Videos of Maria Livchikova at the European Championships have popped up on youtube. She is, in my opinion, the Ukrainian with the best chance at qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London, unless they qualify a team which is quite unlikely. Although her bars are quite week, I consider her their best all around gymnast at the moment. She is absolutely gorgeous on beam and floor and attempts a double twisting yurchenko on vault (but rarely gets it to her feet).
Her second vault, the handspring front pike 1/2 shown in the video is very nice, but she needs to work on her yurchenko. There are only three videos of her vaulting on youtube, and one shows her landing a “double” twist. You can watch it here. The double is clearly 1 3/4, which is certainly not enough to receive credit.
Beam is undoubtedly her best event if she hits, and the one where she could definitely make a world final. I have to say I was a bit upset when I heard that she replaced her front handspring to front tuck (one of my favorite combinations) with a front aerial to front tuck à la Lauren Mitchell. After seeing it, however, I completely changed my mind. She actually manages to rebound out of the front aerial and use her momentum for the front tuck, instead of doing front aerial (pause) standing front tuck and getting some cheap .2 bonus. Then, being a wonderful, stylish Ukrainian, a standing arabian simply isn’t good enough- she does a handstand in splits straight into her arabian. It’s a shame there is no way to get bonus from a non-acro element- a valdez to an arabian would be glorious. My one complaint is that she could make her split closer to 180 degrees, or maybe do a stag handstand. Anyways, if those two combinations aren’t enough to make you love her, she performs a side aerial to layout stepout combination later on in the routine. Unfortunately, she seems to have inherited the inconsistency of her teammates and fell on all of the skills mentioned. If she hadn’t, she would have easily made beam finals. Compositionally, I think this routine is my favorite in the world. She just has to hit it, which is easier said than done.
Her floor has beautiful choreography paired with stronger tumbling than most of her teammates. It is much more mature than her jazzy routine from last year, which I also enjoyed to some extent. At the moment, she tumbles a fantastic double front with her legs together and a triple full. Gymnastics Examiner reported during podium training that she was attempting front layout to double front and whip to triple full. She did not attempt either in the competition, but it ended up being an underrotated memmel turn that kept her out of finals. That and her third pass, which is gorgeous but way too simple for an athlete of her level.
Maria is an gymnast who has so much potential, and who I hope can pull herself together by the World Championships. If I could give consistency to one gymnast, it would be her. This girl could be the one to keep Ukrainian gymnastics alive, at least for one more quadrennium. But if she continues to mess up in competition, she will be another beautiful gem from Ukraine who never got anywhere in the sport, and I would hate to see that happen.