Memorable Moments: A Fan Perspective of the 2014 European Championships Part 1

7:52 PM Arabian Punch Front 0 Comments

The following article was written by @Creatureitis and reflect his personal opinions, not those of Arabian Punch Front. All photos below belong to him unless otherwise stated.

What’s this post about?
I’ll try to convey some of my impressions and experiences from my visit to Sofia, for the 30th European Women’s artistic gymnastics championships. I want to try and give the reader a feel of what it was like to travel abroad for the sole purpose of attending a gymnastics competition.  

Things you won't read here:
You won't find detailed technical breakdowns\analysis of routines. The gymternet is full of ex-gymnasts/certified judges/CoP enthusiasts who can do that, better than yours truly. I'll also try to avoid very obvious things, and only mention what I felt strongly about at the time.    

I don't elaborate (only mention) on my encounters with the wonderful members of the gymternet for the sake of their privacy, but rest assured meeting them has definitely made this trip a truly unforgettable experience. Besides, most of them have already posted about their own experience, or will do so in the future.

Arrival, hotel and transportation
I hadn't planned on going to Euros originally. I thought to myself that I should, because Sofia is just a 3 hour flight from where I live. However, the Capital of Bulgaria was not on my list of places to visit, and I wasn't 100% sure on what’s it like to travel to a country where you can't even guess what people are saying, and what signs mean (Bulgarian is written in the Cyrillic Alphabet).

Eventually, I had what I call a “life is short” moment - I worked out my shifts at work somehow, and booked my flight less than a week before the meet. I decided to buy tickets at the gate, which turned out well for me, but also made me wonder about the future of gymnastics as a spectator sport. Why? You'll find out later on.

I arrived in Sofia at mid day of May 16th. I opted for a hotel that was 10 minutes walking distance from Arena Armeec, mainly because I heard scary stories about taxies ripping-off tourists and threatening to call the cops on them. Turns out there really is only one “safe” Taxi company, and even then there are knock-offs (fake taxies) so you have to match the logo, phone number and check that the driver ID is displayed, to make sure you go on the right one. I got on the wrong taxi once, and was charged 200% more. About the hotel room, it was clean and spacious, just in case you're wondering what 25 Euro ($35) a night will get you in Sofia. 


I had to rush to change currency and purchase tickets for the three remaining days of the women’s competition. At the Ticket booth I was surprised to find the price for all three days was 8 Euro ($11), 32 less than the online purchase price. I hoped that meant a huge crowd inside and many local fans of the sport cheering to the sight of world class gymnastics.

At the gate I met AmitFinkel, MoominWhisky, chiaragymfan, wackieandweird, and, of course, the one and only teampandoro. He is actually very small (baby size) but appears much larger because he takes pictures with gymnasts all the time. Later I got to say hello to whiptotriple and montage maker Supergymmie who uploaded videos of the competitions to her channel (Euros video account here). The Arena was impressive and looked nicely maintained, but it was so empty, it looked enormous.

The first competition I attended was the Junior All-Around. There were no reserved seats and there was plenty of room to sit where you’d like, so almost everyone watched from the section that had the best view of Floor, Bars and beam. Coincidentally, it was also where families of the Great Britain team and even the gymnasts themselves sat. There was also a (relatively) strong presence of Romanian fans there with flags, signs and everything.

Highlights from the Junior C-II

Thanks to Carolien and Lisa from Sports2Visuals

Catherine Lyons
So I finally got to see this British Junior starlet the gymternet has been swooning over for the past year or so. Was the hype justified? YES.

First thing you notice is her toe point and form. Amazing leaps, Sky-high sheep on beam, and on floor everything looks like it hits perfectly. Whether or not you're a fan of her floor routine‘s music and theme, you'll be left astonished by how well she performs it. I consider tumbling to be one of the best things in the sport, but this was one of the only elite routines where I felt it wasn't the main focal point. People call that showmanship, but what came to mind for me was “intended movement”. Everything fits, and it looks like she’s performing exactly what she’s thinking and feeling without being inhibited. Between leaps and passes, Lyons looks like a contemporary dancer, completely comfortable on the floor.

Ellie Downie’s save on uneven bars – After a low to high bar transition, Ellie muscled through to a handstand but went too far and almost fell backwards. She recovered superbly and went on to stick her dismount. I'm always very impressed by great saves, and this one reminded me of Jordyn Wieber’s save from the 2012 American cup.

Laura Jurca on beam – It is said miniature gymnasts tend to deal with the beam more comfortably, and Jurca (Jur pronounced like Zhur) is one of the smallest. Jurca looks to move on the beam without much effort and displays some cheeky “underwater” theme choreography. First thing I thought when I saw it was, “At which point did the stern looking Octavian Bellu approve this?” I’m glad that he did.

Sofia Busato – A very athletic junior from Italy, this one is on a different note than the others. Her floor routine was captivating, always nice to see a gymnast enjoys her routine so much. She opens with a double-stag headstand, and continues to perform a dynamic, captivating routine. Her difficulty isn’t remarkable, and she was not at her best in Sofia, but still worth to keep your eye on her in the future.

The junior competition was exciting to watch. At any given moment you could see a difficult or interesting routine. At first I was completely shocked with some of the big skills thrown around, but later I just enjoyed the best European Junior WAG had to offer and was filled with hope for the future. Lyons could have performed better, but it was her relatively low difficulty that kept her off the AA final podium. All in all, there were no major outcries about scoring.

Funny bit to finish - Angelina Melnikova congratulates Downie with a kiss and then steps up on the 3rd place podium on her way to the 1st. No way could she have gotten there otherwise, and it’s just a small example for the physical difference between “juvenile” juniors like Jurca and Melnikova and juniors like Downie and Lyons.

On the eve of my first day in Sofia, I joined my newly met gym-friends for dinner at a well known restaurant in the city center. When the bill arrived, it dawned on me how indifferent the local populous really was to the competition. The price for a three course meal, adding beer and tip was the same as the cost of admission to all days of the WAG competition. I'm embarrassed to say I took this almost personally, and even though I was surrounded with gymfans at the time, I felt a bit lonely as a fan of the sport.

Continue on to Part 2