Glasgow 2015: team Netherlands preview

2015 has been an amazing year for the Dutch team, who qualified to Glasgow by placing 10th during qualifications at last year’s world championships. The potential of the team was obvious from the very beginning of the year, when Celine Van Gerner won a silver medal at the WOGA Classic and Eythora Thorsdottir became a world cup champion at Ljubljana. The Netherlands, was one of the most successful countries of the European championships, qualifying at least one athlete on every event final besides floor exercise and even earning one bronze medal. After that, they shined at the first European Games, where they won the team bronze medal as well as plenty of individual medals, one of which was gold. Their veterans were showing great progress, their injured athletes were coming back strong and everything indicated that they would be one of the strongest contenders for team finals at Glasgow. However, right now their chances don’t look as great as they did a few months ago because they’ve lost top athletes due to injury and they have been struggling with consistency. They definitely are one of the most beautiful and artistic teams heading to Glasgow, but beauty is not going to take them to Rio by itself. Their scoring potential is very similar to many countries so they will need to hit routine after routine and minimize deductions in order to finish in the top 16, and their performance at the recent friendly meet against Great Britain didn’t prove that they can do that. The athletes who will be representing the Netherlands at the upcoming world championships are: world cup champion Eythora Thorsdottir, European Games champion Lieke Wevers, Two times European Games medalist Mara Titarsolej, European medalist Sanne Wevers, world team member Vera Van Pol and first year seniors Mara Titarsolej and Tisha Volleman. Notable absent from the team is Olympian and European Games medalist Celine Van Gerner and European medalist Noel Van Klaveren. Celine, who was on the country’s nominative team, seems to have a hamstring injury that prevents her from competing while Noel Van Klaveren has not regained her full difficulty after her injury.

from lieke's twitter
photo from Lieke’s twitter

After always being injured and overshadowed by her sister, 24-years-old Lieke Wevers has had a break out year in 2015. She achieved excellent results at both Dutch European Games trials, winning the All Around title both times and earning gold medals on every event besides vault. After that, she was obviously named to the team that traveled to Baku, where she had the absolute best competition of her life. She didn’t put a foot wrong during the entire Games and she became one of the most decorated gymnasts by winning four medal, including the All Around bronze and the balance beam gold. After this ridiculous success, she was one of the front runners coming into the World Trials and she did not disappoint since she won the All Around and the balance beam title while also winning silver medals on bars and floor. She had a rather rough competition at the recent friendly meet against Great Britain, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is one of her country’s best on three events. She really is a gorgeous gymnast, with fantastic artistry and beautiful work on bars and beam and she has a great chance to qualify into the All Around finals at Glasgow.

6th European Men's and Women's Artistic Gymnastics Individual Championships, Montpellier (FRA), April 15th - 19th, 2015
photo credit: ueg

Her twin sister, Sanne Wevers also achieved some fantastic results during 2015. After winning a silver and a bronze medal on the balance beam at the two European championships trials, she was selected to travel to Montpelier. There, she did an excellent job, qualifying into the finals on the two events she competed. She had an unfortunate fall that took her out of contention on balance beam, but she had an excellent performance on the uneven bars. She managed to stay clean and consistent in a final where everyone was falling apart and at the end of the day, she ended up winning a well deserved bronze medal. She also became the uneven bars champion at the World trials and she was named to the worlds team. Sanne, who is known as the queen of spins, is expected to be Netherlands’ bars and beam specialist and the team is heavily relying on her on those two events. She unfortunately has been struggling with some back problems recently and she did not compete at the friendly meet because of that, but she is expected to compete at Glasgow.

photo by spotlight gymnastics

Her Montpelier teammate, Eythora Thorsdottir, is one of the most loved gymnasts travelling to Glasgow in a couple of weeks. She started getting lots of attention at 2012, when she competed at the junior European championships. She didn’t have much difficulty and she didn’t win any medals, but she won the heart of fans from all over the world with her gorgeous artistry. One year later, she was one of the stars of the European Youth Olympic festival, where she won a silver medal on balance beam in front of her home crowd. Unfortunately, she struggled with major back problems and she missed all the major competitions of 2014. Her fans started loosing hope, but Eythora did not. She talked with different doctors until she finally found out how to get rid of the pain, she worked hard, she upgraded her routines and she returned in competition at the end of last year. She started her 2015 with a gold All Around medal at the Sidijk Tournament and she continued by dominating both Dutch European championships trials. During the second trial, she won every single gold medal, including the All Around title, and proved herself as one of her country’s best. A couple of weeks later, she won the gold medal on floor at the Ljubljana Cup and she competed at the European Championships. There, she made it into the All Around finals and was the first reserve for floor finals. More recently, she won the All Around bronze medal at the World trials and the balance beam silver at the friendly meet against Great Britain. If everything goes as planned, Thorsdottir should be one of her country’s two All Around finals and she is also a contender for the balance beam finals, if she manages to hit her routine during qualifications. She also is an underdog for a spot in the floor finals, since her routine has a potential 6.0 start value.

