Amid all the congressional hearings and revelations that one of those radioactive waste barrels from the 90s was coaching bars at the ranch (probably?), it’s sometimes important to take a deep breath and remember that Australia exists.
Outside the US, spring is national/continental championship season, which provides a wonderful opportunity embark on a grand international tour of the results and the general state of affairs in some of our larger and lesser gymnastics powers that have hosted major competitions in the last week.
A significant unforeseen development of 2018: the Georgia Godwin Fire Emoji Show. Godwin enjoyed a breakout performance at the Commonwealth Games this year and has now followed that up by romping through the Australian Championship with a combined 5.600 all-around advantage over two days of competition, recording 56.325 the first day and 55.900 the second day.
Warning: Australia had a mysterious internal D bonus in place because of how much that completely thrills me (for instance, DTYs were given 5.6 instead of 5.4), so don’t totally freak out or assume that Australia has fully transformed into Mihai-merica when you look at the D scores in the results. Some of that is a fantasy. It’s nonetheless a significant statement for Godwin who seems to be finally thriving this quad and has emerged as the undisputed leader of an Australian team that hasn’t had an AA star in too long.
The influence of Mihaimerica in this meet was felt right down to the competition format that suddenly got rid of the usual event finals to mimic the format of US nationals, with two days of all-around competition.
O Mihaimerica, Land of the Quadriceps, Home of the Vacuum.
Mihai has made no secret of his goal to turn the Australian system directly into the US system, and here and there this year we’re seeing tangible evidence of a national team that’s coming back to life following some lean years. But remember back when we were young and stupid and would have seen Australia adopting the trappings of the US system as a cause for a parade or something? Now it’s like “Errrr…but not the whole thing, right?” Good job Australians, now go take a day off, eat a piece of pizza, see a Star War, and say nice things about yourself in the mirror.
Beyond Godwin, the Australian team picture for 2018 remains a little fuzzy. Neither Georgia Rose Brown nor Alexandra Eade competed here, which did not help resolve anything, thank you very much. Brown remains among the top AAers in the country and can provide three usable events in a team scenario, including one of the strongest bars options. Australia still needs her at full strength to live its best life. Eade will be an interesting factor when it comes down to team selection this fall because she has a top-3 (occasionally top-1) floor routine for Australia but probably doesn’t have the other pieces, which can be difficult for 5-person team selection. Watch that dynamic as we go.
A couple other important accomplishments worth noting from those who did compete: Rianna Mizzen hit bars two days in a row. That’s a big deal for her. When she hits, Mizzen is the best bars worker in Australia, but inconsistency that culminated in a weak showing at worlds has seen her fall slightly off the radar. Hitting two bars routines here, while smartly downgraded, is an essential step in getting her position back.
Let’s also talk about Emily Whitehead, who is resolutely pushing her way into the first-tier conversation with a silver medal in the AA. Whitehead does not have the difficulty of a Godwin or a Mizzen or a Folino and can sometimes get lost in the shuffle as a result, but she did manage the only E score on beam over 7.500 and could be sliding her way into that typical GRB role (a little weaker on bars, a little stronger on vault than GRB). More October complications.
Speaking of October complications and Folino, she showed an upgraded DTY on the second day of competition for the highest vault score of the entire meet, which will help her case a lot.
Clutch your pearls and get ready to be shocked because Ellie Black is the national all-around champion, also winning in a romp by a combined 5.200 across two days of all-around competition. I don’t mean to be controversial, but I’m just going to say it: Ellie Black is the best gymnast in Canada.
In addition to the AA, Black took the titles on bars and beam, while Shallon Olsen took vault and floor, none of which were aggressively unexpected and position both gymnasts very well heading into the rest of the year. The real question for Olsen right now is what she’s doing about Alabama. The plan announced last November was that Olsen would come to Alabama in the fall of 2018, stay for a season, take a one-year break to go for 2019 worlds and the 2020 Olympics (a la Brenna Dowell), and then return to Alabama. But what of 2018 worlds?
Canada needs Olsen for 2018 as well, almost as much as Alabama needs her, so I imagine there will be some schedule concessions to get that done—Brittany Rogers style—since both parties are quite reliant on Olsen’s presence. You’d think it might make sense for Olsen to just wait it out until 2020 and then go to Alabama since she’ll have so many elite competition opportunities in the next couple years, but if you think that, you didn’t see Alabama go 49.1375 on vault at nationals and lose to Georgia. Alabama’s like “THE PRECIOUS.”
The surprise among the event podiums was Brooklyn Moors missing on floor on the second day, hilariously squatting her way out of a layout + double front, which took her out of the floor medals and dropped her to 4th AA. It wasn’t a great competition for Moors overall, but it doesn’t really change her status as Canada’s strongest floor worker. We’d all love to see Moors also emerge as a real beam threat because she’s so lovely (and emerge as a consistent TF-level vaulter while we’re at it), but the makeup of the Canadian team is such right now that she’s still extremely valuable even if you only really feel comfortable with floor.
Putting up a mostly successful competition was Isabela Onyshko, regaining her place as Canada’s #2 all-arounder with a silver medal and nestling comfortably into the mix for worlds with medals on beam and floor. The previously injured Ana Padurariu returned on bars here to score a couple high 13s and remind you why she has been held up as the future golden goose of Canadian gymnastics for several years. We’re just waiting on the other events now, since Padurariu’s beam can be the best routine in Canada and floor can score top-3 when she’s healthy.
