Ellie Black, Isabela Onyshko, Brittany Rogers, Shallon Olsen, and Jade Chrobok
It’s been a long time since the Canadian women have stood atop the podium in the team final at the Commonwealth Games — 28 years to be exact.
After missing out on the podium in Glasgow four years ago, finishing just half a point behind Wales to place fourth, the Canadians come in this year as the heavy favorites for gold, bringing with them four members of their 2016 Olympic team including last year’s world all-around silver medalist Ellie Black.
The team — which also includes Black’s Rio teammates Brittany Rogers, Shallon Olsen, and Isabela Onyshko in addition to Jade Chrobok, who last month placed fourth all-around at the Birmingham World Cup — is the clear standout on paper. With England’s entire team held back by injury and Australia also not at a hundred percent, Canada is in the best place as an overall squad even after losing Rose-Kaying Woo to injury a couple of weeks ago, and I’d definitely give them the edge over the reigning team champions from England, but I also wouldn’t count England out.
Depleted as it is, the English team won’t be an easy one to beat. Despite half of this team’s gymnasts coming in as second options, they still have a ton of strength in team leader Kelly Simm, this year’s British all-around and bars champion who has truly stepped up her game recently after coming back from a series of injuries over the past couple of years. She’ll be a driving force as the top all-arounder for the team, and should put up especially strong scores on vault and bars, and on top of that her beam has been quite consistent this year, which should also help out a team that has been historically weak here.
Behind Simm, we’re also getting superb bars standout Georgia-Mae Fenton delivering a highly difficult set there, Alice Kinsella is coming off of an excellent medal-winning (and confidence-building!) performance at the Birmingham World Cup, both she and Lucy Stanhope have DTYs that’ll give the team some important tenths, and first-year senior Taeja James has been a bit shaky so far in 2017, but she has a floor routine that’s been solid all year and she could win the gold if she hits.
It’s a bit hard to gauge how Canada will look in comparison, as Black hasn’t competed anything but bars since worlds and it’s been about nine months since Rogers last stepped out onto the floor. I’m not really worried about this lack of recent experience for either of these competitors, however, as both are two-time Olympians who know how to deliver when it counts, especially as Rogers also has four years of NCAA under her belt. They know how to handle pressure and lead a team, and I think what we see from them will be nothing short of solid.
From the younger members of the team, I was super impressed to see Chrobok come back from some disappointments at Elite Canada and Gymnix to really prove her worth at the world cup meet where she placed fourth, and Onyshko looked excellent at Gymnix, coming back from injury to win the all-around in the huge challenge division in Montreal, her first meet since worlds. She’ll be able to provide solid routines on bars and beam, and then Olsen will complement her nicely with huge scores of her own on vault and floor. Olsen landed her Cheng at Gymnix in addition to her always reliable DTY, so the vault title is hers to lose this weekend on top of what she’ll offer the team.
Australia, hosting the competition in Gold Coast this year, could be hit or miss. I won’t count them out of the medal race, mostly because the other teams in the mix outside of these top three aren’t at the same level overall, but I feel like this year’s team is more a collection of people who happen to be the strongest and healthiest rather than a strategic group of athletes who work cohesively to fill the team puzzle as best as possible. With such a lack of depth in the ranks at the moment, this is just about all they could do, and so they’re just hoping it’ll work out.
The team is great on an individual level. Georgia Godwin still has the memory of her excellent performance at worlds in mind, and I’m just thrilled personally to see her getting to compete on the Commonwealth Games team at home after missing out on making the squad in 2014 despite being national champion that summer. She ended up dealing with a minor injury at the world cup in Melbourne earlier this year, but smartly withdrew from the final day of competition to stay healthy for this meet, and I think if she’s back at full health on all of her events, we can expect her to be a major contributor for this team.
A member of Australia’s silver medal-winning 2014 Commonwealth Games team, Georgia-Rose Brown will lead the team as potentially the top all-arounder with a lot to offer on bars especially. Bars is also where Rianna Mizzen should standout, though she’s proved capable on her other events in the past, while Emily Whitehead is a standout on vault and Alexandra Eade is solid on floor, where she’s likely to medal.
Everyone on Team Australia has the potential to make an individual final or two, but as a team it’s hard to say how all of this will end up coming together, especially on beam, which is where they collectively fall short. As a team, I don’t consider them a threat for gold over England or Canada, but let’s not forget that they have the home turf advantage and could be hiding some secrets up their leo sleeves.
Their biggest concern for the podium race will be Wales, headlined by Maisie Methuen and Latalia Bevan, both of whom have been standouts for their nation since they were about twelve, back when they won the gold and silver, respectively, in the espoir division at Welsh nationals with scores that would’ve put them atop the junior field (and made them top five among the seniors).
Both became seniors last year and earned international assignments as part of the British team, but they’re superstars for the Welsh program and should both bring excellent performances to the table. Bars is where they’re both most valuable, as that’s the weakest event overall for this team, but they’ll also bring in big numbers on beam and floor and they’re simply lovely on both events, with Methuen the British champion on beam this year.
The team is also helped by talents of Emily Thomas, also a new senior last year, though she’s been mostly under the radar compared to the other two. Thomas, last year’s Welsh all-around champion, made three event finals at British Championships this year, winning the bronze medal on bars in addition to performing well on vault and floor. These events are where she adds the most value to the team in Gold Coast, and we’re also likely to see Jolie Ruckley add value on all three as well while Holly Jones is a huge standout on vault, winning the gold ahead of Amy Tinkler at British Championships in March.
Beyond these four, I don’t see anyone challenging for the podium. I’d love to see Malaysia get close, though without Ang Tracie — out of the Games with a last-minute hip injury (she was so close she had her credentials and everything 😦 ) — it’s not going to be as likely, though Farah Ann Abdul Hadi and Tan Ing Yueh should be lovely to watch as always. Scotland also has a full team, headlined by this year’s national champion Cara Kennedy with Shannon Archer a solid contender on vault, though difficulty-wise they’ll be a step behind the top teams here, and both India and Sri Lanka are sending teams of three apiece.
On the individual front, pretty much anyone considered a major contender for an all-around or event title will come from one of the teams above, but I’m excited to see how Stella Ashcroft of New Zealand ends up looking, and both South African gymnasts — Claudia Cummins and Naveen Daries — should look strong as well.
A full list of competitors is available here, and a list of the subdivisions can be found here. The women begin with the team final and individual qualifications on April 6 at 9:09 am (which is just after 7 pm tonight if you’re on the east coast in the United States!), and a full schedule of all gymnastics action can be found here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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