Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Things to look forward to in 2015

New year's resolution is...blog more often. I can't really do a 'year in review' since a lot of it is blurry, and only worlds received my undivided attention.

Anyway, the new year is just a few hours away now here in GMT, with lots to hopefully look forward to.


NEW SENIORS

First and foremost, we will get a bumper crop of new seniors. Of the entire quad, 2015 has long shown itself to be the year. There are more exhaustive lists, but here is mine. YOG this year offered a good look at some of these, but of course, only one per country and the US were missing. There are plenty of exciting names here, like the trio of Ellie Downie, Tyesha Matthis and Amy Tinkler who are going to inject team GB with much needed depth and difficulty to boost their programme higher, particularly since Rebecca Tunney is having difficulty after injury after difficulty and Hannah Whelan seems to be fading away. Brazil's Rebeca Andrade has been anticipated for years, and Flavia Saraiva has definitely made a more recent name for herself too.

Romania will get Laura Jurca and Andreea Iridon amongst others, while the exciting Seda Tutkhalyan and Daria Mikhailova will swell Russia's much depleted ranks.

One name stands out of course, and that is...

BAILIE KEY

Finally. FINALLY. Not only does she have 'it', Bailie is 'it'. Form, execution, much improved choreography/dance, oodles of difficulty, no weak event, textbook gymnastics. Very ready for an amanar, already has a beam in the mid 6's, floor is over 6 with room to grow, bars have enormous potential and are getting there with steady upgrades. I can almost forgive the really shoddy layout on beam (PLEASE rework her acro line!) because of that glorious Pak on bars. It's just stunning, like much of her work. She'll never be as exciting as for instance, Simone Biles, yet there is something very exciting about how good she is at ticking almost every box. Bailie is a better Kyla, a gymnast worthy of Simone. Her main source of criticism tends to be robotic, dead inside performances. This really improved last year with a much-needed overhaul of her floor routine. Hopefully her expression continues to improve.

Her explosion in height and injury in the last year caused some concern, but she really seems to be paced extraordinarily well. She is clearly not doing anything she's not capable of, everything looks very easy and it's good to focus on the long-term goals to minimise burnout, particularly when the gymnast adds several inches to their height in a short period of time and skills need to go reworked to accommodate that safely.

Bailie can absolutely give Simone a run for her money, and I'm really looking forward to seeing that in action all season. Some people seem to think that the latter may as well give up since she stands no chance now, an attitude which is downright bizarre, with the information we have now as regards difficulty, and certainly in terms of experience, our double world champion has the advantage.

LESS SHITTY TEAM FINAL

One can always hope? The crop of new seniors will have a big hand to play in this. Of course, the US are getting excellent gymnasts like Bailie, Nia Dennis, Alexis Vasquez and others, but the gymnasts other programmes can now count in their ranks should still lessen the gap. Hopefully, Laura Jurca will show improvement on her 2014 performances. Andreea Iridon's bars and beam will be very valuable to Romania, and the lesser known Dora Vulcan should boost the programme too. The premature fizzling out of Madalina Blendea is a big loss though, if only for the beauty of her work.  

For Russia, Maria Bondareva and Anastasia Dmitrieva have been fading for years, so I don't really count them. Seda and Daria will be very welcome, especially if the former bucks up her consistency. It looks like Ksenia Afanasyeva will be back and ready to go for Russia, and there's always the possibility Vika can stay healthy long enough to deliver on bars and beam (NOT AA, that ship has sailed), who knows. Along with Aliya Mustafina and Maria Kharenkova that's a good, strong core for 2015 teams. It would be nice if Evgeniya Shelgunova emerged too..

GB could definitely be in the mix with their new seniors, I expect them to keep building. Chin a on the other hand, don't get their big guns until 2016 but they will get Wang Yan and also Deng Yalan, who is also a much-needed vaulter. Yuan Xiaoyang who should be turning senior also...her status is unclear, and a retirement would not be surprising, unfortunately. An injection of power on their weak events is exactly what will help them.

Can any of the above chase the US? No. But hopefully they can look better while doing so and narrow the massive gap a bit.

THE PRETTY ONES

There's always the gymnasts who aren't exactly going to shine in the medal stakes, but who are just fantastic or highly interesting to watch. Previous examples this quad are Eythora Thorsdottir and Ilaria Kaeslin. Case in point is Sae Miyakawa of Japan who has some seriously floaty work and the seriously elegant Mara Titarsolej of the Netherlands. Also stunning Fan Yilin of China who looks set to make a comeback of sorts after an earlier retreat from the national team, but I'm hoping she can also be successful.

THE UNKNOWN

There will always be surprises. My money is on Lauren Navarro of the US, I have my eye on her and have done since she singlehandedly inspired Marta to bring in hair rules last year. Her routines were fairly average, but brimming with potential to me. I don't see big massive all-around hope, but her beam in particular looks really good. This year's routine was much improved, perhaps cutting off half her hair had an impact. Elements of it are really, really nice, like her toepoint, general ease, and the dismount. There's something about her. I wouldn't be surprised if she surprised, basically.

THE COMEBACKS

Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas have both attended camp and released tempting footage of themselves. I hope we don't have to wait until Classics to see where they're at in terms of full routines, maybe Jesolo? That would be great. I don't really want to see them exhibition at SCAM...I'd prefer a new senior in that particular role. Both gymnasts are immensely talented and seem to be very, very serious. Gabby never reached her peak, and Aly looks like she could get back to hers with ease. Hmmm. As well as that, I'm looking forward to seeing Afan back in action, and hopefully Didi Bulimar.

WORLDS

Ooooo the year before Rio, where we can expect to see gymnasts really showcasing Olympic routines and solidifying new skills. Not to mention what will hopefully be a killer showdown between super-duper gymnasts Simone Biles and Bailie Key, though hopefully with some international input too.

And....I have tickets because it's in my back garden as far as flights are concerned :D Good thing too, since the next major competition in Europe won't be until 2019! It will be extremely interesting to compare against Antwerp. That had a great atmosphere, but I expect bigger numbers of course at this since it's more important. Shiny new arena will be very interesting too, it's huge..


What and who are you looking forward to? How much faith do you have in much-anticipated comebacks? Will SCAM still be a SCAM? Will anyone understand the announcers and locals in Glasgow? CAN Simone triple it? Will Mykayla Skinner do the half-on two and a half off one-handed and live to tell the tale?