The Next Generations Shine in Charleroi

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Fourteen junior gymnasts represented seven countries at this year’s annual Top Gym Tournament in Charleroi, Belgium, where 13-year-old French gymnast Celia Serber showed the makings of a future star.

Serber won the all-around title on the first day of competition, and then in finals, helped her team reach the top of the podium while also earning two more gold medals on bars and beam, and the silver medal on vault, making her the most decorated gymnast at this meet ahead of several gymnasts with much more experience.

Her all-around performance included a solid FTY for a 13.8 and super clean work on bars with excellent work on her Jaeger, pak, and big full-twisting double layout dismount for a 13.133. On beam, she had an early fall on her sissone to side aerial, but came back with a solid layout series and a near-stuck double full dismount, earning a 12.2, and she finished up strong on floor with a 12.75 for a hit routine, ending her day with a 51.883 for a narrow win over the Dutch gymnast Naomi Visser.

Visser’s own day was a mostly good one, including a hit vault for a 13.433 followed by a hit bars for a 12.666. She actually has great lines on bars, but her routine is a bit easy, and she struggles with some form basics like hitting handstands. The height she got for her double pike dismount was awesome, though! Her beam was a success, including on her difficult bhs bhs layout series and double spin. There were the occasional wobbles, but overall, she showed great promise here and earned a 12.5. On floor, Visser finished her day with a 13.1, performing clean work on her sky-high double tuck and on her 2½ to finish.

In third was junior Romanian standout Olivia Cimpian, the all-around favorite who still ended up less than half a point from the title with a 51.499 despite a disastrous beam routine. Cimpian put up the best vault of the day to score a 14.166, and on bars, she actually performed an incredibly promising routine, with her only mistake an extra swing after her Jaeger, earning a 12.933.

Beam, unfortunately, saw her day’s biggest mistakes, including a few large wobbles in addition to falls on her Onodi and again on her bhs loso loso series, getting her only a 10.85 there. But on floor, she had a strong finish and the best floor score of the day of 13.55 for her piked full-in, tucked full-in, triple full, and double full to finish. The beam issues made this a disappointing end to her junior career, and she still needs lots of upgrades if she wants to be a serious contender at the senior level, but I do enjoy watching her and she has one of the only halfway-decent bar routines I’ve seen in a while from the Romanians.

Fourth-place Vendula Merkova of the Czech Republic also had a great finish, with a 51.166 all-around after a hit bars set for a 12.766 (I love watching her get more and more confident here!), a lovely beam routine featuring a Kochetkova, Onodi to full Y turn and bhs loso for a 12.9 (she even got applause for her signature back walkover into a split!), a clean floor routine for a 12.6, and a hit tsuk pike for a 12.9.

The spirited little Alisson Lapp of France was fifth with a 50.616, lower than what she’s capable of due to a few mistakes. On bars, she seemed to have a few extra swings, though was smart to take them, as it kept her from making larger errors, though she only came away with an 11.7. Her typically phenomenal beam had a great save on her flight series, but a fall on her side somi and a stumble on her dismount later on, earning a 12.1, and her Black Swan-inspired floor routine (complete with smashing glass in the middle and perfect swan choreo) was a hit with the crowd, getting a 13.15.

Juliette Berens of the Netherlands was sixth with a 49.9 after a great vault but a wobbly beam and mistakes on bars and floor, Adela Merkova of the Czech Republic was seventh with a 49.266 on what was a mostly good day for her (aside from a big stumble out of bounds on floor), and Fien Enghels of Belgium was eighth with a 47.783.

Romania’s Ioana Crisan was expected to compete on all four events, but instead only did vault here, hitting a 13.9. I’m not sure why she ended up withdrawing, and she came back to do vault in the team final the next day, so I’m sure it’s not a major injury or anything, though I was bummed to not see her on beam.

In Sunday’s combination team final and event final, France and Spain came in first with a 102.84, with Sweden and Romania coming second with a 101.95, and the Netherlands and Czech Republic coming third with a 100.32.

Again, Serber was the hit of the day, performing well on all four routines. Lapp was also a great contributor to their win, making it through her bars and beam with stronger routines than she did at first, and her floor was great as well, winning the bronze medal despite an issue going out-of-bounds. From the Spanish team, they had additional help from Andrea Carmona with her clean vault and hit floor as well as from Marta Sanchez.

Crisan vaulted for her team, and Cimpian once again had a great effort on bars while also stepping it up with a better beam performance, getting the silver medal on both, and she won the gold medal on floor with a 13.2. Sweden’s Lova Tingvall has low difficulty across her events, but puts a heavy focus on her execution to showcase excellent work on vault and bars, and the same goes for her teammate Sigrid Risberg, who had a lovely hit bar routine as well.

Vendula Merkova hit bars once again to get the bronze medal in event finals while her sister Adela was beautiful on floor, winning the silver there. Their Dutch teammates didn’t medal individually, and both struggled greatly on beam, but Berens had a hit bar routine to place fourth while Visser was at her strongest on floor.

Full results from Top Gym are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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