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2002 Wild Rose: Senior Team/AA

The international sessions of the Wild Rose Invitational began on Saturday night with the all-around. After many changes in the original lineup, the 18 senior competitors represented Team Canada, Russia, Ukraine and a number individual Canadian clubs. There were only 8 juniors, as the team from Mexico never arrived.

The Russians took an early lead in the team competition with a strong start on vault, displaying an array of vaults with 9.7 start values. The only major miss was Leila Gruzdeva who landed on her knees on a piked Luconi. The Ukrainian team started on beam and demonstrated beautiful lines and elegance from all competing team members. (Natalya Sirenko sat out everything but vault). Oksana Dremliuga demonstrated great focus when she saved a punch front that landed with only one foot on the beam but unfortunately succumbed to a front ariel later in the routine. All of the girls showed interesting acro combinations, such as front ariel to side ariel as well as some of the best leaps of the meet. Team Canada began on bars where they put forth three strong routines. Heather Purnell capped a dynamic effort with a full in that was just slightly under rotated. Kylie Stone hit her set and stuck her dismount. Melanie Rocca highlighted her flexibility with great stalder work. The only miss for the team on this event was Amélie Plante who missed her Def after hitting some beautiful ones in the warm-up, but she countered the disappointment by nailing a perfect handstand after her shoot over ˝ transition. Also in this rotation was Amanda Gering, of the host Ortona club, who caught her Geinger a little close but was able to continue with a Pak salto and double front dismount. Gering's routine was very impressive due in part to her impeccable form.

The Ukrainian team got off to a slow start on their second event with the first athlete, Maryna Proskurina, falling in her last line on floor (2 ˝ twist). The next two athletes picked up the pace however, and Yevgena Oliynik earned the second highest score on floor with exquisite dance and difficult tumbling though she barely squeaked her triple twist all the way around. Last up was Dremliuga, who only tumbles forward. She performed a clean routine that suffered from a lack of expression. She appeared to be quite lighthearted off the floor but was unable to project this on the floor. Team Canada picked up ground on the Ukrainian team when they moved to beam with Rocca and Stone performing the most memorable routines. Rocca's switch ring was one of several things which stood out in a routine which also included a front ariel to backspring back layout. Stone was rock solid until the dismount, which landed low and required a step forward. Stone's routine involves a number of skills performed in combination giving her a 9.9 start value, the highest of the meet! On bars the Russian's were again impressive with the highest start values of the event and despite having to count a fall on this event they increased their lead. Gruzdeva's routine is very clean and shows some great skills like a front giant full to eagle but overall there is very little flow between elements; rather she seems to muscle many of the skills. Ekaterina Privalova ended one of the best routines (piked stalder, stalder) of the night by over rotating a double front dismount performed with knees together. The highlight of this event was definitely Natalia Uchevatkina who had not only the most difficult routine but also the best execution of the competition (front giant full to piked Jaeger to Pak salto, back giant 1 ˝ to front giant to double front1/2 dismount). Also impressive in this rotation was Vanessa Meloche's sky high piked front front vault, and Abby Pearson's beam routine which included a Ruflova.

Not surprisingly, given their stature, the Ukrainians were not strong vaulters. Though they had no major errors, weak start values and poor execution meant they could not pick up any ground on the Russians. Russia headed to beam which proved to be their worst event of the night. Falls from two of the girls and a brief touch after the dismount for another left the Russians with only one solid counting score. Uchevatkina was doing well until her punch front went a little crooked, and Gruzdeva was in fine shape until she touched down on a triple twist dismount. The only routine without major errors came from Privalova who performed a tour jete with incredible amplitude and split. The Canadians pulled even closer to the Ukrainians with the highest team floor score of the meet. Purnell struggled on her tumbling lines but her choreography was some of the most entertaining of the meet. The rest of the team pulled together to put in three solid routines, most notably Stone. Her tumbling continues to impress with each line high and so clean there is little room for deduction (knees together on both an Arabian double front and full in). Stone's artistry is a bit weak, but seems to improve with each competition. Unfortunately the stereo system was playing slow and she took a time deduction; this was however fixed up in time for finals the next day.

Heading to the last event it was apparent that barring a major catastrophe the Russians were well on their way to winning the team competition. First up, Gruzdeva demonstrated difficult tumbling and charming dance but fell on her last line (full in, front through to triple twist, front spring 2 ˝). The rest of the team executed their routines without any major errors. Ekaterina Chouster performing to Brittany Spears opened with a full in and returned with an Arabian double front. Privalova and Uchevatkina combined difficult tumbling and dance to complete the Russian effort. The Ukrainians continued to struggle on bars, despite excellent technique. The best routine for the team came from Dremliuga (stalder 1/1, stalder hecht to high bar). The Canadians moved to vault with the chance to over take the Ukrainians if they hit at least three solid vaults and they did just that Despite low start values the team managed to average 8.975. The best vault in this rotation came from Pearson, not officially part of the team, who performed a very dynamic Yurchenko 1 ˝, thus guaranteeing herself a spot in the event finals the next night. Also notable in this rotation was Meloche's bar routine: front giant full to piked Jaeger, Khorkina, and concluding with a double front all done with extra amplitude and great extension.

When all was said and done, the Russian team was victorious in the team event, followed by Canada and the Ukraine. A suprising all-around winner was Stone of the home team, who showed consistency in the all-around for the second meet in a row, having previously been the top Canadian finisher at the Jurassic Classic meet. The top two Russians, Privalova and Uchevatkina, finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Contributed with thanks by: Colleen O'Sullivan

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