Thursday 11 July 2013


2013 Universiade Apparatus Finals

Yesterday saw the final day of competition for the gymnasts in the 2013 Summer Universiade. After three days of competition, a full day of Apparatus Finals was scheduled to round off the competition. This was always going to be a tough day as most of the gymnasts had been competing all week and many had multiple finals throughout the day. 

Vault Final
Things were looking pretty good for Russia here as Maria Paseka (Olympic Bronze medallist on Vault) had qualified to the final in first place. She did not disappoint, opening with perhaps the cleanest Amanar we have ever seen her perform. Another good vault set a benchmark for the rest of the field that would be difficult to pass - or so we thought. Who would have believed that team mate Kseniia Afanaseva would suddenly produce not just an Amanar but a beautiful one, combined with an equally impressive second vault? The Russian crowd were thrilled and so was she - taking the lead and putting Russia in 1st and 2nd. The party was almost spoiled by DPR Korea's Hong Un Jong who performed two spectacurlarly difficult vaults very nicely. Her difficulty was the key and she managed to take joint first with Kseniia Afanaseva, with Maria Paseka taking the Silver.

Uneven Bars Final
Russian expectation of Gold were supremely high on this apparatus and justifiably so. Aliya Mustafina's score had been creeping increasingly higher all week and it seemed that the top spot could only be hers to lose. The first gymnast up, she once again performed a beautiful routine to score a massive 15.200. From there it was merely a case of who could come close enough to take Silver and Bronze. In the end it was yet another 1-2 for Russia with Tatiana Nabieva showing a lovely routine to clinch the Silver. Germany's Lisa Hill completed the podium with her well executed routine.

Beam Final
With Anna Dementyeva and Aliya Mustafina posting the top two beam scores in qualification, Russia were hoping to continue the Gold rush, having claimed every Gold medal in the women's competition so far. I must say I was rooting for Anna Dementyeva. It has been a while since we have seen her compete and I really love her style. She was the first one to perform, but unfortunately came to grief on her round off-layout. The rest of her routine was lovely, but the fall saw her end up down in 5th. Aliya Mustafina improved on her performance in the All Around, managing to stay on the beam, but there were wobbles. She took the lead, but her score was definitely beatable. Elsabeth Black of Canada performed a great routine and slotted in just behind Aliya. With only a couple of gymnasts left to go, another Russian Gold was looking possible. Yelinzi Zhang of China had other ideas though. She performed a spectacularly difficult routine to snatch the Gold away from Russia with a massive score of 15.150. Aliya Mustafina had to settle for the Silver and Ellie Black took the Bronze.

Floor Final
With Kseniia Afanaseva's beautiful floor work, surely this could only be another Gold medal for Russia? She was first up, but could not match the precise tumbling of earlier in the week, landing her first pass completely out of the area and taking another step out of bounds later in the routine. Her exquisite dance work and supreme difficulty still saw her post a good 14.350 though. Aliya Mustafina was trying for another medal on floor, but this proved to be a step too far for her. She looked unsteady throughout and then put her hands down on her final tumbling pass. Elsabeth Black continued her medal streak, performing a lovely routine to take the Silver medal. Elsa Garcia of Mexico, who had impressed so much in qualifying, had withdrawn from two of her three event finals to focus solely on the floor. This proved to be a good move as she gave a brilliant performance to take the final place on the podium, meaning that Kseniia Afanaseva had indeed done enough to take the Gold. GB's Danusia Francis also gave a great performance with her usual delightful mix of good tumbling and stylish dance work. She finished in 6th place.

For me, the star of the day was undoubtedly Russia's Kseniia Afanaseva. Not only did she continue to impress me with her gorgeous floor work, her vaults had me taken aback. She looked and performed like a champion today. I was also delighted to see Elsabeth Black do well, she has a lovely style and is delightful to watch. It was also nice to see Elsa Garcia back on form and taking a much deserved medal. And of course Danusia Francis, who I always love to watch on floor, and she certainly did not disappoint with her stunning floor routine.

Tuesday 9 July 2013


2013 Universiade All Around Final

Today saw the All Around Final of the Universiade, with the Russians hoping to repeat qualifying and end the day in 1st and 2nd. Aliya Mustafina posted the highest qualifying score, followed by Kseniia Afanaseva and both were looking for the top of the podium. Also fighting for the medals were Elsa Garcia (Mexico), Elsabeth Black (Canada), Yu Minobe (Japan) and Kim Bui (Germany) who qualified 3rd-6th respectively.

