Is There Anyone Left to Win the European Championships?

Last week I published an article highlighting how nations withdrawing from the 2020 European Championships over COVID-19 and political concerns would impact the medal count. I noted that in women’s artistic gymnastics (WAG), France was the last remaining gymnastics power and if they were to pull out, the top-rate programs would all be absent.

With France joining the list if nations that have withdrawn, that has now happened. The new statistics on what the 2019 European Championships results would have looked like if only nations planning to participate in 2020 are as follows:

(A) In the women’s All-Around, 18 of 24 participants (75%) came from nations that have pulled out of 2020.

(B) In Event Finals, 26 of 32 spots (81%) in WAG went to a nation that has pulled out of 2020.

(C) In the final medal count, 15 of 15 medals (100%) went to a nation that has pulled out of 2020.

(D) In the final medal count, 5 of 5 gold medals (100%) went to a nation that has pulled out of 2020.

It should be noted that only six spots from 2019 Event Finals went to nations that haven’t yet withdrawn from the 2020 European Championships. Of which half (3) of them belonged to Romanian gymnast Densia Golgota who has since retired. It further strengthens the reality that the 2020 European Championships will feature virtually no returning medal contenders from the year prior.

Larisa Iordache

The good news is Larisa Iordache has come off looking strong in recent training videos and is a viable replacement to Densia Golgota. With the 2020 European Championships field now being so depleted, it presents an interesting opportunity for Iordache. The less competitive field may be beneficial for Larisa who is trying to return from a long break. The lower level of difficulty can help her compete in a prestigious competition, while still taking baby steps over the next eight months en route to her return to full form.

But it also allows Larisa to add to her legacy. Iordache is already a highly decorated gymnast and has won numerous medals in the past at the European Championships. She is also an Olympic medalist and has an All-Around (AA) medal at the World Championships. The 2020 European Championships present Larisa with an opportunity to pad her medal count by a significant margin and propel herself up the list of the most decorated gymnasts in the history of the European Championships.

It is up to Larisa and Romanian gymnastics as to which option they want to pursue, or if they even want to pursue these options at all. It is still possible Romania joins the list of withdrawing nations. It may sound sacrilegious to list Romania, a country with such a rich WAG legacy as an example of a non-power. But that is the predicament Romania has found itself in due to its recent struggles. The perception that Romania is no longer a WAG power is something Romanian gymnastics is trying to change. The depleted 2020 European Championships could help them achieve that goal.

Anastasia Bachynska (L) and Diana Varinska (R)

Another interesting WAG program that has yet to declare their intent to withdraw from the 2020 European Championships is Ukraine. Like Romania, Ukraine is a former WAG superpower that has fallen on hard times in recent years. Unlike Romania, in the past few years Ukraine has been on upward trajectory and demonstrating improvement. If Ukraine were to attend the 2020 European Championships, that competition would help the program maintain its momentum.

Anastasia Bachynska (5th) and Diana Varinska (7th) would be the first and second highest scoring gymnasts from the 2019 AA to return for the 2020 European Championships. In fact, they would be the only gymnasts in the top-16 of the AA to return for 2020. For event organizers trying to keep the 2020 European Championships intact, there are three medals for every individual event and it just so happens that there are three high-profile gymnasts that are still available to compete.

Prior to the last round of nations withdrawing from the 2020 European Championships, it was men’s artistic gymnastics (MAG) that was more depleted than WAG. Now the opposite is true and it is MAG that has maintained the stronger competitive field. Israel is one of the strongest nations remaining. Meanwhile Ukraine has the highest returning gymnast from the 2019 AA in both MAG and WAG. Ukraine could very well win AA titles in both disciplines.

The new statistics on what the 2019 European Championships results would have looked like if only nations planning to participate in 2020 are as follows:

(A) In the men’s All-Around, 17 of 24 participants (71%) came from nations that have pulled out of 2020.

(B) In Event Finals, 34 of 48 spots (71%) in MAG went to a nation that has pulled out of 2020.

(C) In the final medal count, 16 of 21 medals (76%) went to a nation that has pulled out of 2020.

(D) In the final medal count, 5 of 5 gold medals (100%) went to a nation that has pulled out of 2020.

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