The first European Championships were held in Bucharest, Romania in 1957, 60 years later the competition returns to the country, this time to Cluj-Napoca.
ALL – AROUND
In the absence of defending European all-around champion Giulia Steingruber: the top 5 contenders for the title are: Elissa Downie (GBR), Angelina Melnikova (RUS), Larisa Iordache (ROU), Elena Eremina (RUS) and Tabea Alt (GER)
Elissa Downie is the top favourite given her strength on all events and an adequate level of consistency in her performances. She recently became the British all-around champion and was scheduled to compete at the London World Cup, an all-around competition, but had to withdraw due to a minor injury sustained at Nationals so Europeans will be her first international competition since the Olympics. If she were to win she would become Great Britain’s first ever European all-around champion.
For many Angelina Melnikova is the top favourite, however, the inconsistent performances she had at the Russian Nationals and the London World Cup make many question if she will be able to perform solidly on all four events in the most important night of the competition. Russia won three consecutive all-around titles in 2009, 2011 and 2013 then in 2015 Maria Kharenkova lost gold after a less than perfect bars routine and low difficulty (only a full twisting Yurchenko). Yet silver is the lowest Russia has placed since 2009 so Melnikova is expected for silver, at the very least.
And what many had hoped for, Romania to have a European all-around champion while competing at home. Larisa Iordache’s performances, twice bronze all-around world medalist, certainly made the European title look easy for her. Sadly injuries have plagued her so much that we have barely seen her compete in over a year. She was listed to make her comeback at the Stuttgart World Cup, an all-around competition, but withdrew with injury. At this point, it is hard to predict whether she has had enough training time to perfect the skills needed to win the title. But if she could win she would be Romania’s first European All-Around Champion since 1994.
The strong tradition of Russia in the all-around at Europeans makes likely a second contender could climb into the podium if Melnikova does not do well. While the second all-arounder for Russia has not been decided it is between Natalia Kapitonova and Elena Eremina and it is likely Eremina will be chosen as she was the Junior European all-around champion last year and has a little bit more difficulty with a 1.5 Yurchenko (against Kapitonova’s full twisting Yurchenko) and a Nabieva on bars that highly increases her potential bar score.
And the fifth and final contender is no other than the Champion of the last two All-Around World Cups: Tabea Alt. Two consecutive wins in competitions where Melnikova has also been present makes her a contender. A strong all-arounder she will have to work on her consistency since her wins weren’t without mistakes. She will need four perfect routines to reach the podium.
In a surprising move the Russian Federation has announced Olympic bronze medalist Maria Paseka as part of their European Team. Paseka who has been dealing with a back injury for a long time sought treatment after the Olympics and has just barely returned to training. It is unlikely she’ll present her Amanar so she will need two solid vaults to grasp the title. She was the 2015 European Champion on Vault.
Elissa Downie, last year’s European silver medalist on the apparatus will try to turn her silver into gold, if she were to win the title she would become Britain’s first ever European Vault Champion.
Zsofia Kovacs finished 7th at last year’s European Vault Final and most recently was fourth at the 2017 Doha World Cup. And while she has the difficulty to contend she still needs to work on her execution for a chance on the podium. Angelina Melnikova competed two vaults at the 2017 Jesolo competition where she won bronze on the apparatus making her a contender for the podium in Cluj-Napoca.
Others expected at the final, are: Slovenia’s Tjasa Kysselef and Teja Belak both frequent vault finalists and Belak recently won bronze at the Baku and Doha World Cups; Italy’s Sofia Busato who recently won silver at the Jesolo competition and Britain’s Claudia Fragapane who was fifth at last year’s European Vault final.
The Uneven Bars final will be one exciting event to watch. Defending European Champion Rebecca Downie is the top favorite while the Russians are always contenders. Which Russian will make the final depends on who performs better in qualifications however it will likely be Angelina Melnikova and Elena Eremina with Eremina having a higher chance for a medal if she manages to perform her Nabieva skill.
The Germans are also big contenders on the event with Kim Bui looking extraordinary at the 2017 American Cup where she had the highest score in the apparatus. Elisabeth Seitz who placed fourth at the Rio Olympic Final will also be expected.
Diana Varinska (UKR) and Ana Pérez (ESP) also have two very exciting routines. Varinska won gold at the 2017 Baku World Cup with a routine that made heads turn and Ana Pérez made jaw drops at the 2017 London World Cup after presenting a routine with four release skills. However, as amazing as their routines are, they are also very risky and the girls will need to deliver in qualifications to earn a spot in the final where we hope to see them shine. The same goes for Nina Derwael (BEL) who was a reserve for the Olympic Bars final and who has routine very much worthy of a European medal.
Competing at home, the absolute favorite is veteran Catalina Ponor and at the Baku and Doha World Cups she showed a routine that could easily give her a fifth title on the event; lets remember she won gold in 2004, 2005, 2006 & 2012.
Another heavy favorite will be Olympic Champion Sanne Wevers who showed early in the year, at the 2017 Melbourne World Cup that she still turns perfectly and wants to turn into her first European medal on the apparatus.
Last year’s silver medalist and fourth place at the Olympics, Marine Boyer will also want her place in the podium and she has a high chance since the routine she showed at the Jesolo competition was as strong as the one she had last year.
Veteran Vasiliki Millousi is chasing the beam medal that has always eluded her, and at the 2017 Baku World Cup she placed second behind Ponor, showing she too has a routine that could medal however she will need the consistency to make it happen.
Also, a favorite given past history is home-girl Larisa Iordache, who last won the title in 2013, but again it will all depend on how much training time her injuries have allowed her.
Germany is likely to have two finalists, Tabea Alt who is re-known for her beam series and Pauline Schafer a World Medallist on the event in 2015. Finally, Melnikova could make it into the final as well, if she only manages to stay on her acro-series during the qualification round. Melnikova placed 5th at last year’s European Beam Final.
While Catalina Ponor is a favorite on the event it will not be easy for her as the British have on Floor their strongest event and both Claudia Fragapane and Elissa Downie have been European medalists on this event. The top three should be among them.
With fewer chances of a medal but likely to be in the final are Russia’s Angelina Melnikova and Elena Eremina as well as Romania’s Larisa Iordache and Germany’s Tabea Alt.
And the audience and fans would most enjoy watching The Netherlands’ Eythora Thorsdottir and Tisha Volleman as their performances on the Floor Exercise in terms of choreography and interpretation are simply exquisite.