Finland On Top at Nordic Junior Championships

Going into the Nordic Junior Championships in Oslo last weekend, I had no idea what to expect. Typically, the Swedish girls are unmatched when up against their nordic sisters, but in the past couple of years, Norway, Iceland, and Finland have started catching up.

Iceland won the senior division at last year’s Nordic Championships, and Norway ended up taking the title at Northern European Championships, which features many of the same teams as Nordics. This time around, it was Finland’s turn, as a team led by Enni Kettunen earned a 146.600 to win the gold medal three points ahead of Norway with the silver medal and five points ahead of the Swedish juniors.

Kettunen had a great all-around performance as she helped her team to the top spot, earning a 49.500 with especially strong work on beam. She also went on to win the vault title, averaging a 13.125, as well as silver on bars and a sixth-place ranking on beam, with a fall on the latter.

As for her teammates, Sani Mäkelä was fourth all-around with a 47.650, this year’s national champion Ada Hautala struggled on floor to place 10th with a 46.300, Iida-Maria Vänni was 13th with a 46.200 after trouble on beam, and Emilia Kemppi was 15th with a 45.900. Mäkelä won silver on vault and placed fifth on beam with a fall, and Vänni won bronze on bars with mistakes.

Norway has a comparatively great junior team right now, with the level of gymnastics in this country rising each year. Unfortunately, Edel Fosse — their reigning national champion and junior star at the moment — struggled on bars, placing sixth with a 46.850 even though she came into the meet as a podium threat. Two of her teammates, Mari Kanter and Anne Tingvold, ended up placing above her, with Kanter earning a 47.950 for bronze and Tingvold earning a 47.350 for fifth. It wasn’t quite the finish they were hoping for, especially with Fosse’s disappointment, but getting three gymnasts in the top six is kind of amazing for Norway, so it was a success either way.

In event finals, Kanter and Tingvold both medaled on beam, with Kanter earning the silver with a 12.25 and Tingvold getting bronze with a 12.0. Kanter also placed fourth on vault and fifth on floor, and Fosse placed sixth on vault with two clean but easy attempts. The team’s other competitors were Sigrid Lello, 16th all-around with a 45.000, and Julie Madsø, 18th all-around with a 44.750 in addition to placing fourth on both bars and floor with solid routines in both finals.

Two foreign transplants were Team Sweden’s strongest all-arounders in Oslo, with Kristina Undheim — formerly of Canada — in eighth with a 46.600 and Jessica Castles — formerly of Great Britain — in ninth with a 46.550. The two added some much-needed depth to the team this weekend, as they came within about a point from finishing off the podium, but they — along with Cecilia Wrangdahl in 12th with a 46.250, junior national champion Tonya Paulsson in 16th with a 45.000, and Ida Staafgård competing all events but vault — ended up able to pull off the bronze.

Paulsson, who has the most gorgeous lines on bars, became the bars champion with an 11.6. Her routine doesn’t have a single-bar release yet, but she just added a beautiful pak to her set, and she performs everything so perfectly, she managed to easily beat gymnasts with D scores over a point higher than hers. With an equally clean and lovely routine, Castles won Sweden’s second gold medal of the meet on floor, earning a 12.75, while Undheim ended up fifth on bars with a fall.

The gymnasts from Iceland placed fourth, unable to overcome a difficult bars rotation to fight back against the Swedish girls. Margret Kristinsdottir was their top all-arounder, in sixth with a 46.850 after a fall on bars, while national champion Sonja Olafsdottir placed 10th with a 46.300, Tinna Teitsdottir placed 14th with a 46.100, Vigdis Palmadottir placed 20th with a 42.700, and Thelma Gudjonsdottir placed 22nd with a 42.000. I expected them to do a little bit better based on what we saw at nationals, but this meet as a whole had some rough spots, and they still ended up really close if not on the podium.

Kristinsdottir ended up getting the team’s only medal with her bronze on floor for a lovely routine. She also placed fourth on beam, while Gudjonsdottir was fifth on vault, Palmadottir was seventh on vault, and Teitsdottir was sixth on floor.

Denmark isn’t quite at the same level as the other nordic teams, so I didn’t expect any major upsets from them here, but I was thrilled to see little Camille Rasmussen perform at the high level she’s capable of. This year’s Danish junior champion, a 2004 baby and one of the youngest competitors here, had the best meet of anyone, winning the silver medal in the all-around with a 49.100 while also nabbing the beam title with a 12.35, the silver on floor with a 12.35, and the bronze on vault with a 13.075 average; she also placed sixth on bars, but had a rough finals performance to earn just an 8.5 there. Rasmussen is a fabulous gymnast for her age, and as she grows in difficulty, she’ll be an incredibly exciting competitor going forward.

The other Danish competitors included Victoria Kajø in 19th with a 42.900, Emilie Midtbøll in 21st with a 42.350, Amalie Rosendahl in 23rd with a 41.250, and Anna Av-Reyni in 24th with a 40.400.

Finally, we end with the Faroe Islands, which sent three gymnasts to this competition and placed sixth. All three placed at the bottom of the all-around competition, with Astrid Breckmann earning a 38.200 for 25th place, Rebekka Rein earning a 38.050 for 26th place, and Mary Petersen earning a 37.750 for 27th place. None of them competed in a final, but Rein showed a promising beam routine.

Full results from the Nordic Junior Championships are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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