lisa top
photo credit: spotlight gymnastics

Two times European Games medalist Lisa Top is an other very valuable athlete for the Dutch team. At the age of 20, she already is an experienced gymnast, who has participated in plenty of major competitions like the Olympic Test event, the European Games and the world championships. Her first competition of the year was the Sidijk Tournament, where she placed third in the All Around, on vault and on floor exercise and second on the uneven bars. After this solid start, she did an excellent job at the first Trials for the European Games, placing second All Around, first on vault and third on bars and beam and then, she secured her ticket to Baku, by winning an All Around bronze, an uneven bars silver and a floor exercise gold medal at the second trial. After a successful competition at the FIT challenge, she participated in the European Games where she helped her team place in third place and she earned a bronze medal on vault. Unfortunately, a fall during qualifications kept her out of the floor finals and prevented her from fighting for a medal there. She grabbed an other gold medal at the Dutch worlds qualifying meet and also won a bronze on the same event at the friendly meet against Great Britain. Lisa is an All Arounder, but the events where she is expected to contribute the most are vault and floor. She is probably the most powerful athlete of the team and their only potential vault finalist.

vera van pol sportlig
photo by spotlight gymnastics

Then, we have 2014 world team member Vera Van Pol, who is a solid All Arounder, with a decent level of difficulty on all events. In 2015, she earned a bronze medal on floor exercise at the first European Games Trial and a bronze one on vault at the second trial. However, she had some trouble on the other events, posting relatively low scores and she was not selected to compete at Baku. She also had a rough competition at the FIT challenge, where she only managed to break 13 on vault but she came back strong at the Dutch worlds qualifications, placing fourth All Around and winning bronze medals on bars and floor. At the recent friendly meet, she had a fall on balance beam and a couple of shaky landings on floor, but did a good job on vault and bars. Vera is not the super star of the team, but she is fairly strong on every single event and can contribute everywhere if needed.

credit: Jan de Koning

The two younger members of the team were relatively unknown until before this year. Tisha Volleman, was part of the 2014 junior European team, where she helped the team on three events. She has had a solid first senior year, consistently finishing among the top 5 All Arounders of her country. More specifically, she placed 5th at the Dutch Worlds qualifications and she posted Netherlands’ third highest All Around total at the friendly meet against Great Britain, where she finished in seventh place overall. Mara Titarsolej, who competed at the WOGA Classic as a junior, surprised us all by her impressive third place finish at the Dutch worlds qualifications and proved herself as a strong contender for the worlds team. Unfortunately, she has been struggling with injuries this year and she wasn’t able to compete on any event besides the uneven bars at the friendly meet, and even there, she only performed a layout dismount. Hopefully, she will be ready and healthy by worlds. In my opinion, one of those two athletes is very likely to be the alternate.

In the beginning of the quad, the Netherlands showed fantastic potential on vault, when Noel Val Klaveren earned a European bronze medal and Chantyssa Netteb qualified into the world finals. However, in the following year, both gymnasts ended up struggling with injuries and none of them is part of the worlds team so right now, they don’t really excel at this event. Lieke’s full twisting yurchenko is not very powerful and Tisha’s is short and piked down but Mara has a solid full twisting tsukahara. Eythora recently added an extra half twist to her vault, and she debuted a yurchenko 1.5 at the recent friendly meet against Great Britain. She had clean form in the air, but she barely got it around. Hopefully, she will perfect it by the time she leaves for Glasgow but if she doesn’t, I hope she sticks with her lovely FTY instead of risking an injury for three extra tenths. During the year, Vera Van Pol has performed a tucked tsukahara with 1.5 twists and a layout tsukhara with a full twist. She’s capable of executing both vaults cleanly and she should be able to post a good score with either of them. The best vaulter of the team, is European Games medalist Lisa Top. The 19-years-old athlete has mastered her front tucked full and she sticks it almost every time. She’s been competing a FTY as her second vault, but she has successfully trained a yurchenko 1.5 in the past but I’m not sure if she’s planning to compete it.

The Netherlands are one of the few top teams who don’t have any double twisting yurchenkos in their line up. However, vault is the highest scoring event, and they can stay in the mix even with a few yurchenko fulls. Then, they will have to gain some ground on the uneven bars, which is a stronger event for them. Unfortunately, the absence of European bars finalist Celine Van Gerner will cost the team some valuable tenths but thankfully, there are a couple of strong routines in the country. The stars here are Wevers twins. Sanne, who won a bronze medal on this event at the European championships, starts her routine with a difficult shaposhnikova + clear hip full + bail to handstand combination and she performs a high jaeger and a double layout dismount. Lieke, has upgraded her opening combination into a beautiful church + pak and she shows beautiful lines during her maloney + bail + toe on full before dismounting with a double front. In the past she has struggled with consistency on this event so we can only hope she will manage to deliver under pressure. Vera Van Pol would also be a valuable member for their line up. She performs a maloney + bail and a high jager, but the highlight of her routine is definitely her dismount sequence. It is a hop full right into a double arabian dismount that nobody else in the world can do. Mara shows incredible form during her jaeger, her pak salto and her shaposhnikova and she is capable of a full in dismount. She only dismounted with a simple layout at the recent friendly meet but hopefully, she will be healthy enough to do her full in at worlds. Eythora, who has a van leeuwen, a jeger and a tucked full in, is a good backup on this event. Tisha also performs a beautiful jaeger but doesn’t really have tons of difficulty while Lisa Top, whose releases are a gienger and a jaeger, is a bit messy and only dismounts with a double pike.

The balance beam is probably the team’s strongest event, and if they can handle their nerves and overcome their inconsistency they definitely have the potential to post high scores here. The most impressive thing about their line up on this apparatus, are their incredible spins. Most of their gymnasts, perform some difficult turns beautifully (and none of them are wolf turns so yay for that) The Wevers twins are once again very valuable on this event. European finalist, Sanne Wevers is known as the queen of turns, since she is the creator of the incredibly difficult double L turn on balance beam and she performs a fantastic L turn + full turn + double turn combination. Her routine also includes a lovely kochetkova. Her sister, Lieke, who recently became the European Games beam champion, also has an amazing turning ability and she’s capable of a lovely 1.5 L turn and a double spin. Both athletes connect two side aerials and perform front aerials into back handsprings before dismounting with gainer layouts. However, the super star of the team on this event has to be the elegant Eythora Thordottir, who has scored above 15 during the year. She’s just lovely on this event. There are lots of gymnasts with good difficulty and execution, some of them even have actual choreography. But none of them is quite as unique or as beautiful to watch as she is. Some of the most notable combinations are her split leap + side aerial + korbut, her onodi + illusion and her full turn + L turn + switch leap + Y turn. She also performs a ring leap into a sheep jump, a front aerial into a scale and a 2.5 twists dismount and she has incredibly rhythm and choreography. Unfortunately, she has been very shaky on this event, but if she actually hits like she used to do in the beginning of the year she has an excellent chance to qualify into event finals. Mara is also beautiful to watch, and she’s capable of a pretty front handspring mount, a switch leap + L turn combination, a double spin and a side aerial but she’s terribly inconsistent while Tisha performs a front handspring into a front tuck from one foot, e beautiful double spin and a steingruber dismount. Vera has some fantastic twisting elements, like a kochetkova, a rulfova and a 2.5 dismount as well as well executed leaps, like a switch half and a johnson. Lisa, starts her routine with an impressive front tuck but she’s not quite as strong as her teammates on this event.

This team has one of the most beautiful floor line ups in the world. They don’t really have the best tumbling or the most powerful routines, but they do have incredible artistry and lovely execution. The best tumbler on the team is Lisa Top, who has delivered some fantastic routines during the year. In the past, she used to perform a Dos Santos but she took it out of her routine at the recent friendly meet. I’m not sure if she’s planning to bring it back but I certainly hope she does. Her other tumbling passes are a double front tucked, an 1.5 into a font full and a double tuck. I absolutely love her forward tumbling and she knows how to stick a landing. Vera Van Pol is capable of a sky high double arabian, a 2.5 + front tuck combination, an 1.5 + front full and a double tuck and her younger teammate, Tisha Volleman, also performs difficult passes, like a tucked full in and a triple twist, but she’s also graceful and has beautiful choreography. Mara is also absolutely beautiful to watch. She has classical balletic style and lovely extension and toe point. Her most difficult tumbling pass is a double arabian and she’s capable of a beautiful memmel + illusion and a double L into a double turn. Then, we have Lieke Wevers and Eythora Thorsdottir, whose routines have been widely discussed because they only include two tumbling passes. Lieke, who has never been renowned for her power and has struggled with several injuries during her career, only performs a double tuck and 2.5 twists while Eythora has a double pike and a triple full. I understand why people are skeptical about this routine construction, and I certainly hope that it won’t prevent Eythora from reaching her full potential as a tumbler in the future, but I would be lying if I said that I’m not in love with their routines. They’re both so freaking beautiful to watch. Lieke was a gorgeous, dramatic floor routine, with lovely choreography and she always puts her heart and soul into her dance. And Eythora, is simply stunning. In my opinion she is the most artistic gymnast in the world right now. She just has it all: the ballet training, the body posture, the rhythm and the musicality, the complicated unique choreography, the expressiveness, the performance quality. Eythora is an artist. She doesn’t just dance to avoid artistry deduction, she pays incredible attention to every single detail of her routine and you can see that she has spent hours putting her choreography together. If I could only watch one gymnastics routine for the rest of my life, I would choose hers.

In conclusion, team Netherlands has plenty of impressive gymnastics and they definitely have what it takes to finish in the top 16. The could even have an outside shot of making team finals. However, the same can be said for plenty of other teams from all over the world. They don’t have an advantage in difficulty over teams like France, Canada, Australia and Italy. And they don’t have an event with massive scoring potential, like Germany and Great Britain do. Because of that, there will be very little room for error but hopefully they will manage to deliver. I would certainly be absolutely devastated not to see them in Rio.

photo credit: x

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