The Elite Season Begins This Weekend


Shinnosuke Oka

These breaks between elite seasons feel shorter every year, but we’re back on beginning tomorrow with the RD761 International Team Cup, a junior men’s competition held in Katy, Texas that brings together some of the best programs in the world to contest team, all-around, and apparatus medals.

The annual competition is held in honor of Ricky Deci, a U.S. junior national team member who tragically passed away from a cardiac arrhythmia while training on the pommel horse at the national team training center in 2001, when he was just 13.

Last year, a Japanese team led by Youth Olympic Games standout Takero Kitazono won gold, with Kitazono also capturing four individual gold medals in the all-around and on pommels, rings, and p-bars. His teammate Ryosuke Doi, who went on to win the silver medal at the inaugural junior world championships later that year, won the floor and high bar medals, while top U.S. competitor Colt Walker – the 2019 junior national champion – took the vault gold with two difficult and well-executed attempts.

The Japanese and U.S. teams will again be the ones to watch this year, with other competing countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, and Poland. In addition to the international cup, the meet will also include a session for J.O. gymnasts of various levels and ages.

Junior world all-around champion Shinnosuke Oka will lead the Japanese team in Texas, which also includes Azusa Emata, Kazuma Kotoge, Kanta Tazumi, and Motomu Yoshida. Asher Hong, the all-around bronze medalist in the junior 15-16 field at last year’s national championships, will lead the U.S. team alongside Isaiah Drake, Ian Lasic-Ellis, and Khoi Young, all of whom were also standouts in last summer’s 15-16 division.

For Australia, we’ll see Benjamin Foster, Sandy Hardiman, Nicholas Matthews, and Joshua Walker, while the Brazilian team includes Yuri Guimarães, Diogo Paes, Gustavo Pereira, and João Lucas Vieira, and France is sending Tom Aghina, Tom Minn, Arthur Nogier, and Leo Saladino (I haven’t seen roster information for Canada or Poland). The U.S. will also have a second (and super young!) team at this event that includes Jaden Bottarini, Alex Duebler, Danila Leykin, and Kai Uemura, all of whom are 2006- and 2007-born gymnasts who competed levels 8 and 9 last season, though they won’t be eligible for individual medals here.

I haven’t seen any streaming information, but you’ll be able to follow live scores here. The international all-around and team competition will be held on Friday, January 17, at 5:30 pm local time, with individual event finals held the following day, also at 5:30 pm.

After this weekend, things will start picking up in rapid pace on the 2020 calendar, with the continuation of the men’s Top 12 series in France and the first U.S. elite qualifier held next weekend, and then the WOGA Classic, Reykjavik International Games, and the first of Italy’s four Serie A meets this season taking place the following week.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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