Maria Ceplinschi, left, with Ana Maria Barbosu at Top Gym
Welcome back to Junior Introductions! This week, we’d like you to meet Maria Ceplinschi, a 14-year-old who is getting ready to step up as one of the top Romanian juniors now that last year’s super talented class has graduated to the senior level.
Maria became a member of Deva’s junior national team in 2018 after a successful youth career, including multiple top-five all-around finishes at national meets with her biggest result coming in the Junior II level at nationals in 2017, where she finished fifth all-around in addition to taking silver on floor and bronze on vault.
After taking off the 2018 season due to injury, Maria made her international debut at the Gym Festival Trnava in 2019, where she finished fourth all-around and medaled on every event but bars, and she got another fourth-place finish at Romanian Junior Championships a couple of weeks later, where she was the second-best on both vault and floor.
At Romanian nationals last fall, Maria finished 12th all-around in a largely senior field, and she also made both the vault and floor finals, and then she nearly swept the junior division at the Romanian Individual Championships in October, with golds in the all-around and on every event but vault.
In November of last year, Maria had the opportunity to get some additional international experience, traveling to Greece for the Horizon Cup, where she again nearly swept the competition, winning the junior all-around title as well as titles on every event but vault, and then she and teammate Ana Maria Barbosu were standouts at the Top Gym Tournament a few weeks later, where Maria finished eighth all-around and second on vault.
I’d consider Maria’s skill level above average for her age on vault and floor, both in Romania and internationally.
On vault, Maria upgraded to a Yurchenko double this year, and though she sometimes goes back and forth between that and the full, I think the double has been improving enough so that it will become her mainstay for her final junior season.
She also added a big upgrade on floor at the end of last year, bringing a double layout to replace her piked full-in, and though it’s not quite there in terms of form, it has potential, as does the rest of her tumbling. She’s also doing a tucked full-in, front tuck through to double tuck, and double pike, with all of her tuck and pike positions pretty open, and her leap positions are mostly strong and clean.
Maria’s potential on beam is also up there, and she’s actually pretty consistent on this event as well. She has a two-foot layout series now, as well as a switch leap to switch half, two standing acro skills (a layout stepout and a back tuck), and a double full dismount. Her leap form is generally quite good here, and she’s a good fighter when she runs into trouble, though some of her body shapes on her acro skills could use some more attention to detail.
While bars is Maria’s weakest event, I actually see the promise of nice lines under what is essentially just a technical mess at times. She tends to rush her skills a bit, so when she hits a perfect vertical on a handstand, it doesn’t last long enough at all. Instead of holding it to make sure she gets an A+ from the judges, she’ll instantly pike down out of it and begin transitioning into her swing into the next element. The skill will be correct, but without holding it long enough, it’s going to get docked regardless. (That said, when she does hold a skill or handstand correctly, she has nice hyperextension and toe point…it’s just a matter of getting her to focus on that a little more clearly.)
Maria doesn’t build difficulty on bars through connections, so her overall difficulty is pretty low, but she does have a few higher-level individual skills, including a Ricna, Pak, and double layout dismount.
With last year’s top juniors Ioana Stanciulescu, Silvia Sfiringu, Antonia Duta, and Daniela Trica all moving up to the senior level this year, Maria has gone from a top-five kid to one of the best juniors in the country, which is a pretty big deal for her, and why both she and Barbosu got some extra attention with multiple international assignments last fall.
Maria’s biggest goal this season will be leading the junior team at European Championships, and I anticipate she’ll have a few more assignments in the lead-up to that competition. While that’s the big deal meet for her this year, I’m glad she’ll be reaching the senior level in a post-Olympic year instead of at 16 or 17. She’s not someone I think will be super ready for senior-level competition at 16, but I do think she has so much potential, and with a couple of years at the senior level before the next round of Olympic qualifications begin, she could be in a great position to be a big help to the team once she’s 18 or 19.
Why We Love Her
I feel like every time I see Maria, she’s either added an upgrade or fixed a previously bothersome skill. She seems like a super hard worker with the goal of constantly improving, and she’s so great at fighting when something goes wrong, which I absolutely love seeing in a gymnast.
She’s also the underdog of the Romanian junior program who has basically lived in the shadows, first with the 2004-born gymnasts getting all of the big assignments last year, and now with the 2006- and 2007-born girls like Barbosu, Amalia Puflea, and Sabrina Voinea all coming in with huge difficulty or higher-quality skills. She hasn’t been one of the “names” of the junior program, but I think she’s going to prove exactly how valuable is with what she does this year.
Maria is coming into this season under a lot of pressure as a “veteran junior” expected to lead the younger 2006-born kids despite not getting that top veteran experience at the bigger junior meets last year. Given her work ethic and potential, I think she’s going to take that pressure and really build herself up into a top contender for her country. She won’t be a major international medal threat, but still, keep an eye on her.
What to Watch
This is Maria’s floor routine from Top Gym last year (hers is the first of the two routines in the video, performed to Ragan Smith’s Addams Family music). As her most recent routine, I think it’s a great representation of who she is as a competitor right now, which will become more clear to you if you were to go back and watch routines of hers from earlier last year.