The unsung heroes of 2015

There were many times we witnessed history being written in 2015. We saw Ellie Downie winning Great Britain’s first European All Around medal, we saw Giulia Steingruber becoming Switzerland’s first European All Around champion, we saw Lieke Wevers earning four medals at the European Games, we saw Ellie black dominating the Pan-American Games, Simone Biles earning more world titles than any other woman in history and team Great Britain winning their first team medal in the history of the sport. However, while celebrating the world medalists, we often forget to talk about the rest of the athletes, who gave us brilliant performances despite not being able to get on the podium. Success is not only counted by medals and performing to the best of your abilities, helping your country qualify to the Olympics or exceeding everyone’s expectations is is a huge victory by itself. So, let’s take a look at just a few of the many athletes are not necessarily the super stars of the team, but still had a great year and showed gorgeous gymnastics.

Daniele Hypolito, Brazil

tumblr_nwhnpa1AYi1su7ttso1_540When it comes to team Brazil, most fans’ focus was on the two top new seniors. Flavia Saraiva stole our hearts, Rebeca Andrade broke our hears and at the end, we did not pay enough attention to the woman who has been carrying Brazilian gymnastics for over a decade. And of course, this is no other than Daniele Hypolito. Daniele has done it all. She has been to the Olympics not once, not twice but four times, she has won worlds and continental medals and she has been a national champion more times than one can count. And yet, she is still continue to compete, hoping that she will get to finish her stunning career at the Rio Olympic Games, in her own country. I was so impressed by her this year, mainly because she looked better than she has in about a decade. She was always one of her country’s top gymnasts, but she hadn’t really progressed during the last few years. And then, here she comes, at the age of 31, revealing major upgrades and improving her execution to achieve great results for her and her team. During the year, she shined at both the continental championships she participated. She won the All Around, the vault and the balance beam titles at the South American championships, sparkles chalk.gifand the Pan-american Games, probably were her best competition of the year. She was the leader of a young and inconsistent team, and she showed all her experience by hitting solid routines when her teammates were falling apart, to help Brazil win a bronze medal. Then, she had an excellent competition at the All Around finals, finishing in a very impressive fifth place and she qualified into the vault and floor finals. A couple of months later, she won a gold medal on balance beam at the Switzerland vs Germany vs Brazil friendly meet and she was named to her country’s worlds team once again. At Glasgow, she delivered solid scores to help her team place 9th and qualify to the test event, and she’s expected to be one of the top contenders for Rio. Despite being what most people would consider “too old” for the sport, Daniele is capable of combination that many young gymnasts would kill for, like a 1.5 + double front twist, a whip + double pike, a back handspring into two layout step outs and two back handsprings into a layout. She’s powerful, she’s clean and after all those years, she’s still competitive. In the beginning of the quad, lots of people thought that Brazil has too many talented young gymnasts for her to stay relevant. And yet, here  she is, less than year before the Olympics, being one of her country’s best. She is obviously not guaranteed to make it to Rio, but her chances are as good as anyone’s and I desperately want her to be there.

(photo credit, gif credit: sparklesandchalk)

Erika Fasana, Italy

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photo credit: Silvia Vatteroni

