With British Gymnastics pushing this year’s national championships back until the last week of November, long after most of the country’s top competitors started taking time off after the Olympics and world championships, the field in Guildford was a bit weaker than usual.
The talent we did see was well worth following, though, and I was delighted to see 17-year-old Ondine Achampong win the all-around title, her second in a row as she last won as a junior in 2019.
Achampong didn’t have any real problems in her day, hitting all four events for a 52.400 total. Her difficulty was a bit low overall, but she was mostly clean and solid, and her score was boosted by a strong Yurchenko double, which earned a 14.4. On bars, she had to fight through some handstand issues – arches, a few that were a bit short – and on floor, she had some weak ankle form on her triple full as well as some hops, but the rest of her work looked great, with her beam routine – notably, the triple flight series and full Y turn – my favorite of hers.
In addition to the all-around gold, Achampong’s scores were high enough to take the silver medals on bars and beam, as well as the bronze on floor. With some added difficulty, I hope Achampong will be able to make herself a standout in 2022, as she’s a lovely athlete who brings so much style to her performances.
Emily Todd, a member of the English national team who recently won all-around bronze at Northern European Championships and who verbally committed to Pittsburgh last month, won the silver medal with a 49.650, while first-year senior Ruby Stacey, who made her senior international debut at world championships this year, won the bronze with a after falling on beam and struggling with some of her floor landings (she also totaled a 49.650, but lost out on the tie-breaker).
I’m glad Todd will be heading to NCAA, because her performance here was of such a great collegiate quality, especially on floor, where her landings – especially on her double pike and double tuck – were so solid (she won the silver medal here as well). Todd also showed a handspring front pike on vault, which looked powerful, and though her bars and beam weren’t as difficult, they also look NCAA-ready, and she proved that she didn’t need to go above and beyond to still finish on the podium.
Though it wasn’t Stacey’s best performance, she was still impressive with a big Yurchenko full and the best uneven bars routine of the day. She was fluid in her toe full to Chow to Pak to van Leeuwen, and also hit a piked Jaeger and toe front half with a hop back, earning a 13.3 to take the gold. On beam, she just looked a bit off, missing her front aerial, though her acro and dance series were solid, and on floor, she went for a 2½ to front pike, double tuck, and 1½, but she had hops out-of-bounds on the first two.
Emily Roper was fourth with a 49.600, winning the bronze medals on vault (she hit both a Yurchenko 1½ and a tucked tsuk full) and beam, and also hitting her routines on bars and floor. Halle Hilton, known as a junior for her work on beam, didn’t disappoint on that event, showing a triple wolf turn, side aerial to layout stepout, and a double full dismount to win the title with a 13.35. She ended up only fifth all-around with a 49.200, though, after landing a deep Yurchenko double, falling on bars, and nearly putting her hands down on floor.
Rounding out the top eight were 2021 Northern Euros beam champion and all-around silver medalist Megan Bridge in sixth with a 48.850, also winning gold on floor and silver on vault, first-year senior Alia Leat in seventh with a 47.150 after struggling throughout the meet, especially on beam, and Jess Adamson in eighth with a 47.150.
Welsh gymnast Holly Jones competed everything but bars, winning the vault title with a big Yurchenko 1½ that earned a 14.05 and a handspring front tuck, which had a stumble back. Beam didn’t quite go her way, but she did some clean work on floor, finishing sixth there with a 12.0.
Three time world championships competitor Kelly Simm was also here, competing two events. Unfortunately, she crashed her double layout bars dismount, but the rest of the routine – toe full to Downie, Ricna to Pak, Maloney to Bhardwaj, and van Leeuwen – was so good, she still managed the bronze with a 12.7 (it actually looked like she may have tapped her feet on the mat after the Bhardwaj, but regardless, it was a very strong routine). On beam, she had a fall on her flight series along with a few other issues throughout, finishing seventh with an 11.5.
The gymnasts from Clwb Cymru in Wales dominated the junior competition, which saw Ruby Evans top the podium with a 49.900, followed by Jea Maracha with a 49.700, and Poppy Stickler with a 49.000. Both Evans and Maracha received a half point in bonus for their difficulty on bars, but all three hit above a 49 regardless, which is promising as they will all become eligible for senior competition next year just in time for the Commonwealth Games.
Stickler won the gold medals on vault and floor, while Maracha had the highest score on bars, and Evans won bronze medals on vault and beam. Their club teammate Mali Morgan, fifth all-around with a 48.750, also showed great potential and won the beam title with a 13.15, making this an exciting outing for the Welsh program.
Also finishing as top all-arounders were Dixie Lindsay in fourth with a 48.950, Veronika Kritski in sixth with a 48.600 (Kritski is eligible to compete for Estonia internationally, which could be really exciting if she goes this route, as it’s been over a decade since we last saw an Estonian gymnast in major international competition), Mercedes Moore in seventh with a 48.350, and Madeleine Dodd in eighth with a 48.300.
The espoir all-around title went to Tiegan Trafford, who posted the second-best scores on vault, beam, and floor to reach a 47.950 total. Sonia Runcianu won the silver with a 47.650 and also took the bronze on floor, while Laura Szabo was the bronze medalist with a 47.500.
Apparatus gold medals went to Abigail Martin on vault, Bethany Rayment on bars, and Clwb Cymru’s Jemima Taylor on beam and floor.
Taylor was the highlight of the espoir competition, and possibly the championships as a whole, showing a tremendous performance quality that was years ahead of her actual age. She was also super precise and clean with a sense of style that can’t be taught. At this level, it’s more about the quality of the gymnastics than the skills being performed, and I’d say Taylor’s already miles ahead of the rest of the game. I hope it’s something she can hold onto while increasing her difficulty in the future.
Her medley of songs from The Sound of Music as her floor music had the most perfect choreography to match – I especially loved this routine, which is easily one of my favorites of the year. Be sure to watch below!
Full results are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins