Saturday, September 27, 2008

Something to look forward to...

I always feel a bit all over the place during this point of the Olympic quad. Beijing is over.
 Some of my favourite gymnasts will be retiring. I am depressed about that. 
Some are staying on. I am happy about that. 
Then of course, a whole lot of gymnastic newcomers are on their way, which is exciting. I don’t know which way to look! 
So, it is at this time I have to get all glass-half-full, and try not to think about potential losses like A-Sac, Nistor and Pavs and start thinking about what is out there to look forward to.
So, we know a lot about the Junior Gymnasts who are elbowing their way up the ranks in the U.S. We’ve heard so much about athletes like Bross and Shapiro and Wieber. In fact, we haven’t stopped hearing about them, especially in this past year. The American media is very good at anticipating the next big thing while the most recent big is still trying to do her thing But anyway, there is a lot of talent in that junior gang. It should be interesting to see who lasts the distance.
But I thought, considering so much has already been said about the U.S girls, I’d focus on some of the other countries and the gymnasts they are going to be bringing into the senior ranks over the next few years. This way, I can comfort myself that thing are going to be just as exciting as they were in the last while. I can tell myself I have a lot to look forward to, gymnasts to get to know, rivalries to look forward to....
This list is not exhaustive, however. Or thorough. Talented young gymnasts sprout and wilt like weeds in this sport. 
Hell, gymnastics careers can be so fleeting, some of these girls probably retired while I was writing this! But anyway, here is a taste of what is to come.


Things are certainly looking up for Russia. Their little one’s have been dominating the Junior international field lately. Some of them have been working the competition circuit for a while now, getting a heap of experience and attention. They are certainly looking to have the guts, talent and grace to challenge the seemingly impossibly talented bunch of U.S gymnasts coming up in the West. Tatiana Nabieva of St Petersburg, took the all-around crown at the 2008 Europeans, as well as an individual floor gold. Tatiana won’t be eligible for senior competition until 2010, though, so she will have to maintain her edge.  Her team mate Aliya Mustafina, who is becoming renowned for her gorgeous lines and beautiful dance elements came second in the Euro all-arounds behind her.  Despite coming fourth in floor- due to weaker tumbling- Aliya apparently had crowds cheering at her exceptionally lovely routine. Unfortunately, Aliya is becoming quite familiar with second place, taking five gold medals behind Rebecca Bross at a Japanese junior international meet last year.  She does, however, have the kind of elegant lines and clean movement we gym fans seem to crave.  Her little dance to sudden stop to sheep jump is just awesome.
On top of this junior finery, i am sure we can expect to see a lot more of the two Ksenias, Afanasyeva and Semenova, in the next quad too.


Youna Dufournet is the ‘it’ girl of French gymnastics at the moment. It was, I’ve got to say, pretty exciting to see a young French woman on the podium at the 2008 European Championships after the All-Around competition. In fact, not only did Youna win the AA Bronze, she won medals on vault bars and floor, earning the most hardware of anyone present.
She has an impressive two-and-a-half-Yurchenko and a piked Omeliantchik on vault. On floor she tumbles a piked full-in and a double Arabian on floor. She is tiny (duh) and, as someone commented in a Youtube video, she has a touch of Vanessa Ferarri about her- wether you think that is a good thing or not is a matter of taste.
In the French Federation profile on Doufournet, her personality traits are described as “demanding and manic.” We can only hope something was lost in the translation to English! Her gymnastic heroes are Severino and LePennec. Her “Physical Quality” or “Qualite Physique” is stated as being her shoulders. I don’t quite follow…. Is that a good thing?


