Beginning this Thursday, gymnastics will bestow upon us two events that you’re allowed to decide are immensely thrilling, especially if you’re desperate for some gymnastics to get invested in.
So, item #1, what are these events?
Junior worlds is the inaugural junior world championship organized by the FIG. The idea is to provide an opportunity for those athletes who are not yet age-eligible for the important meets to nonetheless gain the experience of competing at a major world championship—and also have an opportunity to show what they’ve trained for all these hours before they burn out in their late teens and never get to show their quality at a major event because of over-training as juniors.
And yes, it does entirely undermine the concept of an age restriction for senior competition because presumably that exists to help shield young athletes from the physical and mental strain of training and competing at this level when so young. But then also…junior worlds?
But anyway, it’s going to be fine and entertaining.
The European Games is a multi-sport event that’s totally different from that multi-sport European Championship thing they did last year, but is also a multi-sport European Championship. It’s like the Olympics, but just for Europe so that Europeans have a chance to win running events—and way less important so they can experiment with fake sports like beach soccer and tiny basketball and interpretive canoe and cognitive badminton.
The field is actually pretty good, though, which undermines the opportunity to make fun of this event and why it exists.
Broadcast: For those of us in the US, the Olympic Channel has coverage of the European Games as well as event finals from junior worlds. As of now, it doesn’t look like we’ll have coverage of the actual team/AA competition from junior worlds, which sort of undermines the fun of that part. We do at least have a scores page for junior worlds.
Now to the schedule and preview.
DAY 1 – Thursday, June 27
The first day kicks off the qualification at both events, though qualification at junior worlds also serves as the all-around and team final. There is no team medal awarded at European Games, so qualification is just qualification.
6:00am ET/3:00am PT – Women’s & Men’s Qualification – Subdivision 1
WAG: Russia, Great Britain, France, Netherlands, Ukraine, Romania, Czech Republic, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Ireland
The first subdivision is the deeper of the two on the women’s side. Russia has sent Angelina Melnikova, so she’ll be looking to record a top all-around score in qualification as one of the gold-medal favorites in that final. I’m also eager to see what Aleksandra Schekoldina produces because she was one of the next-big-thing Russian juniors not so long ago, but after some injury issues, the results haven’t really followed. Russia will also be looking for a bars medal from Anastasia Iliankova, but she’ll need to be sure to hit in qualification because bars is going to be the showcase event here with by far the deepest field, as it often is at European events these days.
The British duo is Becky Downie and Georgia-Mae Fenton, both of whom will be eyeing the bars final and potential medals on that event most of all, though I also think it’s significant that Fenton put together a strong performance in the all-around. She wasn’t in the group at Euros, and GB is so strong on bars when healthy that if Fenton is only bringing the potential for a bars score, that may not be enough when you have two Downies, Kinsella who is now the European beam champion, Fragapane’s big floor score, the all-around strength of Morgan, and Kelly Simm who can also deliver a bars score with an AA total. Fenton needs a statement meet.
We’ll also get to enjoy top Ukrainians (Ukrainians…enjoy…so by enjoy, I mean have seven heart attacks) like Diana Varinska and Anastasia Bachynska competing here, with both aiming to place well in the all-around and Varinska aiming to break her streak of missing bars finals. Seriously, the bars group is goooood. We also have Lorette Charpy and Anastasia Alistratava, both potential/likely finalists there.
And if Naomi Visser’s performances the last couple weeks are any indication. she’ll be in the mix on bars as well as in the all-around, coming off winning the Dutch AA championship last weekend and defeating Derwael at FIT the week before.
Denisa Golgota is also participating in this session, looking to continue single-handedly keeping Romania afloat. She should make a couple finals and be competitive in the AA.
MAG: Russia, Ukraine, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Iceland, Ireland, Finland
The first session of men’s competition is also bringing it. Russia is basically sending the “you don’t have to be overshadowed by Dalaloyan and Nagornyy this time” group, providing a chance for David Belyavskiy to remind us that he was the all-arounder for Russia about 30 seconds ago, and for Dmitrii Lankin not to get two-per-countried out of the floor and vault finals, and for Valdislav Poliashov to continue making his case to be on the real team after acting as the alternate for Russia at worlds last year.
