By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Rio Olympic Arena was abuzz with excitement last night (April 18th) as Brazil’s talented young hope, Flávia Saraiva delighted crowds late at night with a winning performance in the Women’s Floor exercise. She had earlier picked up silver on the balance bar.
Saraiva at just 1.35m (4ft 4inches) tall and sixteen years old, has won three medals the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing in 2014 and will hope to do the host country proud in this year’s Olympic Games.
Her team mate, Arthur Zanetti, the current Olympic champion on the rings, was also buoyed by an energetic home crowd. He confirmed his unbeatable status by securing the gold in the Men’s Rings Competition on Monday, April 18th.
Three different gymnastics disciplines – the artistic, trampoline and rhythmic – are being contested at the Aquece (Warm-up) Rio test event this week until Friday April 22nd. It is the final chance for many countries’ gymnastics teams and individuals to qualify for the Olympics. The event is open to the public and tickets are still on sale.
Already the competition has been marked by triumph and tragedy. The Romanian team, who have won a medal at every Olympics since 1976, failed to qualify this year. Veteran athlete and five-time gold medal winner, Catalina Ponor, wrote on her Instagram account:
“Today it was a sad day for us, Romania unfortunately didn’t qualify for Olympics, so sad for me ’cause actually I come back from retirement just for this…. Well didn’t happened! I don’t know what it will happen from now on but I wanna say Thank you for everyone for your support and wanna thank you first to all Brazilians that they were calling out loud my name! That was the best moment, a feeling that I haven’t feel from long time ago!”
It was a disappointing event for the Australians too, who missed out on sending their women’s artistic gymnastics team to the Games for the first time since 1988. They needed to finish in the top four places to go through. However they were pushed into fifth by France at the end of Sunday.
Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev proved his place as a serious contender in the Summer Games after he won three times in the Artistic discipline. He went home with a gold in the Floor, the Vault and, his favorite event, the Parallel Bars.
The Trampoline competitions take place today, Tuesday, and the Rhythmic gymnastics will be held on Thursday and Friday (April 21st and 22nd). Tickets are available at R$20; R$10 for concessions.