill, has to swing the other way. Too bad! No medal for him here today...12.566.

Epke Zonderland (NED), HB: Cassina to Kovacs and comes off! Oops. He and Tin Srbic are really the two who stand in the way of Miyachi winning this event here, and he's just taken himself out of contention, which is a chance for Srbic. Epke sticks his double double layout dismount for good measure and shrugs in the kiss and cry. 12.966.

Deng Shudi (CHN), HB: Layout Tkatchev to layout Tkatchev half. Tkatchev. Off on Tkatchev half, just couldn't get his hands around the bar. In the stands, Li Qi is completely unmoved. Yama. Stuck double double layout.

Carlo Macchini (ITA). HB: Kolman. Hop 1.5. Swings the other way on a Tak full, oops. Tak half, nice. Stuck full twisting double layout. So everyone’s sticking the dismount, but the interior has been a bit dodgy for some. 13.3.

Tin Srbic (CRO), HB: Ricna, powerful and unusual for a man to perform. Tkatchev, layout Tkatchev, Tkatchev half. Layout Tkatchev half. Steps on his full twisting double layout dismount. Great all the way through but wondering if he gave the gold away on that dismount..nope! 14.4.

GOLD - Tin Srbic, CRO, 14.4
SILVER - Hidetaka Miyachi, JPN, 14.3
BRONZE - Randy Leru, CUB, 14.0

Quick hits: Doha World Cup finals, Day 1

Maria Paseka of Russia.

Maria Paseka of Russia.

Men’s Floor:

Xiao Ruoteng (CHN), FX: Randi, stuck, nice. 2.5 to front layout half. Rolls out of double double tuck, not enough rotation. Oops. 5/2 to 2/1 front. Flairs. 2/1. 3/1 with a step back. 13.166.

Ahmet Onder (TUR), FX: Double double layout, stuck, really nice. 1.5 to Rudi, slightly untidy landing. Full in to end. 14.266.

Alexander Shatilov (ISR), FX: Front double pike, tiny hop. 2.5 to front 2/1. Good high double double, stuck. 1.5 to front full to Rudi, good. 2/1. Full in to end, stuck. A lot of stick in that routine, very good. 14.633. Happy birthday Sasha!

Carlos Yulo (PHI), FX: Beautiful running front double front pike half out. Amazing 2.5 to Randi, stumbled a bit on landing but so much air! 3.5 to tuck half. 2/1. Front 1/1 to front 2/1. 3/1, small hop. 14.266.

Jonathan Vrolix (BEL): The surprise of quals...Front 2/1 to double front, small hop. Front double pike, stuck cold. 2.5 to front layout half, small hop. 1.5 to front 1/1. Didn't see last pass, alas.

Rayderley Zapata (ESP), FX: 1.5 to front double pike, springy. Front double pike half out. Same thing tucked. Double Arabisn half out. Double full, bounces upwards on landing. High 2.5 to front half. Double layout with a couple of steps. He has the highest hurdle you’ve ever seen in your life. Interesting technique. 14.433.

Emil Soravuo (FIN), FX: Great high double double tuck. 1.5 to front 2/1. 2.5 to Rudi, stuck. Double full. Front layout, front layout half. Triple full. A testament to the 2014 Youth Olympian's form that with significantly less diff than many others he makes these finals. 14.233.

Chris Remkes (AUS) has hurt his left knee landing his triple double layout on floor. Poor guy! It was an awkward landing. He's being attended to on the floor. No doubt that's an ACL injury via the replay — bone went out and seems to have gone back in. But that hurts a lot.

GOLD - Shatilov
SILVER - Zapata

Women’s Vault:

Coline Devillard (FRA), VT: Terrific handspring Rudi. Looked great in the air, just a step back. 14.933. Then DTY with another step back. But looks so clean in the air, well done! 14.166. 14.549 average.

Maria Paseka (RUS), VT: Cheng, lands offline and hops to the side. Bent legs in the air. Was better in qualification. 14.433. Amanar, STUCK. Wow. Best Amanar of her career, that. 15.1. 14.766 average.

Emily Thomas (GBR), VT: Yurchenko 1.5, step to the side but very nice in the air. 14.033. Tsuk full, basically stuck, tiniest of hops. 13.666. 13.849 average.

Marina Nekrasova (AZE), VT: Sits underrotated Tsuk 1.5. 12.333. Nice handspring front pike full, offline on the landing and a step to the side. But otherwise quite good. 14.1. 13.216 average.

Jade Carey (USA), VT: Very good Cheng, but rather a lunge backward. 15.066, excellent. Second vault: DTY, same step on landing. 14.7, 14.883 puts her first so far! In the Carey vs. Paseka battle, Carey takes this round.

Alexa Moreno (MEX), VT: Rudi, ground comes up a little fast for her, chest low and rather big step forward. 14.4. Tsuk double full, another big lunge back. Other than that, a nice vault.

Oksana Chusovitina (UZB), VT: Tucks her Rudi down from the block. Just didn’t get the push she needed at all - hand placement looked off from the beginning. 13,866. Second vault is Tsuk 1.5, stumbles sideways a bit on the landing but good in the air. 13.866 for second vault and 13.866 total.

Gabriela Janik (POL), VT: Replacement for Marcia Vidiaux of Cuba, who withdrew from the final. A head taller than every other finalist. Tsuk full with a step. 13.666. Handspring front tuck full, very high, just a hop on landing. 13.766, 13.716 average.

GOLD - Carey
SILVER - Paseka
BRONZE - Devillard

Pommel Horse:

Harutyun Merdinyan (ARM), PH: The 2016 Olympian gets through his Busnari and Russians between the pommels without breaking his swing. Tiniest of struggles in the handstand pirouette dismount. 14.666.

Kohei Kameyama (JPN), PH: Begins with a beautiful scissor to handstand. Very nice flairs sequence. Fights determinedly through the dismount — someone wants to go to Tokyo! 15.4. Well!

Kaito Imabayashi (JPN), PH: Being cheered through this routine by his teammates and coach, it sounds like. He’s less fluid than Kameyama in my opinion, but hits this routine and then launches into a podium party the likes of which we haven’t seen yet today in Doha. 15.3333/6.8.

Lee Chih-Kai (TPE), PH: Gorgeous work from the flairmaster! Hit routine. Seemed to me he clipped his foot early in the routine, but it didn’t deter him at all. The only pommel horse routine in which the crowd was applauding midway through because those flairs are so cool to watch. 15.4 ties him with Kameyama at this point.

Stephen Nedoroscik (USA), PH: Comes off with about a quarter of the routine left to go. Looked great to that point. Finishes well. 13.966.

Zou Jingyuan (CHN), PH: Rather disconcerting to see him on another event besides parallel bars! He's not bad here, but misses his hand placement and comes off pretty early on. Falls a second time later.

