This year’s British Championships was missing half of last year’s World team members – Ruby Harrold and Gabby Jupp due to injury, Hannah Whelan due to retirement – as well as defending champion Rebecca Tunney, also dealing with injury, but the first-year seniors really stepped up their game.
Amy Tinkler, the 15-year-old who trains at South Durham, won the all-around by over a point, scoring 56.650 to defeat Claudia Fragapane, who earned a 55.550; Ellie Downie, also 15, placed third with a 54.950.
“It means so much to be senior British champion!” Tinkler exclaimed after her win. “I still can’t believe it, I don’t think it has sunk in yet, I’m just really grateful for all the support everyone has given me.”
Starting on bars, Tinkler had a solid set and then showed a super impressive beam, hitting my new favorite flight series – a standing layout to layout stepout – and making her brand new triple full dismount look as easy as a double. She hit her floor, including a full-twisting double layout, for a big 14.4 before going on to perform a clean DTY on vault.
Fragapane got started with a great – for her – bars set, looking happy just to have hit after catching her piked Jaeger, Church, and pak salto before hitting her double layout with a hop. There were the usual form issues, but knowing how she and bars don’t necessarily gel, it’s the kind of set you’re just glad to see her get through. She did have a fall on beam, on a front aerial of all things, but hit her standing full and landed the double pike with a hop.
Her floor routine featured huge tumbling, including a double layout full, a double arabian, a really cool/crazy-looking wolf full to Shushunova, a triple full (rotated nicely with just a step back), and a double layout to finish (a bit low and she hopped back). Even on vault, her leg form looked a little better on her DTY and especially on her Lopez; there’s still some sloppiness, and she was in a definite pike position on the Lopez, but thankfully the judges knocked down the start value to reflect her form.
In bronze position was the younger of the Downie sisters, Ellie, competing all-around for the first time as a senior after making her debut at English Championships earlier in the month. She didn’t have the best day, but proved that even with mistakes, she’s a big threat thanks to her sky-high difficulty. Beginning on floor, she sat her double arabian and looked off in her form on her 1.5 to 2.5, on which she also stepped out of bounds. But she hit vault and bars very nicely, and finished strong on beam with a few wobbles but debuted her huge arabian double front dismount.
Kelly Simm and Angel Romaeo of Wales tied for 4th place. Simm had some problems on floor with not getting her tumbling fully around, though it is an ambitious routine, including a whip to tuck full-in and 1.5 through to double tuck. I am impressed with how much she’s grown since Worlds, both here and on beam, where she’s made some great upgrades. On Saturday, she missed a few connections and came off on her bhs layout, though she did a huge full-in dismount, a testament to how powerful she is.
Romaeo’s difficulty is a bit low overall, but she was consistent pretty much everywhere but bars, and she had the most gorgeous beam series – a switch leap to illusion turn to sissone. She also had a very nice bhs loso loso series as well as a double turn and a nice 2.5 dismount, earning a 13.8 on the event for the high score of the day.
Her Welsh teammates had some great moments as well, including Theaker on floor, where she does mostly great twisting skills, including an awesome front 2.5 as well as a front double full and a back 2.5; her only double rotation skill is her opening double tuck, making it pretty unique. Georgina Hockenhull competed just on beam, and though she fell on her side aerial to loso, I love the series itself; she also had a nice double turn in her routine.
I was also impressed with Lisa Mason, the 32-year-old single mom known for her vaulting typically, but finishing 7th in the all-around here with a 52.650! Pretty awesome, and she qualified into every event final but bars.
Tyesha Mattis and Becky Downie were there on just bars and beam, with Mattis only recently returning from injury. Her bars routine has some form issues, but the structure of the routine is great and she still managed a 14.45 for her shaposh to pak, Khorkina, awesome clear hip full to big Tkatchev to Gienger series, and a double front dismount. She put her hand down following her double turn on beam and then fell on her side aerial, but hit her bhs loso loso and bhs tuck full, the latter to big applause from the gymnasts and coaches in her rotation watching from the side.
Downie started out well on bars…there were a few issues mostly in terms of handstands not being fully upright, but her opening series – the hop change to front toe-on half to Chow to clear hip right into her big Downie release – is, to borrow a term from the Brits, brilliant. I don’t care what form issues there are. It’s ballsy and she gets bonus points from me. As if that’s not enough, she has a nice toe full to Ricna, pak salto, and Maloney before dismounting, and earned a 14.65 for her efforts.
Beam, unfortunately, was a bit of a letdown. While she was able to brush off a similarly rough performance in Commonwealth Games event finals last year, it seemed like this one hurt a bit more. It’s all mental for her on this event, where once one thing goes wrong, everything starts to crumble. She opens on a big statement – a great punch front – and then also has a lovely full Y-turn, but her combination series are what trip her up, and she fell on both her full turn to front aerial and her front aerial to side somi.
Then, the most heart-wrenching of all, was her balking on beam. She has a double pike, and on her first attempt, she took a couple of steps before realizing she was off. No big deal, right? Back to the start of the beam to try again, but just as she was about to go into her roundoff, she balked again, and then just hopped off the end with a lackluster salute. Very unfortunate, but on the bright side, it’s good that she knows her limits – a double pike is no easy skill, and had she went for it knowing she was already worked up due to the two earlier falls, it could have resulted in a major injury. Instead she realized mid-run that it didn’t feel safe, and didn’t fall for the pressure of having to do a dismount – you’re already in a pretty deep hole in terms of your score, so why risk injury when you won’t even make event finals? Smart thinking on her part.
What was weird, though, was that Downie pulled out of event finals for the event she did make – bars. Mattis ended up winning, which we’ll talk about in our event finals recap, and she also won beam, which begs the question…should Mattis go to European Championships over Downie?
In addition to her bars title, Mattis also won the title on beam with a 14.4, the best beam score from a Brit since Downie and Whelan posted scores in the 15s at last year’s event finals at the British Championships. She has a very strong shot at making event finals on this event as well as on bars in the relatively weak field at Euros this year. She’s also a new senior who could benefit from the experience, especially when they could really use her looking her best at Worlds this year…her beam could truly be a game-changer on what is typically a rough event for them, so why not test it out?
Downie, meanwhile, could rest up a bit. She’s already a European champion on bars and has nothing to prove there. If healthy, she’ll be on the Worlds team without question, so I think it makes a bit more sense for her to just take the time off and get some of her focus back…though I kind of want her to go solely to see the Downie sisters represent Great Britain together as seniors for the very first time.
You can watch the entire British Championships below! Enjoy! Full results are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins