Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The One to Watch

I have done a mini-series showcasing the best upcoming seniors of this quad. You can find the links to each New Kids on the Block post here. It's worth noting that the China one is a bit redundant, as further competitions and insight has shown that there are brighter stars in their future. I'll redo it. You can also find a not-totally-comprehensive-but-including-everyone-of-consequence list of upcoming seniors here. As you can see, we have just had 21 girls (at least) turn senior! Exciting stuff, and Euros will be very interesting to see their upgrades and potential for worlds. And of course, the competitions USA, China etc. will be at. But now to pinpoint the one girl from each country who I think will be the star. It's tough! At least I discovered page breaks. If the routines have falls, it's either a) the only routine on youtube or b) a fluke but by far the most recent routine or c) doesn't really affect how much amazing potential there is in the rest of the routine.


Bailie Key

Copyright- Jessica Frankl
This was very difficult, not to push Simone Biles, Amelia Hundley and Lexie Priessman out of the way, but to disregard Nia Dennis. The reason why the first three did not get a look in is because they are currently very weak and exhibiting poor form on bars and beam. Having two dodgy events will not get you my crown. As for Nia, I think Bailie has the greater potential. Now, moving onto Bailie herself. She trains at Texas Dreams and will turn senior in 2015.
Copyright- USAG- USA Gymnastics
LOOK AT IT! And she can get her front leg higher. Disregarding the fact that this will be a victim of the new switch ring leap rule, this is awesome, and especially from an American gymnast. Bailie's greatest assets are her form and flexibility. Her bars exhibit fabulous form (minus her tendency to flex her feet on transitions), beautiful releases, precise and beautiful bodyline and a great dismount. She tends to clear the bar like Nastia unfortunately, but as she grows taller hopefully technique can be bettered on that. Upgrades include a Shaposh 1/2, Downie AND Church! Wow! All in all, her bars are like golddust, and world class long before she's senior. Beam is another delight, showcasing her lines and extension in her acro skills, a beautiful twisting 2.5 dismount, the aforementioned switch ring leap and a tour jete 1/2 actually worthy of credit. Her upgrades here include an Arabian. She looks well capable of an Onodi or Kotchetkova, her whole routine looks easy for her. Side somi has to go, she's too good for that ugly thing!

 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.


Maria Bondareva
Copyright- Y. Mikhailova/
The main issues which stopped me from picking Evgeniya Shelgunova and Maria Kharenkova are the very weak form of the former and the bars weakness and kinda-shaky demeanour of the latter. Evgeniya does have better form than the atrocious showing recently where her Pak was in a sheep position, but it's still glaring and present in every apparatus. Maria Kharenkova has enormous potential, but appears to be getting worse on bars and has little form issues.  There are plenty of lovely juniors- Ekaterina Baturina, Viktoria Kuzmina, Anastasia Dmitrieva, Daria Spiridonova and Yulia Tipaeva amongst them, but to me Maria Bondareva stands out. Born in 1999, like Bailie she will be senior in 2015 and also elegible for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. This tiny little pixie oozes grace, elegance and poise in just standing and walking! I love that, it gives me such hope for the actual routines, and Maria does not dissapoint. Sadly she is a little flaky on bars and her Pak gives her issues..though when she nails it, it looks beautiful as she attains a ring shape halfway through. But, she's still way too young for her consistency to be written off, and she does have incredible toepoint, bodyline and handstands. Gorgeous work. In fact, she's very reminiscent of Komova on this event. On beam she shows her exquisite toepoint again, as well as beautiful leaps, turns, extension and absolutely perfect form in her acro skills. A joy to watch. Floor and vault will need a lot of upgrades, but she's so small it would be stupid to overtax her at this point. Her vault is a beautiful pike front-half turn, my favourite! It is of course, very weak in difficulty, but she does not look like vault is a struggle and has plenty of growing to do, so I'm not worried that upgrading will be difficult.

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.


Liu Tingting

[no image :(]

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.


Gabby Jupp
Gabby is just one of a plethora of fresh new talent- Angel Romaeo, Raer Theaker, Tyesha Matthis, Amy Tinkler, Catherine Lyons, Ellie Downie etc. etc. At this point I think she is the strongest of them though. Gabby was well known as an up and coming junior gymnast, (now senior!) and I would expect her to not have an issue with making major teams. Although her difficulty is not as high, she's more polished than the still rather colt-like Rebecca Tunney. So I see great things. Gabby's best event is beam. She's another who works it like a Romanian and makes you think there is no way ever ever ever that the idea of her falling off would be entertained- certainly she wobbled at Euros, but she has plenty of error-free routines, and tends to stick her dismount too. Great attack, nice style, potentially fabulous routine- needs a more interesting acro line, and a turn combination I would say.

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.