Filip Ude (CRO), PH: Legs apart on Russians between the pommels and drops off later. Filip looks none too happy about this. The third competitor in a row to come off the horse. Falls a second time, too. 11.633.

Saeedreza Keikha (IRI), PH: An opportunity for him here -- and he takes it! Excellent routine, fast flairs, terrific dismount. Keikha is delighted and should be. 15.133.

GOLD - Lee
SILVER - Kameyama
BRONZE - Imabayashi

Uneven Bars:

Jonna Adlerteg (SWE), UB: Clear hip pike Tkatchev, Pak, Shaposh to Bhardwaj, Maloney to uprside clear full to Tkatchev, double layout with a hop. 14.216.

Diana Varinska (UKR), UB: Falls to her back on her Tkatchev half. Doesn't repeat the skill, just gets up and dismounts with a full twisting double tuck. 12.4.

Nina Derwael (BEL), UB: Nabieva, Ricna half to Ezhova to stalder Shaposh, Bhardwaj, toe Shaposh half, toe 1/1 to full twisting double tuck, finished twist high above the bar. 15.033.

Fan Yilin (CHN), UB: Terrific stuff from the two-time world champion. A very different routine from Derwael’s, but impeccably executed. Only thing is a step back on her Fan dismount. 14.933.

Anastasia Ilyankova (RUS), UB: Clear hip pike Tkatchev. Toe Tkatchev halt to Ezhova. Stalder Shaposh to Pak. Toe Shaposh half. Toe full to full twisting double tuck, small shuffle. 14.7.

Yumika Nakamura (JPN), UB: Toe full to Gienger, pike Jaeger. Jaeger. Bail to toe shoot to toe hecht to high, full turn, giants, double pike. Impeccable execution but lacking in some of the more intricate combinations of some other others.

Kim Bui (GER), UB: Pike Jaeger to Pak, Maloney to Bhardwaj, toe Shaposh. Toe full to Gienger. Stuck full twisting double tuck dismount. Been waiting for her to stick that! 14.0.

Martina Rizzelli (ITA): Ricna to Pak, Maloney to bail to Ray. Toe blind to front giant. Toe full. Full twisting double tuck, very nice landing. 13.016

GOLD - Derwael
BRONZE - Ilyankova

Still Rings:

Ali Zahran (EGY), SR: Pull to planche. Maltese. Victorian cross, hard! Maltese. Iron cross. Planche. Groans audibly with the effort of pulling his full twisting double layout (a little pikey if you’re picky), but sticks the dismount. 14.433.

Samir Ait-Said (FRA), SR: Iron cross, pull to Maltese, planche. Pike Yamawaki to tuck Yamawaki to Maltese, nice! Spontaneous round of applause for that. Iron cross. Full twisting double layout, tiny hop. 14.633.

Marco Lodadio (ITA), SR: Looks slighter than some of the others, but don’t be fooled: Planche. Maltese. Maltese again. Tucked Yama to piked Yama to iron cross. Planche. Roll to cross. Stuck double double tuck. Big happy reaction from Marco! Strength, power and elegance says the commentator. Agreed. 14.7.

Vahagn Davtyan (ARM), SR: Pull to planche. Maltese. Iron cross. Pike Yamawaki to Maltese. Iron cross. Planche. Full twisting double layout, basically hangs on for the stick. Completely different reaction from the celebrating Lodadio, absolutely somber as he walks away. 14.825 moves him into the lead.

Artur Tovmasyan (ARM), SR: Maltese. Tucked Yama to piked Yama. Roll to iron cross. Pull to Maltese. Full twisting double layout with a step to the side. 14.833.

Lan Xingyu (CHN), SR: Roll to planche. Magnificent Maltese. Planche. Piked Yamawaki to iron cross. Tucked Yamawaki. Maltese. Iron cross. Double double tuck, again also stuck. Was it enough? 15.1.

Ibrahim Colak (TUR), SR: Planche. Maltese. Planche. Tucked Yama, piked Yama. Iron cross. Roll to iron cross. Stumbles out of front double pike but celebrates anyway. Good for him! 14.5.

Courtney Tulloch (GBR), SR: Pull to Victorian (angles). Wonderful Maltese, however. Piked Yama. Planche, drop down to iron cross, sweet…and hands down on his double double! Not rotated enough. Aargh.

GOLD - Lan
SILVER - Tovmasyan
BRONZE - Davtyan

Doha World Cup: Derwael leads two after qualification

Nina Getty big.jpg

Belgium’s Nina Derwael was the top scorer on uneven bars and balance beam in the qualification rounds at the Doha World Cup Wednesday and Thursday in the Qatari capital.

Back in the Aspire Dome where she won her world title on uneven bars last October, Derwael used her standby 6.5 difficulty value routine (Nabieva, Ricna half to Ezhova to stalder Shaposh, Bhardwaj, toe Shaposh half, toe 1/1 to full twisting double tuck) to top qualifications ahead of two-time world bars champion Fan Yilin of China, 15.033-14.9. Russia’s Anastasia Ilyankova, who like fan is hoping to qualify for the Olympic Games through the world cup series, was third with 14.633 for her 6.3 D value routine.


Derwael was equally efficient on beam, where she scored 13.566 for a clean 5.3 set. France’s Marine Boyer, the silver medalist on beam from last week’s Baku World Cup, and China’s Li Qi each showed routines with a 5.7 start value, though neither could match Derwael in execution. Newcomer Soyoka Hanawa of Japan, seventh, had the highest difficulty of any finalist with 5.9.


A recharged Maria Paseka of Russia showed her Olympic-level vaults -- a much-improved Cheng and Amanar -- to lead qualifications on vault (14.85), just ahead of American Jade Carey, who is searching for her second win on the world cup circuit after winning both vault and floor in Baku. Carey was first on floor for a difficulty-packed routine valued at 5.9, more than half a point higher than any other finalist on the event.


Simone Biles says Tokyo Olympics will be her last

SImone getty.jpg

Next summer is likely to be the last time we’ll see Simone Biles compete at an Olympic Games — the quadruple Olympic gold medalist gave an interview to Britain’s Press Association Thursday in which she said Tokyo 2020 will to be her final Games.

“I definitely plan for the Tokyo Olympics to be my last,” Biles said in the morning interview in London, where she is headlining the Superstars of Gymnastics show this weekend at the O2 Arena. “I feel like my body’s gone through a lot and it’s kind of just falling apart -- not that you can actually tell but I really feel it a lot of the time. I am in pain most of the time but it kind of feels right because if you are not in pain, it is almost like you could be doing more.”

Biles could retire tomorrow and still have had the greatest career in modern gymnastics history. Her four Olympic gold medals from Rio and unprecedented four world all-around titles have made her a living legend in women’s gymnastics, and she’s likely to add on to those totals before she’s through.

