Jong and Molomo Win at WOGA, Italian Newcomers Dominate While Geurts Returns in Luxembourg, Smith and Karnejenko are Scotland’s Champs, and Whitlock is Back!

This weekend was the first super busy weekend of the year as more of our favorite elite competitors start to wake up from their winter naps and take baby steps into a season that is fast-approaching, with major meets like the world cups, junior world championships, and Euros all just weeks away.

WOGA CLASSIC | Full Results


This year’s WOGA Classic was the first with international competitors since pre-Covid, with teams from Japan and Mexico joining a bunch of U.S. athletes – mostly from Texas clubs – in Frisco on Saturday.

National team member Katelyn Jong of Metroplex won the senior title with a 52.000, putting up her best work on bars with a 14.0 and on vault with a 13.25 to defeat Nola Matthews of Airborne by just two tenths, with Matthews earning a 51.800, while Paloma Spiridonova of WOGA was also pretty close, earning a 51.600 for third place and posting a 13.65 to get the top score on vault.

Jong and Matthews, both expected at this coming weekend’s Winter Cup, looked pretty solid for this point in the season based on scores and a couple of videos I saw, and with both on the edge of the “A team” in the U.S., it’s important that we’re seeing them get out there early to prove themselves for spots at some of the upcoming spring meets, like the team challenge in Germany along with the annual trip to Jesolo. This was a solid warm-up for all of this, and with so many of last year’s worlds competitors skipping the Winter Cup, they’ll both be podium contenders there.

It was interesting to see Spiridonova, who returned this year after more than a year away due to injury and who hasn’t yet earned her senior elite score, competing in the international session instead of in one of the elite qualifiers earlier in the day. She missed out on her score at the first qualifier of the season, but hasn’t attempted it again, though with rumors circulating of her potentially competing internationally for Bulgaria going forward, it’s possible she simply has no need to qualify in the U.S.

Rounding out the top eight were Michelle Pineda of Metroplex with a 50.850 (and the top score on floor with a 13.2), Matsuda Touwa of Namba Gymnastics in Japan in with a 49.550, her teammate Kawabata Rin with a 47.700, Valentina Melendez of Pro Gym Mexico with a 41.150, and her teammate Valeria Rios with a 40.300.

A gaggle of WOGA gals competed on a couple of events each, including 2022 world champion Skye Blakely with wins on bars with a 14.7 and on beam with a 13.45, while Levi Jung-Ruivivar had the second-best beam score with a 13.2, and Ella Murphy was third-best on bars with a 13.55. We also saw the return of Ashlee Sullivan, back for the first time in a year after sustaining an injury while warming up in Germany, while Kaliya Lincoln competed just on bars, earning a 13.3.

This was also the first meet in a year for Sydney Barros, who is back at Texas Dreams following a stint at World Champions Centre, and who is now planning on representing Puerto Rico at the international level. She did well on bars to earn a 13.3, but unfortunately had a miss on beam.

On the junior scene, Zoey Molomo of Metroplex won with a 54.200, though it was a close battle against Nakamura Haruka of Namba Gymnastics, one of Japan’s top young athletes who has already earned a ticket to junior world championships beginning next month. Molomo had the stronger routines on vault and floor, winning the titles on both with scores of 13.95 and 13.45, respectively. She looked excellent, and should be one of the top women going into the junior worlds selection process…and into the junior worlds competition itself. We’ll see her against some of the other leading U.S. juniors at the Winter Cup next weekend, and if she competes there the way she did here, she’ll be super difficult to beat.

Nakamura, meanwhile, proved herself as a stellar competitor on bars with a 14.15 and on beam with a 13.7, easily capturing both of those wins. Her bars routine is a must-watch routine for this week, featuring two of the most difficult releases in the code, including a Def and a piked Deltchev between the bars. It’s unique, super difficult (she was given a 5.9 start value), and so well-done, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being the gold-winning bars routine at junior worlds.

Also competing in the junior all-around were Reese Esponda of Roots – a first-year elite after winning silver all-around at Hopes Championships last year – taking the bronze with a 51.700, and 2021 Hopes beam and floor champion Tyler Turner of Airborne in fourth with a 46.350, down several points from what she’s capable of after misses on bars and beam. She qualified to the junior level last month with a 51.900, so she’s definitely one to keep an eye on for international teams this season.

Last year’s junior beam champion and junior Pan Ams finalist Audrey Snyder competed three events here, putting up the second-best vault score of 13.5 to tie Izzy Stassi, who also competed three events, while WOGA’s Claire Pease had the second-best bars score with a 13.7, and her teammate Hezly Rivera had the third-best with a 13.7.

LUXEMBOURG OPEN | Women’s Results | Men’s Results


I wasn’t sure what to expect from this meet, which had a nice mix of world-level competitors, newcomers, and everyone in between. Most exciting to watch were the young Italians, with five first-year seniors along with five of the country’s best juniors taking the bulk of the all-around and apparatus titles in addition to the senior and junior team gold medals.

But even more exciting was the return of Elze Geurts, the 27-year-old Dutch gymnast who has been out of competition since the vault final at worlds in 2021 after suffering an ACL tear just months later. Despite being down a bit in difficulty, she was able to secure the bronze all-around medal here with a 50.850, behind two of the young Italian seniors and a tenth ahead of the third. Geurts ultimately opted to skip the apparatus finals here, but the competition marked a great start to the season for her, especially with the trials for Euros coming up in just a few weeks.

Chiara Barzasi won the gold with a 51.400, slightly ahead of 2022 junior Euros all-around bronze medalist Viola Pierazzini, who won the silver here with a 51.350. Their teammates included Arianna Grillo with a 50.750, Arianna Belardelli with a 49.750, and Letizia Saronni with a 47.100, with Belardelli counting a miss on beam on Friday, though she had a massive 13.5 on floor in addition to hitting bars to make both finals, and she ultimately went home with the golds on both, winning bars with a 12.55 and floor with a 12.85, while Barzasi won beam with a 12.55.

Rounding out the top eight in the all-around were Maia Llacer of Spain with a 49.050, Floor Slooff of the Netherlands with a 48.600, Lihie Raz of Israel with a 48.350, Mafalda Costa of Portugal with a 46.700, and Luxembourg’s own Céleste Mordenti with a 46.050. Raz was the only senior to compete two vaults, winning the gold with a 12.575 average with two downgraded sets, while Mordenti won silver medals on bars and beam, Costa won silver on floor, Slooff won bronze on bars, Geffen Dor of Israel won bronze on beam, and Llacer won bronze on floor.

The five Italian juniors took the first five spots in the all-around and won the team title by nearly 20 points, with 2009-born Giulia Perotti snagging the gold with a 51.400 while Caterina Gaddi took silver with a 49.600. The other three were two-per-country’ed off of the podium, but all three did well here, including Matilde Ferrari with a 49.350, Camilla Ferrari with a 48.200, and July Marano – a vault and floor standout who had great work on both of her strong events – with a 47.550.

These juniors also dominated the apparatus standings, with Marano taking the gold on vault after averaging a 13.275 in addition to getting the silver on floor with a 12.3, while Camilla Ferrari won bars with a 13.45, Perotti won beam with a 12.3, and Gaddi won silver on bars with a 12.35.

Yali Shoshani, one of my favorite up-and-coming juniors from last year’s EYOF and Euros competitions, ended up winning all-around bronze with a 46.400 in addition to winning the silver on beam with an 11.45. Other medalists included Alij de Wijze of the Netherlands with gold on floor and bronze on vault, Sirine Abouelhoda of Egypt with silver on vault, Juniper Wurdinger of the Netherlands with bronze on bars, and Noor van Nuenen of the Netherlands with bronze on beam and floor.

The senior men’s competition saw a great battle between Robert Tvorogal of Lithuania, who ultimately took the gold with a 78.666, Victor Martinez of Belgium, who won silver with a 78.399, and Uri Zeidel of Israel, who won bronze with a 78.267. Martinez won the gold on floor with a 13.95 and on high bar with a 13.3, Gytis Chasazyrovas of Lithuania won the pommels title with a 13.55, Liam de Smet of Belgium won the rings title with a 13.4, and Filip Sasnal of Poland won the vault and p-bars titles – as the only competitor on vault, his gold medal there came with a zero for his first attempt and an average of just 6.175, but he came back with an excellent p-bars set to earn a 13.35 with an execution score of 9.15.

Italy’s junior standouts Riccardo Villa and Tommaso Brugnami won the all-around gold and silver medals with scores of 78.499 and 77.467, but the guys from Egypt were also excellent here, with Mohamed Attia winning bronze with a 76.167 while his teammate Mostafa Ahmed was a close fourth with a 75.700. Brugnami won floor with a 13.55 and vault with a 14.2 average, Villa won both rings and high bar with scores of 13.1, 2022 EYOF pommels champion Kristijonas Padegimas of Lithuania won pommels with a 13.45, and Yahia Zakaria of Egypt won p-bars with a 13.3.

SCOTTISH CHAMPIONSHIPS | Women’s Results | Men’s Results

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We’ve arrived at the first national championships of the year! Scotland crowned two senior champions in Perth this weekend, with Lottie Smith of Notts – formerly a member of the English national team that won silver at the Northern European Championships last year – winning the women’s title with a 46.600 while British national team member and 2022 Commonwealth Games all-around and rings finalist Pavel Karnejenko of South Essex won the men’s with an 81.900.

It was a decisive win for Smith, who was more than three points ahead of Milli De O’Hara with a 43.400 for silver, while Erin Fraser and Tilly Bee tied for bronze with scores of 43.300. Bee won the vault title, while Hannah Wayman of Corby won bars and beam, sharing the latter with Natalie Scott of Glasgow, and Smith shared the floor title with 2022 Commonwealth Games competitor Eilidh Gorrell of Glasgow, who also won bronze on beam.

Karnejenko also had a pretty strong lead ahead of Commonwealth Games teammates Cameron Lynn of West Lothian with a 79.400 for silver and Hamish Carter of Notts with a 78.850 for bronze. With only five in this field, it meant the apparatus finals were a bit empty, especially as Karnejenko opted to skip them. Lynn ended up taking the titles on every event but vault, which went to Euan McLellan of West Lothian, who was fourth all-around with a 75.000.

Also competing in the senior field as a guest was six-time Olympic medalist Max Whitlock of South Essex. In his first meet back since the 2020 Olympic Games, Whitlock competed three events, earning a 14.85 on pommels (with a 6.7 start value!), a 13.5 on p-bars, and a 13.45 on high bar. We were also expecting to see the return of Becky Downie as a guest in the women’s field, but she ended up not competing – hopefully everything’s okay and fingers crossed she’ll be at English Championships next week!

The junior women’s title went to Annabella Higgins of Woking with a 42.600, while the espoir title went to Cassie Taylor of Corby with a 45.000. The men’s U18 title went to 2022 junior Euros all-around bronze medalist Reuben Ward of Manchester Academy with a 75.200, the U16 title went to Kyle Millar of West Lothian with a. 70.400, the U14 title went to Christopher Halliday of Aberdeen with a 65.700, and the U12 title went to Ryan Nicholson of Hamilton with a 66.550.

Article by Lauren Hopkins


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