World bronze medalist Larisa Iordache and rising Swiss star Pablo Bragger took the titles at the 30th annual Arthur Gander Memorial Wednesday night in Morges, Switzerland.
The Gander Memorial, which honors the Chiasso native and former International Gymnastics Federation President, is a modified all-around competition. Women’s gymnasts choose their best three events, while the men compete on four.
Iordache overcame a slightly wobbly beam routine (bhs to tuck full, roundoff, layout to two feet, roundoff, bhs, triple full dismount) and looked stronger as the night went on, dancing through a nearly flawless floor set that recieved some of the biggest cheers of the night and sticking her double twisting Yurchenko on vault, which looked much improved since the World Championships three weeks ago.
Swiss star Giulia Steingruber, who won last year’s edition of the Memorial Gander in company with Russian Olympian Igor Pakhomenko, finished second with strong performances on vault (handspring front layout half), bars and a nearly flawless beam set with her own dismount, a Gainer layout full off the end, leaving Elisabeth Seitz of Germany (DTY vault, bars, and her new Mexican-themed floor routine) third.
Twenty-year-old Bragger, 17th all-around at the 2013 Worlds in Antwerp, held off Romanian strongman Andrei Muntean with world class performances on floor (double double tuck to open, triple full to end), vault, parallel bars and high bar (near stuck double double layout dismount), where his lines were among the best in the field.
Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev wowed with his difficulty, including a Dragulescu vault not done on a podium and looked on track to take the title before taking one of the year’s dramatic falls on his parallel bars dismount (double front). Verniaiev stumbled around for several seconds trying to keep the dismount on his feet but ultimately lost the battle. As at this year’s European Championships after a strong start, the young Ukrainian was forced to settle for the bronze.
- Notes: Arthur Gander traditionally serves as a kind of warmup to the Swiss Cup, gymnastics’s most popular mixed pairs competition, which will be held in Zurich next weekend and feature many of the same athletes. At Arthur Gander, as in Zurich, gymnasts compete under blue spotlights in a darkened arena. Many of the same athletes who competed in Morges will appear at the Swiss Cup as well.
- Britain’s Reiss Beckford, one of the stars of the 2010 Junior European Championships, struggled on rings but more than made up for it with his line and especially his toepoint on all events, especially parallel bars.
- Italy’s Chiara Gandolfi, one of the alternates for the 2012 Olympic team, looked fit and sharp on all events. She also showed a very nice double layout dismount on bars.
- Canada’s bouncy Maegan Chant tumbled a double layout to immediate split jump on floor exercise and nearly hit the ceiling on the latter.
- Raer Theaker, one of the Welsh set who are making a big impact amongst the younger gymnasts of the British team, looked taller and more mature than at the 2012 Junior Euros. On floor, she tumbled a front double full to punch front and a Rudi.
- The super elegant Ilaria Kaeslin of Switzerland charmed the crowd on beam in spite of a disheartening fall on her Kotchetkova (full twisting bhs). Kaeslin’s form and line are just textbook, and she carries herself with immense grace. Although not the most powerful gymnast, she did a good Yurchenko full on vault.
- China’s Shang Chungsong fell on uneven bars on her Tkatchev (normally connected with Gienger) but rebounded with a hit floor set. On vault, she showed a Yurchenko full.
- Brazil’s Arthur Zanetti received about three different rounds of applause as he showed off his incredible strength on rings.
- Fabian Hambuechen is undisputedly the king of German high bar, but he’d be pressed inn a skill for skill competition with Andreas Bretschneider, who showed a gorgeous clean Cassina and Kolman in his routine. Bretschneider, by the way, is the guy who is seriously training a double-twisting Kovacs, although it’s not yet ready for competition.
- Germany’s Kim Bui, the 2011 European bronze medalist on uneven bars, did a fantastic routine on bars to begin her competition and followed up with a graceful set on floor. Overall terrific form, a great example for the younger German gymnasts now coming up.
- Olympic vault champion Yang Hak Seon of South Korea was initially scheduled to compete at Arthur Gander but withdrew due to an ankle injury he sustained at the recent Korean National Sports Festival.
- Canada’s Kevin Lytwyn is a consummate trickster on high bar. In one routine, he showed a Kovacs, Kolman (fall) and a Def, to the delight of the crowd.
- The Gymnova floor mat was obviously not the friendliest these athletes have competed on. Those who fell at least once during their routines included Zanetti, Capelli and Lytwyn.
- Continuing the Italian tradition begun by Alberto Busnari, young Paolo Principi did flairs to handstand and back down twice during his hit routine. Principi also dazzled with a Yamawaki with a full twist as his release skill on high bar, a move rarely seen in competition but that he does very well.
- Giorgio Gander, Arthur Gander’s son, was on hand to present Iordache and Bretschneider with special prizes for execution on floor and parallel bars, respectively. Iordache’s coach Lucien Sandu and Switzerland’s Laurent Tricoire were also presented with coaching awards from the town of Morges.
- Over its 30 years, the Memorial Gander has hosted some of the biggest names in gymnastics; past winners include Alexei Nemov, Svetlana Khorkina, Ivan Ivankov, Oksana Chusovitina, Marian Dragulescu, Catalina Ponor, Sandra Izbasa, Jordan Jovtchev, Alina Kozich and Ana Porgras.
Related: Full Memorial Gander results here.
1. Larisa Iordache, ROM
2. Giulia Steingruber, SUI
3. Elisabeth Seitz, GER
4. Kim Bui, GER
5. Chiara Gandolfi, ITA
6. Shang Chunsong, CHN
7. Maegan Chant, CAN
8. Raer Theaker, GBR
9. Ilaria Kaeslin, SUI
10. Angelina Kysla, UKR
11. Manon Cormoreche, FRA
1. Pablo Braegger, SUI
2. Andrei Muntean, ROM
3. Oleg Verniaiev, UKR
4. Andreas Bretschneider, GER
5. Paolo Principi, ITA
6. Zhang Chunlong, CHN
7. Arnaud Willig, FRA
8. Claudio Capelli, SUI
9. Arthur Zanetti, BRA
10. Kevin Lytwyn, CAN
11. Reiss Beckford, GBR
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