All five of Canada’s 2016 Olympic competitors were back in action at this year’s Canadian Championships in Montreal, but it was 14-year-old Ana Padurariu who stole the show, sweeping the junior division and posting the highest all-around score of the meet, seniors included.
Padurariu was nearly at her best in prelims, earning a 55.567 to lead by nearly five points after hitting a clean FTY, performing a solid bars set, showing some nervous wobbles but an overall hit set on beam, and killing it on floor with an excellent routine that might have been one of the best I’ve seen her do.
Pretty much every routine of Padurariu’s was a step up in finals. She began her night with a stuck FTY, and then also nailed her 1½, which can be pretty hit or miss, but it was fabulous on this night. Her bars were also beautiful, including a stuck full-in, and she once again had an excellent floor performance, easily securing the gold medals on all three of these events while helping her to a four-point lead for the all-around gold as well.
Her beam was both the highlight and the low point of her night. The beginning of her routine was about as close to perfect as possible, including an excellent side aerial loso loso and front aerial to split jump to back handspring. Unfortunately, she missed a foot on her switch leap to sheep jump, her first big mistake of the meet resulting in a fall, though she stuck her double pike on her toes and still managed a well-deserved 13.767 to finish over half a point ahead of the rest of the junior field to take the gold there.
Padurariu’s all-around final score of 55.267 was the highest score in finals, and would’ve gotten her the senior title by nearly a point. Two-time Olympian Ellie Black ended up posting the highest senior score of 54.318, falling on her Hindorff in her Maloney to Hindorff combination on bars in finals, but otherwise having a great meet. This was her first full all-around performance since the all-around final in Rio last August, and while she’s still a little downgraded after dealing with a foot injury earlier in the year, she looks fantastic, especially on floor.
During prelims, she hit all four events to earn a 55.517 total, an awesome score for her especially this early on and with downgrades. She’s absolutely in the mix for a podium finish at worlds this year, and with only a few small adjustments, she could make herself even more of a threat. In addition to her all-around win, Black also picked up the gold medal on floor with a 13.35 and the silver medals on vault, averaging a 14.5, and beam, earning a 13.934 for a routine that included a double spin, wobbles on her punch fronts, and a punch layout full dismount.
Aside from Black, the top of those at the senior division included a mix of 2016 Olympians and first year seniors. Of the Rio team members, Rose-Kaying Woo won the silver medal with a 54.051, Isabela Onyshko was fourth with a 52.918, and Shallon Olsen was sixth with a 51.167, while the first-year seniors included Jade Chrobok earning a 53.1 for bronze, Sophie Marois placed fifth with a 51.468, and Brooklyn Moors was seventh with a 51.151.
I think of this bunch, I was most impressed with Woo. She was good in prelims, but in finals she showed glimpses of the girl who stood out so much as a junior but then experienced a setback injury that kept her from upgrading and performing at her best in 2016. I thought her performance here — her first all-around outing in nearly a year — was a good indication of how strong she can be, and I don’t think we’ve seen everything she has to offer. She looked clean and confident in Montreal, and in addition to her silver medal in the all-around, Woo also picked up the silver medals on bars and floor as well as the bronze on beam.
This was Onyshko’s first competition since Rio, and she actually got off to a great start on beam, earning a 14.034 on the event in prelims with some downgrades and small mistakes. She also hit her downgraded vault and floor, but unfortunately was about as rough as could be on bars in her first day of competition, earning just a 7.2 after falling four times on top of breaking her swing and resting on the bar twice (her D score of 4.8 was twice the size of her E score). The best thing about this literal disaster of a routine, though, is how she looked the opposite of rattled. Whenever she came off the bars, she’d calmly chalk up, chat with her coach, and then climb back on like it was no big deal. It seemed like she was maybe having an issue with her grips or something rather than mentally falling apart, because you could tell she was mentally in control of what she was doing.
In fact, she was so mentally in control that when she came back to attack the routine in finals, she looked solid, with only one fall on her Maloney to Tkachev transition, a difficult combination she didn’t seem fully ready for and had been struggling with in training. She did have some slight form issues on other skills, but she pulled off a 12.734 — the fourth-highest bars score in the senior field — with the fall, showing that once she’s been back a little longer and is used to competing the event again, she’ll easily be one of the top seniors on bars again.
