start values: 5.8 + 6.4 + 6.3 + 6.1
notable results: Junior European All Around champion, Massilia All Around champion, Top Gym All Around champion, Russian Cup unofficial All Around champion
Most notable skills: double twisting yurchenko on vault, inbar + inbar full + komova + pak and van leeuwen on bars, two back handsprings + layout, double turn, switch ring and double pike dismount on beam, piked full in, two whips + double tuck, triple wolf turn + double turn, double L + Y and memmel + illusion turn on floor.
Back in 2012, we got a video of a tiny Russian gymnast performing a cute floor routine to the floor music of Olympic All Around champion Gabby Douglas. Three years later, this young athlete, who was no other than Angelina Melnikova, has grown into the most successful member of the Russian junior national team. Angelina started showing potential in 2013, when she placed second in the All Around, the vault and the uneven bars at the Russian Hopes and she got her first international assignment in 2014, when she represented her country at the International Gymnix. There, she helped her team win a gold medal and she won silver in the All Around and the uneven bars and bronze on floor exercise. She had improved a lot between those competitions, upgrading her difficulty and cleaning up her execution and she looked even more confident at the Russian championships, where she won the team, the All Around, the balance beam and the floor exercise titles. Her scores were higher than they would normally be due to the nationals overscoring, but it was clear that at that point she was one of the strongest juniors in the world. There were high expectations on her going into the Junior European championships and she did not disappoint. She was a rock for her team, helping them win a well deserved gold medal and she became the All Around champion with a very respectable 57.107, which was 1.5 point higher than the score of silver medalist Laura Jurca. During the event finals, she placed second on the uneven bars and first on balance beam, leaving Sofia with four medals, three of which were gold. She finished her 2014 with a great competition at the Top Gym, where she won gold medals in the All Around, the vault and the uneven bars. She struggled with a hamstring injury in the beginning of 2015, but she came back at the Russian Junior championships, to win silver medals in the All Around and on floor exercise and a gold on balance beam. She continued to impress at the Four Nations Trophy in Torino, where she helped Russia win a gold medal and finished second in the All Around behind senior teammate Seda Tutkhalyan. Then, she competed at the Russian Cup, where she posted the highest All Around total of the competition, beating all her senior teammates, including European All Around bronze medalist Maria Kharenkova, worlds team member Daria Spiridonova and Youth Olympic champion Seda Tutkhalyan. Her win was not official because she was only a junior, but this doesn’t change the fact that at the age of 15, Angelina was Russia’s top All Arounder at that point. At the end of the year, she competed at the Elite Massilia, where she did an excellent job to win the All Around title, but had costly falls at both event finals she qualified. She finished her year at the Voronin Cup, winning All Around silver and vault and floor exercise gold after making major mistakes on bars and beam. During the last two years, Angelina has been top 2 All Around at every meet she has competed, she has three major All Around titles and she has been a rock for her team. She has obviously had falls and mistakes, but overall, she has been fairly consistent. She has had some trouble hitting at the last two competitions she attended but I’m praying to the gym gods that those mistakes were the result of her being tired at the end of the year, because Russia desperately needs an athlete who can hit. Her best event is definitely the uneven bars, where she has a classical Russian routine that could already be used in a major team finals. I’m sure that she will at least try to connect her pak salto to her van leeuwen and to perform a full pirouette before her dismount and I could even see her attempting a double double, so we can expect a big start value from her on this apparatus. In my opinion, she doesn’t quite have the style of Spiridonova or Skrypnik, but she certainly is very efficient. She is also very promising on beam, where she performs difficult acrobatic and dance elements with clean execution. She has shown some very confident routines in the past but she has been a bit shaky during the year. If she manages to be solid on this event, she would be capable of a big score that would help her Olympic chances. She performs a messy but solid double twisting yurchenko on vault, so she could be a backup on this event as well. I expect her to train an amanar, but given the state of her DTY, I don’t expect her to ever get that vault consistent. Floor is probably her weakest event. She has some difficult tumbling passes and turns combinations, but her third pass is only a double twist and her execution scores are usually in the low 8s. Her start value may seem high but she is counting three turns combinations and she’s not very consistent with them. Her choreography is quite enjoyable to watch and I do believe she can improve on this event, but I don’t expect to see any spectacular scores from her next year. Angelina is considered a potential contender for Russia’s Olympic team and she should definitely be in the mix next year, so you should keep an eye on her.