In this subdivision, we’ll also have Ukraine and Israel both sending first-choice teams of three, with Ukraine exhuming Oleg to compete, as well as Igor Radivilov and Petro Pakhniuk. I’m fascinated to see Oleg’s level at this point. Israel is sending its best medal hopes in Artem Dolgopyat, Alexander (My Sasha) Shatilov, and Andrey Medvedev, with Dolgopyat aiming for the floor win, Shatilov aiming for the floor final, and Medvedev hoping to do some damage on vault. Just not to himself maybe this time.
Great Britain is sending the children, with Giarnni Regini-Moran looking to find his way into GB’s five as we move toward the critical part of the year, and Brinn Bevan looking to follow up on those two finals he reached at Euros.
Italy also competes in this first session—and if you don’t put anyone into the rings final, does it even count—as well as eternal favorite Marios Georgiou who should make some waves in the AA standings.
10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Women’s & Men’s Qualification – Part 2
WAG: Belgium, Hungary, Spain, Turkey, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia, Iceland, Israel, Portugal, Austria, Poland, Georgia, Latvia, Luxembourg
The second session for the women is not nearly as deep as the first, but it does contain a little someone called Nina Derwael, who will head in as another major contender for the AA gold medal, as well as the favorite for bars gold. But also watch out for her teammate Fien Enghels who has scored well on bars lately, and Zoja Szekely of Hungary who has shown a ton of potential on bars if rarely in hit routines. I told you. Bars. It’s the thing.
Spain is also in the second group, delivering Cintia Rodriguez who should make the AA final and can put up a contending floor on her day.
MAG: France, Switzerland, Spain, Turkey, Armenia, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Norway, Greece, Lithuania, Croatia, Bulgaria
In the men’s second subdivision, France is sending a couple of its individual event medal hopes with Cyril Tommasone and Samir Ait Said looking for PH and SR respectively, and Turkey has brought its first choice team of Ahmet Onder, Ibrahim Colak, and Ferhat Arican. We should see event final appearances from all of the Turkish gents unless things fall totally apart. Spain will hope that Ray Zapata advances to the floor final, and Armenia has sent the Davtyans, who will always be dangerous.
Junior World Championships
4:00am ET/1:00am PT – Men’s Team/AA Subdivision 1
Russia, United States, Great Britain, Ukraine, Hungary, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam
7:15am ET/4:15am PT – Men’s Team/AA Subdivision 2
China, Japan, France, Spain, Argentina, Czech Republic, Belgium, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ecuador, Norway, New Zealand
10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Men’s Team/AA Subdivision 3
Turkey, South Korea, Romania, Taiwan, Sweden, Mongolia
1:15pm ET/10:15am PT – Men’s Team/AA Subdivision 4
Germany, Italy, Brazil, Australia, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Iran, Latvia
Junior worlds begins with the men’s competition, and since it’s a men’s junior competition, if you’ve heard of any of the people competing here in advance of the meet, you’re ahead of the game.
The US has sent Garrett Braunton, Matt Cormier, and Isaiah Drake as its team, with Isaiah Drake as the most accomplished of the three. Drake was one of the three-way champions in the babies age group at US nationals last year, got the highest score among the US team at the junior competition in Germany earlier in 2019, and placed 2nd among the juniors at Winter Cup this year. Garrett Braunton placed 9th AA at that same Winter Cup competition.
DAY 2 – Friday, June 28
European Games takes a break from competition on Friday, while junior worlds plows on with the women’s first day.
Junior World Championships
3:00am ET/12:00am PT – Women’s Team/AA Subdivision 1
United States, Great Britain, Ukraine, Hungary, Turkey, Finland
The US team of Blakely, Di Cello, and Barros gets action underway in the first subdivision, which will be in the middle of the night for those of us in the US. The US and Russia are expected to leap well out in front of the rest of the teams here and challenge each other for team gold, so the US will have to put up the first mark to see if Russia can beat it. Blakely and Di Cello will also be compelling contenders for all-around medals. For reference, Blakely went 56.500 at trials and Di Cello 55.750, which would both be winning-type scores if able to be repeated in a world championships scoring context.
