This year’s Flanders International Team Challenge, to be held in Belgium over the weekend, will feature gymnasts at the senior, junior, and espoir levels competing in team and individual contests in what’s shaping up to look like a mini-Euros with 14 mostly European nations expected to attend.
In addition to the host country, which will feature 2017 European bars champion Nina Derwael leading a squad that also includes her Olympic teammates Senna Deriks and Rune Hermans, neighboring France and the Netherlands are sending gymnasts, as are Poland, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Israel, Switzerland, Austria, Turkey, and Egypt.
The senior field includes mostly younger and less experienced gymnasts, probably in an effort to bring more experience to those who could factor into major teams in the future.
Italy has probably the strongest team on paper, with a good mix of experience and those who need it. 2016 Olympian Elisa Meneghini will lead the promising Desiree Carofiglio and Giada Grisetti while Francesca Linari and Caterina Cereghetti will get their feet wet internationally, both with some high-level junior meets under their belts, but this will be their first real test as seniors. With junior standouts Asia D’Amato and Elisa Iorio as a buffer, this could be the team to beat depending on how things go this weekend.
We won’t see France’s standouts, but Juliette Bossu, Lorette Charpy, and Alison Lepin — all of whom have a shot at worlds this year — are on the roster, as are the country’s best juniors, including Celia Serber, Aline Friess, Carolann Heduit, Morgane Osyssek, Alisson Lapp, and Aglaé Adam-Cuvillier, making this another team to watch in the race for the top of the podium.
Spain could also be up in the mix, with 2016 Olympian Ana Perez leading a team featuring the country’s top choices at both the senior and junior levels right now. The Netherlands is only sending one senior, the 2001-born Naomi Visser, and I don’t think their juniors will be able to pull off the podium on their own in this field, but we will get to see standout Sanna Veerman, who looked fantastic at the IAG SportEvent a couple of weeks ago.
The competition begins Saturday with the all-around final that also serves as qualifications for Sunday’s team final, which will feature combined junior and senior teams for each country. Sunday is also when the espoir gymnasts will compete, kicking things off that morning before the team final in the afternoon. A full list of competitors is below.
Kay-li de Neef
Margo van Linden
Matilde de Tullio
Laura de Witt
Astrid de Zeeuw
Sara van Disseldorp
Yasemin Zehra Borekci
Maria-Laura de Jonckheere
Kato de Laet
Maud van Grieken
Zenna van de Lubbe
Lisa van Rozen
Shade van Oorschot
Megan van Puffelen
Note: There are three Belgian espoir groups. I don’t know the exact breakdown of all three so I separated them myself based on the nominative registration. These might not be the exact teams on Sunday but it’ll be some mix of those 15 girls.
Article by Lauren Hopkins