Sunday was a fantastic day for the junior women competing at Northern European Championships, with half of the event titles going to girls aged 15 or younger in competition against seniors.
On vault, Denmark’s Marie Skammelsen picked up the gold for yet another stellar performance, featuring a clean FTY with a hop back and then a tsuk layout full with a hop back as well, averaging a 14.125. She’s capable of competing a Yurchenko 1½ and I’d imagine we’ll see the double at some point as we get closer to 2020, but for now this is all she needs. She came within a couple of tenths of medaling at Euros earlier this year, and if she competes on the world cup circuit in 2017, she will definitely become a regular in the finals on this event.
The biggest surprise in this final was little Sioned Thomas of Wales, however. I didn’t know much about 12-year-old Thomas coming into this competition, and the only time I saw her compete prior to this was in a couple of videos from last year’s Welsh Championships, where she finished second at the espoir level with a 43.049. My expectations were low, but she blew me out of the water all weekend, especially in her vault silver medal win.
For her first vault, Thomas performed a beautiful handspring front pike, which she stuck cold, earning a much-deserved 9.4 E score for a total of 14.0. It was excellent, and one I went back to watch repeatedly because it was so insanely good. She then performed a handspring front tuck, equally lovely, though with a tiny hop to average a 13.8. I’m very excited about this kid, and hope she keeps up the fantastic attention to detail as she keeps adding difficulty over the years.
In third was senior Sigridur Bergthorsdottir, who performed a handspring layout half and a tsuk layout, both of which had some slight form issues, but she landed them well to average a 13.6 for the bronze. Finland’s Rosanna Ojala was right on her heels with a super clean and gorgeous handspring front pike, but she took two big steps back on her Yurchenko layout and averaged a 13.525 to end up right behind.
Swedish junior Lova Thingvall was fifth with a 13.375 for her Yurchenko layout and tsuk pike (there were big bounces back on both) and Jenni Grönroos of Finland had a lovely handspring front tuck and a tsuk layout with a sideways hop to average a 13.2 for sixth. The remaining two both had falls, which was a bummer as Shannon Archer of Scotland came in with a typically solid FTY — big difficulty in this final, causing the commentator to say “WOO-HOO-HOOOO!” — but she unfortunately crashed it to her hands and knees before hitting her tsuk tuck full with a step back, averaging a 12.725 for seventh place. The only Norwegian in the final, Thea Nygaard, also fell on her handspring front tuck, though she hit her tsuk layout with just a step to average a 12.525 for eighth.
On bars, another junior took the gold, with Emily Thomas of Wales hitting her routine very well to earn a 12.85. She had some very strong difficulty here, including a piked Jaeger and a big full-in dismount, though she did have to fight to keep her toe-on from falling over. But with her difficulty the highest in the bunch, she managed to win the title by one tenth over Ojala.
Bars silver was Ojala’s second medal of the weekend after her all-around silver the day before. Both she and her teammate competed only layouts as dismounts, which held their difficulty back a bit, but otherwise Ojala looked excellent on her shaposh to clear hip full, Tkachev to pak, and Maloney, easily the strongest overall skill set in the group. If she had a “real” dismount, this would’ve easily been the gold medal routine, but I think snagging silver with just a layout should illustrate just how good the rest was!
In third was Denmark’s Mette Hulgaard, a 28-year-old with incredible experience who always gets injured at the wrong time and has never been able to fulfill her Olympic dreams. Hulgaard was excellent here, performing a straddle Jaeger, bail, awesome clear hip to stalder to Ray sequence, and a double pike dismount for a 12.6 to win the bronze two tenths ahead of Finland’s Maija Leinonen, who earned a 12.4 for her excellently-executed but lower-difficulty routine featuring a Jaeger, bail to clear hip to toe-on to toe shoot, and a layout dismount.
Junior Paige Thomas of Wales was fifth with a 12.35 with a big piked Jaeger in her routine, Skammelsen had her usual form issues throughout but stayed on the apparatus to place sixth with an 11.95, another junior Sigrid Risberg of Sweden placed seventh with a short but sweet routine (she only had about five or six skills in there and dismounted with just a layout 1½ but was super clean in her work), and Agnes Suto had a fall on her Gienger to earn an 11.35 for eighth.
