Five-time World Champion, Sofia Raffaeli, earned the highest score on the first day of action at the maiden 2023 FIG World Cup held in Palaio Faliro, while 2022 World Championships runners-up Israel topped the 5 Hoops qualifying session with 36.500 points in the Group competition.

19-year-old Sofia Raffaeli, winner of the Individual and Team All-Around at last year’s World Championships in Sofia, and gold medallist with the Hoop, the Ball, and the Ribbon in the same competition, earned 34.850 points with the Hoop, and although she didn’t meet her usual standards with the Ball (32.650), still leads the Individual All-Around rankings halfway through the qualification phase with a total of 67.500.

In the Ball event, it was Stiliana Nikolova who got the best score with 33.450. For the 18-year-old Bulgarian, the Ball was the only discipline she didn’t advance to the 2022 World Championships final on home soil, but in Faliro she looks determined to make amends.

Having amassed 67.050 points, Nikolova trails by a mere 0.450 to Raffaelis’ total and it looks like the two gymnasts are poised to fight for the Individual All-Around title in the Faliro Olympic Indoor hall, like they did last year in Sofia, when Raffaeli won gold and the Bulgarian finished in the third position.

Nikolova’s fellow compatriot and three-time European champion, Boryana Kaleyn lies in third place after Day 1 results with a total of 66.150. Kaleyn achieved the second-best mark, 33.400 with her routine with the Ball and the third-best with the Hoop (32.750).

Others to qualify for the Hoop and Ball apparatus finals are Uzbekistan’s Takhmina Ikromova, and Ukraine’s Polina Karika.

Greece’s top ranked gymnast was Panagiota Lytra (19th) with an intermediate total score of 58.500 points. Hosts’ second representative, Maria Dervisi was 34th with 53.400 points.

Here’s the list with the Hoop and Ball qualifiers:

1. Sofia RAFFAELI ITA 34.850
2. Stiliana NIKOLOVA BUL 33.600
3. Boryana KALEYN BUL 32.750
4. Polina KARIKA UKR 32.000
5. Takhmina IKROMOVA UZB 31.650
6. Fanni PIGNICZKI HUN 31.550
7. Polina BEREZINA ESP 31.150
8. Adi Asya KATZ ISR 31.150

1. Stiliana NIKOLOVA BUL 33.450
2. Boryana KALEYN BUL 33.400
3. Takhmina IKROMOVA UZB 33.000
4. Sofia RAFFAELI ITA 32.650
5. Ekaterina VEDENEEVA SLO 31.850
6. Evita GRISKENAS USA 31.650
7. Polina KARIKA UKR 31.600
8. Maelle MILLET FRA 31.350

The apparatus finals have been scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 19.

Israel on pole position after 5 Hoops qualification

In a high-class Group qualifying with 5 Hoops, the first part of the All-Around competition, the Israeli team thrilled the audience with their perfectly executed routine beating world champions Italy and Brazil, who just missed out a place on the podium in last year’s World Championships in Sofia.

Italy appeared on the Faliro Olympic Indoor hall carpet right after Brazil, but were unable to surpass them falling 0.150 points behind. Israel followed right after the Italians and managed to beat them all with a total of 36.500.

Greece was the last team to secure a place in the final amassing 33.050 points, well ahead of Japan (32.400) and France (31.250).

Competition at the 2023 FIG World Cup in Faliro resumes on Saturday with the Clubs and Ribbon qualifying for individuals and the 3 Ribbons/2 Balls for Groups.

Here’s the list with the 5 Hoop qualifiers:

5 Hoops
1. Israel 36.500
2. Brazil 35.000
3. Italy 34.850
4. Ukraine 334.800
5. Bulgaria 33.950
6. Germany 33.550
7. Poland 33.450
8. Greece 33.050