Giorgia Villa

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.

Americans, Russian juniors impress at Jesolo Trophy

U.S. >seniors Gabby Perea, Emma Malabuyo, Sunisa Lee and Shilese Jones took the team title at the annual Jesolo Trophy Saturday in Italy, while Russia edged the Americans in the junior category.

U.S. >seniors Gabby Perea, Emma Malabuyo, Sunisa Lee and Shilese Jones took the team title at the annual Jesolo Trophy Saturday in Italy, while Russia edged the Americans in the junior category.

Rising U.S. talents Sunisa Lee and Konnor McClain led the Americans to 16 medals at the annual Jesolo Trophy this past weekend in Jesolo, Italy.

Lee, who turns 16 on March 9, teamed with Shilese Jones, Emma Mulabayo and Gabby Perea in compiling 166.798 points, helping the Americans take the team title over China (Liu Jingxing, Liu Tingting, Qi Qi and Tang Xijing, 165.201). Bolstered by a double-twisting Yurchenko vault and high-difficulty routines on all apparatus, Lee overcame a fall on a Humphrey turn on balance beam to take the all-around title over 2018 world beam champion Liu Tingting, 56.466 and 55.901.

A sharp Italian senior team featuring Olympic hopefuls Asia D’Amato, Alice D’Amato, Desiree Carofiglio and Elisa Iorio finished third. Italy was without the services of 2018 Youth Olympic all-around champion Giorgia Villa, who withdrew after injuring a finger during the warmup and was replaced by Alice D’Amato.

Lee’s sunny senior debut continued in event finals, where she won uneven bars with a sizzling set (calm stalder blind to pike Jaeger, Nabieva to Pak to Maloney to Gienger, toe stalder full to full-twisting double tuck, 14.45) and floor exercise (double double tuck, double layout, 1.5 to front layout full, double tuck, 14.2) and added bronze on balance beam (two back handsprings to layout and side aerial to two layout stepouts and double tuck dismount, 14.15).

Liu, crowned world champion on beam last fall, showed her trademark consistency and polish in winning the team title. Malabuyo, who missed the second half of the 2018 season with a back injury, showed polish and resolve in her first international of the year, taking bronze in the all-around and silvers on beam (Humphrey turn to wolf double turn, back handspring, layout, punch front, standing Arabian, double pike, 14.4) and floor (double layout, Arabian double front to single stag, full twisting double tuck, double pike, 14.1).

China, long a nation of uneven bars/balance beam gymnasts, arrived in Italy looking stronger on floor than in previous years. They broke into the medals on every event, with Liu golden on beam (front handspring to front tuck, split leap to side aerial to split jump, double twist dismount, 14.8), Tang winning silver on bars (Maloney to Pak, pike Jaeger, double layout, 14.35) and Qi Qi in bronze on floor (13.55).

A superb Russian team composed of Olga Astafyeva, Elena Gerasimova, Viktoriia Listunova and Vladislava Urazova upset the U.S. (Ciena Alipio, Sophia Butler, Konnor McClain and Kayla Di Cello) for the junior team title, drawing praise from every quarter for their difficulty, originality and the pureness of their technique.

But there was no stopping the talented McClain, who scored 56.167 to take the all-around title, a score that would have put the 14-year-old second among the seniors. Among the highlights: an excellent double-twisting Yurchenko vault, two back handsprings to layout on balance beam and beautiful double layout on floor. Born February 1, 2005, McClain is too young to compete at the 2020 Olympic Games, but her Jesolo performance marks her out as a potential 2024 hopeful.

Urazova and Gerasimova, the silver and bronze medalists in the all-around, continued their success in event finals, each adding two medals. Listunova, whose long lines and precise landings are reminiscent of a young Viktoria Komova’s, avenged her fourth place all-around finish with the titles on beam and floor.

Trofeo di Jesolo - Seniors

Team:

1. USA, 166.798
2. China, 165.201
3. Italy, 161.33

All-around

1. Sunisa Lee, USA, 56.466
2. Liu Tingting, CHN, 55.901
3. Emma Malabuyo, USA, 55.899

Vault

1. Asia D’Amato, ITA, 14.2
2. Desiree Carofiglio, ITA, 13.25

Uneven Bars

1. Sunisa Lee, USA, 14.45
2. Tang Xijing, CHN, 14.35
3. Elisa Iorio, ITA, 14.3

Balance Beam

1. Liu Tingting, CHN, 14.8
2. Emma Malabuyo, USA, 14.4
3. Sunisa Lee, USA, 14.15

Floor Exercise

1. Sunisa Lee, USA, 14.2
2. Emma Malabuyo, USA, 14.1
3. Qi Qi, CHN, 13.55

Trofeo di Jesolo - Juniors

Team

1. Russia, 165.234
2. USA, 163.899
3. Belgium, 152.734

All-around

1. Konnor McClain, USA, 56.167
2. Vladislava Urazova, RUS, 55.2
3. Elena Gerasimova, RUS, 55.0

Vault

1. Konnor McClain, USA, 14.425
2. Viktoriia Listunova, RUS, 14.1
3. Ciena Alipio, USA, 14.05

Uneven Bars

1. Vladislava Urazova, RUS, 14.3
2. Elena Gerasimova, RUS, 13.75
3. Konnor McClain, USA, 13.7

Balance Beam

1. Viktoriia Listunova, RUS, 13.85
2. Ciena Alipio, USA, 13.7
3. Elena Gerasimova, RUS, 13.7

Floor Exercise

1. Viktoriia Listunova, RUS, 14.3
2. Vladislava Urazova, RUS, 13.9
3. Konnor McClain, USA, 13.35