Angelina Melnikova

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.

Russian coaches: Mustafina declined Euros invitation

Aliya Mustafina. Photo: Elena Mikhailovna/

Aliya Mustafina. Photo: Elena Mikhailovna/

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.

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

Angelina Simakova crowned Russian all-around champion

New Russian women’s all-around champion Angelina Simakova. Photo: Elena Mikhailovna/

New Russian women’s all-around champion Angelina Simakova. Photo: Elena Mikhailovna/

Four months after making her World Championships debut on bars and beam, Angelina Simakova bested a host of experienced contenders for the Russian all-around title Thursday in Penza.

Despite a fall on vault during the early rounds of the second of two days of competition, the 16-year-old from Obninsk, southwest of Moscow, persevered to take her first senior Russian title ahead of Olympic medalists Angelina Melnikova and Aliya Mustafina.

Simakova kept pace with Mustafina on uneven bars (14.1) and presented a steady beam routine that included a beautiful switch ring and an impressive new back handspring, layout, layout series. On floor, she showed precise 2.5 to front layout full, double pike and double tuck tumbling passes, all with very secure landings.

2018 champion Melnikova, second after day one, maintained her position with steady routines on vault, uneven bars and balance beam, but came apart on floor exercise, crash-landing her first two tumbling passes. The 11.633 she received for the routine ate up the lead she had gained over Simakova and dropped her back to second overall.

Angelina Melnikova on floor.

Angelina Melnikova on floor.

Fan favorite Mustafina, readying to compete at next weekend’s Stuttgart World Cup, finished third and showed her usual brilliance on uneven bars, where she has won the last two Olympic gold medals, and steadiness on balance beam, as well as a brand new floor routine choreographed by 2012 Olympic teammate Ksenia Afanasyeva.

Fifteen-year-old Daria Belousova showed very correct technique and positions in an impressive first year senior showing, finishing fourth ahead of 2006 European junior champion and 2008 Olympic team alternate Daria Elizarova, who at 28 was as nimble as ever as she tumbled a triple full to punch front and 2.5 to front layout full on floor.

2018 Youth Olympian Ksenia Klimenko showed wonderful lines and polish in all her exercises but vaulted only a Yurchenko layout to finish sixth, while three-time world team member Tatiana Nabieva, 24, was seventh.

Russian Championships - Women’s All-around final

1. Angelina Simakova, 107.897
2. Angelina Melnikova, 107.463
3. Aliya Mustafina, 107.398
4. Daria Belousova, 106.164
5. Daria Elizarova, 105.963
6. Ksenia Klimenko, 105.831

Aliya Mustafina on beam.

Aliya Mustafina on beam.

Quick hits: 2019 Russian Championships, Women's AA final

Aliya Mustafina. Photo: Elena Mikhailovna/

Aliya Mustafina. Photo: Elena Mikhailovna/

Rotation 1:

Daria Elizarova, vault: Beautiful stuck handspring front pike half from the 2006 European Junior Champion! Not particularly difficult but gorgeously done.

Ksenia Klimenko, vault: Has trouble coming onto the horse (way too high on the table), does only a Yurchenko layout. Had the same trouble at last summer's Youth Olympic Games, if memory serves...

Ksenia Kamkova, beam: Humphrey turn, double wolf turn. Front aerial to split to double stag ring, lovely. Side aerial to layout, wobble. Ring jump. Tourjete half. Side somie. Double twist.

Natalia Kapitanova, bars: Stalder 1/1 to Shaposh to Pak (legs apart), stalder to Khorkina II, Tkatchev, toe blind, front giant, toe full to double pike.

Anastasia Ilyankova, bars: Fantastic set Downie? to Pak, Toe Tkatchev half to Ezhova, but full twisting double tuck with a huge step to the side and off the mat.

Angelina Melnkiva, bars: Stalder full to Maloney to Park to toe Khorkina II, inbar blind to pike Jaeger, half turn to toe full to full twisting double tuck. Well done! Gelya all smiles afterward.

Rotation 2:

Elena Eremina, floor: Full in? Lovely presentation. 1.5 to front pike. Double turn with leg at head, a little rough at the end.

Aliya Mustafina, bars: Her regular royal routine. Such wonderful technique. A little tiny bit off on the toe full before her dismount if you want to be really picky, but not a big deal. Sticks her full twisting double tuck today. 14.1.

Daria Belousova, bars: Nabieva to begin, nice. Pak. Toe Khorkina II. Toe blind to pike Jaeger. Full turn to stuck full twisting double tuck. Determined routine, and very good handstands.

Sidenote: A furrow-eyebrowed Belousova is a sight! Meanwhile Melnikova still hasn't stopped smiling.

