Though senior competition slowed following world championships, we saw a ton of junior meets throughout late October and all of November that gave us an exciting glimpse into the near future of the sport.
We’ve hunted down videos of many routines from these events, and wanted to share a glimpse into what happened at each, and who you should keep an eye on next year and beyond.
Elite Gym Massilia
The Russians were the dominant queens here, taking the top two spots on the all-around podium (with Yana Vorona upsetting Viktoria Listunova for gold) while snagging four apparatus medals. Vorona had a pretty solid weekend, with bars silver and beam bronze added to her collection, and she should add something to the program’s senior depth next year, but Listunova, who bombed bars in the all-around and beam in the final before winning floor gold, is definitely going to play the most crucial role in the future of Russian gymnastics, so we’ll just chalk this up to a weak meet.
Lilia Akhaimova somewhat hilariously led the team (who doesn’t want to go to Massilia a month after worlds?!) to win gold on vault on top of a fourth-place all-around finish, and Maria Minaeva placed 15th all-around.
France also sent many capable under-the-radar gymnasts to this meet, and the talk of the town was Kaylia Nemour, a 12-year-old who has mostly competed domestically since this fall, debuting internationally at the Swiss Cup Juniors meet before making the Massilia team.
Nemour, who finished fifth all-around with a 50.850 after two falls on beam, is known for her insane difficulty, especially on bars (6.3) and floor (5.7). Yes, it’s probably a bit too much for her at this age, and though she’s quite capable on both, we hate to see a dominant junior not make it to a senior career because she burnt out by 15. Despite some form issues on both, Nemour won the bars title with a 14.067 and then also snagged the bronze on floor with a 13.233, a pretty excellent finish given that she was by far the youngest in both finals.
Here’s a look at Nemour’s entire all-around competition, where you can spot a 1.5 through to triple full, whip to arabian double front, tucked full-in, and front layout through to double tuck on floor, a handspring front pike half on vault, her insane bars set that includes an inbar full + Maloney + Church + Pak + van Leeuwen, inbar half + piked Jaeger, and full-twisting double layout, and a beam routine that has many big moments, like a triple flight series, triple and double wolf turns, a front handspring to front tuck, and a double pike dismount.
The French junior Alizee Letrange-Mouakit, who turns senior in just two weeks, won the bronze medal here with simpler but cleaner routines. She also made the bars and floor finals, but missed out on medals for both. Also placing in the top ten for the country were Lilou Besson in sixth, Djenna Laroui in eighth, and Taïs Boura in ninth, all of whom are 2005-born and should form a pretty excellent core class of juniors next year. Besson is a pretty clean athlete with really promising work on bars and beam (she’s got some inbar work, toe point, and super floaty layout stepouts), while Laroui and Boura both have some truly sassy moments on floor, where they both excel in both dance and tumbling (Boura’s floor routine is especially a treat, though she lacks the difficulty to be super competitive there).
The Brits also brought a team here, taking a junior/senior mix, though rising senior Jennifer Gadirova was the one who required the most attention. She competed a huge and gorgeous DTY in the all-around, which she paired with a flawless FTY to win gold in the vault final (ahead of Akhaimova!), and she was also excellent on floor, winning the silver medal for her routine that included a double layout, front layout full to double tuck, and 2.5.
Unfortunately, her bars and beam here were rough, including a truly terrifying piked Jaeger fall where she didn’t get any distance and whacked her calves on the high bar, but she still managed ninth place with a 50.200, and should be very solidly in the mix to contend for next year’s Olympic team, especially if that Amanar comes to fruition.
In addition to the Masters competition, the Massilia meet also has an Open all-around, which saw 104 gymnasts compete. Besson was the top all-arounder with a 51.250, and a few French gymnasts (like Maewenn Eugene and Emma Cozzi) also did well here, though I was most excited to see Dutch espoir Floor Slooff, a really talented and entertaining 2006-born espoir you need to follow as she officially enters junior competition next year. She and her club teammate Marrylinn Hendriks, who also competed here, were both added to the junior national team for 2020 and will hopefully be on the rise in the coming years. [Results]
Top Gym Tournament
Vladislava Urazova serving looks
Held a week after Massilia just over the border in Belgium, this junior meet was a bit more low-key, and it had a stronger level of top talent overall from most of the top countries.
