start values: 5.0 + 6.6 + 6.0 + 5.3
notable skills: full twisting yurchenko on vault, stalder full + chow + bhardwaj, van leeuwen, jaeger, ricna + pak, chow 1/2 and full in dismount on bars, switch leap + ring leap, front aerial + sheep jump, back handspring + back handspring + layout step out and steingruber dismount on beam, double tuck, 1.5 + front full, memmel and 2.5 twists on floor.
notable achievements: Elite Massilia bronze medalist, Top Gym silver medalist, EYOF silver and bronze medalist, FIT challenge AA champion, Belgian national champion
The lovely Nina Derwael has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. In the beginning of the quad, she was a relatively unknown young gymnast, with clean execution, interesting style and low start values, and even though lots of people were captivated by her artistry, nobody really saw her as a potential medal contender for the future. However, Nina kept working hard, she kept upgrading her routines and improving her execution and consistency until she became one of the best juniors in the world. At the age of 15, she already has plenty of international experience, since she has participated in most major junior competitions, including the Elite Massilia, the Top Gym Tournament, the International Gymnix, the European championships and the European Youth Olympic Festival. Some of the highlights of her 2014, was the All Around bronze medal she earned at the Elite Massilia, where she beat decorated gymnasts like Carlotta Ferlito, Sae Miyakawa and Shallon Olsen and her uneven bars silver medal at Top Gym. She also placed 5th in the All Around at the Belgian championships, she posted the highest uneven bars score at the friendly meet against Romania and France, she placed 15th in the All Around at the International Gymnix and she helped her team finish in an impressive 6th place at the Junior European championships. All those accomplishments were obviously fantastic for her, but they cannot compare to the incredible success she achieved during 2015, which was the absolute best year of her career so far. She started her year by dominating the Belgian championships, where she won gold in the All Around, the uneven bars, the balance beam and the floor exercise and silver on vault, she won the All Around title at the FIT challenge, where she was competing against a fairly deep field, and she was one of the stars of the European Youth Olympic Festival, where she helped her team win a surprising silver medal, placed 4th in the All Around and won silver on the uneven bars and bronze on floor exercise. A few months later, she competed at the Elite Massilia, where she placed 5th in the All Around with a fall and won a bronze medal on balance beam. She was supposed to compete at the Top Gym Tournament, where she would have been a major medal contender, but she unfortunately injured her toe. Despite her young age, Nina already shows some of the most difficult routines we’ve ever seen from a Belgian gymnast and her start values are high enough for her to compete against her senior teammates. She already has the best uneven bars routine in her country, and she could easily earn a spot in major and even fight for medals if she hits. Her beam routine is also world class and her full twisting yurchenko on vault is very solid. She doesn’t have the most difficult tumbling on floor, but she makes up for it with her incredibly interesting choreography, her beautiful dance elements and her ability to perform and sell her routine to the crowd. As she said to the International gymnast, she believes that one needs to be creative, and that the sport would be rather boring if everyone did the same routines, so she really does her best to be unique and to keep things interesting. With her excellent level of difficulty, she will certainly be a front runner for the Belgian test event and European team and her scores could be crucial for her country. The Belgian team has plenty of clean gymnasts, who are capable of scoring in the high 13s and the low 14s, so a potential 15 from Nina would really make a difference. If her country managed to qualify a full team to the Olympics, she will certainly be one of the top contenders but even if they don’t, she will have a great chance to be the athlete who will get a ticket to Rio. There are plenty of talented juniors from all over the world, who have the potential to be successful next year but Nina can do even more than that. If she actually lives up to her potential, she could actually revolutionize Belgian gymnastics.
start values: 5.0/5.0 + 5.2 + 6.3 + 5.8
notable skills: full twisting yurchenko and piked barani on vault, tkatcev, bail to handstand and full in dismount on bars, front tuck, two back handsprings + layout, switch ring, switch leap + switch half and double pike dismount in combination on beam, double layout, tucked full in, double tuck and double pike on floor
notable achievements: Belgian All Around national champion, Elite Massilia gold and silver medalist, EYOF AA silver medalist and beam and floor champion, Top Gym All Around, vault and floor exercise champion
Nina is not the only Belgian new senior who has the potential to write history for her country, since her teammate, Axelle, seems just as talented and determined to succeed. Just like Nina, Axelle always showed excellent artistry and charisma, but she didn’t show enough difficulty to be competitive until her last year as a junior. In 2014, she became the Junior National champion, beating older athletes like Rune Hermans and Cindy Vandenhole, who made it to worlds when they turned senior in 2015. During the same year, she placed 13th in the All Around at the International Gymnix, where she also qualified into the vault and floor finals, she qualified into the All Around, the balance beam and the floor exercise finals at the European championships and she won the floor title at the Elite Massilia, where she also finished 8th in the All Around. An injury prevented her from trying to defend her national title in 2015 and from competing on any event besides bars at the FIT challenge, but once she recovered from that, she was unstoppable. Since she was healthy again, Axelle was an obvious choice for the European Youth Olympic Festival and she did an incredible job there, proving that she really is one to watch for the future. She delivered excellent scores, that helped her team win the silver medal, above Germany, Romania, Italy and Great Britain and she actually tied for first with Russia’s Daria Skrypnik during the All Around finals. Unfortunately, the tie was broken and she ended up winning the silver medal, but this really was an incredible result for her and her country. She continued to impress during the event finals, where she won the gold medal on both the balance beam and the floor exercise, to become the second most decorated gymnast of the competition, with 2 silver and 2 gold medals. A few months later, she competed at the Elite Massilia, where she won silver medals on vault and floor and she was one of the biggest stars of the Top Gym Tournament, where she became the first Belgian gymnast to win the All Around title in the history of the competition, while also grabbing gold medals on beam and floor. We often see gymnasts from smaller countries being successful in the national levels as juniors and then playing it safe and never upgrading their routines in order to also be competitive internationally but this was not the case for Axelle. She has worked hard and she has upgraded her routines on every event during the last couple of years, and she now performs difficult skills and combinations, like a back handspring + back handspring + layout series on beam and a double layout on floor and she’s working on more upgrades, including a rudi on vault. She really is a strong All Arounder, who could already compete against her senior teammates and she shows excellent potential on vault, beam and floor. Her full twisting yurchenko is effortless, her beam set is already world class and despite the young age, she performs the most difficult tumbling pass in the entire Belgian team. She is a bit weak on the uneven bars, but her excellent start values on the other events are enough to make her a top contender for major teams. In addition to having strong difficulty, Axelle also shows clean execution, beautiful flexibility and incredible artistry. She has interesting, innovative choreography, and she knows how to perform to the crowd and to entertain the audience. She has struggled a bit with consistency on beam, since she upgraded her routine, but hopefully she will be more solid in the future. She will obviously need to prove herself as a senior, and I hope that her upgrades don’t turn out to be too ambitious for her, but right now she certainly is one of her country’s best gymnasts and she has a bright future ahead of her.
