In part two of this quad in review of the British seniors, I look at the major competitions of 2015 and 2016. If you would like to read about the first two years of the quad, see part one:
2015 saw the first of the hugely promising juniors from recent years enter the senior ranks, and added to national squad. As expected, Ellie Downie, Amy Tinkler, and Tyesha Mattis each made an immediate impact at the beginning of their senior careers.
The year started with Claudia Fragapane travelling to the US for the American Cup, she did have a bit of a rough outing, but was trying out some new skills, and a new floor, all of which certainly came together for her through the rest of the year.
In March at the English Championships, the first of the new seniors to make her mark in the senior ranks, Amy Tinkler became the AA Champion with 56.200. Claudia Fragapane took the silver with 54.900, and Kelly Sim the bronze with 54.35.
The Vault medals went the same way as the AA, gold to Amy, silver to Claudia, and bronze to Kelly. Becky Downie took the bars title, with new senior Tyesha Mattis taking silver along with Amy and Claudia. Amy took the beam title, with Ellie Downie winning her first senior medal taking silver, and Claudia the bronze. Kelly took the floor title, with Lisa Mason taking silver, and Amy collecting her fifth medal of the Championships in bronze.
Five medals in her first senior competition for Amy Tinkler.
Two weeks later at the British Championships Amy continued her flying start as a senior by taking the AA title. As we have come to expect from Amy, she competed with confidence and attack going clean on all apparatus to become British Champion at fifteen with a score of 56.650. She’d added a new triple twist beam dismount, hit her strong double twisting Yurchenko, added a Van Leeuwen on bars, and a big new full twisting double straight on floor.
Claudia took silver with 55.55, including the highest floor score of 14.900, and Ellie Downie took bronze in her first senior British with 54.900 despite watering down on vault to a full twisting Yurchenko as she was still making her way back from injury.
Claudia took the vault title, with Kelly Simm second, and Ellie third, Tyesha Mattis who competed only on bars and beam took both titles in her first senior British, with Ellie and Claudia taking silver and bronze on bars, and Georgina Hockenhull and Claudia taking silver and bronze on beam. Amy took her second British title of the weekend by winning floor, Claudia took silver, and Lisa Mason the Bronze, fifteen years after her last senior British.
Amy Beam AA
Claudia Vault Final Vault 1
Tyesha Bars and Beam Finals
It was actually after this championships that I was inspired to write the blog, and it came down to Becky Downie. Becky of course had been a senior competing on major international teams since the 2007 world championships, so into her ninth year. At this competition, she happened to have a very bad time on beam. Two falls, and then after she balked she opted not to do her beam dismount, a very wise move showing in one of her first competitions of the year when she could have risked major injury attempting her double pike when she knew she wasn’t right to.
Unfortunately, some people didn’t see it like this, there were the odd few out there that called for her immediate retirement, said she should never be selected again, harshly criticised her for not doing her dismount (for not risking her health!!!!!) etc. You get the idea.
I decided that I would like to be able to go to a place to read about British elite gymnastics with a fair but positive approach, somewhere you could read about what has happened both good and bad, without histrionics, but with calm assessment of events. Well if you want something done the way you would like it to be, do it yourself, so I did. Just a little additional comment to this section, for those that decided that one routine meant Becky should be done, since that routine she has won three European silver, one European gold, one world bronze. I know I’m glad she kept going.
Of course Becky herself had the perfect response to any negativity when she was selected for the European Championships in Montpellier. It was the first Double Downies senior international, when Becky was joined by younger sister and new senior Ellie, along with Amy Tinkler and Claudia Fragapane for this individual European Championships.
Ellie qualified to the AA in third place, coming off of injury it was a big ask for her to repeat in the final, but that was exactly what she did. Such an impressive performance in her first major senior AA competition, especially holding her nerve so well all the way through her beam. Finishing on vault, and it was the first time in the year we would see tears from Ellie on securing a bronze medal, but not the last.
In apparatus finals Ellie finished 5th on vault, one of only two gymnasts to score over nine in E score on both vaults, on bars she narrowly missed out on a medal, placing 4th by just 0.1.
Ellie Beam AA
Ellie Vault AA
Becky Downie had two pieces to contest, and came away with two medals. On beam she competed one of the strongest routines I have seen her do in major competition, she was just 0.066 away from gold, such a minor difference, it could have gone either way, and with a little of my British bias, I felt Becky was just that little bit smoother and more flowing throughout. Nevertheless, the perfect response to anyone that had doubted her. On bars it was another silver, she hit another strong routine, just slightly out of line on her final top turn, but well dealt with. Russia’s Spiridonova upping her difficulty for the final edged her out of retaining her title, but two years in a row on the European bars podium for Becky. Four routines total, four hits, two finals, two medals. Great championships.