Nicole Hibbert and Danusia Francis are two powerful young gymnasts from the same Heathrow Gymnastics Club in England, sharing the same coaches and similar successes in their junior careers. From Edgeware, Nicole Hibbert is the youngest gymnast to win a gold at the British championships, in vault. She also took fourth place in vault at the 2008 Junior European Championships as well as fifth in floor. As you can probably imagine, she is known for her explosive strength.
Danusia Francis came second to Nicole Hibbert in the British Championships All-Around competition. She has a scholarship at a nearby school so she can attend the club and has particularly strong beam work as well as being good on vault and floor. From the sounds of it, between them, they just need to sharpen up the bar work and they could be something of a force for British gymnastics. We can probably still expect to see a lot from the likes of Hannah Clowes and Marissa King in the next few years too.


It feels like the gymnastics world has been looking forward to Peng Peng Lee becoming a senior for years now. I know I have been ever since I saw her do those awesome pommel flares on balance beam. Peng Peng is proving herself worthy of the attention too, slotting herself into a spot amongst those indomitable U.S girls at the Junior Pan Ams this year, taking fifth place in the AA and helping Canada to a second place team medal. Though her coach, Carol Lee Orchard, has sadly left Canada, she claims to have set Peng Peng up with the skills and difficulty she will need come 2012 (Like a Bhardwaj on bars. Yay!).
Her team mate Dominique Pegg also had a successful competition, coming in sixth. Dominique’s strengths are vault and bars and she has been having a lot of triumphs in Canadian homeground competition. To explain why they put her in gymnastics, her parents claim she practically back flipped out of her mother’s womb when she was born! She also out-midgets Shawn Johnson, coming in at 4’7 tall.
Peng Peng and Dominique took one and two on vault in Guatamala, heralding a new vaulting power and Charlotte Mackie, Gail’s sister is also an exciting gymnastic prospect with her original and exciting beam work (is that a one-handed Onodi?!)

Like in the days of old, Romania has some phenomenally talented young gymnasts rising through the ranks.  The top four performers across the three age categories of the Romanian Nationals this year were the same bunch of girls. Amelia Racea, Larisa Lordache and Diana Chelaru were all winners in the all-around categories. Ana Porgas was consistently highly placed too. Racea trains in Onesti and outside the gym, her two passions are Nadia Comaneci and the Internet! Cute!  Larisa Lordache is also being touted as the next ‘Nadia” though she would probable be the 507th new Nadia, so I don’t know if it means much anuy more. She started out at Dinamo but now trains in Onesti with the rest of the Romanian top juniors. Romania lived up to it’s heritage, with two girls , Racea and Porgas taking first and second in the beam finals of the Junior Euros.


A product of the Victorian Institute of Sport, Britt Greeley is tiny. And I mean tiny. It is no wonder her VIS profile says her favourite quote is “It’s not the size of the man in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the man” or that her heroes are two renowned shorties, Shawn Johnson and Monette Russo. Despite her pint-sizedness, Britt is described as being very powerful, throwing high level tumbling passes. She was also the Australian National Champion for under 12’s. She has placed in the top twelve gymnasts in the Pacific Rim, Pacific Alliance and WOGA Classic competitions this year, has earned a handful of top three spots in both Victorian and Australian Championships finals over the last year and will qualify as a senior next year.
Emily Little, another excellent all around product of the WAIS program (Joura, Mitchell etc) took out the all-around in the Australian Junior National Championships. Her strengths (not that she seems to have significant weaknesses) are floor and beam.


Paola Galante is one of the major up-and-comers for Italy and is already being celebrated for her beautiful floor work and stunning flexibility. At the 2008 Europeans, however, it was her bar work that earned her fifth place in the finals. She also came third, as a junior gymnast, in the all-around at the Italian Nationals this year behind senior competitors Parolari and Bennolli, promising another well rounded performer from this new European gymnastics force.

There were so many more gymnasts I wanted to find out about, but alas, unless I suddenly acquire about six to ten more languages, it is pretty difficult to research these young gymnasts! But here are some others who are looking good that I just couldn’t get much info on.