If you were picking a worlds team based on this competition—a casual five months early as we are wont to do—you’d say Black, Olsen, Moors, Onyshko, Padurariu (on the assumption that Padurariu continues to get her events back), which would be an excellent team very capable of finishing 5th at worlds and putting actual pressure on countries like Japan. That’s a high-class, best-case-scenario squad for Canada without many weaknesses at all.
Not competing here: Brittany Rogers. She showed at CWG earlier this year that she still has the vault and bars to make a run at major Canadian teams and complicate the selection picture should she choose to, particularly because of a vault that would be a five-tenth upgrade over the team above. But who would you oust from that five? There’s not an easy answer.
On the topic of vault, an unexpected standout performance at the Canadian Championship came from Kelly Johnston with her beautiful stuck Y1.5 that would be an NCAA 9.950 right there and should make her recruiting catnip for those NCAA coaches.
Let’s keep the trend of dominance going. Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos is the French national AA champion, scoring 54.950 to outpace comfortably the 52.550 from Louise Vanhille in second. In most respects, France is all about Melanie right now, especially because the typical #2 all-arounder, Marine Boyer, had a fairly weak competition and ended up missing the event final on beam (her world-class event) after a fall on the first day. This performance doesn’t mean much for Boyer’s future prospects or team-lock status, but it did mean that MDJDS felt little challenge in cruising to a national championship.
MDJDS took the bars and floor titles in addition to the AA win, while the absence of Boyer in the beam final (along with a fall from MDJDS) opened the door for a surprise victory from Lorette Charpy. Charpy has continued to get the three-event scores necessary to keep her in good stead in the first tier of contenders.
The other surprise event champion was Morgane Osyssek on vault, who took advantage of two misses from the heavily favored Coline Devillard to snatch the gold medal. When she hits, Devillard has an undeniable vault score for France, but there are questions about whether she can deliver it meet-in, meet-out.
Another major player in France, Juliette Bossu, returned from injury at this competition to throw up some absolutely massive bars scores, reaching as high as 14.600. We know Bossu mostly for floor, but keeping up this level of bars scoring would make a serious multi-event argument for her worlds place this year and renders this a very successful competition despite competing just the one event.
France has experienced a fairly significant changing of the guard since the 11th-place finish in Rio (2016 team member Oreane Lechenault did return here but for just 11.300 on bars). This is most notably because of MDJDS, but the emergence of people like Bossu has also given France actual, legitimate reasons to expect to make the team final at worlds this year.
BUT YOU’RE NOT A COUNTRY!?!?! The multi-sport South American Games broke with the national-championship trend and brought many of the continent’s best to Bolivia last weekend so that Brazil could win (almost) all the things. Brazil’s team featuring Saraiva, Barbosa, Fidelis and company took the women’s team title by a comfortable margin as expected and swept the event medals with Saraiva winning beam and bars (!), Fidelis winning floor, and Luiza Domingues winning vault.
Argentina’s team finish, 7.500 points behind Brazil in second place, may not seem like anything noteworthy, but it is quite an improvement compared to finishing off the podium at the South American Games four years ago. The big news for Argentina, however, came not in the team competition but in the all-around, where Martina Dominici upset Flavia Saraiva to take the gold medal and prevent a Brazilian swept of the women’s titles. Dominici also took bronze on all four events and is poised to continue leading Argentina into team relevance.
Argentina finished 28th as a team in 2014 and therefore didn’t advance to 2015 (and didn’t even record a full team score back in 2010), but it would be a big surprise if Argentina does not finish in the top 24 at worlds this year and advance to 2019 given the level of scoring we’re seeing.
Nina Derwael is the Belgian all-around champion for 2018—winning the title by two points despite missing on beam, her score mostly buoyed by yet another personal best on bars of 15.350. Derwael has become a true dominant rock on bars. We expect 15s.
As was pretty much expected, Klinckaert finished a comfortable second despite also missing on beam (beam was a mess for everyone) in just her second competition AA performance of the quad. We’ve typically seen Klinckaert do a few events here and there—and her floor has been back to full strength for a while now—but it was nice to see her on all four pieces.
Overall, nothing happened to break the stranglehold that the big five (Derwael, Klinckaert, Hermans, Deriks, Brassart) has on national team selection. There is very little senior elite depth in Belgium to challenge those five, but what Belgium has is quite internationally competitive.
Expecting a TF performance at worlds this year is probably too far, but that is the next goal and is a realistic point on the horizon for Belgium. Belgium is clearly a top-12 team in the world right now and is becoming increasingly capable of upsetting a team like the Netherlands, or even Italy this year before all the good ones turn senior.
DENMARK and FINLAND
In Denmark, Mette Hulgaard has been the top all-arounder for several centuries now, and this year proved no exception as she took the national AA title with 49.699. Of note, Hulgaard’s score was actually bested by 2020 senior Camille Rasmussen, who scored 50.833 to win the junior division. Keep an eye on that one as she could swoop in and take a single spot for Denmark at the Olympics if she stays on track.
In Finland, Helmi Murto took the national senior title with 48.850 (also bested by a junior, Nitta Nieminen, who scored 49.300), while last year’s top senior Maija Leinonen returned to competition on bars and beam to win both titles. New senior Sani Makela took vault, and fellow new senior Enni Kettunen took floor and shared the bars title with Leinonen. Finland experienced an infusion of new seniors this year to make the slate of options quite a bit more competitive, which shows in these results. This year, eight seniors broke the 45 mark in the all-around compared to just four breaking that mark at nationals last year.
The event world cup circuit is also underway currently (Osijek last weekend, Koper this weekend) and the US is doing elite qualifiers because everything’s totally fine, so check back for a round-up of what’s going on in those competitions in tomorrow’s Things Are Happening.