The first day of competition at Elite Canada is done and dusted, with Aurélie Tran topping the women’s field after a year since her last all-around competition while Félix Dolci took a commanding lead in the senior men’s meet.
While the meet overall was exactly what you’d expect from the frozen prairie of Saskatoon less than three weeks into the year, with lots of rusty skills and uncharacteristic fumbles, there were also so many high points, including pretty much everything Tran did. She was especially sharp on bars and beam, showing a strong double layout dismount on the former and performing clean, gorgeous elements on beam – especially on her side aerial to layout stepout series and in her level change choreography – to take the lead on both events with scores of 13.25 and 13.333.
Tran was mostly strong on floor, but unfortunately sat the punch front tuck out of her last pass, though she still scored pretty well there with a 12.05, and she came back with a strong Yurchenko full on vault to earn a 13.3, coming away with a 51.933 total.
Getting closest to Tran was Jenna Lalonde, last year’s national silver medalist on beam who was also a member of the Canadian team that finished fourth at the DTB Pokal Team Challenge. Her best work came on beam and floor, where she had only minor form errors to earn scores of 12.933 (currently third) and 12.55 (currently fourth) to take the lead at the halfway point, and she also hit a Yurchenko full for a 13.05. I didn’t see her work on bars, where she earned an 11.75, but overall it was a pretty sweet start to her season, with a 50.283 consistent with her top all-around scores from last season – a nice feat given how quickly this meet crept up on the athletes this year!
2022 Commonwealth Games medalist Cassie Lee, last year’s Elite Canada beam/floor champion and all-around silver medalist, is currently in third with a 50.133. We saw some beautiful work in today’s performance from Lee, who is currently third on floor with a 12.6 after performing a lovely routine that included a double tuck, 1½ to rudi, and double pike dismount, which ended up a bit iffy on the landing to cause a big stumble back and caused the majority of the deductions in her otherwise strong set. Lee had hits on vault and bars, and while she’s still clearly a beam queen – the height and chest position in her side aerial to two layout stepouts is phenomenal! – she had a few breaks and bobbles there before sitting the double pike dismount, earning a 12.433.
Rounding out the top eight were Amy Jorgensen in fourth with a 48.983, Clara Raposo and first-year senior Sophie Patterson tied in fifth with a 48.466, first-year senior Evandra Zlobec in seventh with a 48.266, and Jordanna Phillis – who debuted a Yurchenko double full on vault for a 13.55 to lead the field on that event – in eighth with a 47.633.
Of course, we need to talk about Raposo, who was only 14 when she last competed at an in-person meet and is now somehow 17. Three years is a long time for anyone, but for a teenager? And for a teenage elite gymnast?! It’s an eternity, and had to have been an unimaginable amount of pressure, and yet Raposo handled it like the pro she is. She had three falls throughout her all-around program, but all three made sense given her circumstances and again, the timing of this meet – falls on bars came at the very end of her routine, one before the dismount and then the next as she landed her double layout on her knees, while her fall on floor happened in the final pass.
In her two most labor-intensive routines, it looked like she just got a bit tired and simply lost steam, which is something that will improve with more time and reps as the season goes on. Otherwise, Raposo looked excellent, showing the same level of clean, confident gymnastics that she was known for as a junior. She had great fight on bars, controlling any skill that looked like it might go awry (the Weiler half at the beginning and a Pak mid-routine being most notable), and her Maloney to stalder to Ray combo was lovely. She also did great work to push through wobbles on beam, earning a 13.266 there to currently sit in second place, and though she’s a bit downgraded on vault and floor – as she should be given her ACL issues – she was tidy on both.
While not a perfect meet, it’s still very much a competition to be proud of, and I think merely just dusting off the cobwebs and getting through would be a win in itself. But to see her put up routines that would have made her a competitive all-around title threat without the falls completely blew past any expectation I had for her, and it’s only going to get better from here.
Also notable here was the return of Azaraya Ra-Akbar, the junior bronze medalist at Winter Cup in the U.S. last year who moved to Canada to help care for a family member and now trains at Dynamo outside of Toronto, still with her dad as her coach. It’s unclear whether Ra-Akbar is planning on representing Canada going forward, or if she’s just training there out of convenience and getting some early season experience before returning to compete in the U.S.
Regardless of her international plans, she looked fantastic here – she didn’t compete bars and had a miss on beam, but she had one of the top scores on vault with a 13.3, competing a powerful Yurchenko 1½ with a step to the side, and she led the field on floor with a massive 13.9. I didn’t see her routine here, which earned a 5.4 start value, but I did see her training a double layout yesterday and it looked fabulous.
Finally, we saw one routine apiece from 2020 Olympian Ava Stewart and 2022 world bronze medalist Sydney Turner. Stewart only competed on bars, where the majority of her routine went well, but she unfortunately came up short on the piked double front dismount and ended up sitting it, though her score of 12.3 is still the second-best in this field. Turner, meanwhile, only competed on beam, showing a strong side aerial to layout stepout, front aerial to jump series, cross split jump half, and switch to switch half, though she ended up a bit unsteady in her wolf turn, flying off after completing two rotations…though like Stewart, she was still one of the best in the field, earning a 12.933 which is currently tied for third.
I didn’t see most of the men’s routines – GymCan didn’t provide a stream this year, but world medalist Denelle Pedrick casually and heroically did everything she could to stream what she could on her Instagram – but based on the scores, it seemed to be just as hit-or-miss as the women’s competition, with a lot of struggles interrupted by the occasional gem here and there.
2022 Commonwealth Games medalist Dolci unsurprisingly led the senior field, earning an 80.365 to finish about five full points ahead of the rest of the men after putting up mostly strong scores to lead floor, rings, vault, and parallel bars. It looks like pommel horse didn’t go quite as he maybe would have hoped, but he has time to work on it, so I doubt it’ll weigh him down too much.
Rounding out the top five were Mathieu Csukassy in second with a 75.531, Kenji Tamane in third with a 74.464, Dorian Doan in fourth with a 73.899, and Pietro Bertola in fifth with a 72.633, while Elel Baker leads pommels with a 13.2 and Samuel Zakutney leads high bar with a 13.4
Zakutney only competed four events here, as did his 2022 worlds teammate Zachary Clay, while Chris Kaji competed almost everything, though ended up scratching pommels. Pommels was a problem for Zakutney, but he was great otherwise, while Clay – most of whose routines I saw since he and Pedrick are dating and she adorably ran over to the MAG side of the arena to capture his sets – looked a little shaky here and there, and he had a fall on his p-bars dismount. However, he also showed some great fight, especially on high bar, where there were a couple of near-misses but he ultimately walked away with a 13.2, second-best here. Kaji, meanwhile, seemed to have a bit of a rough time today, landing outside of the top five on most of his events, so I’m looking forward to see the improvements he will hopefully bring on Sunday.
There were a couple of notable names in the “next gen senior” field, which is basically just senior men who are under the age of 21. My favorite here was Léandre Sauvé, a promising talent on floor and vault who currently sits second and first on these apparatuses, respectively, with his vault average of 14.166 outscoring Dolci’s leading average of 14.067 in the 21+ senior field.
Trent Milligan leads the “next gen” all-around with a 73.565 and pommels with a 12.4, Kai Iwaasa leads floor with a 13.133, Trevor Ma and Noah Royer lead rings with a tied score of 12.333, Toby Cairns leads p-bars with a 13.866, and Ben Talbot leads high bar with a 12.766.
Also competing today were the novice women, as well as the junior and aspire men. Maryam Saber leads the novice women with a 50.250 (likely with some difficulty bonus in there), Xavier Olasz leads the junior 16-18 men with a 76.999, Thomas Tittley leads the junior 14-15 men with a 73.399, and Olivier Lapointe leads the aspire men with a 69.065.
The junior women will have their first day of competition tomorrow morning, held in conjunction with the second day of the men’s aspire group, while the novice women will wrap up their competition tomorrow afternoon, and all seniors and juniors finish things up on Sunday. A full schedule and list of competitors is available in our coverage guide.
Article by Lauren Hopkins