The past year hasn’t been easy, though, even for the GOAT. She braved the aches and pains of getting her body back in competition shape when she returned to training in November 2017 after a year-long layoff following the Rio Games. Then, the night before women’s prelims at the 2018 Worlds last October, stomach pain sent her to the emergency room, where doctors discovered a kidney stone. Biles opted to compete anyway, and won four more world titles, bringing her total to 14.

She performed very well in her first competition of 2019, easily taking the title at the Stuttgart World Cup last weekend with 58.8 points, more than three and a half points over second place. In media interviews in Germany, she was professional but appeared a bit fatigued by the travel, which she confirmed on Instagram after her arrival in London. Earlier today, she tweeted about anxiety so bad it kept her from sleeping.

Though almost universally proclaimed as the greatest female gymnast of all time, Biles also admitted to feeling some anxiousness. In Stuttgart last weekend and at October’s World Championships in Doha, she occasionally struggled in her warmups and has in the past admitted to feeling fear on balance beam. “I stress myself out really bad and then I get really bad anxiety and then I have to tell myself, ‘It’s fine, just to take things skill by skill,’” she said in Stuttgart.

The Gymnastics Weekend in Review

What happened in gymnastics this weekend? A lot — let’s recap, shall we?

Biles blazes to Stuttgart World Cup win

Simone Biles may be wondering if it’s time to panic because we’re less than 500 days to Tokyo, but she didn’t show it on the competition floor Sunday at the Stuttgart World Cup. On the second leg of her European business trip, Biles totaled a 58.8 to cruise ahead of dancing queen Ana Padurariu and German veteran Elisabeth Seitz, who brought her double-twisting Yurchenko out of storage to thrill the Stuttgart crowd. It was Biles’s first world cup start since 2015 and her first ever outside the United States, and she killed it despite downgrading slightly on all four events. Here are Quick Hits of the Event, from start to finish.

The matchup was also notable for Aliya Mustafina’s presence, though Mustafina finished fifth due to an unfortunate 11.6 on beam. “Burn it,” Mustafina wrote on Instagram afterward, but Russia’s goddess of the gym was extremely impressive on the other three events, proving yet again that podium training has nothing to do with what you can expect from her in competition. Of that great-looking double-twisting Yurchenko vault that came out of nowhere: “I didn’t believe I could,” she wrote. But she did.

‘King Arthur’ reigns supreme in Germany

There were questions about the state of world all-around champion Artur Dalaloyan since he finished 17th in prelims at the Russian Championships last week and promptly withdrew from the all-around final, but he answered them all on the floor in Stuttgart, where he was nothing short of brilliant through five events to win the men’s crown. Not even two falls off high bar in the last rotation could spoil his victory parade. Quick Hits of the Men’s All-around.

Dalaloyan controlled the meet from start to finish, though China’s Sun Wei rebounded from a poor beginning to earn the silver medal. Nobody in the arena was happier than Ukraine’s Petro Pakhniuk, however, who had a career day to finish third, pushing German star Marcel Nguyen off the podium.

The men’s podium selfie. Photo courtesy: EnBW DTB Pokal.

The men’s podium selfie. Photo courtesy: EnBW DTB Pokal.

Brazilian women, Russian men take DTB Pokal Team Challenge

It was clear last October in Doha that the Brazilian women’s team was on the make, and Stuttgart confirmed it. Rebeca Andrade, Flavia Saraiva, Carolyne Pedro, Jade Barbosa and Thais Fidelis (with Valeri Liukin in the background) appeared stronger than ever. Saraiva debuted a new whip to double layout on floor, and Andrade was brilliant everywhere as Russia ran away with the title by almost five points (five points!).

Russia, led by Angelina Melnikova and new national champion Angelina Simakova, had plenty of bright moments, but couldn’t match the Brazilians without their big guns. Melnikova had a nice day, but Simakova, who has been tapped for the upcoming European Championships, was less convincing in her all-around turn than Aliya Mustafina was in hers (balance beam aside). Eythora Thorsdottir and the Dutch women were third, followed by an undisputedly talented French team that, apart from Melanie de Jesus dos Santos, is still getting its bearings in senior competition. Play-by-Play from the Women’s Team Final.

Russia is still deciding on its men’s team for the upcoming European Championships, and this weekend’s DTB Pokal Team Challenge, a companion meet to the World Cup, likely played a deciding role. One routine stood out above the rest: Dmitry Lankin on floor, whose routine included a triple back, 3.5 to front half and quad twist. Here it is at the Russian Championships ten days ago. Quick Hits from the Men’s Team Final.

A strong German team (Nick Klessing, Niels Dunkel, Felix Remuta, Andreas Toba and Lukas Dauser) finished second, 2.833 points back. Dauser as usual was brilliant on parallel bars, and has potential to challenge for the European title on the event in Poland next month. Japan’s B-team, including Kenta Chiba, Shogo Nonomura and Kakeru Tanegawa, looked good but had mistakes here and there and were forced to settle for third. Brazil, strong on vault and floor as always, a wonderfully artistic Italian team and Spain rounded out the field. Here’s a photo that sums up how the Germans felt about it all:

The Best of Baku

It was a good weekend for Jade Carey: In her second Olympic qualifying World Cup appearance, she won vault with a hot new Cheng, and took floor for good measure, gaining valuable ranking points on both apparatus. Carey only needs to win vault to seal her place at the Games, and after finishing second to Rebeca Andrade in Cottbus (who will likely compete for Brazil’s world team in the fall and thus be ineligible for an individual Olympic spot), Carey has set herself in good stead.

Similar results in Doha this weekend will make it all but official for Carey, who would be the first gymnast in history to officially cement an Olympic spot more than a year before the Games. Assuming she wins in Baku, the only thing that could potentially spoil things for her is if someone like Oksana Chusovitina pulls out three first place finishes on vault at other world cup events. And even then Carey could still qualify via floor.

Around the gym, China’s Lyu Jiaqi was victorious on uneven bars, strengthening her case as China’s potential Olympic specialist on the event, and Australia’s Emma Nedov, fresh from Gymnix, topped the field on beam for the first world cup victory of her career at age 24. Nedov, who was always an elegant competitor, seems to be finally coming into her own and may be one of the surprises of the year. Who said gymnasts peak before age 16 again?

Women's Vault final.JPG

The men’s competition in Baku was a celebration of international diversity, with six gymnasts from six different nations winning the titles. Israel’s Artem Dolgopyat, who has won floor in the last three world cups he’s entered (that’s significant, since one of them was Cottbus), continued the streak in Baku, while newcomer Vladyslav Polyashov, second all-around at the Russian Championships, took the title on parallel bars. Britain’s Courtney Tulloch, the 2018 Commonwealth Games champion on rings, got his first world cup win on the event.

Other champions included Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion Epke Zonderland on high bar, 2013 world pommel horse titlist Kohei Kameyama of Japan. 2012 Olympic vault champion Yang Hak-seon of Korea, whose torn Achilles kept him out of Rio, made a big “I’m back” statement by winning vault with his signature handspring front triple twist. All results from Baku are here.

Ellie Downie, James Hall best in Britain

Ellie Downie proved her mettle in 2017, becoming the first ever British woman to walk off with the European all-around title, but since then, the 19-year-old has struggled with one injury after another. Finally healthy, she claimed the British Championships in Liverpool, compiling a healthy 56.0 all-around score with room for improvement, which should make her very competitive in Poland.

I couldn’t be happier! I started on the bars and my training on bars hasn’t been the best this week so I was pretty nervous but I managed to get through it. After that I relaxed and I let my hard work take over.

I’ve worked really hard to get back and this is the first time that I have managed to bring all my skills together at a competition, so I am just chuffed it went so well.
— Ellie Downie to British Gymnastics

Kelly Simm, the 2018 British champ, finished second with 55.05, followed by first year senior sensation Amelie Morgan at 54.8. Sadly we won’t see Simm in Poland -- the 23-year-old withdrew from the British team this morning due to a fracture in her foot and will be replaced by Claudia Fragapane. The injury seems to have come during beam warmup in the all-around final — Simm did not compete in event finals as a precaution.

Downie (vault, floor) and Georgia Mae-Fenton (bars, beam) split the individual apparatus titles in finals. Among the juniors, Ondine Achampong took the all-around title with 52.9 and added bars and beam titles in event finals.

Workhorse James Hall took the senior men’s title with 84.45, a solid score that should see him up there in the European all-around final as well. 2014 Youth Olympic champion Giarnni Regini-Moran, who like Downie has struggled with one injury after another, competed all-around for the first time since 2016 and took silver with 81.65, ahead of first year senior Jamie Lewis, third with 80.95.

It’s been a long time coming but I am just over the moon!” Hall said. “This year I wanted to put new routines out and so I had a revamp and I tried different things. Almost every routine has got new skills in there. I told myself that I wouldn’t look at the scores but sometimes you can’t help yourself. I had a silly mistake on floor which annoyed me but I did a great routine on pommel. After that I thought I could do this and I just needed to keep my head and do my rings routine.
— British Gymnastics

 2016 Olympian Brinn Bevan was fourth, followed by Pavel Karnejenko and Joe Fraser. 2012 Olympian Sam Oldham finished eighth. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Max Whitlock came out of paternity leave for the day to win pommel horse.

Photo courtesy British Gymnastics.

Photo courtesy British Gymnastics.

Nikolchenko, Salos, Ukraine big winners at the Deriugina Cup in Kiev 

Here’s a picture of the new generation Ukrainian star Vlada Nikolchenko looking fierce during her gala performance after her Grand Prix season debut at home in Kiev. Nikolchenko was pretty fierce on the carpet during the actual competition as well, winning the title for the home country with 77.95, ahead of Bulgaria’s Katrin Taseva (76.65) and Ekaterina Selezneva of Russia (75.8). Every one of the big guns came away with something from event finals, where winners included Nikolchenko (Hoop), Selezneva (Ball), Salome Pazhava (Clubs) and Taseva (Ribbon). Ukraine’s group came up golden as well.

The amazing scores of the weekend came not from the Grand Prix event, but the accompanying Deriugina Cup, and not from a Ukrainian but from Belarus’s quickly rising star Anastastia Salos, who tallied a very impressive 79.5, including a 21.8 with the Clubs. Ukaine’s Olena Diachenko, a 2017 Worlds competitor, finished a distant second with 74.65 (including 21.1 with the Hoop). Russia’s Maria Sergeeva was third with 73.7. Full results from everything here.

The Deriugina Cup, named after 1970s great Irina Deriugina and her 87-year-old mom Albina, both of whom coach the Ukrainian team, is as much rhythmic gymnastics show as it is a competition. (Have a look at Ulrich Fassbender’s photos from the competition gala and you’ll get an idea...)


Gymnastics’s “Miss Val” says goodbye to UCLA

Finally, in Los Angeles, after more than three decades as the heart and soul of the UCLA program, a gymnastics legend of a different kind took her final bow in Pauley Pavilion.

Quick hits: Stuttgart World Cup, Women's All-around final


You’ve got to hand it to the organizers of the Stuttgart World Cup for their rockstar introductions of the gymnasts. The lights in the Porsche Arena are dimmed and the gymnasts presented one by one, making their appearance by running through a corridor formed by local gymnasts waving blue pom-poms while strobe lights flash and a steam machine shoots off smoke. The effect is totally cool.


1 - Simone Biles, USA,
2 - Ana Padurariu, Canada,
3 - Elisabeth Seitz, Germany,

Rotation 4:

Carolyne Pedro (BRA), FX: Arabian double front, small steps out of it. Double turn with leg at head. Switch ring. 1.5 to double tuck, keeps it in bounds. The sort of music you’d hear in a heist movie. Double full. Double pike, step back. 12.333.

Kim Bui (GER), FX: Split jump full. Lovely double layout. Tourjete full. Double tuck. A great piece of music for Kim, something the crowd can clap and bop along to. 2.5 to front pike, stuck. Double pike. Small bounces back on three of those passes, but whatever. A thoroughly enjoyable routine from start to finish. Fun fact: Kim Bui’s first Stuttgart World Cup was back in 2005.

Zsofia Kovacs (HUN), FX: Music is The Piano Guys’s “Michael Meets Mozart.” Hands down on double double tuck, but the audience recognizes it as a hard skill and applauds her. Full in to a Melnikova style landing. Same on double tuck to end. Well, it hasn’t been a horrible day for her, but she might have expected better of herself. She’s capable of better. 11.333.

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), FX: Arabian double front, stuck cold. Triple turn. Double tuck. Double turn with leg at head. Wonderful expression in this routine. She has the crowd positively hanging on her every move. 1.5 to front layout full, essentially stuck. Double full. Well, that was as well as she’s currently capable of doing that routine. Good for her! 13.2.

Hitomi Hatakeda (JPN), FX: Techno mix that gets the crowd clapping. Wolf turn double that she doesn’t complete, but that seems to be part of her choreography. Full in tuck, bounces out of bounds with both feet. Double turn with leg at head. 2.5 to punch front. Tourjete full. Double pike. 12.3. Hatakeda receives her score with a shrug.

Lorette Charpy (FRA), FX: Double turn with leg at head. Running double front tuck, stuck. Double tuck second pass, well landed. A very flowy, graceful exercise despite the wolf double turn snuck in before her double pike to finish. Great day for Lorette. 12.566.

Elisabeth Seitz (GER), FX: Another great music selection by the German team, this clappable, kind of 1920s swing piece that’s been infused with a little modern day techno. Also fun is how she draws a heart in the air before her first pass. Arabian double front, small hop forward. 1.5 to double tuck. Double pike. Everyone loves it. 13.2 moves her into the lead right now.

