Over the last month, there have been tons of national meets around the world as gymnastics programs have been making decisions for the upcoming world championships. If you haven’t been following everything in-depth, it’s probably pretty overwhelming, so I’m going through all of the different competitions to chat about what we’ve seen and what it means going into Kitakyushu.
Shortly before nationals began in Brazil, the federation said they’d only be sending Rebeca Andrade to worlds this year, and nationals results confirmed this decision, as Andrade – who became the first Brazilian Olympic medalist and champion in August – absolutely dominated in the all-around competition with a 57.950 total, winning by nearly six points and proving herself as the top all-around contender (as well as a top contender for several event medals) at worlds.
Her Rio 2016 teammate Lorrane Oliveira finished second with a 52.350, while 17-year-old Christal Bezerra, who won the silver medals on bars and floor at Pan Ams, was third with a 51.700. Though Oliveira looked strong on bars, hitting above a 14.1 in both sets and winning the title in apparatus finals (which Andrade skipped), and while there are several strong floor workers outside of Andrade (including joint floor champions Bezerra and first-year senior Julia Soares, as well as Pan Ams floor champ Ana Luiza Lima), it seems none are up to major international standards, and no one was selected to travel to compete alongside Andrade later this month.
In addition to the all-around, bars, and floor titles, Bezerra won vault with a 13.2 average, while 14-year-old Josiany da Silva won beam with a 13.4. The competition also saw several veteran comebacks, including Jade Barbosa winning silver on bars and beam in her first meet back since she was injured at worlds in 2019, and 37-year-old five-time Olympian Daniele Hypolito, who competed three events in her first meet in more than three years.
While some juniors competed at this meet, a separate junior national championships was held in August, where Andreza Lima won the title with a 50.633, just ahead of Gabriela Rodrigues Barbosa (50.400), Luisa Maia (50.201), and Gabriela Reis (50.167), while Maria Heloisa Moreno won the espoir title with a 48.233, beating out Hellen Carvalho (47.901), Larissa Oliveira (47.866), and Gabriela Vieira (47.633). Several from these groups competed at last week’s meet, with Rodrigues Barbosa getting closest to the seniors in the all-around with a 48.200 to finish seventh, while Moreno finished third on the beam podium.
2020 Olympians Caio Souza and Arthur Mariano were the clear top athletes on the men’s side, with Souza winning the all-around (83.700), floor (14.15), rings (14.85), vault (14.175 average), and parallel bars (14.45) titles, while Mariano was third on floor (13.5) and won high bar (14.5). These two in addition to Luis Porto were expected to compete at worlds, but with Porto way underperforming here, placing only 11th with a 71.850 to make no finals, he was removed from the team.
BRITISH MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS + WOMEN’S TRIALS
Nationals were held for the British men in early September, where Joshua Nathan put up a rock-solid performance to win the senior title with an 83.899, beating out Joe Cemlyn-Jones in second with an 81.697, and Dominick Cunningham, who was third with an 81.532. Scotland’s Frank Baines, a three-time Commonwealth Games medalist who retired in 2019, returned here and put up an 80.932 total to finish fourth.
Nathan (who won the pommel horse title with a 14.4), Cemlyn-Jones, and Cunningham (the vault champion with a 14.483 average) were all named to the worlds team alongside rings champion Courtney Tulloch, parallel bars champion Brinn Bevan (who made his return to competition here after two years away), and Hayden Skinner, a talented floor worker who had a miss here, but is capable of scores in the mid-14s.
Several young gymnasts missed out on the team, including floor champion Sam Mostowfi, but showed tons of potential for the future, with the British men’s program looking to be in good health even without any of its Olympians in the mix here.
Also notable was 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Sam Oldham back in competition for the final meet of his career. Oldham competed on pommel horse and high bar, winning gold on the latter with a 13.9.
The women won’t have nationals until late November, so instead, they had a weekend of trial meets, with four gymnasts in attendance. Three of the four were named to the worlds team, including Georgia-Mae Fenton, who put up a strong all-around performance and had the top bars scores on both days of competition, 2019 world bars medalist Becky Downie, who struggled with her routines here but showed promising difficulty, and first-year senior Ruby Stacey, who did her best work on bars.
