As the 2019 elite gymnastics season draws to a close, a fresh batch of top-notch juniors will become age-eligible to compete at the most prestigious gymnastics meet of the quad, the Olympic Games. Let’s dive in to see who’s who and what’s what
The Canadian women will be very excited with the addition of Zoé Allaire-Bourgie to their senior pool. Zoé is a very strong all-around gymnast with a particular strength on beam, showing off difficult elements like a back handspring-layout-layout triple series. Next year I’m sure we’ll see her joining the ranks of Ellie Black and Brooklyn Moors as one of the top all-arounders in Canada, and a potential Olympic contender. In addition to Zoé, one of Canada’s brightest junior MAG stars, Felix Dolci will also become age-eligible for the upcoming Olympic Games. Felix not only came away with a rings gold at the 2019 Junior World Championships but also finished top-five and earned a silver medal on floor. However, his treck to the Tokyo Olympic Games is exponentially more difficult as the Canadian men did not qualify a team via the 2019 World Championships, thus Felix will need to rely either on the 2020 Pan-American Games or the all-around world cup series to punch his Olympic ticket.
After a somewhat disappointing World Championships, the Chinese women are setting their expectations high for Tokyo. In 2020, the Chinese will welcome Guan Chenchen and Ou Yushan to their senior squad. Both were members of the silver medal-winning team at the 2019 Junior World Championships. Despite her small size (and quirky personality), Guan Chenchen packs lots of power. Her strengths on vault, beam, and floor are places where she can make important contributions to the team. On beam, Chenchen boasts a massive 6.7 D packed with connections and huge acrobatic elements like a two-foot layout and a handspring-front acro series. Ou Yushan, another Chinese beam goddess, is one of the strongest Chinese junior all-arounders I’ve seen since Wang Yan all the way back in 2014. She has beautiful execution across all four events, making her routines look easily upgradable to put her towards the top of the all-around rankings in the coming year.
Consistently being called “the next Kohei” by Japanese media, Takeru Kitazono is the future of Japanese gymnastics. Takeru first attracted my attention after I saw clips of him holding an iron cross at age eleven. Since then, his gymnastics has progressed at an incredible rate. In 2018, he took the all-around title at the Youth Olympic Games by almost two points. Later in 2019, he won the pommel horse and parallel bars titles at the 2019 Junior World Championships showing off huge upgrades and clean execution. I’m very excited to see how this gymnast factors into the senior scene, especially with the incredible amount of depth Japan already has.
Upon hearing about the disappointing news of Krisztián Berki missing out on the 2020 Olympics, Krisztian Balazs is looking to become the next star in Hungarian gymnastics. The Youth Olympic Games high bar medalist balances difficult release moves, with impeccable execution throughout his routines. Although the Tokyo Games might be a little too soon for him, the Paris 2024 Games are well within his capabilities, and I’m sure we’ll be very familiar with his name by then.
After taking the world by storm at the 2019 Junior World Championships, Jennifer Gadirova is looking increasingly likely to become a potential contender for the 2020 British Olympic team. At 2019 Elite Massilia, Jennifer debuted a massive DTY to give her the vault gold. She also has a full package floor routine fit with difficult tumbling, great dance elements, captivating choreography, and topped off with a fantastic ability to perform, captivating everyone who watches her.
During her junior career, not only did she throw a quad twist on floor, but Chiaki Hatakeda also competed a layout full on beam and a triple-full dismount. Nonetheless, many people have been keeping a close eye on her for a potential prospect of the Japanese 2020 Olympic squad. Although she hasn’t maintained the same level of difficulty in the past two years, potentially bringing her difficulty back for her senior debut could mean a lot, especially when taking a home Olympics into account.
Looking to join the ranks of Oleg Vernaiev, Igor Radivilov, and Petro Pakhnyuk, Nazar Chepurniy is Ukraine’s next biggest star. Nazar’s greatest contribution to the Ukrainian team is high bar, where he shows off difficult releases like a Kovacs, and finishes with a casual triple-twisting double-layout dismount. His high difficulty and clean execution led him to clench the gold on the event at the 2019 Junior World Championships.
After a period of downfall, the Romanians are looking to new seniors Ioana Stanciulescu and Silviana Sfiringu to restore their former glory. The duo were part of the Romanian team who finished fourth at the 2019 Junior World Championships. Both have shown impressive upgrades in the past year like a DTY on vault, E-level tumbling passes, and strong acrobatic elements on beam. However, the thing that makes their gymnastics really significant is their strength on uneven bars. Being able to have not only one, but two new uneven bar workers on the Romania squad could help Romania factor back in to the 2024 Olympic Games.
It seems every year there are a few Russian juniors who show up to meets, compete the most incredible beam routine you’ve ever seen, get lower back surgery in Germany, and retire. I’m hoping that won’t be the case for Vladislava Urazova and Elena Gerasimova. They are both incredible all-around gymnasts displaying maturity comparable to their senior counterparts. The promising duo helped the junior Russian team finish first at the 2019 Junior World Championships, as well as rake in a heap of individual medals like bars, beam, and floor gold.
Last but not least are the new American seniors. Headlining the crop are Kayla DiCello and Olivia Greaves. Kayla won the 2019 U.S. Junior National AA title and took the vault and floor titles as well. Her incredible vaulting, tumbling, and all-around steadiness makes her stand out as a potential threat to make the U.S. Olympic team next year. In a long line of great uneven bar workers from MG Elite, Olivia Greaves is the next bar specialist from MG Elite. She released a training video earlier this year of her doing a sky-high Nabieva. In addition to bars, she also has an impressive floor routine packed with difficult tumbling, nice dance elements, and that fierce MG Elite choreography that separates her from the rest of the field.
This year has an enormous amount of depth and talent for many countries. As we’ve seen in the past, many countries struggle with transitioning their athletes from the junior to senior levels, and with the pressure of the Olympics looming, I’m excited to see what the future holds for these talented, young gymnasts.