1. Celine Van Gerner, Netherlands
Celine has been one of the most valuable athletes of the Dutch team for several years now. She was a world team member and a world All Around finalist in both 2010 and 2011, she qualified into the finals at the European championships and World Cups and it looked like she had a great chance to qualify into the London Olympic Games. However, her ankle started bothering her in 2011, she was in major pain at Tokyo and when she went to have it checked up, it turned out that she had a fractured bone. This was absolutely devastating, especially because, with the Test Event only months away, she could not afford to miss training. Unfortunately, it turned out that this was the only option, and Celine went to the Test Event only as a spectator. The Dutch team, that was missing some of its top gymnasts, did not manage to qualify to the Olympics but Wyomi Masela earned and individual spot for the London Games. Celine was clearly her country’s top gymnast at the time, but she never got a chance to even try to earn a ticket to London and she felt that this was not fair. She ended up filing a lawsuit, after male gymnast Jeffrey Wammes, who was in a similar situation did the same thing. Her appeal was accepted, and it was decided that the woman who would represent the Netherlands at London would be selected later that year. This meant that Celine needed to prove that she deserves that spot over Wyomi and she did exactly that, by qualifying into the finals at the European championships and winning a gold medal at the Ghent World Cup. When it was time to represent her country at London, she proved that she definitely deserved to be there by having an excellent performance that placed her 19th in the All Around and 10th on the uneven bars during qualifications. She continued to impress in the All Around finals, where she finished 12th and she was the first reserve for the uneven bars finals. After an excellent Olympic Games, Celine decided to continue competing. An ankle surgery took her out of competition for the biggest part of 2013 but she came back strong in 2014, making her country’s worlds team and helping her team finish 10th during qualifications. She started her 2015 in a great way, posting excellent scores at the WOGA classic, where she finished second in the All Around and first on balance beam. She was impressive during the Dutch European Games trials, winning multiple medals in the All Around and the individual events and she earned a well deserved ticket to Baku. There, she posted solid scores to help her team win an impressive bronze medal, beating countries like France, Italy and Romania and she qualified to the uneven bars finals, where a fall took her out of medal contention. Celine did not have the hardest routines out there and she had not been able to regain her 2012 difficulty on the uneven bars. However, her start values were absolutely decent and her execution was extremely clean so she was always able to get high scores. The Dutch team had come a long way since 2012 and they were expected to fight for a ticket to Rio and Celine, who was the team’s only athlete who had been to the Olympics before, was supposed to be a key player to that. Her experience, her calmness and her scoring potential was much needed to the Netherlands’ most crucial team competition of the year. However, just weeks before worlds it was announced that she was having some problems with her hamstring and that she would probably not be ready for worlds. Unfortunately, this turned out to be true and Celine did not participate to the pre worlds friendly meet against Great Britain and did not travel to Glasgow. At the end, her team got it together and had the best competition they could have possibly have, earning an automatic spot to Rio. Now, it’s time for Celine to prove that she deserves a spot on that team and if she regains her old difficulty, she certainly has a great chance to achieve that.
