Universiade 2015: athletes to watch

The 2015 Universiade will be held in Gwangju, South Korea and the gymnastics competition will take place from 4th to 7th of June. Understandably the field is not very deep, but there are some impressive gymnasts expected to compete.

AUSTRALIA is sending three of their top athletes. All the gymnasts who are going to be competing at Universiade were part of the 2014 world team, who managed to qualify into team finals, and will be top contenders for the worlds team this year.

Firstly, we have my favorite gymnast from Australia, Georgia – Rose Brown. At the age of 20, Georgie is the country’s top All arounder and she has participated to World and Commonwealth Games AA finals. She is capable of a solid full twisting yurchenko on vault and she has a world class bars routine which includes a maloney + gienger combination, a jaeger and a double front dismount. She’s absolutely beautiful on beam, where she performs a switch leap + Y turn and a front aerial + illusion turn. She has successfully performed a double arabian on floor but she often sticks with easier tumbling passes, like a double pike, a double front full and 2.5 twists. She also has a lovely memmel + illusion turn combination. She’s an absolutely gorgeous gymnast, with beautiful lines and fantastic artistry. I consider her a medal contender on AA, bars and beam finals.

Universiade, will be the first competition of the year for 21-year-old Mary-Anne Monckton, who had ankle surgery a few months ago. She has had a very successful 2014, since she won Commonwealth Games and world cup medals and she made the worlds team. She said that she almost is at the same level she was before the 2014 world championships, so she should be able to challenge for the beam title. She also has a nice FTY on vault and a tkatcev + pak combination and a markelov on bars.

The last member of the team is 19-year-old Emma Jane Nedov. She has a full twisting yurchenko on vault and she starts her floor routine with a powerful double arabian but the event where she really shines is beam. She is capable of a high layout, a bhs + loso + loso combination, a front tuck, a questionable switch ring and a double pike dismount. Just like her teammates, if she hits this routine she has a great chance of winning the gold medal on this event.

Two times Olympian Lauren Mitchell was part of the team but she will not be able to compete after injuring her knee during training. This is extremely unfortunate, since Lauren was just coming back from an other injury and she had just decided to train for Rio.

RUSSIA:

During 2015, Russia has dominated every competition they entered, and the Universiade shouldn’t be any different. They are the reigning champions and they should be able to defend their title. In 2013, they were represented by their top athletes in this competition but that was an exception because Universiade was held in their own country. This year, their team is comprised by athletes most of whom are not strong contenders for the worlds team. However, Russia’s “B team” is absolutely competitive against other countries’ A teams and they are once again the front runners for the gold medal.

Two times Olympic medalist and European champion Maria Paseka is probably the most successful athlete who will be travelling to South Korea. Seeing her name on the roster is a bit surprising since she is the only one in this list who is actually a part of Russia’s A team. Because of that, I have very high expectations of her. She will probably only compete on vault and bars, just like she did at Montpelier, and she should easily make it into finals in both of them. It will be interesting to see if she will perform her full difficulty. During European Championships she showed a Cheng and a much improved amanar to win the vault title. But now, she’s competing against a much weaker field and she should have no problem winning gold on vault with a DTY and a Lopez. If her goal for this competition is to win the vault title she should probably not take any risks. However, I guess she is using this meet as an other opportunity to prove that she is capable of landing her difficult vaults so I wouldn’t be surprised if she performed at least one of them. Masha barely missed the gold medal at the 2013 Universiade, where teammate Ksenia Afanasyeva outscored her, so I’m sure that she is very determined to be on the top of the podium this time.

Olympian and world team member, Yekaterina Kramarenko should also be one of the stars of Universiade. She has been around for a long time and she has had lots of ups and downs (who can forget her zero on vault during 2007) but 2014 was definitely one of the best years of her career. After only competing in small competitions for the last few years, she managed to make it into the worlds team again and win her first world medal, after many years in the sport. This year, Russia has a much deeper team, so it’s very unlikely to see her in Glasgow. In that case, Universiade could be the biggest competition of the year for her so hopefully, she will get her chance to shine. She has a good level of difficulty on every event. On vault, she will probably stick with a FTY, since the DTY we saw at worlds was very short and she hasn’t competed it since. She’s capable of a front tuck, an aerial + split jump and a double tuck on beam and a full in and a whips + double tuck combination on floor. Bars is the event where she really is excellent. She’s absolutely world class on this event and the gold medal is hers to lose. she performs difficult skills, like a chow 1/2 and a van leeuwen. If everything goes well, Katya should be a contender for the the AA and UB title and she could also make it into BB and FX finals.

The gymnast I desperately want to see doing well in this competition is Daria Elizarova. If you’ve been following the sport for a while, you certainly remember this little ball of sunshine who impressed the world with her great presence and level of difficulty when she won the AA title at the 2006 junior euros.