Shallon Olsen

Much as I like Gabriella Douglas, Heaven Latimer and Rose-Kalam Woo, none of them are the complete package, and are very inconsistent. Shallon is known for her extreme difficulty at such a young age (12)- she has a full-in pike on floor, a DTY and an Onodi on beam as well. Sadly, there is a downfall- her form is bad. She's quite sloppy, her feet and leg form let her down big time, and turns and leaps are not exactly pretty. Even with that, she's Canada's best prospect and she IS extremely strong on all events. Bars would be her weakest, though still quite difficult. She's the opposite to a lot of gymnasts her age, instead of building up her skill level, she needs to perfect her basics and her form. In a way, it'd be great if she went to China for 8 months or so. She has such enormous potential and it's a shame. Anyway, having 4 years until she's senior will definitely work in her favour, so no need to go on and on about her form just yet anyway.

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.


Enus Mariani 

Italy will be very exciting to keep tabs on this quad. The fabulous Elisa Meneghini has just turned senior, and they have plenty more where she came from- Tea Ugrin, Lara Mori, Pilar Rugabotti...but Enus is the strongest of them all. She is also the oldest of my stars so far, and will turn senior next year, already having gained the greatest accolade for a junior- the Junior European AA title. Enus goes into the same competition again this year as the favourite. It's hard to say what she's best at as she really is great on all events. Bars are very nice, excellent form and she has a great swing and great attack. Upgrades since Euros include a Shaposh, she looks well capable of more. It's a little stalder and stoop-through heavy, and she might have to chuck her dismount as she pikes it, but nevertheless a very strong piece for her.

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
Eythora's main competition consisted of Roxana Popa, Maelys Plessis, Kim Janas and Tabea Alt. But Eythora is a much rarer type of gymnast, and therefore much more exciting. Nobody is a greater addition to floor and beam finals than her. It's a bit like finding 1985-era Baraksanova or Omelianchik reborn. THAT form, she's another who makes walking or standing unbelievably graceful. I talk about her quite a bit, I'll just wind up by saying that she does have all-around potential, but beam and floor are her standout events. They are in fact, exquisite masterpieces. She needs more confidence, and a good dollop of upgrades. Sadly she's a bit of a flake on beam, but it's so gorgeous and I'm sure she'll get better at staying on. Eythora turns senior next year, I'm hoping to see her well on the way at Euros this year.

Eastern Europe

Elizabet Vasileva- Bulgaria

[No image :( ]

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!

South America

Rebeca Andrade- Brazil
I've mentioned this girl too, the second coming of Daiane Dos Santos. She is seen as the one to lead Brazil WAG into Rio. Rebeca is yet another 2015 senior, surely the year which will see the most talented crop of new seniors, not dissimilar to most other quads. I'd also like to add I WILL BE GOING TO GLASGOW WORLDS TOO, as it's a half hour flight away. :D :D :D :D Moving on, the exciting thing about Rebeca is her springiness, her floor is keeping it safe but the height she gets on her tumbles is incredible and just jawdropping to watch, and they speak of great things to come. It's not that her tumbling is too easy for her and she makes that obvious in the ease that she does it, it's as if it's an insult to her- she's SO powerful. Her choreography is pretty weak at the moment, though she seems comfortable and given her nationality, I would think she would be much better in a routine that actually makes the most of her. Also, NICE form and on her twisting too. Great to see.

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.


  1. This quad looks to be verry exciting. I'm excited for YOG and the 2015 girls to turn senior. I actually think Enus Mariani might turn out to be another Vanessa Ferrari for Italy or maybe even improve on her results.

    1. I can't wait for 2015 worlds! Andrade, Key, Bondareva, Blendea, Iridon..and all of the 2014 seniors..Munteanu, Zarzu, Mariani, Kuzmina, Kharenkova, Thorsdottir, Hundley etc. Hopefully lots of faces from last quad too.

      Yep, and the best thing is that she has lots of backup- Meneghini who I hope to see this year as she's now senior, and Ugrin. Great potential.

  2. LTT at AYOF :)

    1. Are you sure that's not Liu Zhilin? Liu Tingting wasn't there competing- the Chinese team was Mei Jie, Chen Siyi, Luo Huan and Liu Zhilin.

  3. Do you think USA will send an athlete to YOG? I really hope they do but they barely ever send athletes to compete abroad, apart from Jesolo.

    I really hop Britain and Canada close the gap between the big 4 and the rest. My money is on Britain because the Canadian's don't turn senior to a bit later but I could be wrong.

    1. I really hope so. Reason given last time around was clashing with Nationals and I believe a coaching/funding issue too. So I suppose it depends on timing. It's a huge opportunity to compete against the best, and it's even better for those outside of Europe what with the whole no-Euros thing. I'd be really happy if it was Nia Dennis, but Bailie is my yes, I hope USA cop on and send her.

      My money would be on Britain too. Canada have just lost Vaculik, Lee and Rogers. Olsen is sooo young, and her form could let her down if it doesn't pick up- because she won't have the 'big 4 benefit of the doubt'. I really like Douglas, Woo and Latimer but altogether I don't think it's enough to really propel them.

      Now Britain on the other hand are bursting with talent- Downie, Lyons, Jupp, Romaeo, Theaker, Matthis etc. etc. and they still have Tunney, Harrold and one or two other veterans. They have more depth and they FINALLY have good beamers.