Klinckaert is Belgium’s First Top Gym Champion


The annual Top Gym Tournament held in Charleroi, Belgium is typically one of the most exciting junior meets each year, with lots of top talent showing up, especially on the European front.

Despite being held in Belgium, no Belgian gymnast has ever won. Until now.

Axelle Klinckaert, the 15-year-old rising star and one of two juniors in the country looking to take the program to the next level at the test event in Rio, put up a 55.316 at the event this November to win the title, and it wasn’t even a particularly good day for her, with glaring errors on bars and beam.

Klinckaert began her day with a near-perfect FTY for a 14.766, and then got a 13.1 on bars, a routine she can usually hit better, though she over-arched in a handstand in addition to counting several noticeable form errors, including heavily bent knees on her awesome jam to handstand.

On beam, Klinckaert’s routine was full of pizzazz and spark, and threw some aggressive skills, including her front punch and double pike dismount. Unfortunately, she did have a fall on her problematic bhs bhs layout series, but everything else was so steady, she still managed a 13.5 for her work. She finished up with her crowd favorite floor routine, performing her heart out while nailing her double layout and sticking her tucked full-in cold. Some landing errors on both her tumbling and dance knocked her down a bit to a 13.95, but she still managed to come out on top by half a point to win the all-around.

Her teammate Nina Derwael was expected to be Klinckaert’s biggest challenger for the all-around, but she backed out at the last minute and unfortunately, we didn’t get to see this epic BFF ship in action.

Instead, we were treated to the excellent Senna Deriks, also Rio-eligible for Belgium, who showed off some impressive potential of her own. With a 54.883 in the all-around, Deriks had one of her best days ever, winning the silver medal in what was a major improvement over last year’s seventh-place finish.

Deriks showed beautiful and clean work on her handspring pike half on vault to begin with a 14.033, and then displayed gorgeous work on bars in a routine with incredible potential. She does an inbar half to Endo half to Komova II to bail to Ray at the start of her routine, and it’s breathtaking! She did look like she got a bit lost in her pirouettes on the high bar at one point, but either way it was a solid effort, bringing in a 13.75, the second-best score of the day there.

Beginning her beam with a Böczögö-style press mount and then holding the handstand with one hand, Deriks earned a 13.6 for her lovely leaps and great style, competing an Onodi, side aerial, and full Y-turn beautifully, though she did stumble a tad on all three. As is typical of the Belgians, she rocked her floor performance. Though her tumbling is a bit basic, she showed great extension on dance elements and had fun with the choreography. Her music is borderline ridiculous, but I love it so much.

Uliana Perebinosova of Russia finished in third place with a 54.033. I couldn’t find video of her all-around performance, but it seems she hit a clean FTY and then solid efforts elsewhere across the board, getting e-scores around 7.9-8.1 on bars, beam, and floor, all of which have relatively low difficulty. Her teammate, the 2002-born Angelina Simakova, was sixth with falls on both beam (which comes with an impressive 6.2 d-score!) and floor.

France’s Oréane Léchenault and Belgium’s Julie Meyers both counted falls on beam. The two placed fourth and fifth with all-around scores of 53.873 and 53.183, respectively. Léchenault had a lovely bar routine for a 13.9 while Meyers stood out most with her clean vaulting.

Rounding out the all-around competition were Helena Bonilla of Spain in seventh with a 51.533, Naomi Visser of the Netherlands in eighth with a 51.266, Caitlin Rooskrantz of South Africa in ninth with a 50.95, Alison Lepin of France in tenth with a 50.866, Maellyse Brassart of Belgium and Kirsten Polderman of the Netherlands tied in 11th with a 50.5, Laura Bechdeju of Spain in 13th with a 49.15, and Naveen Daries of South Africa in 14th with a 44.7.

The second day of competition featured event finals and a mini team final, where nations joined forces to form teams of four, counting two scores on each event. The combined forces of the Netherlands and Russia won the team effort with a 106.449, followed by Belgium 2 and Spain with a 103.866, Belgium 1 and South Africa with a 102.532, and Belgium 3 and France with a 98.131.

Klinckaert was the vault champion, competing a huge, clean, near-stuck FTY for a 14.466 and a handspring pike half for a 14.066, averaging 14.266 to finish above Simakova with a 14.15 and Perebinosova with a 13.9.

On bars, Lepin won for her gorgeous, high-difficulty routine that included an inbar full, Komova II, inbar to Galante, toe on to bail to stalder full to Ray, inbar half to Endo half, and a full-in. Her form is a bit weak at times, but it’s a super impressive routine for the young gymnast, who posted a 14.466 for her effort.

Deriks finished right behind her with a 14.433 for silver, showing great improvements on the high bar, where she struggled a bit in the all-around competition. Léchenault earned the bronze medal with a 14.366, performing clean work of her own in what was probably one of the best-executed routines of the day.

Perebinosova in fourth competed an Endo half to straddleback half like it was no big deal, and for the most part she seemed to have tight form, but her Tkachev was quite wonky and low and there were some other noticeable errors there, so she was fourth with a 13.833.

On beam, Simakova won the gold, getting downgraded a tiny bit to a 5.8 start value, but coming in as one of the only gymnasts to actually hit in this final, posting a 14.1 to easily nab the title. Léchenault was the silver medalist with a 12.75 while Deriks, who fell on her front aerial, got bronze with a 12.6. Of the 16 routines in contention here, more than half had e-scores in the 5-6 range, including both Perebinosova and Klinckaert, both of whom fell on their bhs bhs layout series.

Klinckaert did come back with a big win on floor, however, absolutely killing it this time around with a 14.3. Her double layout had a small bounce, and she stepped on her tucked full-in, but otherwise her dance showed much more control than it did in the all-around, including on her Memmel and wolf turns, and she finished up with a sky high double pike to huge applause.

In second was Simakova, who had incredible execution in her set, opening with a big stuck tucked full-in and also showing gorgeous twisting on her 2.5 to front layout. While a comparatively easy set, she managed a 14.25 thanks to her exactness on nearly every skill, just taking minor little steps on landings here and there and showing slight form errors. It was an incredible routine for the young Russian, however, and I can’t wait to see more of her in the future.

Perebinosova won the bronze with a 13.7, hitting her double pike with a bounce, a solid 1.5 through to triple, controlled 2.5 to front tuck, and double tuck to finish. A good job from her, though this music is like if Tan Jiaxin’s 2015 music, Kim Bui’s 2014 music, and Satan had the most awful baby. No one needs birds chirping on top of an accordion. Why, Russia?! Why?!

The floor final was actually an excellent one, with nearly everyone hitting solid efforts aside from the two who finished at the bottom. Great work from all of the juniors in Charleroi, and even though the competition had multiple dropouts due to the threats in the region following the Paris terror attack, those who attended did fabulous work.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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