In the first weekend of April, one of the most anticipated meets every year took place once again at the city of Jesolo, featuring both junior and senior gymnasts from multiple countries like Italy, USA, Brazil, France, Canada, Belgium and Russia, who decided to come back to this competition after staying away for some time.
The junior girls were the first to take the stage and, as expected, USA managed to take the title by a wide margin, finishing with a score of 171.850, almost 14 points (!) above second place Italy and 4 points higher than their senior teammates. The team featuring Adelin Kenlin, Emma Malabuyo, Maile O’Keefe and Gabby Perea started off on beam where they all hit their sets to receive two scores in the mid-14 for Perea and O’Keefe’s routines, as well as a low-14 for Kenlin’s exercise. Moving on to floor, Malabuyo posted their highest score on the event, 13.950, while O’Keefe scored in the mid-13s and Perea in the low-13s after some minor execution issues. The Americans then continued their incredible competition on vault, with Malabuyo, O’Keefe and Perea all hitting their amazing DTYs to receive three scores in the mid-15s, while on bars Perea had a beautiful routine for 15.05, with O’Keefe receiving a mid-14 and Kenlin posting in the low-14s after some short handstands and close releases during her exercise. After their good performance at Gymnix marred by some mistakes here and there, these younger Americans proved they truly are fantastic competitors and are ready to challenge the older girls for every single spot on the international teams. Most of them will become seniors next year and will be very good contributions to an already strong team, consolidating the status of the USA as the biggest powerhouse in the sport of gymnastics.
With the same team as in the Gymnix competition earlier this year (Elisa Iorio, Giorgia Villa and the twins Alice and Asia D’Amato), Italy once again took the silver medal, after posting a total of 157.900. On vault, all three gymnasts showed strong DTYs with Asia D’Amato and Iorio scoring in the low-14s and Alice D’Amato receiving a high-13 after having a bit of a low landing. Their bars rotation was another hit, counting scores of 13.500 from Villa and Asia D’Amato, as well as a low-13 from Iorio, who fell after her Endo full. Unfortunately they couldn’t reach the 13s range on beam, receiving two scores in the high-12s from Iorio and Alice D’Amato, who had a big wobble on her Y turn, and a low to mid-12 from Asia D’Amato who also had some issues. Lastly, their competition didn’t end as they would have expected, since Villa sustained an Achilles injury during her routine and couldn’t finish it, forcing them to lose what would have been a very important score. As it is, they counted two scores of 13.100 from Iorio and Asia D’Amato, after low landings from both, and a high-11 from Alice D’Amato who fell on her double tuck and also incurred in an out-of-bounds deduction. Since this meet, Villa has already had surgery on her tendon and should be on her way to recovery as soon as possible. All these three girls are 2003-babies and won’t factor into the senior field for another year and a half so protecting them from injuries and making sure they have a steady progress to avoid burn-out is the most important thing right now. Hopefully they can all reach the senior ranks at full force and help Team Italy reach international success.
In third place was the Russian team featuring Anastasia Agafonova, Ksenia Klimenko, Valeria Saifulina and Varvara Zubova who scored a total of 156.500. They competed side by side with the Italians, therefore starting on vault with two hit FTYs from Zubova and Agafonova for scores in the low to mid-13s, as well as a DTY from Saifulina who unfortunately couldn’t put it to her feet and was also out-of-bounds on the landing, receiving just a high-12. Moving on to bars, Saifulina, Klimenko and Agafonova all hit their routines albeit with some form issues to score in the mid to high-13s, while on beam things didn’t go as smoothly. Agafonova and Klimenko both scored in the low-13s after both putting their hands down after their switch ring leaps, whereas Zubova missed her Onodi mount, getting stuck on the handstand and just stepping out of it, and then had a fall on her layout, posting in the high-12s despite her difficulty. Finishing on floor, the young Russians were unable to reach the 13s range, instead receiving a high-12 for Klimenko’s hit performance, a low-12 from Zubova after landing her double tuck a bit low and out-of-bounds and a high-11 from Saifulina, who landed her double tuck out-of-bounds and was very low of her double pike. While these gymnasts are all very promising, the consistency and execution of their routines in not quite at the highest level, which keeps them from challenging the higher ranked teams. Nonetheless, they still have time to gain some experience and improve on their confidence so that they can be important players once they reach the senior field.
Outside the podium were the remaining teams invited to this meet, with the second Italian team featuring Martina Basile, Benedetta Ciammarughi, Matilde de Tullio and Sidney Saturnino placing fourth with a total of 153.950, followed by France in sixth who competed with just three gymnasts (Julia Forestier, Carolann Hebuit and Celia Serber) after Sheyen Petit got injured during warm-ups, finishing the day with 151.900. The young Italian team featuring 2004-babies Camilla Campagnaro, Giulia Cotroneo, Alessia Federici and Simona Marinelli was sixth with 145.500, the Canadians Ana Padurariu, Jaden Gorsline and Zoé Allaire-Bourgie were seventh with 145.150 after also losing one member of the team, Victoria Jurca, and lastly the team Italy Hopes featuring Veronica Mandriota, Marta Morabito and Serena Napolitano were eighth with 122.100.
With the all-around competition taking place at the same time as the team competition, team USA had a total podium sweep as has been usual in the past editions of this meet. Perea took the gold with a fantastic score of 57.225 after solid performances on all four events. On vault, she presented a great DTY for a score in the mid-14s, while on bars she had the highlight of her day receiving an amazing 15.050 for her exercise featuring one great inbar full to Maloney to Ricna to pak connection, a van Leeuwen and a double layout dismount with a step. Her beam routine was another hit performance, including a double wolf turn, a good standing full, a BHS to BHS to layout series, a switch leap to switch half and a 2.5 twists dismount with a step forward, for which she received a score in the mid-14s, while on floor, her low difficulty (5.1 D-score) kept her from reaching the same scores as in the first three events, receiving a 13.300 for her exercise of tucked full-in with a hop back, front tuck through to triple twist, switch ring to switch full, triple wolf turn, 1.5 twists through to double full and stuck double pike dismount.
In second place was Perea’s teammate O’Keefe with a total of 56.900 after also having a very good day on all four pieces of apparatus. On vault she performed a solid DTY with a small hop back for a score in the mid-14s, while on bars she received a similar result after showing a Chow to pak, a Maloney to Tkachev and a stalder full to double arabian dismount nearly stuck. She kept her string of hit routines on beam with a side aerial to LOSO series, followed by a second acro series of BHS to BHS to layout, before finishing with a double pike dismount with a step back for another score in the mid-14s. However, much like her teammate, floor didn’t bring her the same range of results as her difficulty was lower on this event than on the previous ones, receiving a 13.600 after landing her double arabian, 2.5 twist with an out-of-bounds deduction, double tuck with a hop back and lastly her double pike dismount. Interesting enough, both O’Keefe and Perea outscored the Senior gold medalist, Riley McCusker, reaffirming their position as the next big stars among the US national team. Hopefully they can stay injury-free and transition smoothly into the senior ranks next year, helping the Americans continue their winning streak.
The bronze medal belonged to yet another American with Malabuyo posting a total of 56.275 after also having a mistake-free competition day. On vault, she showed a DTY with great height and just a step back for a score in the mid-14s, while on bars her low level of difficulty meant she only received a 14.000 despite hitting her routine that included an inbar to stalder full to Tkachev connection, as well as a stalder to stalder half to Endo half to Ray and a stuck full-in dismount. Her beam was another hit, featuring a triple wolf turn, a BHS to LOSO to LOSO series with a wobble at the end, a front tuck, a standing arabian and a double pike dismount with a step back to score in the low-14s, before moving on to floor where she posted just below 14 after a solid performance that included a full-in, a front double full to front tuck to stag jump, a 1.5 twists through to 2.5 twist and a double pike with a hop.
Rounding-up the top 8 were Kenlin in fourth with 55.900, Ana Padurariu of Canada in fifth with 55.750, Olivia Dunne of the USA in sixth with 53.600, Asia D’Amato in seventh with 52.850 and Iorio in eighth with 52.675.
After team and all-around finals on Saturday, event finals were on during Sunday afternoon and once again the USA was the most successful team, even if they only managed to take two of the titles. On vault, Perea took the gold medal with an average of 14.325 after hit her DTY and her FTY cleanly, with just a hop back on both landings, while her teammate Malabuyo was second with 14.275 after showing the same vaults, sticking the DTY but taking a step back on the FTY. The bronze medal belonged to another emerging star, Padurariu, who posted an average of 13.975 after a FTY with a tiny hop and a fantastic and stuck Yurchenko 1.5, which should become her first vault very soon.
On the uneven bars, the gold medal was shared between home girl Iorio and Perea after both scored 14.650 for their routines. Iorio showed a Ricna to pak, a Maloney to bail, a Endo half to Tkachev and a Endo full to double front half-out, boosting a 6.0 difficulty score, while Perea performed an inbar full to Maloney to Ricna and a van Leeuwen, before dismounting with a double layout with a step back. AA Silver medalist O’Keefe got here another medal, finishing third just half a tenth behind the two top girls after hitting her Chow to pak and Maloney to Ricna connections and finishing with stalder full into a double arabian dismount landed with a hop back.
In the beam final, Padurariu finally put everything together to score an amazing 14.250 to take the title after hitting her beautiful routine that featured a candle mount, a side aerial to LOSO to LOSO series, a front aerial to split jump to BHS, a switch leap to sheep jump and a double pike dismount with a step back. Perea was second here, performing a double wolf turn, a great standing tuck full, a BHS to BHS to layout series and a switch to switch half but also counting a big wobble on her side somi and going just a bit short on her switch ring before dismounting with a 2.5 twist with a big step forward. Gathering another bronze was O’Keefe, who hit her two acro series of side aerial to LOSO and BHS to BHS to layout cleanly, as well as her switch ring to ring jump, but had a wobble on her switch half, capping off her exercise with a double pike dismount with a hop back.
At last on floor, Malabuyo got her chance to shine, scoring a massive 14.100 after hitting everything without major errors, including a full-in, a front double full to front tuck to stag jump, a 1.5 twists through to 2.5 twist and a nearly stuck double pike to finish, together with an entertaining performance that captivated the entire audience. The silver medal was then shared between O’Keefe and Carolann Heduit of France after both posted a 13.450 despite starting with different difficulty values. O’Keefe showed a double arabian, a 1.5 twist through to 2.5 twists with a step forward, a double tuck with a tiny hop back, a switch ring to Gogean leap and a double pike with a tiny hop, while Heduit performed a double arabian with a hop, a double L turn, a switch ring to switch full, a whip through to double tuck with a step, a Memmel turn, a triple twist and a double pike dismount with a step.
Overall, this was another great junior competition, with multiple gymnast showing they are more than ready to advance into the senior ranks and take the world by storm with their talent. While pacing is key for these young athletes, their skill level is truly fantastic and soon rather than later we will certainly be talking about them at the world’s biggest stage. Until then, let’s enjoy their performances and find out new favorites for this quad.