Often we, the general gymternet, focus so much on the top athletes and teams, a lot of those who deserve to be recognized go unnoticed.
If you are at the level where you are able to compete at the biggest international competition of the year, you deserve to be recognized. If you are a gymnast at this level and didn’t make it to World Championships, you deserve to be recognized. If you are a gymnast PERIOD you deserve to be recognized.
While I would love to give an air high five to each and every single gymnast who competed this year, I sadly don’t have the time. So while everyone is included on this list in spirit, here are those we think deserve honorary medals.
1. Giulia Steingruber, Switzerland
Okay, as one of the consistent top gymnasts in the world, Giulia is a given. But she gets props because even in an “off” year with downgraded difficulty and a few rough outings, she still managed to place 15th in the all-around while placing 5th in the vault final with just an FTY as her second vault. Giulia also played a tremendous role in helping her young team qualify as a team for next year’s World Championships, contributing the top score on each event but floor. Her Rudi looked fabulous, her beam work keeps getting better, and her tumbling is top level even if she was a little out of control this year. Plus, she exemplifies elegance and class both on and off the stage. What more could you ask for?
2. Roxana Popa, Spain
This was a tough year for Roxi. Even though she showed tremendous talent and skill on every event and helped her team to a fantastic 15th place finish, she just missed out on some individual accolades, qualifying 9th on floor after losing a tiebreaker to Australia’s Larrissa Miller. She then made some mistakes on beam and floor in the all-around final, placing 13th when she realistically could have made the top eight. But I think looking at it like this is a problem – 13th in the world is awesome, with or without mistakes. 9th best on floor is incredible even if it didn’t mean a final was possible. She may have been disappointed in her placement, but I think she had an awesome year.
3. Marta Pihan-Kulesza, Poland
Three cheers for this lovely lady! The 27-year-old Polish princess with the pink leopard-print leo and glittery cornrows once again proved to be top caliber with her 14th place all-around finish and the third reserve spot on floor. Like the two above her, Marta was instrumental in helping her team qualify to next year’s Championships, contributing the top scores on each event. Her goal is to compete at Rio 2016, where she’ll be nearly 30 but probably still in the running as her country’s best. Her personality, style, and gymnastics electrify the arena and we’re so glad she’s still going strong.
4. Jessica Lopez, Venezuela
There’s no such thing as a “best of” list without J.Lo, who once again showed how magnificent she is and, like Marta, that age really is nothing but a number. The 28-year-old placed 8th in the all-around with one of the most fantastic bar routines in the competition (those releases!) and showed yet again that she belongs up top with the best in the world. Any team would kill for a J.Lo and I hope she stays around forever.
5. Ana Filipa Martins, Portugal
Ana was the first Portugese gymnast to qualify into an all-around final at a World Championship event, where she ended up placing 16th. If that’s not enough to convince you of her awesomeness, you should know she’s a lovely gymnast on all four events, and even though her difficulty isn’t super high just yet, she competes very well. She has the makings of a very strong competitor, especially if she upgrades. Either way, she made a huge impression on the gym world this year.
6. Vasiliki Millousi, Greece
Well, well, well. Another “gym grandma” in the group, and this time it’s 30-year-old Vasiliki. Move over, Chuso! NO, WAIT. DON’T. But make room because there are a lot of talented old-timers in the sport. Though she missed qualifying to the all-around by a single spot, she was a bit luckier in terms of her team, as she helped them to the very last qualifying spot to compete at next year’s Worlds. She was also the third reserve on beam, earning a 14.1 during prelims. A great week in Nanning for this Greek goddess, and we hope she goes all the way to the Olympics…again.
7. Ellie Black, Canada
The ever-stoic Ellie had her work cut out for her as she had to guide her very young and very inexperienced team while simultaneously trying to earn some individual success. She missed out on the vault final, but made it to beam and placed ninth in the all-around, where she finally hit a bar routine she was thrilled with, ending with an overjoyed fist pump and a gigantic smile. Though she fell on beam, her attitude was that of a winner. One of these days, everything will all come into place for Ellie in the individual race, but until then she’s going to keep powering through with a smile on her face.
8. Youna Dufournet, France
I love Youna and am so glad she didn’t slip through the cracks after London 2012. With her lovely FTY, solid beam, and probably one of the cleanest bar sets on the world stage, she’s better than ever before. Her style is all elegance and beauty, and her technique is about as good as it gets. She is working in an insanely difficult bars field this quad, but a final could definitely be in her future if she continues at her speed.
9. Lara Mori, Italy
The young Italian alternate only just turned 16, but she didn’t let that – or the fact that she had to step in at the very last minute for injured teammate Elisa Meneghini – deter her. She put in a super strong performance in qualifications reminiscent of Chellsie Memmel’s in 2003…and then did it all over again during team finals. Her bars score was second only to Ferrari’s, and she also showed very controlled performances on beam and floor. She has a super bright future ahead of her and I think now that she has the experience down, it’s only going to get brighter.
Yes, the entire Australian team is on this list. I first chose Olivia because…well, she’s Olivia. But then I said no, Emma gets the nomination because she came literally out of nowhere and was an inch away from the beam final! Then I switched to Mary-Anne thanks to her insanely solid performance, and then to Larrissa for sneaking into the floor final…it was impossible to pick. But no worries, because the whole team did something incredible. Even after their struggles at Commonwealth Games and the loss of Lauren due to injury, the team fought like hell and not only qualified into the team final, but placed seventh ahead of Japan. Just an insanely talented, strong, and fierce group of ladies. Never count them out.
Article by Lauren Hopkins