2. Αleeza Yu, Canada
Back in 2012, the future of Canadian gymnastics looked very bright, and their Olympic team’s historic fifth place finish in the team finals was not the only reason why. The country also had plenty of young, talented juniors who all had the potential to significantly improve the team’s lines ups on their weakest events. bars and beam. Aleeza Yu, who would turn senior in 2014 was one of them. She had a successful junior career, participating in many major international competitions, like the Pacific Rim championships and the Japan Junior International and winning medals at the Nadia Comaneci Invitational, the International Gymnix, and the Elite Massilia. She was a gorgeous gymnast, with stunning lines and choreography, she was excellent on balance beam and she showed potential on the uneven bars. She never upgraded her routine on this event, where she only dismounted with a double pike, but as a senior, she got a double twisting yurchenko and a 6.0 start value on balance beam and this was enough to make her a strong contender. She made her senior debut at the elite Canada, where she did an excellent job winning silver in the All Around and the balance beam, bronze on the uneven bars and gold on floor exercise and then, she went to win All Around silver and floor exercise bronze at the Gymnix International. She also made it into three event finals at the Cottbus world cup, finished 5th All Around and 3rd on floor at the Pacific Rim championships and participated in the Pan-american championships. After a successful year, Aleeza was selected to represent Canada at the world championships, where she was expected to help her country challenge for a spot in the team finals. However, she could not finish her competition after seriously injuring her knee on balance beam during qualifications. We did not get many updates on her recovery and her training, but she was supposed to make her comeback at the recent Elite Massilia. However, the Canadian team decided to not participate in the competition due to the current situation in Europe, so we never got to see her competing. Now, we will probably have to wait until the Elite Canada, in the beginning of 2016, to have a clear image at what shape she’s in. The Canadian team has never had so much depth in the past and the competition will be more intense than ever, but if Aleeza shows good difficulty and consistency she will most likely be part of the discussion and I can’t wait to see her gorgeous choreography on floor once again.
3. Roxana Popa, Spain
Roxana Popa is the best gymnast we have seen from Spain in about a decade. She started gaining some attention in 2012, when she lead the Spanish team at the Junior European championships. Back then, she was one of the few gymnasts of the competition competing a double twisting yurchenko and that was enough to make her a strong contender for the vault title but an unfortunate fall took her out of contention. During her first two years as a senior, Roxana achieved wonders for Spanish gymnastics. She dominated their national competitions multiple times, she was named into her country’s team for every single major competition, she qualified into worlds and European finals and won medals in world cups and smaller international competitions. Meanwhile, she won the hearts of thousands of fans from all over the world, with her innovative combinations, her positive attitude and her sportsmanship. It seemed like Roxana was being peaked perfectly. She was always competing skills she could land safely, she was upgrading her routines every year, she was cleaning up her execution and she was achieving better and better results every time she competed. As the Olympics were getting closer, she started training huge skills, like amanars and double doubles, hoping to build competitive routines. At the end of 2014, it looked like Roxi would be ready to take over the world next year. Instead, she found out she had a torn ACL. And the most crazy thing… it was an old injury! Unfortunately, we have seen lots of torn ACLs during this quad. Some of them happened in competition, others happened in training, some people managed to recover from them and others did not but in all cases, there was one thing in common. The athlete injured herself and she received immediate medical attention and did not go back to the gym until months after having surgery. This was not the case for Popa, who didn’t even know she had suffered from one of the most serious injuries an athlete can sustain! She was just dealing with some knee pain, and when she asked for a medical advice, she found out that her ACL has been torn for a long time. This means that she had been training on a torn ACL every day, she had been landing double twisting yurchenkos, double layouts and full twisting double layouts dismounts with a torn ACL. She had been training amanars and double doubles on a torn ACL. She had been competing world class routines on every single event on a torn ACL! Those news showed that Roxana is incredibly strong both physically and mentally and that she’s some kind of super human. However, even super humans need to take care of their injuries, and Popa had her surgery in the end of 2014. It was frustrating to see her out of competition for the biggest part of 2015, especially because she really could have shined at the European championships and the European Games, but as Roxana herself said “If we allowed ourselves to think about what could have been, we are always going to be miserable.” So, she decided to look forward. As always, the road to recovery has been long and painful for her. There was lots of conditioning, lots of rehabilitation, lots of waiting and lots of tears until she could start training simple skills again. She gave us updates on her progress through social media, and she finally returned to competition at the Novara Cup, where she won a bronze medal for an excellent uneven bars routine. Less than a year after her surgery, Popa was selected to represent her country at the Glasgow world championships, where she only competed on the uneven bars. She showed an excellent level of difficulty, performing skills such as a ray + pak, a maloney + gienger and a full twisting double layout dismount. Unfortunately, she had a fall on this event during qualifications, but given her limited time of preparation, just making it to worlds was a huge achievement. After her competition was over, she watched the rest of the meet as a spectator, she provided us with updates on how the other gymnasts were doing and she had something positive to say about all her competitors, proving that she has great sportsmanship, as well as incredible power and talent. Spain did not manage to qualify a full team to the Rio Olympics. This means that the only way for Roxana to make it to Rio is the test event. Hopefully, she will be ready to compete on all four events at the test event and earn a ticket to Rio. She clearly is Spain’s top gymnast at the moment. She’s a world class All Arounder, floor and uneven bars worker and she deserves the chance to show this at the sport’s biggest stage.
