The Voronin Cup, held in Russia, is quite literally the last competition of the year. While technically an international competition the reality is that it is mostly the Russians with a few gymnasts competing from neighbouring countries. In summary, it is like if you saw the fomer Soviet Republics compete against each other, but since none of them are even close to what Russia can deliver, it is really always the home gymnasts in the spotlight.
However, this year it was different, this year it really was an international competition with gymnasts from China and South Korea competing along with an American, Alyona Shchennikova. Her surname says it all, she’s of Russian descent. She was born in the United States but her parents are Russian.
While Alyona is on the U.S. National Team given the United States depth her only international appearances have been Jesolo. This is basically the second country where she represents the United States internationally.
She did superbly, she won the competition with a 53.825 nearly two points ahead of South Korea’s Yeo Seojeong who had a 51.950. Hanna Traukova from Belarus was third with a 51.650, excellent news for a country that is struggling just to field a full senior team for major meets.
The highest ranked Russian was Varvara Zubova in 6th. She has lovely routines but major inconsistency issues that have her in Russia’s B-team and sadly her 50.750 means nothing will change. The same for Natalia Kapitonova and Daria Elizarova who were 8th and 9th respectively.
The other highlight of the senior competition was Maria Kharenkova. At the end of 2017 Maria was finally healthy and received one international assignment (Cottbus 2017) but that was it, the end of the year came with injury and in all 2018 she could not recuperate to be in consideration for any major team. But there is hope; she scored strongly on beam and Floor, and her new floor choreography really suits her. She scored a 13.100 on FX on the first day.
As for the event finals, Yeo Seojeong took the vault title, an expected result since she is the current Asian Games Vault Champion. On bars, Alyona Shchennikova posted an impressive 14.725 to take the gold. It would have been interesting if another bars specialist from Russia had been in the final because even though Kapitonova and Zubova placed 3rd and 4th they are not Russia’s strongest bars workers.
In the beam final, it was Maria Kharenkova for gold (13.175), she has a fighting chance for 2019, with Alyona (13.025) right behind her by the slightest of margins. Watch the beam final: Alyona is the first gymnast up followed by Maria Kharenkova
The Floor title went to Natalia Kapitonova with a strong 13.075 and in contrast, Alyona Shchennikova did not medal. She was fourth with only a 12.775. Fifth behind her was Maria Kharenkova with a 12.725, she had a fall.
As for the junior competition, Vladislava Urazova won the all-around to impress just like she did at last year’s Voronin Cup. Vladislava was part of the junior Russian team that won silver at the Junior Europeans. She will spend 2019 as a junior but we will be anxiously awaiting her senior debut in 2020.
While Vladislava won the vault title she was second on bars to Lee Yun-Seo who we saw compete at the Youth Olympic Games with superb form in her bars routine, great news for South Korea. As for beam and floor, gold and silver were for Russia through Vladislava Urazova and Elena Gerasimova, they won with impressive marks.
Elena Gerasimova’s beam routine was so solid that the Russian coaches would give anything to have her turn senior in 2019. She scored a massive 14.625, no senior Russian gymnast at the Doha World Championships scored that high. And just the same for Vladislava on Floor, her score of 13.675 was higher than what the senior gymnasts scored in Doha.
A real pity we have to wait another year to watch them in the senior ranks but if it is any consolation we will have the Junior World Championships next year in Gyor, Hungary and, hopefully, both of them will be there.