Ana Padurariu (CAN), FX: A rumba, I believe, and she pulls it off extremely well. Double pike. Tourjete half to switch ring. 2.5 to to punch front. Double full. Excellent finish! 13.2, and she takes the lead! Guaranteed second at least…

Simone Biles (USA), FX: Full twisting double layout, excellent. Comes very close to going OOB on her Biles, but just stays in. Front layout full walkout to full in. Finally does go OOB on her double double closing pass, but I think she can be forgiven. 14.9.

Rotation 3:

Carolyne Pedro (BRA), BB: Split leap mount. Switch to Tourjete. Split half. Bhs, layout (fall). Punch front (fall). Supportive applause from the crowd. Front aerial to split to bhs. Back tuck. Double tuck with a hop back. 9.866.

Zsofia Kovacs (HUN), BB: Switch mount to switch half. Wobble on side aerial. Split leap to front aerial. Bhs, layout. Double turn. Side somie. Double tuck, hop forward. She doesn’t look terribly pleased with that. 13.0.

Kim Bui (GER), BB: Roundoff, layout to two feet mount. Steps back but doesn’t come off. Bhs, layout, balance break where her leg comes up, but stays on. Switch to switch half, another step back. Crowd gasps with the suspense. Nice 540 degree jump. Side aerial. Gainer layout off the end, just under the buzzer, stuck. 11.8.

Hitomi Hatakeda (JPN), BB: Switch mount. Punch front. Front aerial, straddle, wolf jumps. Side somie. Switch. Switch half. Bhs, layout. Double pike, step forward. Sound routine. 12.9.

Lorette Charpy (FRA), BB: Roundoff, layout stepout mount, great. Bhs, layout, perfect. Wolf triple, nice! Charpy is on in this routine so far. Smooth side aerial. Switch, split, Korbut. The eponymous split half. Front aerial, split. And a stuck double pike dismount! Wow. 13.666 feels a little low.

Ana Padurariu (CAN), BB: Back dive mount, Triple wolf turn, excellent. Switch ring, tidy. Side aerial, layout, layout. Switch half. Front aerial, split, bhs. Switch to sheep jump. Double pike dismount with just a step. Excellent routine from the world silver medalist on this event. She sighs with relief as she takes a seat in the kiss and cry. 14.333.

Aliya Musatfina (RUS), BB: Switch half to Onodi and comes off. Bhs, layout. Double turn, small check. Split leap to side aerial, slight check. Front aerial, has to fight to save it. Switch to wolf, balance break. Double tuck, chest low, step forward. Well. 11.6.

Elisabeth Seitz (GER), BB: Punch front. Bhs, layout to two feet, solid. Side somie. Double turn not completed, has to step back and save it. Small wobble on side aerial. Front layout full dismount with a step. 12.466.

Simone Biles (USA), BB: Stands up too quickly midst wold turn full but doesn’t fall. Bhs, layout, layout, excellent. Switch to switch half to back pike, leg comes up but again, no fall. Side aerial. Split jump half. Front aerial, split jump, straddle jump. Bhs, bhs, full in tuck, solid. 14.2.

Rotation 2:

Kim Bui (GER), UB: Hop change to pike Jaeger to Pak. Maloney to Bhardwaj to toe Shaposh half, toe 1/1 to Hgienger. Full twisting double tuck, small hop back. Control and ease all the way through. 13.8.

Ana Padurariu (CAN), UB: Inbar blind to pike Jaeger. Inbar pike Tkatchev. Bail to stalder full. Ray. Full twisting double tuck with a step forward. 14.066.

Lorette Charpy (FRA), UB: Stalder Shaposh half, toe blind to pike Jaeger. Ricna to Pak. Toe Shaposh half. Toe full to full twisting double tuck, stuck. Bravo! 13.933. Lorette looks delighted, as she should.

Carolyne Pedro (BRA), UB: Shaposh to Pak, legs apart. Toe full. Maloney to bail to Ray. Blind to Jaeger. Toe half. Double tuck. Some form here and there, but she got through. 11.833.

Hitomi Hatakeda (JPN), UB: Inbar to inbar full to toe Shaposh half, inbar blind to pike Jaeger. Ricna. Bail to stalder to Ray. Full twisting double tuck, stuck! Well done. Hatakeda sure loves inbar elements. She was one who had problems in warmups today, but it certainly didn’t show in the competition. 13.566.

Zsofia Kovacs (HUN), UB: Stalder full to Maloney to stalder uprise to Ricna to Pak. Toe Shaposh half. Toe blind to pike Jaeger. Open double tuck dismount. You can tell where her Hungarian teammates are sitting because the rest of the arena is dead silent while she performs except for this little patch of voices screaming encouragement at her. 12.9.

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), UB: Stalder full to Maloney to Pak to toe Shaposh half. Stalder blind to pike Jaeger. Toe full to full twisting double tuck, stuck. My goodness! Sheer excellence. 14.2.

Elisabeth Seitz (GER), UB: Dead silence as she mounts. Maloney to stalder uprise RIcha. Hop to change to pike Jaeger. Stalder pike Tkatchev to Pak. Toe Shaposh half. Toe full to full twisting double tuck with a step back. 14.233.

Simone Biles (USA), UB: Wieler kip, half yurm tp Maloney to uprise Tkatchev. Toe full to pike Tkatchev to Pak. Toe Shaposh half (a bit of a fingertip catch, but she caught it) to immediate full twisting double tuck with a hop. Biles looks relieved, I think. 14.3.

Rotation 1:

Carolyne Pedro (BRA), VT: FTY, clean, small hop back. 13.733.

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), VT: DTY, amazing. Just a step back. Wow. Mustafina’s ability to do things when she needs to never ceases to boggle the mind. 14.4.

Hitomi Hatakeda (JPN), VT: Yurchenko 1.5, well done, small hop to the side. 13.933.

Elisabeth Seitz (GER), VT: Really nice DTY with a step back. Great lift on that, efficient twist. Camera shows Seitz’s vault in slo-mo, then pans to German head coach Ulla Koch in the background high-fiving someone as Seitz turns to salute the judges. 14.5.

Zsofia Kovacs (HUN), VT: DTY, just excellent in the air, but stumbles back on the landing and has to take two big steps backward to save it. But great in the air! 13.933.

Kim Bui (GER), VT: FTY, clean, hop back. 13.533.

Ana Padurariu (CAN), VT: FTY, small bounce more upwards than back. 13.533.

Simone Biles (USA), VT: Cheng, excellent, small bounce backward. 15.4.

Lorette Charpy (FRA), VT: FTY, hop backwards. 13.566.