Becky Beam Final
Becky Bars Final
Claudia also qualified to the AA, as well as vault beam and floor finals.
In AA finals she was solid on bars, but unfortunately beam proved costly. One of the greatest saves I have ever seen on her straight back, it pretty much quarter turned in the air and was heading for a star shape, Claudia managed to pull in back in and keep it the beam, The free cartwheel however took her off the beam, and she had to count a fall. Claudia then went and hit a fantastic floor routine full of big hit tumbles, great level of performance, character and sass. A well performed powerful DTY to finish and it was 6th place on the day.
In the vault final, for her DTY she was off line from the moment she hit the vault but it was otherwise well performed. For her second vault there were some bigger form issues, and the judges only credited her the Podkapayeva rather than the Lopez she had qualified with. Sixth place on the day for her first final
Day two, beam first, and a great routine. A little problem on the standing full, but firmly worked out of. The free walkover was smooth and light. Not the best sheep jump, but a good dismount with just a little extra energy to control on landing for 4th place.
Finally floor, Full twisting double layout landed upright. Big leaps pushing the ring position and hitting splits. Sky high double Arabian with the tiniest hesitation into the W full to prone. Expressive dance, triple twist with a bit of a leg cross, and the energy left to tumble a double layout as a final tumble, linking it to a W jump for good measure.
Such a routine could only be bettered by a gymnast of the quality of Ksenia Afanasyeva. Former world and European champion, silver for Claudia for an absolutely superb performance.
Claudia Beam Final
Claudia Floor Final
Amy was unfortunate in that the strength of the British team was now at the point where you can be one of the strongest gymnasts in the European field, and still get bumped out of the AA due to finishing below two of her team mates on the day. Despite qualifying 6th AA, Ellie and Claudia finishing ahead of her meant sitting this one out, although there was compensation in the form of a floor final for her first senior international.
Amy competed superbly in finals, as we have grown used to from her, she smiled and performed her way through floor, looking like she completely belonged on the senior international stage and was actually enjoying herself! Her leaps and tumbles were well executed, the routine flowed. On the day it was just the landings that gave Amy a little trouble, nothing major, but a little short on the opening full twisting double layout, and a little bouncy everywhere else meant 6th place this time. Of course this wasn’t the only time Amy would qualify to a major floor final this quad, but we’ll come to that later……
Amy Floor Final
In the summer, Kelly Simm, Georgina Hockenhull and Charlie Fellows were selected for the first European Games in Baku. A mixed competition in the team event saw then finish in eighth, with Kelly advancing to the AA where she again had mixed fortunes finishing in 13th, but with the third highest vault score, and placing second only to Aliya Mustafina on bars.
Georgina had qualified to the beam final, and Kelly to vault. A great first vault for Kelly with her Lopez, was followed by an unfortunate hand slip on her double twisting Yurchenko meaning she was unable to land the vault. Georgina had a nasty fall on beam on her free cartwheel layout, but recoved very well and performed the rest of her routine beautifully.
Two weeks later, Kelly was in action again when she travelled to Gwangju Korea for Universiade or the World University games. Kelly had a great AA competition to take the title with her highest total to date of 56.322. Kelly also qualified to vault , bars, and floor finals, where she hit her Lopez and full twisting Yurchenko to take silver behind soon to be world vault champion Maria Paseaka of Russia. On bars she had a little trouble on her original piked Galante which she had performed so well in the AA, having to tuck it over the bar. The rest of the routine was very well done for 4th place. Finally on floor she again competed very well, including a double straight, and whip to full in, to take the bronze. A full collection of medals for Kelly, a great competition for her.
Kelly Vault Final
Kelly beam AA
Kelly Bars AA
Kelly Floor Final
The final major competition of 2015 was of course World Championships. A home world championships held in Glasgow, and simply put history was made. The team of Becky and Ellie Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Ruby Harold, Kelly Simm, and Amy Tinkler along with reserve Charile Fellows will forever be the first British WAG world team medalists.
In qualifications there were a couple of upsets, Claudia had a fall on beam, and both Ellie and Becky fell on bars which for Becky took her out of the final, and Ellie out of the AA. Other than that, strong performances throughout, four clean beams counted, Ellie and Claudia into the floor final, Ellie into the vault final, Ruby in to the bars final, Kelly the first gymnast to perform the piked Galante at world level, and Ruby and Amy into the AA. More importantly, the job of Rio qualification was done.
Team final followed, starting on bars, Ruby had one job to do, and she did it, the tears that came as she left the podium, a huge emotional release for her having fought so hard to return from injury, then hitting when it mattered the most for her team. Ellie had a fall on bars, Becky clean and strong all the way through to anchor the team.
On beam three up three to count, three hit. You can’t ask for more than that. Claudia, Ellie, and Becky under huge pressure doing exactly what they were selected to do.
On floor, up stepped birthday girl Amy. Made for big competition as she is proving again and again, big routine brilliantly done. Ellie too, another first year senior hitting a big routine on the world stage. Claudia anchored the team, any doubts about her ankle firmly laid to rest after a superb performance, one piece to go. Finishing on vault, three double twisting Yuchenkos ready, Claudia first, one of her best, much cleaner that we had seen from her earlier in the year, 14.833. Amy simply brought her best vault she had ever done to break the 15 mark for 15.083. To the screams of the home crowd Ellie took all the pressure and vaulted an enormous vault for 15.133. The score was in, bronze medal, and tears again from Ellie, this time joined by her team.
In individual finals, there were mixed fortunes for the girls. For Amy and Ruby in the AA, a great start on bars for Ruby, but an unfortunate fall for Amy on her Markelov. Both girls had a fall on beam, but both bounced back really well for a strong second half to their competition with good performances on floor and vault.
In the vault final, Ellie hit both her DTY and new Lopez to finish in 4th, on bars Ruby hit her best routine in her third world final in a row to finish 7th. On floor both Ellie and Claudia achieved their highest scores of the championships to place six and seventh respectively.
Kelly bars Qualifications
Becky Bars Team Final
Ellie Vault Team Final
Amy Floor Team Final
Claudia Floor Team Final
Ruby Bars Final
And so to this year, the final year of this review. An Olympic year, everything to play for with selectors watching every move in the run up to the Rio team announcement.
Two World Cup events to kick the year off, and the big story was beam. Amy went to the Amercian Cup, a fall on floor saw her finish 4th, but as well as a new Maloney linked to Tkatchev on bars, and bringing back her full twisting double layout on floor, Amy added a third layout for a new gainer triple layout series, a new mixed series in the free walkover to sissone to spin, and the big standing full came back for a 0.5 rise in D score since Worlds.
Claudia went to the Glasgow World Cup, AA bronze for her, and again some big upgrades, mainly on beam, but also a new Maloney on bars, and the toe full now immediately linked to the double layout dismount. On beam, Caludia had a look at the most difficult skills the code had to offer, and went for all of them. Standing Arabian, straight full twist, and standing full, 0.6 D score up from Worlds, huge difficulty.
At the English Championships Claudia took the title with 57.60, Amy took silver with 56.500, and The Academy’s Abi Solari the bronze with 51.800. Katie Meadow of Southport took the vault title, with Danielle Barns of Dynamo taking silver, and Rachelle Flambard of Regent the bronze. Claudia took the bars title, followed by Becky Downie in silver, and Amy in bronze, beam again went to Claudia, with Amy taking silver, and Ruby bronze, and finally on floor Claudia took home her third gold of the day, with Amy taking silver, and Georgia-Mae Fenton the bronze.
English AA medalists L-R Amy, Claudia, Abi
Just a few weeks later at the British Championships, Claudia made all of her upgrades including a brand new piked double Arabian on floor, and went round clean for a great AA competition to become British senior champion with 58.100. Becky Tunney made a brilliant comeback from her injury struggles to take silver, again a very strong AA competition from her after so long out for 56.350. Bronze went to Ellie Downie, she’d had just three weeks of training following a torn bicep, so understandably wasn’t at her sharpest or most difficult, especially on bars where she counted a stop and a fall, and had to miss her full turn requirement. Even so she was still able to score 55.250 such is her ability.
In apparatus finals, Ellie took the vault gold, Claudia the silver, and Abi Solari the bronze. On bars we saw Gabby Jupp return once more after her second ACL tear the previous spring. To see her become British Champion after working so hard to fight back once more, was one of the highlights of my gymnastic year. Becky Downie brought her big routine, but had a fall on her uprise into Ricna from the Maloney, still her difficulty level was so far ahead, it was still silver for her. Ruby brought her upgraded routine for bronze, she did the new Maloney straight to the Tkatchev linked to the Bhardwaj, just struggling on her dismount landing bringing her score down a little.
Beam to be fair was a little bit splatty, Becky Downie was other than a wobble on her free cartwheel layout, clean and classy throughout to take the title. Claudia brought her huge difficulty, but wasn’t as secure on the day which affected her E score, still enough for silver. Ruby did fall on beam, but fell less and wobbled less than others to take bronze.
