DiCello Stuns at WOGA Classic


Kayla DiCello

Junior national team member Kayla DiCello kicked off her 2019 season with a big win at the WOGA Classic a couple of weeks ago, hitting all four events for a 55.700 to win the all-around while also topping the field on every event but floor.

DiCello looked incredibly clean in her performance here, with just a slight hop back on her Yurchenko double on vault, tidy work on bars, including on her piked Jaeger and clean full-in dismount, a mostly solid beam set with just a wobble and her hands down on her triple wolf turn, and a strong floor set that included a double layout, front double full, 1½ through to 2½, and a double tuck, finishing a bit low on that last pass, but overall she looked fantastic given how early it is in the season.

She was unmatched not only in the junior field, but also against the seniors who competed here. Yurika Yumoto, a member of the Japanese team for last year’s Asian Games, won the all-around with a 51.350, while 2018 worlds team member Nagi Kajita of Japan and WOGA’s own Sloane Blakely tied for silver with scores of 50.050.

Yumoto, representing her club, hit all four routines with only minor mistakes as well as a big stumble on her full-out bars dismount, but beam was a real standout. She earned a 13.500 there, nailing her punch front mount before going on to hit fluid connections and especially nice leaps, just sliding back a bit on her flight series but overall showing poise and attack here before finishing with a strong double pike.

Kajita had a couple of falls but she also showed some great promise, especially on bars where she hit a Nabieva to Pak, though she unfortunately came off on her piked Jaeger, not getting far enough from the bar to fully extend into a pike, causing her to tuck her knees and then practically land feet-first on the high bar before falling. She also had a fall on beam and a few weak landings on floor, but it was nice to see her come back strong from every mistake to finish well, especially on bars, where she had a huge full-in dismount.

I thought Blakely was going to win the senior competition outright, but her big FTY on vault as well as her incredible beam performance were offset by several falls across bars and floor, holding her back a few points from what she was capable of. Her beam was fantastic, though, getting a 14.850 after some wobbles at the end of her double wolf turn (including a random wobble when she simply stood up out of it), though she had a fantastic standing arabian, switch leap to switch half to back layout stepout, front handspring to front tuck, and double tuck dismount.

Also competing in the all-around here were Olivia Hollingsworth of World Champion’s Centre in fourth with a 49.800, Cato Fleurackers of De Gympies in Belgium in fifth with a 49.200, 2015 worlds team member Sakura Yumoto of Narawa in Japan in sixth with a 49.050, her teammate Koyuna Sakakibara in seventh with a 48.150, Mackenzie Robinson of Jamaica in eighth with a 46.950, Eshe Bernard of Jamaica in ninth with a 45.100, Margo van Linden of De Gympies in tenth with a 44.650, and Kiara Richmon of Jamaica in 11th with a 42.900.

Of these, I was really impressed with some of the improvements we saw from Robinson, especially on beam, where she had a steady and focused set, showing clean work on her flight series in addition to hitting a clean cat leap to side somi and a solid dismount. We also saw a couple of great floor sets from Hollingsworth and Yumoto, while Fleurackers was lovely on bars, with an excellent Pak to Maloney to bail to clear hip to toe shoot series.

The big story in the senior field was the return of Ashton Locklear, who competed bars and beam here, but had mistakes on both that kept her from reaching the top three. Her bars actually started out really nice with a stalder full to Chow to Pak to Maloney to bail to Ray, and she hit her stalder half to Jaeger after that, but when she had just the dismount left, she arched over on a cast handstand, and when she got back on, she got stuck halfway through her toe full for a second fall, re-mounting again for the toe full to double tuck to get a 12.350 (a seemingly impossible score for the two falls given her difficulty is just a 5.3 at the moment, but this wasn’t the only suspect score here, so I’ll let it slide).

On beam, Locklear actually looked mostly good in her form and extension, showing just a few little bobbles throughout. She was a bit weak in the layout series, which is still new for her, and her leg was too low to get credit on her L turn in her L turn to split leap to side somi to split jump half series, but I love that combination and hope to see her keep improving on it. I also really liked her side aerial to split jump to Korbut, and she went for a really cool and ambitious punch front to tuck jump half, but her air awareness was a little off there and she overrotated the jump by a quarter turn, putting her hands down before finishing with a decent double tuck, earning a 12.550.

