The women’s team for world championships is about as predictable as ever, simply because Great Britain doesn’t have a ton of depth right now. With the Downies out this year as they both recover from injuries and surgeries, the killer potential four-strong Olympic comeback team of Ellie and Becky Downie, Claudia Fragapane, and Amy Tinkler is down to just the latter two in addition to Georgia-Mae Fenton, who has a top bars set, and Alice Kinsella, who was second all-around at nationals after Ellie Downie.
Fragapane and Tinkler are unobjectively the best in the country right now, no question. At the recent Szombathely challenge cup, Tinkler qualified to all four event finals and without her best work. A fully hit day from her could get her easily above a 55 all-around, putting her in the running for the podium and making her Great Britain’s best by far, even on a bad day.
Fragapane, meanwhile, has a focus on beam and floor right now and hasn’t vaulted since Rio, so we’re likely to see her on just those two events in Montreal. Fragapane made finals for both of these events at Euros, and at the challenge cup in Paris last week, she won the beam bronze and floor gold with excellent, solid work on both. Her beam probably won’t beat out the stronger routines to get into the final, but on floor she has an actual shot at a medal if she hits.
With Fenton, she’s basically competing with the hope of earning a spot in the bars final. In recent meets, she has struggled a bit with hitting, averaging a 12.855 with a hit rate of just 33% for the month of September. When she hits, she should be getting a high 13 or low 14, which wouldn’t really be enough for the final but if she has an exceptionally good day you never know what could happen, but her biggest obstacle would be actually hitting in qualifications. There’s no one else who can really do bars or fit into that specialist spot, though, so it’s definitely worth taking her and I’m glad she’s finally getting this big international experience after being injured and missing out on meets — including this year’s Euros — for the majority of her career.
First-year senior Kinsella will be the second all-arounder next to Tinkler at worlds, and she’s actually capable of great work, but has sometimes struggled with consistency. I love her work on beam and floor, and think if she has a good day in qualifications, she’ll be able to make the all-around final at the very least. A lot of her difficulty is pretty low, so it’s hard for her to be super competitive, but I do think that she’s one who still has to come out of her shell a bit as a gymnast. She could be a great option down the line, so I’m hoping a meet like this can help her see where she stands on a major international level, which could definitely motivate her as she continues to grow in the future.
It might not be their most competitive team without the Downies, but while Kinsella and Fenton can’t be perfect replacements for Ellie and Becky, respectively, they’re young and less experienced, and even if they don’t become top challengers in Montreal, this experience will be so incredibly valuable for them, and could help them reach the next level.
On the men’s side, we’ll get some of this year’s young standouts, like top all-arounders James Hall and Joe Fraser, both of whom performed exceptionally well at Euros, and as far as specialists go, we’ll see Courtney Tulloch on rings, 2012 Olympic medalist Dan Purvis, and 2016 Olympic medalists Max Whitlock and Nile Wilson, neither of whom has competed this year, though I can imagine Whitlock will fill specialist spots on floor and pommels while Wilson will step in on high bar.
That leaves p-bars for Purvis, who is kind of a last-minute selection to the team over nominative gymnast Dominick Cunningham. Purvis had kind of a rough year, but must have stepped out ahead of Cunningham at the selection camp, so while neither comes in as a frontrunner for a medal or final, I guess Purvis makes more sense for p-bars than Cunningham made for vault considering the international field.
But really, the other five fit so perfectly together in this format of six per team, three up in qualifications, that final spot was all about just finding someone who could do one of the two remaining events, and that’s what they get with Purvis. Without having seen Whitlock or Wilson in competition this year, it’s hard to say how they’ll do, but I’d imagine they’re looking solid enough to be worth taking along and I’m excited to see their return at worlds.
It’s also important to note that Whitlock is planning on unveiling at least one difficult new skill (and possibly two!) on pommel horse, and working on these skills is part of the reason why he waited so long to come back. The skills are so confidential, Whitlock had the South Essex club where he trains ban cameras from the gym so that no videos could get out, limiting “skill thieves” from jacking the skills in an attempt to get them named for themselves.
Both of the British teams have some medal potential for Montreal, with the men’s team as always a step ahead of the women’s, but for a post-Olympic year there is a solid level of talent here, paving the road for a successful quad ahead.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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