Gymnix 2016: the juniors

Gymnix is one of the biggest and most important junior competitions out there, and this year’s line up is particularly exciting, since gymnasts from Canada, USA, Russia, Japan, Belgium, Great Britain and Romania are expected to attend the event.

The host nation will be represented by some of their top junior athletes, including the three Elite Canada All Around medalists, Jade Chrobok, Ana Padurariu and Victoria Jurca. Canada has been very successful in junior competitions during this quad, with Shallon Olsen and Rose Kaying Woo winning multiple medals but now, those two athletes are seniors and it’s time for a new generation of Canadian gymnasts to show us what they can do. Jade, who was the absolute star of the recent Elite Canada, where she won one silver and four gold medals, will be competing at her third international Gymnix, and she already has a fair amount of experience, since she has attended other major competitions, like the Junior Japan International and the Jesolo Trophy. She should definitely impress on balance beam, where she performs difficult skills and combinations like a switch leap into a switch half, a side aerial into a layout step out, a double turn and a double pike dismount. She’s also capable of clean tumbling on floor and a spectacular inbar piked tkatcev on the uneven bars, so I’m definitely excited to watch her on those events, even though her releases can be a bit messy at times. Her teammate, Ana Padurariu, who also trains at Gemini is a fantastic bars and beam worker, with excellent difficulty and clean execution. She is capable of a fantastic inbar piked tkatcev on the uneven bars, where she also shows a lovely inbar 1/2 into a jaeger, and she performs a spectacular side aerial into two layout stepouts on balance beam, where she also has a great switch leap + sheep jump combination. She won a silver medal on this event last year, and I’m sure she would love to achieve even better results this time around and she’s certainly capable of doing so. They will be joined by Haley De Jong, who will turn senior in 2017. She is a strong tumbler, capable of a tucked full in and a triple twist and a promising beam worker, who has shown lots of difficult intricate skills and combinations in the past. She needs to work on her handstands on bars, but she performs an excellent endo + jaeger combination and she’s also capable of a full twisting yurchenko on vault. The last member of the team is the young Victoria Jurca. She’s a powerful tumbler, who performs a piked full in and an 1.5 step out + double tuck combination to “Take me to church” and she’s capable of some impressive skills, like a front tuck, a double pike, a ray and a maloney, on both bars and beam but she needs to work on her consistency on those events.

Unsurprisingly, their biggest competitor, and the top contender for the team title will be the United States. Junior national team member and 2014 Secret Classic champion Jordan Chiles is certainly one of the top contenders for the All Around title. At the age of 15, Jordan is one of the most promising juniors currently competing. She was set to compete at the Top Gym tournament a couple of months ago, but team USA ended up pulling out of the competition, so I’m sure she’s excited to get this assignment now. She has a good level of difficulty in every single event and she shows incredibly clean execution, good artistry and excellent flexibility. She unsuccessfully attempted an amanar at the 2015 Secret Classic, so I’m curious to see if she will try that vault again. However, even without the 2.5 twists, Chiles is probably the strongest vaulter of the junior field and she can break 15 for her clean DTY. She is also a lovely beam worker, capable of a back handspring + layout step out + layout step out series, a tour jete half and a front tuck, as well as a strong tumbler, who performs a high double arabian and a clean double front twist into a layout. The uneven bars is probably her worse event, but she’s by no means weak here, since her routine includes difficult skills like a gienger, a jaeger and a tkatcev + bail to handstand. She has had some consistency issues in the past, but if she hits her routines, she will certainly be hard to beat. She has trained some crazy elements, such as a front triple twist, a Patterson and a double double bars dismount, but I’m not sure if she’s planning to add them in her routines.