(gif credit: I-dont-understand-gymnastics)
start values: 5.8 + 6.6 + 6.2 + 5.7
notable results: European uneven bars champion, International Gymnix uneven bars champion and vault silver medalist. EYOF All Around and uneven bars champion, vault and floor silver medalist and beam bronze medalist
Notable skills: double twisting yurchenko on vault, komova 2 + pak + chow + clear hip 1/1/komova 2 + pak + chow 1/2 on bars, round of + layout, front aerial + illusion turn on beam, triple twist and mustafina turn on floor
Daria Skrypnik is another extremely successful Russian junior who is turning senior just in time for the Rio Olympics. She is a beautiful gymnast, with excellent flexibility and she has an uneven bars routine that will blow your mind. She proved that she is one to watch at the 2013 Russian junior championships, where she placed second on bars and third on floor and vault. At the same year, she dominated the Russian Hopes, where she won four of the possible five individual gold medals, including the All Around title. In 2014, she helped her team win the gold medal at the International Gymnix, where she also won a silver on vault and a gold on the uneven bars, and she became the national uneven bars champion. She was selected to represent her country at the Junior European championships, where she was part of Russia’s gold medal winning team and she won one more uneven bars title for her impressive collection. Then, she won two silver and two gold medals at the Russian Hopes and she became the All Around and the uneven bars silver medalist of the Voronin Cup. She started her last junior year the best possible way, winning the All Around and the uneven bars title and the floor bronze medal at the Russian Junior championships, beating Junior European All Around champion Angelina Melnikova and she made Russia’s team for the European Youth Olympic Festival, which ended up being the best competition of her entire career. She dominated at EYOF, winning a medal on every single event and earning the team, the All Around and the uneven bars title. Her next international competition was the Elite Massilia, where she was expected to win multiple medals but unfortunately, she had a fall on the uneven bars and she was quite shaky on all four events. She continued to struggle on her best event at the Voronin cup, where she fell on the uneven bars and didn’t manage to qualify in any event finals. Right now, it’s hard to say where Dasha fits in into Russia’s senior team. She certainly is a gorgeous gymnast and she already has a stunning uneven bars routine, that could compete against the world’s best. With gold medals at the European championships, the EYOF and the International Gymnix, Skrypnik has won every major international junior title there is to win. Her bars are certainly Olympic worthy. However, she comes from a country that already has multiple excellent uneven bars workers and even if Russia decides to have an uneven bars specialist on their team, Skrypnik would still have to compete against the much more experienced Daria Spiridonova. Given the situation, she will probably need at least one more strong apparatus to maximize her chances. In my opinion, she shows good potential on the three remaining events. She has a double twisting yurchenko on vault, even though her scores at the last two competitions indicate that she didn’t compete it and I absolutely love her beam routine but she has a long way to go on this event. She could potentially post high numbers here, but her start value is relying on combinations she doesn’t always hits. Because of that, her D score could be a 6.2 or a 5.5 depending on how many skills she connects. She has a beautiful triple twist, a gorgeous mustafina turn and stunning ring leaps on floor exercise, but she will have to introduce major upgrades in order to be in the mix for this event. She’s quite elegant and she has a lovely quality of movement but she barely has any choreography so this is one more thing I hope to see her working on. Daria has struggled recently and she obviously has lots of work to do, but if she gets it together she can be part of the discussion next year and who knows? Maybe she can surprise us. (gif credit: I-dont-understand-gymnastics and rulzette)
start values: 5.0 + 5.7 + 6.6 + 5.8
notable results: International Gymnix champion (team), Russian Hopes All Around champion, Voronin Cup champion, national balance beam champion.
notable skills: church, maloney + stalder full and double front half out dismount on bars, two back handsprings + layout, front handspring + front tuck and switch ring on beam, double arabian and 1.5 + double twist on floor.
