The international session at the WOGA Classic is an annual fan favorite, as it’s one of the only meets in the U.S. each year with some international competition. It’s also a relatively low-key meet with everyone getting back into fighting form, so the atmosphere is a bit more forgiving than you might see later on, which makes for an all-around fun meet.
This year’s field included gymnasts from the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Norway, Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico, Uzbekistan, and Belgium, and saw some awesome standout performances from a great mix of athletes from all over the globe. Check out our top eight takeaways from this meet below!
1. Oreane Lechenault’s Brilliant Floor
The French are known for putting out floor choreography that is borderline crazy. And that’s exactly what Oreane Lechenault‘s work on floor was here in Frisco. The first-year senior isn’t the strongest tumbler, but she more than makes up for it with innovative dance performed so expressively, so creepily, so awesomely. It’s unlike pretty much any other floor routine, and though I don’t have video from this particular meet, here’s one from late in 2015, though I wish the angle at the beginning was from the opposite side so you could see her face. This was hands-down my favorite routine at WOGA, and Lechenault finished fourth with a 53.2 in her senior debut.
2. Trinidad & Tobago’s Plot Thickens
If you haven’t heard, there’s been quite a bit of drama for T&T gymnasts Marisa Dick and Thema Williams since worlds. Long story short, T&T promised whoever came out on top in Glasgow would get the nod for the test event, which was Williams. But then they went back and reevaluated and decided to choose at a later date to make sure the best-prepared gymnast was going. Williams’ camp was rightfully upset and went to the press about T&T going back on their word, noting that Williams should be focused on preparing for Rio and now instead she’s focused on earning a spot she already earned. T&T responded by saying the spot would definitely go to Williams, but she and Dick would continue to face internal tests along the way “just in case.” Fishy.
But at the WOGA Classic, Dick actually defeated Williams by almost three tenths, with the two finishing at 51.85 and 51.6. Uh oh. Williams would’ve put a cushy two-point margin ahead of her teammate had she not fallen twice on bars and again on floor, and her worlds all-around score of 52.466 remains the highest score reached by a gymnast from their nation. In watching the two at WOGA, Williams is clearly the strongest in both her ability and execution, and she did some remarkable work on beam, but Dick is a more level-headed competitor, even though she too had mistakes at WOGA.
It will be interesting to see if T&T keeps their word and sends Williams, or if they seriously consider their international results this spring as reason to send Dick in her place.
3. Japan Putting Two on the Podium
Because the live coverage of this event didn’t include final scores, many fans watching assumed Shallon Olsen of Canada was the champion, only to be shocked a few days later when the official results had first-year senior Nagi Kajita of Japan at the top with a 55.65. The Japanese team looked great last year, helped out tremendously at worlds by two new seniors Aiko Sugihara and Sae Miyakawa, and it didn’t seem with their depth that there would be room for anyone else, but Kajita – who does the WOGA Classic pretty much every year and was in the top three on all four events in Texas – proved that she is going to add a great deal to that depth, especially with her lovely work on bars.
Her teammate Koko Dobashi, also a first-year senior, was the bronze medalist with a 53.65, showing some solid work though she doesn’t necessarily have a standout event. It was also nice to see Yuna Hiraiwa back in action. She competed everywhere but bars, and her floor score of 12.9 was enough for silver. She had a nice routine there, with the most random assortment of music ever, including The Addams Family theme song and part of the Home Alone 2: Lost In New York soundtrack. It certainly was…different?
4. Madison Kocian Increases Her Value
We have to start out here by saying that Madison Kocian‘s scores of 15.7 on bars and 15.55 on beam were gross overestimates of what she’d actually receive internationally. Scoring overall was a bit over the top for everyone there, so this wasn’t unique to Kocian, but since she’s the gymnast coming away with huge scores that make her “guaranteed” to get an Olympic spot, it’s important to set things straight. Her uneven bars, for example, weren’t anywhere near as tidy as her gold medal-winning set was last October, and yet the score here was four tenths higher. And her beam execution here at 9.35 was nearly a point higher than it was at worlds, despite the multiple wobbles.
That said, she did show some impressive upgrades on beam, including getting her standing arabian back in addition to adding a triple flight series and a double pike dismount. With her start values hovering around 5.5-5.6 on average last season, she now boasts around a 6.3 if everything is credited, and a hit routine internationally could definitely get her into the high 14s, a major help given that this was Team USA’s lowest-scoring event by a long shot last year.
Despite the early season wobbles and form breaks, Kocian looks fantastic. That in addition to the retirement of the 2012 bars and beam specialist Kyla Ross makes Kocian look super strong for that spot, if that ends up being a spot in the whole messy team puzzle.
5. Little Louise Lopez
Years ago, a very young gymnast from Mexico – she was maybe 9 or 10 at the time – added me on Facebook. I occasionally saw updates about her training and she was always posting pics of herself with gymnasts when she got to attend the big meets in her country, like the Mexican Open. Imagine my surprise when I saw her name on the roster?! Louise Lopez, born in 2003 and one of the youngest in the junior field, was there with her team from Agimnasia and placed fourth all-around with a score of 50.15. Her difficulty isn’t immense, but she performs her gymnastics with such purpose and passion, making her a pure joy to watch. She also stuck pretty much everything and has an insane attention to detail on her form. Watch out, 2020.
6. Irina Alexeeva’s Dominating Win
The gymternet has been after this girl since she was only nine. Always touted as the next big thing from WOGA, the issue was whether Irina Alexeeva would compete for the U.S. or Russia, where she was born, and she never actually got anywhere at the elite level here despite her great potential. Turning 14 next month, Alexeeva is officially going to compete for the U.S. this year and earlier this month, qualified to junior international elite status.
The WOGA Classic this year was her first big “I’m actually a U.S. elite now” meet and it went VERY well, getting her to a 57.05 all-around to win the gold in the junior field by nearly six points (and it blasted the senior all-around gold medalist’s score by over a point). Her super clean FTY got a 14.4, she hit bars for a 14.6, she had a 14.35 on beam even with a fall (thanks to a 6.4 difficulty!), and she also hit floor for a 13.7. Again, the execution scores here are a liiiiittle overzealous, but still, Alexeeva was fabulous and should do very well this summer on the elite scene.
7. Shallon Olsen Showing Improvement
Canada’s Shallon Olsen didn’t get quite the start she’d hoped for when she made her senior debut at Elite Canada this year. Though her DTY was as good as ever, mistakes and form errors on her remaining events meant just a 50.625 in the all-around, where she finished shockingly in 14th. At WOGA, she improved her score to a 54.4 after a mostly great day, with her bars score of 13.6 one of the highest in her career, truly reflecting a job well done there. It wasn’t a perfect day, but it was absolutely a step in the right direction, and her DTY as always was her incredibly strong standout.
8. Loan His is Killer on Bars
2015 worlds team member Loan His of France only competed on bars at this meet, but it was worth traveling overseas for this routine. His was the first reserve for the bars final at worlds with a 14.466 there, and her score of 14.5 at the WOGA Classic was one of the more accurate in play. Her work was calm and steady, with clean work on her transitions, a big straddle Jaeger, and a full-in dismount. She could stand a couple of upgrades to make her truly stand out in the deep French field this year, but even without them, she’s definitely her country’s strongest on this event.
That’s it, just…Chuso. You needed something more? Fine. Oksana Chusovitina didn’t do much here aside from some slightly watered-down vaults, including a handspring layout half and a tsuk full, each down half a twist from what she performed at the world cup in Baku a week later. In Texas for about a month at this point, training with Svetlana Boginskaya and getting some all-around practice in at the HNI meet a week earlier, Chusovitina took it “easy” here and enjoyed the rotations she had off watching from the sidelines, paying special attention to floor.
Full results from the 2016 WOGA Classic are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins