2012 Olympian Ellie Black, the 20-year-old from Halifax who has lead her Canadian team so strongly all quad, will compete in tonight’s all-around final at the 2016 Canadian Championships, hoping to earn her fourth national title in a row.
Black, who won her first major international all-around title at last year’s Pan American Games, got off to a bumpy start at Elite Canada this year, but impressed enough at the American Cup to win the bronze medal in a challenging field. With powerful work on vault and floor, a world-class beam that could see the Olympic event final and possibly even a medal if she hits in qualifications, and an uneven bars set perfectly tailored to her strengths, Black could go undefeated nationally in the all-around this quad, hoping to add a 2016 title to the ones already picked up in 2013, 2014, and 2015.
The competition will be tough this year, however, with 17-year-old Isabela Onyshko right on her heels. Onyshko has been on fire all year, upgrading and consistently hitting routines to win the senior titles at Elite Canada and Gymnix early on before also snagging the silver medal at the Stuttgart World Cup. In April, Onyshko traveled to Rio to get some experience in the Olympic arena at the Test Event, and while she was on course to reach the podium, a fall on bars led to tenth place in the field of 65 all-arounders.
Currently, Onyshko leads the Canadian national field with a 57.4 after qualifications held on Wednesday of this week, looking fantastic to post the top scores on bars and floor in addition to the second-best score on beam, where she had some mistakes. She also hit one of her best DTYs to date, earning a 14.7, which will be a huge help both in her own all-around aspirations this summer as well as to the team’s total in Rio.
Black is right behind, earning a 57.15 after a fall on bars held her back from besting her teammate. She had a killer beam, however, for a 14.7 to lead the field there, and tied Onyshko for the top score on floor in addition to earning a 15.0 on vault. She’s pretty much looking as great as she always does, and a hit bars set in tonight’s final could seal the deal for her fourth consecutive win.
In third place after qualifications was Brittany Rogers, the 22-year-old who helped lead the Olympic team four years ago before going on to compete for the University of Georgia. Rogers just finished her final year of NCAA eligibility, going back and forth throughout the season to bring in big results for Georgia while also focusing on making her second Olympic team. In April, she competed at the elite level at Pacific Rim Championships one week, winning vault silver and bars bronze, and then the following week she was back in black and red, helping Georgia to a Super Six berth.
On Wednesday, Rogers competed her elite all-around program for the first time this quad, and with great results, as she posted a 55.625 with especially great work on her DTY, earning a 14.9, and on her difficult bars set, earning a 14.375 for the second-best of the day there. Her difficulty on beam and floor isn’t as high as her other two events, but she performed well enough on both to provide solid back-up routines if needed.
First-year senior Megan Roberts, 15, was fourth with a 55.25. She’s been kind of hit-or-miss this season, but among the new seniors, she’s actually been the strongest overall, which is a bit of a surprise as the others consistently out-performed her at the junior levels. Roberts has an excellent DTY and a difficult bars set, but she can be rather hit-or-miss on the latter, and Wednesday’s performance happened to be a miss. She has decent enough routines on beam and floor, but wouldn’t be a top three option on either, so I’m not sure she necessarily fits the Olympic picture even with her great all-around potential…but even so, she’s come a long way and could do great things in the future.
Madison Copiak, who has been a picture of consistency this year after an underwhelming start to her senior career, was fifth with a 55.075. With a Yurchenko 1.5 and probably the most reliable routines in the country at the moment, Copiak is my underdog favorite for an Olympic spot. She focuses so much on her execution, you can always count on her to not only hit, but to hit clean efforts, which is sometimes what a team needs over someone who performs more difficult routines erratically.
Another gymnast like Copiak is Victoria-Kayen Woo, who also has tons of international experience to back her up. While she’s not always the most consistent, she tends to bust out her best routines at worlds, which is always a pleasant surprise and the team has come to rely on her a great deal. Woo was sixth on Wednesday with a 53.825 after a fall on floor, though she did a nice job on beam to post a 13.65 to finish in the top three there, an event that has two fantastic routines from Black and Onyshko, but is always a bit behind with that third spot, so Woo could be exactly who they need to fill it.
Aside from beam, the other hole for Team Canada is floor, which again has two solid routines from Black and Onyshko, but then the third possibility is a question mark. This is where new senior Shallon Olsen comes in. Olsen, known for her DTY since she was 11, doesn’t perform well in the all-around generally because of weaker routines on bars and beam, and she was ninth on Wednesday with a 53.125. But her vault is consistently the best in the country, getting a 15.05 this week, and her floor also has a lot of potential, with the highest difficulty in the country helping her to a top-three finish this week, at 13.675. Her technique could always be cleaner on this event, but I could see them bringing her to fill that spot in addition to coming in with major vault final potential. Her all-around scores are basically moot when you consider what she has to offer, so another strong performance on her best two events tonight could help her secure a spot.
The other well-known gymnasts in contention for Rio included Maegan Chant in seventh with a 53.575, Kirsten Peterman in eighth with a 53.35, new seniors Rose-Kaying Woo and Meaghan Ruttan tied in tenth, each with a 52.7, Sabrina Gill in 12th with a 52.65, and Helody Cyrenne in 13th with a 51.875. I don’t think any of these will majorly challenge for the Games, though Chant has a great vault as always, and Gill has been a secret hope of mine for bars since she started kicking her comeback into gear last year. Gill has lovely work on bars, but this is likely the only routine she’d be able to contribute to the team, and I’m not sure they’d bring her when others are able to score similarly well while also contributing on other events, at least in qualifications.
The younger Woo was also one of my favorite hopefuls going into this year, as she was a fantastic junior who rarely made mistakes and looked like she had so much more in her. But she has since downgraded from her DTY to an FTY, and she’s lost that consistency she was known for on bars and beam, so even while her difficulty on both is on the higher end, she’d be far too much of a risk, especially under the pressure of the Olympic Games. It’s a shame, because she’s truly a beautiful gymnast, and her floor is always a highlight even not being as difficult as other routines, but I think even if she has a major turnaround and is perfect tonight, it’s going to be hard to justify including her.
I also really loved Emilie Dumont’s beautiful vault and excellent bars at this competition, and Canada-born Marisa Dick – who will represent Trinidad & Tobago at this summer’s Olympic Games – competed as a guest, earning a 49.0 in what was a pretty weak performance for her.
At the junior level, 13-year-old Ana Padurariu was excellent with a 55.475 to lead the field. Padurariu fell on her super difficult beam set, but had beautiful bar work for a 14.375, and hit her FTY in addition to doing decent work on floor to come in as the one to beat tonight. Behind her was Haley de Jong with a 53.0, showing her best work on beam and floor, and then Jade Chrobok in third with a 52.85. Chrobok is capable of much higher scores, but she’s only been back in the gym for a couple of weeks following a series of injuries and was forced to water down a bit. She actually looked fabulous on vault, doing an FTY instead of her usual 1.5, and she had good work on bars and beam as well, though a fall on floor kept her a couple of tenths shy from finishing second.
Other junior standout routines included Sayge Urban’s excellent Yurchenko 1.5 and her overall fantastic performance on beam, a beautiful FTY and great execution on floor from Enya Pouliot, and brilliant work on beam from Montana Fairbairn, who is a bit behind in her difficulty elsewhere, but she truly shines on this event and has so much promise.
The combined all-around and apparatus final competition happens tonight at 7 pm in Edmonton, which is 9 pm on the east coast. SportsCanadaTV will provide a stream, so tune in if you can – this is the first major stop on Canada’s road to Olympic selection, followed by Olympic Trials held June 27-29.
Article by Lauren Hopkins