Nina Derwael of Belgium
For most gymnasts, a national title comes long before medals at Euros and worlds, but after missing her first two national championship meets at the senior level, 2017 European uneven bars champion Nina Derwael now gets to call herself a national champion as well.
At last weekend’s Belgian Championships, Derwael, whose most recent national titles came as a junior in 2015, put up a career-high 15.350 (and yes, career-high includes the old code of points, where her highest score was a 15.300 starting out a half point higher in composition requirements!) on bars to take a two-point lead over the rest of the field, winning the all-around gold with a 53.050 while also posting top-three scores on vault, beam, and floor.
Obviously bars were the clear highlight for Derwael, who is now working with a 6.4 D score in a routine that features a Downie, Derwael-Fenton to Ezhova to Chow to Bhardwaj, van Leeuwen, and toe full to full-in, all of which she makes look effortless. It’s now been a year since she’s made even a minor mistake on this event, with a 14.700 her lowest score among the 12 routines she’s competed at full difficulty since last June, and in 2018, she boasts the top five bars scores among the 4000 or so routines that have been competed this year. Casual.
Derwael also showed a clean FTY with a hop back, and she put tons of expression and style into her new floor routine, where her tumbling is still a bit simple, but her performance and clean dance skills more than make up for the lack of difficulty. She fell twice on beam, on her layout stepout mount and again on her flight series, but because beam was an actual soap opera-level drama for everyone at this meet, it didn’t keep her from the all-around gold, and her score of 11.350 was the second-best of the meet.
Klinckaert, who had to withdraw from her spot on the 2016 Olympic team after injuring her knee, finally looks back at full strength. She showed some incredible difficulty on beam, including a brand-new layout full mount, but unfortunately had two falls, on the mount and then again right away on her standing arabian, though the rest of the routine went well, a couple of bobbles on her tour jeté half and flight series aside, and she had an excellent double pike dismount.
Klinckaert also competed a solid bars set, and she brought a huge Yurchenko full on vault and a fabulously creepy Harry Potter floor routine that included a double layout, piked full-in, front tuck through to double full, and a double pike, putting up the top scores on both with her 13.850 and 13.050.
I’m mostly impressed with the fact that she actually dances down into her wolf turn and then turns immediately after getting into position rather than setting it up for an hour and a half like most do, and my mind is blown by how early she opens up in her vault, bars and beam dismounts, and every single floor pass. She looks SO good, and once she gets her beam skills under control, she will be a force to be reckoned with.
In addition to all-around bronze, Deriks also tied her 2016 Olympic teammate Derwael with the second-best beam score of the day with her 11.350, and she posted the third-best floor score of 11.900. Deriks actually looked strongest and most confident on bars, though her score of 12.950 was still a bit low due to some lack of attention to detail in some of her form, but her skills were solid and she finished with a super high full-in dismount with just a step.
Like all of her teammates, Deriks had a fall on beam, coming off on her front aerial, which just had a crooked landing, and she also stumbled but saved her side aerial and only had a layout dismount, limiting her difficulty quite a bit, and she was also a bit downgraded on floor, competing a solid double pike to start, but following it up with a 1½ to front pike and then just a layout to finish.
In a close fourth was Maellyse Brassart, a member of last year’s worlds team known for her engaging work on floor, where she posted an 11.900 to tie Deriks for the third-best score. She started out strong with a piked full-in and double pike, though she seemed to lose steam after that, finishing low in her landings on her front tuck to double full and double tuck.
Brassart also put up the second-best vault score with her big and clean FTY going 13.700, and on bars, she earned a 13.000 for a solid set that just showed a few ankle separations and an arched-over handstand before her piked Jaeger. She unfortunately fell on her punch front mount on beam, following it up with a fall on her flight series, but she was otherwise good, and finished up with a solid double pike dismount.
The only other all-arounder at this meet was Laura Aerts, who isn’t part of the national program, but competes regularly at international invitationals, including International GymSport in Portugal last month. Aerts finished fifth here, with a total score of 41.250, showing her strongest work on vault and floor.
Rune Hermans and Julie Meyers were limited here, with Hermans competing on bars and beam and Meyers just on bars. Hermans actually had the strongest beam score of the day with an 11.600, falling on her side aerial to layout stepout but otherwise looking polished, and she had the second-best score of the meet on bars, looking lovely on her Chow half, toe half to piked Jaeger, stalder to Pak, van Leeuwen, and toe full to full out, earning a 13.250.
This was only the second meet of the year for Meyers, who has been injured, and she made it through her bars set with no major issues, putting up a score of 12.450. She had a couple of form issues throughout, and her difficulty isn’t super great, but it was a strong effort given her lack of recent experience.
It’s looking like Derwael, Klinckaert, Deriks, Brassart, and Hermans are gearing up to be the core team members for Euros and worlds this year, but staying healthy will be key, as they’re literally it for Belgium right now, with Meyers as the backup, after several of Belgium’s 2016 competitors retiring with no new seniors on the horizon until next year after none of the 2002-born gymnasts opted to move on.
Thankfully, the team only has to place in the top 24 at worlds this year to move on to the team qualifier in 2019, and by then, hopefully some of this year’s top juniors will be able to add to the overall depth.
The junior national champion this year, Fien Enghels, is one of those future hopefuls. Enghels was actually a bit of a surprise for the junior title, but showed clean and consistent work as the only junior to not have any major issues across all four events in addition to posting the top scores of 13.000 on bars and 12.850 on beam to win the all-around gold with a 50.900.
Margaux Daveloose, another one who will become a senior next year and could potentially help out with Belgium’s depth problem, was most likely to take this title on a good day, but unfortunately her beam wasn’t quite what she’s capable of, and she ended up with a 49.950 for silver, though she did get a win on floor with a 13.100.
In third with a 49.250 was Lisa Vaelen, who recently had a standout performance at the International GymSport in Portugal. She had the second-best scores on vault, beam, and floor, the latter an especially excellent set, as she’s a lovely performer with a solid level of tumbling given that she’s just 13.
Rounding out the all-around competition for the juniors were Julie Vandamme in fourth with a 48.350, Cato Fleurackers in fifth with a 47.100, Jade Vansteenkiste in sixth with a 47.050, and Stacy Bertrandt in seventh with a 45.350, while Margo van Linden competed on all events but bars and Kay-li de Neef competed only on bars.
The espoir competition nearly saw a sweep from Keziah Langendonck, a 2005-born gymnast who has improved greatly since we last saw her. Langendonck won her all-around title with a 48.850 in addition to posting the top scores on every event but vault, where her 12.750 was second-best. Beam was the best event for her, with her score of 12.800 not only the best of the espoir field, but the second-best of the day among all senior and junior competitors, and she showed a great level of confidence both there and on floor.
Joey van Broeckhoven finished second with a 46.500, and Charlotte Beydts was third with a 44.750 while also posting the top score on vault with a 13.000. Rounding out the field was Kato de Laet in fourth with a 44.000, Wine Dierick in fifth with a 43.450, Luna de Leus in sixth with a 43.400, and Lucy Saelens in seventh with a 38.750.
Full results from the competition are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Video by Alexandra Leask
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