Ellie Downie, Great Britain
I don’t think that there’s even one gymnastics fan who doesn’t know who Ellie Downie is by now. In just one year, this girl achieved more than what some gymnasts achieve in their entire careers. After an incredible junior career, she came back from injuries to become the first British woman to ever win a major All Around medal at the European championships, she earned national medals, she dominated the Great Britain vs Netherlands friendly meet, she qualified into two worlds event finals and she secured her country’s first worlds team medal in the history of the sport. After those stellar results, she clearly is a front runner for the British Olympic team and the Stuttgart world cup will be her first international competition of the year. She is a fantastic All Arounder, with great potential on every event and she’s certainly a top contender for the All Around title if she hits. Her vault is one of the best double twisting yurchenkos being done in the world and she’s capable of an effortless lopez, so I definitely hope to see her upgrading at least one of her vaults during the year. I’m not sure if she’s planning to do that, but she consistently scores in the 15s for her DTY and that should give her an advantage over some of her competitors. She is also promising on the uneven bars, where she’s capable of difficult combinations, but she had trouble hitting her routine on this event at worlds. The truth is, that she had been consistent during the first half of the year and she attempted a brand new routine at Glasgow, so she just probably wasn’t comfortable with it yet. Now, she had plenty of time to perfect her upgraded set and she will hopefully be able to perform it cleanly. Her beam shows good potential, even though she doesn’t always break 14 on this event. The highlight of her routine is her fabulous standing arabian, and in the past she has performed a Patterson dismount that I’m hoping to see again. She is also an excellent tumbler, who can make a Dos Santos and an 1.5 + double arabian combination look easy, so we can expect big scores from her on this event. In the past, she used to perform a double layout and she has trained a full twisting double layout, so I would love to see some upgrades, especially since her current routine looks so easy for her.
Xie Yufen, China
China’s Xie Yufen, who is also set to compete at the Glasgow world cup, is probably the most surprising competitor of the line up. She turned senior in 2014 and she made her international debut at the WOGA Classic, where she won a silver on the uneven bars and a bronze on balance beam. After that, she competed at the Pacific Rim championships, earning a silver medal on balance beam and she participated in the Chinese nationals, finishing 7th in the All Around and 5th on the uneven bars. She had a rather solid first year as a senior, but she didn’t quite have the scoring potential to compete against her teammates, so she made the 2014 worlds team as an alternate. In 2015, she competed at the WOGA Classic for the second time in her career and she was even more successful, becoming the uneven bars and the All Around champion. A few months later, she was named to her country’s Asian championships team, and she helped China win a silver medal while also qualifying at the uneven bars finals, despite having some struggle on beam and floor. Unfortunately, the competition for the worlds team was intense, with all the new seniors and Yufen did not get a ticket to Glasgow. It looks like she did not go to Nanjing for winter training with some of her most famous teammates and that indicates that she’s probably not going to have a good chance for Rio. The reason why I’m surprised to see her in the line up is that I never considered her a complete All Arounder. She certainly is gorgeous on the uneven bars, where she executes difficult transitions and intricate pirouettes with beautiful execution, and she’s a very promising balance beam worker, capable of two back handsprings into a layout and a double pike dismount, but she doesn’t seem to have the necessary power to perform difficult elements on vault and floor. Her vault is a rather low full twisting yurchenko and the highlight of her floor routine is a short triple full, so she will have trouble to even break 14 on those events. Because of that, I’d think that she would be much more successful at an event finals world cup, like Cottbus, but I’m still excited to see what she can do. She certainly does not have the scoring potential of some of her competitors, so it’s hard to imagine her fighting for a spot on the podium, but her bars routine will definitely be one of the highlights of the competitions, and she could potentially post the highest score of the day on that event.
