Welcome back to the 2021 Olympians series, with today’s feature highlighting Martina Dominici, the 18-year-old who has the potential to be one of Argentina’s best gymnasts in history.
Like many kids who have a future in gymnastics, Martina was a bundle of energy who took every opportunity she could find to hang by her arms. No one in her family had done gymnastics, but her grandmother thought it could be a good idea for six-year-old Martina, so she took her to try it out at the Circulo Gimnastico Norte club in 2008, and she’s been there ever since, with coach Agustina Mignone still by her side to this day.
By age 11, after also trying swimming and tennis, Martina knew gymnastics was the sport for her, and she realized she wanted to pursue it seriously. She entered the elite program around that time, and quickly rose through the national youth rankings before officially graduating to the junior level in 2016.
Martina stood out the second she made her junior international debut at 14, when she finished fifth all-around at the Pan American Championships in 2016, one of the first large-scale meets held following that year’s Olympic Games. With a 51.100 in the all-around, she was just about a point away from reaching the all-around podium, and she made three apparatus finals, winning the bronze on vault and silver on floor.
She quickly skyrocketed as one of the top juniors to watch over the next year, winning four medals at the South American Junior Championships that fall – including bronze in the all-around and on bars, as well as the silver medals on vault and floor – and then winning the silver medal on vault in a mixed junior and senior field at Gymnix in 2017, where she placed 12th all-around.
2017 was truly a breakout year for Martina. She won the junior all-around, vault, and beam titles at nationals in Argentina, with an all-around score of 51.517 that would’ve also put her at the top of the senior rankings. She then snagged five individual medals at the South American Junior Championships, including bronze in the all-around, silvers on vault, beam, and floor, and the gold on bars.
Martina on bars at the South American Junior Championships
Martina then completed her year – and her junior career – with the all-around title at the Top Gym Tournament in Belgium, following in the footsteps of gymnastics greats like Shawn Johnson, Jordyn Weiber, Larisa Iordache, and Angelina Melnikova, in addition to becoming the first South American gymnast to reach the podium at this event. She also competed in three events in the apparatus final, winning a second gold on bars in addition to the silver on vault and the bronze on floor. Not a bad way to finish your junior career!
But Martina’s senior debut at Gymnix in 2018 was a nerve-wracking one. She put her hands down on her Yurchenko double in the first rotation, fell on a release on bars, wobbled through beam, and then sat her arabian double front on floor, ending up 28th all-around with just a 48.951.
She was clearly upset, but fought through the disappointment, and was able to come back and win the silver on vault behind Shallon Olsen, hitting a beautiful Yurchenko double and an equally excellent tsuk layout full, and it seemed like that one bad day in the all-around competition was enough to get the new-senior nerves out of her system.
Returning at the Pacific Rim Championships about a month later, Martina hit all four events to finish third in the all-around and second in the bars and beam finals, ahead of several top U.S. gymnasts, like Grace McCallum on bars and both McCallum and Jordan Chiles on beam. Unfortunately, she wasn’t eligible to win any medals here – Argentina isn’t actually a Pacific Rim country and only sent gymnasts to compete as guests for the experience – but the rankings spoke for themselves. Martina was going to be a big deal.
In the lead-up to her world championships debut, Martina won the all-around title with a 53.100 at the South American Games, a huge deal for the sports-obsessed Argentinians, especially as she upset the Brazilian Olympians Flavia Saraiva and Jade Barbosa. Martina went from an unknown 16-year-old to becoming famous in her country, with her name and image splashed all over the news and on social media, and the attention only grew as she also won the silver medal with her team, as well as the bronze medals on all four events in the apparatus finals.
Martina with her teammates and her historic six medals at the South American Games
But the sudden fame didn’t affect Martina at all. Becoming a South American Games star was pretty cool, but she had bigger goals to reach, so she went right back into the gym and continued training.
Martina performed well at Pan American Championships in September, finishing 11th all-around, and then a month later, she ended up finishing 36th in the all-around at worlds in Doha, hitting all four events and coming within a few tenths of earning an all-around reserve spot, a huge deal for a first-year senior from a small program.
The big goal for Martina in 2019 was obviously qualifying to the Olympic Games. She got off to a bit of a slow spot, finishing fourth to just miss out on the podium at South American Championships behind two of her teammates after having a rough performance on bars and beam to earn just a 49.964, though she did get the gold on vault.
A month later, she came back with a pretty excellent Pan American Games against some of the top competitors in the world, including Ellie Black of Canada, Flavia Saraiva of Brazil, and a team of U.S. gymnasts that featured several world medalists, including the 2017 world champion Morgan Hurd. With the massive depth here, Martina didn’t end up medaling, but her finishes were nonetheless incredibly impressive, including fifth place in the all-around and on bars, as well as sixth place on vault and floor, and she became a huge favorite both among the fans and the reporters covering the Games.
Martina on floor at the Pan American Games
Martina competed bars and beam at nationals later that summer, winning the titles on both, and then spent the next month training for worlds, arguably the most important competition of her career. Competing in the tenth subdivision, Martina started out with a clean bars routine, with an especially strong Tkachev to Pak and a high, stuck double tuck to earn a 13.300. She fought through a few small wobbles on beam, but hit a clean flight series and nailed the double pike dismount for a 12.366. On floor, she bounced out of her tucked full-in, but came back with a strong arabian double front, a stuck double tuck, and a clean double pike for a 12.566. And on vault, she brought back her Yurchenko double, which had been hit or miss in her senior career, with an excellent landing to end her day with a 14.200.
While many individual Olympic hopefuls had to agonizingly sit and wait to see if they had done enough to qualify for the Games, Martina’s score of 52.432 was pretty much a guarantee. In the end, she finished 31st in the all-around, becoming the third reserve for the all-around final, and she was seventh in line among the individuals who would qualify to the Olympic Games, out of a total of 31 qualifiers.
Martina didn’t get a chance to compete in 2020 before the world shut down due to the coronavirus, but she often shared videos on Instagram of her home training, and two weeks ago, the government cleared her, along with many other Argentinian athletes who qualified for the Tokyo Games, to officially resume training again.
In Tokyo, Martina wants to do her best and enjoy the experience, but she’s also working really hard to make the all-around final, which would be her ultimate dream. As it’s something she’s been inching closer and closer to with each performance at worlds, I have no doubt that she can make it happen.
Article by Lauren Hopkins