Zsofia Kovacs, Hungary
start values: 5.0 + 6.0 + 6.0 + 5.3
notable skills: full twisting yurchenko on vault, front aerial + split jump + side somi, round of + layout, switch leap + switch half and double tuck dismount on beam, tucked full in, double tuck, double pike and 2.5 twists on floor exercise
I first noticed Zsofia at the 2015 European Youth Olympic Festival, and I keep asking myself how I didn’t find out about her earlier. She was part of Hungary’s 2014 Junior European team, where she posted her country’s highest score on three events during qualifications and placed 19th in the All Around, with a 50.540. In only one year, she improved this score by 3.5 points and posted a very respectable 54.000 at the 2015 European Youth Olympic Festival. During that competition, she posted her country’s highest score on every single event during the team finals, she placed 5th in the All Around, beating strong gymnasts like Tabea Alt, Ioana Crisan and Marine Boyer and she qualified into three event finals. This year, she attended the Austria vs Hungary vs Poland friendly meet, where she helped her team win a bronze medal, placed 4th in the All Around and won a bronze on vault. She has also participated in multiple minor international competitions, like the Olympic Hopes, where she has won silver and bronze medals (All Around, uneven bars) and the KSI-Matsz Cup. In my opinion, Zsofia is the most promising new senior to come out of a small gymnastics country this year. She’s freaking fabulous. She has the whole package: the power, the difficulty, the execution, the artistry and the flexibility. She just needs to work on her consistency and she will have everything it takes to be a star for Hungary. Her full twisting yurchenko on vault is very clean, and she could certainly upgrade it in the future. Her bars are still a question mark, because we don’t have a video of her on this event, but she has a 6.0 start value, and this is very promising, even though her execution scores are usually low, probably because she makes mistakes. She’s an excellent beam worker, with a world class level of difficulty and beautiful execution. She is not rock solid on this event, and she often misses some of her connections, but she has a potential 6.0 start value, and that would be enough to make her a contender for world cup and continental finals. She’s not quite as impressive on floor exercise, but she shows lots of potential. Her twisting form is clean, her double backs are high and her choreography is beautiful. Hungary has not qualified a team to the Test Event. That means that they can only send two athletes to the test event, and only of of them can get a ticket to Rio. I don’t know if Zsofia can make it over the most experienced and equally fabulous Noemi Makra and Dorina Boczogo, but even if she doesn’t, I have high expectations from her. She will definitely be a great addition, who will help her team at the European championships and she really has the potential to be the future star of Hungarian gymnastics.
Elizabet Vasilieva, Bulgaria
start values: 5.0 + 3.5 + 5.4 (counting a B dismount, would be 6.1 if she gets her double tuck back) + 5.4
notable skills: full twisting yurchenko on vault, jaeger and pak salto on bars, Philipps mount, switch half, sheep jump, onodi, wolf jump + front aerial + preziosa turn and 1.5 turn with the leg held upwards on balance beam, double tuck, double pike, memmel turn, double turn with leg held backwards, switch ring half and switch full on floor exercise
Elizabet hasn’t even competed as a senior yet, but she has already gotten more attention than any of her country’s senior gymnasts have during this quad. She is a former rhythmic gymnast, who switched to artistic gymnastics, without ever losing the incredible flexibility, artistry and turning ability she developed during her rhythmic training, and this is what made her stand out from a very young age. It only took a single floor routine from the 11 years old Vasileva to make the entire world fall in love. She clearly lacked the power and the polish that other gymnasts possess, but she showed such incredible fluidity, poise and elegance, that it was hard not to notice her. She unfortunately hasn’t attended tons of international competitions during the last couple of years, but she participated at the 2014 Junior European championships, where she performed in front of a home crowd. She had major mistakes during the competition, but she still posted her team’s highest score on three events and she impressed with her unique and beautifully choreographed routines. She also attended the 2015 Nadia Comaneci Inviational, where she helped her team win a bronze medal. She is not the cleanest gymnast and she doesn’t have the highest start values out there, but she certainly has a lot to offer to the sport. We always complain about how we always see the same skills over and over again, so it’s so refreshing to see an athlete who is as unique and innovative as she is. Sure, she’s messy, she’s inconsistent, she struggles on bars and she’s not very powerful, but she also has so many unique qualities that will always make people want to watch her. She had to miss the European Youth Olympic Festival due to injuries, but she has been working on upgrades, including a ridiculous double turn with her leg held backwards on beam, a Double layout dismount and a shaposhnikova on bars and a mustafina turn, a double layout and a tucked full in on floor. Bulgaria has not earned a spot for the Test Event, so Vasileva is not a Rio hopeful and this is one of the main reasons why I’m so frustrated with the current Olympic qualifications system. I’m not saying that she’d be guaranteed to earn a spot to the Test Event, but she has better scoring potential than all her senior teammates and she didn’t even get a chance to fight for that spot. However, if she stays healthy, she should be an obvious choice for future major teams, including the 2016 Bulgarian European championships team and I hope she has a great career. She’s probably not going to win a world medal, but she will certainly win everyone’s hearts with her stylish and innovative performances.
Yana Horokhova, Ukraine
start values: 5.0 + 5.0 + 6.3 + 5.3
notable skills: maloney, tkatcev and pak salto on bars, round of + layout, front aerial + sheep jump, split jump + side aerial, switch ring and double pike dismount on balance beam, tucked full in, double tuck, double pike and 2.5 twists on floor
Yana is a typical Ukrainian gymnast. She’s gorgeous, she’s clean, she’s flexible, she’s innovative, she’s artistic and she’s terribly inconsistent. The two most important competitions she has attended are the 2014 European Championships and the 2015 European Youth Olympic Festival. She was a strong medal contender on balance beam in both meets, but she unfortunately didn’t qualify into the finals due to mistakes during qualifications (oh Ukraine). She also barely missed out on a spot at the All Around finals in Tbilisi but she finished in a very respectable 12th place at Sofia, despite having a few mistakes. Out of all the athletes included in this article, Yana is probably the one who is most likely to go to the Olympics. She will need to fight for a Test Event spot against her senior teammates, but she definitely has the difficulty and the potential to make it. Angelina Kysla and Krystyna Sankova are both gorgeous gymnast, and I really wish they could have had better careers but the former does not have enough difficulty to challenge some of the world’s best gymnasts and the latter has struggled with injuries. Yana is still young and inexperienced, but she has a massive beam routine, that could fight for a spot in the Olympic event finals and her All Around potential is as good as any of her teammates’. Sure, she’s incredibly inconsistent and very unlikely to hit, but this is true for every Ukrainian gymnast of the last three quads, so I really think she’s the best candidate for that spot. Of course, I’m not the one who will make this decision, but I would love to see her having a chance to compete at the Olympics. Yana already made her senior debut at the recent Baku world cup, and she had multiple major mistakes that prevented her from getting high execution scores, so this was not a great way for her to start her career. At this point, it’s hard to have high expectations from a young Ukrainian gymnast, given the country’s history of inconsistency and injury and their current funding problems. I’m sure that she will fall more times than she will hit and that she will break out hearts over and over again, but I will just be waiting for this one incredible routine that will make it all worth it.
(gif credit: griffinssclarke)
Alisa Zadvorna, Ukraine
notable skills: maloney + bail to handstand and jaeger on bars, front handspring + front tuck, front aerial and side aerial on balance beam, double tuck, memmel turn and goegan on floor
Another Ukrainian gymnast turning senior just in time for the Rio Olympics is Alisa Zadnorva, who also represented her country at the European Youth Olympic Festival. She didn’t have a great competition there, and she only placed 41st in the All Around during qualifications. She had a rough bars set and she made some very Ukrainian mistakes on beam and floor, where she wobbled during her choreography and almost fell on a memmel turn, after hitting all her difficult acrobatic elements. Alisa clearly has a long way to go, and I definitely don’t think she can compete against Horokhova, or even Kysla for a spot in the Olympic team, but she shows good potential for the future. Her best event is definitely the balance beam, where she shows a fantastic front handspring + front tuck combination, but she’s also promising on the uneven bars. She has lovely lines and toe point and her choreography is pretty to watch, but she certainly needs to work on her fluidity and her expressiveness. If she manages to stay healthy, she should be part of her country’s European team, and she will have a chance to prove herself there. She is not the most spectacular gymnast on the planet, but she’s a talented athlete, with good All Around potential and she could be a key player to a team that barely has any athletes left. I don’t think she will win an Olympic medal anytime soon, but if she and her EYOF teammates stick around for the next quad, Ukraine could at least have enough athletes to fill a team, and that would be a step in the right direction.
(gif credit: fuck-yeah-oleg-verniaiev)
Andreea Ciurusniuc, Romania
start values: 5.0 + 5.4 + 5.9 + 5.5
notable skills: full twisting yurchenko on vault, piked jaeger, straddled jaeger, gienger, bail to handstand and tucked full in on the uneven bars, wolf jump + split jump + front aerial, two back handsprings into a layout, switch leap + side aerial, switch half, sheep jump and 2.5 twists on balance beam, whip + 2.5 twists + front tuck, double tuck, double pike and switch leap full on floor exercise
Back in 2014, I expected Ciurusnicu to be one of the three Andreeas, who would be in contention for the Romanian Olympic team but things didn’t turn out as well as I would have hoped. Andreea has a fair amount of experience and she has achieved good results in both national and international competitions. She was part of Romania’s gold medal winning team at the Beaumont en Véron Friendly meet and then, she went to represent her country at the junior European championships, where she posted solid scores on vault and bars, to help her team win a bronze medal. At the end of the year, she was one of the most successful gymnasts of the Coupe Avenir, where she won silver in the All Around, the vault and the balance beam and bronze on the uneven bars and the floor exercise. During 2015, she placed 9th All Around at both the 4 Nations Trophy and the Romanian nationals, where she was competing against both juniors and seniors and she attended the European Youth Olympic Festival, where she helped her team finish in the 4th place. She ended her year with a 18th place finish at the Elite Massilia. I thought that she could be a potential contender for the Romanian Olympic team, because her level of difficulty on bars was quite better than some of her teammates’. However, she didn’t really live up to her potential and she never upgraded her routine or cleaned up her execution since then. She is also promising on balance beam, but I don’t think she could be top 3 in the country in 2016. I don’t want to count her out before even watching her competing as a senior, but at least for the time being, I see her as a potential hope for the next quad and as a contender for an alternate spot for Rio.