In the end it was, as expected, the two Russians who took the top two spots. Aliya Mustafina took the title from Kseniia Afanaseva by over a point, despite a fall on beam. Her excellent work, other than this uncharacteristic fall, and her fantastic bars routine (which scored 15.200), was enough to keep her in the lead with an overall total of 57.900. Kseniia also produced some beautiful work to take the Silver, including a stunning floor routine which scored a massive 15.000.

It was Germany's Kim Bui who managed to keep herself together and take the final podium position with steady routines and good scores throughout. Her team mate, Lisa Hill, improved greatly on her qualifying score to finish the day in 5th place.

Things did not go so well for everyone though. Yu Minobe had problems on her vault, putting her hand down on landing and ended the competition down in 9th. For Elsa Garcia there were problems on bars and on floor. She fell on bars on her jaeger and after two almost perfect tumbles on floor, she almost sat down on her third pass and fell out of her double Arabian, her final tumble. This meant a 7th place finish, so disappointing after qualifying up in third. Elsabeth Black managed to take 4th place, just missing the final podium spot, despite putting her hands down on her second tumbling pass on floor. It was such a shame as she had had a brilliant competition right up to her final piece and the rest of her floor work was beautiful.

Making a great improvement on her qualifying score was GB's Hannah Whelan, who upped her position from 9th highest qualifier to a 6th place finish today. She posted steady scores on bars and floor, despite a couple of errors, including two out of bounds on her floor exercise. Her vault, just a full twisting Yurchenko, was beautifully executed and her beam (which I am so upset we didn't get to see) scored a massive 14.100. Overall it was a good day for Hannah and shows that we can expect much from her in the coming months.

For me, the highlights of the day were Kseniia Afanaseva's floor routine and Aliya Mustafina's bars. These two girls really were worthy of the top spots and showed exactly why they are at the forefront of Russian gymnastics.

Sunday 7 July 2013


2013 Summer Universiade

Today saw the start of the women's gymnastics competition in Kazan, Russia, as part of the 2013 Universiade. Often known as the World University Games or the World Student Games, the Universiade is a competition for all athletes studying at university.

65 gymnasts, representing 25 countries, started their bid for student glory today with the Team Final and qualification for the All Around and Apparatus Finals. There were many big names in the Kazan Arena, including several Olympians: Aliya Mustafina, Kseniia Afanaseva, Maria Paseka, Hannah Whelan, Elsabeth Black, Kim Bui, Yu Minobe and Elsa Garcia were among the familiar names from London 2012.

The Russians always looked set to dominate in front of their home crowd with their whole team of five gymnasts all having at least one European, World or Olympic medal each. They did not disappoint, winning the Team Final in some style with a lead of over 10 points. Aliya Mustafina topped the qualification for the All Around as well as qualifying to the Bars, Beam and Floor Finals. Each of the Russian team qualified to at least one final and between them they top all of the qualification results. I particularly enjoyed seeing Anna Dementyeva competing again, a gymnast I thoroughly enjoyed watching at the 2010 Europeans and who performed beautifully today, especially on beam where she tops the qualifications.

The Japanese team took Silver in the Team competition with clean and elegant routines, and the German team powered their way into third place. Yu Minobe was particularly impressive for Japan: with the 6th highest All Around score of the day she easily qualified for the All Around as well as the Bars, Beam and Floor finals. For Germany, Kim Bui, Lisa Katharina Hill and Pia Tolle all worked exceptionally well and all qualified to at least one Final.

The British team finished the day in 6th place with some solid performances from all four members of the team. Rebecca Hall followed up a good British Championships with three steady routines today on vault, beam and floor, having recovered from shoulder injury. Charlotte Lindsley gave four solid performances to earn her a place in the All Around Final where she will join team mate Hannah Whelan, who qualified in 9th place. UCLA student Danusia Francis proved that her year of NCAA gymnastics in America has served her well by qualifying in 3rd place for the floor final.

Other notable gymnasts today were Elsabeth Black of Canada and Elsa Garcia of Mexico. Both of these Olympians gave some great performances today to qualify for various finals. Elsabeth Black qualified in 4th place for the All Around Final as well as making the Vault, Beam and Floor Finals. Elsa Garcia qualified to the All Around in third and qualified to the Vault, Bars and Floor Final.

With so many big names to look out for, the next few days of competition look set to be very exciting. The All Around Final will take place on Tuesday 9th July (3pm Russian time, 12pm BST) and the Apparatus Finals on Wednesday 10th July (3.30pm Russian time, 12.30 pm BST). A live stream was available for some of the qualifying competition today and hopefully some of the finals will also be shown live on Live FSU.