Our Must-Watch EYOF Gymnasts

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Emelie Petz of Germany is a favorite for an all-around medal at EYOF.

Over the weekend, we previewed the team competition at this year’s European Youth Olympic Festival, which will take place tomorrow in Györ, Hungary. Now, it’s time to look at how we see gymnasts doing individually, including those who will make a splash in the all-around and event finals, as well as a few random faves you might not know yet.

The All-Arounders

Quite a few gymnasts have the routines and scores to land on the all-around podium this week, but my favorite is Emelie Petz. The 14-year-old has stood out as one of the top German juniors for several years now, and at nationals last month, she not only swept her age group but also posted the highest all-around score of the entire meet, ahead of Olympians Elisabeth Seitz, Pauline Schäfer, and Kim Bui.

Petz has solid difficulty across the board, vaulting a Yurchenko 1½ and showing some big skills on beam, which is promising as this event is usually where the Germans find themselves a little behind. If she hits, Petz could be at the top of the podium in Györ…but at a recent friendly meet, she had so many problems and falls on beam that it took her all-around score from gold medal contender to barely making the all-around final. I’d love to see her bring some glory to the German junior program, and it’s something that’s totally possible with hit routines.

The Italians are all podium contenders, and it’s almost impossible to predict who will make it to the all-around final, since they’re all super close. I’m gonna go with Asia D’Amato and Elisa Iorio, but Alice D’Amato has snuck past the others in the past, so it’s gonna be a tight race between them, since they’re all capable of about the same all-around scores. Who makes the all-around final will come down to who has the best day in qualifications, and then who gets on the podium will come down to who hits in that session. I think we can expect at least one all-around medal from the Italian girls, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull off two.

Both Petz and the Italians will have to contend against Russian junior national champion Ksenia Klimenko, however. Klimenko, another 2003-born gymnast who has yet to turn 14, excels on bars and beam, but she’s not quite as strong on her other two events. At home, of course, her scores are through the roof, but internationally she has yet to break a 52 AA due to falls, so she’d really need to be at her best this week to compensate for only a Yurchenko full on vault and a weak floor.

Taeja James of Great Britain will be another big all-around threat here. As the oldest in the group of top competitors, James is coming in with tons of international experience, including helping her team to the silver medal at last year’s European Championships. Her standout events are vault and floor, but she has great difficulty on beam, so this could be a strong event for her as well, if she hits. She hasn’t had the greatest of seasons thus far, but even so, she’s still coming in as one of the top juniors here.

Her teammate Amelie Morgan, who turned 14 in May, isn’t quite as experienced and doesn’t have scores as strong as James just yet, but she is a lovely competitor and like James, she’s doing well enough to fit into the top group even if she isn’t exactly exploding with difficulty at the moment. I enjoy her most on beam, and she generally has a super clean FTY, so look for her to get ahead on her execution.

My outside hope for a podium spot is Ukraine’s Anastasiia Bachynska. I always get very excited about Ukrainian gymnasts, but then they end up having bad meets…but I have a good feeling about this one. So far this year, Bachynska — who is 13 — has won the junior titles at Gym Festival Trnava and at the Stella Zakharova Cup. She has one of the highest combined levels of difficulty in this field, and can put up some big numbers on beam especially…so I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping for no more Ukrainian heartbreak. I’m also gonna be a little superstitious and remind everyone that EYOF in 2015 is where we all fell in love with Diana Varinska, so let’s hope history repeats itself and Bachynska is able to solidify herself as one to watch for Ukraine going forward.

Oh, and I can’t forget about Sanna Veerman of the Netherlands! With a Yurchenko 1½, she’s a little ahead of the majority of the field, and she’s also fabulous on bars and beam. Veerman, 15, has been kind of inconsistent this season, and pretty much melted down at nationals, winning the silver in what should’ve been a dominant performance from her, so we’ll see how she ends up looking in Györ.

Hometown girls Nora Feher and Bianka Schermann will be hoping to get Hungary to a high ranking as a team, but both should also easily qualify into the all-around final. Feher, who got to read the oath of the athletes at EYOF’s opening ceremony, is fabulous on bars and beam, with her other events a little limited at the moment due to a shoulder injury, while Schermann’s difficulty is low, but she has had a standout season thanks to clean and consistent routines.

Finally, there’s Celia Serber of France, who recently began competing an upgraded vault and has solid difficulty on beam and floor. I think she’d need to have a really strong day to fit into the top level of competitors, but even if this isn’t her year to be a standout, she’s on her way to that level of notoriety among gym fans. I’d say the same about her teammate Aline Friess, who has a strong vault and floor and could definitely sneak into the mix on these alone making up for a weaker bars and beam.

I also love Dominika Ponizilova of the Czech Republic, Elina Vihrova of Latvia, Edel Fosse of Norway, Dziyana Kirykovich of Belarus, and Leonie Meier of Switzerland, more from a fan perspective than a “she’ll totally win!” perspective, but they’re all fun to watch with standout skills on various events. Vihrova, the daughter of 2000 Olympic floor champion Igors Vihrovs, recently showed off a video of her routines as she prepped for EYOF, and she’s super promising, especially coming from a country without much of a name for itself in WAG.

As we talked about in our team preview, we’re not sure what we’ll see with the Romanians, but according to Houry Gebeshian — who is in Györ coaching the Armenian-American gymnast Anahit Assadourian — they and the Italians looked excellent, so keep your eyes peeled for Denisa Golgota and her young teammates Nica Ivanus and Iulia Berar.