I think I almost prefer Locklear’s beam to her bars right now in terms of construction and would love to see her get to a really highly competitive level here. In 2017, her bars alone were clearly good enough to get her not only a spot on the worlds team but also into the bars final. Going forward, the routines she has aren’t going to cut it, not for the team this year and definitely not on a four-person team in 2020, but I’d love to see her continue to work on beam to at least have a prayer of national team success in the future.

Also competing a handful of events was Tienna Nguyen, the U.S.-based gymnast who now competes internationally for Vietnam, competed all events but bars here a week after her successful performance at the Houston National Invitational, posting the top score on vault with a 13.600 in addition to almost hitting beam for a 13.000. She showed a somewhat wild double wolf turn there and hit her layout series with just a slight wobble before showing a great front aerial into her jump series and then a switch to switch half to back tuck, though she unfortunately crashed the double pike at the end.

Rounding out the junior field behind DiCello were Love Birt of First State with a 52.600 for the silver medal, her teammate Sydney Morris with a 51.300 for bronze, Diana Kustova of Russia in fourth with a 51.250, Lisa Vaelen of De Gympies in Belgium in fifth with a 50.800, Sophia Butler of Discover Gymnastics in sixth with a 50.450, and the Brazilians Julia Soares and Ana Luiza Lima in seventh and eighth with scores of 50.300 and 49.900, respectively.

Birt was especially strong on beam here, while Morris showed clean and improved work on bars. Butler, a new member of the junior U.S. national team, had some struggles here, coming off on her stalder work on bars and falling on her Onodi on beam, but she hit her layout full series and a big double pike dismount on beam, and her floor tumbling was on point.

The 11-year-old Kustova has huge potential for her age, with huge skills and nice lines on bars, and a very promising beam set, where she performed a side aerial to layout stepout almost into a back handspring right after, and she had big difficulty in her dance elements, though she unfortunately came off on her switch half. Kustova’s floor difficulty wasn’t super high, but again, she had a nice performance and did good work there, and I’m excited to see how she can continue developing over the next four years she’ll be competing at the junior level.

As for Vaelen, I’m just so excited to see a Belgian junior with the ability to vault. Vaelen put up the third-best vault score here with just a step back on her huge handspring front pike half, and I hope we can eventually see her upgrade this, as she could be an automatic yes for every Belgian senior team in the future if she makes that a focus. She also made it cleanly through bars and beam, and though she had a fall on floor, I think she overall showed an excellent competition.

Also a standout in the junior field was Skye Blakely, a member of the junior national team who competed all events but bars here. She vaulted a huge DTY with a lunge back for a 14.250, and she was great on floor with a big double layout, tucked full-in, front double full to front tuck, and a double pike, winning this event with a 13.850. On beam, she got a 13.800, showing off a fantastic mount series and the best double wolf turn of the day before nailing her standing full and flight series, looking gorgeous in her leaps, and taking just a step back on her double pike dismount.

This year, the WOGA Classic was held at the same time as the Valeri Liukin Invitational, no doubt boosting some of the exposure of the men’s meet, which is great. The Japanese men were super dominant here, sweeping the all-around podium with Daiki Hashimoto winning gold with an 86.000, the silver going to Shiga Tachibana with an 84.750, and Rentaro Ueyana winning bronze with an 84.000.

These three also put up most of the top scores on each apparatus, but Ryuzo Sejima, competing for the Japanese club Tokushukai, won p-bars with a 14.300 in addition to finishing fourth all-around, and 2018 world medalist Arthur Zanetti won the rings title with a huge 15.200, also performing super well on vault.

Also doing well here were Andres Perez of Puerto Rico with the second-best p-bars score and the third-best high bars score, Michael Reid of Jamaica with a 14.700 on pommels to take the silver medal there, Vladyslav Hryko of Ukraine winning bronze on pommels with a 13.850, and Kazuyuki Takeda of Japan winning bronze on rings with a 14.850.

Full results from the WOGA Classic are available here, while the Liukin Invitational results are here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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