Arques, France, hosted an international women's competition for seniors, juniors and espoirs (junior juniors) on December 5 and 6. It boasted a large number of Russian competitors and an equally large contingent of Dutch competitors, and in the end it was they who dominated the competition, proving that Russia is very much Europe's foremost team at the moment and that Holland's bronze medal at this year's Junior Europeans was no fluke. The Russian girls easily had the most difficult routines on show in Arques, but seemed to lack some star quality. The Dutch girls lacked some difficulty, but generally had good form. Espoir winner Tess Moonen, in particular, looks like she might be headed for a bright future, although she'll need harder routines to become really competitive.
Espoir winner Tess Moonen (photo: Sandra Janssen)
Anyhow, we have yet to see any official and complete results, but thanks to various club and federation sites, we know that the junior portion of the international tournament of Arques was won by a team from St. Petersburg, Russia, ahead of two Dutch teams. We know for sure that Holland's Pro Patria club (where Verona van de Leur and Suzanne Harmes used to train), represented by Naoual Ouazzani Chahdi and Lisa van den Burg, placed second, while Bosan TON (Sanne Wevers' club), represented by Wyomi Masela and Sanne de Smet, ranked third. We're not sure who the victorious Russian girls were, but we suspect one of them was Diana Sapronova, who also did very well in the event finals. Two of Sapronova's older teammates, Irina Sazonova and Olga Alexeyeva, also competed in a few event finals, but were less impressive. As far as we know, Tatiana Nabieva and Ekatarina Kramarenko, both of whom were in France with the rest of the St. Petersburg team, didn't compete in Arques; at any rate they didn't compete in the event finals. Nabieva is said to be recovering from a heel injury and taking it easy at the moment.
Irina Sazonova won the senior part of the competition (55.250), beating teammate Olga Alexeyeva and Holland's massively experienced Fieke Willems for the gold.
The junior competition was won by Holland's Wyomi Masela, who amassed an impressive 57.800 total (2.55 more than the senior winner). Masela, a strong gymnast who recently took the gold medal on vault at the prestigious Massilia Cup, will turn fifteen at the end of the month.
Junior winner Wyomi Masela (photo: Bosan TON club site)
As mentioned before, the espoir competition was won by Holland's Tess Moonen, a promising 13-year-old gymnast with beautiful lines who scored a respectable 55.000. If she upgrades her routines a bit, Moonen will be a treat to watch in a few years' time.
Diana Sapronova was the most successful gymnast in the event finals, taking three titles. She was stable and performed some of the most difficult routines in the competition, but lacks some of the star quality of the better known Russian gymnasts of her generation. We don't expect her or Sazonova to become a force on the Russian team.
Diana Sapronova (photo: Bernard Garau?)
The Arques tournament was notable for being streamed live on the Internet, as we found out on the second day of the competition. Coverage was shoddy and rather amateurish, and without sound on the second day of the competition, but welcome in that we now have a general idea of the level of the competition (not terribly high). Unfortunately, the lack of sound meant that we didn't always know who we were watching or who was being given a medal for which event, so in the end watching the live coverage didn't help us much in writing this report. We did, however, get to witness the rare spectacle of a gymnast (Belgian, we think) taking her shoes off right in the middle of a floor exercise while standing in a corner before a tumbling pass, which looked so absurd that it made us laugh. We always knew wearing shoes in competitions was a bad idea...
We expect to find more detailed results at some point. Until that time, we'll leave you with some videos - to wit, the floor exercises shown by three of the Russian girls in the Arques all-around competition. Enjoy!
Diana Sapronova, FX
Irina Sazonova, FX
Olga Alexeyeva, FX