Steingruber denies Mustafina quadruple gold
BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Swiss gymnast Giulia Steingruber produced a virtuoso display on the floor to deny her Russian rival Aliya Mustafina a fourth gold medal at the inaugural European Games on Saturday.
Despite taking a penalty for stepping off the edge of the floor, Steingruber edged Mustafina by 0.066 points and won her second gold medal of the games, after victory in the vault earlier in the day.
“I’m really proud about my performance,” Steingruber told The Associated Press, adding she could do even better in the floor exercise.
“I think there’s a little friendship (with Mustafina) but also a rivalry. We have to do it against each other, so it’s quite tough.”
The season has been a breakthrough for Steingruber, who also won European Championship all-around gold in Montpellier, France, in April and now has her first gold medals at a multisport games.
“It’s a big step forward,” she said, adding that her thoughts were already turning to next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “I still have to work hard, so I will give my best — first for the worlds and then for Rio.”
Mustafina and Steingruber have fought all week in Azerbaijan, with the Russian beating the Swiss to gold in Thursday’s all-around.
Mustafina is the reigning Olympic champion in the uneven bars and underlined her talent in that discipline by taking the European Games gold Saturday. It was the Russian’s third European Games title after winning the all-around and the team event with Russia.
“I’m basically satisfied, completely,” Mustafina said. “I’m very happy, I’m very tired and I feel like going home.”
The men’s events Saturday saw different winners on each of the six pieces of apparatus. Oleg Vernyaev of Ukraine, who won the all-around two days earlier, leaves Azerbaijan as a double gold medalist after winning the vault.
Ukraine-born Azerbaijani gymnast Oleg Stepko pleased the home crowd by winning on the parallel bars, while Greece celebrated its first ever European Games gold when Eleftherios Petrounias won on the rings.
Two-time Olympic medalist Florian Hambuechen of Germany had a difficult week, but ended on a high note with the gold medal in the horizontal bar.
Elsewhere Saturday at the European Games, 46-year-old Swiss shooter Heidi Diethelm Gerber took gold in the 25-meter pistol event despite only starting to compete at international level at the age of 40.
Diethelm Gerber said she was on the right track for success at the Olympics.
“It’s progress in small steps every year, and now I’m on the right way for Rio,” she said in quotes provided by European Games organizers.
Gerber’s best Olympic result to date is 29th in the 25-meter pistol in 2012.