Glasgow 2015: team Canada preview

REUTERSMark BlinchAfter their historic fifth place finish at the London Olympics, many people expected Canada to be an up and coming force into women’s gymnastics. However, this prediction turned out to be a little bit too optimistic and their program actually struggled after some of their most promising gymnasts like Aleeza Yu, Victoria Moors, Heaven Latimer and Kaitlyn Hoffland were out of the team due to injuries or personal reasons. Thankfully, the team seems to be in a much better place than they were at last year’s world championships, where they finished in 12th place, and they have a realistic chance to qualify into team finals if they do what they’re capable of. Back at home, they have Shallon Olsen, Rose Kaying Woo and Megan Roberts, three extremely strong juniors who are eligible for Rio and will be a huge boost for their program as long as the current senior team qualifies a full team to Rio. As it was recently announced, the athletes who will travel to Glasgow and try to achieve that are 2012 Olympian Brittany Rogers, World and Olympic finalist and Pan-American champion Ellie Black, world cup champion Isabela Onyshko, Pan-American medalist Victoria Kayen – Woo, Youth Olympic Games finalist Sydney Townsend, Pan-American finalist Madison Copiak and first year senior Audrey Rousseau. One of those athletes will be the alternate. Notably missing from the team is two times worlds team member Maegan Chant. The 18-years-old, who excels on vault and floor has been a part of a every major Canadian team since she turned senior and she had qualified to multiple event finals at international competitions. Maegan and her Nanning teammate Kirsten Peterman will be the additional reserves.

photo credit: Harry How

The leader of the team is Olympian and world finalist Ellie Black, who writes history for Canadian gymnastics every single year. Back in 2012, Black was the underdog, she was the last gymnast to be named to the Olympic team. Three years later, she is Canada’s absolute best. It really has been amazing to follow her career during the past couple of years and see her constantly improving and achieving fantastic results. She started her year by winning the gold medal on balance beam at the Elite Canada and then she participated in the American Cup, where she finished in fifth place and won a vault bronze medal at the Jesolo Trophy. After that, she won her third straight national title at the Canadian nationals and she was named to the Pan-American Games team, where she was the absolute star of the competition. After a rather shaky performance during qualifications, she came back strong in finals, to win a competition which is usually dominated by the United States. Ellie became the All Around champion, defeating USA’s Madison Desch and she also won the gold medals on beam and floor while also grabbing a bronze on vault and helping her team win a silver. After this tremendous success, the bar has been set very high for Ellie, who is expected to lead her team and qualify to the All Around finals while also challenging for a spot in vault, beam and floor finals at Glasgow.

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photo credit: UGA Athletics

Black’s Olympic teammate, Brittany Rogers is expected to return to international competition for the first time since London. After a very successful Olympic Games, Brittany moved to USA and started competing for the University of Georgia, but she never ruled out a potential comeback. In fact, when she was interviewed by arabian punch front, she said “Again, I don’t feel finished. I don’t feel done with elite. I think because I took that year off of competing at all because of my foot, I feel like I still have so much more to give. I think I’ve learned the meaning of team now and I just want to be able to help Team Canada out again because we’ve had so much success in the past and I just feel like my body is not… you know, not 20 years old yet. It’s still wanting to learn new tricks”. She admitted that Rio was her ultimate goal, and she’s definitely doing everything she can to achieve it. Right now, she is once again among Canada’s best. She has barely competed this year and she struggled at the Canadian championships. However, I’m absolutely sure that she wouldn’t be part of that team if she wasn’t capable of world class routines so I’m very excited to see how she does.

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photo credit: news.cn

Then, we have world team member Isabela Onyshko, who has been one of Canada’s most valuable gymnasts during the past couple of years. She placed second All Around at Elite Canada, where she also won two bronze medals on beam and floor and then, she earned one more All Around silver at the International Gymnix. She won one silver on bars and one gold on beam at this same competition and she represented her country at the Jesolo Trophy.Then, she had an excellent competition at the Ljubljana world cup, where she won two gold medals on bars and beam and a silver on floor exercise. She finished second All Around at the Canadian championships and she helped the team win a silver medal at the Pan-american Games, where she finished 6th All Around and qualified into the uneven bars finals. Despite her form errors, Isabela brings beauty, style and elegance to the team and she is expected to be Canada’s second strongest All Arounder.