Quick hits: Stuttgart World Cup, Women's Podium Training

Simone what.jpg

9:00 p.m.: One of the nicest things about gymnastics, I’ve always thought, is that there’s more than one way to be successful. Routines vary in style and skill selection, gymnasts vary in age and height and proclivity, and the sport and the code of points, especially in recent years, allows them to choose the things that work for them. Biles and Mustafina have completely different styles and training methods, yet both are lions of the sport, and every gymnast who chooses to compete at the elite level is a legend in her own time. The diversity, which was evident tonight, will be on display tomorrow, and it promises to be a memorable show.

8:55 p.m.: Mustafina and Hatakeda are the last ones in the gym, staying after everyone else has had their media moment. Mustafina does a dance through on floor: quad turn, great, double turn with leg at head, also great, and those very Ksenia Afanasyeva-like hand gestures in the corner before her third pass. (Yes, part of her music is a sleekly spun out cut of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.” Now she just needs to add in the tumbling and she’ll be good.

8:34 p.m.: Charpy bars: Stalder Shaposh half, toe blind to pike Jaeger. Ricna to Pak. Toe Shaposh half to high. Toe full to full twisting double tuck, slightly low landing, step forward.

Kovacs bars: Stalder full to Maloney. Stalder uprise to timer for Ricna, I’d say. Hatakeda on bars: Maloney and inbar blind to pike Jaeger.

8:28 p.m.: Nice Arabian double front on floor from Seitz! Over on beam, Mustafina is working. But it’s not easy, nor does she make it look so right now. Gymnastics is hard, guys.

8:23 p.m.: Biles on floor is working a full twisting double layout, the Biles, and full ins. At the moment, however, another conference with Landi at the edge of the floor before her dance through.

8:18 p.m.: Bui, beam: a roundoff, layout to two feet beam mount. Bhs, layout. Switch to switch half. Side aerial. Gainer layout off the end. Such clean work — far cleaner than earlier in her career, frankly. Not that she was ever messy in her skills, but there’s just kind of a gloss to her moves and choreo, a polish, a quality, that only seems to come with maturity. Thirty is the new 20 in women’s gymnastics.

For so many years, Mustafina’s flight series on beam was either questionable or, in the case of one memorable Olympic final, non-existent. But tonight she gets up and the first thing she does is a bhs, layout, perfect, like she’s been doing it all her life.

8:13 p.m.: Hitomi Hatakeda, floor: Sits wolf turn 2/1 and goes on like nothing happened. As one does. Full in tuck, low landing. 2.5 to punch front. Double pike?

Postscript: Bui just nailed a bhs, layout combo on beam.

Over on vault, Kovacs shows a nice DTY.

8:11 p.m.: Second full set for Biles on beam, with bhs, bhs to full in tuck dismount. One reason the Americans have been so successful for the past twenty years is that they are so prepared for every competition. Of everyone here, Biles is the only one who looks like she could get up at 3 a.m. and knock out her routines if she had to.

8:08 p.m.: Bui doesn’t like tumbling backwards on beam, I think, which explains why she trains bhs, jump into the air when in competition she’ll do a bhs, layout. She does do a killer 540 degree jump toward the end of the beam, however, which is a whole lot harder than she makes it look.

8:05 p.m.: Biles beam: Wolf turn 3/1. Bhs, layout, layout, wonderful. Switch to switch half to back pike, also extremely assured. Side aerial. Split jump half. Front aerial. Timer dismount. There are about 15 people around the beam watching her.

Yes, everyone thinks wolf turns should go away, but Biles’s is quite tolerable, especially when you consider that it’s a triple and you’ve spent the afternoon watching people fall on doubles.

On about her fourth try, Mustafina manages to do her Pak to toe Shaposh half. Victory!

8:00 p.m.: Mustafina is struggling with getting her feet on the bar and then shooting them up the way she’s going to have to after her Pak salto on bars if she wants to connect it to the toe Shaposh half back up to high.

7:56 p.m.: Second half of a bar routine for Biles is just about maintenance — making sure she sticks her full twisting double tuck, and that the toe Shaposh transition is under control. It’s all fine.

Zsofia Kovacs floor: The Piano Guys’s “Michael Meets Mozart.” Runs through her first pass, full in second pass.

Hatakeda beam: Lovely graceful movements. Bhs, layout series and a double pike dismount.

7:52 p.m.: Charpy on vault: Very clean FTYs. Over on floor, Hungary’s Zsofia Kovacs is doing some big tumbling — double layout, and also a double twisting double tuck. We haven’t heard much from her lately, but Kovacs had a great 2017, complete with the European all-around silver medal.

Biles’s second full routine on bars goes very well indeed. Full twisting double tuck dismount. In the grand tradition of Russians in training, Mustafina gets up, does a Maloney and jumps off the bars.

7:46 p.m.: Ana Padurariu, floor: Double pike. 2.5 to punch front, stuck. The tumbling is clean, but it’s the dance and the music that makes this routine so much fun.

Over on bars, Laurent Landi is watching Elisabeth Seitz with great interest as she does her routine. He does every element with her, inclining his head as he watches. Biles gets up and does a clean first half on bars, then misses her toe shoot after her Pak salto, kips off and misses the toe Shaposh half. Landi gives her a lecture, complete with big sweeping arm movements.

7:43 p.m.: Mustafina warming up on vault: Yurchenko with no flip and a series of Yurchenko layouts, each one higher than the last. Over on bars, Kim Bui looks just fantastic, perhaps the best she has on bars in her entire career, which has been rather successful on that event. She had the highest score at the American Cup two weeks ago on bars, of course.

7:39 p.m.: Lorette Charpy, floor: First pass is running double front tuck. Dances through the rest. A very pretty, classical piece, the same as she used in Doha last fall, I believe.

7:31 p.m.: Biles and Mustafina aren’t the only ones here, of course. Canadian star Ana Padurariu and Japan’s Hitomi Hatakeda are presently with them on vault (monster timers from Biles, followed by a casual DTY, while Hatakeda is training a Yurchenko 1.5.) Over on bars, meanwhile, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui are getting into the swing of things (I know, I know.)

7:26 p.m.: Love them or hate them, cast handstands are a healthy part of any gymnast’s workout. Supervised closely by coach Laurent Landi, Biles gets hers out of the way early. Mustafina, meanwhile, sits on the floor having a conference with coach Pavel Pavlov. Her own cast handstands will come later, no doubt.

7:17 p.m.: It is extremely rare that a competition ends and the first thing you feel is a happy flutter of anticipation. Then again, it’s also extremely rare that the queens of gymnastics, Simone Biles and Aliya Mustafina, are in the same building at the same time. So. Podium training for the women’s all-around final at the Stuttgart World Cup begins just as the women’s team final at the DTB Pokal ends, and a healthy number of spectators have stayed to watch. “OHMIGOD IT’S SIMONE BILES!” shrieks one little girl in the upper deck when she spots Biles, in a white turtleneck top and black leggings, casually stretching on the floor. Exactly.