She will be joined by the lovely Deanne Soza of Arete Gymnastics, who turns senior in 2017
and will be making her international debut at Gymnix. She is an absolutely beautiful gymnast, who impressed us all by coming back from a serious eye infection that almost cost her her vision, to win medals at Secret Classic. She didn’t have a great competition at nationals, where she made major mistakes and didn’t manage to earn a spot into the national team, but she’s definitely capable of posting a high All Around total if she hits. She has a double twisting yurchenko on vault and a tucked full in and a gorgeous semenova turn on floor exercise but her best events are certainly bars and beam and I’m very excited to watch her stunning switch leap + onodi combination, her high ray, her floaty ezhova and her powerful full twisting double layout dismount. Another American athlete who will be making her international debut at Gymnix is the gorgeous Gabby Perea, who trains at Legacy Elite. She certainly was one of the most improved athletes of 2015 and she barely missed out on a spot in the national team last year but now it seems like it’s her time to shine. She’s such an incredibly clean athlete, who is capable of making every single skill look beautiful. Her lines and toe point are to die for, her van leeuwen and her pak salto just float in the air, her standing full is ridiculously high and her triple twist is a piece of art. Her only weakness is that her vault is only a full twisting yurchenko, but she has plenty of time to add an extra twist in there in the future. Then we have the beautiful Emma Malabuyo, who is another rising star to come out of Texas Dreams. She is a relatively new face in the sport, since she only qualified into elite last year and she had a rather rough time at nationals, but she has tons of talent and potential for the future. Her best event is certainly the balance beam, where she performs a switch ring, a sheep jump, a standing arabian, a front tuck and 2.5 twists in combination, but she also has a beautiful floor routine, which includes a 1.5 + 2.5 combination, a double front twist and fantastic choreography. She still has a long way to go on bars and vault, but she’s still young and she has tons of time to upgrade before she turns senior in 2018. It’s hard to predict the future stars of a team that has the depth of USA, but those four athletes are all extremely talented and have the potential to leave their mark on their sport, so I’m very excited to see what they can do.

Another strong challenge should come from Russia. Their team will be lead by the gorgeous Anastasia Ilyankova, who already has quite a few medals from this competition. She has made a name for herself internationally, after winning medals at the European Youth Olympic Festival and the Junior Japan International, and she’s one of Russia’s most talented and promising juniors. Just like most of the athletes of her country, Nastya shines on the uneven bars, but she performs skills that we don’t usually see from Russian gymnasts and this is refreshing. She’s not the most consistent beam worker out there (after all, she’s Russian), but she’s absolutely gorgeous on this event, where she shows a round off into a layout and a side aerial into a layout step out. She still needs to upgrade her dance elements in order to maximize her D score, but she’s certainly one to watch on this event. She’s not the most powerful gymnast, so she doesn’t have the highest start values on vault and floor but she’s quite elegant and clean on both events and she is a solid All Arounder, who can challenge for the podium if she hits. She will be joined by the young Uliana Perebinosova, who seems to be getting lots of assignments recently. She’s not quite as polished as her teammate, but she shows lots of potential. She has a very interesting bars routine, which includes an unusual maloney + stalder half + ezhova combination, and a promising beam set, which includes a double wolf turn, two back handsprings into a layout and an illusion spin. She doesn’t have any huge tumbling passes on floor, but her double backs are all high and her form is quite clean so I’m excited to see her upgrading on this event. Valeria Saifulina, who was born in 2002, is another lovely beamer, capable of a a round off + layout, a double tuck dismount and lovely aerials. She’s also promising on bars, since she performs a clean inbar + inbar half + jaeger combination and she has a full twisting yurchenko on vault. However, my favorite member of the Russian team and my favorite athlete of the competition (and basically my favorite person ever) is Varvara Zubova, who was also born in 2002. Despite her young age, Varvara shows incredible elegance, artistry and performance quality and she reminds me of the Soviet gymnasts of the past. She’s quite weak on vault, and her bars can’t compare to her teammates’, but she’s freaking stunning on the two remaining events. Her floor choreography looks like it came from another era and her beam routine is absolutely magical. Some of her most notable skills and combinations on those events are her double twist + back tuck on floor and her front handspring mount + front handspring + front aerial and round off + layout on balance beam.