Russia, for instance, sent its best juniors with Vladislava Urazova and Elena Gerasimova in attendance, both of whom turn senior next year and will be in strong contention for the Olympic team. Urazova had an iffy all-around meet for what she’s capable of, falling on her Onodi on beam, and then coming up short on a couple of her floor landings, but because she’s just that good, she still came out with a 54.650. When she repeated all but beam in event finals, she was even better, and I think a truly hit day for her where everything goes right could approach 57+ territory internationally next year…and possibly more if she upgrades, but I’d honestly prefer if she just focuses on what she already has and gets even better at executing it.
Vladislava Urazova’s complete all-around performance from Top Gym.
Gerasimova, who was good all meet long until she struggled on bars (she had a fall on her Jaeger and put her hands down on the dismount, on top of some form breaks), ended up with all-around bronze before going on to win the beam gold, completing the Russians’ full set of golds here (apparatus finals were also the combined team final, and they have a one-per-country format, so Gerasimova did beam and Urazova did the other three). I’m not as confident about Gerasimova’s chances to upset the seniors next year as I am with Urazova’s, but girl loves hitting beam (hello 100% international hit ratio this year?!), and even though she was a bit shaky here, when she’s on, she’s gorgeous and I’d take her to Tokyo just for that, if they can balance her out with a strong vault/floor gymnast.
The Top Gym competition also gave us a look at some of Romania’s best young juniors, with Ana Maria Barbosu winning silver in the all-around, while Maria Ceplinschi finished eighth after falling on bars. With Ioana Stanciulescu and Silvia Sfiringu turning senior next year, Barbosu is the one to watch as taking over at the junior level, and the best part is that she can actually swing bars.
Barbosu had a fully hit all-around performance at Top Gym, getting a 52.900, and then she also snagged the silver on floor, as well as bronze medals on bars and beam. Born in 2006, she will begin competing at the junior level next year, and she’s probably the rising junior I’m most excited about as someone who has the potential to breathe new life into the crumbling Romanian program. I don’t think she actually has a weakness right now, and time and finesse could get her to great places in this sport in the coming years.
Ana Maria Barbosu on beam
France had Djenna Laroui and Lilou Besson at Top Gym after their good performances at Massilia the week prior, though both weren’t at a hundred percent here, finishing fifth and seventh, respectively…though Besson came back looking better in event finals, winning bronze medals on bars and floor. Belgium was also a bit hit-or-miss here, with Charlotte Beydts finishing fourth all-around while Jutta Verkest was in sixth, though Jutta is a promising bars worker with a beautiful van Leeuwen, piked Jaeger, and full-out dismount, and she was able to take home the silver on this event.
Another Top Gym standout was Marit Reijnders of the Netherlands, who had her first successful Yurchenko 1.5 attempt here after debuting it at nationals and trying again at EYOF over the summer. This vault plus a solid FTY helped her to bronze there, and it’ll be nice for her to have this in her arsenal to give her a better shot at making teams when she becomes a senior next year.
The British gymnasts, Lucy Lewis and Ruby Stacey, both struggled a bit here, though Stacey is overall a pretty strong gymnast and just had some massive struggles with beam. The U.S. club Denton’s sent several young non-elites here, and it’s always cool to see how the J.O. athletes match up against international junior elites, and they were able to share the team silver with the French girls, while the Canadian club Mississauga was paired with Russia, so its gymnasts helped out in the win for team gold, especially with Jenna Sartoretto’s strong FTY. [Results]
Olympic Hopes Cup
China brought a six-person team to this little international junior meet (though the majority of competitors are more espoir-aged) in the Czech Republic, and all six girls placed in the top nine, with Chen Yanfei, He Licheng, and Yue Yue all finishing on the podium with scores of 53.433, 52.734, and 51.801, respectively, to help the team to a super dominant gold medal finish, putting up a 207.833, over 13 points ahead of silver.
Chen reminds me a bit of Wang Yan in that she’s got a ton of muscle and can do skills that require so much strength and control, like her Weiler half to toe-on to Maloney to Tkachev on bars, but then she’s also fluid and elegant, and she put together a beam routine that belonged in the world apparatus final, looking absolutely perfect on her layout series, hitting a front aerial to split jump to stag ring jump with ease, connecting her two transverse half jumps without pausing for even a microsecond, and nailing her double pike. On floor, she had an overrotated triple full, but otherwise looked great, especially on her front tuck through to double full. I’m excited about her, but she has the misfortune of turning 16 next year at a time when China is absolutely teeming with depth, and I don’t think she’ll be quite where she needs to be in comparison.
