Gymnastics stars were gathered in Melbourne this weekend as the city hosted the first World Cup of the Olympic season.
The Games are less than six months away, which made the competition even fiercer. Epke Zonderland (NED), Vladislav Poliashov (RUS), and Jade Carey (USA) were triumphant and edged closer to an Olympic quota.
Carey, who was part of the gold medal winning team at last year’s World Championships, was the only gymnast to win two gold medals in Melbourne. The 19-year-old’s clean vaulting and superb tumbling earned her gold medals on vault and floor.
Japan’s Urara Ashikawa won her second consecutive balance beam gold medal at World Cup level. The 16-year-old is the only World Cup circuit gymnast to have more than one victory at the event. She won her first at the World Cup in Cottbus last November. Ondine Achampong (GBR) and Anastasiia Bachynska (UKR) won silver and bronze, respectively.
2012 Olympic champion and former World Champion on the horizontal bar, Epke Zonderland, had to try to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics through the World Cup series, after the Netherlands failed to qualify a team to the Olympic Games. The 33-year-old, who had surgery in the fall to correct chronic sinusitis, showed he was ready to compete and scored 14.900, which was enough to win him the gold.
His main challenger was Japan’s Hidetaka Miyachi, who choked under pressure after being unable to execute his exercise cleanly. He scored 13.400 and finished fifth.
2016 Olympic Still Rings champion, Eleftherios Petrounias (GRE) was also in a similar position, after failing to qualify at the 2019 World Championships. He is a late entrant to the series and needs wins in Melbourne, Doha, and Baku to challenge the ranking leader, Liu Yang (CHN). Petrounias won gold in Melbourne, with 15.066 and is on track to achieving his goal.
The Melbourne World Cup also featured maiden World Cup victories for several gymnasts. Ryu Sunghyun, the 2019 World Junior Floor Champion, secured his first victory at World Cup level. There were also gold medals for Stephen Nederoscik (USA), a pommel horse specialist. He won an exciting final ahead of Saeedreza Keikha (IRI) and 2013 World Champion, Kohei Kameyama.
This weekend’s World Cup also had additional significance because, with each stuck landing from the gymnasts, $300 were donated for the Australian Bushfires relief. In total, $7000 were donated to help the country recover from the devastating bushfires that have devastated its countryside. Petrounias also donated his prize money from winning gold on still rings, as he failed to stick his landing.
The next FIG World Cup is the American All-Around Cup, in Milwaukee, USA, which takes place on March 7th, which also serves as Olympic qualification in the All-Around.