Jade Barbosa Vault 2011 Ghent World Cup
Gold medal with a 14.437 (5.8, 8.85 and 5.6, 8.725)
So great to see this gymnast back and looking better than she has in the last couple of years. She may not be the world medal contender she was back in 2007, but this Brazilian team has three very experienced veterans all looking in pretty good shape for these world championships – Barbosa, Daiane dos Santos, and Daniele Hypolito. A spot in the vault finals in Tokyo is certainly within Jade’s grasp.
Viktoria Komova Bars 2011 Ghent World Cup
Gold medal with a 15.65 (6.7, 8.95)
I think I liked her old routine better with the Tcatchev connected to the Pak salto. This routine includes some rather anticlimactic release moves that look like they should be connected to additional skills, and in my opinion constructing a routine with a half turn like that at the end is a big no-no. Every skill in a truly world class routine should have its proper place, and that half turn looks simply awkward and more like a mistake or cover-up rather than part of a world champion-worthy routine. Nonetheless, I still expect Komova will be one of the top three contenders for the world uneven bars title, along with China’s He Kexin and Great Britain’s Beth Tweddle.
Jiang Yuyuan Bars 2011 Ghent World Cup
Silver medal with a 15.375 (6.8, 8.575)
This gymnast really knows how to pull it together just in time for the main event. Just as we saw from her last year, she has appeared unpredictable for most of the pre-worlds season but is developing some consistency as the world championships approach. This routine is very similar to the one that helped her win the all-around silver medal last year. I expect she’ll once again be a contender for an all-around medal next month and will be a critical part of the Chinese quest to regain the world team title they last won in 2006.
Wu Liufang Bars 2011 Ghent World Cup
Bronze medal with a 15.35 (6.8, 8.55)
Wu Liufang Beam 2011 Ghent World Cup
Gold medal with a 14.975 (6.3, 8.675)
This gymnast, whom many of us feel should have been on the 2010 world team, has continued to prove herself internationally this year, just as she did last year. Wu is not only exquisite to watch on both bars and beam, but she’s truly been one of the most consistent and accomplished Chinese gymnasts of the entire quadrennial. I don’t see how the Chinese delegation can deny her a spot in Tokyo this year.
Mariya Livchikova Beam 2011 Ghent World Cup
Silver medal with a 14.625 (6.2, 8.425)
Mariya Livchikova Floor 2011 Ghent World Cup
Gold medal with a 14.375 (5.8, 8.575)
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the meet, Livchikova shows a Soviet-like balletic elegance that is so refreshing to see from this nation that has struggled tremendously in recent years. Her beam routine is one of the most innovative in the world, showcasing a gorgeous front aerial to immediate front tuck, an extraordinary handstand-step-down to Arabian, and a somewhat “old-school” but still unique connection of side Aerial to layout step-out. Her floor is one of the most eye-opening routines I’ve seen in quite some time, demonstrating a very rare blend of difficult yet elegant tumbling (knees-together double front to immediate jump!), quality choreography that stands out from the rest, and exquisite turning ability. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see a triple-turning “Memmel” from this gymnast. She was one of the absolute highlights of this competition, and an indication that the Ukrainian women’s team, while still not a medal contender as it once was, is not dead yet.