Ekaterina, often referred to by the nickname Juice by the gymternet, started making a name for herself internationally in 2013, when she helped her team win a gold medal at the International Gymnix. She had a couple of major mistakes during the competition but she showed good potential and she stole our hearts with her cute choreography. At the same year, she won the All Around, the team and the balance beam gold and the floor exercise silver at the Olympic Hopes and she placed second in the All Around at the The 2013 KSI Cup. In 2014, she defended her KSI Cup title and she helped her team defend their Gymnix gold medal. Between the two meets, she achieved excellent results at the Russian championships, winning a medal on each event, including a gold on balance beam. Later that year, she became the All Around champion and the balance beam and floor exercise silver medalist at the Russian Hopes and she won three gold medals at the Voronin Cup. She showed excellent progress in 2015, revealing multiple upgrades and proving that she should not be counted out. That helped her win two gold and two bronze medals at the Russian junior championships and to be selected to compete at the 4 Nations Trophy in Torino, where she delivered a solid floor routine and one of the most impressive beam sets of the entire year. Unfortunately, this was her last competition of the year, since she struggled with an elbow injury during the summer and she was not selected to compete at the European Youth Olympic Festival or the Elite Massilia. The truth is that the Rodionenkos have not mentioned Sokova as a contender for the Olympic team and she was not included in the recently announced Olympic training squad but nobody knows what can happen in the next months. Katya is not as experienced as her teammates and she does not have the international medals of Melnikova or Skrypnik. However, she shows potential on the two events where Russia struggles. Her beam is already team finals worthy. She performs difficult skills and combination, she has a high start value and if she hits, she is capable of putting big scores. She is not quite as impressive on floor but she shows great potential and she has plenty of power. She can flip, she can twist and she can spin so I could definitely see her having a competitive routine by 2016. She will obviously need to be healthy and to have major upgrades in order to do that, but I would love to see her living up to her potential here. She is not exactly weak at bars, but it’s very unlikely for her to come anywhere near close the level of athletes like Komova, Mustafina, Spiridonova, Kapitonova, Melnikova and Skrypnik on this event. Vault is definitely her weakness, since she only vaults a full twisting yurchenko. It’s hard to know in what shape she’s in right now, since she hasn’t competed for a while but she certainly has the talent to leave her mark next year. She is powerful, she is clean, she is flexible and she also has to been the most adorable person to ever live, so even if she doesn’t make it big next year, I would love to see her shining during the next quad. (gif credit: jordynslefteyebrow and huanghuidan)
start values: 5.0 + 6.5 + 6.2 + 5.7
notable results: Gymnix uneven bars champion, Massilia uneven bars champion, Voronin Cup All Around champion
notable skills: stalder full + komova + pak, van leeuwen and inbar full + tkatcev on bars, two back handpsrings + layout, double turn, wolf turn + front tuck, double Y turn (she didn’t compete it in the last couple of meets) and double pike dismount in combination on beam, two whips + double tuck and mustafina turn on floor exercise.
The beautiful Natalia Kapitonova has been the most pleasant surprise of the last couple of competitions. She was never a super star as a junior, but she is now starting to prove herself as a potential contender for next year. During 2013 and 2014, she participated in national and minor international competitions. She won a silver medal on uneven bars at the 2013 Voronin Cup, she placed second in the All Around and the uneven bars and first on floor exercise at the 2014 Russian Hopes and she was very successful at Combs-la-Ville, where she won the team, the All Around and the uneven bars titles while also earning a silver on floor exercise. She finished her year with one silver (team) and one gold (uneven bars) medal at the Voronin Cup. 2015 has definitely been an important year for her. Firstly, she competed at the International Gymnix, where she won a team and an All Around silver, a vault bronze and an uneven bars gold. Then, she stunned the world by performing a double Y turn on balance beam at the Russian Junior championships, where she placed second with her team and second on the uneven bars. She also won the All Around and the uneven bars title at the Lugano trophy, despite having mistakes on beam and floor. Natalia has a nice collection of medals, but most of them are from minor competitions and she didn’t have the difficulty of some of her teammates. When she headed to the Elite Massilia, people were wondering whether or not she’d even mange to make the uneven bars finals over her two teammates. And yet, she had an excellent competition there and ended up being the most consistent Russian of the competition, placing 4th in the All Around and winning the uneven bars title. Then, she posted massive score at Russian Hopes, where she won the All Around, the uneven bars, the balance beam and the floor exercise title, scoring over 14 on every event. It’s needless to say that the scores are often inflated in small national competitions, but it seems like Kapitonova had a great meet regardless of that. She finished her year at the Voronin Cup, where she impressed us all by winning the All Around title over Angelina Melnikova. She also earned gold medals on bars and beam and a silver on floor exercise and was one of the most consistent athletes of the competition once again. Natalia’s progress is really remarkable. She didn’t even have a D dismount on the uneven bars until recently, and now she is capable of an effortless toe on full + full in combination. Despite her lack of experience, she has been fairly consistent (at least for Russian standards) and she is capable of posting big scores on bars and beam but I’m not sure where she will fit into the senior team. I never really considered her a potential threat for Rio, but she has been doing a great job and Valentina Rodionenko named her as a potential contender. Her bars are absolutely gorgeous, but as mentioned above, Russia has plenty of excellent uneven bar workers and it’s hard to imagine her beating them, especially considering how little experience she has. Her beam is promising, but she has a long way to go on this event. She performs some lovely turns on floor but she does not have any tumbling passes rated higher than a D, so this is not an apparatus where she could challenge. She has the talent and she is beautiful to watch but I’m not sure if she will be ready for next year. I always saw her as a rising star who will shine during the next quad, but gymnastics is an unpredictable sport, and because of that I don’t want to count her out. (gif credit: mustafinesse and griffinssclarke)
Photo credit: Yelena Michailova/Russian gymnastics
* The start values were calculated based on the potential of the most recent routines the athletes have competed