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photo credit: gymcan.org

An other member of the 2014 world and the 2015 Pan-American team who is travelling to Glasgow is 17-years-old Madison Copiak. During the year, she has repeatedly finished fourth in the All Around at multiple competitions like the Elite Canada, the International Gymnix and the Canadian championships. Barely missing out on the podium over and over is certainly disappointing, but it also proves that even though Madison doesn’t have the difficulty of her teammates, she is a solid All Arounder who can contribute on every event if needed. She certainly did her job at the Pan-American Games, where she posted good scores on vault and bars to help the team finish second and she qualified into the uneven bars finals.

zimbio victoria woo
photo credit: zimbio

17-years-old Victoria Kayen Woo has a similar role. She’s not the one who is expected to make it to the All Around or the Event finals, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a very important role to the team. She has had some great moments during the year. She became the All Around champion and the bronze medalist on bars and floor at the International Gymnix and she really did an excellent job at the Pan-American Games, where she won a bronze medal on balance beam in front of her home crowd. However, she has also had some rough moments, posting scores on the 11s. She is an absolutely beautiful gymnast but some times, she tends to be inconsistent. However, in her defense, she put all those issues behind her and delivered every single routine the team needed from her at the Pan-American Games so hopefully, this will be a good confidence boost for her.

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photo from Sydney’s twitter

The two remaining members of the team, Sydney Townsend and Audrey Rousseau, who are both first year seniors. Sydney was the athlete who represented Canada at last year’s Youth Olympic Games, where she qualified to vault and floor finals. As a senior, she tied for fourth in the All Around at the Elite Canada, she helped her country win a bronze medal at the Jesolo Trophy and she competed at the International Gymnix. Unfortunately, she hasn’t competed during the second half of the season but hopefully she will be healthy and ready to do her best at Glasgow.

rousseau_audreyAudrey Rousseau started her senior career with two bronze medals at the Elite Canada, one in the all around and one on uneven bars. Then, she won a gold medal on the uneven bars at the Canada Games and she did an excellent job at the Jesolo Trophy, contributing solid scores for her team. She was only 15th All Around in qualifications at the Canadian championships, after major mistakes on every event besides vault and she chose to only compete on bars and beam at the finals. Therefore, she wasn’t a contender for the All Around podium and she was not selected to compete at the Panamerican Games. Audrey said to the international gymnast magazine “Honestly, my first goal is to do my routines the best way it’s possible. And at the end of the competition I want to tell myself, ‘Mission accomplished!'”

This is definitely a strong, talented team with much better scoring potential than Canada’s 2014 worlds team. The gymnasts who also competed at Nanning have shown great progress during the past year and the ones who weren’t in contention last year are a great addition to the team.

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Tyler Anderson, Postmedia Olympic Team

The Canadian team surprised the world at the 2012 Olympics, when they managed to have two athletes qualifying into vault finals. To this day, this remains one of their best events and there are more than a couple of gymnasts in the country who are capable of powerful double twisting yurchenkos. The problem is that three of them, Olsen, Woo and Roberts, are only juniors and therefore ineligible to compete. Now, Canada will have to rely on Rousseau’s, Copiak’s and Onyshko’s full twisting yurchenkos. First year senior Sydney Townsend used to perform a solid double twisting yurchenko in the past, but she has downgraded to a FTY this year. Hopefully, she will be healthy enough to compete her more difficult vault again. Then, we have the two Olympic vault finalists, Ellie Black and Brittany Rogers. When Ellie is in top shape, jsf_coc_womens_gymnastics_artistic_evening2358she competes a rudi and a double twisting tsukahara. Both vaults are often a tiny bit messy but very powerful and dynamic. However, during the year, we have seen her downgrading to a tsukahara 1.5 a front layout full. She had performed easier vaults for the biggest part of 2014 and 2013 too and then, she competed her full difficulty at worlds so hopefully, we will get to see her hardest skills at Glasgow. Brittany Rogers is probably going to attempt a double twisting yurchenko. She competed that vault at the Canadian nationals, where she just didn’t get enough height and landed very low, but that was months ago. Since then, she has even trained amanars, so hopefully, her DTY will be much stronger by worlds.

(photo credit: Photo: John Fernandez)

STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR
STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR

Unlike vault, bars have never been Canada’s best event, but they have definitely shown some progress during the quad. Audrey performs a maloney + bail combination, a tkatcev and a double front dismount while Pan-American Games finalist Madison Copiak is capable of a jaeger, a toe on full + maloney, and a full in dismount. Victoria starts her routine with a shaposhnikova into a bail, she performs a jaeger and she finishes with a gorgeous double layout dismount but some times she struggles to hit her handstands and has big form breaks. Two of those athletes should be able to deliver solid routines before the three best uneven bars workers of the team salute the judges. Isabela Onyshko has a very exciting but messy routine. She starts with an impressive maloney + clear hip full + tkatcev combination, she connects her hindorff with a rather ugly pak salto and she performs a van leeuwen before dismounting with a double front. She really needs to work on her form but she has a fantastic level of difficulty and a nice variety of skills so Canada is counting on her on this event. The leader of the team, Ellie Black, has shown tremendous improvement on this event. It really is remarkable how the vault and floor specialist of the 2012 Olympic team has turned into such a strong All Arounder, with fantastic skills on every event. The uneven bars have always been her weakness, but now she has a strong and original routine which includes an incredibly clean Shang, a jaeger + pak combination, a van leeuwen and a Moors dismount. She needs to continue to upgrade in order to be more competitive, but  even now140311-SUN-GYMNAST1 she can deliver a very respectable score for her team. Her Olympic teammate, Brittany Rogers, has always been one of Canada’s best on bars, which is her favorite event. She has planned a very ambitious routine with a potential 6.3 start value. She has been working on a stalder full + ricna + pak combination, maloney + bail, a markelov and a double layout dismount but of course, we can’t know if she will manage to put all those skills together in one routine. Her performance at the Canadian nationals was quite a disaster and even though I’m absolutely sure she has improved a lot since then, I’m worried about whether or not she will be able to hit such a difficult routine in her first international competition back. If she does though, there’s absolutely no doubt that she will score well. Her flight elements are high, her swing is fluent, her handstands are solid and she can definitely help the team on this apparatus. In addition to that, she is a very experienced athlete, who has proven she can hit under pressure.