She was charismatic, she was artistic, she was flexible. she was unique and she was powerful and everything showed that she was going to have a bright future ahead of her. It turned out, that we were too optimistic. An injury in 2007 kept her away from the competition floor and slowed down her progress. She did not earn a spot in Russia’s 2008 Olympic team and she never managed to make a major team for them as a senior. Seeing that she was unlikely to ever be part of Russia’s A team again, she made a big decision and chose to switch countries and compete for Uzbekistan, where she would have better chances to make it to worlds, and most importantly, to the Olympics. She had some great moments while competing with them. She helped them achieve a historic bronze medal at the 2010 Asian Games, where she also made it into three event finals, and she got to compete at the first and only world championships of her career in 2011. However, when it was time for the Olympics she was disappointed for a second time since Uzbekistan chose to send Luiza Galiulina to the Olympics instead of her. And the worse thing is that Luiza tested positive for banned substances and did not even compete. So Daria stayed at home, while Uzbekistan was not represented by any female gymnast in the Games. Now, she is once again competing for Russia. It’s very unlikely to ever see her being a major contender for a european, worlds or Olympic team, so this Universiade is most likely going to be the most important competition where she’ll ever represent Russia. And after all those disappointments through the years, I really hope she will be successful. If she performs well, I can see her being Russia’s second AAer behind Kramarenko and she could also make it into floor and beam finals.

https://vk.com/videos6119210?section=uploaded

Then we have 2014 worlds alternate, Polina Fedorova. She could also be Russia’s second all arounder but where she really shines is balance beam. She could win a medal, even a gold, on this event, but she’ll have to compete against her teammates, against the Aussies and the Japanese and most importantly, against herself. She really is her own worse enemy on this event and she often can’t handle the pressure and makes mistakes. The highlight of her routine is a full turn + side aerial + side aerial + side somi combination and she also competes a bhs + bhs + loso, a front aerial + sheep jump, a switch ring and an illusion turn. She could also be useful on floor, where she’s capable of a triple full, a double turn + illusion, a memmel and a 2.5 + front tuck combination

The last and least well known member of the Russian team is Alla Sidorenko. She is not really top 3 on any makes mistakes. Her best event is probably floor, where she performs a full in and a triple full and a lovely front aerial + illusion turns combination. She also has some nice skills, like a tour jete half, a switch ring and an illusion turn on beam. However, her execution scores shouldn’t bee too high since she struggles to keep her knees straight and her form clean througout her routines.

JAPAN:

The Japanese team is led by Olympian and World finalist Asuka Teramoto, who recently won the gold medal at the Japanese All Around Championships. She is capable of some of the most difficult routines we will see at Gwangju. On vault, she has a rudi. Seeing a gymnast like her, who is not renowned for their vault, performing this skill last year was definitely a big surprise and I’m curious to see if she’ll go for it or if she’ll stick with a FTY. The truth is that her rudi is quite low but she typically has no problem putting it on her feet. Asuka has been a world finalist on both bars and beam, where she actually just missed a medal last year. Her routines on both events are absolutely world class. Her bars set includes a jaeger, a gienger in combination and a lovely full in dismount while on beam, she performs a bhs + bhs + loso series, an onodi, a front aerial + side somi, a switch leap + side aerial combination and double spin. She is also quite strong on floor, where she performs a triple full, double front twist and 2.5 twists + front layout. With that level of difficulty, Asuka should be a medal contender in the AA, UB, BB and maybe even FX finals.

Two times Japanese All Around champion, Natsumi Sasada is also expected to leave Gwangju with a couple of medals. She is a very solid all arounder who could definitely challenge for the podium. She has a nice FTY on vault, a very unique jam to handstand + jaeger combination, a tkatcev and a full in dismount on bars and a full in on floor. Her best event is definitely the balance beam. She is not competing the layout full mount that made her famous any more but she still has some fantastic work. She is capable of a lovely layout, a switch ring and a double pike.

An other fantastic beam worker from Japan is Sakura Yumoto. She is capable of a switch ring, a round of + layout and a jump series + front aerial + sheep jump combination and a double pike dismount. She is also usable on vault, where she has a nice FTY and on floor, where she opens with a triple full. Her bars routine includes a jaeger, a pak and a full in dismount but she’s not as clean as her teammates. Sakura is also going to be a member of Japan’s worlds team so this competition should be a nice test for her.

2014 worlds team member, Wakana Inoue was unfortunately not named to this years’ worlds team so Universiade is probably her best opportunity to show what she can do. Her strongest event is floor, where she combines good tumbling with beautiful artistry and choreography. She is great twister and she is capable of a lovely triple full and 2.5 + front full combination on floor and a triple full dismount off beam. She also has a lay out step out mount and a switch leap + side aerial combination. She has showed 1.5 yurchenkos on vault but she’s not very consistent with it so she will probably stick with a FTY.

