With the Junior European Championships only taking place every two years, the European Youth Olympic Festival allows a chance to see the continent’s top juniors together in action during the intervening years between. It also offers a chance for juniors to participate in a multi sport event, gaining valuable experience for those who will find themselves on Olympic teams in the future, some as soon as just twelve months away in Rio.
EYOF often showcases the senior stars of the future, 2009 AA champion was Russia’s world, European, and Olympic medalist Viktoria Komova. 2011’s AA champion was Larisa Iordache of Romania, also now a Olympic, world, and European medalist. 2013 saw Maria Kharenkova of Russia take the AA title, Maria went on to medal at world and European championships, and is aiming to make the Russian team for Rio. Other gymnasts graduating to senior World or European teams from 2013’s EYOF include Great Britain’s Ellie Downie and Amy Tinker, Germany’s Kim Janas, Romania’s Laura Jurca, and Holland’s Eythora Thorsdottir.
Tbilisi in Georgia hosts the 2015 championships, with the Festival opening 26th July, and the WAG events beginning with qualification Wednesday 29th. Teams consist of three gymnasts only, working a 3-3-2 format for team final/qualifications. The top 24 will qualify for the AA final, maximum two gymnasts per country. The top eight on each piece qualify for apparatus finals, again maximum of two gymnasts per country. The competition is judged according to the junior FIG code.
Wednesday 29th July – Team Competition and qualification to All Around & Apparatus Finals
Thursday 30th July – All Around Final
Friday 31st July – Vault, UB Apparatus Finals
Saturday 1st August – Beam, Floor Apparatus Finals
At present there is no information on live streaming, as soon as any becomes available, I will update. There will be You Tube uploads as usual however, so routines will be available, even if after the event.
Unfortunate injuries to the two British juniors holding the highest AA scores; Catherine Lyons and Teal Grindle, meant that places on the team were wide open. Both girls move up to senior ranks next year meaning the entire hugely strong generation of juniors ( Catherine, Teal, Tyesha, Amy, Ellie) will then all be vying for places on senior teams, moving junior attention the the next generation coming through.
A group of young talented girls have taken part in several trials, national, and international competitions through the year, with only three places available for EYOF, there would be disappointment for some, but we will certainly be seeing many them fighting for places on the 2016 Junior European team.
Congratulations go to Georgia Mae Fenton, Lucy Stanhope, and Maisie Methuen who will take on Europe’s best, lets have a look at the gymnasts in detail to gain an idea of what to expect in Tbilisi.
Georgia Mae Fenton
Second year junior Georgia competes for East London, and is the reigning British junior bronze AA medalist and bars champion. Georgia’s strengths lie in her quality of performance, attention to form, expression and detail. At present she doesn’t quite have the explosive power to match, meaning her floor and vault scores aren’t quite up with her bars and beam, however she is still a gymnast who commands attention on floor by delivering beautiful routines such as this one from the British AA championships.
Bars and beam are where Georgia really shines, on beam she works with poise, extension, great flexibility, and again quality of performance. Her most recent outing on this piece earned her 13.95, it’s a routine that will go over 14.00 should she go completely clean.
I have talked about Georgia on bars before, she has what all great bar workers need, open shouldered swing ensuring straight body line, understanding of how to utilise the bounce of the bars, and neutral head positions to die for. If you pause her routines on casts and turning skills, you wouldn’t know the difference, and this is what is so impressive. Always on top of the bar, straight line through the shoulders, head in. Many gymnasts you will see short of handstand, shoulders closed, heads out causing late turns, quality of Georgia’s level really should be appreciated.
Georgia had this to say about her selection to the EYOF team:
“I am so excited to be going out to represent Team GB. it’s going to be scary but also really exciting so I can’t wait. People like Hannah Whelan and Beth Tweddle really inspire me and they are both amazing athletes so I want to be as good as them one day. Competitions like this are really good because they give us the chance to experience what it will be like in the future if we get to go to the Olympics. That would be my dream, 2016 is too soon for me but I will definitely look to do it in the future and this will only help. I am just hoping I can go out there and do the best that I can and hopefully that will mean I produce some good performances.”
Welsh gymnast Maisie Methuen of Phoenix Gymnastics is a rising star of British Gymnastics. A first year junior, she is the reigning Espoir British champion taking the title last December, she then marked her entrance to British junior competition by coming second only to Catherine Lyons at the junior British in March. Maisie is a great AA gymnast, particularly impressive on beam where GB is producing some strong up and coming girls on a piece where we have traditionally struggled as a team. Not senior till 2017, Maisie has a great flick layout-layout, and has recently added a double pike dismount. Her routine from the recent four way international didn’t quite go to plan, but you can see the potential here.
Maisie has also upgraded on vault this year, performing the new pike front with half turn, as her first vault, and a lovely high pike front for her second.
On floor, Maisie has a lovely new routine which she is performing well, but still growing into in places. She has upgraded her tumbling, moving the double pike to the end of the routine, and opening with a double tuck which is easy for her. She keeps the straight front with double twist, and the excellent straight front full to stag is now the third tumble.
Keep an eye on this young gymnast, if she can maintain her progress we will be seeing her on senior teams at major championships in a few years. This is what Maisie had to say about her selection.
“I was really happy when I was told that I would be going to the European Youth Olympic Festival and it was a bit of a surprise. I was in the gym and my coach told me that I would be going and it was very exciting and now I can’t wait to get out there. It has been a very good year so far and the highlight has to be when I went to Liverpool for the British Championships. It was my first time there and I was one of the youngest and I still finished second which was really good. That has given me a lot of confidence and I want to carry that over to Tbilisi and do just as well out there.”
City of Liverpool’s Lucy Stanhope is another first year junior, second to Maisie at December’s Espoir championships, Lucy placed 4th AA, 2nd on vault and bars, and 3rd on floor at the 2015 junior English Championships, then earned the silver on vault a few weeks later in her first junior British.
Lucy is another junior with great potential on beam, she added another layout in her most recent outing, not quite successful, but an excellent upgrade, and with the lovely full twisting flick, she is building well on this piece.
On vault she has a very impressive well performed full twisting Yurchenko, good height with the twist finished early, I imagine she is training extra twists which we will see in time.
Lucy Tumbles well, and within her means meaning she works with good execution, she is a nice performer, not hugely expressive, but seems to be growing in confidence in this area as time passes.
A Liverpool elite gymnast will always swing bars well, and Lucy is no exception. Strong efficient swing, understanding and using the bounce of the bars, Lucy’s keeps the flow of the routine throughout, and given how solid her technique is, I imagine like Beth, Rebecca, and Charlie we shall see Lucy’s bars evolving with more and more difficulty over the next few years.
Another all around gymnast to watch, Lucy will be looking to carry on the tradition of Liverpool ladies on the big teams in the future. This is what Lucy had to say about her selection to the team.
“I think going to Georgia to compete is going to be a really brilliant experience and is a big achievement for me at this stage. If I am honest I was not expecting to make the team but it was really nice when I found out that I was going. I have never done anything quite like this before so it is really exciting and I think I can learn a lot from it. It’s a great opportunity to see what the standard is like among other people my age and test myself against them as well. The main thing for me is to go out there and try to enjoy it and do my best, I think that’s the most important thing.”
So a young team without a huge amount of big competition experience, but all three gymnasts have some fantastic work ready to do their country proud alongside the best in Europe. Good luck girls!