4. Deng Yalan, China
China could always use more vaulters and floor exercise walkers, so fans are excited for any gymnast who could potentially contribute on those events. Of course, their most highly anticipated vault and floor specialist of the year was YOG champion Wang Yan, but her teammate, Deng Yalan was also part of the discussion. Deng shined on vault, where she was capable of a rudi and a double twisting tsukahara and she showed some potential on floor exercise, where she showed clean twisting form and some great choreography. She made her senior debut at the Sao Paulo world cup, where she gave us an excellent performance, to win the gold medal on her favorite event, beating Rebeca Andrade. She was showing strong vaults and she was rumored to have some exciting upgrades on floor exercise, so everyone was keeping an eye on her. However, Deng did not compete at the Chinese championships due to injury and even though she was in the mix for to the Asian championships team, she was not healthy enough to participate in this competition either. There was still hope that she would recover in time to be in contention for worlds, but unfortunately this did not happen. In the past, we have seen plenty of Chinese juniors showing great potential but disappearing due to injuries and we can only hope that Yalan won’t be one of them. I don’t know if she really does have a competitive routine on floor, or if her vaults would be enough to make her a contender for the Olympics team, especially since gymnasts like Wang Yan and Mao Yi have improved, but having one more vault and floor specialist would certainly not hurt China.
5. Jonna Adlerteg, Sweden
Sweden’s Jonna Adlerteg showed great potential at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, where she won a bronze medal on the uneven bars, behind super stars Viktoria Komova and Tan Sixin. After that, she went on to have a stunning senior career, qualifying into the London Olympic Games and winning her country’s first major gymnastics medal in half a century at the 2013 European championships. Ιn 2015, Jonna won a gold medal on the uneven bars at the Cottbus and a silver at the Ljubljana world cup, and she was considered one of the top contenders for the European uneven bars podium, but an unfortunate fall during her church + pak combination, prevented her from even advancing into the finals. However, she did make it into the All Around finals, where she would have a chance to prove that she can hit her routine and she should not be counted out in the future. Instead, she ended up injuring herself on floor exercise, and she was carried out of the arena. It turned out that she had torn her ACL. After a surgery and a long recovery proccess, Jonna is already back in training and she has shared videos of her, performing difficult skills and combinations on the uneven bars. Sweden has not qualified a full team to Rio. This means that if Jonna wants to be a two times Olympian, she will have to compete on all four events at the Test Event in April, so we can only hope she will be able to do that. She certainly has the potential to challenge for a spot in the Olympic uneven bars finals, so it would be devastating if she didn’t get the chance to do that.
