Upon entering the arena, the gymnasts were warming up. I could immediately feel the competition vibe of strong, focused athletes doing their thing in leotards that look about ten times more sparkly in real life. The second-row seat also reminded me how physically and mentally hard the sport of gymnastics is. You can hear their feet pounding on the ground and you notice their facial expressions a lot more. Team Belgium in particular looked nervous and insecure, although some members managed to keep their cool. Maybe the American team can teach them how to act like badass queens during competitions.
The Belgian team started off on floor with Cindy Vandenhole, Gaëlle Mys, Lisa Verschueren, Rune Hermans and Julie Croket. Although the girls only performed three tumbling passes -and double tucks and pikes were everywhere – their choreographies were fascinating and they sold their routines really well. Julie Croket also brought a new floor routine with burlesque music and a tucked full-in, 1.5 twist to full twist and a double pike as tumbling passes. She used an extra mat for her first pass and fell on her last pass, but her enthusiasm and well-executed leaps made up for it. The only thing that’s still on my wish list for team Belgium is more difficult/original passes and cleaner landings on floor.
Meanwhile on vault, Marcela Torres from Sweden pulled out of the competition, because her heavily taped hamstring was too painful. Emma Larsson was the star on this event, with a 1.5 twisting yurchenko almost stuck (14.033).
The second rotation was full-twisting yurchenko time for the Belgian team on vault. Interestingly, Julie Croket changed her front handspring vault to a FTY. During 30-second warm-ups bad luck struck her again as she injured her right ankle on the landing. Sigh. It is just heartbreaking how many times she has gotten injured right before a big meet and fought her way back, only to be knocked down again. As Julie was carried away by the physiotherapist, the rest of the team had to stay concentrated and hit. Rune, Cindy and Gaëlle scored around 13.500 and Lisa surprised me with a 13.800 and a block that makes me wonder whether she could get a 1.5 around if she trained it.
On uneven bars, the Belgians showed a lot more variation. Gaëlle was just happy to get through her routine, while Laura Waem and Lisa showed some nice skills. Cindy impressed me with her flowing rhythm and gorgeous tuck form in the dismount (on bars and beam as well). In between was Rune, with a lovely Chow at the beginning, followed by an ugly pak and pirouette problems later on.
The balance beam didn’t show mercy towards the gymnasts that day. Just like in general warm-ups, the Belgians had a lot of falls (and wobbles). To make matters even worse, they had to count all four scores, since Julie had to withdraw and Jelle Beullens only did exhibition routines on FX and BB. Fortunately, Gaëlle was there to save the day – and the provisional average of 11.250 – with a fantastic beam set that scored 14.200. After almost nine (!) years in the senior field, you can always count on Gaëlle to hit her favourite apparatus.
Emma Larsson concluded the competition on floor with a combination of artistry, energetic music, and powerful tumbling. She did lose quite a few tenths in execution due to steps in the landing, an uncontrolled landing and an out of bounds.
It’s too bad that I didn’t have enough eyes and brain capacity to take pictures, take notes, focus on team Belgium, keep an eye on team Sweden and have a good look at team Austria. Their D-scores were somewhat lower and they couldn’t make up for it with Kyla-esque execution scores. Nevertheless, it was fun to see what they came up with and I hope to see them grow just like Belgium did in the previous years.