I always equate the start of the elite season with the arrival of Elite Canada, and with this first glimpse at Canada’s top gymnasts kicking off tomorrow, I guess that means it’s HERE! Read more about it, and everything else happening in the spot this week below.
In the News
National flip-flops. There has been news of a couple athletes crossing over into new international programs over the past week, including my favorite, Dorien Motten of Belgium now listed as representing Georgia (the country, sorry Courtney Kupets Carter!). Motten competes regularly in basically every European gymnastics league that exists (including in 10 meets across the Italian, Spanish, and German leagues in 2022 alone), but Belgium has essentially stopped sending her out on international assignments, with Universiade in 2017 – where she made the all-around and vault finals – her last time out. A veterinarian by day, Motten still trains at a high level, and it’ll be great to see how this opportunity works out for her.
Former U.S. junior standout Paloma Spiridonova – a WOGA-trained first-year senior who was third on beam at the U.S. Classic in 2021 – has recently been added to the national team in Bulgaria, where her dad is from originally. She’s always been stunning beyond her years on beam and floor, and I can’t wait to see how she has grown since we last saw her compete nearly two years ago.
Canada’s culture of abuse. The Canadian magazine Maclean’s featured a piece last week covering the gymnasts who came forward about former coaches Dave and Elizabeth Brubaker, including former international-level competitors Abby Spadafora, Melanie Hunt, and Tokyo hopeful Imogen Paterson, who retired in 2021 after her mental health deteriorated following an uncomfortable encounter with Dave Brubaker on top of abusive behavior in her club gym. It’s a must-read article that also includes a glimpse into how the Brubakers feel about becoming “scapegoats” – their word – as the “first Canadian coaches to fall on the wrong side of #MeToo.”
Yami Peña wins Exatlón! Dominican star elite and 2012 Olympic vault finalist Yamilet Peña was crowned as the champion of the seventh season of the U.S. edition of Exatlón, a super tough athletic competition show that has become very popular with gymnasts from Latin America – 2008 Olympian Marisela Cantú of Mexico won the first season of this edition, which also featured Jessica Lopez of Venezuela, while Ana Lago and Daniel Corral were partners in Exatlón Mexico. In addition to the glory, Peña also took home a prize of $200,000.
Romania’s new head coach. Patrick Kiens, known as Eythora Thorsdottir‘s former coach who has recently done some work choreographing for Austria and Romania, was recently named as the new head coach for the Romanian national team. I haven’t seen an official announcement from the federation, but this news item discussing the makeup of the national team for 2023, Kiens is listed as the head coach alongside with Corina Morosan, Gina Gogean Groza, Ramona Micu, and Catalin Meran as the assistant coaches.
Elite Canada. The Canadian WAG and MAG athletes will kick off their season at Elite Canada, beginning tomorrow with two days of competition each for seniors, juniors, and novice/aspire-level competitors. 2022 world bronze medalist Sydney Turner headlines the women’s field, while four members of the Liverpool men’s team are also expected to compete, including top all-around Félix Dolci. There won’t be a stream, but you can follow results via SportzSoft, and the full schedule as well as a complete list of competitors is available in our coverage guide.
Houston National Invitational. There wasn’t much in the way of elite competition at HNI this year, but Yul Moldauer showed up and kicked off his season with an 83.200, performing a new p-bars set out of a 6.6 D that earned a 14.7. It was a great meet for the Olympian, who was an alternate at worlds last year and seems determined to fight his way back to a top spot.
Moldauer also contributed four events and won two of them – rings and p-bars – for his club in the team cup session, which the men of Oklahoma won, competing here for a bit of prep before they officially head into their NCAA season at the Rocky Mountain Open this weekend. Vitaly Guimaraes had the top all-around score for the Sooners with an 81.700, qualifying a spot at next month’s Winter Cup alongside teammates Spencer Goodell, Zachary Nunez, and Morgan Seyler.
Coming up. Next week marks the first elite qualifier of the season for the U.S. women, with the Vegas Cup National Qualifier expected to see elite and Hopes wannabes from gyms including Twin City Twisters, Pacific Reign, Hill’s, WOGA, First State, Metroplex, Midwest, GAGE, and others. In France, the Top 12 series will continue with the fourth outing for the men’s teams next Saturday, while the women will compete their first of four regular season matches. See all upcoming elite meets on the 2023 calendar.
WGYM rankings. Oklahoma didn’t compete until Monday, which counts as Week 3, so the Sooners were able to maintain the top spot on the list with only one competition underway – though with Monday’s competition averaged in, the Gators will take over the top spot after a solid defeat of visiting Auburn last Friday. Meanwhile, both Michigan and UCLA improved significantly compared to their already strong first outings, and Kentucky jumped into the top 10 with an exciting win against LSU, led by a massive 39.525 from all-arounder Raena Worley as LSU lost Kiya Johnson to an Achilles injury on floor, falling to 13th place in the rankings.
1. Oklahoma 197.925 (no change)
2. Florida 197.788 (no change)
3. Michigan 197.763 (+1)
4. UCLA 197.563 (+2)
5. Utah 197.513 (+1)
6. California 197.500 (-3)
7. Auburn 197.275 (-2)
8. Denver 197.063 (+1)
9. Kentucky 196.850 (+3)
10. Ohio State 196.850 (no change)
MGYM rankings. The debut competition from Stanford at the Cal Benefit Cup saw the reigning national champions jump right back into the top spot. 2022 world championships competitor Asher Hong had a stunning freshman debut, winning the floor and p-bars titles and finishing second on rings and vault, making up for a weak showing on pommels. Illinois also debut this week, competing for the first time under head coach Daniel Ribeiro to land in third on the rankings after a surprising takedown of Michigan, which dropped to fifth place overall, and Nebraska debuted with a fourth-place ranking after dropping a number of routines to finish second to Penn State at the West Point Open.
1. Stanford 410.500 (first appearance)
2. Penn State 405.250 (-1)
3. Illinois 399.400 (first appearance)
4. Nebraska 399.300 (first appearance)
5. Michigan 398.325 (-3)
6. California 394.950 (first appearance)
7. Ohio State 394.900 (first appearance)
8. Navy 394.500 (first appearance)
9. Springfield College 388.150 (first appearance)
10. Army 384.225 (-7)
Weigh-ins are still a thing (TW: ED). Or they were until very recently, but let’s be real, body policing absolutely continues to exist in so many environments to this day. This re comes to us from an interview with former elite and LSU gymnast Bailey Ferrer, who was a guest on the Hung Up Cleats podcast discussing how weigh-ins and DEXA scans at LSU helped feed her eating disorder. The interview overall is a great one, getting super in-depth into the reality of being a collegiate gymnast, with insights into her entire experience.
Another new HBCU! After the successful launch of Fisk University’s gymnastics program this season, another HBCU – historically Black college or university – is getting ready to start its own journey as Talladega College in Alabama announced its partnership with Brown Girls Do Gymnastics to launch the college’s first-ever women’s artistic gymnastics team. It’s another incredible step towards equality at one of the highest levels of the sport!
The most perfect perfect 10. Judges got a little loosey goosey with throwing out 10s this weekend (sigh what else is new?!), but my favorite of all has to be 2020 Olympic alternate and two-time world medalist Kara Eaker of Utah earning the second 10.0 of her career on beam, where she performed an absolutely gorgeous set that might just be one of my favorite NCAA 10s ever.
Article by Lauren Hopkins