Glasgow 2015: team Great Britain preview

When the legendary Beth Tweddle retired after the 2012 Olympics, most people thought that British gymnastics would struggle. Three year later, it’s clear that this prediction could not have been more wrong since the country has an extremely talented team that has won more medals than one can count. They really have had some fabulous moments during this quad. Who can forget them qualifying first into team finals at the 2014 European championships, beating Romania and Russia? Who would overlook the fact that they were the only team to qualify two gymnasts into every single final at this year’s Europeans? And of course, who would deny that they absolutely dominated the 2014 Commonwealth Games? They have also been very successful at the last two world championships, qualifying plenty of gymnasts into the All Around and the event finals. After placing fourth at qualifications during Nanning, they earned the right to bring a full team at Glasgow and now it’s their time to shine in front of their home crowd and qualify a full team for the Rio Olympic Games.

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photo credit: sportlight gymnastics

The athletes who are going to represent the country are: Olympian, World finalist and European champion Becky Downie, World Cup champion, world and European finalist Ruby Harrold, four times Commonwealth Champion, European medalist and world finalist Claudia Fragapane, European medalist Ellie Downie, English and British All Around champion and European finalist Amy Tinkler and world team member and Universiade All Around champion Kelly Simm. Charlie Fellows is the alternate. Notably absent from the team is the promising first year senior Tyesha Mattis and 2012 Olympian Rebecca Tunney. Tyesha, who is still recovering from an injury, decided not to fight for a spot in the worlds team so she can have more team to heal and make a strong comeback next year, when it will matter the most. Rebecca has also had a fair amount of injuries during this quad and she just wasn’t in the shape she needed to be in order to be considered for worlds. Hopefully, they will both stay healthy and prove themselves as strong contenders for Rio next year.

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photo credit: spotlight gymnastics

The leader of the team is 23-years-old Becky Downie, who is one of those gymnast who just seem to get better with age. After barely not making it to the 2012 Olympics, Becky has had a fantastic last couple of years, winning plenty of medals at major international competitions like the European championships and the Commonwealth Games. She started her year with a gold medal on the uneven bars at the English championships and despite having a rough competition at the British championships, she was selected to represent her country at Montpelier. There, she had an excellent performance, qualifying into event finals at both events she competed and winning two silver medals. At the recent friendly meet against the Netherlands, she managed to win a bronze medal on the uneven bars with a fall. With her incredibly difficult bars set, Becky is her country’s top medal contender, and the only British gymnast who has a great chance to win an individual gold medal.

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photo credit: spotlight gymnastics

Of course, Becky, is not the only member of her family who will be representing Great Britain at worlds, since her little sister, Ellie also earned a well deserved ticket to Glasgow. After participating in plenty of major junior competitions, like the European championships and the Youth Olympic Games, “Becky’s little sister” had already made a name for herself before she even was even 16.  It really has been great to see her flourishing into the excellent gymnast she is today, and I will probably shed a couple of tears when I see her and her sister competing next to each other at worlds. The beginning of her senior career was rather shaky. She was coming back from an injury and she posted relatively weak scores at the English championships. However, she still manage to win a silver medal on beam. She gave us a stronger performance at the British championships, where she won a bronze in the All Around and two silvers on vault and bars. However, she still wasn’t 100% back and I have to admit that when she made the European championships team I thought she wouldn’t be ready. It turned out that I couldn’t possible be more wrong. Ellie did a fabulous job during qualifications, making it into the All Around, the vault and the uneven bars finals and she wrote history by becoming Great Britain’s first gymnast to win a major All Around medal. She didn’t put a foot wrong during the entire competition and she hit routine after routine, proving why she deserved to be on that team. More recently, she absolutely dominated the friendly meet against the Netherlands, winning the gold medal on every single event. After this amazing result, there was no doubt that she would be representing her country to Glasgow. She may be young, but she is a rising star. She is her country’s top All Arounder and I definitely have high expectations from her.

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photo credit: spotlight gymnastics

The Downie sisters will be joined by two times world team member Ruby Harrold. Back in 2012, she just wasn’t quite ready to make it to the Olympics, but she has really shined during this quad. Unfortunately, she struggled with injuries that kept her away from competition for the biggest part of the year and she missed the continental championships. She made her comeback at the British team championships, where she delivered solid scores on vault and beam and then, she represented her country at the Osijek world cup, where she won a gold medal on her favorite event, the uneven bars. She had a rough competition at the friendly meet but all her mistakes are things that can be fixed in a couple of weeks so she will hopefully be ready by worlds. Harrold is very likely going to compete on all four events during qualifications and she is expected to post a high score on the uneven bars during team finals. She is also hoping to qualify into the third world finals of her career.

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photo credit: spotlight gymnastics

Then, we have Claudia Fragapane, who has definitely come a long way since she turned a senior last year. She was pretty much unknown as a junior, and she came out of nowhere to become a European finalist, 5 times Commonwealth champion and a four times world finalist in one year so she definitely has a lot to celebrate already. 2015 hasn’t been perfect for her. It seemed like, she and her coaches got a little bit too excited after her amazing success and tried to add too many upgrades at once. This caused her some problems at the American Cup, where she struggled on both the uneven bars and the floor exercise. She came back strong at the English and the British championships, winning multiple medals, including two silver ones in the All Around and two golds on vault. After that, she was selected to be part of the European championships team. She may have had her ups and downs problems at Montpelier, but at the end of the day, she was one of her country’s top All Arounders, she placed fourth on balance beam and she won the silver medal on floor exercise, so I’m sure she went home satisfied. Unfortunately, she recently had an injury that slowed down her training on the power events and she could only compete on bars and beam at the friendly meet. If she is at her best shape, Claudia is a contender for the All Around, the vault and the floor exercise finals and she can help the team on three events. We can only hope that she will have fully recovered by the time the world championships begin.

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photo credit: spotlight gymnastics

An other 2014 team member who is returning to worlds is Kelly Simm, who has had some ups and downs during 2015. She started her year with a strong performance at the English championships, where she won the All Around bronze medal, the floor exercise gold and the vault silver, and then, she earned an other second place finish on vault at the British championships. She was not chosen to participate in the European championships, but she competed at the FIT challenge, where she had falls and mistakes and she made the team for the European Games. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to shine at Baku. Her team did not manage to challenge for a medal and she only made it into the vault finals. There, she crushed her double twisting yurchenko and only received a zero for it, after she never landed on her feet. Thankfully, she got her redemption at the Universiade, where she had the absolute best competition of her life, winning the All Around title, the vault silver and the floor exercise bronze medal. She had a very solid competition at the friendly meet, finishing third in the All Around and posting the second highest score on the uneven bars. Kelly has definitely shown great improvement during the year and she is capable of some unique skills and combinations. In fact, she is planning to debut an inbar piked tkatcev and she’s hoping to get it named after her. Germany’s Sophie Scheder will  be performing the same skill though, and if they both catch it, then it won’t get named after anyone. She is expected to help her team on vault, bars and floor.

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photo credit: ueg

The last member of the team is an other first year senior who has already achieved excellent things during her short career. Of course, we are talking about the lovely Amy Tinkler, who proved herself as a major contender from the very beginning of the year. She won the All Around titles at both the English and the British championships, while also grabbing several event final medals, two of which were gold at the two competitions. Being so successful at her first competitions as a senior brought her lots of international attention going to European championships and she did not disappoint. She may not have won any individual medals, but she did an excellent job, placing 6th All Around and qualifying into the floor exercise finals. After that, she won the All Around title at the British team championships and she had a fantastic competition at the friendly meet against the Netherlands, where she won the silver medal in the All around and on vault, the bronze on balance beam and the gold on floor exercise (tie with Ellie Downie). Despite her young age, Amy is incredibly consistent and she has a fantastic level of difficulty. She is expected to help her team on vault and floor and to qualify into the All Around finals.

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photo credit: spotlight gymnastics

Those 6 ladies should hope for a strong start on vault, since they have a significant advantage over other top teams like Germany, Italy or Australia. Every single member of the team has competed a double twisting yurchenko in the past, but not all of them are still capable of that skill. Becky Downie, who is protecting her fragile ankles, has not compete on vault for a while now while Ruby Harrold, who is still coming back from an injury only showed a yurchenko 1.5 at the recent friendly meet against the Netherlands. Kelly Simm seems to be struggling with her DTY and she has been using her Lopez as her first vault for the biggest part of the year while worlds and European finalist Claudia Fragapane recently suffered from an injury that prevented her from competing vault and floor at the friendly meet. Thankfully, new seniors Ellie Downie and Amy Tinkler are still able to perform this vault very well. Ellie’s is particularly high and powerful, and she recently upgraded her second vault to a ridiculously clean Lopez, so she is a strong contender for the vault finals. I’m hoping that Fragapane will bring her difficult vault back for Glasgow. After all, vault and floor are the events where she’s expected to contribute. But even if she doesn’t, Great Britain has a very solid line up, which includes two double twisting yurchenkos, one lopez and one yurchenko 1.5 and this is not something that every country can say.

11159961_1057060267641918_193756819090789703_nuegGreat Britain has one of the strongest uneven bars line ups in the world and they need to take full advantage of that. Even without European finalist Rebecca Tunney, they are capable of posting some pretty huge scores that will give them a significant advantage over countries like Italy, Romania, Canada and Brazil. It’s needless to say that the star here is European champion Becky Downie, who has a potential 6.9 routine. I’m not the biggest fan of her routine construction because she’s performing multiple variations of the same skills and combination, but I can’t deny that her level of difficulty is beyond impressive. starts with a fantastic chow + shang combination, she connects a toe on full with her own eponymous skill and then she performs a pak salto out of it and she performs a maloney into a hindorff before dismounting with a full in dismount. Her execution is quite clean and she typically keeps her knees together, hits her handstands and sticks her dismount. With this routine, Becky has the potential to score well above 15 and to fight for the uneven bars title. Two times world finalist Ruby Harrold has regained all her difficulty and she still has one of the most unusual routines in the world. Her trademark combinations (maloney + bhardwaj and van leeuwen + zuchold) are still here and her jaeger is as high as ever. She has struggled a bit with hitting her handstands and keeping her form clean but after all, she is still coming back from an injury. She looks better and better every time she competes so hopefully, she will be 100% back by worlds. European finalist Ellie Downie has shown some incredible progress on this event, where she used to struggle as a bd4b8feb213fac3e3c766e5518fcd02djunior. Her opening combination (forward toe on half + maloney + tkatcev) is ridiculously difficult and she’s also capable of a toe on full + tkatcev and a double layout dismount. She scored an impressive 14.7 at the recent friendly meet against the Netherlands, so she can definitely compete on this event during team finals. Talking about incredible progress, I still can’t believe how much Kelly Simm has improved on this event. She hadn’t even performed a single inbar stalder in her career and she suddenly appeared with a Komova 2 and a piked Galante, that she is hoping to get named after her. She has been very inconsistent during the year and she still gives away quite a few tenths on execution but she certainly could post a solid score during qualifications. During the year, Amy Tinkler has shown difficult skills and combination, such as a maloney + pak, a van leeuwen, a markelov and a toe on full + tkatcev but she always has a couple of legs separation and short handstands that hurt her execution score. However, she is very promising on this event and I would love to see her upgrading in the future. The uneven bars have always been Claudia’s weakest event and this year is no exception. She attempted a church + pak combination but is not really consistent with it. She will probably compete on this event during qualifications in order to make it to the All Around finals, but the team is not hoping to count her score. I absolutely love Great Britain’s uneven bars work, because despite their minor imperfections, each gymnast has a different routine than the next one. When you look at the Chinese team’s line up, you know you’re going to see forward pirouettes into a jaeger and a shaposhnikova variation into a gienger. When you look at Russia’s line up, you can expect Komova 2 + pak + van leeuwen combinations, inbar halfs into jaegers and full in dismounts. Of course, both countries execute those elements flawlessly and they are absolutely gorgeous to watch. However, I still love how each British gymnast has a different style and a different routine construction.

(photo credit: ueg and Grace Chiu/Graceclick.ca for Examiner.com)

uegggThen, we have the always dangerous balance beam, and if there is one event where things could go wrong for Great Britain it’s this one. Don’t get me wrong, they are by no means weak here. In fact they have some fabulous skills. However, just like most teams in the world, they have always struggled with consistency on this apparatus. The Downie sisters are the stars of the team on this event. Becky has been a rock for her team during this quad and she shows elegance, power and flexibility with this routine. She is capable of impressive skills like a beautiful side aerial + layout step out combination, a front tuck, a switch ring and a double pike dismount. During the quad she has scored as high as a 15 and as low as a 9.450, so she’s not the most consistent athlete in the world but she usually delivers during team finals. Her sister Ellie, has shown significant upgrades on this MEN_4636 (1)apparatus, and her routine includes a high standing arabian, a front tuck, a switch leap + switch half combination and a 2.5 dismount. In the past, she has performed a patterson, but we haven’t seen this dismount for a while now. Amy Tinkler is capable of a tour jete half, a very unique gainer loso + loso flight series and a difficult triple twist dismount while European finalist Claudia Fragapane performs a standing full and a back handspring into a layout. Ruby Harrold’s routine includes an illusion turn, a switch ring and a front tuck. Kelly Simm is probably the one who won’t compete on this event.

(photo credit: ueg/ Yelena Michailova for Russian gymnastics federation)

uegLast year, floor exercise was Great Britain’s weakest event but things are different now, when Amy and Ellie are part of their line up. They are both consistent gymnasts and excellent tumblers with a fantastic level of difficulty and clean execution. More specifically, Ellie starts her routine with a spectacular 1.5 + double arabian combination and she continues with a powerful Dos Santos and a clean 2.5 + front layout. The height she gets she absolutely insane and she somehow manages to keep her execution clean and to control her landings beautifully. During the year, Amy has competed a double layout, a full twisting double layout and a silivas and if she manages to put those skills in the same routine she will have a massive start value. She is also a great performer, with fun and entertaining choreography and she never fails to put a smile on my face when she competes on this event. Kelly Simm is also extremely powerful and she performs a double layout and a unique whip + tucked full in combination. In the past she’s been heavily penalized for her bent knees, legs separations and low landings so she will definitely need to clean up in order to receive a high score but I’m definitely looking forward to her routine. European silver medalist Claudia uegfbFragapane, was the savior of British gymnastics on this event last year. She has a very ambitious routine, which includes a full twisting double layout, a sky high double arabian, a triple twist and a double layout. As mentioned above, she has been struggling with an injury and she did not compete on this event during the friendly meet so we don’t know if she will be able to perform all those elements in Glasgow. Ruby Harrold, who performs a high double arabian, a double front twist, an 1.5 + front full and a double tuck, should be a reliable back up for qualifications if needed.

(photo credit: ueg)

In conclusion, Great Britain has an incredibly strong team this year. Most teams have a weakness, an event where they don’t have a high scoring potential. For Romania, Italy and Brazil it’s the uneven bars and for Russia and Germany it’s the floor exercise. But Great Britain has enough difficulty to post four scores above 14 on every single event and this makes them a front runner for team finals. I don’t know if they could realistically end up on the podium, like some people hope. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible -nothing is impossible in gymnastics- but it’s going to be hard. However they still are one of the best teams in the world. They could even afford a fall or two during qualifications and still score better than most of the teams out there. Lots of their gymnasts are strong contenders for the event finals and as long as they’re being themselves, they will have no problem qualifying to team finals and therefore, to Rio.

photo credit: ueg, spotlight gymnastics

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