Welcome back to Junior Introductions! Today, we want you to meet Maisa Kuusikko, a 15-year-old from Finland who is super talented and doesn’t have a single weak event.
Maisa made her elite-level debut with a splash when she won the bronze all-around medal in the junior competition at Finland’s national championships two weeks before her 13th birthday in 2018, and she’s been nonstop ever since. A year later, she became the Finnish national champion in the all-around and on beam and floor, and earlier this month, she swept the competition at her country’s Euros trial meet with an all-around score of 51.000.
Her first international competition came as a result of her national success in 2018, participating as a member of Finland’s junior Nordic Championships team in the summer of 2018, where she helped the squad to bronze and won an individual silver medal on bars. A year later, she returned to Nordics, where she dominated at just 13, winning silver in the all-around and on bars, in addition to snagging the golds on vault and beam, as well as leading the team to gold.
Maisa with all the medals at 2019 Nordics
Maisa also won a handful of medals at the Stella Zakharova Cup in Ukraine and then at the Voronin Cup in Russia in 2019, and that summer, she took part in the first-ever Junior World Championships, putting up Finland’s strongest all-around performance to finish 49th with a 48.165. She unfortunately fell on her 2½ on floor, but otherwise, it was a good competition for her, with especially strong finishes on vault, where she was 14th – just under three tenths away from making the final – and on bars, where she was 32nd out of 107 competitors.
Bars is where Maisa truly shines. Earlier this month, she was credited with a 5.7 D score, and her routine includes a shaposh to Tkachev to Pak, a toe full to Maloney, a van Leeuwen, and a double layout dismount. She has also competed a really cool series where she’d do a Maloney that she’d catch in regular grip but then hop to mixed grip and then swing out of it into a Yezhova (!!!), and she’s trained both a Bhardwaj and a double layout full-out, among (many) other skills. She’s the real deal on this apparatus, and with a bit of polish, I can see her doing big things as a senior.
On vault, Maisa has a Yurchenko 1½, which is kind of huge for Finland. And it’s pretty great! She could clean it up in the air on some attempts, but she has a decent amount of power, and considering most gymnasts in Finland’s junior program are doing basic handspring entries or Yurchenko layouts at the most, Maisa – who also has a solid FTY as backup and has trained a DTY – is way ahead of the game.
A bars queen at 2019 junior world championships
Maisa mounts with a back handspring on beam, dismounts with a 1½, and has a bhs + loso + loso acro series, which is generally quite well-done. Overall her skill level isn’t super high on this event, and she often struggles a bit with wobbles and some form deductions, so I’d like to see her make improvements here as she grows as a gymnast, but she still puts together some great work. On floor, we most recently saw her doing a tucked full-in, 1½ through to double full, front double full, and a double tuck, which is pretty above-average compared to many juniors around the world, and she’s also trained a double layout.
Though Finland isn’t likely to qualify a full team to any Olympic Games in the near future, Maisa can absolutely get there on her own, and should be one of the top individual gymnasts to watch going into Paris 2024 if she can keep rising at a steady pace. Actually, now that 2005-born gymnasts can go to Tokyo, it’s a shame she wasn’t age-eligible for Stuttgart last year, because with a hit day, she likely would’ve qualified, especially with current top senior Ada Hautala sitting out.
But it’s not all about the Olympics, and Maisa should have an incredible career as a small-program queen. I can see her being a major standout at the apparatus world cups especially, in addition to running the show at meets like the Nordic Championships and Northern European Championships, where Finland typically has a lot of success. I’m sure she’ll also get the opportunity to compete at Euros and world championships in the future, where she could have an outside shot at making the all-around or perhaps even the bars final someday.
What to Watch
You need to see Maisa’s bars. I’m going to show you her Voronin event finals routine, which wasn’t her cleanest or most difficult set, but rewarded with a 13.350, it’s her highest international score to date, she gets most of her connections here (minus the shaposh to Tkachev), and it includes the awesome Maloney to hop grip change to Ezhova. I love it so much.
Meet More Juniors!
Miss any of our previous editions of Junior Introductions? Go back and read our most recent profiles featuring Tatiana Levchuk (Belarus), Ruby Stacey (Great Britain), Maily Planckeel (France), Paula Vega Tarrago (Germany), Maria Ceplinschi (Romania), Lyu Junliang (China), Charlize Mörz (Austria), Jennifer Williams (Sweden), and Angela Andreoli (Italy).
Article by Lauren Hopkins