Saturday, December 31, 2016

Farewell 2016: Memories Of A Year Of Gymnastics

Brasil's Flavia Saraiva competes on floor at the Olympics. Photograph: Silvia Vatteroni

What a year for gymnastics 2016 was! This article aims to recollect all the sweet gym-memories of this year.

I will start off with the Olympic Games, which was the peak of this gymnastics quad: high difficulty, great execution, beautiful choreographies, huge gymnastics variety, more and more involved countries. What a show these gymnasts put up for us. Congratulations to all participants.

U.S. Simone Biles

Rio had to be Simone Biles’ Olympics and the best gymnast of modern times did not disappoint. She won four gold medals, including the most prestigious of all, the all around. She showed great difficulty combined with very clean execution on all apparatuses, which is what makes her so special. Her Cheng vault is probably the best ever performed. Speechless.


The Final Five

The Fierce Five looked amazing, the Final Five looked incredible. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman were the most consistent and successful team of the Games and won a record total of nine medals. Will there be a team capable of doing even better in four-year time?

U.S. Aly Raisman

Aly Raisman has always been the ‘underdog’ of Team USA. Despite being the most decorated U.S. gymnast in London 2012 and delivering consistent performances for her team throughout her career, she has never received as much media attention as Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles. Aly, however, is the hardest worker, and hard work pays off: this year she won three Olympic medals, including (eventually!) an all around medal, to add to her three Olympic medals from London. Future gymnasts, she is an example to follow.

Russia’s Aliya Mustafina

The Russian tsarina proved once again that she is the best Russian gymnast of the decade. She pushed through chronic injuries and pain to defend her uneven bars title with a beautifully fluid routine, which included her signature dismount, the ‘Mustafina.’ She was the first gymnast to defend her Olympic title since Svetlana Khorkina in 2000. Respect.


U.S. Madison Kocian’s ‘15.900 +’ UB score

On Day 2 of the U.S. Olympic Trials, Madison Kocian scored 15.900 on the uneven bars, outscoring contender Ashton Locklear. NBC commentator Tim Daggett rhetorically asked, doubtful, whether 15.900 was a score Madison would ever receive in an international competition. The answer is yes, she scored 15.933 in the team final and never scored below 9.00 in execution at the Olympic Games. That was satisfying. Never underestimate a WOGA gymnast, Mr Daggett!

Unexpected Olympic medallists

Switzerland’s Giulia Steingruber on vault, Germany’s Sophie Scheder on the uneven bars and Great Britain’s Amy Tinkler on floor were not the favourite but performed out of their skins in the Olympic event finals and achieved Olympic glory. Female gymnasts from seven different countries won a medal in Rio, what an achievement! Hopefully this trend will keep increasing...

Sanne Wevers and the Dutch team

Sanne Wevers’ gold medal on balance beam is the emblem of how impressive the Dutch team has been this quad. They worked the CoP perfectly, they showed original gymnastics as well as difficult skills, they qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time since 1976 and brought home an Olympic gold medal. Sanne Wevers was the only gymnast in Rio capable of taking a gold medal away from Simone Biles. Golden girl, we are all so proud of you! Congratulations also to Eythora Thorsdottir, Lieke Wevers, Céline Van Gerner and Vera Van Pol.


Italy’s 14+ floor routines

The Italian team failed to qualify for the Olympic team final due to a disastrous beam rotation, but impressed on floor, producing four routines out of four that scored over 14.000. They were the second highest-scoring team on this apparatus behind the United States in qualifications. Vanessa Ferrari scored 14.866, Erika Fasana 14.333, Elisa Meneghini 14.233 and Carlotta Ferlito 14.033. Hard work pays off, impressive!


Brasil’s Rebeca Andrade’s comeback

Rebeca Andrade tore her ACL the year before the Olympics, putting her career at risk. But she came back incredibly strong, competing an Amanar vault and qualifying in third position for the Olympic all around final. Lack of experience probably cost her a medal, but she is young and tough. She and teammate Flavia Saraiva can achieve great results internationally in the future, good luck!

Great Britain’s Ellie Downie’s strength

Ellie Downie landed  her third tumbling pass on floor on her headduring the qualification round, leaving her dizzy. Most people would have given up, but Ellie came back and finished the competition on vault for her team. Such strong character this young lady has!


Venezuela’s Jessica López

For a lot of gymnasts, an Olympic qualification is worth an Olympic medal. Jessica’s tears when she made the uneven bars final proved exactly this. Congratulations on her longevity and determination in sports!

An historic Japanese team

Japan achieved an historic fourth place in the team final, a huge result, which emphasises an improved Japanese female gymnastics programme, which certainly eyes Tokyo 2020. What impressed me most, however, was the pure joy and fun the gymnasts showed competing at the Olympics. It was beautiful to watch, a breath of fresh air in such tense atmosphere.

Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina

Oksana achieved a new record this year, becoming the first female gymnast to compete in seven Olympic Games. She also qualified for the vault final, finishing seventh. Because of her achievements and longevity in sports, Oksana was mentioned in this year’s Guinness Book of Records. A Legend.

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I could go on recollecting beautiful Olympic moments forever. But the Olympics was not the only meeting in which we witnessed amazing gymnastics in 2016. Here are other gym-memories we will remember in the years to come.

Euros: Russia’s comeback on top of Europe

At the European Championships in Berne the Russian team won the team competition for the first time since 2010. Aliya Mustafina, Angelina Melnikova, Daria Spiridonova, Seda Tutkhalian and Ksenia Afanasyeva competed some pure Russian routines and were a joy to watch. Such a happy moment!

Euros: Russia’s Aliya Mustafina’s gold on beam

Aliya’s weakest apparatus is beam because she is not always consistent on it. But when she hits, she is one of the best in the world. At Euros she performed beautifully on beam and she won the event final with a score of 15.100, the first time she had scored over 15.00 internationally on beam since she tore her ACL in 2010. She is a class act.


Euros: Switzerland’s Giulia Steingruber’s victories and Ilaria Kaeslin’s tears

Giulia won gold on vault for the third time in four years and gold on floor for the first time. She was delighted, and so was the Swiss public. What I found particularly moving, however, were Giulia’s teammate Ilaria Kaeslin’s tears of joy and pride when Giulia won the floor title. Victories are sweeter if you know the right people to celebrate with.

Euros: Britain’s Becky Downie’s second UB title

Becky Downie turned senior in 2007, but it took her years and years in the British team to become consistent and produce important results. This last quad she has finally impressed, winning two European bars titles (2014 and 2016) and a world bronze medal with the team last year. She is going for Tokyo, will she impress us even more?

U.S. Ashton Locklear’s UB routine

One of the cleanest bars workers of the quad, Ashton was a victim of the depth of team USA. Her difficult combinations and beautiful lines, however, are unforgettable.


U.S. Ragan Smith’s floor routine

Ragan’s floor routine to the Addams Family soundtrack was one of the most fun routines of the year. She is a great floor performer, as well as a very good tumbler, I am looking forward to her new routine next year.


U.S. MyKayla Skinner’s all around performances

It is incredible how much MyKayla improved throughout 2016. Her Olympic Trials performances were stellar, it is unfortunate she was not chosen for the Olympic team, she deserved it. She is now competing in NCAA gymnastics for the University of Utah, her super difficult skills have set her to become a star!

Viral: UCLA’s Sophina DeJesus’s NCAA floor performance

Only one gymnastics performance went viral this year, and was not Simone Biles’ nor an Olympic performance. It was UCLA’s senior gymnast Sophina DeJesus’ floor performance, who charmed the world with a sassy routine packed with pop music moves. So much fun, congratulations!


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2016 was also a year of gymnastics revelations. Here are the unexpected gymnasts who impressed most this year.

U.S. Laurie Hernandez

We knew that the 2015 Junior U.S. champion was a good gymnast, but Laurie took us all by surprise in Jesolo last March, when she performed an Olympic-worth balance beam routine, an excellent floor routine and improved vault and bars. Her Olympic floor routine was one of the most fun and beautifully choreographed of the Games, and her personality and maturity has made her a star. She is only 16, wow!


France’s Marine Boyer

Marine turned senior this year and at her first international competition, the European Championships in June, she won a silver medal on beam with a beautiful routine, as well as bronze with the team. This summer she qualified for the Olympic beam final and finished fourth. She has a great career ahead of her!

Turkey’s Tutya Yilmaz’s beam routine

Tutya impressed at the Olympic Games, when she narrowly missed the beam final. She performed a beautiful routine, which included a G-rated full-twisting layout. She deserves more recognition, I was very impressed!


Italy’s Elisa Meneghini’s beam routine

Speaking of full-twisting layouts on beam, Elisa performed a beautiful beam routine at Euros in June, which included a full-twisting layout. Unfortunately, she is not the most consistent beam worker, but when she hits, as she did in Berne during the team final, her routine is first class. Impressive!

Belgium’s Nina Derwael

Nina, a first-year senior, competed one of the most intricate and beautifully executed uneven bars routines in qualifications at the Olympics. She narrowly missed the final, which is a pity. But she is young, hopefully she will win what she deserves in the future!


The Hungarian team

At the European championships in Berne last June we witnessed the comeback of the Hungarian team. They finished eighth in the team final, but their work is very good and I expect them to grow in the future. Congratulations to 2016 Olympian Zsófia Kovács, Dorina Böczögő, Luca Divéky, Noémi Makra and Julianna Csányi.

U.S. Maile O’Keefe

Maile was quite unknown before she became the 2016 Junior U.S. champion. She is an excellent all arounder, but shines particularly on beam. I expect big results from her next year!


WOGA’s Irina Alexeeva’s BB routine

The 2016 Junior Secret U.S. Classic champion is an excellent beam worker. She has very intricate combinations, and her long lines take us back to the past. She could not compete to the P&G Championships, because she is not an American citizen yet. Hopefully she will be awarded full citizenship soon.

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Finally, there are a few mundane events we will remember from this year.

U.S. Laurie Hernandez’s Dancing With The Stars victory

In November, Laurie became the youngest contestant to win the U.S. dancing programme Dancing With The Stars. Laurie has a natural talent for dance and her performances were impressive. What an incredible year this has been for Laurie Hernandez, I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next year!

Great Britain’s Claudia Fragapane’s Strictly Come Dancing participation

Claudia competed in the British equivalent of DWTS, Strictly Come Dancing. She was eliminated in the semi-final, but she was probably the one contestant who improved the most during the show. It will be interesting to see how she will include her new dancing experience into her floor routine!

Tied Knots

Finally, congratulations to all those gymnasts who got married this year: Anastasia Grishina, Shawn Johnson, Ksenia Afanasyeva, Ksenia Semenova, Andreea Răducan, Amelia Racea and Aliya Mustafina. We wish you all the best!

By Talitha Ilacqua


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Farewell 2016: Memories Of A Year Of Gymnastics Reviewed by Talitha Ilacqua on 6:36 AM Rating: 5 Brasil's Flavia Saraiva competes on floor at the Olympics. Photograph: Silvia Vatteroni What a year for gymnastics 2016 was! This...

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