With the 2015 elite gymnastics season coming to a close last week, I wanted to try something new in the downtime we have between now and when the 2016 season gets underway in six weeks.
I covered 101 meets in 2015 – it only felt like 9 billion! – and definitely found some new favorites to obsess over for various reasons. After the success of my “Meet the Belarusian Gymnasts” post, I’ve decided to share my favorites with you, introducing you to their standout skills and routines, as well as a little bit about their personalities and everything beyond the gym.
We’re kicking things off with the fabulous young Ana Padurariu of Canada. Ana – whose birth name is Anne-Marie – is 13, lives in Whitby, Ontario, and trains with Elena Davydova at Gemini Gymnastics, home of current international elites Aleeza Yu and Jade Chrobok, as well as 2012 Olympic team member Kristina Vaculik.
Too young to compete as a junior at nationals in Canada’s program, Ana was instead the star at the high performance novice division this year, winning the all-around title by nearly ten points over Enya Pouliot in second place. It was her second year in a row capturing the high performance novice gold medal, and in 2015 she also nearly swept the event medals, winning gold on everything but vault, where she picked up silver.
In the novice competition, there is quite a huge bonus system in place for those who go above and beyond the levels of difficulty expected at the 11-13 age group, which is why Ana ended up finishing her competition there with a 65.35. She was at another level on all four events, and probably would’ve finished nicely at the junior elite level as well.
Earlier in the season, Ana also competed at Gymnix, where her 53.35 put her at a 9th place all-around finish, and she also helped the Canadian team win gold with her consistent performances on bars and beam. In event finals, she placed fourth on bars and won beam silver, falling on her switch half but getting on the podium thanks to her huge 5.7 start value and otherwise beautiful routine.
It was Ana’s bar routine at Gymnix – see above – that made me take notice. While not the most difficult routine overall, she opens with one of the most difficult releases in the world, an inbar piked Tkatchev…and she was the first gymnast to ever compete this skill…when she was only 12!
(The skill was later competed by both Kelly Simm and Sophie Scheder at worlds this October, though with two successfully hitting it in competition, the skill wasn’t eligible to be named for either one.)
In addition to her innovative skill, Ana also shows great promise throughout her entire routine, clearly choosing to focus on perfecting what she can already do rather than going crazy with huge upgrades.
Ana getting great height on what I will forever call “The Padurariu” // Photo thanks to Grace Chiu
Ana was also the youngest member of the Canadian team at the City of Jesolo Trophy, where she finished 7th all-around with a score of 54.95, a massively impressive feat considering she was only 12 at the time and at her very first international meet. Ana had the second-best Canadian finish, behind strong 2016 Olympic contender Rose-Kaying Woo.
She qualified to the beam final in Jesolo, and her d-score of 5.9 there was the second-highest behind only Norah Flatley of the United States, though two falls (on her flight series and switch side) unfortunately kept her off the podium.
Ana, the youngest and tiniest member of Canada’s team in Italy
With the focus on 2016, Ana still has lots of time to grow and add to her repertoire. In fact, the upgrades are already starting to make their way into her routines – she’s currently working an inbar half to Jaeger and then going into her inbar piked Tkachev, both of which look absolutely awesome.
Ana bumps up from novice to the junior international elite ranks in the coming 2016 season, and is expected to be at Elite Canada in February. She will become a senior in 2018, giving her plenty of time to test the waters before putting up a bid for Tokyo 2020, and I think she’ll be huge on the international scene until then.
As a bonus, here’s Ana competing on floor at Gymnix when she was eight. It might just be the cutest choreography ever, and she has a casual gorgeous Y turn in there just in case you still needed to be convinced of her awesomeness.
Article by Lauren Hopkins