Claudia Fragapane competed at the Koper Challenge Cup over the same weekend, where she won the gold on floor, and was also named to the team, but she was later forced to withdraw due to injury. So far, Taeja James – the fourth of those who competed over the trials weekend – has not been named as a replacement.
Though it was two-time Olympian Dorina Böczögö, 29, who won the all-around and floor titles at nationals in Hungary, the veteran will not go to worlds, with the federation instead selecting a mix of young up-and-comers as well as those who have the potential to make event finals, or potentially even medal.
First-year senior Nikolett Szilagyi won the silver just a half a tenth behind Böczögö with a 49.450, while Csenge Bacskay, who made the vault final at Euros in both 2020 and 2021 and has since won four international vault titles, was third with a 49.300.
Bacskay also easily won the vault title here, while Szilagyi won on beam, and the bars title went to Zoja Szekely, who was fourth all-around (48.300). Szekely had a strong routine in finals, getting the gold ahead of the favorite, two-time Olympian Zsofia Kovacs, who struggled in both prelims and finals here. Kovacs, who is dealing with a leg injury, competed only bars, and is expected to do the same at worlds.
Szilagyi, Bacskay, and Szekely will join Kovacs in Japan, with the latter two both planning on competing all four events, while Szilagyi will go up on beam and floor. Kovacs is hoping to not only make the bars final, but to also medal, while Bacskay should be a vault finals contender, and Szekely would be an outside shot for the bars final. I don’t think Szilagyi will make either of the finals she’s going for, but am glad they’re choosing to give her some major international experience, especially after she missed her entire final year as a junior due to COVID.
The men’s title went to Krisztofer Meszaros by a massive margin, as he took the gold with an 83.050 ahead of Benedek Tomcsanyi with a 77.250, while Szabolcs Batori won the bronze with a 76.100. All three will go to worlds, along with high bar specialist David Vecsernyes and floor and vault specialist Adam Dobrovitz, though the federation is sorely missing young standout Krisztian Balazs, who would have been the sixth member of this team, but he recently injured his knee and is undergoing surgery.
Finland named its worlds team following a series of trial meets that culminated with nationals held near the end of September. To go to Japan, the women needed to average a 48 all-around score across two of this year’s competitions, which three athletes ultimately achieved, including national all-around champion Maisa Kuusikko, a first-year senior who also won bars and beam gold.
Rosanna Ojala, who finished second at nationals with a 49.033 and won floor, also made the team, as did Ada Hautala, who had some falls at that meet but had previously done well at one of the trials and who also made the all-around final at Euros this year.
Though Sani Mäkelä had a really impressive comeback at the first worlds trial, getting one of her personal best all-around scores despite not having competed since 2019 due to injury, she wasn’t quite as strong enough at either the second trial or at nationals to factor into the worlds decision. She’s a bit downgraded right now, and was at her minimum difficulty in her first trial back, but it looks promising that she’ll be an integral part of the team again going into the coming Olympic cycle.
Kaia Tanskanen was the senior all-around bronze medalist, and also won vault. In the junior competition, Kiira Jokinen won the title with a 46.200, ahead of favorite Olivia Vättö, who had a miss on bars and finished second with a 46.150, while Sofia Kivekäs was third with a 46.050. Vättö won the vault and floor titles, while Anni Vuorkoski won bars and Sara Laiho won beam.
In the men’s competition, Elias Koski won the all-around with an 80.900 after dominating most of the trials, including nearly sweeping the second one. Robert Kirmes was second at nationals with a 79.350 while his brother Oskar, who won the third trial with an 81.532, was third with a 76.900. The pair will join Koski in Japan alongside Emil Soravuo, who won floor at one of the trials and then again at nationals with a 14.533, and who will go into this world championships as someone with big potential for the floor final.
A few others looked strong on and off, like Patrick Palmroth, Tarmo Kanerva, and Akseli Karsikas, but none of these were as consistent as Koski and the Kirmes brothers, nor did they have apparatus final potential like Soravuo.
The majority of top competitors at Romania’s national championships in September were actually juniors, where 14-year-old Amalia Puflea took the title with a 55.450 ahead of 15-year-old Ana Maria Barbosu, who swept junior Euros in 2020, in second with a 54.900. Puflea also won vault and floor while Barbosu won bars with a 14.0.
Maria Ceplinschi, who just turned 16, was one of only two seniors to medal here, winning bronze in the all-around with a 51.950, as well as taking the title on beam with a 13.433 and snagging another bronze on vault, where she averaged a 13.3. Consequently, she’s the only one who will head to Kitakyushu this month, as none of the other seniors seem to be healthy or prepared enough to compete.
The men’s program is also sending only one gymnast, with 40-year-old national vault champion Marian Dragulescu expected to compete this event for the final time before retiring. Hilariously, Romania’s MAG national champion was the German Olympian Andreas Toba, whose father competed for Romania prior to moving. Toba had an 81.200 to take gold ahead of Vlad Cotuna (79.000) and Gabriel Burtanete (78.450), and he also won the pommel horse and parallel bars titles.
The top Swedish women competed as guests at Romanian Championships a couple of weeks prior to their own national meet. In Bucharest, Tonya Paulsson had the top score with a 52.850, ahead of Nathalie Westlund (51.400), her twin sister Emelie (51.100), Jennifer Williams (50.400), and Alva Eriksson (50.250). Based on this meet and other factors, Paulsson, Williams, and Nathalie Westlund were selected for worlds, with Eriksson and Emelie Westlund named as alternates.
This all-around order was rearranged a bit at nationals, where Natalie Westlund took the title with a 50.000 ahead of Williams with a 49.900 for the silver medal and Eriksson with a 48.450 for the bronze. Paulsson shockingly missed the podium, finishing fourth with a 48.200, after taking a hard fall on her piked Jaeger on bars, where she got the wind knocked out of her and took a minute to regroup before continuing. Though she came back with a really strong beam set, she was a bit short on some of her floor passes, counting a fall there as well, so she opted to skip event finals the next day to focus on her worlds preparation.
Natalie Westlund ended up winning all three apparatuses she contended in finals, with a 13.5 on bars, a 12.35 on beam, and an 11.9 on floor. Williams won the silver on both bars and beam as well as the bronze on floor, while Eriksson won silver on floor and bronze on bars, and Emelie Westlund took the bronze on beam. Maya Ståhl, who finished sixth all-around, won the vault title with a 12.325 average.
In the junior competition, Elina Grawin won gold with a 44.500, ahead of Amanda Helsing with a 43.850 and Tilde Stjernborg with a 43.450. Grawin won the bars and floor titles, and Stjernborg won vault and beam.
The men’s program held its national championships a few weeks earlier, where Kim Wanström won the title with a 79.050, beating 2020 Olympian David Rumbutis, who won the silver with a 77.500. The two will go to worlds with Filip Lidbeck, a floor and vault specialist, while bronze all-around medalist Marcus Stenberg wasn’t given a spot.
Juliane Tøssebro won both the national title and the FIG meet title a week earlier, securing a spot on the worlds team with scores of 49.200 and 49.483.
There were a number of gymnasts in the mix for the additional three worlds spots, and though there hasn’t been an official announcement from the federation yet, the nominative list includes Maria Tronrud, Marie Rønbeck, and Selma Halvorsen along with Tøssebro. Tronrod was the bronze medalist at nationals with a 47.700, also taking the beam and floor titles, while Rønbeck finished fourth (47.600) and Halvorsen was fifth (47.300), so the nominative roster leaves off silver medalist Mari Kanter (48.400), who also won the bars title.
2020 Olympian Sofus Heggemsnes, who only competed four events in Tokyo while recovering from an injury, won the all-around title at nationals with an 80.950, a step up from the 80.800 he earned a week earlier at the Unisport Norges Cup, which he also won.
In second place at both meets was Harald Wibye, who improved his 79.350 from the week before to an 80.500 at nationals. Between them, Heggemsnes and Wibye won five apparatus gold medals, with Heggemsnes winning pommel horse and Wibye winning rings and parallel bars, and the two tied on high bar. The floor title went to Theodor Gadderud and vault went to Fredrik Aas, but only Heggemsnes and Wibye were selected for worlds.