Amy took the floor title with her full twisting double straight, and double double that we all saw coming in her routine ready to build for Rio. A good routine from Claudia with a just a little too much energy on her middle two tumbles to secure her landings saw her take silver, then The Academy’s Phoebe Turner made sure her club medalled in every apparatus final, with a great routine with very clean tumbling to take the bronze.
Claudia Beam AA
Ellie Vault Final Vault 1
Gabby Bars Final
Becky Beam Final
Amy Floor Final
Just before European Championships, at the very beginning of May, Ellie and Ruby Travelled to Osijek for the World Cup event. An individual apparatus event, Ruby competed on three pieces quailifying to each final where she tested out the new bar routine again, this time with a fall on the Bhardwaj, but recovered well to finish the rest of the routine very strongly. On beam she had a few wobbles, then she finished well on floor.
Ellie couldn’t really have had a better competition, four finals, four golds, and the best beam routine of the enitre year from an British Gymnast with a score of 14.950. She also scored 59.125 over the four pieces with definite room to improve on bars, unsurprisingly people began to tip her for AA bronze in Rio.
After the British, came European Championships , the final big test before Rio. The team of Becky and Eliie Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Gabby Jupp, and Ruby Harrold travelled to Bern for team and individual apparatus championships this year. In qualifications, the British team had a great competition overall and topped the standings. Ellie into the vault final along with Claudia, Becky and Gabby into the bars final, Becky into the beam. Claudia the highest floor score of the day, into the final along with Ellie. Ruby was superb on floor, one of the best routines I’ve ever seen her do.
In to the final, and it wasn’t to be. Not only did Russia step up, and would have been ahead even with a clean competition from the British team, but there were problems for the British girls here. Starting very well on vault, with Ruby, Claudia then Ellie all vaulting excellent DTY’s. Gabby was clean and precise on bars, Ruby went for the new routine, and fell on an absolutely huge Tkatchev. There was much grumbling that she should have played safe, did people really think that this big new routine shouldn’t be continually tested leading up to Rio to decide whether it was worth the risk in the Olympic team final? Becky anchored brilliantly on her strongest piece.
Beam was where things went wrong, Gabby started the team off really well, two pieces, two hits, a great job from her. Claudia had a fall on her flick full twist, the first time since adding it in, then Becky had two falls. Counting three falls was tough to take. Finishing on floor, three strong routines, a low landing for Claudia on her final tumble, but she made sure to keep it on her feet and minimise deduction. Disappointment for the team in that it could have been so much better, but to easily claim silver counting four falls was a strong statement of progress made.
In apparatus finals, beginning on vault, Claudia achieved her highest score for her double twisting Yurchenko, a fantastic start. She was awarded her Lopez vault, there were deductions, but still a great overall performance for 5th place overall.
Ellie vaulted brilliantly to take silver, she was 0.6 down in D score from gold medalist Giulia Steingruber, but only 0.050 from taking the gold such was the quality of her work.
On bars, Becky took her second European title over the reigning (and now double) Olympic bars medalist Aliya Mustafina, and World Champion Daria Spiridonva by hitting her big 6.9 routine, double European Champion, only the second GB WAG has ever produced. Gabby went for her toe full immediately to Van Leeuwen, and on the day, and it didn’t come off for her. She took a fall, but just lovely clean work from her through the rest of the routine.
On beam, after the elation of bars, Becky had a fighting performance in the final, but fight she did, and she stayed on through a couple of bigger wobbles for equal 6th place.
Finally on floor, having qualified top to the final, Claudia just wasn’t at her absolute best on the day. Brilliant opening tumble, then had issues on her three remaining landings which took her score down.
Ellie competed very well on floor, she still had a little room to go higher, but her second highest score of the year, and another silver for her. I can’t see Great Britian not having a European floor champion over the next quad.
Ruby Floor Qualification
Gabby Beam Team Final
Ellie Vault Final
Claudia Floor Qualification
Becky Bars Final
And so we come to Rio, the final event of the quad for the British seniors. After months of selection both open and closed, Ellie Downie, Becky Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Ruby Harrold, and Amy Tinkler were selected as Olympians.
