By Christy Sandmaier and Ashlee Buhler

Day 2 – Melnikova’s For the Taking

Following day two of the competition in Kitakyushu, the stage is now set for the Women’s All-Around and Event finals. 

The stylish Angelina Melnikova (RUS) is looking for individual gold in Kitakyushu after taking the top spot with her team in Tokyo. She opened her competition today with two vaults – a Yurchenko double and half on half off for a 13. 783 average and never looked back. The Tokyo All-Around bronze medalist scored a 14.466 on bars and was near flawless on beam with a 14.033. With a commanding performance on floor (14.100) – her artistry hasn’t missed a beat though she looked a little fatigued in her tumbling – Melnikova launched herself into first place at the end of the day (and at the end of two days and 10 subdivisions), solidifying her status as the favorite for the gold on Thursday.

For the U.S. women, 2020 Olympic alternates Leanne Wong (55.749) and Kayla DiCello (55.700) graced the top of the All-Around standings after the seventh of ten subdivisions and finished second and third respectively behind Melnikova in Qualifications. With four solid events and her trademark technique and style on full display, Wong was first on floor with a 14.0 through five subdivisions until Olympic floor bronze medalist Murakami Mai (JPN) took the lead with a 14.166. After day one, Wong told the media she was happy with her performance and felt it was a good warm up for the All-Around final. She also said of course she’d like to win the gold medal, but is trying not to think about that. Guess what? Now she might have to!

When she hits, Wong can challenge for a top spot, and that’s exactly what she’s done here so far. Much like Melnikova, she is the rare gymnast who can perform beautiful dance, focus on the details in the routine, and hit her tumbling as well. Her confidence, consistency and difficulty need to be on full display Thursday to challenge the Russian star.

DiCello looks very strong across all events and has shown improvement since we last saw her compete in St. Louis at Olympic Trials. She said she is definitely looking to medal here and was most happy with floor after Qualifications. “I feel like I performed more than I have before and my landings were good,” she said. She has upped her performance quality across all events and she also could certainly challenge for the All-Around title in Kitakyushu. DiCello has emerged as a leader for Team USA here and looks the part as the next generation takes shape.

Hatakeda Hitomi (JPN) finished fourth with a 53.798 to qualify and Vladislava Urazova (RUS), who was a question mark earlier in the week to compete on all four events, finished fifth. Urazova performed a scary Yurchenko double twist to her side for a 12.1 (she was downgraded to a one and half) to start her competition. She came back on bars, though she was short on her handstands, to score a 14. 366. Her lines on beam and floor stand out across the arena and we really love the potential in her performance quality on floor in particular. With a clean vault on Thursday, Urazova should be right there in the running for a spot on the podium.

With five-time reigning World All-Around Champion and GOAT Simone Biles on tour with no known current or future competitive plans, Thursday’s All-Around competition could mark the official changing of the guard and jumpstart the conversation for Paris in 2024. If it hasn’t been already.

WOMEN’S ALL-AROUND FINAL

  • Thursday, October 21 at 5:15am (Live on Olympic Channel)
  • Thursday, October 21 at 7pm ET (Taped coverage on NBCSN)

Across the Arena

Very notable in Subdivision 9 was of course the presence of Olympic gold (vault) and silver (All-Around) medalist Rebeca Andrade (BRA), who opted to sit out floor here. She took a step out of bounds on her Cheng to open her competition but it was gorgeous in the air, scoring a 14.9. Her second vault was a very clean Yurchenko double with a step back for 14.7. On bars, she scored a HUGE 15.1 with a clean set and excellent connections: piked Tkatchev+Pak+Maloney half – sky high Jaeger – and nearly stuck full twisting double back – and the only 15+ of the entire competition. On beam, she went 13.4 where she showed a solid switch half, a balance check on her series and the ring leap, and finished with a stuck double pike dismount. We would have loved to have seen her compete all four events and make a run for World All-Around Champion, but she chose health here and seemed to be enjoying herself throughout Qualifications. She’s almost certain to see the podium in this weekend’s event finals.

Who’s Going?

In the overall standings, here’s how it played out: Andrade finished first on vault with a 14.8 average and bars with a 15.1. China’s Luo Rui led beam with a 14.566, and Murakami finished first on floor with a 14.166, where she’ll surely be a sentimental favorite to win.

Notably absent from the bars final will be 2019 World silver medalist Becky Downie (GBR) who finished eleventh overall without the 2-per country rule in place, and Russia’s Maria Minaeva who was 2-per-countried with a 14.333 for a routine that featured a beautiful Nabieva to Pak and Shaposh to clear hip half to Ezhova.

Top 10 Qualifying to the All-Around:

1. Angelina Melnikova RUS 57.065

2. Leanne Wong USA 55.749

3. Kayla DiCello USA 55.700

4. Hatakeda Hitomi JPN 53.798

5. Vladislava Urazova RUS 53.065

6. Filipa Martins POR 53.032

7. Wei Xiaoyuan CHN 52.865

8. Carolann Heduit FRA 52.765

9. Anastasiia Bachynska UKR 52.665

10. Lee Yunseo KOR 52.540 

Qualifying to Event Finals:

Vault:

1. Andrade Rebeca BRA 14.800 (14.900 14.700)

2. Geurts Elisabeth NED 14.350 (14.400 14.300)

3. D’Amato Asia ITA 13.816 (14.133 13.500)

4. Melnikova Angelina RUS 13.783 (14.466 13.100)

5. Bacskay Csenge Maria HUN 13.666 (13.866 13.466)

6. Escalera Natalia MEX 13.633 (13.700 13.566)

7. Taman Nancy EGY 13.533 (13.766 13.300)

8. Netzer Ofir ISR 13.516 (13.466 13.566)

Bars:

1. Andrade Rebeca BRA 15.100

2. Wei Xiaoyuan CHN 14.733 

3. Luo Rui CHN 14.500

4. Melnikova Angelina RUS 14.466

5. Kovacs Zsofia HUN 14.433

6. Urazova Vladislava RUS 14.366

7. Iorio Elisa ITA 14.183

8. Martins Filipa POR 14.133

Beam:

1. Luo Rui CHN 14.566 

2. Melnikova Angelina RUS 14.033

3. Schaefer-Betz Pauline GER 13.733

4. Wong Leanne USA 13.700

5. Vorona Iana RUS 13.633

6. Ashikawa Urara JPN 13.533

7. di Cello Kayla USA 13.500

8. Andrade Rebeca BRA 13.400

8. Murakami Mai JPN 13.400

Floor:

1. Murakami Mai JPN 14.166

2. Melnikova Angelina RUS 14.100

3. Wong Leanne USA 14.000

4. di Cello Kayla USA 13.800

5. Urazova Vladislava RUS 13.433

6. Hiraiwa Yuna JPN 13.400

7 .Ceplinschi Maria ROU 13.300

8. Bachynska Anastasiia UKR 13.100

How to Watch:

TV Schedule:

WOMEN’S ALL-AROUND FINAL

  • Thursday, October 21 at 5:15am (Live on Olympic Channel)
  • Thursday, October 21 at 7pm ET (Taped coverage on NBCSN)

INDIVIDUAL APPARATUS FINALS

  • Saturday, October 23 at 5am ET (Live on Olympic Channel)
  • Sunday, October 24 at 3:30am ET (Live on Olympic Channel)
  • Sunday, October 24 at 1:30pm ET (Taped coverage on NBC)

Photos Volker Minkus/FIG; Ricardo Bufolin for Inside Gymnastics

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