I thought He was a little less tidy and finessed overall, but she was the stronger bar worker with a great toe full to Pak, Maloney to Gienger, and piked Jaeger before sticking her double tuck, and Yue was good-but-not-great on every event, with her bars and beam the most notable in terms of how well she performed her skills on both.
Zhou Yaqin, seventh with a 48.433, had a really hard fall on her switch ring on beam, scraping the side of the apparatus on her way down, but she came back Kyla Ross circa 2015 nationals levels of pissed and was absolutely perfect on everything else, especially that side somi to transverse split jump half, and after getting checked by medics, she came back to deliver a BAMF-level floor. Lyu Junliang, eighth with a 48.300, was rough on vault and bars but brilliant on beam, and Li Yanan, ninth with a 48.200, had some excellent tumbling on floor –— and she also did a split ring half! — but otherwise she was a little rough around the edges here, falling on both bars and beam.
As always, the Welsh were excellent on vault and floor, and they also had some really great work on beam, like Mia Evans with her layout series and switch leap to switch half to back handspring, and Jea Maracha with her triple flight series and both a front and side aerial. On bars, the routines were mostly pretty low-difficulty, but in a weak final, Maracha was able to snag the bronze with an 11.9.
Poppy Stickler got the vault and floor bronze (god I hope she does NCAA because this kid knows how to sell a routine), and Evans took the floor title, deservedly so with her excellent routine that is so beyond what a kid born in 2006 should be able to do in terms of looking absolutely brilliant. Her tumbling’s good — she opens with a 1.5 through to 2.5, and also has a double pike and front layout full — but the routine is so much more than tumbling. Every movement she makes means something and has a purpose, including the dance elements. The way she actually dances into her Memmel turn is art, and her leaps also fit in well with her choreography (plus, they’re oversplit like crazy). Obsessed. I didn’t think things could get much better than Maisie Methuen and Latalia Bevan, but these kids are well on their way to matching their greatness.
The Hungarians were solid enough here to edge out England for the bronze, even with top junior Hanna Szujo looking a little off on bars and beam to finish just 12th with a 47.667 (aside from the layout fall on beam, the rest of her routine was good, and her floor was so precise and clean). Nikolett Szilagyi, 14th with a 47.433, had one of the top beam routines of the meet, showing a triple flight series, front aerial to split jump, and side somi that were all super clean and so solid, so it was great to see her follow that performance with a hit finals performance, where she won bronze.
The English team was a mix of younger and/or B-team juniors, though we saw some really strong work from Teegan Milligan and Shanna-Kae Grant, especially. Both struggled, with Milligan crashing her double tuck on floor and Grant struggling throughout her bars set, but there were lots of great moments from both, like Milligan’s stuck Yurchenko layout in the all-around competition (she came back to win silver on vault in event finals) and Grant’s super confident beam and floor.
Poland had some incredibly bright moments, especially from 14-year-old Dagmara Pyzio, who was fifth all-around with a 49.366 and made three of the four finals, really strong for a Polish junior. She knocked out a great flight series, side aerial, side somi, front aerial, L turn, and tucked 1.5 dismount on beam, her floor opened with a great tucked full-in, and she had a piked Jaeger and strong double tuck on bars.
I was also impressed with a solid level from the whole team on bars, where Isabel Sikon — who trains at Love Gymnastics in San Antonio — had a set with lots of great moments, while Kaja Skalska showed off a beautiful Ray release! Totally unexpected.
The Czech team was kind of hit-or-miss, but pretty much everyone put up great work on floor, and 2006-born Lucie Marikova finished tenth all-around mostly thanks to her excellent beam set, which featured a triple flight series, switch leap to split jump to Korbut, and a solid double full dismount. Her floor is also absolutely delightful…nothing incredibly difficult yet, but she opened with a beautiful stuck double tuck and has a great spritely balletic piece that works so well for her, and her split ring leap is divine. I’m excited to see her break into international junior competition next year after there’s been such a drought since the 2001/2002-born kids came into the senior ranks.
