Melanie de Jesus dos Santos and Nikita Nagornyy spring surprises to take European all-around crowns
France’s Melanie de Jesus dos Santos fought her way back from a poor start to clinch the all-around title at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
It came after a magnificent performance from Nikita Nagornyy saw him take the men's all-around title at the Netto Arena in Szczecin, Poland.
De Jesus dos Santos defeated the defending champion Elissa Downie by 0.068 points to become only the second Frenchwoman to win the title following in the footsteps of Marine Debauve who won it in 2005.
It was a thrilling final the saw the overall lead yo-yo between Downie and top qualifier Angelina Melnikova before de Jesus dos Santos snatched the win with her final routine.
She accumulated 55.433 points to top the podium ahead of Great Britain’s Downie with 55.365 points while Russia’s Melnikova was third with 55.065 points.
"I am really, really happy with what I did. Maybe I haven’t quite realized it yet but I’m proud of myself." - Melanie de Jesus dos Santos to Olympic Channel
The 19-year-old De Jesus dos Santos got off to a shaky start and was fifth overall after the opening vault rotation.
At the end of the uneven bars, when she was fourth overall, her coach pulled her aside.
"My coach told me that I had to loosen up a little bit because I was a bit on edge. But that was because I knew that I had a chance to get on the podium." - Melanie de Jesus dos Santos to Olympic Channel
She then went on to score 13.733 on the balance beam before outscoring the field with her floor routine to take the win.
Downie, who had led going into the final routine, was unable to defend her title but was nevertheless upbeat about the result.
"I’m really happy with silver, obviously I was coming in as the reigning champ and there was a lot of pressure coming in as that. I qualified in fourth and then I knew I just had to step up my game a little bit. And I did that today and the standards were so close. Silver, I’m definitely happy with." - Elissa Downie to Olympic Channel
Melnikova was visibly disappointed with finishing third after such an impressive qualifying result, but she remained upbeat about securing her first all-around medal.
"I’m feeling OK but I’m not quite happy with my performance. I’m happy with the vault but the rest was not my best today. I’m really happy with my first medal in the all-around, I really wanted to medal in the all-around." - Angelina Melnikova to Olympic Channel
Surprise reversal for Russian men
Nikita Nagornyy, third in last year's World Championships in Doha, beat defending world all-around champion Artur Dalaloyan by a comfortable 0.833 margin to win the men's all-around title.
The 22-year-old was second in qualifying on Thursday, more than three-quarters of a point behind his fellow Russian.
But Nagornyy improved his scores in all six disciplines to reverse the order and claim his fifth European gold in Szczecin, Poland.
Marios Georgiou of Cyprus edged out Britain's Joe Fraser for bronze.
Speaking after the victory, Nagornyy told Olympic Channel, "This medal is a gift to my coach, it’s his birthday today. I wished him happy birthday earlier today and he hinted that my performance will be his present today."
"This motivated me as I thought that it would be cool to give him such a gold medal as a gift." - Nikita Nagornyy to Olympic Channel
"Me and Artur did what we were supposed to do, we got a good result, we are ahead of the others by four points and we secured the top two medals for Russia." - Nikita Nagornyy to Olympic Channel
Dalaloyan went into Friday's final as a warm favourite having finishing a clear first in qualifying.
But Rio 2016 team silver medallist Nagornyy showed he meant business from the start on the floor, improving markedly on his score in qualifying with 14.766.
Defending floor world champion Dalaloyan was ahead of him but the Muscovite was down on his performance from Thursday with 14.800.
Next up was the pommel horse with Nagornyy again bettering his qualifying routine to score 14.333 while Dalaloyan posted a 13.966, one-tenth below his Thursday score.
That left Nagornyy in pole position and he went further clear on the rings, one of the three pieces of apparatus on which he won gold at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
He extended his advantage again on arguably his strongest event, the vault.
Dalaloyan knew he needed something special.
He went for broke, and only scored 14.533.
"I tried a new vault with a 6.0 difficulty. It’s an unreal difficulty, possibly even the highest right now, but I was unsuccessful. Although I landed it the judges downgraded it and there were many mistakes." - Artur Dalaloyan to Olympic Channel
With a lead of over eight-tenths of a point with two disciplines remaining, it was Nagornyy's to lose.
But he showed no sign of nerves, instead scaling even greater heights in his performance.
Dalaloyan was the bronze medallist on the parallel bars in Doha, but Nagornyy outscored him again with a superb routine which earned him 15.400.
With one rotation remaining, Nagornyy led by more than a point and just needed to avoid mishap to take the title.
He did better than that on the horizontal bar, scoring 14.533 to give Dalaloyan no chance of catching him.
It was a wonderful display from Nagornyy who topped the scoresheets in three disciplines and was second in the other three.
His total score of 88.865 was well over a point higher than Dalaloyan's winning tally from Doha last October, and makes him a strong contender in all the major competitions to come including Tokyo 2020.
But Dalaloyan, who recently talked of how psychology work had helped him find peace and improved performance, was far from disappointed at being beaten by his colleague, saying, "I’m incredibly happy and I can’t say that I’m unsatisfied with anything."
"I can say that for today this medal is more dear to me than gold because I competed in the all-around competition for two days without mistakes, I tried new routines and successfully landed a new dismount on parallel bars that will now be named after me." - Artur Dalaloyan to Olympic Channel.