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Elisabeth Seitz, Germany
Eli is another gymnast that most fans should already be familiar with by now. At the age of 22, she is now an experienced veteran in the sport and she has participated at multiple world and European championships, as well as the 2012 Olympic Games. During her long career, she has won several medals at world cups and friendly meets, she has dominated German national competitions several times, she has become a European All Around silver medalist, she has qualified into the worlds All Around finals multiple times, she has been a world uneven bars finalist and she has been an Olympic All Around and uneven bars finals. She unfortunately struggled with injuries in the beginning of the year, but she recovered in time to win two medals at the Sao Paulo world cup, to help her team at the
FIT challenge and to represent her country at the European Games. She was one of the most unlucky gymnasts of the competition, since she didn’t get to compete to the All Around and the uneven bars finals due to the one per country rule, but she showed that she is determined to make a successful comeback. With her excellent level of difficulty and after the amazing results she achieved during the German national competitions, she was a lock for her country’s worlds team, especially after some of her teammates were out of contention due to injuries. The qualifications were rather hard for her, since a disappointing fall prevented her from reaching the uneven bars finals, and her team under performed and did not manage to get a ticket to Rio. However, she got over this disappointment and she came back with a strong performance in the All Around finals, where she finished in an impressive 10th place. Eli is not particularly strong on beam and floor, but she has an incredible bars set, that can easily score above 15, and that makes up for that. Her routine is certainly not as exciting without the def, but she still performs extremely difficult combinations, like a maloney + ricna and a downie + pak, and she could post the highest score of the night on this event. In the past, she has also shown a double twisting yurchenko, so if she brings it back, her chances would be as good as anyone’s.
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Isabela Onyshko, Canada
Isabela, who is the Ljubljana beam and floor champion and the Mexican Open All Around champion, has been a key player of the Canadian team since she became eligible to compete in 2014. During her two years as a senior, she has been named in every single major team and she has represented Canada at all the important competitions of the quad, including the International Gymnix, the Doha and the Ljubljana world cup, the Commonwealth Games, the Pan-american Games and the world championships. She has also participated in smaller competitions, like the WOGA Classic, the Jesolo Trophy and the Mexican Open and she has won 4 world cup medals, two of which are gold. She has also been extremely successful in national competitions, consistently finishing 2nd in the All Around behind Ellie Black and placing in the top 3 in the apparatus finals. She wasn’t particularly well known as a junior and she didn’t immediately stun the world once she made her senior debut. In fact, she was a bit shaky in the beginning of 2014, making several mistakes and scoring below 13 multiple times. However, she learned from all her mistakes and she earned valuable experience and she has worked her wayy into the top slowly and steadily. She had an extremely busy 2015, attending more competitions that most of the elite gymnasts out there, but the major mistakes she had were very few. She hit her routines over and over again, she won international medals, she was a rock every time her team needed her and she was a vital part of Canada’s success at the world championships. Her form leaves a lot to be desired and she has noticeable legs separations in lots of her skills, but she really is a gorgeous, charismatic gymnast, with excellent artistry and fantastic flexibility and she is a joy to watch every time she takes the floor. She recently said to the gymternet, that she admires Nastia Liukin’s poise and elegance, and she’s trying to show those qualities through her gymnastics as well, but in my opinion, she already shows even more style and artistry than Nastia did. She really knows how to perform to the crowd, she has a unique personal style, that always makes her stand out, and she is capable of some unusual skills and combinations. Her best even is probably the uneven bars, where she’s capable of intricate combinations and high flight elements. Some of her skills could be a bit cleaner, but her execution definitely improved during the last year, and she has scored in the middle 14s on this event internationally. She also has very respectable start values on balance beam and floor exercise, where she is capable of scoring above 14. Her vault is a full twisting yurchenko, but she’s already working on upgrading it and a highest start value on this event would definitely help her All Around chances. If she doesn’t manage to upgrade in time for Stuttgart, she will have a disadvantage against some of her competitors, who are capable of double twisting yurchenko but overall, she is a solid All Arounder, who certainly has a chance to finish in the top 5 if she does what she’s capable of. She said that she’s working on upgrades on all four events, so I would love to see some new elements from her.