Romania sent a few wee ones, the best of whom was Shakira (yas!) Cantaragiu in 24th with a 45.867. There honestly isn’t much to say about most of them, as it wasn’t the “Romanian juniors to watch” team here at this meet, but rather a group of younger girls who don’t have a ton of difficulty in their routines, though there were little sparks of talent in all, especially on floor, and we stan depth so I’m glad the kids who aren’t yet on the A team are still getting valuable assignments that could help them in the long run.
As for the rest, pretty much every country had some notable moments. South Africa’s Garcelle Napier busted out an arabian double front on floor, while teammate Phiwe Nhleko surprised (like, crazy surprised!) to win the bars silver (she also had a ton of power on vault and is definitely one to watch). Israel had some falls on beam, but overall I was super impressed with the difficulty and quality of many of their skills, and they also counted lots of great routines on bars.
And then Namibia; it was honestly awesome to see them send a team to an event like this. Hannah de Goede had the lowest all-around score in the competition with a 29.967 (mostly thanks to bars, where she got a 1.667 due to the short exercise penalty on top of her already simple elements), but she was also one of the most memorable with some really precise movements in her routines, and she ended her floor exercise with Simone Biles’ ending choreography, which is an energy I support. [Results]
Do you want to watch this competition in its entirety? You can. It’s over seven hours long. Enjoy.
The full stream from the 2019 Olympic Hopes Cup in Liberec
Swiss Cup Juniors
Chiara Giubellini, a wee queen
This was a little meet held mostly for espoir competitors in conjunction with the Swiss Cup. We actually saw pretty amazing young teams from Romania and France here, both of which had several stars-to-be in attendance, and with these two taking the top spots on the podium, Germany was just a bit behind for bronze, while Switzerland ended up fourth.
Ana Maria Barbosu of Romania made her international debut here before going on to kill it at a few other junior meets throughout the month, but I think this is where she was at her best as a whole, and she ended up taking the all-around title in addition to finishing first on beam and floor as well as second on vault and bars. Finishing with a 52.900, most of her scores were in the 13s, with the exception of floor coming in just slightly behind at a 12.850, but I’m most excited about that 13.100 on bars…she’s not only clean there, but she’s been pretty consistent this season, which is exactly what Romania needs.
Her teammates, the much lauded Amalia Puflea and Sabrina Voinea, finished third and fourth with scores of 50.800 and 49.800, respectively. Puflea was strong on vault, beam, and floor, and she put up a passable bars routine, while Voinea competed a DTY well, but was quite a bit behind on her other events to finish off the podium with a sub-50.
France’s Kaylia Nemour was the silver all-around medalist with a 52.100, and she unsurprisingly (at least if you read the Massilia recap earlier!) posted the top score on bars with a 13.600 while also looking strong on beam for a 13.050. Behind her, Carla Cardoso was fifth with a 48.350, Cypriane Pilloy was eighth with a 47.700, and Maily Planckeel was 12th with a 46.900. Whereas Massilia had a mix between some strong juniors and some weaker juniors and espoirs, this meet was all about the wee ones, thus their scores coming in a bit lower than you may have expected.
Meolie Jauch and Paula Vega-Tarrago were Germany’s top competitors here, tying for tenth with scores of 47.300, while Lea Wartmann and Julia Dumrath were just behind them in 13th and 14th with scores of 46.750 and 46.500.
For Switzerland, Chiara Giubellini was a surprise standout, finishing sixth with a 47.950. It doesn’t seem like anything huge, but it’s actually on par with Switzerland’s B-team seniors right now, and that’s with much lower difficulty overall (though look out…she’s training an arabian on beam). Without very many top Swiss juniors coming up to the senior ranks and staying there long enough to do big things, she’s one we can put a bit of faith in over the next few years. [Results]
Brazilian Junior Championships
Julia Soares has been Brazil’s best up-and-comer for the past two years, winning pretty much every national junior all-around title available and even ending up on some mostly senior apparatus podiums alongside Flavia Saraiva and Jade Barbosa.
You may remember her from the beam final at junior world championships, where she was also the first reserve for the floor final, and she’s consistently been a standout at many smaller international events, winning the floor title at last year’s South American Junior Championships, and then defending it again this year, also winning bronze medals in the all-around and silver on beam.
