The 2015 Sainsbury’s School Games saw each of the home nations taking medals, but this year it was the Welsh girls who broke England’s dominance of the competition by taking the team, AA, and two of the four event titles, as well as several other medals. For Great Britain’s Junior and Espoir Internationals and squad members, there were mixed fortunes. Some beautiful performances, much to be proud of, and also some errors bringing lessons to be taken on board as part of the journey to senior elite level.
In the team event, Wales led by their two GB internationals Latalia Bevan and Maisie Methuen took the title for the first time in over five years. Five and a half points ahead of the silver winning English team, it was clear that the Welsh girls would be walking away from the games with a large medal haul. On floor they were beautifully presented, with attention clearly paid to choreography and performance as we have come to expect from the Welsh gymnasts. Emily Thomas tumbled a great whip to double tuck, Zoe Simmons ( who is showing signs of being a big tumbler in the future) struggled with her double front all through warm up, then kept it on her feet when it mattered, Latalia danced beautifully as ever, I am rapidly becoming a fan of this young gymnast as the quality and attention to detail in her work have to be admired. No two and a half twist second tumble today, but everything performed with poise and polish. Espoir Jolie Ruckley had a little trouble controlling some of her landings, but again performed well showing promise here. Maisie Methuen sold her routine beautifully, I have loved watching how she’s grown into this new choreography over the year, she has also moved the double twisting straight front to the end of the routine, signaling her intent to upgrade and increase D score as she moves into her second junior year next year.
Wales were strong on Vault with Maisie performing her pike front half, and her pike front just with a little trouble on landing both accurately, and Jolie competing a nice straight Yurchenko. On bars Latalia had problems with what I think was going to be her toe on full, coming off half way round. The rest of the routine was performed well, I noticed she finished with a double pike, where we have seen a full out in the past. Jolie showed nice form, a little late on her giant full, but everything else done well. No release move as yet, but I’m sure it will come. Maisie performed the routine we have been used to seeing this year, good toe on Shap and Tkatchev, nice short clear to shoot half, all well executed. She had a problem on the blind in needing to bend her arms and fight to get it over the top, but recovered well with her giant full, and double tuck dismount. We have seen a full out all this year from Maisie, but it has been a little wild in the legs coming away from the bar, so better to perform what she can without deduction, then add it back in when it’s cleaner.
On beam, again plenty of quality in performance, not an error free rotation, but enough to secure the title. Zoe started with a lovely press to planche, but came to grief on her flick layout. Maisie had just a small adjustment on her flick layout layout, then nearly made it through the rest of her routine with her customary style. A new Onodi caused her to come away from the beam, a replacement for the punch front Maisie had been competing this year. Front full dismount today, and still enough for the final despite the fall. Jolie had a wobble on her layout, and her switch ring, but managed to stay on the beam all the way through, and Latalia took the highest score of the day with lovely leaps, free cartwheel linked to just the one flick today, change leg to ring, double spin, free walkover, and a one and a half dismount to finish off.
England took the silver medal with again a mixed performance for the young gymnasts. Trying to keep track of four screens, I only saw Taeja James on beam, where she started with the back flick to chest stand mount, then unfortunately came off on her change half. Taeja has added a second layout to her acro series this year which although finished with a wobble, she did successfully keep on the beam. Free cartwheel, side somi, and I have written a one and a half dismount, which I can’t recall whether is right or not, as I am aware she was competing a double (thank you to the commenter who confirmed Taeja upgraded to a two and a half dismount) . It was a tentative routine with a fair few errors, for Taeja today, but great to see this very talented young gymnast back on the competition floor after some time away with injury. Megan Parker must have hit her beautiful beam routine as she qualified second to the final, as did Sophie Scott. Laura Beasley ran into problems, and Laura Kaletha didn’t compete on this piece.
On floor Laura was a little low on her opening double pike causing her to take a big step, the rest of the routine went smoothly finishing with a one and a half twist, for the fourth highest score, and a place in the final. Half way through my notes on Megan I wrote ‘expressive, nice choreography’ at the end I wrote ‘beautiful routine’. Anyone who reads this blog regularly will notice a running theme occurring with me favoring gymnasts with beautiful lines, attention to detail, and E score over D, Megan is a perfect example of this type of gymnast, and I hope to see her progress on to senior teams in a couple of years time, maintaining the same qualities. Opening with a fully extended split jump full, then tumbling a lovely triple twist with great execution, switch ring through to switch half, high double tuck, a Memmel spin in full range, then double twist to finish. Second highest floor score of the day by just 0.05. Taeja tumbled an opening double pike, then a two an a half twist. One and a half to straight front, then finished with a double full. A completely different gymnast to club mate Megan, Taeja also performs and sells her routine well, the more dramatic style suiting her more dynamic style of gymnastics. Sophie was a little low on her opening double pike, but recovered well with her second tumble of one and a half to straight front. I like use of the Onodi for a little variety on floor, and there was a nice change to ring, split full leap passage with change of direction. A little trouble with keeping the double spin vertical, then switch quarter, and finishing with handspring straight front full to stag leap which she performs beautifully. A new routine for Sophie, and really well set out and choreographed to suit her.