The oldest member of the Japanese team is 25 years old Yu Minobe. She has participated in two Olympic Games and multiple world championships, which makes her one of the most experienced gymnasts of the competition. She has some nice turns on floor (double L + L turn and triple turn) but she really is a bars and beam specialist. On bars, she has a lovely 1.5 pirouette + tkatcev combination as well as a full pirouette into jaeger and a double front dismount. On beam she performs big skills, such as a layout, an onodi + sheep jump combination, a ring leap and a double pike dismount. If everything goes well for her she could make finals on both events.

South Korea:

 Heo Seon Mi was the athlete who represented South Korea at the London Olympic Games. She has a nice bars set, which includes a maloney, a van leeuwen, a markelov and a double layout dismount. In 2012, we performed an 1.5 yurchenko and a DLO on floor, but she has struggled with injuries since then.

 

 Eum Da Yeon also represented her country at the 2014 world team member beam. Her best even is definitely beam, where she performs a very impressive 1.5 Y turn as well as a lovely double turn. Her flight series is an original side aerial + bhs combination. She also has some nice skills on bars such as a tkatcev + pak combination, a shaposhnikova, a jaeger and a full in dismount but her swing is a bit labored and she really needs to work on her handstands. Floor is her weakest event, she doesn’t have much difficulty and she seems to run out of energy, but she uses Carly Patterson’s 2004 music. She vaults a FTY.

 

 Park Ji Soo also competed at the 2014 worlds, where she posted the team’s best score on balance beam which is her best event. She really is an impressive beam worker, who is capable of a switch ring, a double turn, an original side aerial + sheep jump combination and a double pike dismount. I would definitely not be surprised to see her in event finals with this routine. Other notable skills are her FTY on vault, her 1.5 + front full on floor and her piked jaeger, her tkatcev and her beautiful double layout dismount on bars.

Park Eun Kyung is the oldest gymnast of the team at the age of 24. She had got lots of attention in 2008 because she was performing 7 tumbling passes in the same routine. We haven’t seen much of her since the 2010 worlds, where she was part of South Korea’s team so I’m very interested to see what she can do

 The last member of the team is 20 year old Park Se Yeon.

Individual competitors

I really missed Ana Filipa Martins at the European Games and I’m very excited to see her in Universiade. Ana, who is her country’s first world cup medalist, has done miracles for Portoguese gymnastics. 2015 has been very successful for her so far, since she won world cup medals and she placed in the top 8 at AA finals of Montpelier. Some of her most notable skills are her full in and her triple full on floor, her piked jaeger and her shaposhnikova + bail combination on bars. She doesn’t have any massive start values or any flashy elements, but every skill that she does is high and clean and she often beats gymnasts with more difficulty thanks to her good execution and her consistency

Talking about gymnasts who have written history for their country, Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, won 6 medals for Malaysia at the recent South East Asian Championships. She really is a balanced All Arounder capable of skills like FTY on vault, a maloney and a van leeuwen on bars, a switch ring, a side aerial and a front aerial on beam and a double pike and 2.5 twists on floor. However, what really sets her apart is her presentation. She’s such a delight to watch and her smile lights up the entire arena. Her artistry and her charm have won the hearts of so many gym fans who would all love to see her performing well here. I don’t know if a medal is possible for her, but she is one of the few athletes who perform two vaults (FTY and tsukahara layout) and she has enough difficulty on the other events to make it into finals

You should also keep an eye on the Ukrainian ladies, Angelina Kysla and Krystyna Sankova. They are lovely gymnasts with beautiful artistry and big skills. They are both strong on floor, where Angelina performs a double arabian and a 1.5 + 2.5 twists and Krystyna opens her routine with a big Double Layout. Angelina also has a very respectable 5.7 start value on bars and Krystyna is a lovely beam worker when she hits. They are Ukrainian, so it’s not hard to guess that their weakness is inconsistency. They have broken our hearts over and over again during the last couple of years so it would be so refreshing to see them both having a good competition and qualifying into a couple of finals.

Kelly Simm of Great Britain has been very busy during the last couple of months. She competed at the FIT challenge at Ghent, at the European Games of Baku and now she is flying to South Korea to participate to the Universiade. She went to Baku as a medal contender for vault and floor but she unfortunately did not manage to win any medals because of falls and mistakes so she will be hoping to redeem herself at this competition. She is one of the best tumblers we will see at Gwangju and she performs a double layout and a fantastic whip + full in combination. She’s also capable of a DTY on vault, an inbar piked tkatcev and a komova + pak at bars and a full in dismount off beam. However, we saw her struggling with many of those skills at Baku. She crashed her DTY, she had multiple falls on beam during the AA and she fell on bars during qualifications. The field in the Universiade is not going to be very deep and Kelly must be quite tired after competing so much so I wouldn’t be surprised to see watered down routines from her.

list of the athletes competing here and here

schedule of the competition here

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