Isabela Onyshko, the 17-year-old who helped Canada qualify to the 2016 Olympic Games at last year’s world championships, won her first Elite Canada all-around title in the senior competition at the annual meet…and she did it against some heavy competition.
With a score of 57.075, Onyshko, who trains at Brandon Eagles, kicked off the 2016 season with a handy win against first-year senior Megan Roberts of East York in second with a 54.925 and – gasp – superstar and hometown girl Ellie Black of Halifax ALTA in third with a 54.725. In what was a pretty messy meet overall with many of the strong podium contenders seeing multiple issues or falls, Onyshko was a rock. Even when things didn’t go exactly as she planned – like with her big DTY upgrade – she showed immense control and a strong competitive spirit, which certainly helped her to avoid additional deductions down the road.
I was immediately impressed by Onyshko’s beam routine, and was excited to see her win the meet. Onyshko was one of only two girls at the meet to break a 14 on beam, and she did so tremendously with a 14.725 and a beautiful back handspring to tuck full. Onyshko was also the highest scorer on floor with a 13.7, and the second highest on bars with a 14.450. She really managed to prove herself and the high difficulty she puts out there last night, especially on beam, where she now has a 6.5 start value, nearly a point higher than she competed at worlds.
Roberts also had an excellent meet, placing second despite her lower difficulty overall. Roberts vaulted a great DTY, albeit with some bent legs, and had a very dynamic floor routine. Her first pass is a beautiful arabian double pike, and her dance is super fun and enjoyable to watch. She needs to work on her beam difficulty, where her d-score was only a 4.9, but she proved her worth on vault and showed strong promise on bars and floor.
Black definitely underperformed at this meet, but “underperformed” is still a bronze medal for her. She sat her handspring layout full vault, balked her tuck full series on beam and fell on her second attempt, and missed her first pass on floor, though falls aside, she looked great, especially on beam…and her 14.575 for her awesome bars set gave her the top finish there. It was a shame to see her not do as well as she would have liked, but it’s so early in the season and she needed this meet to get the jitters out before going on to continue to lead Canada in the coming year.
In fourth place was Rose-Kaying Woo, a new senior expected to contribute on all four events this year. Unfortunately, Woo – who won the senior all-around bronze medal at last year’s Canadian Championships despite being a junior – just happened to look a little shaky on a couple of her events, and without a vault more difficult than her lovely FTY, she was at a slight disadvantage. Still, she managed a 54.55, less than half a point behind the silver medalist, and with so much room for improvement she should definitely be a big contender this year.
2015 worlds alternate Madison Copiak was fifth with a 53.675, new senior Meixi Semple was sixth with a 53.65, and 2014 worlds team members Aleeza Yu and Kirsten Peterman rounded out the top eight with scores of 53.275 and 53.15, respectively. Seeing Yu back in action was exciting, as it was her first meet since her knee injury at worlds in 2014. She had a rocky start on uneven bars after hitting her foot on her release and took a fall on beam, but managed to pull it together well enough with a stellar FTY on vault and a superbly clean performance on floor, where her 13.525 was the second-best of the night. She had great execution in the air, which she really showed off with all of her twisting skills.
Copiak proved to be as solid as ever, with generally strong execution on relatively low-difficulty routines, and without the fall on her 2.5 on floor, she probably could’ve contended for the podium. Semple, meanwhile, was a bit of a surprise. She wasn’t part of any of last year’s big junior battles, but showed up in Halifax this weekend with a great FTY and an excellent beam, earning a 14.225 there for her technically brilliant performance.
There were a few very surprising low finishes, including from Shallon Olsen in her highly-anticipated senior debut. The hype began when Olsen first appeared on the scene with a DTY at age 11, and she’s been a mainstay in the national program ever since. Perhaps it was due to her nasty bars fall that caused an injured hand and a bloody nose in warm-ups prior to the competition, but Olsen shockingly placed just 14th with a 50.625 here after low execution scores everywhere but vault.
Her DTY is as excellent as ever, earning a 15.05, which was the highest score in the meet…but she received scores of only 11.35 on bars and 11.4 on beam in addition to a 12.825 on floor. We didn’t get to see her bars or beam performances, but she did have some big skills on floor, including a double double, 1.5 through to double tuck, and a good double pike, and she has a very strong performance quality, using the “Violet” music Gabby Douglas had at Jesolo last year. Though it was not quite the start to her senior career that she probably hoped for, there’s still time to make adjustments and her win on vault won’t go forgotten.
Victoria-Kayen Woo, generally hit-or-miss in her performances, happened to have a ‘miss’ day, finishing in 13th with a 51.025 after some missteps on beam and floor, and her 2015 worlds teammate Sydney Townsend really struggled on bars and beam to finish 17th with a 49.525, though her Yurchenko 1.5 was excellent and she had a solid finish on floor. Meaghan Ruttan, one of the new seniors with a strong international resume as a junior, had an unfortunate bars meltdown for a 9.475, leading to a 21st place finish with a 48.675.
We were also impressed, as always, with Émilie Dumont and her lovely technique on bars, new senior Laurie-Lou Vézina with her gorgeous extension in her leaps during her fabulous beam, and fellow new senior Shaelyn Brown with her textbook FTY and easy but super-clean floor routine, where her 13.5 was the third-best of the day.
As a whole, it was a pretty rocky meet for the majority of the girls, even those at the top. But most importantly, it allowed two of Canada’s finest to make big impressions after being somewhat overshadowed in recent years. Roberts was able to stand out over Woo and Olsen, who overshadowed her as juniors especially last year, and Onyshko finally got her much-deserved place in the spotlight after always seeming to place right behind Black as her second-in-command.
Over the past couple of years, Black has been the experienced and uncontested head of team Canada, leading her younger teammates – like Onyshko – as they tackled major international tests. But Onyshko has spent the last year working hard to be able to put up a challenge of her own. We saw many big improvements and upgrades over the past year, she’s managed to raise the bar even higher in the three months between worlds and Elite Canada, and it’s going to be incredible watching Onyshko and Black push and challenge each other to be at their very best this season. This was a huge win for Onyshko, not only as a personal victory, but in what she will be able to bring to the team going forward as Canada hopes to once again make it to the team final at the Olympic Games this summer.
Article by Dagny Greenawalt
With additional reporting from Lauren Hopkins and Malorie Walsh
Photo thanks to Alexandra Leask