The Japanese gymnasts who travel to Texas annually to attend the WOGA Classic always end up doing incredibly well, and Hitomi Hatakeda was no exception. Winning the all-around gold with a solid 55.450, Hatakeda also picked up the gold on bars, the silver on vault and beam, and the bronze on floor on Saturday to start her season on a high note after an excellent 2017.
The 17-year-old who nearly swept Gymnix last year put up one of her strongest competitions to date here, hitting a big tsuk 1½ with a hop, a bars set that included an inbar to inbar full to toe on to Maloney, piked Jaeger, and a stuck full-in dismount, a fluid and steady beam set where she showed excellent extension in both her dance and tumbling, and a solid floor set with a tucked full-in, lovely switch full to sissone, 2½ to punch front, and a double pike.
While Hatakeda doesn’t have a real standout event in the way many of the other top Japanese gymnasts do, in a team year she has potential to add tremendous depth as a consistent all-arounder with solid routines across the board. She showed here that she has a ton to offer the program this year and next as Japan works on qualifying for Tokyo, and could help out wherever the team needed.
Last year’s senior champion Kiko Kuwajima, also of Japan, ended up with the silver medal this year, posting a 53.900. Kuwajima was supposed to step up as one of Japan’s big new seniors last year, but after the WOGA Classic injuries held her back and she was unable to live up to the hype.
She looked much better here, though, showing her best work on vault with a big DTY landed just slightly short and on beam, where she got a 14.5 for a difficult and wonderfully performed set that included a standing arabian, back handspring to tuck full, double turn, front aerial to split leap to straddle jump, a side straight jump full, side somi, and a double pike with a hop.
Though she’s not as strong on bars, she made it through a solid set, and she also hit floor with a few low and/or stumbled landings but the overall quality of her routine was strong. It was a great start to her 2018 season, and I hope she can continue standing out at a high level, especially as she could fill a gap on beam if she’s able to get a bit more polish for this routine.
In bronze medal position was WOGA gymnast Irina Alexeeva, whose international status remains in limbo due to citizenship issues, but when she does get the chance to compete at invitationals like this one through her club, it’s always a joy to see what she can do.
She earned a 53.850 here, missing her mount on beam but otherwise looking fantastic, hitting a clean FTY, winning the silver on bars for her stalder to toe full to van Leeuwen, piked Jaeger, Pak, Maloney to Gienger, and double front earning a 14.1, and winning the gold on floor with a 13.4 after hitting her double layout, 2½, 1½ to front full, and double pike.
Rounding out the top eight were Madeleine Johnston of Hills in fourth with a 52.250, Nagi Kajita of Japan in fifth with a 51.700, Laurie-Lou Vézina of Gym-Fly in Canada and Nozomi Toyoda of Japan tied in sixth with a 51.550 each, and WOGA’s Audrey Davis, who earned a spot on the junior national team last summer and made her senior debut here, in eighth with a 51.300. Johnston also picked up the bronze on vault, Kajita won the bronze on bars, Vézina got the silver on floor, showing off her gorgeous choreo and leaps in addition to hitting three solid tumbling lines, Toyoda got the bronze on floor, and Luisa Blanco of WOGA won the bronze on beam.
Leading the junior division was Kayla DiCello of Hills, who just turned 14 and nearly swept the competition, posting a 55.250 in the all-around — a personal best by nearly three points — and getting the gold medals on every event but vault, where she placed fourth with a 13.75 for her super clean FTY.
On bars, DiCello reached a 13.85 for her clean toe full to Maloney to Pak, van Leeuwen, piked Jaeger, and full-out dismount, she got a 13.9 for an excellent set on beam, and she showed a tucked full-in, 1½ through to 2½, whip half to front full, and double tuck, all looking solid for a 13.75. It was an excellent day for her, and she has shown incredible improvement compared to last year, so hopefully we’ll see her as a solid contender among the U.S. juniors this year.
Sophia Butler of Discover Gymnastics, who was a standout as a Hopes athlete last summer, took the silver medal in the all-around with a 53.400 while fellow 2017 Hopes standout Kaliya Lincoln of Airborne won the bronze with a 52.550. Both Butler and Lincoln earned their junior elite qualifications scores within the past month, and this was the first big meet for the two of them, so it was great to see them excel so early in their careers.
Thirteen-year-old Butler won the floor silver and the bronze medals on vault and bars here. Her floor routine showed a great flair for performance, and her tumbling was solid as well, including a piked full-in, 2½ to front layout, front double full, and double pike, earning a 13.5, and on bars she posted a 13.35 for a Maloney to clear hip half, toe half to piked Jaeger, toe full to Pak, and double layout dismount, a super promising set that should help her break into the top junior ranks this season.
Lincoln, 11, won the silver on vault with a 14.000 for a huge, clean, and almost stuck FTY, and she also picked up the bronze medal on floor, showing potential with her tucked full-in, front tuck through to double tuck, and double pike earning a 13.3. Her bars aren’t quite as advanced as her other events, but she’s clean and solid there, and she also hit beam, tying for fourth on the event for her strong work there. I can’t wait to watch this kid as she gets older and moves through the ranks. It sounds mind-blowing to type this, but she doesn’t turn senior until 2022, so we’ll have plenty of time to watch her grow into a tremendous talent.
Yuna Endo of AJG in Japan finished fourth with a 52.450, brand-new junior elite Levi Jung-Ruivivar of Paramount Elite was fifth with a 52.300, Skye Blakely of WOGA was sixth with a 51.900, Ayumi Niiyama of AJG in Japan was seventh with a 51.600, and Mia Saint-Pierre of Gym-Fly in Canada was eighth with a 51.100.
On top of the all-around competition, 11-year-old Jung-Ruivivar earned the silver medal on bars, showing a gorgeous set that included a toe half to piked Jaeger, toe full to Pak, stalder to toe shoot, and stuck full-in for a 13.7. It was an incredible set where her attention to detail was so strong and far beyond her years, showing beautiful toe point, glued legs, and straight handstands even in her most difficult elements.
Niiyama won the gold on vault with a 14.1, Li Shijia of China was the silver medalist on beam with a 13.45, and her teammate Wei Xiaoyuan was the bronze medalist on beam with a 13.4. I loved Li’s gorgeous roundoff layout, even if she did have to grab the beam to keep from falling, and she also hit an awesome punch front to split jump to stag ring jump, and Wei had a wobble on her back handspring mount, but nailed her flight series and attempted a super difficult front aerial to split jump to ring jump to Korbut, pausing just slightly after the aerial to break the connection.
Full results from this competition are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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