Frisco gymnast Skye Blakely, a member of the U.S. team for last year’s junior world championships, swept the junior competition at this weekend’s WOGA Classic, earning a massive all-around score of 57.150 at her home invitational to defeat all other juniors by over five points and even outscoring the seniors by a couple of points as well.
Blakely posted the top junior scores on all four events in addition to snagging the all-around win, and while yes, the scores here tend to be a bit wild, this doesn’t take away from the incredible day she had.
On vault, Blakely threw a huge Yurchenko double with a lunge back for a 14.450, and she followed that up with a 14.550 on uneven bars, looking clean on her toe half to piked Jaeger, Downie, Ricna to Pak, van Leeuwen, and stalder full to full-in dismount, coming up just a bit short on some handstands and looking a bit rushed at times, but overall she handled this very difficult routine with confidence and ease.
Beam was the weakest event for Blakely, getting a 13.650 after a big stumble on her leap series into the back tuck and being a bit slow with the connection from her front aerial to jump series, but her standing full was excellent and her front handspring to front tuck was flawless, and she also nailed the double tuck dismount, so this was a win for her.
Finishing the day on floor, Blakely opened with a big double layout before continuing with a strong full-in, front double full to front tuck, and double pike to finish, on top of some very ambitious leaps and a good overall performance. She had landing deductions on all four passes, so a 14.500 here was the most egregious among her scores in my opinion, but that aside she didn’t create much of a reason for complaint, and she seems to be well on her way for an excellent season.
The rest of the junior competition seems like it pales in comparison to Blakely, but actually pretty much everyone who competed had very strong moments, which was nice to see in a small field.
Mana Okamura of Japan won the silver medal with a 52.050, looking at her best on bars and beam, while Russia’s Anna Kalmykova, who is only 11 years old, won the bronze with a 51.300. Kalmykova had great work on floor, showed bars skills way advanced for her age (including a Weiler half to clear hip to stalder to toe shoot series and a toe-on to Tkachev), and had a ton of promise on beam in both her acro and dance (illusion turn alert!).
Also competing in the all-around were Ashlee Sullivan of WOGA, who finished fourth with a 51.150 and had lovely work on floor, and Diana Kustova of Russia, a 12-year-old who finished fifth with a 49.900 after a rough beam performance, but with a hit routine I think she would’ve finished second on the all-around podium because she was otherwise pretty stunning, especially on bars, where she finished second with a 14.1 with a routine that showed the makings of a future Russian queen.
Zoe Miller, a World Champions Centre gymnast who finished 14th at nationals last summer, competed very well on bars and beam here, while Katelyn Rosen of Mavericks competed on beam and floor, putting up a 14.100 on the latter, a bit too high just as Blakely’s was, though it was an excellent performance and much-improved from last year, with a solid double layout, arabian double front, super clean double tuck, and 2½ to finish.
The senior competition saw WCC gymnasts Amari Drayton and Karis German at the top of the podium, with Drayton taking the title with a 54.700 while Drayton won the silver with a 53.550. In third with the bronze medal was Japan’s Koyuna Sakakibara with a 52.650, just edging out her teammate Soyoka Hanawa, in fourth with a 52.400, while also winning the bars title with a 14.100.
Drayton was explosive in her power on vault and floor, though a little bit of a lack of control on the latter kept her from having one of the top floor scores. German, a dark horse first-year senior this year, had a few form issues on bars (where she also put her hands down on the full-twisting double layout dismount) and beam to hold her back overall, but she did the full-in dismount off of beam, and she went for a stalder layout Tkachev on bars, which is incredibly ballsy.
Her floor was a highlight of the competition, getting a 14.100 with huge tumbling, including a full-twisting double layout to open, followed by a double double, front layout full through to double tuck, and a full-in to finish (#SimoneStyle!). She’s a bit of a diamond in the rough in that she does need work in some of her technique and in controlling her landings, so while I don’t really consider her a hopeful for Tokyo at this stage, I do think she’s someone who could be one of the great late-bloomers and really end up contributing big things to the U.S. program in the future.
Rounding out the top eight were Olivia Hollingsworth of WCC and Akari Matsumura of Japan tied in fifth with a 52.350 (Hollingsworth’s vault and floor were particularly impressive, while Matsumura had a pretty solid day overall), first-year U.S. senior Sophia Butler of Discover in seventh with a 51.850 (she tied for gold on floor and bronze on bars, but a weak beam held her back from reaching the podium), and Azuki Kokufugata of Japan in eighth with a 51.450 (she also won the gold on beam).
Also of note was Dorien Motten of Belgium, who won the vault title with the top average for those competing two vaults in the competition, while Natsumi Hanashima, one of Japan’s top new seniors a few years back, looked excellent on the three events she competed, winning the silver on beam and the bronze on floor.
The Liukin Invitational was held in conjunction with the WOGA Classic, which the Japanese guys dominated by taking the top four spots in the all-around competition, led by Taichi Adachi in first with an 85.950, Jumpei Oka in second with an 84.800, Kazuyuki Takeda in third with an 83.950, and Seiya Taura in fourth with an 83.700, while two different Japanese teams held the top two spots on the podium.
The Japanese guys also took all of the apparatus titles, with seventh-place all-arounder Koga Hiramatsu winning floor with a massive 15.150 (he also got a 15 on vault!), Adachi winning pommels with a 14.650 and parallel bars with a 14.700, Oka winning vault with a 15.250 and high bar with a 15.150, and Takeda winning rings with a 15.000. Just Japan things.
For the U.S., junior Asher Hong was the top competitor, finishing fifth all-around with an 81.600, and also notable here for the U.S. was University of Illinois gymnast Alex Diab competing four events very well, winning silver on rings with a 14.750 while also posting a 14.800 on vault and a 14.150 on high bar.
Other international standouts included Yevgen Yudenkov of Ukraine, who finished 17th all-around but posted a 14.050 on pommels, Michael Reid of Jamaica who won the silver on pommels with a 14.600, and first-year senior Felix Dolci of Canada, who competed every event but vault and floor, with a pair of 14.050s on rings and high bar his top marks.
Article by Lauren Hopkins