Emma Malabuyo, Gabby Perea, Sunisa Lee, and Shilese Jones
With their long-awaited senior careers interrupted by a series of injuries for both last year, Emma Malabuyo and Gabby Perea were added to the U.S. national team and selected to headline the senior team for the City of Jesolo Trophy at last week’s camp in Florida.
Malabuyo, 16, was able to compete a couple of times last year, competing at Jesolo with her club and winning the all-around title, but she was only able to put up routines on two events at the U.S. Classic before withdrawing from nationals due to a back injury. Perea, 17, came back from injuries to attend the U.S. verification camp in April, where she finished seventh all-around, but a knee injury while training vault in her club took her out for the rest of the season.
This is the first senior national team assignment for both gymnasts, who will be joined by Shilese Jones, who made her international debut at Pan Ams last summer, and Sunisa Lee, a three-time silver medalist at the 2018 Pacific Rim Championships who will be making her senior debut in Italy this weekend.
The junior team is just as exciting as the senior squad, featuring 2018 U.S. junior vault champion and all-around runner-up Kayla DiCello alongside new faces Ciena Alipio, Sophia Butler, and Konnor McClain, all of whom will be making international debuts. McClain, known for her fabulous work on beam, made the junior national team last summer, while Alipio and Butler were added recently thanks to their strong results at last week’s camp.
The Italians are sending a senior team that will feature the girls who stood out as superstars for the country as juniors over the past two years. Giorgia Villa, Elisa Iorio, Asia D’Amato, and Alice D’Amato have traveled the world together as a team, making history together, especially as they defeated Russia for the gold medal at European Championships in August. The foursome debuted somewhat shakily at a Serie A meet last weekend, yet their club, Brixia Brescia, still managed to top the team competition by nine points, and they should put up a strong challenge here as they begin their preparation for this year’s world championships.
Seniors Martina Basile, Desiree Carofiglio, and Martina Maggio will also compete here, with Carofiglio and Maggio recently back from injuries, while the junior squad will see a relatively unknown group of girls who were in the shadows of the top four over the past couple of years, but who now have a chance to step out and shine. The Italians will include a total of nine on their junior squad, including Angela Andreoli, India Bandiera, Camilla Campagnaro, Giulia Cotroneo, Alessia Federici, Giorgia Leone, Veronica Mandriota, Micol Minotti, and Chiara Vincenzi, with Campagnaro and Federici two of my favorite up-and-comers, while 12-year-old Andreoli doesn’t have a ton of difficulty right now, but is a fantastic competitor and it’ll be fun to watch her blossom in the coming years.
The Chinese teams here are top-notch, led by 2018 world beam champion Liu Tingting, who will be joined by worlds teammate and 2018 Stuttgart World Cup champion Zhang Jin, first-year seniors Tang Xijing and Qi Qi, and Liu Jingxing, a 17-year-old making her senior debut here. Additionally, we’ll see junior talents Wei Xiaoyuan and Guan Chenchen compete as individuals, but there is no full junior team for China.
Russia, meanwhile, has only opted to send a junior team, but it’s a fantastic one, featuring 2018 European Championships medalists Olga Astafyeva and Vladislava Urazova alongside 2018 Gymnix bars champ Elena Gerasimova and 2018 Russian espoir champion Viktoria Listunova as the four who ended up making the trip after a few others were previously named as potentially competing. This is an exceptionally talented group of youngsters and it’ll be exciting to see how they compare to the super new and inexperienced group of U.S. juniors.
2018 world bars champion Nina Derwael was expected to lead the Belgian senior team here, though it seems the Belgians might just be sending the juniors instead, while Japan will have both senior and junior teams, with Chiaki Hatakeda their top junior to watch, and Germany will send a junior team. Romania, originally expected to compete here, has opted to withdraw.
A full list of competitors is below (seniors on the left, juniors on the right). The competition will begin with the junior all-around and team competition held in the morning with the senior all-around and team competition in the afternoon, and event finals will be held on Sunday. All events will be streamed live on FloGymnastics, and we’ll be live blogging every session of the meet here as well.
Article by Lauren Hopkins