Canada’s Youngest Talent Shines in Gatineau

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Rébéka Groulx

With last year’s top Canadian juniors now old enough to compete at the senior level – including the still-junior Zoé Allaire-Bourgie, who is an honorary senior this year in order to prepare her for next year’s Olympic journey – the field at Elite Canada was wide open last weekend, and we had a blast getting to know some of the country’s youngest up-and-comers.

The junior meet featured two days of all-around competition, with both days counting toward both the all-around and apparatus medals, so consistency was key. Though it was a super close match, in the end it was Rébéka Groulx of Gym Richelieu who took the gold in the all-around with a 100.049 combined total, while Clara Raposo of Manjak’s took the silver with a 99.824 and Alexa Tucker of Dynamo took the bronze with a 97.325.

Groulx, who turned 13 last month, also won the gold on beam and the bronze on bars this weekend, and she was remarkably solid across every event. The 2018 novice all-around champion, Groulx has some big skills compared to most of the other juniors, including an arabian double front on floor and some lovely and difficult beam connections, and as she’s so young, she still has plenty of time to keep adding to her current skill level.

I’ve been a big fan of Clara Raposo’s big energy and sassy style for a while now. Last year, she finished third all-around in the novice competition at nationals, and she’s made some pretty big improvements to stay at the top despite graduating up a level. Turning 14 this year, Raposo is eligible for junior worlds and with her big FTY on vault, her excellent tumbling and fantastic choreo on floor (she easily won the floor gold here!), and clean skills on bars and beam, she should be the top option for this meet.

Total newbie Tucker, who competed level 9 last season and placed third in her division at J.O. nationals, was a major standout here on both days of competition. While her difficulty isn’t huge yet, she is so clean and solid in everything she does. At 12, Tucker has incredible potential, and should be on your radar for years to come.

Rounding out the top eight were Cassie Lee of Manjak’s in fourth with a 96.616, Leah Tindale of Dynamo in fifth with a 96.516, Okeri Katjivari of Brandon Eagles in sixth with a 96.007, Jovie Richardson of Bluewater in seventh with a 92.341, and Kiora Peart-Williams of Milton in eighth with a 92.316.

After a rough performance on the first day of competition, Tindale, who spent a couple of years out due to injury, returned on day two with a fantastic set, missing her dismount at the end of her incredibly difficult bars set, but then coming back with amazing work on beam and floor before finishing with a huge and clean Yurchenko 1½.

Tindale was able to get into the top three when looking at the day two results on their own, and with two fully hit days, I think she would’ve had the strongest potential for the all-around title. Turning 15 this summer, she’s among the oldest in this group of top juniors, and with a little bit more consistency, she’ll likely join Raposo as a top choice for junior worlds this summer.

Lee had a fantastic couple of days in this competition, with her best routines coming on floor, while Katjivari had a couple of stumbles, but she was absolutely fantastic on bars and beam, with a huge and gorgeous Hindorff in her bars set and the most excellent combination on beam that features an insane press handstand mount and a front aerial to split jump to Korbut to back roll series.

As for Richardson, her difficulty was a bit low everywhere which held her back a bit, but she had some solid work on beam and floor, while Peart-Williams had some mistakes on bars and beam, but maintained a strong standing thanks to her solid floor and huge FTY on vault.

Other names to note here include Maya Zonneveld of Revolution, who finished 11th with a 91.249, and Rachael Riley of Bluewater, who was 12th with a 90.700.

Zonneveld had a bit of a disaster on bars on the first day of competition, so last year’s novice all-around runner-up ended up a shocking 16th on day one. Though she counted two bars falls on day two, it ultimately was a much better routine, and she also nailed her FTY on vault while hitting an incredible floor set that included a triple full, 2½ to punch front, and a stuck double pike. Zonneveld ended up winning the silver on this event while also taking the bronze on vault, so while her bars and beam could use a bit of work, she’s still someone to remember going forward.

After placing fourth as a junior at last year’s nationals, I expected Riley to be one of the leaders this year, especially with everyone who finished ahead of her in 2018 now competing in the senior field. Unfortunately, the 14-year-old had a few too many falls and mistakes in Gatineau, leaving her in tenth on day one and then unable to make up for that with an even greater number of falls on day two, where bars was especially rough for her in terms of going into dead hangs and muscling up handstands.

It was a bummer to watch, but she’s capable of earning multiple points more as an all-arounder than she did here, and despite everything that went wrong, she still managed to take the vault title, with her Yurchenko 1½ on both days one of the highlights of the meet.

Kyra Cato, another of last year’s top juniors, was unfortunately dealing with an ankle injury and so she only competed bars on day one, but she’s hoping to be back in top shape in time for Gymnix next month so we wish her the best!

In the novice competition, Alicia Wendland of Revolution took the all-around gold with a combined score of 105.041 while Emma Trollip of Burlington won the silver with a 103.750 and Victoriane Charron of Gym Richelieu won bronze with a 102.250 (note that novice competitors earn difficulty bonus, making their scores quite a bit higher than they would be in regular elite competition).

Wendland, who actually trains at Paramount Elite in the United States but is representing Revolution while competing in Canada, has attended a couple developmental camps in the U.S. but ultimately opted to go the elite route in Canada, her home country. Having just turned 12 in December, Wendland showed composure and talent beyond her years here to easily take the novice title, with her gorgeous “Stairway to Heaven” floor routine one of the highlights of the competition, featuring clean and high tumbling, beautifully extended leaps, and fantastic choreography.

I was also obsessed with Trollip’s stunning floor routine, and her beam was also incredible, with super solid landings on most skills, but even when she had a big wobble on her transverse split jump half, she fought like crazy and managed to save it before finishing with a huge double tuck and an even huger smile on her face.

Having known a little about both Wendland and Trollip coming into this meet, I wasn’t surprised to see either do well, but Charron was a major discovery for me here. At just ten years old, Charron already looks like she should be in the junior field, and watching her here felt like when I first discovered Shallon Olsen and Ana Padurariu at the novice level, like we’re seeing the future of the sport (and yes, I’m already in desperate need for Charron to lead the 2024 Olympic team).

This was Charron’s novice debut in Canada, though she attended the Tournoi International event with her club last fall, and you can get a sense of just how incredible she is for her age in this floor routine she performed in France. Her tumbling was the same at Elite Canada, both in content and in quality, and she also showed gorgeous lines on bars as well as an impressive confidence on beam. I’m beyond excited for this wee one, and truly can’t believe she’s as young as she is because she’s outstanding.

Rounding out the top eight in the novice field were Jenna Timmons of Calgary in fourth with a 100.675, Amy Jorgensen of Marian in fifth with a 100.566, Lily Sihapanya of Global in sixth with a 100.208, Tegan Shaver of Unigym in seventh with a 99.241, and Jordanna Phillis of Phoenix in eighth with a 97.750.

Most of the event titles went to gymnasts in the top three, including the bars gold to Charron and the floor gold to Wendland, but Phillis won the vault gold followed by Olivia Pfister of Canmore with silver and Natasha Lopez of Futures with bronze, Avery McCoy of Norfort won the silver on bars (she had lovely stalder work and a great double layout), Lucy Kern of Calgary won the gold on beam (her switch leap to split jump to tuck jump half series was fantastic!), and Timmons won the silver on floor.

All results, recaps, and live blogs from Elite Canada can be found in the coverage guide.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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2 thoughts on “Canada’s Youngest Talent Shines in Gatineau

  1. Which countries have meaningful development programs like Hopes and Canada’s novices? Is it perhaps a want of such development programs that cause some nations to lag behind? From my armchair view, programs like mommy and me look like a way for USA to get a leg (or a beam) up on the rest of the world. Of course, there are many variables when it comes to development, and the whole subject of development could fill IT screens the world around to overflowing.

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