At the separate national championships specific to juniors held in November, it was no surprise to see Soares at the top of the rankings yet again, thanks especially to her excellent work on beam and floor. In addition to taking the all-around gold, Soares also won gold on bars, beam, and floor, her sweep only cut short because she didn’t compete in the vault final. Anyway, she’s fantastic, and you should start obsessing now.
Julia Soares on floor at junior world championships
Behind Soares, Camila Almedia won the silver with a 50.700 and Luisa Gomes won the bronze with a 50.050, with Almeida also taking the vault title and silvers on bars, beam, and floor, while Gomes, who competed in the separate espoir division in apparatus finals, won gold on everything but beam, where she got a bronze (she’s typically excellent there but had a fall).
In the all-around division for just the 12-year-olds, Julia da Silva won gold with a 48.400, Josiany da Silva won silver with a 48.050 (and the beam gold with a combined total of 26.800 after a 13.500 in qualifications and a 13.300 in the final *eyes emoji*), and Andreza de Lima won bronze with a 47.750. [Results]
12-year-old Josiany da Silva earlier this year
This little meet in Greece had mostly little Greek gymnasts competing (naturally), but the Romanians also brought a large team, and it was a super successful meet for Maria Ceplinschi, as she won gold with a 50.450, posting the highest score on every event but vault, with beam her top score at a 13.200.
Her teammate Luiza Popa placed second with a 48.400, getting the high score on vault with a 13.400, while Italy’s Carolina Quintavalle won the bronze with a 46.150. I was also impressed with Paraskevi Gini of Greece, who was fifth with a 44.900, but she was second on vault (13.000) and beam (12.650) and third on floor (12.000), with her all-around score just reflecting what a rough time she had on bars.
In the division for gymnasts born in 2006, the busy Ana Maria Barbosu of Romania won with a 51.700, posting the high score on every event but bars, where she had a fall. Mercedes Moore of England won silver with a 47.900, posting the high score of 11.850 on bars, and Annabel Shaw of England won bronze with a 46.600.
There were also competitions for girls born in 2007 and 2008, with Romania’s Amalia Puflea and Sabrina Voinea taking the gold and silver, respectively, while their teammate Ioana Danciu won bronze (I’d say Romania is pretty excited for 2023), and in the 2008 group, Matilde Ferrari of Italy won gold, while Greek gymnasts Fotini Liapi and Nikoletta Kariori won silver and bronze. [Results]
Sabrina Voinea on bars…love her fight at the beginning
The U.S. gymnasts from Airborne (Kaliya Lincoln, Rafaela O’Neill, Tyler Turner, and Nola Matthews)
Mostly gymnasts from France and its neighbors attend this meet, but Canadian clubs also send a million kids, and sometimes, you see some U.S. kids appear as well, with Airborne sending seven elites and potential elites to the competition this year.
France’s Maily Planckeel won the all-around title with a 50.633 after a pretty excellent day, and she was followed by teammate Sophie Barbelet with a 50.300 for silver, while Airborne’s Kaliya Lincoln — who was 25th at the U.S. Classic this summer, coming up less than a tenth shy of making nationals both there and at the American Classic — won the bronze with a 50.267, missing bars here but getting a 14.133 for her FTY which is kind of fantastic?
Here’s Maily Planckeel’s full all-around performance.
Lincoln also won vault and floor, while her teammate Nola Matthews — fifth all-around here, and 21st all-around at U.S. nationals this summer — won bars, while France’s Cypriane Pilloy won beam.
The espoir title went to 11-year-old Victoriane Charron of Canada, who competed here with her gym (Gym Richelieu, where the Woo sisters train) and who I gushed over last year when she showed off this excellent floor routine at this meet when she was just ten. Going from 17th last year to the title this year is huge for the 2008-born, who still has four more years at the espoir and junior levels #Victoriane2024. She also won silver on bars and the bronze medals on beam and floor here.
Coline Descoubes and Léa Morissaint, both of France, won the silver and bronze medals here, while Rafaela O’Neill of Airborne — the 2019 U.S. Hopes champion in the 12-13 age division — won the vault and floor titles (she was seventh all-around thanks to rough bars and beam sets), Anaëlle Charpillet of France won bars, and Rio Gawne-Cain of Dynamo in England won beam. [Results]
Article by Lauren Hopkins