There are tons of new seniors on the rise for 2015 (and you can check out our pretty complete list to see everyone making the jump!). The 14 on this particular list are those who have the potential to be game-changers, both as individuals as well as for their nation’s teams. This is the first in a series about new seniors, so stay tuned to see more of our favorite up-and-comers!
8. Ellie Downie, Great Britain
Many younger siblings sometimes struggle under the limelight of their famous sisters, and though Becky Downie has been one of Britain’s shining stars since making the Olympic squad in 2008, Ellie stands out in her own right. She picked up a lot of her sister’s talent on bars, though she’s definitely more of a powerhouse and tends to excel on vault, where she has a fierce DTY, and floor, where her tumbling is crisp and strong. She sometimes tends to get a bit nervy in competitions – especially on beam – but when she hits, she’s on fire and along with new senior teammates Amy Tinkler and Tyesha Mattis, could help bring Great Britain into the Big Four.
9. Maria Bondareva, Russia
Maria has an insane international resume, beginning with a near-sweep at Gymnix when she was just twelve. She is a pretty solid all-arounder, and though she doesn’t really have any super standout events just yet, she doesn’t have a bad event either. She’s pretty clean across the board with her razor-sharp attention to detail, and she’s lovely to watch. It may be difficult for her to challenge without some upgrades, but for a Russian she’s relatively consistent which can go a long way in their program. Most recently, she won the bronze medal in the junior field at the KSI-Matsz Cup in Hungary after struggling a bit on bars.
10. Laura Jurca, Romania
Poor Laura was the unluckiest gymnast at Youth Olympic Games this summer. Though she came in as one of the front-runners, things just never went her way, and despite qualifying into every final, she either fell or placed fourth in each. This summer’s bad luck aside, she’s going to be a shining star for the Romanian team, and along with Andreea Iridon could help give them a fighting chance against rival Russia. She was this year’s European silver medalist in the all-around with a 55.698, and she has a pretty consistent match of difficulty and skill across all four events. Bars is a bit of a weak spot, but she can eke out a reliable routine if needed, and she has a solid DTY in addition to technically awesome beam and floor routines, so she should have no trouble finding a spot on major teams in Romania’s future.
11. Rebeca Andrade, Brazil
In a country that has relied on some of its top gymnasts for over a decade due to a lack of rising talent, Rebeca (along with teammate Flavia Saraiva) is a godsend. Her results speak for themselves – she’s won all-around gold in every competition she’s entered except 2013 Gymnasiade (bronze) and this year’s Junior Pan Ams (silver), and she typically makes her way onto the podium for vault, bars, and floor as well (most recently, at the Brazilian Junior Nationals last month, she won gold on everything but beam). Her clean and powerful Amanar is definitely her secret weapon, and she uses a Beyonce medley on floor…what more do you want?! She was injured this summer and had to unfortunately miss Youth Olympic Games, but seems to be back and in very good condition going into 2015.
12. Bailie Key, United States
It’s hard to be a gymnastics fan without knowing Bailie. In just over a year, she won eight all-around golds in the eight all-around competitions she entered (including Pac Rims, Jesolo, and Junior Japan). Though an ill-timed elbow injury kept her out of U.S. Championships this summer (it was more precautionary than anything), she’d already won the junior all-around a year earlier and didn’t really need to do it again. Instead, the focus was on the big picture, which for her is clearly the 2016 Olympic Games. As a jack-of-all-trades, she excels on every event, though bars are a tad week if I have to choose, and she has tremendous potential on beam and floor. Even as a junior, she had the all-around scores to challenge a major international field, and next year she’ll finally be able to put it to the test!
13. Yuan Xiaoyang, China
One of the students of coaches Wang Qunce and Xu Jinglei (who have trained the likes of Sui Lu, Yao Jinnan, and Huang Huidan), Xiaoyang has been one to watch since winning the all-around title in the 12-13 age group at the Chinese Junior National Championships in 2012. Though not really at teammate Wang Yan’s standard, she does have a Tsuk double full, a recent upgrade shown at the Chinese Individual Championships this fall, and likely still being perfected in the gym. She also shows promise on beam, and could be a very strong option on floor with a little more attention to detail. She will have to contend with Wang Yan for a major team spot, and with a little cleaning up she’d definitely be a threat.
14. Flavia Saraiva, Brazil
I can’t be impartial. Flavia is my favorite thing about 2014. Not just gymnastics! I mean, she is literally the best thing that happened to anyone in the world all year long. She is a tiny drop of sunshine, and it doesn’t hurt that her gymnastics is fabulous. Consistency isn’t her friend at times, but isn’t that a recurring theme among the juniors? She’ll figure things out as she gets a bit older, but even with issues here and there, she’s still a tremendous competitor. She’s capable of a very nice DTY, her beam is solid, and she performs the crap out of her floor routine (and has some super strong tumbling as well!). The best thing about Flavia is that she has SO much room to grow, and you can bet that Alexandrov is going to do whatever he can to bring her to her best.