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Elisa Meneghini, Italy
Elisa had an excellent junior career, winning medals at major competitions like the EYOF and the European championships, and she was one of the only Italians of her generation, who actually immediately lived up to her potential as a senior. She turned senior in 2013, and she has played a very important role for her team during the entire quad. In the past three years, she has won national and international medals, including a silver on balance beam at the Jesolo Trophy, two bronze medals at the Novara Cup, and three golds at the Italian championships and she has also beam a European event finalist. She was selected to be part of Italy’s worlds team in 2014, but she unfortunately injured herself right before the competition begun. She was trying to come back from that injury for the biggest part of 2015, and even though she regained her difficulty relatively fast, she certainly had a fair amount of trouble with hitting her routines. She posted some scores in the 12s in the beginning of the year, but she thankfully managed to get it together and she did a good job at the Italian championships and the Novara Cup and nobody was surprised to see her on her country’s worlds team. Elisa finally got to compete at her first world championships, and besides a fall on balance beam during qualifications, she did a great job for her team. In fact, she posted her country’s second highest score on vault and floor in prelims, helping them get a ticket to Rio and she hit both her routines in the team finals. She finished her year at the Elite Massilia, where she placed 4th on floor exercise. She is not as flashy as some of her competitors, but she certainly is a solid All Arounder with good scoring potential. She is capable of a clean yurchenko 1.5 on vault and a lovely beam routine, which includes two back handspring into a layout step out, a sheep jump, and the highest double pike dismount you will ever see. However, her best event is certainly floor, where she shows both powerful tumbling passes, like a double layout, a tucked full in and two whips into a double tuck, and fun, entertaining choreography. Her bars are a bit weak, but she should be able to score in the high 13s if she hits and I love her double arabian dismount. She has trained a side aerial + layout step out and a round of + layout full recently and even though I’m not sure if we’ll ever see those combinations in competition, I think it’s safe to assume that she’s working on more upgrades. Her scoring potential is slightly lower than some of her competitors’ but I certainly consider her a contender for the All Around podium, if others make mistakes, and I’m excited to see what she can do.
Tabea Alt, Germany
The Stuttgart world cup, will be Tabea’s second major international competition as a senior, since she is also set to compete at the American Cup. The fact that she got those two assignment is enough to prove what we already know: Germany sees her as a strong contender for the Olympic team and they want her to have as many international experience as possible. As mentioned before, Alt had a very successful junior career, dominating national competitions and winning medals at major meets, like the Junior European championships, the FIT challenge and the European Youth Olympic Festival. Despite her young age, she already has higher start values than some of her senior teammates’. She is world class on bars and beam, where she’s capable of difficult skills, and combinations, like a full twisting double layout dismount and a side aerial into two layout step outs, so you should watch out for her on those events. Her floor is not quite as impressive but she certainly shows potential. In the past, she has shown a double layout and a double arabian, so she is capable of big tumbling but she still needs to upgrade her dance elements, in order to increase her start value, and to clean up her form and her landings. She’s also working on a double twisting yurchenko on vault, but she hasn’t successfully competed it, so I’m not sure if she’s planing to show it in Stuttgart. Tabea’s biggest weakness is her inconsistency. Some times she scores in the middle 14s and others she scores in the 12s, so it’s hard to know what to expect from her. If she hits four out of four, she’s not far behind the rest of the field. Even without any upgrades, she’s capable of breaking 14 on bars and beam and scoring in the high 13s on vault and floor, so if she has increased her difficulty, she could score above 56 in the All Around.