6. Tyesha Mattis, Great Britain
Back in 2013, Tyesha Mattis was part of the trio that was supposed to revolutionize British gymnastics, along with Amy Tinkler and Ellie Downie. She won the All Around and the vault title at the Australian open and she was selected to represent her country at the 2013 EYOF, where was one tenth away from becoming the All Around champion. She ended up winning silver with her team and bronze in the All Around and on vault, while also placing 5th on the uneven bars, establishing herself as one of the best juniors in Europe. Tyesha was a powerhouse. At the age of 15, she was already capable of massive skills on every event, and she was performing a double twisting yurchenko on vault, a khorkina on bars, a back handspring into a tucked full on beam and a double double and an 1.5 + triple on floor. Her form was quite messy and her lack of flexibility was preventing her from learning intricate leaps and jumps, but the potential was clearly there. In 2014, Tyesha started her year brilliantly, by winning the All Around and the vault title at the English championships and a few weeks later, she became the British vault and bars uneven bars champion. She was a lock for the junior European team and she was one of the top contenders for the Youth Olympics at the same year. However, an ankle injury took her out of competition for the rest of the season. This was devastating for the British team’s chances for a team gold at the junior Europeans and of course, it was devastating for Tyesha, who now had to watch the most important competitions of 2014 year from home. After lots of physiotherapy and hard work, she returned to competition at the English championships, just in time for her senior debut. She only competed on bars and beam and she won a silver on the uneven bars. After that, she gave us a spectacular performance at the British championships, where she won both the uneven bars and the balance beam titles. She really looked like a different gymnast out there! It was clear that she had put lots of work on bars and beam while recovering from her ankle injury and she had upgraded her difficulty, cleaned up her execution and worked on her flexibility. Her start values were world class, her form was beautiful and her leaps were much improved, so she clearly was in the right path. Despite her excellent results, Mattis was not selected to participate at the European championships, since it was decided that other athletes had better chances to medal than she did. She could have definitely challenged for a spot in Great Britain’s worlds team, but she decided that it would be better for her to take things slow and focus on Rio. Because of that, she did not participate in the selection progress and she only competed at the Hungarian Grand Prix, where she won the uneven bars title. According to this interview she is hoping to have all of her skills back on all four events by January and her goal is to compete in the All Around at the English and the British championships. If she regains her double twisting yurchenko on vault and her tumbling on floor, along with her strong bars and beam sets, she will be hard to be ignored. She has also been training amanars before her injury, so who knows, maybe she will have some surprises for us.
7. Kim Janas, Germany
When Tyesha won a bronze medal in the 2013 EYOF, it was Kim Janas who finished only one tenth ahead of her to win a silver medal, after losing the tie breaker with Russia’s Maria Kharenkova. At the same competition, Kim qualified into two event finals and grabbed a silver medal on balance beam, which happens to be her country’s weakest event. She also participated in many international competitions, including the Japan Junior International and she was very successful at Germany’s national meets. She could tumble, she could dance, she could swing bars, she could stay on the beam. She had the power, she had the elegance, she had the flexibility and the consistency. She really was a star in the making and it was clear that she could be a key player for Germany in the next years. But of course, it’s never that easy for talented juniors and Kim tore her ACL while training on balance beam at the end of 2013, and just like Tyesha, she never got to compete at the Junior European championships and the Youth Olympic Games. Despite suffering from a potentially career ending injury, Kim stayed positive and focused on her biggest goal: the 2016 Olympic Games. She returned to competition at Bundesliga, at the end of 2014, only competing on the uneven bars. She only dismounted with a flyaway, but her flight elements were high, her level of difficulty was impressive and her form and swing were lovely, so it was clear that she was on the right path. A while later, she competed on three events at the Austrian Open, where she was particularly impressive on balance beam, showing gorgeous execution and flexibility. She continued to impress at the Cottbus World Cup, winning a silver medal on beam and she was selected to represent her country at the European championships. This was supposed to be the biggest competition of Kim’s career up to that point, and she was listed to compete on bars and beam, but she ended up hurting her knee after a balance beam dismount. Unfortunately, it turned out that she had torn her other ACL and she found herself trying to come back from her second torn ACL at the age of 16. Janas has been through a lot during this quad, but the Rio Olympics are still not out of the question for her. Germany has not qualified a full team yet, but they are expected to do so at the Test Event, and if that happens, Kim, who has shown excellent potential on bars, beam and floor could be part of the mix.
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