Spoils were shared on the last, dazzling day of action at the FIG World Cup held in Palaio Faliro, Greece.
Six gold medals were at stake, at the opening leg of the World Cup series and all were captured by different gymnasts and groups.
The individual apparatus titles went to Sofia Raffaeli, Stiliana Nikolova, Margarita Kolosov, and Ekaterina Vedeneeva, while Israel and Italy won the Group apparatus finals.
Sofia Raffaeli and Stiliana Nikolova, the world’s No 1 and No 3 of last year’s global championships in Sofia, confirmed their star status in the first two finals.
The 19-year-old Italian mesmerised the capacity crowd in the Faliro Olympic Indoor hall, with her fantastic performance with the Hoop, using the main theme of the 1960 movie Psycho to accompany her routine.
The judges rewarded her with 33.000 points, by far the highest score amongst Hoop’s final contestants. Fanni Pigniczki, who was the first to appear on the carpet, offered her country their first ever World Cup silver medal and Polina Berezina of Spain was third with 30.750 points.
“I am happy for both the gold and silver medals I won in the apparatus finals, but surely, I could have done better in the other finals”, commented Raffaeli.
1. Sofia RAFFAELI ITA 33.000
2. Fanni PIGNICZKI HUN 31.600
3. Polina BEREZINA ESP 30.750
4. Boryana KALEYN BUL 30.650
5. Polina KARIKA UKR 29.850
6. Stiliana NIKOLOVA BUL 29.800
7. Takhmina IKROMOVA UZB 29.200
8. Adi Asya KATZ ISR 27.650
Nikolova didn’t wait long to make her move with the Ball. The Bulgarian showcased a flawless routine and was awarded with 34.450, some 2.850 points ahead of Raffaeli, while Pan-Am champion Evita Griskenas snatched bronze with 31.550, narrowly beaten by Raffaeli.
“It is not easy at all to win a gold medal in a World Cup, not only for me but for everyone” said Nikolova and added:
“I was surprised and thrilled to see so many Bulgarians in the stands, it felt like home”.
1. Stiliana NIKOLOVA BUL 34.450
2. Sofia RAFFAELI ITA 31.600
3. Evita GRISKENAS USA 31.550
4. Ekaterina VEDENEEVA SLO 31.050
5. Takhmina IKROMOVA UZB 29.900
6. Boryana KALEYN BUL 29.850
7. Polina KARIKA UKR 29.050
8. Maelle MILLET FRA 28.900
The Clubs final was a tight contest. Only 0.350 points separated the first four gymnasts in the final ranking and with the world champion Darja Varfolomeev missing from the Faliro World Cup, it was her fellow compatriot Maragarita Kolosov who filled her shoes winning the event with a score of 31.800.
Takhmina Ikromova, 4th at the Sofia World Championships last year, was second a mere 0.100 points behind and Elzhana Taniyeva was third, in what it was her third World Cup career bronze medal.
Panagiota Lytra, the sole Greek to advance to the apparatus finals, ranked seventh.
Margarita Kolosov talked about her performance and the support she received from the rhythmic gymnastics fans in Palaio Faliro: “I am very happy with the gold medal, but not for my performance in the other apparatus.
I really enjoyed competing in front of such a lovely crowd; they really helped me a lot.”
1. Margarita KOLOSOV GER 31.800
2. Takhmina IKROMOVA UZB 31.700
3. Elzhana TANIYEVA KAZ 31.550
4. Polina KARIKA UKR 31.500
5. Sofia RAFFAELI ITA 31.300
6. Ekaterina VEDENEEVA SLO 31.000
7. Panagiota LYTRA GRE 30.200
8. Polina BEREZINA ESP 26.350
The top-four of the 2022 World Championships Ribbon final met again in Palaio Faliro, but this time the order changed.
Veteran Ekaterina Vedeneeva, 28, third in Sofia, won only her second World Cup gold medal following a fantastic executed performance with the Ribbon. Neither Nikolova (world silver medallist), nor world champion Raffaeli managed to surpass Vedeneeva’s score, due to a few minor mistakes. The Bulgarian had to settle with bronze, since Israel’s Adi Asya Katz (fourth in Sofia) was second best behind the Slovenian with 29.250 points.
“I am quite satisfied with my performance; this medal gives me great joy. My routine has a special music, it’s about a troubled love and I really like it”, said the victor.
1. Ekaterina VEDENEEVA SLO 29.850
2. Adi Asya KATZ ISR 29.250
3. Stiliana NIKOLOVA BUL 29.000
4. Elzhana TANIYEVA KAZ 28.650
5. Sofia RAFFAELI ITA 28.600
6. Evita GRISKENAS USA 28.000
7. Boryana KALEYN BUL 27.800
8. Margarita KOLOSOV GER 26.800
In the first Group apparatus final, Israel justified the favourite-tag following their performance in the 5 Hoops qualifying. Last year’s World Championships runners-up dominated the final earning 34.900 points, beating world champions Italy.
The surprise package of the final was Poland, who claimed bronze although they qualified with the seventh-best score. Brazil’s Group, second in qualifying, made a couple of crucial mistakes that cost them a place on the podium, while hosts Greece ranked seventh.
Speaking on behalf of the Israeli team, Ofir Shaham cited: “We feel grateful for what we experienced in Faliro. We are very happy with this gold medal and we are looking forward to our next goal which is the World Cup in Sofia. We don’t look further, we only take it step by step”.
1. Israel 34.900
2. Italy 32.650
3. Poland 31.900
4. Ukraine 31.500
5. Germany 30.850
6. Bulgaria 30.800
7. Greece 30.750
8. Brazil 30.500
The second Group final with 3 Ribbons +2 Balls was a noisy one from the capacity crowd of 2000, since the hosts had high hopes for a place on the podium.
Greece performed second and immediately took the lead earning 29.350 points. Eventual winners Italy and Israel got better scores, so the fight went down to the wire with Bulgaria and France yet to compete.
In the end, neither world champions Bulgaria nor France were able to alter the final classification, meaning Italy won the last gold medal of the maiden 2022 World Cup.
Alessia Maurelli talked about the changes the new status in the Italian team bring: “After the bronze medal at the Olympics our team has changed. There are only three gymnasts left from this team and two new additions. We’ve had to adapt to it and it looks like we’re doing well.
“It’s still very early in the season, but our performance satisfies us.
We were thrilled with the people in the stands, as well as with the fact that there were some Italians, including the athletes’ parents who travelled to Greece.”
Elpida Egglezou of Greece felt overwhelmed with the bronze medal: “We expected that we could get a medal. We worked hard for this. I want to thank our coaches for their support”.
3 Ribbons/2 Balls
1. Italy 30.650
2. Israel 29.350
3. Greece 29.200
4. Poland 28.300
5. France 27.250
6. Azerbaijan 26.900
8. Ukraine 25.900