Emmy and Ellen Haavisto, Sweden
Emmy: clear hip 1/1, shaposhnikova, pak salto, jaeger and double front dismount on the uneven bars, side aerial, side somi and sheep jump on balance beam, double pike on floor exercise
Ellen: notable skills: jaeger, tkatcev, pak salto, maloney and double layout dismount on bars, two back handsprings into a layout step out, front aerial and sheep jump on balance beam, double tuck and double pike on floor
Ellen and Emmy Haavisto are two lovely twin sisters, who have done a great job for Swedish gymnastics during their junior careers. Emmy participated in the 2014 International Gymnix, where she placed 20th in the All Around and 9th on the uneven bars. Then, she placed 18th in the All Around at the Junior European championships and 23rd at the FIT challenge. She was much more impressive at the European Youth Olympic Festival, where she posted her team’s highest score on three events and placed 22nd in the All Around. Ellen is just as lovely as her twin sister and unsurprisingly, she has also participated in almost the same competitions. She was 17th in the All Around at the 2014 International Gymnix, where she also tied for 7th on the uneven bars, she placed 6th in the All Around at the 2014 Belgian nationals and she was chosen to represent her country at the Junior European championships. There, she qualified into the All Around finals, finishing in the 20th place. Her first major international competition of 2015 was the FIT challenge, where she placed 18th in the All Around. A couple of months later, she attended the European Youth Olympic festival, where she posted her country’s highest score on vault and finished 23rd in the All Around. It’s needless to say that Emmy and Ellen have not dominated competitions, like some other gymnasts have, but success is not only counted by medals, and those two girls show great potential, even though they come from a small gymnastics country. Sure, they are not spectacular, but they are elegant, flexible and clean, they can swing bars, they can dance and they can perform difficult beam routines and I’m very excited to see what they can do in the future. Their country has not qualified a full team to the Test Event and it will be hard for them to beat some of their most experienced senior teammates, but I certainly expect them to be a valuable part of their team at the European championships and during the next quad
(photo credit, and sports2visual)
Magda Robakidze, Georgia
notable skills: front pike and full twisting yurchenko on vault, gienger on the uneven bars, front aerial + jump series, split jump + side aerial + sheep jump, switch leap + split jump full and front toss on beam, double pike, double tuck and double L turn on floor
Magda is a young gymnast, who could potentially contribute in the development of a country without a great tradition in gymnastics. She had the incredible opportunity to represent her country in her own country at the European Youth Olympic Festival. She posted her team’s highest scores on three events, and even though she didn’t manage to get a spot into the All Around finals, she gave some great performances for her home crowd. Before that, she had also attended the Junior European championships and she won multiple gold medals in a tournament held in Latvia. She struggles on the uneven bars, but she is particularly promising on balance beam, where she attempts some interesting and unique combinations. She is also capable of two vaults and that makes her an event final contender for world cups in the future. Georgia barely has any depth right now. In fact, they were only represented by one gymnast at the Glasgow world championships and because of that, it’s great to see them having a new senior, who is capable of some difficult skills.
Casey Jo Bell, Ireland
notable skills: gienger, pak salto and double layout on bars, front tuck, switch half and double tuck dismount on balance beam, double tuck and double pike on bars
Casey is a clean and powerful gymnast, who represents Ireland. She posted the highest scores of her team on every single event at the 2014 European championships, where she also made history by becoming the first Irish gymnast to qualify into the All Around finals of the competition. A few months later, she finished 6th in the All Around and 5th on vault and beam at the Northern European championships and she earned a gold on vault and a silver on the uneven bars at the UK School Games. In 2015, she was her country’s top All Arounder at the FIT challenge and she represented them at the European Youth Olympic Festival. She unfortunately didn’t make it to the All Around finals there, since she was the third reserve, but she still posted her country’s highest score on every event and she finished 5th in the All Around at the 2015 Northern European championships. Casey doesn’t have the highest start values out there, but I absolutely love her work because she’s very clean. I particularly enjoy watching her on the uneven bars, where she shows lovely swing before dismounting with a gorgeous, floaty double layout. Ireland has earned a spot in the Rio Test Event, but I’m not sure if Casey will be able to compete against her more experienced teammates for it, but this doesn’t mean that she can’t achieve great stuff for her country.
gif credit: huanghuidan