2016 WOGA Classic: Athletes to watch

The 2016 WOGA Classic will be held from February 12 to February 14 and it will give us the chance to take a first look on Olympic hopefuls from multiple countries, including USA, Canada, France, Japan, Uzbekistan, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago.

As always, the WOGA girls are expected to attend the competition and start their elite season with a strong performance in front of her home crowd. The biggest stars of the gym are, three times world champion and national uneven bars champion Madison Kocian, 2014 world champion and 2015 national beam silver medalist Alyssa Baumann, and junior stand out Irina Alexeeva. Maddie only competed on two events in 2014 and she missed the competition last year due to injuries, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she only competed on bars and beam this year. I would personally love to see her on floor, where she shows clean tumbling and lovely choreography but she is such a fragile gymnast, who needs to take care of body during the Olympic year. Her bars are certainly going to be one of the highlights of the competition and I’m curious to see if she has any upgrades on this event. Alyssa is probably the best beam worker of the senior field and she will have a great chance to win the All Around title if she decides to compete on all four events. She had a rather rough competition last year, when she scratched vault, beam and floor after a disastrous bars routine, so I’m sure she’d love to get out there and give a strong performance this time around. With a double twisting yurchenko on vault, a chow + pak and a toe on full + maloney + bail on bars, a standing arabian and a switch ring on beam and a double layout on floor, she is world class on every single event. She is an Olympic hopeful and she will certainly need some major upgrades in order to stand out in team USA, so I’m excited to see if she will test any new skills. Ira, who started her career in Russia but recently qualified elite in USA, is probably the top junior of the competition. She has a huge beam routine, which includes difficult skills and combinations like a standing arabian, a back handspring + back handspring + layout series and a double pike dismount, and she’s capable of some intricate twisting combinations on floor. She’s also a lovely uneven bars worker, with beautiful lines and a good level of difficulty. The truth is that at the recent Elite qualifier she didn’t seem as clean and polished as she did a couple of years ago, but her huge start values certainly make her the top contender for the junior All Around title.

Canada will also be represented by world class gymnasts, including junior super star Shallon Olsen, who is listed to make her international senior debut at the WOGA Classic. She had a fair amount of trouble at the recent Elite Canada, but if she hits her routine, she will certainly be a strong contender for the All Around podium. She is a powerful vaulter, capable of a strong double twisting yurchenko and a khorkina, and an excellent tumbler, who performs a silivas and a triple twist. She has been inconsistent on balance beam but her routine is very impressive, since it includes a back handspring into two layout step outs, a switch ring, an illusion turn and a double pike dismount, and she can post a big score if she hits. Her bars are not quite as strong and she doesn’t have the highest start value or the cleanest execution, but she can still score in the high 13s and stay in contention for the All Around title. Her teammate, Seina Cho is a promising beam and floor worker, who has shown great skills in the past, including a switch ring and an onodi tik tok on balance beam and 3.5 twists, a triple twist and a piked full in on floor exercise. On the junior side, Canada will be represented by the stylish Haley Do Jong, who won a bronze medal on floor exercise at the recent elite Canada. She is a very promising floor worker, capable of a tucked full in and a triple twist, and she has shown an exciting beam routine, which included a back handspring + layout step out+ back pike combination, an onodi, a sheep jump and a double tuck dismount. Her full twisting yurchenko could be a bit more dynamic and she struggles with her handstands on bars, but her endo + jaeger combination on this event is beautiful to watch. Overall, Haley is a lovely gymnast, who could certainly become an important asset for the Canadian team in the future, and I’m very happy to see her getting international experience. She will be joined by Ilka Juk, whose beam routine includes a stunning omelianchik into a double stag handstand and a double pike dismount.

I am also very excited to watch Loan His and Oreane Lechenault, who will be representing France. During 2015, Loan became the national All Around champion, a European finalist and a reserve for the worlds bars finals, while also competing at multiple smaller international competitions and she certainly is a contender for the French Olympic team. She has an exciting bars routine, which includes a toe on full + van leeuwen combination and a church, she is quite lovely on floor exercise, where she performs to Carmen and she has an excellent full twisting yurchenko on vault and a respectable start value on beam. Oreane is a first year senior, who could potentially be a contender for Rio. She still has lots of cleaning up to do and she definitely needs to work on her consistency, but she has very interesting choreography and she’s capable of big skills and combinations, like a komova + pak and a van leeuwen on bars, a switch ring and a double pike on beam and a double layout on floor.

Another first year senior, who will be making her international debut at WOGA Classic is Japan’s Nagi Kajita. She is a beautiful gymnast with lovely lines and clean execution and I’m very excited for her beam routine, which includes a front aerial + split jump, two back handsprings into a layout step out, a switch ring, 1.5 Y turn and a 2.5 dismount. She also has fluid swing on the uneven bars, where she performs an inbar half into a jaeger and a full dismount and she shows gorgeous twisting form on floor exercise. She was the junior All Around silver medalist at last year’s competition and I would love to see her being equally successful this year.

You should also keep an eye for the lovely Thema Williams from Trinidad and Tobago, who moved to USA in order to train with John Geddert. She has a great balance of power and elegance and she’s a solid All Arounder with good routines on every event. Her full twisting yurchenko seems effortless, her tkatcev and jaeger are sky high, her aerials are clean and floor choreography is absolutely beautiful. She didn’t have the best competition at the recent Houston National Invitational, but she will hopefully be ready to show us what she can do this weekend. She is hoping to qualify into the Rio Olympics through the Test event, so any international experience is valuable for her. She has been training some upgrades, including a double twisting yurchenko, and it will be interesting to see if she’s planning on testing them out during that competition. Her teammate, Marissa Dick, who is training in Canada, is capable of an impressive beam routine, which includes a double turn, a switch leap + side aerial combination and her eponymous mount.

Of course, Oksana Chusovitina, who is hoping to earn a spot for the 7th Olympic Games of her career is always one to watch. She won a silver medal in the All Around and a gold on vault at the Houston National Invitational, where she showed impressive skills like a clean full out on floor, a front pike on beam, a jam to handstand into a jaeger on bars and an 1.5 twisting tsukahara on vault. She is certainly expected to impress on vault, where she has been a world and Olympic medalist and she is a contender for the All Around podium. Another worlds vault finalist set to compete at WOGA Classic is Mexico’s Alexa Moreno, who finished 7th at Glasgow. She performs of a rudi and a double twisting tsukahara but she’s not just a vault specialist. She’s also capable of a double layouts and a high double arabian on floor and a fabulous piked deltchev on bars.

This is a strong line up, considering that this is a minor competition, held at the beginning of the year, and I’m very excited to see what those athletes can do.

You can find a list of the participants here

gif credit: icannotcountthosetwists

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