10 Best Apparatus Saves in Rhythmic Gymnastics (Including 2018)

By Daniela Michaely | August 31, 2018

10 Best Apparatus Saves in Rhythmic Gymnastics (Including 2018)

Is it not a secret that rhythmic gymnasts train for 40 hours a week, maybe even more, especially those in the elite levels like the Russian twins Dina and Arina Averina, the Bulgarian frontrunners Neviana Vladinova and Katrin Taseva, the complete surprise European Championships bronze medalist Belarus’ Katsiaryna Halkina, or the new Israeli RG pride Linoy Ashram.

It takes a lot to become an elite in rhythmic gymnastics, to say the least. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are perfect. Because nobody is perfect, right? This is why they have deductions in their execution scores, based on the Code of Points. Most of the basis for these deductions is almost invisible to the untrained eye. If you don’t know what element you’re looking at, it is so easy to assume that it was perfectly executed. However, to a trained judge, they see it all. Nothing gets past their eagle-like eyes when it comes to catching an improper toe point or wrist flick, which are simply hideous crimes that a gymnast can easily and unknowingly commit.

Funnily, though, is that some of these mistakes are very obvious that even a three year old soccer enthusiast who’s never seen gymnastics in his life can see it. These are the drops, missed catches, and misaimed throws. But worry not, because these professional gymnasts tries their best to save these fiascos like their life depended on it—and maybe it did—and successfully manages to save the day!

These gymnasts who indeed managed to save their apparatus are all superhero-like. It takes skills even to catch a miscalculated throw, but some of them still achieved the almost impossible. They deserve the world for it. Unfortunately, it’s too expensive. So in tribute to these gymnasts’ efforts to save their apparatus—and therefore their scores (a little bit)—Juliette from the famous Instagram RG fan account @rhythmicgymnasticsedits and I have collaborated to feature some of the best saves in rhythmic gymnastics! (Read: what we were able to find, anyway. Because, man, these gymnasts are flawless most of the time!)

First up is Russia’s Arina Averina in her clubs routine at the World Cup Pesaro 2018’s Event Finals. By the end of her routine, she has this element where she does a tumbling while throwing a club into the air with her right leg. At the said competition, upon catching the airborne club, she realized she’s couldn’t stand up from the floor in time, so she stretched her body awkwardly to trap the club to the floor using the club on her other hand. It almost passed off as a natural catch, except that everyone knew she wasn’t supposed to catch it that way. She was supposed to immediately stand up from her tumbling, and catch the pesky club in the air before it drops to the floor. But she made do! (Also worth noting is that she already dropped a club at an element before this one. She must have been really tired.)

On the other hand, there is Georgia’s Salome Pazhava who is a victim of probably one of the most common mishaps in rhythmic gymnastics: a too strong ribbon throw. Add that to the fact that ribbons are just THAT hard to control airborne in a room with maxed up air conditioner power because their shapes and the materials they are made from are practically aerodynamic. Wouldn’t you agree?

Anyway, at the 2018 Baltic Hoop’s Event Finals, Pazhava miscalculated a throw and the ribbon flew almost out of the carpet. After making two rotations and a tumbling, she fluidly caught it at the border of the carpet, like she meant for it to happen, and immediately brought it back inside. Smooth catch there, Pazhava. Real smooth.

What isn’t smooth, however, is the Russian team’s performance at the 2016 Thiais Tournament. Their 2 Hoops + 6 Clubs Event Finals performance in the said competition is probably one of their messiest ever. People are pretty sure Irina Viner was NOT happy about that. Apparatus are dropping left and right like flies! One of them was caught by a member, but poorly. This is a part of a series of mistakes, actually. First, a club was thrown by one member, but the member who was supposed to catch it missed. She picked it up and blindly threw at a direction so she could move on with her elements. However, since the throw was misdirected, it didn’t quite reach the catcher. The catcher then ran as fast as she could to catch it and succeeded; only it meant she was down on the floor and flailing. Kudos to her for a good reflex though! She stood up like a champ and continued with her elements.

The Russians seems to be on a roll here, because next on our list is Alexandra Soldatova. This is quite funny, because she tried to play it off like she did nothing wrong, and to an untrained eye it looked like she didn’t. But she totally did something!

At the Ball Finals of World Cup in Pesaro 2017, by the middle of her routine, she threw the ball into the air and made a rotation. Once it fell, she caught it on the floor between her legs. She rolled over to the side to free the ball, however, it seemed to have stuck loosely at the back of her bent knee, so she decided to fix it (split-second decision making for the win!). Using her right foot, she pushed it higher up into the curve of the back of her knee, snuggly, while pretending like she wasn’t doing it. Good call, though, because she successfully did the following element to that.

Now, in the GIF above, the amazing save Italy’s Alexandra Agiurgiuculese did is definitely something! It gave people at the 2017 Italian Nationals quite the scare! You can even see the line judge at the back jump in surprise. That turn could have been really painful if she wasn’t able to avert her fall. Thank God for her quick thinking! If no one knew better, since it’s SO smooth, it could have passed off as a new trick to her element, no?

World Challenge Cup in Kazan 2018 Best Apparatus Saves

Kazan is the last stop of the World Challenge Cup this year. It’s only maybe a week after the stop in Minsk, so it is safe to assume that the gymnasts are already less than a 100% coming in, especially the ones who competed in Minsk as well. Their minds are all set, though, so even if their bodies are giving in, they’re still fighting to win! Here are some of their attempts (and successes) at it:

First up is the World Challenge Cup Series’ title holder, Alexandra Soldatova. Interestingly, she wasn’t even supposed to compete in her home ground, and so the title should have gone to Linoy Ashram because she was comfortably in the lead. However, Arina Averina pulled out of the competition because of a recurring shoulder injury, so Soldatova stood up to raise her compatriot’s flag. She tied with Ashram in the end, only her difficulty scores a little bit higher, so raise the flag she did!