You can read a small article, including quotes from Axelle after EYOF here
(photo credit: UEG, gif credit: elisaminimeneghini)
start values: 5.0 + 6.2 + 5.2 + 5.4
notable skills: piked barani on vault, inbar 1/2 + endo 1/2 + komova 2 + bail, stalder full, tkatcev and full in dismount on bars, onodi, side aerial and switch ring on beam, double pike, double wolf turn, 1.5 + front full and double tuck on floor
notable results: Top Gym All Around and uneven bars silver medalist and balance beam bronze medalist, national All Around, uneven bars and floor exercise silver medalist and vault bronze medalist
Axelle and Nina are certainly the most well known Belgian new seniors, but their teammate, Senna Deriks should also not be counted out. During 2014, she placed 20th at the International Gymnix and 14th at the Elite Massilia, while also placing 7th on vault and 8th on beam at Top Gym. In 2015, she won an All Around silver medal at the national championships, where she also placed second on bars and floor and third on vault and she won silver medals on the All Around and the uneven bars and bronze on balance beam at the Top Gym. Senna is a beautiful gymnast, with gorgeous lines and interesting, unique choreography. She certainly is one of Belgium’s best uneven bars workers. She she has a gorgeous routine, which includes a nice variety of skills and I could see her making a major uneven bars final in the future. Her inbar work is lovely and her full in is so high that it could even rival Komova’s. She’s also promising on beam, where she starts her routine with a fantastic one armed handstand and she shows potential on both vault and floor. Her start values are not are not massive, but with a couple of upgrades, she could be competitive against her senior teammates and I expect her to be part of the discussion next year.
(photo credit: FIG and An Vanderstraeten)
start values: 5.0 + 5.1 + 5.5 + 5.4
notable skills: full twisting yurchenko on vault, stalder full, tkatcev, bail and full in dismount on bars, 1.5 wolf turn, tour jete 1/4, side aerial, front aerial, side somi and double pike on beam, double tuck, double pike, 2.5 twists, memmel and double wolf turn on floor
notable achievements: national All Around bronze medalist, FIT challenge silver medalist (team), EYOF silver medalist (team), 5th All Around at top Gym
Then, we have the lovely Julie Meyers, who won an All Around bronze medal at the 2015 Belgian championships and got quite a few international assignments throughout the year. She competed at the FIT challenge, where she helped her team win a silver medal and finished 7th in the All Around, beating strong gymnasts, like Lucy Stanhope and Juliette Bossu and she represented her country at the European Youth Olympic Festival, where she once again earned a silver medal with her team. A few months later, she competed at the Elite Massilia, but she only managed to finish 29th in the All Around, after having some major problems on balance beam and floor exercise. Thankfully, she got her redemption at the Top Gym Tournament, where she ended her year on a high note, finishing 5th in the All Around, with a much better score and placed 7th on bars and 9th on beam. She will need to upgrade her routines and work on her consistency in order to be competitive against the seniors, but she has lots of potential. I absolutely love the height she gets on her tkatcev and full in dismount on bars and her mount and choreography on balance beam. She also has lovely flexibility and she shows lots of energy and personality on floor. If things don’t work out for her in 2016, I’d love to see her sticking around for the next quad, because she certainly is a beautiful gymnast.
Then, we also have Emma Medina Severino, who finished 8th at the 2014 nationals and 4th at the 2015 nationals but unfortunately got injured. She’s a dynamic gymnast, with plenty of power and during 2014 she attended international competitions, like the Coupe Avenir, where she finished 6th in the All Around, 4th on bars and 8th on vault, and the Beaumont en Veron Friendly meet, where she placed 12th. I absolutely love her aggressive style on bars, where she has shown a jaeger and a maloney + pak combination and the height she got on her tumbling passes, but there are unfortunately no videos of her performances from this year.
Thanks to spotlightgymnastics for the help
gif credit: elisaminimeneghini