Another country I’m very curious to see is Great Britain. Their team is comprised by lovely, flexible and artistic gymnasts, who however, don’t seem to have tons of power, so it’s clear that their program has taken a different direction and it will be interesting to see where this takes them. One of their stars is Taeja James, who doesn’t have any massive start values yet, but shows good potential on every event. She has been training a double twisting yurchenko, that would certainly help her team and her All Around total, so it will be interesting to see if she’ll be ready to compete that. She doesn’t have any elements rated higher than D on the other events, but she shows a jaeger, a bail to handstands and a full in dismount on bars, a double pike and 2.5 twists on floor and a front tuck on beam, where she’s absolutely lovely to watch. Her teammate, Alice Kinsella is in a pretty similar situation. She doesn’t have any huge numbers yet, but she definitely has the potential to grow into a lovely gymnast. Her best event is probably beam, where she shows an interesting and unusual mount, two back handsprings into a layout step out, a double turn and a 2.5 dismount. Her bars are a bit muscled up at times, but she performs difficult skills, such as a jaeger, a bail to handstand and a double layout dismount, so you should keep an eye for her on this event. Her  vault is a full twisting yurchenko and her most difficult tumbling passes on floor are a double pike and 2.5 twists. Another British gymnast I’m very excited for is EYOF medalist Maisie Methuen, who started getting attention from a very young age, thanks to her lovely and expressive choreography. She shines on beam, where she performs a back handspring into two layout step outs, a front aerial into a sheep jump and a front tuck, but the event where I enjoy her the most is definitely floor. She doesn’t have the most difficult tumbling, but she’s delightful to watch and she shows lovely artistry and dance, so I’m very excited to see if she has a new routine. Her bars are not really spectacular, even though she’s capable of a maloney and a tkatcev and her vault is a front pike. Ellesse Oates is probably the least well known member of that team, but that doesn’t mean she’s any less talented than any of her teammates. She is actually very promising on beam, where she performs two back handsprings into a layout step out, a front aerial into a sheep jump and a front tuck and she has nice swing on bars, where her routine includes a huge gienger and a clean double front dismount. The power events are not really her strength, even though she has a clean 2.5 on floor.

We should also keep an eye on the French team team, which will be lead by rising star Lorette Charpy. Lorette is a beautiful bars worker, capable of a maloney + pak, a van leeuwen, a jaeger and a double layout dismount and she starts her floor routine with an excellent double front. She’s also clean on balance beam, where she shows a front aerial + sheep jump, an onodi and a double pike dismount and she’s capable of a full twisting yurchenko on vault. Her teammate, Alison Lapp has a brilliant beam routine, which includes two back handsprings into a layout step out, a front aerial into a sheep jump and a clean 2.5 dismount and she shows clean tumbling and interesting choreography on floor. They will be joined by Janna Mouffok and Assia Khnifass, both of whom are relatively inexperienced gymnasts, who will have a lot to earn from this competition. Janna is strong on the uneven bars, where she performs a maloney + bail, a jeager and a double layout dismount and she has a difficult beam routine, which includes a round off + layout, a sheep jump and a switch half. She’s also quite fun to watch on floor, even though she doesn’t have any huge tumbling passes. Assia is a great beam worker, capalbe of two back handsprings into a layout, an onodi and a front aerial into a sheep jump. Some of her most notable skills on the other events are her jaeger and maloney on bars and her double pike on floor.