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photo credit: Grace Chiu

On balance beam, Canada is in a similar position to most countries. It’s not really their best event but they do have the difficulty and they are capable of posting solid scores. However in order to do that, they need to hit, and this is far from a sure thing for them. Audrey is capable of a wolf jump + front aerial combination, a side somi, a switch half, an L turn and a double tuck dismount. She’s a bit inconsistent, but if she hits her routine she should be able to deliver a good score to start things off for Canada. Madison, who is capable of a double turn, a switch half and a double pike has similar scoring potential. Pan-American bronze medalist, Victoria Woo seems to have learned how to control her nerves and to perform under pressure. Her routine includes a front aerial + wolf jump combination, a double turn and a lovely 2.5 dismount. World Cup champion Isabela Onyshko has a fabulous, unique routine on this event too. She starts with two back handsprings into a layout and she performs a switch ring, an Y turn and an awesome front aerial + half illusion turn combination before finishing with a double tuck in combination. She cowboys the double tuck and she has plenty of form errors during the exercise but she’s soharry howw stylish and flexible that I’m willing to forgive her for that. Pan-American champion and world finalist Ellie Black is definitely the star of the team on this event. After showing amazing progress last year, Ellie performs ridiculously difficult skills and combinations, like a back handpsring + layout, a back handspring + tucked full, a front pike and a double turn. If she hits (and she hasn’t missed many routines during the year) she can not only help her team, but also qualify into the event finals. Brittany Rogers is still a question mark on this event since she only scored a 10.500 at the Canadian nationals and we haven’t had any updates on her progress since then. She said she’s working on new combinations and I would kill to see her gorgeous omelianchik at worlds, but even if she’s not ready on this event, her teammates can score high enough to keep Canada in the mix. Sydney has shown a good level of difficulty on this event in the past, but she has struggled quite a bit this year, posting some very low scores.

(photo credit: Harry How)

Jalu Pamuncar
photo credit: Jalu Pamuncar

Canada has a beautiful floor line up, full of nicely choreographed routines. Even though they have some great artistry and difficult tumbling passes, they don’t really have massive start values, so they’ll have to make sure they are as clean as possible. Brittany is not going to compete on this event, since she hasn’t trained here for a long time. Madison doesn’t have difficult tumbling (she performs a double pike, a double tuck and 2.5 twists) but all her skills are very high and clean so she should be a reliable back up if someone else makes mistakes. Audrey is capable of a double arabian and an 1.5 + double tuck combination while Sydney is a great tumbler who performs a triple full, a tucked full in and a double tuck. Victoria Woo has a piked full in and a clean 2.5 twists dismount. Her choreography is absolutely beautifully, the ending of her routine is fabulous and I always enjoy watching her on this event. Isabela is a super star here. Her tumbling passes are a full in, antumblr_ntyp22w9zl1u6zu2to1_540 1.5 + double tuck combination and a double pike and she also has a beautiful memmel but what really makes her stand out is her artistry and presentation. She has a very unique personal style, great choreography and tremendous flexibility. Her body just flows from one movement to the other and she makes eye contact with the audience the whole time and she really draws the attention on herself when she’s out there. Pan-American champion Ellie Black, will be the anchor of the line up. She still is the only person in the world doing a 2.5 step out into a double tuck and a front full into a double pike and her double twist + front tuck combination seems effortless. In the past, we have seen double layouts and triple fulls from her but I’m not sure if she’s planning to bring any of those skills back.

In conclusion, Canada has a strong competitive team which is definitely capable of finishing in the top 16, maybe even in the top 8. However, this is the case for lots of countries in the world right now so there’s very little room for error. They have had a fantastic season so far, achieving tremendous accomplishments in front of their home crowd at the Pan-american Games and hopefully they will be able to keep it up and finish the year in a high note. If they manage to qualify to the Olympics, which is a very realistic goal for them, they will be a big threat next year, when their top juniors will also be eligible to compete.

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