France qualified a full team at this year’s world championships when they finished at a very respectable 13th place during the qualifications at Nanning. Now, they have an even stronger team since some of their injured athletes are finally healthy enough to compete and some of their most promising juniors are now seniors and hopefully, they will be equally successful.
The leader of the team is 21-years-old Marine Brevet, who was named to France’s 2012 Olympic team but was unable to compete due to an injury. She has had a rather busy 2015, participating in multiple international competitions and proving that she is one of the most elegant and artistic gymnastics in the world right now. She placed third in the All Around during the French championships, after a disappointing beam routine and she represented her country at the Jesolo Trophy, where she qualified to beam and floor finals. She also won an All Around bronze medal at the FIT challenge and she was part of France’s European Games team. At Baku, she helped her team finish in an impressive 4th place but she unfortunately did not make it to the individual finals. However, she was the country’s top All Arounder at the recent France vs Romania friendly meet, where she once again finished third in the All Around and second on the uneven bars and floor exercise. She also did a great job at the internal tests, consistently finishing top 2 in the All Around. Marine should have already competed at the Olympic Games, but luck wasn’t on her side in 2012. Now, she has an other chance to make her dream come true in 2016, but in order to do that, she will first have to make sure that her country actually qualifies a full team to the Olympics.
Marine will be joined by her Nanning teammate, Claire Martin, who has been gaining lots of attention from international fans during 2015 thanks to her fantastic artistry. She won two silver medals on beam and floor at the French championships, while also placing 5th in the All Around and she was chosen to represent her country at the European championships. There, she qualified into the All Around finals and she achieved the biggest accomplishment of her career so far, when she earned a bronze medal on balance beam in front of her home crowd. She placed 5th All Around at the first worlds internal test, where she also posted the highest score on balance beam. Unfortunately, a knee injury prevented her from competing on any event besides bars at the second test but thankfully she had a speed recovery. She recently competed at the Romania vs France friendly meet, where she won an other bronze medal on her favorite event, placing right behind Olympic champion Catalina Ponor and world and Olympic finalist Larisa Iordache. She also placed fourth on floor exercise, where she had the second highest score of the French team, proving that she is not an one event specialist. Claire is definitely one of the most artistic athletes heading to Glasgow, and no matter how she performs, she is going to bring some beauty and elegance into the upcoming world championships.
The third member of the team is Valentine Pikul, who turned senior in 2013. The beginning of the year wasn’t spectacular for her. She didn’t compete on all four events at the All Around Finals of the french championships and therefore was unable to fight for a spot on the podium and she didn’t win any medals in the event finals. She travelled to Italy for the Jesolo Trophy, where she qualified to the uneven bars finals and she placed 11th All Around at the FIT challenge. After not having any magnificent results during the first half of the year, Valentine finally got her chance to shine at the European Games, where she was France’s top All Arounder and only event finalist. She finished 8th All Around and 6th on floor exercise and despite some mistakes, she showed that she is one of her country’s best gymnasts. She proved herself once again at the worlds internal tests, where she placed third and fourth in the All Around, earning a well deserved spot on the team.
Then, we have the lovely Louise Vanhille, who is finally healthy enough to show us what she can do. Louise is 17 years old but this really is her first year as a senior since she missed all the major competitions of 2014 due to an injury. She had a fantastic competition at the French championships, where she won the gold medal on the uneven bars and the silver on floor exercise and the All Around finals. She had a couple of shaky competitions at the Jesolo Trophy, the European championships and the FIT challenge but she overcame her struggles and proved herself at the two internal tests. During the first one, she placed fourth All Around and posted the highest score on the uneven bars and during the second one, she managed to win the all Around title. Then, she won the uneven bars title at the Romania vs France friendly meet where she once again placed fourth in the All Around. Louise has a special sparkle and a fierceness that I absolutely adore and I hope she can have a succesful performance at worlds.
The two remaining spots went to three first year seniors who are definitely expected to offer a lot to the team and improve France’s total from last year. Those are Loan His and Camille Bahl. After a stellar junior career, Loan started her first year as a senior with the best way one could possibly imagine since she became France’s All around national champion while also grabbing the floor title. She made it to the uneven bars finals at the Jesolo Trophy and she was selected to represent her country at the European championships, where she made it into the All Around and the uneven bars finals. Unfortunately, she got injured during the summer and she wasn’t able to compete on all four events at the internal tests. However, she proved herself at the Romania vs France friendly meet, where she placed sixth in the All Around after posting solid scores. Right now, she is one of the country’s best uneven bars workers and if she continues to improve, she could challenge for a spot in the All Around finals.
The last member of the team is 16-years-old Camille Bahl, who represented France at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games after Loan withdrew from the competition with an injury. She started her senior career with a gold medal on vault and a fourth place All Around at the French championships and then she placed fourth on vault at the Jesolo Trophy. She represented France at the European championships, where she once again made it into the vault finals. She definitely is France’s best vaulter, but she is not an one event specialist. She placed third All Around at their second worlds internal test and she posted solid scores on three event at the Romania vs France friendly meet.
Now, let’s take a look at the team’s potential on each event:
France has never been renowned for their vaulting and this year is no exception. However, vault is the highest scoring event, and even though this team doesn’t have great difficulty, they can still get solid scores in the high 13s – low 14s range and stay in the mix. Claire Martin is probably the athlete who won’t compete here during qualifications, since she only performs a yurchenko layout. Then, Brevet, His and Vanhille are all capable of beautiful full twisting yurchenkos while Valentina Pikul has a strong tsukahara with a full twist. The best vaulter of the team, is European finalist Camille Bahl, who is the only one with a double twisting yurchenko. Being capable of that vault was enough to make her a lock for the worlds team, and France is relying on her to deliver a big score here. Camille also has a second vault and she hopes to make it to the event finals, but the competition is very intense so I’m not sure if she will be able to do that.