Among the remaining countries in this one, Ukraine and Hungary are both sending teams full of gymnasts who have recorded “oh damn, she’s still a junior?” scores in recent years (at least per the nominative rosters), so keep tabs on Daria Murzhak of Ukraine and Mirtill Makovits and Hanna Szujo for Hungary.
Great Britain is sending a team of relative unknowns here with Alia Leat and Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova, though Leat did take bronze in the junior division at the British this year.
5:00am ET/2:00am PT – Women’s Team/AA Subdivision 2
Russia, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Panama
Russia’s team of Gerasimova, Urazova, and Listunova defeated the US at Jesolo this year (with Astafeva in tow, who is not on this team), and Russia should come in with the highest total D score of any of the teams here. So if they hit, you have to like Russia’s chances. Urazova and Gerasimova scored into the 55s to go 2-3 at Jesolo this year and will come in as potential winners in the all-around as well. Urazova is the strongest on bars, Gerasimova (probably?) the strongest on beam, and Listunova the strongest on floor, but they can all score well on beam and floor if they don’t Russia it up too much. Russia and the US are going to expect to win most of the medals here and put multiple people in most finals.
I’m also looking forward to seeing what we get from Italy because, if this competition had been held last year, Italy could have won. But now we’ll get a chance to see what the restocked slate of juniors looks like and if it exists.
7:30am ET/4:30am PT – Women’s Team/AA Subdivision 3
Australia, South Korea, Mexico, Argentina, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan
It’s not a super-deep third subdivision, but Australia is bringing Tianna Odessa, who won the junior national title this year by a lot. Like a lot.
9:30am ET/6:30am PT – Women’s Team/AA Sub 4
France, Germany, Romania, Sweden, Belarus, Singapore
We have all lived through enough years of Romania Lucy-and-the-football-ing us with junior results to be fooled by this scheme, but Romania did perform very well in the junior division at the FIT Challenge, and athletes like Silviana Sfiringu and Ioana Stanciulescu are providing hope for a brighter future. This competition will be a telling examination for them. Also watch Germany. I’m a little concerned right now about how reliant Germany is on veterans, so it would be nice to see a solid junior result.
12:00pm ET/9:00am PT – Women’s Team/AA Sub 5
China, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Portugal
Ou Yushan and Guan Chenchen made their marks at Chinese Nationals this year and will be seriously competitive on spot events. I’m not sure that they have the four-event results to challenge the US and Russia, but Ou is a viable all-arounder and should put some pressure on the favorites, and both Ou and Guan have some of the best beam routines in the competition, if not the best. We need to see both of them in the beam final, otherwise canceled.
The standout on Japan’s team is Chiaki Hatakeda, the sister of Hitomi, who has become continually more competitive with those top Japanese all-arounders over the last year or so. If she were age-eligible, she would have been named to Japan’s worlds team this year. She’s the one to watch out for in terms of seeing if anyone new might break into Japan’s group for the 2020 team.
Ana Luiza Lima is competing for Brazil—she’s the one who took the floor title at Brazilian nationals with a score over 14—but sadly Canada will not be represented by Zoe Allaire-Bourgie here after her injury at Canadian nationals.
DAY 3 – Saturday, June 29
7:00am ET/4:00am PT – Women’s & Men’s All-Around
European Games has a lot of simultaneous men’s and women’s competitions scheduled, so I’m a little concerned about how much of what we’re actually going to see. I like Melnikova and Derwael as the favorites on the women’s side, but the field is elastic enough to allow for a medal surprise.
Junior World Championships
7:00am ET/5:00am PT – Event Finals Day 1
Because everything else happens during qualification, junior worlds is primarily an event-final focused competition. That’s the part that’s being broadcast live, and that’s what everyone is qualifying for.
DAY 4 – Sunday, June 29
6:00am ET/3:00am PT – Women’s & Men’s Event Finals
More weirdness from the European Games format: all 10 event finals are on a single day, a four-hour competition session. The women’s bars final is scheduled for 7:26am ET, in case there was some reason you were interested in that one most of all. I don’t know why.
Junior World Championships
7:00am ET/5:00am PT – Event Finals Day 2
Junior worlds splits the event finals up into 2 days, with the correct events on each day, like a normal competition.