Of all the coverage from today’s Ghent Challenger Cup finals, the standout for me was most definately Ukrainian Mariya Livchikova
This is, obviously, not the first we have seen from Mariya in competition: I personally saw her for the first time at this year’s Europeans. This does seem to be, however, the first time she has performed consistently and shown the world her true potential.
What she has shown is that she is a fantastic gymnast. Her lines are clean, long and graceful, yet she is also powerful. Her double front is one of the very best I have ever seen (and may even challenge the spot for my all time favourite, by Ivana Hong in 2008). Although her music is nice and what choreography is present is performed well, you can’t help but feel she has much more to offer in terms of artistry: with better music and dance it could be one of the floor routines of the whole quad.
I find Mariya’s gymnastics most exciting, though, on the balance beam: the combinations she competes are so difficult and so original that it makes me forgive her entirely any wobbles. I first saw her front handspring to immediate front tuck at the Europeans earlier this year and fell in love with it: the front handspring actually works with and feeds into the front tuck unlike some other similar combinations (namely Lauren Mitchells free walkover into front tuck – a laborious connection which does not flow and produces an insanely low tuck). Also, Mariya shows an arial walkover into layout stepout connection reminiscent of the great Olesya Dudnik. My personal favorite, however, is her split handstand directly into a tucked arabian somersault: as far as I can tell the code of points does not reward this combination with bonus which only makes me love it more. It seems to show genuine attention to detail, artistry and presentation.
With some polish, choreography and music changes and perhaps a few upgrades, this gymnast could be a real contender at the world and Olympic level. I would love for this to happen: a real win for artistry, originality, and for a once great gymnastic nation whose fortunes have taken a slide in recent years.
Congratulations to Mariya for her floor gold and balance beam silver.