I’m always super excited about a new year because I love watching my favorite juniors reach the senior ranks and seeing how they end up contributing to teams. Some will fade and quietly retire, but many will reach their peak and explode onto the scene and become legends in the sport. Who will this year’s future legends be?
Over the next few months I’ll introduce you to some of the strongest new seniors from all over the world, gymnasts who have the potential to either be superstars in smaller programs or otherwise contribute to teams already well-established.
The first gymnast on my list is Lynn Genhart of Switzerland, the 15-year-old who loves skiing, listening to audio books, and shopping, and who shocked the world with her silver medal in the all-around at last year’s European Championships.
This quad, the Swiss team could be one of the fastest-rising teams on the international scene. With Olympic vault medalist Giulia Steingruber planning on sticking around and a core group of super talented juniors rising up over the next couple of years, the Swiss women have a shot at bringing their first full team to the Olympic Games since 1984 after missing out by only two points this year.
Lynn could very well be a part of that magic. She’s actually still quite new on the international scene, reaching the junior elite level in 2015, where her only major competitive experience was the European Youth Olympic Festival. In Tbilisi, Lynn had a rough day on beam in qualifications and scored only a 46.15 all-around. Her teammates Thea Brogli and Livia Schmid, also a new senior this year, both qualified into a couple of finals, but Lynn, then only 13, was done after her first day.
Cut to Bern last spring, where every ounce of attention was on Giulia, the face of Euros, her image splashed all over the city as she claimed the gold medals on vault and floor. Swiss fans loved watching their former and future Olympian take the stage, but the Swiss juniors caught some of their attention as well after finishing sixth as a team ahead of traditionally stronger programs like Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
All four Swiss juniors who competed — Anina Wildi, Leonie Meier, and Livia Schmid alongside Lynn– finished in the top 18 in the all-around, with Anina and Lynn moving on to the all-around final while Leonie and Livia each made an event final. This was a huge deal for Switzerland, and so the local fans there for Giulia adopted the younger kids into their hearts, turning up in droves to cheer them on in finals.
Now admittedly, the all-around final was a bit of a mess. Many of the top contenders for the podium had falls and other dramas, but Lynn was unfazed. She sailed through her performance that day, and finished second on the podium just two tenths behind the young Russian star Elena Eremina, making for a huge celebration in Bern as she became the first Swiss junior in history to medal at European Championships.
Beginning on beam, never an easy task, Lynn showed big skills like a Y turn, a triple series finished off with a layout stepout, and a rarely-done tour jeté half, all performed confidently. She went out-of-bounds on her lower-difficulty floor, but came back with a superb Yurchenko full and then hit her bars routine out of the park, showing only minor form errors before sticking her big double layout, saluting with a grin, and waving to the screaming crowd.
“Wirklich damit gerechnet hat niemand!” The fans and press said at the arena. “No one really expected this.” It was a huge moment for Switzerland, but an even bigger moment for Lynn, who saw so much improvement in the ten months since the EYOF. She raised her all-around score by eight points, and proved that while she didn’t come in as one of the big names with flashy routines, a solid performance is sometimes all you need to make it through.
Lynn performed another exceptional bars routine in the event final, getting a 13.433 to place fifth. The following week, she competed only bars and beam at the Swiss Junior Championships, not showing her best work but after her week in Bern, I’m pretty sure she was off the hook.
Later that summer, Lynn got some horrible news. One of her coaches, François de Saint-Martin, shockingly passed away after a heart attack at the age of 49. François, who coached in France for most of his life in addition to working with the Swiss national team beginning in 2014, played a big role in Lynn’s development and success as an athlete, and was there with her when she won her medal in Bern.
It’s unimaginably sad that he won’t be there with Lynn as she continues moving forward in her journey, but if anything, Lynn showed that as a gymnast, she’s a fighter. She has it in her to reach even her most difficult goals, and I’m sure as she climbs to even bigger heights in the coming years, François will be in her heart the whole way through.
This year, Lynn hopes for more success at Euros before earning a spot at worlds. Turning 16 in November, she’s one of the younger new seniors this year, and compared to many other seniors she’s still wildly inexperienced, but she can make up for that this year with a few world cup performances and friendly meets.
Bars and beam are her favorite events, and she’s at her best on both, which bodes extremely well for her when it comes to making international teams, as Switzerland has struggled on both in the past. Her difficulty is still somewhat low, but that shouldn’t limit her at this point in the quad. With a few upgrades each year, she could be a major player by 2020, when she will hopefully make her Olympic dreams come true, possibly with her teammates by her side.
Article by Lauren Hopkins