After the Russian Championships, Aliya Mustafina did not make the European Team, however after her win at the Birmingham World Cup she was added to the team relegating Angelina Simakova to the alternate spot but Mustafina ended up declining which meant Simakova was back on. How did she do?
Well, Floor was an issue on both the qualification round and all-around final although she did manage to finish 9th all-around. The highlight was her beam on both days. During the qualification round she ended up first reserve to the apparatus final and her all-around beam score was the third best of the night. So despite her participation’s rough moments the fact that she can perform on beam, the one place where the team really struggles, keeps her in the mix for future assignments.
Angelina Melnikova did wonderfully on the first day to advance to the all-around, vault, bars and Floor finals. She did so well that she qualified first to the all-around final however other top contenders had made mistakes so her chances of keeping that placement were somewhat slim. However with Melnikova the first goal is consistency if she managed to hit four routines without falling it would be a victory no matter the placement.
Vault and bars are safe, but the big question mark is always beam and she made it through although just barely, her wolf turn went wrong after the first spin and she had to stand it up to save it. Her 12.900 was enough to keep her in the top three although it was clear that gold was now out of reach since she was approximately 0.400 behind the top two contenders who were equally strong on Floor as her.
However, she was also comfortably third by a 0.766 margin so with a solid Floor she had a secured bronze but could she get through four tumbling passes without falling or going out of bounds, well, in a good surprise she did. Her 13.533 was the second best score of the night in the apparatus. With her all-around medal, Melnikova now owns European medals on every single piece of apparatus except for beam.
The next couple of days were filled with event finals for Melnikova. On vault she was fifth, but that was expected since her usual form on vault is just average and she always lands with a hop and unlike Paseka she doesn’t have the huge difficulty.
Bars was where a window was open for her, with many big names absent from the final a good routine could give her another medal, she has a bronze form last year. Happily, once again she delivered, particularly on the inbar full to Maloney to Pak to van Leeuwen that she didn’t get during the all-around final. In fact her bars all-around routine was a bit weak and if she had performed like that in the final she would not have medalled. We applaud that she went for the big bars routine and got it right when it mattered the most, during the uneven bars final, to take the silver medal.
After three days in a row of competition it was a big question mark whether she would have enough energy to perform on Floor. Her opening pass the full twisting double layout went out of bounds incurring in a 0.3 neutral deduction, her double layout and double tuck also had issues on landing, incredibly her last pass the double pike was the best despite being visibly exhausted and out of breath. Her closer competitors, those who could have pushed her from the podium, also had less than stellar routines and Angelina had the highest difficulty of all so she managed to clinch bronze.
Beyond the medal, we must applaud Melnikova because despite the early mistake of the out of bounds she didn’t give up and fought exhaustion to almost stick her last pass. She desperately needed to get that landing right; her medal came by a 0.100 difference so indulging in a large step would have been enough to push her fourth.
As for the other two Russians competing in the event finals, Anastasia Iliankova did her job beautifully with her Shang, Tweddle to Ezhova and Chow to Pak to van Leeuwen. She was brought exclusively for this apparatus and she won gold with the highest difficulty value and the second highest execution. However with a team full with stellar uneven bars worker we hope to see her progress on beam in the course of the year so she can have a solid chance at the World team.
Maria Paseka is relying solely on her difficulty to get medals and at this competition it worked, she won gold on vault, however it won’t work at a World stage if she continues to compete the Cheng like that. Huge leg separation, wild landing and out of bounds, and this was improvement from qualifications where she crashed it.
That has always been her Cheng, it is not because she spent last year injured and is still recuperating, before her back surgery the vault was as bad as it is now. Maria, has simply not mastered it, but we know she can. She couldn’t really perform the Amanar solidly until three years after she began training it, in 2015, and at this competition she stuck it. So we know she can be better but that improvement hast to come fast, the Olympics are just a little over a year away.
In summary, the Russian team did extremely well, Aliya could not have added anything extra if she had attended. She is still working to get her beam and floor back to full difficulty and the all-around was tight with little room for error or low difficulty, the same goes for bars where her D-value is not as high in comparison to other top contenders.
In her place Simakova got a chance to prove her beam, yes she did poorly on Floor and has never been a strong bars worker, but being able to perform on beam is extremely valuable and she did it in a high pressure environment.
The specialists did their job, Iliankova ten times better than Paseka, since she was clearly the best in the bars final, however for her to get future assignments she will need to be able to contribute somewhere else. Something that Paseka doesn’t necessarily have to do, her Amanar is extremely solid and it would be very useful in a team competition so she would be taken for the Amanar only but still, she has to get that awful Cheng fixed.
The star, Angelina Melnikova, advanced one step from last year, since at this European Championships she had enough endurance to actually fight for her Floor routine in the final and by doing so she grasped every medal that she was expected to take, vault was not on that list. Better yet, she did not count a single fall, making her reliable and a leader for the younger gymnasts. This is the Angelina we hope to see for the rest of the year and particularly at the World Championships.