|Copyright- Jessica Frankl|
|Copyright- USAG- USA Gymnastics|
I know what you're thinking. A great bars and beam worker to complement the other workhorses- Simone, Amelia and Lexie. Wrong! She is a strong all-arounder in her own right, and will only get better when growth converts into more power. Her floor if you can get past the cutesy carnival music which she is just about managing to still pull off, shows massive potential. An extremely clean tumbler, though thankfully remaining conservative with difficulty- no need for it yet. She doesn't give much away deductions wise, and her leaps and turns could be spectacular here. I'd eventually like to see her do a whip-double arabian, 1 and a half into double tuck-stag, triple full and double pike. She could even ditch the last pass and make up difficulty with dance elements. You would expect, thus far, for her vault to suffer and be her weakness. But again she surprises. She has an extremely clean and effortless DTY under her belt, the only issue with it really being her knees bending in pre-flight. I would not be surprised to see her arrive with an amanar in 2014, though she probably will not need one- depends on floor upgrades really.
Bailie for AA spots 2015 and 2016! She has it all.
|Copyright- Y. Mikhailova/sportsgym.ru|
And floor, ahhh it is a work of art. I love her precision on her tumbles..except the first one of course. Again, not an issue that the difficulty is so low. Bursting with beautiful dance, and potential. Love it. In short, Russia is not short on juniors, but this one should be well able to lead the way into Rio and has massive all-around potential.
Madalina Blendea and Andreea Iridon
Ahhh, Romania is too tough to call unfortunately. Though they are depleted in number, there ARE several great juniors- notably Andreea Munteanu, Silvia Zarzu, Asiana Peng, Paula Tudorache and Laurs Jurca. But none of them stand out as great all-arounders except perhaps Peng, and she is for the moment outclassed- by Andreea Iridon and Madalina Blendea, who are both also 2015 girls. Sadly, Romania can only send one to YOG, but I hope to get a better look at them at Junior Euros this year. Madalina has been injured the last while and missed Romanian Nationals, so no idea how she would have looked then or how she might be now. It is realistic to expect that she might have more confidence on beam and an upgrade or two up her sleeve. We shall see. Madalina's pet piece is floor, which she utterly owns and shows beautiful style and presence, as well as lovely dance and tumbling. Her beam is lovely, though too tentative and open to mistakes- though again, she was barely 12 in the last routines I saw. Her bars are unsurprisingly, not astounding- but...they ARE for her nationality. Not as strong as Andreea, but nice swing and form, and lots of room for upgrades. Andreea is known for her bars, and they are really beautiful. I can see her making event finals, but actually medalling would be a step too far I think. Extremely valuable for Romania and for her own all-around potential. She has a very nice beam to her name also, with nice fluidity.
Unfortunately, her floor does nothing for her- she has all the parts, but they've made a mess of it choreography wise, and it doesn't showcase her as it should whatsoever. Still, the key thing is having the potential. The reason why she does not best Madalina is vault. I've seen a lot of poor vaults, but hers really is awful- she rotates over the table and gets no height or distance at all. In fact, I keep expecting her to land ON the table. And these are videos of her vaults in the last few months, so she has not improved from her 2010 and 2011 efforts. I will say the form is lovely- but her vaulting is not a weakness- like her floor composition and like Madalina's dead hangs on bars and lack of confidence on beam- which inspires thoughts of improvement. We can but hope! Both have obvious flaws, but enormous potential. I don't see them being pipped to the post for all-around spots by other juniors once they remain healthy.
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China has amazing bars and beam workers in spades- Mei Jie, Luo Huan, Liu Zhilin, Chen Siyi etc. etc. Actual all-arounders are harder to come by, or indeed decent vaulters even in the senior ranks. Luckily, there are some to be pinpointed- and Liu Tingting shows the greatest all-around potential at the moment. She will just about be a senior in time for Rio, born in 2000. Luckily, she has already gotten past the first hurdle and made the Junior National Team just last month. Her main asset is her long lines and precise form, used to great effect on bars. At Chinese Junior National Championships last year, she got the highest e-score of the competition- a 9.0, a score absolutely not achieved easily, hit routines can score 8's and below as the scoring is abnormally harsh. Odd to see a routine with a full twisting double layout dismount and no release, but it must be remembered that China work longer on basics and start later with actual skills than anyone else, so it's no big deal. And she has years to add them in. What is most reassuring about the quality of her bars work, besides her toepoint- is the flight on her transition. Not quite Mo Huilan-esque, but certainly she nails it without struggling, labouring or enduring a dead hang, so major kudos there for avoiding the typical bars issue the Chinese have.
Onto beam, another extremely strong event for her. The confidence she exudes is awesome, she really sells her performance here. Lovely amplitude on her leaps, and her form is impeccable. The wobble comes as a surprise, as she works the beam with all the surety of a 90's-era Romanian, with a lot more style and panache into the bargain. Lovely floaty work. Floor looks like it could develop strongly, she is already showing a full-in tuck. Crashed in the video I saw, but very nearly there nonetheless. Her opening few seconds are great and her choreography is really well done, though hopefully she can own it a bit more in time. Love her immaculate twisting and tumbling form. Sometimes it's just so great to see someone do a double pike with textbook form, when they are so frequently sloppy. Vault is very hard to judge, as Chinese juniors always play it safe and upgrades appear very late, so seeing vaults with low tarriffs in the mid 4 range is par for the course for them. I don't expect great things here, but her vaults are lovely in the air and a DTY is perhaps feasible given the power in her legs. Hopefully, as she cannot shine outside of her country without one, or a vault equal to it really.
Floor is similarly strong, and she has the same quality I loved about my Italian star below- perfectly precise landings on her first two tumbles- the same tumbles actually. Choreography is very meh, though Britain has produced some nice pieces and she doesn't look incapable, so I don't think all hope is lost there. She does look well able for an upgraded routine, which would be a great asset to her team and her AA score of course. Onto bars, worthy of attention for her dismount alone- not just a full twisting double layout- but a textbook one! No piking, no sloppiness, amazing. Her form is very nice and crisp on bars, though she flexes her feet as she clears the lower bar- which I can hope will be fixed. Lovely geinger, great height on her low-to-high transition...yes, lots of potential here. Her vault is a quite nice FTY, good technique, height, distance and form. Well able for more. In short, Gabby shows great potential on all four events, and should be Britain's top all-arounder all going well. The great thing about her besides her huge talent, is her consistency and ease with which she does her skills- she's being paced very well, though as she is now a senior I hope to see substantial upgrades at Euros in April.
Floor is where Shallon shines, displaying difficult tumbling with such ease. She's also a very nifty twister, and I'm excited to see what upgrades she has when she's older, she looks well capable of a double double or piked double arabian. Her vault also is very dynamic for one so small, and she's had it for quite a while. Although beam and bars are most in need for polishing, she seems very comfortable on them and has a great basis to build on. Nice stalders and transitions, and she's very confident on beam. Above all, she's a fierce competitor and very consistent. She's also the first from a non-top 4 country to win Top Gym, a meet which has long attracted the best in juniors. Certainly not without issues, but shows such a lot of promise.
Her floor choreography is a bit odd, and I'd like to see a new floor this year to make the most of her. She could do with something more fun. My favourite part of the routine are her first two landings, I love when they're so precise like that. Clearly she is being paced very well so as not to overstrectch her, but all of the groundwork is there for a very strong floor worker to build on. Nice Memmel turn, and she shows good dance potential. Enus on beam is a joy, surprising floatiness, nice confidence and fluidity and great toepoint in everything. All in all, she is an amazing all-arounder and with just a bit of honing could well be a major threat outside of European competitions.
Rest of Western Europe
Eythora Thordottir- Netherlands
Elizabet Vasileva- Bulgaria
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I had Noemi Makra (and considered Dayana Hryhoryeva) for this, but then I saw one of these videos again and I decided that although she has a much smaller chance of featuring in worlds or event finals etc. than both of the others, she is much more unique and that makes her more interesting to keep an eye on. Now Vasileva is not the Ukrainian Olena Vasylieva. (Side note: Ukraine's juniors at this point look too inconsistent, I'd love if they could overcome it but that's why they are not featuring.) She is Bulgarian, and only transitioned to artistic gymnastics from rythmic in 2010-2011, though she is apparently performing both. The reasoning behind the switch aside from her own preference is likely to be because rythmic is extremely strong in Bulgaria, so chances of making it are much higher in artistic, which has been lying low for quite some time. They were very strong in 1988 anyway, not much of a peep since. Anyway, Elizabet has absolutely incredible back flexibility and her routines hype it to the hilt. Particularly love the switch ring leap to scale on floor, and of course, her start and end choreography. On beam her mount is fantastic- we have seen it before, though not with that unbelievable ease. As to be expected, her tumbling is weak- though having a double tuck with such little artistic gym training is commendable. I've no idea when she's senior as estimates on her age vary widely, from 11-14. She does not have much competition though, and will hopefully qualify at least for Euros and make a bit of a splash there. The dream is that she qualfiies for worlds and gets a whole heap of dance elements named after her- the switch ring leap to scale, a triple scorpion, a triple or quad Memmel and other rythmic crossovers that she can do so well. So exciting to see talent like hers, even if for the moment it's quite one-sided!
Rebeca Andrade- Brazil
Bars are a bit of a nemesis at the moment. Thankfully her swing is fine, but her back is soft on some elements and she flexes her feet on releases and transitions. Again, nothing that can't be fixed and there's a lot of time for fixing. What she does have is very nice handstand form, a real ease on the bars, a Comaneci AND a sky-high dismount. The height of it is made for a Fabrichnova or triple back. Onto beam, where again her insane springiness comes into play- she's sooo upright on her front tuck and her dismount, and she's made for Arabians and standing full's. Or maybe a layout full in combination. The potential is huge. She has lovely form and extension on her acro skills, I'd be thrilled if she managed more toepoint in her leaps- again, so dynamic. Unsurprisingly, Rebeca already has a DTY. She gets Maroney-esque height on that thing, with very nice form. Her second vault is a handspring pike front, her block is not as good but it's still very efficient and looks well capable of a monster upgrade. In short, I am really looking forward to all of the girls listed here and hope they all succeed..but Rebeca is my favourite :)
Who do you like the look of most? Who else are you rooting for? How excited are you at the possibility of YOG 2014 being Key V Blendea V Bondareva V Andrade? Where are Japan and Australia? Unfortunately, I do not feel anywhere near ready to offer an opinion on either. I'm planning on making an Australasia post, encompassing mainly Australia, Japan and a redone China New Kids on the Block.