Noémie Louon, Nina Derwael, and Margaux Daveloose
Two-time world bars champion Nina Derwael returned to competition today for the first time since 2019, getting the all-around win at an internal selection test meet in Belgium that included eight other hopefuls for the Olympic team.
The federation didn’t release results from the test competition – which was the fourth such meet following three selection meets in 2020 – but they confirmed Derwael topped the all-around rankings after debuting a Yurchenko 1½ on vault. This is Derwael’s first time competing a vault rated higher than a Yurchenko full, and it looked pretty great, getting only slightly soft in the hips and knees, but she was nice and upright on the landing and got a ton of distance, taking just a small step forward. She’s been training the 1½ for some time, and her full has always been big and clean, so I’ve been excitedly anticipating the upgrade, and it did not disappoint.
We also got a glimpse of Derwael’s Chow half on bars, but overall the federation’s Instagram only showed single-skill clips from a handful of routines, so unfortunately that was it. She said she’s happy with the progress she’s made since worlds and with the routines she showed today, and she seems to be in a pretty good place going into this year’s European Championships and Olympic Games.
In second place was Noémie Louon, a first-year senior in 2020 who is excellent on bars and beam and also stunning on floor, and 2019 worlds team member Margaux Daveloose, who also stands out on these three events, was third.
We got to see Louon’s clean blind full and blind change to piked Jaeger on bars, and then a side aerial and switch leap to split leap on beam, with exquisite extension on all three skills. She said she was “happy with her performance” but knows there’s still room for improvement. From Daveloose, meanwhile, we saw a solid Maloney to bail to toe shoot on bars, a switch leap to switch half on beam, and then a turn combination on floor, all of which looked lovely.
Axelle Klinckaert, who left the elite sports training center and boarding school in Ghent late last year to begin training at Topturnen Zuid in the Netherlands, was fourth here. We got to see a side somi on beam and a piked full-in on floor from her. She’s been training a full-twisting double layout on floor, and while the piked version looked a little short today, I’m hoping we can see her at full strength here, because it’s this event – coupled with a solid vault and a consistent beam set – that will send her to Tokyo this summer.
Another one of my favorites for making the Olympic team is Fien Enghels, known for her excellent and difficult sets on bars and beam. She showed a Maloney to Pak to Chow on bars today, which looked fabulous, and then a double wolf turn on beam and a double pike on floor. This event doesn’t usually score well for her, and neither does vault, so she’s not typically going to be one of the country’s top all-arounders if everyone is competing, but she’s capable of some of the top scores in the country on her two best events, so I consider her a big contender for the team.
Rounding out the all-around competition were first-year seniors Jutta Verkest in sixth, Kéziah Langendock in seventh, and Charlotte Beydts in eighth, while Julie Vandamme, who competed at the European Youth Olympic Festival as a junior in 2017, was ninth.
A handful of additional gymnasts who are also considered Olympic hopefuls missed this meet, including three-time world championships team member Maellyse Brassart, who upgraded to a Yurchenko double last year and whose consistency over the years has made her a top contender for Tokyo. Also missing were 2019 Euros floor finalist Jade Vansteenkiste, 2019 Junior World Championships team member Lisa Vaelen, and first-year senior Margaux Dandois.
In addition to Tokyo, the gymnasts are working towards European Championships in April and then the Flanders International Team Challenge at the end of June, where the selection committee will make the final decision about the team going to Tokyo.
Article by Lauren Hopkins