DUTCH WORLDS TRIALS (FEAT. BELGIAN MAG)
The Netherlands held two trial meets for worlds. Naomi Visser won the first with a 54.233 and took silver at the second with a 53.367, securing a spot on the worlds team, and the placements were reversed for two-time Olympian Vera van Pol, who won silver at the first trial with a 52.301 and then bumped up to gold at the second with a 53.766.
Sanna Veerman, who was third at both earning scores of 52.067 and 52.333, was named to the worlds team alongside Visser and van Pol, and she’ll be hoping to earn a spot in the bars final with her difficult and typically strong set. Finally, Elisabeth Geurts, who was fourth at the first meet with a 52.034 but then only competed two events at the second, will join the team in Japan for vault as her key event.
Notably missing out was Tisha Volleman, who was fifth at the first trial with a 48.667 (she was third on floor here) and fourth at the second trial with a 49.834 (at this meet, she was third on vault and bars). Neither her all-around scores nor any of her apparatus scores were strong enough for her to be considered, however, especially with Geurts outperforming her on vault.
The men shared their trials with the Belgian team. For the Dutch guys, Jermain Grünberg was the top all-arounder at both meets, so he was named to the team along with pommel horse and parallel bars standout Loran de Munck, who had a 14.45 and a 14.1 on these events at the final trial, Frank Rijken (who specializes in the same events but wasn’t as strong as de Munck at either), and Casimir Schmidt, who didn’t compete at trials, but the program said he’ll head to Kitakyushu if he’s healthy when the time comes.
Luka van den Keybus of Belgium won both of the men’s trial meets with scores of 79.717 and 79.150. He was selected to compete in Japan along with Noah Kuavita, a parallel bars and high bar standout, and Maxime Gentges, who earned a 15.05 on pommel horse at the first trial meet.
GERMAN WORLDS TRIALS
The German women’s program set an all-around standard of an even 50, but with no one meeting this at either the first trial or at the first Bundesliga meet of the season, which acted as the second trial, the program opted to send only Pauline Schäfer to Japan.
The two-time Olympian competed only on beam at the first final, earning a 13.25, and she got a 12.55 on the event at Bundesliga, where she also earned a 12.95 on floor. While the individual apparatus goal was supposed to be a 13.5 and Schäfer fell short both times, the women’s program felt her routine should be strong enough at her full potential to make her worth sending back to Japan.
The others in contention were Emma Malewski (she didn’t compete all four events at the first trial, and earned a 48.950 at Bundesliga), Lona Häcker (she had the top score at Bundesliga with a 49.100, but the lowest at the trial with a 47.700), Aiyu Zhu (she upped her score to a 48.950 at Bundesliga after earning a 47.750 at the trial), and Lea Marie Quaas (on the contrary, her score decreased from a 49.950 at the trial to a 48.400 at Bundesliga). 2016 Olympic medalist Sophie Scheder was expected to compete at the first trial, but an untimely injury took her out of contention before she could begin.
Two German gymnasts did reach above a 50 in the all-around at Bundesliga, but both are unfortunately too young for worlds. Meolie Jauch, 14, had the top all-around score of 50.850, while 13-year-old Helen Kevric was right behind her with a 50.300.
SWISS WORLDS TRIALS
Switzerland held two trials for world championships, and veteran Stefanie Siegenthaler won both with scores of 49.300 and 48.850. Lilli Habisreutinger was second at both, improving on a 47.850 at the first meet to earn a 48.150 at the second, and both were named to the team thanks to their consistency.
Anina Wildi tied Habisreutinger at the first trial, but finished fourth at the second meet, where Martina Eisenegger was third with a 46.400. Since Wildi had the strongest performance between the two meets, however, she was selected to compete in Japan as the third and final member of the team.
CROATIAN WORLDS TRIALS
Only two gymnasts competed at trials for Croatia, and only one met the standard for competing at world championships. Christina Zwicker, a bars and beam finalist at Euros last year, won the trial with a 49.250, putting up scores of 12.1 on vault, 12.15 on bars, 12.65 on beam, and 12.35 on floor.
Article by Lauren Hopkins