Then, we also have the Romanian team, whose star is the gorgeous former rhythmic gymnast Olivia Cimpian. She has been in the spotlight for a long time and she earned lots of attention back in 2012, thanks to her excellent artistry, so it is great to see her being such a competitive athlete right now. She has a fantastic beam routine, the highlight of which is a spectacular back handspring + tucked full combination, and she’s freaking gorgeous on floor. She has maintained the incredible artistry and flexibility that made her famous back in 2012, but she has also upgraded her tumbling, and she’s now capable of a tucked and a piked full in and a triple twist. She has attempted double twisting yurchenkos in the past, but she has never performed that vault cleanly, so it will be interesting to see if she can now safely compete it. Her bars are also pretty decent, at least for Romania’s standards, and she performs a lovely endo + jaeger combination, so overall, she’s a solid All Arounder, who could surprise us. The problem is that she’s a rather inconsistent gymnast, but she can definitely post a strong All Around total if she hits. Another familiar name in the Romanian team is Ioana Crisan. She has an excellent level of difficulty on balance beam, where she performs two back handsprings into a layout and a double tuck in combination, and she’s a powerful tumbler, capable of a tucked and a pike full in. I do wish she was a bit more expressive though, because her facial expressions don’t really match her energetic choreography. She performs a full twisting yurchenko on vault and a tkatcev and a high full in dismount on the uneven bars. The next member of the team is Alisia Botnaru, who hasn’t gotten enough attention for her strong routines on floor and beam. She has a high tucked full in on floor and she’s a lovely beam worker, who performs difficult dance elements, like a switch ring, a switch half and a switch leap + sheep jump combination, before ending her routine with two back handsprings into a double tuck. Her vault is only a full twisting yurchenko and her bars are unfortunately very Romanian, since she doesn’t have much difficulty and her swing is very labored, but she could post good scores on beam and floor. The youngest member of the team is Denisa Golgota, who was born in 2002. She’s still a bit unpolished, but she shows great potential, especially on balance beam, where she performs a switch leap + johnson, a switch half and high double tuck dismount and on floor exercise, where she shows a tucked full in and multiple difficult leaps and jumps. Her full twisting yurchenko is pretty powerful and her swing on bars is actually pretty fluid, but she barely has any difficulty and she is Romanian so I don’t really have high expectations from her on this event.

Belgium will also be represented by a group of lovely gymnasts, who are hoping to hel their program in the future. Their senior team looks better than ever, and their focus is obviously the Rio Olympics, but they also need to focus on building a strong junior team and this competition is a great chance for their younger gymnasts to earn some experience. Maellyse Brassart is probably my favorite Belgian athlete heading to the competition. She shines on beam, where she performs a sheep jump, a back handspring + back handspring + layout step out series and a double tuck and she’s absolutely beautiful to watch on floor, where she shows clean twisting form and lovely choreography. She is capable of a shaposhnikova + pak combination and a jaeger on the uneven bars, but she has lots of cleaning up to do on this event, before being competitive against the world’s best. Alysha Senders is capable of a sheep jump and a beautiful L turn on balance beam and she’s fun to watch on floor exercise, while Myrthe Potoms is absolutely delightful to watch on floor  and quite promising on beam, even though she doesn’t have much difficulty yet.

Last but not least, we have the Japanese team, which could be one of the most pleasant surprises of the competitions. Their athletes are relatively unknown and inexperienced, but they all have some excellent work. Soyoka Hanawa is a strong beam worker, capable of a switch ring, two back handsprings into a layout and a front aerial into a sheep jump. Mana Oguchi is a powerful tumbler, who performs a double layout, 2.5 twists into a front full and a triple twist and she has a fabulous beam set, which includes a font tuck, a switch ring and an unusual double front twist dismount. I was also very impressed by Kiko Kuwajima, who showed ridiculously difficult skills and combinations on beam, like a standing arabian, a back handspring into a tucked full and two back handsprings into a double pike. The uneven bars are her weakest event, even though she performs a jaeger and a full in dismount, but she showed a high tucked full in on floor and a solid double twisting yurchenko on vault, so she should be able to post a high All Around total.

gif credit: sparklesandchalk

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