Celine Van Gerner, Netherlands
One of the most exciting things about the Stuttgart world cup is the return of Olympian Celine Van Gerner. The previous quad was extremely successful for her, since she qualified into the worlds All Around finals twice and she made it into her first Olympic Games. It took her a long recovery from injuries, a lawsuit and plenty of controversy to get there, but once she was in London, she was magnificent. She became the first reserve for the uneven bars finals, which was an incredible achievement, and she managed to finish in an impressive 12th place in the All Around finals. She was once again recovering from injuries in 2013, but she came back in 2014, just in time to compete at the world championships and help her team place 10th during qualifications. She never regained the full difficulty she was capable of in 2012, but she was still showing world class routines and posting high scores. She started her 2015 at the WOGA classic, where she won an All Around silver and a balance beam gold with an incredible routine, and she represented the Netherlands at the European Games, helping them win a bronze medal. She also qualified into the uneven bars finals at this competition and she was certainly in contention for a medal, but an unfortunate fall took her out of the running. Given her excellent scoring potential and her team’s lack of depth, Celine was a lock for the world championships team, but she unfortunately ended up hurting herself. Thankfully, the Dutch women were able to qualify a full team to the Olympics without her, and now, it’s time for Celine to prove that she deserves to be a two times Olympian. She really is a lovely gymnast, with excellent tecnique and even though she doesn’t have the highest start values, she makes up for it with gorgeous execution. In the past, she was capable of a yurchenko 1.5, but she has only competed fulls during the quad and there’s no reason for her to push herself too hard to upgrade that vault. The uneven bars are a very strong event for her, even though she doesn’t have a huge start value. She shows beautiful lines, excellent amplitude and clean form and if she could bring her inbar stalders back, she could definitely post a high score. She’s also an excellent beam worker, capable of lots of difficult leaps and clean aerials, and she’s beautiful to watch on floor, even though she doesn’t have the most difficult tumbling out there. Celine’s main goal for this competition is probably to just get out there and show that she is now healthy and ready to fight for a ticket to Rio. Her scoring potential is probably a bit lower than some of her competitors’ but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her being successful if others make mistakes.
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Nia Dennis, USA
Words can’t express how excited I am for Nia Dennis being nominated for the Stuttgart world cup. Of course, I know that lots of things can change in the next couple of months and that USA’s entry may change but even the fact that she’s being considered for this assignment is very promising. Nia has been in the world of elite gymnastics for quite a while. She started showing excellent potential in 2012, where she came back from injuries to place 7th in the All Around, 5th on beam and 8th on floor exercise at the national championships and she was even more successful in 2013, when she became the Secret Classic vault champion and vault silver medalist and the national vault silver medalist, while also placing 4th in the All Around and making the national team. There’s no doubt that 2014 was the absolute best year of her career, since she participated in two international meets and she was one of the most successful American juniors at national competitions. More specifically, she started her year at the Jesolo Trophy, winning silver medals in the All Around and the uneven bars and she participated in the Pacific Rim championships, where she was once again second in the All Around and second on vault. She continued to impress at the Secret Classic, where she won a gold in the uneven bars and silver on vault, beam and the All Around, despite mistakes on floor. After this incredible year, she was considered a front runner for the junior national title, especially after Bailie Key withdrew from the competition. Mistakes prevented her from winning the gold medal, but she placed second in the All Around and first on vault and floor, so she clearly finished her junior career in a high note. At that point, there was no doubt that Nia was extremely talented. She was ridiculously powerful but she was also very flexible and fairly clean. She was explosive on vault and floor and she could also swing bars and perform difficult elements on balance beam. She really had the whole package but there was only one problem: she was terribly inconsistent and she rarely hit 4/4 in a single competition. This did not prevent her from being a successful junior, because her start values were quite higher than most of her competitors’ but it was clear that things would be different once she transitioned in the senior ranks. However, despite her inconsistency, Nia was one of the most anticipated new seniors of 2015 and lots of fans considered her a potential contender for the world team. Instead, she didn’t get any international assignments during the year. She struggled with injuries that prevented her from fighting for a ticket to Jesolo, and she surprisingly was not selected to represent USA at the Pan-american Games, even though most people considered her a lock for that team. It looks like this was a wake up call for her and she switched gyms shortly after. Going into a new gym just weeks before nationals is certainly not ideal, especially for a rather inconsistent athlete, but Nia handled it brilliantly, and she actually did not have any falls during the 12 routines she competed at Classics and nationals. This was an excellent achievement for her, and hopefully it will give her the confidence she needs going into the Olympic Year. She now knows that she can hit under pressure, so it’s time for her to upgrade her routines in order to be competitive in the deepest team in the world. She is capable of a phenomenal double twisting yurchenko on vault, sky high releases on bars, clean aerials and beautiful leaps on balance beam and an explosive double layout and double arabian on floor, so she certainly is a great All Arounder with an excellent chance to win the title. In the past, she has shown difficult skills and combinations, like an 1.5 + double arabian on floor and a standing arabian on beam, and she has trained a church, so I would love to see her performing some of those skills. I hope that she actually ends up competing and she hits her routines. If she does that, she certainly has a good chance to win the title.