Even if Soldatova is the World Challenge Cup Series winner, we all know she isn’t perfect in any way. If anything, she is a little bit unstable. This has been caught once again during her clubs performance at the apparatus finals, where she stood up into a vertical split, but her knee seems to want to do something else like maybe, I don’t know, rest? As she made some turns while in a vertical split, her knee gave in and she had to catch herself on the floor—upside down.

It isn’t particularly an apparatus save, but a good self-save there, Soldy!

Now this next one is not from Kazan, but from World Cup in Holon and in 2014. We’re only putting it here in light of Soldatova’s save above, because it’s quite similar. It is another Russian, then 17 years old Yana Kudrayvtseva and her ball finals performance.

A lot of people might already know this one, because it’s quite…iconic. Such a fall hasn’t been seen in a while, so it gave a lot of people the scare. At around the beginning of her routine, she did a vertical split much like Soldatova’s and then fell behind when her upper body refused to lift from its position. Both of her feet are already on the floor, but her body just couldn’t quite make it up, so it sent her tumbling backwards. She did some quick thinking and saved herself with both arms, but still fell head first anyway, still gripping the ball like her life depended on it—because first rule of fight club rhythmic gymnastics: never talk about fight club never lose the apparatus!

She then stood up and kept on going, because that’s what champions do.

France’s Kseniya Mustafaeva hasn’t been under the spotlight in maybe around a year. So it is only understandable that she’s still a little shaky in the carpet. At Kazan’s ball events, her apparatus seemed to have adopted a secondhand anxiety from her. She did a very impressive volleyball-like receive as her ball drops from the air, and then proceeded to roll it up her right arm, around her shoulders where it stopped and nested on the curve of her back and shoulders, while she’s upside down, hands on the floor. However, upon the ball’s rolling down the arm it originally went up on, as her feet drops down back to the floor, it misdirected its own roll and went flying behind Mustafaeva. Smartly, she immediately went to catch it, and she successfully did.

Listen, it’s not easy to save an apparatus that had gone rogue—same as how it’s not easy to come back to competitions after a series of injuries—but she barreled through and moved on like a true champ. Now THAT is a fighting spirit!

Dina Averina’s recent ball routine is centered on fun and playfulness. It is even based on the Russian theatre play “Parsley. Symphony in three movements” (don’t take Google’s English translation to the heart, it’s probably not 100% accurate lol) where they have a jester character that looks to be, ironically, sad. That doesn’t stop Dina from using it as an inspiration though, even unintentionally incorporating a funny apparatus save in it!

In her performance at Kazan, a couple of seconds before the end, she stuck the ball on her nape as she walked a couple of steps forward. She dropped it in between her legs as she bent down. However, as it obviously and purposely is out of her line of sight, she caught it awkwardly under both heels. She bent forward as if meaning to do an egg roll, but stopped herself with both hands on the floor when she realized she can’t proceed. Her next element is supposed to be to hold the ball with both feet as she rolled forward, but with the current weird placement of the ball, she can’t do that. So while bending down, she probably thought, “Oops, let me just, uh, fix it a second”—and then she did—“There we go,” and proceeded to carefully (she actually slowed down to make sure she does it right) roll forward, ball held by both feet, to close her routine.

It was actually really cute!

We have seen Mustafaeva be a victim of the ball that is notorious in seeming to take a life of its own. Next to ribbon, it is the apparatus that is known to give gymnasts a hard time, and one of the Japanese representatives Kaho Minagawa is no exception. At Kazan’s ball finals, she was JUST closing in her routine. You can easily imagine Kaho thinking, “Yes!” as she finishes her routine. Just one blink away from it really, and the ball—alas unforgiving smh—have decided to mess it up.

Kaho’s last pose is supposed to be lying flat and straight on the floor, the ball trapped under both thighs. To get to this last pose, however, she had to throw the ball and catch it between both legs while on the floor. Unfortunately, the ball bounced on the floor between her legs before she can close them to trap the ball. She parted her legs back and was only able to catch the ball the second time that it fell, ending her routine with a pose that is different—and totally impromptu—than her usual: legs bent to trap the ball between her ankle and thigh so that it. Can. Never. Get. Away. Again.

It could easily look like she had meant to do that, but oh no, we all know better, don’t we? ;)

Watch Juliette’s edits of these saves right here: part 1 and part 2! And while you’re at it, maybe give her (and us! @bpacademy) a follow?

Now if you’re watching these, admit it, they are kind of (a tiny, tiny little bit) funny. However, we also need to keep in mind that behind these amazing saves are the gymnasts who are constantly striving to do better. Sometimes they fail, and often times they succeed, and it’s a beautiful metamorphosis to see happen right before our eyes. Sometimes they lose, and sometimes they still win. Just look at Yana Kudryavtseva, it was SUCH a bad fall, but well, she grew up to be the 2016 Olympic medalist after that, didn’t she?

That’s how you know, ladies and gentlemen, that a fall does not mean a fall.

And since we’re talking about saves here, this last and bonus one is not about saving oneself or an apparatus. This is about a brave, brave man who saved the queen of RG herself (even if we admire her for being a strong independent woman who don’t need no man): Irina Viner-Usmanova, from a falling venue design at the 2018 European Championships in Guadalajara. Hats off to you, good sir! Quite literally because, did you see where Viner’s quintessential hat went?! Great reflexes for a non-gymnast, too!

Your Turn

Rhythmic gymnast ribbon vector

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