Quick hits: DTB Pokal, Women's Team Final


Rotation 1:

Aleksandra Shchekoldina (RUS), VT: FTY, hop back.

Kristen Polderman (NED), FX: Whip to double tuck, small hop back. Full twist to double full twist. Interesting! Punch front to 1.5 twist, steps OOB. 12.366.

Celia Serber (FRA), FX: Full in tuck, stuck. Double pike, 0.3 step back. Entertaining choreography and fun Caribbean music. Punch front to double full, step forward and near fall. 12.833.

Angelina Melnikova (RUS), VT: DTY, hop back. Efficient twist. Not a fantastic block, but made it work thanks to the tight twist. 13.9.

Tisha Vollman (NED), FX: Cheerful folk music. Whip to full in tuck, nice. Double tuck. 1.5 to punch front. The Dutch are so great about telling stories with their choreo. Thoroughly entertaining. 13.333.

Flavia Saraiva (BRA), VT: DTY, very nice! Small step. Great technique on that -- legs totally together, no starfishing there. 14.066.

Aline Friess (FRA), FX: Sits down her opening front layout to double front. Which was a shame, as the rest of the routine was quite good. Roundoff, full in tuck. Roundoff, double tuck to end. A very intriguing newcomer for France! 11.966.

Eythora Thorsdottir (NED), FX: Music: It's fado! "Porto" by Dulce Pontes. Haunting and lovely. Triple turn. 3/1 to punch front, very good! Double tuck. Pulls around the 2.5 to punch front. Captivating as ever, she holds the house in the palm of her hand when she performs. 13.4.

Melanie de Jesus dos Santos (FRA), FX: Full twisting double layout, steps OOB. Open full in tuck, stuck. Nice! Same routine as 2018, but coming into her own as a performer -- her delivery is far sassier than last year. Front layout walkout to double tuck. Double pike.

Rebeca Andrade (BRA), vault: Fantastic DTY with just a step back. 14.8. One of the reasons Brazil beat Russia in the team qualification here is because Russia did FTYs and a DTY from Melnikova, whereas Brazil came in with three DTYs. The DTY difference -- it's a thing.

Flavia Saraiva (BRA), UB: Taktchev to Pak. Maloney to Tkatchev. Toe full. Blind to front giant to double front, step/hop forward. 13.266.

Rotation 2:

Angelina Melnikova (RUS), UB: Inbar full, inbar Shaposh to Pak. Toe Khorkina II. Inbar blind to pike Jaeger. Toe full to to good high full twisting double tuck with a hop.

Aline Friess (FRA), VT: Handspring layout front half. She's got power -- expect that to turn into a Rudi within a short time. 13.566.

Jade Barbosa (BRA), UB: Stalder Shaposh, Tkatchev. Ricna to Pak. Maloney to bail to Ray. Toe full. Blind to font giant. Double layout with flexed feet if you're picky.

Angelina Simakova (RUS), UB: Stalder, to Maloney to Gienger. Comes off on pike Jaeger. Toe full to Pak. Toe Khorkina II. Blind to double front, small hop/step.

Beautiful (and aggressive!) bar routine from Rebeca Andrade caps off his rotation. No coach standing anywhere near the bars, this is all on her own and so very confident. It's been awhile since we've seen a gymnast swing a routine with so much power! 14.566.

Ksenia Klimenko (RUS), UB: Stalder full to Khorkina II, toe blind to pike Jaeger to Pak. Peels off on her Maloney transition. Oh dear, it was all so nice before. Geinger. Blind to excellent double front half with a hop. 13.033.

Netherlands/France on Vault: A parade of FTYs, all really of good quality, landed with a variety of small hops. The exception was Kristen Polderman, who I believe showed a Tsuk full, and Aline Friess's pretty front layout half.

Rotation 3:

Tisha Volleman (NED), UB: Khorkina II transition, Jaeger. Bail to toe stalder, full twisting double tuck. 12.633.

Angelina Simakova (RUS), BB: Back dive mount. Switch ring, small wobble. Bhs, layout, layout, wobble. Front aerial. Ring jump, wobble. Switch (at 180?) and jumps. Side aerial. Double tuck with a step back. A nice routine, but a fair share of wobbles. 12.4.

Aline Friess (FRA), UB: Maloney to Pak, Khorkina II, toe stalder, full turn, blind to Jaeger. Hop change to double front, underrotated and sits. 12.166. She does not look amused.

Thais Fidelis (BRA), BB: Bhs, layout, layout, really well done. Switch to split half to straddle jump. Front aerial, split, bhs. Split ring leap. Side aerial. Punch front. Double pike with a step. Good routine. 12.733.

Eythora Thorsdottir (NED), UB: Shaposh to Pak. Maloney to bail to toe full to Ray. Blind to pike Jaeger. Full twisting double tuck in which the twist seemed to happen in slow motion, but she made it. 13.333.

Angelina Melnikova (RUS), BB: Punch front mount to split, straddle, nicely connected. Switch. Kotchetkova. Bhs, layout. Front aerial. Wolf turn 2/1. Split full. Double pike, small hop. Well controlled throughout, showing what Melnikova is capable of. 13.166.

Lea Marques (FRA), UB: Stalder blind to pike Jaeger. Crunchy Nabieva but doesn't fall. Does fall twice later in the routine, however. Double tuck dismount. Props to her for going for the difficulty, even if it didn't work out. 10.566.

Rebeca Andrade (BRA), BB: Bhs, layout, layout. Front aerial to split ring jump. Split half. Switch ring. Side aerial. Double pike. 13.433.

Sanna Veerman (NED), UB: Stalder Shaposh to Bhardwaj, Maloney to Pak to toe Shaposh half and comes off, just not enough swing to make it. Piked Jaeger. Toe full to full twisting double tuck with a small hop. 12.833.

Daria Belusova (RUS), BB: Roundoff, layout stepout mount. Bhs, layout. Switch. Onodi. Ring jump. Side aerial. Front aerial. Split jump to Korbut. Wolf turn. Bhs, bhs, double tuck. 12.466.

Claire Pontlevoy (FRA), UB: Inbar fall. Inbar Shaposh to Pak. Stalder Shaposh half. Inbar blind to pike Jaeger. Stalder half. Blind to double front, step back. 13.2.

Flavia Saraiva (BRA), BB: Roundoff, bhs, split jump, Korbut mount sequence. Roundoff, layout to two feet, great as ever. Bhs, layout, layout, comes off. (Aww! Even the music stops.) Switch ring. Front aerial to ring jump. Double pike, step forward. 13.033.

Rotation 4:

Claire Pontlevoy (FRA), BB: Front aerial. Side somie. Wolf turn. Bhs, bhs, layout. Side aerial. Switch to scissone. Double full dismount. Some great qualities in this young gymnast -- it will be exciting to watch her in the next few years.