Italy’s Erika Fasana got plenty of well deserved attention after having stunning results at her first two international competitions of the year. Firstly, she won a bronze All Around medal at the American Cup, where nobody really considered her a medal contender and then, she had an excellent competition at the Jesolo Trophy, where she placed 6th in the All Around, posting the highest score out of any non American gymnast and won a silver medal on floor, behind world champion Simone Biles and ahead of Olympic champion Aly Raisman. Before that, she had posted excellent scores at the Serie A and she was a lock for Italy’s European team. She continued to impress at Montpelier, where she placed 4th in the All Around and on floor exercise, after putting everything she got into the competition. She did not manage to win a medal, but she did win the hearts of millions of fans from all over the world, who were all excited to see what the future had in store for her. Unfortunately, she struggled with injuries during the second half of thealy126.gif year, and she was never able to live up to the potential she showed at the European championships. However, she showed incredible fight and determination and she achieved excellent results despite not being healthy. She pushed through the pain and she successfully competed on three events at the Golden League, where she won a silver medal on the uneven bars, she won an All Around bronze and a floor exercise gold at the Italian championships and she was second on floor at the Novara Cup. Even with downgraded routines, Erika was clearly one of Italy’s top athletes and she easily earned a ticket to Glasgow. There, she did not get a chance to fight for a spot in the All Around finals, because other gymnasts had better scoring potential than her on balance beam. Fortunately, she did a great job at the three events she competed, she helped Italy qualify a full team to Rio, and she made it into the floor exercise finals for the second time in her career. She continued to perform beautifully in the team finals, posting great scores on vault and floor but she had already put too much pressure on her body by the time of the event finals and she pulled out of the competition with an injured elbow. Erika accomplished so much during10462926_10206647005040283_8598994498289667182_n.jpg the year. She showed progress on every event, she became a better bars worker than I ever thought she would be, upgrading her difficulty and improving her execution , she showed ridiculous tumbling on floor, she cleaned up her double twisting yurchenko and she showed much more consistency on balance beam. She won national and international medals, she was one of the main reasons why Italy was so successful at worlds and she proved how incredibly tough she is, by defying the pain, and competing with a stress fracture and some partially torn ligaments on her elbow. And during all the ups and downs of the year, she always remained classy and respectful, handling both her successes and her disappointments graciously and showing great sportsmanship and spirit. Now, it’s time for her to rest and take care of her body. She will need to take a couple of months off after having a surgery on her leg and after that, I am sure she’ll come back strong to fight for a ticket to her second Olympic Games. (gif credit: aly126, photo credit: Silvia Vatteroni)

Isabela Onyshko, Canada

12118870_1198744930142373_6401791165187155728_nEllie Black is the absolute super star of Canadian gymnastics right now, but her teammate, Isabela Onyshko has also been a key player to the country’s success during the year. Isabela turned senior in 2014 and she has represented Canada at every single major competition since then, including the Commonwealth Games, the Pan-american championships, the Pan-american Games and two world championships. She started her 2015 with a successful performance at the Elite Canada, winning silver in the All Around and bronze on beam and floor and she continued with an All Around and an uneven bars silver, as well as a balance beam gold at the International Gymnix. She delivered solid scores at the WOGA Classic and the Jesolo Trophy, where she qualified into the uneven bars finals and she had one of the best competitions of her life in the Ljubljana world Cup, where she won one silver and two gold medals. She was Canada’s national All Around silver medalist and she was a rock for her team at the Pan american Games, where she finished 6th in the All Around, qualified into the uneven bars finals andMEN_0689 performed beautiful routines to help her country win a silver medal behind USA. When it was time for the most crucial competition of the year, Isabela proved herself as one of Canada’s best once again, by hitting four out of four  at qualifications and helping her team earn a ticket to Rio. She was just as solid during the team finals, and she continued to impress during the All Around finals, where she performed the best uneven bars routine of her life to finish in a very respectable 16th place, even though she had only grabbed the last spot to qualify into the finals. A few weeks later, she finished her year with a gold All Around medal at the Mexican Open. Onyshko does not have the start values or the medals of Ellie Black, but during the past two years, she has been there every time her team needed her, she has qualified into major finals and she has won multiple national and international medals. tumblr_nubvovZXVx1rtfj70o2_400With her expressive floor routines, her unusual combinations and her amazing flexibility, she brings style and originality into the Canadian team. She’s a unique gymnast, with a characteristic personal style that makes her stand out in any competition. She is a super star. Nobody can perform a floor routine like she does. She gets out there, she smiles, she makes eye contact with the crowd and she immediately captures everyone’s attention. And of course, her level of difficulty is impressive. She is capable of difficult and unusual skills and combinations, like a maloney + clear hip full + tkatcev, a hindorff and a van leeuwen on bars, a layout and a front aerial + half illusion turn on beam and a tucked full in on floor. Her form leaves a lot to be desired and she always has massive legs separations during her double11011295_1198745066809026_5669423817503528043_n tucks, but she significantly cleaned up her pak salto during the year, so hopefully she can do the same with her other skills. In 2016, Canada will have more depth than they ever did in the past. With talented juniors like Rose Woo, Shallon Olsen and Megan Roberts turning seniors, and veterans like Brittany Rogers and Peng Peng Lee making their comebacks, the competition for that Olympic team will be intense. The truth is that Isabela does not have the highest scoring potential in the team, but if she upgrades her routines and continues to clean us and show consistency she will definitely be part of the discussion. I truly hope she can make it, because the Canadian team will be quite more beautiful if she’s in it.