After a solid but unspectacular vault rotation, France will have to make the most out of one of their strongest events, the uneven bars. In the past, we’ve seen French athletes throwing spectacular routines and performing ridiculously difficult elements. Unfortunately, this is not the case this year, and the absence of world finalist Youna Dufurnet is definitely going to cost them some valuable tenths here. However, the fact that they don’t have any defs this time around, doesn’t mean that they don’t have a world class line ups. We will see lots of transitions performed in combination from this team. Marine Brevet, Louise Vanhille and Valentine Pikul all start their routines with a shaposhnikova variation into a pak and continue with an other shaposhnikova variation into a bail to handstand before performing beautiful, high jaegers. It’s not the most unique routine construction, but it’s an efficient way to get some bonus points. Marine has gorgeous lines and extension and an absolutely beautiful double arabian dismount while Louise, who was the Massilia Cup uneven bars champion in 2013, has an aggressive swing and shows lots of potential on this event. The star of the team here, is European finalist Loan His. She had one of the hardest (and messiest) bars sets at the 2014 junior European championships. As she turned senior, she started valuing quantity over quality and she took out some of her skills and combination in favor of a higher execution score but she still has some very impressive skills. She performs a toe on full into a van leeuwen, a church and a maloney into a bail. She still has to improve her execution but she has definitely cleaned up in the last year. Claire Martin recently added a tkatcev and a beautiful double front dismount to her routine, but she still has a very low start value. Camille Bahl performs a maloney, a piked jaeger and a strong double layout dismount but she often struggles to hit her handstand. One of those two athletes will most likely not compete on this event.
Beam is an other strong event for France, and if they overcome their nerves and inconsistency they can certainly score well here. There’s no doubt that their star is European bronze medalist Claire Martin. The 17-years-old, who is a two times European finalist, really is one of the most beautiful athletes in the world right now. There’s just something special about the way she works on this event. She has a personal style, an elegance that very few people in the world possess. She is capable of one of the prettiest onodis you will ever see, a front aerial + split jump + side somi combination and a double pike dismount and she moves from the one element to the next with incredible rhythm and fluidity. Marine Brevet also shows beautiful lines and elegance on this event and the highlights of her routines are her switch ring leap and her powerful double pike dismount. Valentine starts with an impressive front tuck mount and she performs a front tuck, a wolf turn and a high double tuck. I absolutely love her low to beam choreo. Louise Vanhille used to have a beautiful mount as well, but she changed it after falling on it during the European championships. She is capable of a front aerial + split jump + side aerial combination, a sheep jump and a switch leap into a switch half. She is promising on this event but she really needs to work on keeping her knees straight and hitting her split. Great potential is also shown by Loan His, who has a front tuck, two back handsprings into a layout step out, a sheep jump and a switch half. Her main problem is her inconsistency, but if she learns how to control her nerves she could do great things here. Camille Bahl could also contribute with a solid score. Her routine has nothing spectacular, but she performs a front and a side aerial, a switch leap + switch half combination and a double pike dismount, so she has enough difficulty and her execution is fairly good.
The event where I’m most excited to watch this team is certainly floor exercise. Through the years, France has developed a very unique and interesting style in their choreography and they always show up with some of the most artistic and enjoyable routines. Of course, not every athlete is a naturally talented dancer and not everyone in the team has the artistry and grace of Brevet or Martin. However, even gymnasts like Pikul, Vanhille and Bahl, who are not necessarily the most elegant ones out there, have beautiful routines, full of original moves that go perfectly well with the music and they are not afraid to show their personality and sell their program to the crowd. Marine Brevet, who has always been one of the most elegant athletes out there, has a new floor routine to a remix of “Shine on you crazy diamond”. She is one of the strongest tumblers on the French team, since she performs a double layout and a piked full in. Her leaps are absolutely gorgeous, her ending pose is beautiful and overall she’s just stunning to watch. We will also see some powerful tumbling by Camille Bahl, who is capable of a piked full in and a triple full while Valentine Pikul has a tucked full in, and a sky high double pike. Loan His doesn’t have any spectacular tumbling passes, but she has a good sense of rhythm and she works well with her music. She definitely is an artistic athlete, but I can’t decide whether I like her music or not. Louise Vanhille also starts her routine with a piked full in (France really does love this tumbling pass) and continues with a double tuck and a double pike. Her leaps are high, the ending of her program is fabulous, she is expressive and she shows some attitude during her performance. The athlete I’m most excited to see on floor is Claire Martin. She is not very powerful, her hardest acrobatic element is a double pike and her second pass is only a front full. However, she is capable of difficult dance elements, like a Mustafina turn and a switch ring half and damn, this girl can dance. There’s no one else in the world who has her elegance and her musicality, she’s just poetry in motion. She may not be a tumbler but she definitely is an artist.
The alternate of the team is 2012 Olympian Anne Khum. She is a solid All Arounder who can be used on every event if needed. Some of her most notable skills are her FTY on vault, her gienger, jaeger and double layout on bars, her double turn, sheep jump and double pike on beam and her whip + double tuck on floor.
cover photo from here
photo credit: Thomas Schreyer, Anne Sophie Henri, Anh Viet Chau, getty images, sportgymrus.ru