Thais Fidelis (BRA), FX: 1.5 to double Arabian, lands both feet OOB, but a nice pass all the same. Open full in tuck. Dramatic symphony music, quite Russian. Double tuck. Double pike. "Huge drama here in the Porsche Arena!" cries the announcer. Very much so. 13.266.

Sanna Veerman (NED), BB: Front pike mount. Bhs, layout, wobble. Side aerial. Switch to jump full. Side somie. Switch 3/4. 1.5 twist dismount. 11.7.

Angelina Simakova (RUS), FX: 2.5 to front layout 1/1, very good. Full in tuck. Fun rather playful piece of piano music is a very good fit for her. Double pike. Double tuck.

Aline Friess (FRA), BB: Front pike, almost comes off but really went for it. Roundoff, layout to two feet, almost comes off again but saves it. Punch front. Switch to switch half and this time she really does fall. Off again on wolf 2/1. Double tuck.

Flavia Saraiva (BRA), FX: Her 2018 routine, with one big difference: First pass is roundoff, bhs, whip to double layout. Terrific. Full in tuck. 1.5 to front layout. The audience loves the music, clapping along. Double pike to end. 13.666. Flavia's blowing kisses!

Tisha Volleman (NED), BB: Roundoff, Arabian mount! Falls off, but awesome stuff. Front aerial to front somie. Illusion, inadvertently does an extra half turn out of it. Falls again on side aerial. Double turn. Full turn with leg up. Side somie. Double full.

Melanie de Jesus dos Santos (FRA), BB: Front pike. Front pike on the beam. Bhs, layout to two feet (fall). Split half. Switch half. Front aerial, split jump. Double tuck. 12.366.

Rebeca Andrade (BRA), FX: Full twisting double layout. Double layout. Powerful piece of music, called 'Battlefield" by Magic Sword. 2.5 to front layout 1/1. Double pike, step back. A very affecting routine. So much force. 14.133.

Eythora Thorsdottir (NED), BB: Off on roundoff, layout to two feet mount. Full turn with leg up to switch to full turn with leg at head, so pretty. Split leap to side aerial to Korbut. Wonderful sequence where she really seems to take on a character. Onodi, has to grab the beam, tries to turn it into a needle scale as a cover up, and then falls again. Triple full dismount.

Angelina Melnikova (RUS), FX: Full twisting double layout, truly a layout position. Double layout, just too low. Underrotated and stumbles around on the landing as a result. Double tuck, stuck. Double pike. Well. Certainly better than at the Russian Championships...14.066.

So, one takeaway from today is that the gymnasts whose performances really endure are the ones who bring something different, whether choice of skills (Dalaloyan) or supreme artistry (Thorsdottir). It's always been that way, I suppose, but feels somehow important to say now.

DTB Pokal Women's Team Challenge - Finals

1 - Brazil, 164.396
2 - Russia, 159.496
3 - Netherlands, 153.763
4 - France, 150.462

Preview: Big talents in Baku for Gymnastics World Cup

The National Gymnastics Arena in Baku. Photo: Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation.

The National Gymnastics Arena in Baku. Photo: Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation.

Buckle up, Baku -- things are about to get interesting.

The Azerbaijani capital has hosted world cups in artistic gymnastics for the past several years, but it’s never seen one like this. As the individual apparatus Olympic qualification race heats up, an enormously talented group of specialists (and a few solid all-arounders) are descending en masse for the AGF Trophy (otherwise known as the Baku World Cup), which begins tomorrow and promises to be the most competitive meet Azerbaijan has ever seen. The level is so high that there’s a delicious unpredictability in it all, which is not always the case at world cup meets. That said, here’s a breakdown some of the likeliest possible scenarios for gold and those all-important World Cup ranking points.

Women’s Vault: A colossus of talent

Vault is normally the most neglected event at individual apparatus World Cups, but not this time. Here you get the reigning Olympic silver medalist Maria Paseka, fresh off winning vault at the Russian Championships last week in Penza, where her Amanar second vault was the biggest “ta-da!” moment of the meet. There’s also reigning World bronze medalist Alexa Moreno and her ever trusty Rudi, 2017 European vault champion Coline Devillard and her ever trusty Rudi, Oksana Chusovitina and her arsenal of power, and Jade Carey, who may be the only finalist to actually throw a double twisting Yurchenko. Carey is in some circles regarded as a shoo-in for the World Cup title on vault, but in this field she’ll need to be near her best to win. Barring falls, all should make finals.

Indian sensation Dipa Karmarkar will be making her 2019 “no pressure” debut at this meet after a less-than-spectacular return last year following an ACL tear in 2017. Karmakar has abandoned her Produnova and now relies on a less risky Tsuk double full to get her into finals. She’s a wildcard category because her form often hinders her, and without the D-score power of the Produnova she’s less likely to challenge for the podium. On the home front, Azerbaijan’s best hope of a final lies with Marina Nekrasova, a former World Cup medalist on this event.

Uneven Bars: A mini-Euros, with China too

Bars is never an event you can count on a gymnast to hit, especially at a World Cup, but this field is too stacked not to produce some memorable routines. Between 2013 European bars medalist Jonna Adlerteg, Ukraine’s Diana Varinska, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Sophie Scheder and Russian specialist Anastasiya Ilyankova, we’re really spoiled for style. Lyu Jiaqi, whom China has been sending to do bars at world cups likely in the hope of getting her an Olympic spot, should be a medal contender here as well.

Balance Beam: Narrow margins

China has sent two extremely talented competitors in Li Qi and 2018 World team member Chen Yile, but both could have stiff competition from Russia’s Varvara Zubova and Youth Olympian Anastasiya Bachynska, who will be making her senior international debut in Baku. As a junior, Bachynaska proved to be a quintessential Ukrainian competitor -- elegant, poised and completely unpredictable. She does have a wonderful front handspring, front tuck combination at the top of her routine, however.

After a successful comeback on floor at the Melbourne World Cup at the end of February, Vanessa Ferrari is back on the beam here too. France’s Marine Boyer, a solid all-arounder who is quite good on beam, might have an opportunity here too.

Floor Exercise: It’s anyone’s game

Ferrari won floor in Melbourne in an extremely shallow field, and Baku is likely to be a little (but just a little) more indicative of where she stands internationally. Floor still feels like the most up-for-grabs title in the women’s competition. Carey will have far and away the hardest tumbling of the bunch, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee her anything. She had the hardest tumbling in Cottbus last November as well, but multiple passes landed out of bounds and some form mistakes left her in fifth place.

Bachynska, meanwhile, has wonderful form, excellent precision, and was quite overlooked in 2018 as a potential floor contender. Boyer could make noise here too, as might Australian floor specialist Alex Eade.