(gif credit: jordynslefteyebrow photo credit: sports2visuals, russian gymnastics)

Aiko Sugihara, Japan

sugiharaAiko never was a super star as a junior, she never posted any huge scores last year and she was not supposed to be one of her country’s best in her first year as a senior. She really did come out of nowhere to achieve amazing success in 2015. While all the attention was on her teammate, Sae Miyakawa, Aiko was the one who won a bronze at the Japanese champions, posting scores above 14 on each event. About a month later, she became the All Around champion of the NHK trophy, with an excellent score of 57.250. She was not quite as impressive at the Japanese Event championships, where she had a couple of mistakes on bars, but she still managed to win two bronze medals on beam and floor. After proving herself at the national competitions, Aiko was selected to represent Japan at the world championships and before that, she participated in the Asian championships along with her future Glasgow teammates. There, she helped her team win a historic gold medal over China, and she accomplished the biggest success of her career by becoming the Asian All Around champion, beating Youth Olympic champion Wang Yan and world finalist Asuka Teramoto. Two Silver meals on bars and floor was a great way for her to finish this incredibly successful competition. We never got sufficient coverage of the Asian championships and because of that, Aiko’s excellent results were not celebrated enough. She had the chance to make the world notice her at worlds but unfortunately, she never got to compete on all four events atimages (1) Glasgow, because a knee injury prevented her from performing on vault and floor. However, she delivered beautiful bars routines during the qualifications and the team finals and she helped her team qualify to Rio and finish in an impressive 5th place during the team finals. Aiko is a beautiful gymnast, with lovely artistry and execution and she is a balanced All Arounder, with a great level of difficulty on every event. She is capable of a double twisting yurchenko on vault, an inbar full and an inbar into jaeger on bars, a triple twist on both beam and floor. She is artistic, she is clean, she is flexible and most importantly, she is consistent, at least compared to most of her teammates. All those qualities are certainly going to help her earn a spot at the 2016 Japanese Olympic team. (photo credit: Japan gymnastics association and Alfo Sport)

Amy Tinkler, Great Britain

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photo credit: ueg

Amy made her senior debut at the English championships, where she dominated the competition, winning the All Around and the balance beam title, while also earning a bars silver and a floor exercise bronze. She also became the All Around and the floor exercise British champion, and she was obviously selected to represent her country at the European championships. There, she did an excellent job, hitting all her routines placing 6th All Around and third on floor during qualifications. She didn’t get to compete in the All Around finals due to the two per country rule, but she placed 6th on floor exercise with a solid routine. A couple of months later, she grabbed another All Around gold medal at the British team championships, and she placed second All Around, first on floor (tied with Ellie Downie), second on vault and third on beam at the friendly meet against the Netherlands, where she was one of the few gymnastsamy tinkler cantcounttiwsts.gif who did not make a major mistake. After this excellent season, Amy was a lock for the worlds team and she did an excellent job for at Glasgow, hitting every routine during the qualifications and the team finals. She was one of only two British athletes to break 15 during the team competition and she was a key player to Great Britain’s historic bronze medal. She unfortunately had a rough day during the All Around finals, but this really was her only disappointing performance in an extremely successful year. Amy did not win an individual worlds or Europeans medal, but she proved herself as one of the best gymnasts in the world and hopefully, she will continue to do so. This was only her first year as a senior, and yet, she handled the pressure brilliantly. She showed lovely artistry, extremely difficult 12143152_1189495707733962_7748728581245181228_nelements, like a silivas, a full twisting double layout and a triple twist dismount off beam, as well as unusual skills and combinations, such as a markelov and a gainer lay out step out + lay out step out combination. And the most exciting thing is that she achieved high start values without doing everything she’s capable of. If she manages to put all the skills she has done in the past in the same routines, she could be even more competitive and she certainly is one to watch for Great Britain’s Olympic team next year. (photo credit: sports2visual gif credit: icannotcountthosetwists)

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