Daria Elizarova, bars: Stalder to toe shoot to high. Pike Jaeger. Toe full to Tkatchev. Pak. Toe half to toe shoot. Nice Arabian dismount. Elizarova, who went to compete for UZB for awhile, is one of those "in any other country in the world, she'd be at Worlds" gymnasts. Sigh.

Ksenina Klimenko, bars: Wonderful lines for this event. Stalder full to Khorkina II. Pike Jaeger to Pak. Maloney and a double front half out! Gorgeous routine. 14.1.

Angelina Simakova, bars: Inbar Gienge. Blind to Pike Jaeger. Toe full to Pak. Toe Khorkina II. Blind to double front, stuck. 14.1 as well. Popular score on bars today...

Tatiana Nabieva, beam: Punch front, big wobble. Switch, split half. Roundoff, layout to two feet, well done. Full turn with leg at head. Side aerial. As always, doesn't truly connect with her choreo but we love her anyway. Double full with a step back.

Rotation 3:

Aliya Mustafina, beam: Switch half, wobble. Onodi to ring jump, smaller wobble. Bhs, layout, very nice! Double turn, saves it. Switch to side aerial. Front aerial to split to double stag. Double tuck, close to stuck, small hop forward. Well done overall.

Daria Belusova, beam: Roundoff, layout stepout mount. Bhs, layout. Almost comes off on a switch leap. Onodi, pause, ring jump. Side aerial. Pretty leaps. Front aerial, split, Korbut. Messes up her double wolf turn but stays on. Two bhs to double tuck with a step.

After an age in which Mustafina dons a pair of red bedroom slippers and takes a lap around the arena, we have her beam score: 12.533.

Have to hand it to the judges at this Russian Championships: They don't seem to be engaging in score inflation here. A 12.533 is being scored at 12.533. Belusova earns...12.533.

Daria Elizarova, beam: Punch front, solid. Front aerial, bhs. Switch, wolf full. Side aerial. Side somie. Split half, the sole nod to this current code. Nice double tuck. Elizarova comes from a world where wolf turns on beam aren't a thing, and it's wonderful. 13.366.

Ksenia Klimenko, beam: Wolf turn. Swtich, scissone. Wonderful balletic Russian presentation. Side aerial, bhs. Side somie. Front aerial to ring jump. Front handspring, punch front. Beautiful switch ring. Front layout full dismount. Gorgeous through and through. 13.333.

Angelina Simakova, beam: Switch ring, excellent. Bhs, layout, layout, very nice! Frotn aerial, little wobble, ring jump. Switch to split jump. Side aerial. Side somie. Double tuck with a step back. 13.466.

Angelina Melnikova, beam: Punch front mount, a smidge unbalanced. Switch leap. Kotchetkova, wobble. Bhs, layout, small step back. Front aerial to ring jump. Building confidence as it goes on. Wolf turn double. Side somie. Split full. Nice lift on double pike, small hop.

Standings going into the final rotation: Melnikova in front, followed by Mustafina, Simakova and Belousova.

Rotation 4:

Daria Belousova, floor: 2.5 to punch front. Triple full, chest low on landing. Sounds like she's using a cut of Jaycie Phelps's 1996 music. Bounces out of double pike. Double tuck. Walks gingerly off the podium and looks miserable -- something must be hurting. 12.966.

Daria Elizarova, floor: Triple full to punch front. Both feet OOB on landing, but still so cool. 2.5 to front layout full, magically gets it around. Double pike. Very efficient work. Finishes with a smile. The Russian commentators like it a lot.

Ksenia Klimenko, floor: 2.5 to punch front. Jazzy piano music. Double turn with leg at head. Double tuck, step back. Switch half. 1.5 to front layout full. Switch ring. Tourjete half. Double pike to end. And a wolf turn to cap things off. 13.0.

Angelina Simakova, floor: 2.5 to front layout full. Full in. Double pike. Double tuck. Not going to lose more than 0.1 on any of those landings, very precise. Nice routine. 13.566.

Angelina Melnikova, floor: Oops, not her music. Oops, still not her music. Melnikova is hesitating between faithfully holding her opening pose for the next five minutes and walking off the floor. Ah! Here we go. Double turns in combo. Falls on 1/1 double layout. Not enough height. And again on double layout! Nearly loses it again on double tuck. A decent landing on double pike, finally, but aie.

Aliya Mustafina, floor: Arabian double front, awkward landing but not horrible. Bounces out of high double tuck. Mustafina turn, a little underrotated. 1.5 to front layout full. Double twist (legs). Not perfect but she got through it. Meanwhile, 11.633 for Melnikova.

Final standings:

1. Angelina Simakova, 107.897
2. Angelina Melnikova, 107.463
3. Aliya Mustafina, 107.398
4. Daria Belousova, 106.164
5. Daria Elizarova, 105.963