Speaking of Assadourian, she’s a good one to take a look at this weekend, as she makes her international debut for Armenia. She just turned level 9 in the United States this year, so this is a huge meet for her to jump right into, but she and Gebeshian are thrilled to be taking Armenia forward yet again in the sport of gymnastics.

In the same vein, U.S. level 10 Lali Dekanoidze, who competed at the Nastia Liukin Cup this year and just placed second all-around at J.O. nationals, is representing Georgia alongside former Russian junior Anna Subbotina. I loved when Azerbaijan started this whole trend, and it’s so cool to see fellow Caucasus-region neighbors follow suit, developing programs basically from scratch.

The Vault Final

With her uber-powerful and effortless Yurchenko double, it’s hard to see anyone but 2016 European junior vault silver medalist Golgota getting the gold here, though she’ll have a heck of a challenge from the Italians. As with the all-around final, if they’re all doing DTYs, it’ll be about whoever hits best in qualifications…but I think Asia D’Amato is kind of a lock, with Iorio and Alice D’Amato fighting for the second spot.

Valeria Saifulina of Russia also has a DTY, putting her among this top group, though she has often struggled with the execution so I think Golgota and the Italians would have to make mistakes for her to get on the podium. But anything’s possible, and others who could get close include Veerman, Serber, Ponizilova, hometown girl Csenge Bacskay, and Subbotina (it would be great to see Georgia make another final after the now-senior Polina Borzykh made it happen at Euros last year!).

Last but not least are the British girls, James and Zoe Simmons. Simmons is basically on this team for her vault, so it would be great to see her reach the final as well if she competes two, while James is generally clean and powerful enough to pull in big scores here despite not coming in with the highest level of difficulty.

The Bars Final

My big bet for bars gold is Iorio, who I think is the most brilliant competitor in this field, and she’s generally consistent enough to pull off big wins, including gold at the FIT Challenge and the City of Jesolo Trophy on top of a bronze at Gymnix.

Klimenko should offer up some solid competition, as should one of the D’Amato twins (I’d give this one to Alice, but once again, it’ll be about who’s best in qualifications), Feher, Bachynska, Petz, and Veerman. This group basically has the highest difficulty combined with a solid level of consistency, so I think they have the best chances at both getting in the final and getting on the podium, but if anything goes wrong, there are tons of gymnasts who could sneak in and snag a spot.

The Beam Final

Beam is always the weirdest final to try to preview, because more often than not, the best beam gymnasts don’t get in, while someone random with a good enough routine finds her way onto the podium.

Those with big difficulty are typically the ones I like to say will make it, though, because all they have to do is hit and they’re basically in. Klimenko, Bachynska, and Petz are fabulous beam workers, as is the Russian Varvara Zubova, who boasts a 6.0+ D score though has yet to really hit a routine this year.

Beyond this group, I also really enjoy Feher, James, and Serber, and if I had to go with an Italian, I’d pick Alice D’Amato, if only because she’s had a better season on this event than her teammates. I decided to also give myself one totally out-of-the-blue “if she hits, she’s in” gymnast to root for, and that’s Margret Kristinsdottir of Iceland. She’s lovely on this event, and I’d really enjoy seeing an Icelandic gymnast in a final. They’re super underrated due to lower difficulty, but I always find a ton of girls from Iceland I love to watch, and Kristinsdottir is one of them.

The Floor Final

Golgota and James are my two favorites for this final, with Golgota the reigning European junior champion and James coming in with one of the most difficult routines, one she can usually bust out while looking fabulous.

I think even though she’s known for beam, we could see Zubova doing some good work here to get into the final, with Klimenko also likely to make it happen. Once again, Bachynska is on my list, for the Italians I’d guess both Asia D’Amato and Iorio could make it in depending on how they look in qualifications, Morgan really stands out on this event and could impress enough to finish strong, and then I’m hoping we see Bacskay make it as well…I love her floor, and I love kids from the host country getting some finals action in front of big, supportive home crowds.

The Meet Info

The women’s team final, which also serves as qualifications for individual events, begins tomorrow morning and will be streamed live all day. The all-around final is on Thursday, and event finals will be split up, with vault and bars on Friday and then beam and floor on Saturday.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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8 thoughts on “Our Must-Watch EYOF Gymnasts

  1. I wouldn’t call Germans junior program a problem. Yeah, Petz is really the only one posting great numbers, but Germany is typically known for having gymnasts blossom when they’re already seniors, rather than trying to transition amazing juniors. We all had our eyes on Janas being the next big thing just to see her career get shut down by knee injuries, allowing Schafer and Scheder to get medals instead.

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  2. I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned any romanians on beam..seems all three are in top 8 in eyof 2017, traditionally thats the apparatus for them..

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    • We knew nothing about Ivanus or Berar coming into this competition, as they haven’t competed in several years (at least publicly where we’ve seen videos). Had I seen recent beam routines from them, I would’ve known to watch for them on beam…but it’s impossible to say “watch for them on beam!” when we literally haven’t seen their beam lmao.

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    • That’s actually why I said in multiple posts “we don’t know what the hell to expect from Romania” because…again…we haven’t seen them at all this year, aside from a few small bits and pieces.

      Recalling what you’ve said on the Olivia Cimpian post and now seeing Romania place 10th in a really weak field, do you still think the program is doing just fine? hahaha

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