Seda Tutkhalyan, Russia
Russia’s Seda Tutkhalyan is famous for her strong double twisting yurchenko on vault, her spectacular round of + layout full on balance beam, and her inability to hit under pressure. She started making a name for herself as a junior in 2014, when she won three medals at the Russian nationals and represented her country at the European championships. She was one of the top contenders for the All Around, the balance beam and the vault podium, but mistakes prevented her from winning any individual medals. However, she was much more successful at the Youth Olympic Games, where she was one of the stars of the competition, earning one silver and two gold medals, including the All Around title. She had a rather shaky senior debut at the Russian championships but she showed great potential at the Four Nations Trophy, where she hit all her routines to claim the All Around title with a very respectable 57.400. She continued to impress at the European Games qualifications, showing impressive difficulty and consistency, but she once again had a fall when it was time for her to fight for the beam title. A few months later, she won three silver medals at the Russian Cup, despite having a few major mistakes and she was named to Russia’s worlds team. She was pretty solid during qualifications, but for one more time, she wasn’t able to handle the pressure of the finals, and she had falls on beam during the team, the All Around the the event finals and she left Glasgow without any medals. All you need to know about Seda is that during the Russian Cup, she hit a round of + layout full, a round of + layout and a front aerial + sheep jump, only to fall on a freaking sissone, a few seconds later. She is an incredibly talented athlete, capable of great skills on every single event, but her inconsistency is preventing her from living up to her potential. If she hit her routines, she could very well win the All Around title, but unfortunately, this is a huge if. Seda has trained an amanar, so it will be interesting to see if she’s planning to actually perform that vault in the competition. It would certainly give her quite an advantage if she could put it on her feet, but of course, she shouldn’t attempt it unless it’s safe. Her bars routine is not as magical as some of her teammates’ but she has a respectable start value, an exciting maloney + bhardwaj combination and a beautiful double front dismount, so she’s definitely worth watching on this event. Balance beam is obliviously her best and her riskiest event. She could post the highest or the lowest score of the night here, and we will have to hold our breaths while she performs. However, the event where I’m most curious to see her is floor exercise. I think she has massive potential here, and in the past, she has shown a spectacular whip + whip + piked full in combination, so if she could put this in the same routine with her double layout, she would have an impressive start value.
Overall, we have a pretty even line up that includes lots of unpredictable gymnasts, so this should be an intense competition. I think that if they hit their routines to the best of their abilities, Ellie Downie, Seda Tutkhalyan and Nia Dennis have the highest scoring potential of the field, but Onyshko, Meneghini, Seitz, Alt and Van Gerner are not too far behind, so there’s very little room for error. Xie Yufen’s All Around scoring potential is quite lower, but I’m really looking forward to her stunning uneven bars routine.
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