With the more successful bars set and hit routines on her other three events, Onyshko’s all-around score improved by five points and her ranking improved from 16th to fourth, less than two tenths away from the podium. There are still several months to go before worlds, so I think now that she’s gotten her ‘comeback’ meet out of the way, she will definitely remain on the short list for a worlds spot this year and could very well go into Montreal 2017 as one of Canada’s top all-arounders once again.
Olsen struggled on beam in this meet, falling on the Onodi in her routine on both days, but otherwise her routines were hit, though she did get pretty hammered by the judges on floor. She had mostly small landing errors, and her double double in prelims was short with a stumble forward, so these definitely hurt her a little on top of the smaller form issues that added up, getting her scores in the mid-12s on both days.
As always, Olsen’s bars were her weakness in terms of form and ability, though it’s funny because she seems more confident on that event now than she does on beam and floor, so while she has some leg separation and slightly messy form on some of her skills, she gets through bars seemingly with ease and her scores there ended up pretty solid, though they’ll never use them in a team situation.
But vault remains both effortless and high-scoring for Olsen, who easily won the title with her combination of a DTY and a Khorkina, both of which looked especially excellent in finals. Her DTY had just a bobble on the landing, and her Khorkina was fantastic, earning a 14.4 for clean work and a stuck landing. Olsen, an Olympic vault finalist who will most certainly be a lock for worlds thanks to her prowess here, is planning on upgrading at least one of her vaults going into Montreal. With her current vaults, Olsen has the fourth-highest vault average in the world so far this year, so going back to the Amanar she performed in Rio or finally taking her Khorkina up a notch to the Cheng could mean a medal at home, which would be huge for Canada.
The final Rio competitor here, two-time Olympian and recent Georgia grad Brittany Rogers, competed every event but floor in prelims, struggling a little with her DTY (though her Lopez looked solid), wobbling a little on beam, and showing an excellent start to her bars set, though she unfortunately stumbled her full-twisting double layout dismount forward, putting her hands down to count a fall after earlier nailing her piked Jaeger, Ricna, and Downie to pak to toe-on to van Leeuwen.
In finals, Rogers had a major WTF moment on vault, where she warmed up a DTY and put a 4.34 on the board, but then seemed to have balked the twists, doing just a Yurchenko layout for a 12.85, putting her down in sixth with a 13.15 average after her Lopez had a large step OOB as well as a wobble to control the landing. She came back to win the bars title, though, arching over on a handstand, missing the connection from the pak to the toe-on, and downgrading the dismount to just a double layout to earn a 13.634. Though she had some troubles here, it’s an incredibly promising set that could be excellent once she gets it under control.
As for the new seniors, I was impressed with Chrobok’s mostly clean and consistent sets, though her difficulty was a bit low and she was sadly not invited to the worlds camp, a roster that currently includes the five Olympians plus Moors. Moors had a fabulous prelims, unveiling some major upgrades including a Podkopayeva and a front double full to front full on floor, earning a 13.867 for what was an incredible routine. She also upgraded to a front double full dismount on beam and to a Moors dismount on bars (at least I think this is the first time she did it laid out…I’m pretty sure she was doing the tucked version before).
Unfortunately, Moors had a rough performance on floor in finals, hitting the Podkopayeva like it’s no problem, but she stumbled her front double full to front full forward and then came in far too low on the 2½, sitting the punch front tuck out of it. Otherwise, she hit bars well enough, her beam had some minor mistakes, and she hit both her handspring front half and tsuk full with solid landings, winning the bronze medal on vault. It’s unfortunate she didn’t win the floor title, because when hit, that routine is hands-down the best floor routine in Canada, and it’s also a worlds final-worthy routine, which is probably the reason they’re taking her to the selection camp.
I think Canada’s goal this year is to land in as many event finals as possible, so while Chrobok had the better day overall and is a more consistent all-arounder, she doesn’t have any standout events that could get her into a worlds final, with the all-around really her only shot right now but with girls like Black, Woo, and Onyshko, she wouldn’t be one of the top all-arounders going in. Hopefully she’ll continue recovering from injuries over the coming year because while the individual worlds is tough to make, she’s actually the perfect option for a team competition as a gymnast who can go up anywhere to put up a solid score.
Marois was the other new senior in the mix, though like Chrobok, she just doesn’t have the event scores that’ll get her into finals right now. She had some great upgrades, including to a solid DTY on vault, and she has some impressive work on beam and floor, but bars was a struggle for her on both days, though she did join the Bhardwaj club which is pretty great. Like Chrobok, this isn’t her year as a worlds contender, but next year she could be perfect for the squad, especially as she hopefully picks up some international experience going forward this year.
Rounding out the all-around field were Laurie Denommée in eighth with a 51.051, Lindsay Chia in ninth with a 50.867, Amy Bladon in tenth with a 50.234, Laurie-Lou Vézina in 11th with a 50.067, 2015 worlds team member Audrey Rousseau in 12th with a 49.634, Megan Phillips in 13th with a 49.501, Madeline McLellan in 14th with a 48.867, Meaghan Ruttan in 15th with a 47.434, and Madeline Straker in 16th with a 46.734, while Jessica Dowling, who competed on bars and beam in prelims, made it to finals for her bars set, though unfortunately fell after arching over a handstand and wasn’t able to make the podium.
In this group, a special shoutout goes to Denommée, who became Canada’s first gymnast to compete a full-twisting double layout on floor in a routine that also includes a double layout. She picked up the bronze on floor with a 12.95 on a mostly great finals day, where she also placed fourth on vault thanks mostly to her first vault, an NCAA-ready FTY. Unfortunately, after an otherwise great competition, she fell on bars in finals to place eighth after coming into finals having placed fifth in prelims.
I also enjoyed Vézina on beam and Phillips on floor (she tied Denommée for bronze with her lovely Les Miserables routine) in finals, and I thought Washington commit McLellan showed some great power and attack in her routines. Rousseau, normally a top competitor, unfortunately had a couple of falls during finals in addition to a low FTY and several short passes on floor, making it a bad day for her, though I wouldn’t discount her as an option for future teams.
As for the juniors, while Padurariu clearly ran away with every title, I loved getting a glimpse of Canada’s young talent. There are about eight or so gymnasts who are all capable of scoring around a 50-52, and it’s so interesting to watch because they’re all so close, the all-around rankings between them could be wildly different on any given day, especially because when any of these top eight have rough performances, there are about another dozen girls closely behind them. It makes for a super entertaining and unpredictable meet.
In the all-around final, Emma Spence won the silver medal with a 51.201, Quinn Skrupa won bronze with a 50.484, Elizabeth Holmstrom was fourth with a 50.234, Imogen Paterson was fifth with a 49.734, Zoé Allaire-Bourgie was sixth with a 49.500, Mia St-Pierre was seventh with a 49.151, Chloé Lorange was eighth with a 48.951, Éloise Monat was ninth with a 48.667, and Gabrielle Deslauriers was tenth with a 48.101.
Spence, who was also second in prelims, was a huge surprise. At Elite Canada, she competed all events but beam, earning scores in the 10s on both bars and floor, not giving any indication that she’d be one to watch going forward. She didn’t make any of Canada’s three junior teams at Gymnix, but was a bit of a standout in the Challenge field, the division that allows gymnasts to represent their club rather than their national federation. She had a rough all-around performance there, but what caught our eye was her insane fight on bars, which we watched her training and struggling with a bit before the competition. She hit when it counted, and had the most epic celebration afterwards, making the bars final…which she won.
Between Gymnix and now, she’s improved so much, both in her ability and in her consistency, raising her all-around score by about six points after two fully hit days at nationals. She still has some form issues here and there, but she also has some big skills, including the most unique beam mount, competing her candlestick position mount right into a clear hip circle around the beam. So, so, so cool. She’s the kind of gymnast who has so much fun, you can’t help rooting for her, and it was great seeing her take the bronze on bars and beam in addition to her all-around silver.
Third-place Skrupa, who trains with Onyshko, isn’t fully polished yet and struggles a little with consistency, but she has so many big skills and like Spence is super fun to watch. Onyshko didn’t really get on anyone’s radar as a top contender until she was a senior, and I think Skrupa’s going down that same path, getting some notice now but she’ll really come into her own when she’s a bit older.
She had falls on beam and floor in prelims, but hit all events in finals, winning the silver on beam for her excellent routine that included a handstand hold in a split performed right into her back handspring to tuck full, a super fluid front aerial to split leap to back handspring, Onodi, and double tuck dismount. Seriously, a fabulous routine, and her coaches looked thrilled with it, as did she. Keep her in your sightline going forward.
Holmstrom, who was ninth in prelims, put together a solid and clean finals performance to come close to the podium while winning the bronze medal on floor. Her difficulty is pretty low across the board, with no big standout event for her, but she showed here that a strong, consistent competition is sometimes all you need to land among the top. The same can be said for Paterson, who has more basic skills right now but she’s a very tidy gymnast with some great building blocks for the future. She unfortunately had a fall on beam in finals, taking her out of contention for a podium spot, but overall had a fantastic week.
Another gymnast who missed out on the podium due to beam was Allaire-Bourgie, a 2004-born first-year elite who, on a completely hit day, is currently the junior with the ability to get closest to Padurariu. She’s a tremendous performer on beam, but unfortunately had three falls in both of her routines at nationals, earning several points behind her potential. What she did hit on beam was beautiful, especially her switch to switch half to back handspring in finals, and the rest of her competition was excellent. She picked up the silver medals on bars and floor, with her bars simple but clean, and her floor performance very expressive and lovely.
The rest in the top ten were all at the same level of talented but inexperienced and low-difficulty. A special shoutout goes to Lorange, who is one of the best performers on floor I’ve ever seen, and she also picked up the vault bronze with her super clean FTY. Lucia Jakab, who was 13th all-around after a fall on beam, won the vault silver with a 13.4 average, and Victoria Jurca, normally one of the top juniors in the country, competed only on bars, which she hit in prelims but fell on in finals.
Going forward, the Canadian seniors will focus on the Pan American Championships in Peru this August, and then Black, Onyshko, Woo, Rogers, Olsen, and Moors will contend for the four competitive and two alternate spots available at this year’s world championships in Montreal. Right now, I think Black and Olsen are the two locks, and I think the other two will end up being Onyshko and Rogers if both end up in better shape later this summer, though Woo and Moors would be equally justifiable.
Woo and Onyshko will most likely end up going head-to-head for the second all-around spot behind Black. They’re pretty even, but a fully competitive Onyshko would be a little more valuable if her beam is back at her full difficulty, because that’s a potential event finals spot for her on top of the all-around final, which I don’t think Woo could manage on any event without upgrades. Then we’d get Rogers and Moors fighting for the second specialist spot, with Rogers working toward the vault and bars finals while Moors would be going for floor.
Rogers is the ‘given’ here because of her experience, but my one reservation about her is that with two all-arounders and Olsen in the mix, Rogers wouldn’t be able to vault in qualifications. They’re not going to sacrifice an all-around spot for a vault spot, and Olsen has proved a million times that she’s clearly the stronger vaulter of the two, meaning Rogers now only has one realistic final just like Moors.
Most likely, Rogers could end up going on her name and experience, but I’d probably prefer Moors on the team, if only because when she hits floor, her routine is incredible and would definitely stand out in what’s been a super weak field so far (in 2017, her highest floor score from prelims at nationals is among the top ten in the world for seniors). Compare this to the bars field, which is going to be super tight and Rogers, though showing a promising set, hasn’t once yet put it all together in a way that makes her competitive at the international level (in comparison, her high score of 13.634 is the 205th best of 2017).
Either way, these are the six that are in the mix, and I think any combination of these six would make sense in some way or another. If I had to pick, I’d take Black, Olsen, Onyshko, and Moors, but we’ll see where everyone stands as we go forward through the summer and who knows? By September, the picture could look totally different from what I’m seeing right now.
Article by Lauren Hopkins