The girls had a mixed Olympic outing in competition, qualification to the team final secured, but my heart broke for Becky on bars where a final spot and a medal were very much up for grabs, but hitting her feet on her Shang, for a 0.5 deduction was the end of her Olympic bar dream, made worse by the fact she only missed the final by 0.1, and instead of doing her own Downie release later in the routine, she did a Ricna which is worth that 0.1 less. Looking at her score, the judges were very much on her side to put her on the podium should she have made it through to the final and go clean. For Claudia in the AA trouble on bars and beam kept her out of the AA final, and a not quite as sharp as usual floor kept her out of the floor final on a tie break, again heartbreaking for her. For Ellie, her nasty crash on floor, and back problems meant her vaulting wasn’t quite up to her usual standard, but the fact she vaulted at all was to be greatly admired. Ellie qualifying to the AA final despite her floor, Amy qualifying for the floor final, and Amy and Ellie both scoring 14.500 to be reserves for the beam final were highlights of the day.
In the team final, bronze was always going to be difficult, and Aliya Mustafina rallying herself once again for Russia would have kept the British girls off the podium even if they had gone clean. Upping her own personal score from qualification by nearly two whole marks propelled them to the silver medal. China too improved by over 0.7 securing the bronze. For the British girls it was again a mixed outing, good start on bars with Ruby doing exactly what she had been brought to Rio to do, hit bars in team finals. Ellie and Becky also hit well. On beam Ellie was clearly furious with herself for coming off on her standing Arabian, but fought well to get as much from the rest of her routine as she could. Claudia came through without major incident, as did Becky.
Floor again Amy, Ellie and Claudia went through without major incident, but not at their sharpest. There was 0.5 total in out of bounds deductions. Fourth place was lost by 0.009, so just one less would have meant a higher finish. Finally on vault, three strong DTY’s from Claudia, Amy, and Ellie. Ellie in particular I felt was underscored here compared to some other gymnasts, every time I think about that vault score even now I feel irritated, especially when I think about the difference between fourth and fifth.
In the AA final, Ellie had another mixed day. She was strong on vault and floor, but effectively lost a whole mark on bars for a mistake on her Pak, and her landing from the double straight. She then hit a fantastic beam right until the end, where to her credit she went for the double Arabian, but sat it down. Not the result Ellie was looking for, or was capable of. 13th AA, and where I’m not a great one for what if’s, because if you what if one gymnast, you have to what if them all, this time however I’m going to make an exception. Taking major errors only, not errors like landings with hops, 0.1-0.2 missed connections etc, just falls and major breaks, and taking them from all gymnasts to make it fair, Ellie would have finished 4th. Two large errors on bars, and a fall on her beam dismount added up to 2 falls, take them out, and it’s enough to put her just behind Mustafina if you also give Mustafina her missed acro series.
This is the huge talent that Ellie is, and this is why all anyone could talk about, not just British fans, but gymnastics fans from all over the world, was not the disappointment of her not hitting, but the enormous potential for the next quad Ellie has. This has also been without hugely upgrading from last year, which I do believe we will see her do next year, particularly on vault and floor. Through the 2017-2020 quad, don’t be surprised at all to see Ellie go from world level to world medalist.
Finally to apparatus finals, just the one, but what a final it was. There can’t have been many that expected gold and silver to go to anyone but Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, so the medal up for grabs was the bronze. Sixteen year old Amy Tinkler stepped up, hit the routine of her life, and bagged herself an Olympic medal on an unforgettable night for fans of British gymnastics. History made in being the first British WAG to make a floor final, history made again with the medal, and I don’t imagine she’s done making history for a minute. It would be easy to say I thought she could do after she had done it, I think more accurately, I didn’t think she couldn’t do it. In a situation where things are open, and whoever hits wins, I would put my money on this girl every time.
Ellie Vault Team Final
Becky Bars Team Final
Ruby Bars Qualification
Claudia Floor Qualification
Amy Floor Final
With a little time passed, it’s been interesting to reflect on Rio. I always take a positive approach here, and I know there was some disspointment, but none will have been more disappointed that the girls who worked so incredibly hard to get themselves to Rio, hoping to perform at their very best, as where you place isn’t quite as important if you have been able to show yourself at your very best.
Looking at the Rio results though, it is very interesting note quite how far British WAG has come over the last quad. At the London Olympics, 6th in the team final, a top placing of 15th in the AA, one apparatus final and one medal was celebrated. Just four years later, 5th in the team final, 13th AA, one final, and one medal was tinged with disappointment. This is the progress made over one quad by these hugely talented gymnasts, the best Olympic result to date was tinged with disappointment, and it is these gymnasts that have elevated British WAG to that point. As ever I choose to celebrate these athletes, as the potential is now huge. There is potential for world team medals, potential AA medals, for multiple apparatus finals and now medals, all in just four short years. The quad may not have had the perfect ending, so let’s look at it as a beginning, a marker to what could follow.
We start a whole new quad in just two weeks, where will we be in another four years? I can’t wait to find out.