Rosanna Ojala and Maija Leinonen of Finland placed third and first on beam
Beam, the trickiest mental event, separated the juniors from the seniors, with the senior competitors able to put up much more consistent work. Leinonen won the gold with a 13.15 for her gorgeous routine that included a full Y turn, front aerial to sheep jump, bhs loso, and gainer pike dismount. She had a couple of small wobbles, but overall this was a superb routine.
Erin McLachlan of Scotland won the silver medal with a 13.05 for her own lovely work, including a punch front, bhs loso, side aerial, and tucked 1½ dismount, while Ojala got her third medal of the meet with her easy but super steady routine earning her a 12.6 for bronze.
Norway’s Solveig Berg came in a close fourth place with a 12.55 after showing a couple of errors she didn’t have in the all-around final, including a short tour jete half and a wobble on her front aerial, though her bhs loso and Onodi were both gorgeous, and her teammate Linn Finstad was also super close, finishing fifth with a 12.5 for a hit routine that just showed a few technical glitches (like bent knees on her layout stepout).
All three juniors sadly had big mistakes, with Skammelsen placing sixth with an 11.5 after missing her side aerial, Margret Kristinsdottir of Iceland tying her after missing her side aerial, and then the beautiful Agnes Åkerman of Sweden simultaneously having the best and worst routine of the bunch. Åkerman had beautiful choreo and lovely skills, but she was tentative on nearly all of them, wobbling on her front aerial, side aerial to sissone, full Y turn (she actually grabbed the beam here), and her switch to wolf jump. On a good day, this routine could’ve gotten her on the podium, though it was not a good day for her and she placed eighth with a 10.75.
The juniors came back to dominate floor, however, with all three medals going to the younger gymnasts. I actually loved this podium, because each gymnast on it demonstrated a different quality of performance, with first-place Skammelsen showing the strongest tumbling, second-place Sioned Thomas showing the cleanest execution, and third-place Juliane Tøssebro of Norway showing the greatest performance ability.
Sioned Thomas of Wales, Marie Skammelsen of Denmark, and Juliane Tøssebro of Norway
Skammelsen easily came out on top with a 13.45 thanks to big skills like a stuck piked full-in, double tuck, and a nearly-stuck double pike, winning her third gold of the meet. She had a fabulous performance overall, and I looooved her choreography before her last pass, which included a side aerial right into the corner before running back out.
With her second silver of the day, Thomas started out her floor routine with a high stuck double tuck, and then went on to nail her front double full with a small step followed by a front layout to front full, looking super technically proficient throughout for a 13.15.
My favorite was Tøssebro, if only because she is so fun to watch and her performance is so mesmerizing, you can ignore some of her mistakes on dance elements. Her big double pike to open had a hop back, but she hit her double tuck, 2½, and then stuck her double full to get the bronze medal with a 13.1, winning Norway’s sole individual medal of the competition after their team gold on Saturday.
Archer was fourth with a 12.8 after hitting her front double full, double tuck, and 2½ nicely, Ojala was fifth with a 12.7 for a clean routine that featured a front full, front layout, beautiful triple spin, and a double pike, junior Maria Tronrud of Norway was sixth with a 12.6 for her promising routine, McLachlan was seventh with a 12.45 after putting her hands down on her double pike following an otherwise great job, and Åkerman again finished eighth with an 11.95 after sitting her double pike to start what was an otherwise excellent routine performed to big band music.
More than anything else, this competition showed so much promise from the junior competitors, some of whom — like Skammelsen and Tøssebro — could be the first Olympians for their countries in decades come 2020. But Northern Euros also highlighted seniors who might fly under the radar at bigger competitions like worlds. Ojala and Leinonen of Finland were especially successful, and both do incredibly beautiful work on all four events, so it was awesome to see them get to stand out.
Article by Lauren Hopkins