On vault we saw a straight Yurchenko from Taeja, just the one vault today, and no Tsuk full which along with the strapping she had suggests that she’s not quite back to full strength just yet. Never the less, a good vault, and a taster or what this young gymnast is capable of. Laura vaulted a good straight Yurchenko, and then a tucked Yurchenko for her second vault taking her into the vault final. Sophie was the strongest vaulter of the day, and is as far as I recall one of only three British 1st year juniors competing a full twisting Yurchenko vault, the others being Liverpool’s Lucy Stanhope, and Alice Kinsella of Park Wrekin. A great first vault, then a strong straight Yurchenko for her second, and highest qualifier to the vault final. Finishing on bars, Taeja performed her Tkatchev, her shoot half, a lovely giant full, and a full out dismount for the third highest score on this piece, which was very impressive when you consider her D score was 0.6 and 0.7 behind the top scorers. Megan showed beautiful form on bars where she performed a Jaeger, shoot half, toe on, toe full, and finished with a double pike. Sophie ran into trouble on bars with a fall on her shoot half, and then found herself having to stop after her shoot to high bar. She did complete her jaeger, her giant full, and her double back without incident though. I missed Laura Kaletha on this piece which is a shame, as it was the only piece she competed, Whether this was intended, or whether she was unable to compete any others I’m not sure, but I look forward to seeing this talented youngster back on all pieces for her next competition.
Scotland took the bronze medal, Great Britain International Louise McColgan would have hoped for a better day overall, but there was still plenty of quality gymnastics from this talented young gymnast blazing a trail for her home nation. Starting on bars, Laura Jane Core went well through her routine, then was unfortunate on her double tuck dismount not to be able to stay on her feet. Louise started with toe on and off, then a stalder shoot with a bit of bent arm catch. She lost leg form on her blind in, but made the Jaeger well. A late turn on her giant full, but safely through the double layout dismount.
On to beam, and Isla Warr unfortunately fell on her flick layout, but recovered well to keep her free walkjover and sheep jump on the beam. Nice leaps, a free cartwheel, and a tidy full twist to finish. Laura went safely through her flick layout, her back tuck, and another full twist dismount, and young Anna Gibson who we won’t see competing Espoir level till the end of the year went clean through her routine. Jump to split mount, change leg to W jump, flick layout, back tuck, free walkover and one and a half dismount, for the third highest qualifying score, a huge achievement in such experienced company. Sofia Razman had a wobble on her free cartwheel, and unfortunately fell on her flick to back tuck and her change half leap. She finished her routine with a nice one and a half twist though. Louise posted the second highest D score of the day on beam, but sadly for her she wasn’t able to hit her routine to take advantage. An early fall on her front somi, then a wobble on her free walkover were costly errors, she came back with a nice flick layout, but had another large wobble on her full spin with the free pulled to vertical. a nice change leap to free cartwheel to sissone, then a stuck double tuck but with the chest a little low. A lot of potential here for a high scoring routine on a better day.
Finishing on floor, Anna tumbled a double twist, a straight front full, and a one and a half twist, due to trying to keep track of all four pieces I missed Laura, Sophia, and Isla’s routines, but I did catch Louise’s other than the first tumble. Louise has been tumbling a piked full in, triple twist, and double pike this year, but went for the double tuck, two and a half twist, and double pike here. A little trouble on the Memmel spin, but a new full turning ring jump, but as ever with Louise, beautifully presented, emoted, and performed throughout. Highest score of the day on this piece, and well deserved.
I sadly missed much of team Northern Ireland’s performances, and couldn’t understand why I kept missing them on the feeds. When the competition was finished I realised that only one of the team originally listed to compete was there, and that Rebecca Geddis had stepped in as a second team member. Hers wasn’t a name I was looking out for having researched the teams, so unfortunately I missed all of her performances. Hopefully she had a successful competition, and was pleased with her routines. Casey Jo Bell vaulted a nice straight Yurckenko, and a good handspring tucked front to go into the final in third place. I missed her bars, and most of her beam, but she finished there with a good double tuck, and equal seventh place. On floor she opens with a double pike, then took a pace on her double tuck. Casey tumbled a full twist for her second pass, and finished with a full twisting straight front. Good leaps, high powerful tumbling, and a lively routine for the junior European AA finalist.
The AA competition was also decided in the same event, three of the GB juniors on the 2016 Junior Europeans squad taking the medals. Today Latalia Bevan gave Wales double gold, Megan Parker added to England’s team silver with an individual silver of her own, and Maisie Methuen took the bronze. All three girls plus many of the other talented gymnasts returned for Apparatus finals the next day, look out for a full report and video of all routines coming up over the next couple of days.