Japan- is mixing things up a bit with its juniors. Shizuka Tozawa came 2nd at the Pacific Rims last year on floor, while her team mate Erica Lynn Danko, a half American, half-Japanese athlete came second on vault. It was exciting to see two gymnasts who come from a country more well known for its bar and beam work to compete so well on these two events, meaning we might see a few more female Japanese gymnasts in event finals.

Netherlands-Nastasja Blind came third on uneven bars and 8th on floor, signalling some great talent at the euros then sixth all-around at the 2008 WOGA classic
and Celine De Gerner also came 10th in the All-round earning herself as personal best with 56.075 points. She actually placed second in a qualification competition and fourth AA at last years WOGA classic. Fittingly, her favorite gymnast is Nastia Liukin!

Brazil- Khiunai Dias came seventh at the Junior Pan Ams, the highest ranked of the Brazilian girls, followed by Ethione Franco in ninth. The juniors as a team took out third place which was exciting to see. Brazilian gymnastics has been improving immeasurably in the last ten years or so and maybe this batch can best the best of the already exciting Hypolito, Barbosa and Santos. Ana Claude Silva who won the Brazilian Nationals this year is also bound to have many years left in her.

Belgium- Jolien Eggermont came fifth all-around in a Junior Youth Olympic Competition in 2007 and followed it up with a fifth place in vault in the European Championships. 

Mexico- Daniele Espinosa was the highest ranking Mexican gymnast at the junior Pan Ams this year and came twentieth in the Junior Pacific Rim. Someone to follow in Garcia’s footsteps perhaps?

Ukraine-Natalia Kononenko placed eighth on bars and fourth on beam in the 2008 European Champs continuing a tradition in Ukrainian talent for lovely bars work She also won the all-around at the Olympic Hopes Cup in October last year in Great Britain against a number of junior European gymnasts.

As for China- well, how do you know who is a junior gymnast and who isn’t? Chen Chuyan became China’s all-around national champion, but, as someone said in the International Gymnast forum, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Things change fast in Chinese gymnastics.  Jie Cui was the only non-American gold winner at the 2008 Pacific Rims this year, tying on balance beam with, of course, Rebecca Bross! Her specialties are beam and floor. She may well have moved up to senior now, though. It is safe to say that no matter what, with their type of recruitment and training system, China will be bringing in some more major players.
I’m pretty sure this little one is still labeled a junior (Sorry, I am a fan of Chinese gymnastics, but I couldn’t resist.  Besides- very cute pic)


  1. Where did Peng Peng Lee's old coach leave to?

  2. i believe she is engaged and is moving to England with her fella.

  3. OMG Youna Dufournet's vault is amazing! Lots of good juniors to look forward to. I am excited to see Peng Peng get more consistent with all her crazy skills. Some people said she was doing too hard of skills too young, but I think Carole had it planned that way. I love your blog by the way.

  4. Don't forget about Ekaterina Kramarenko

    Semyonova and her are Europes 2 best AAers right now (she would have advanced easily to the Oly AA final if not for the fall on beam which left her in 10th behind her 3 teammated)

  5. Look out for Laura Svilpaite of Lithuania - she's awesome. Videos of her at the WOGA Classic are up on

    Other Ukrainians you should keep an eye out for are Yana Demyanchuk (awesome floor music!) and Yevheniya Cherniy, who both seem to be decent all arounders and are both adorable. The 3 Ukrainians were all at the WOGA Classic and then at the Nadia Comaneci Invitational.

    Videos up at

    And I have a question for you - do you remember which gymnast did their floor routine to the Gummy Bear Song (minus words of course)? I remember seeing a clip up on one of the gymnastics blogs I've read, unfortunately that's a lot of them and I searched through old posts on several but was unsuccessful. I feel like it was a European junior, and I know you've written a lot about juniors so just thought I'd check.

    For reference, this is the song (with words):

    (yes the song is semi disturbing, but also hilarious, and catchy!)

  6. It was Amanda Jetter. Here's the link.