Celebrating Team Tokyo
At 2pm Monday 7th of June, British Gymnastics announced their team for the 2020ne Tokyo Olympic Games.
A selection process like no other, following a year like no other meant that the ever rife speculation of who would make this team was even more heated and heightened than usual. Interrupted training due to global pandemic, Injuries, and family tragedy all played their part. No English Championships, no British Championships, a decimated World Cup schedule, and no international friendlies all contributed to removing the familiar markers on the path of selection, then suddenly the unprecedented publication of closed Olympic trial scoring, plus thirteen routines from the final trial were published by British Gymnastics, arguably under pressure of transparency following the cancellation of all other options to see the entire Olympic squad.
So we have our team of four, just four this time round, and there will be a post to talk about the lead up, the fall out, and the repercussions from this smallest of Olympic teams. This post though is to celebrate these ladies, and take a look at their journey through this last quad (plus 1 year) which culminates in adding the achievement of Olympian to their growing and impressive résumés.
Jennifer Gadirova – Aylesbury Academy Of Gymnastics
Having said that I would focus on each team member over the the last quad, I’m going to go back an extra year here, to when sixteen year old Jennifer Gadirova first came to our attention as a first year Espoir at the 2016 English Championships. Having come through the NDP system rather than compulsories, Jennifer hadn’t before this point been at the forefront of her age group, so we hadn’t seen much of her, and the event was a beautiful introduction to her gymnastics. The competition was won by Olympic team mate Amelie Morgan, Jennifer placed 4th AA, and took the floor title with a performance that made everyone sit up and take notice. I wrote at the time
“The choreography is beautiful and intricate, with unique touches throughout. Such choreography has to have the performance level to go with it though, otherwise the gymnast and the routine are at odds with each other. Both girls commit fully, they have the musicality, the poise, the carriage, the extension, the fluidity of movement. They engage, they emote, they project outwards with confidence, and I very much hope we see both at the British Espoir Championships at the end of the year.”
You can see the routine here:
As we know, her performance quality is one of the many aspects of her work which makes her stand out. She has added difficulty, great technique, and competitive fortitude to her arsenal, and as she has, her results have rocketed her to the very peak of GB WAG.
In 2018, just two years before her huge debut at the 2020 American Cup, Jennifer finished 12th at the Junior English, then 19th AA at the junior British, making the vault and floor finals, where she placed 6th and 5th respectively. A year later she had progressed considerably, taking bronze AA at the English, as well as silver on vault, 6th on bars, and bronze on beam. At the British she placed 5th AA, took silver on vault, bronze on bars, and became floor champion. Established as one of the top GB juniors, Jennifer was selected to the British team for the first Junior World Championships, where she helped the team to 6th place, finished 7th AA, took an incredible silver on vault, then placed 6th on beam, and 4th on floor. Completing her junior career with the Massilia Cup where she placed 9th AA, took the vault gold, and floor silver against senior competition, Jennifer was ready at the start of 2020 for her senior career to take off into Olympic year.
With Covid wiping out everything from March onward, Jennifer was one of only three GB gymnasts to compete in 2020. Making her senior debut at the American Cup in March where she came in for the injured Amelie Morgan. She instantly made an international name for herself, finishing 4th AA despite counting a fall from bars, whist topping the standings on vault and floor, as well as placing second on beam. A huge talent with high D and E scores, and clearly working well within her difficulty capabilities (we had seen even more from her in training), she proved herself to be a big stage performer, as she threw down her challenge for Olympic selection. You can see her floor here:
We saw nothing of Jennifer in competition until the Olympic trial routines emerged. She had been selected for the European Championships, but a niggling injury saw her wisely withdraw, with Tokyo the priority. She didn’t take part in all the trials due to the injury, and wasn’t at full difficulty when we did see her, again wisely prioritising her recovery in order to be able to peak for Tokyo. What we did see was an enormous explosive Lopez on vault which looks like she rarely performs it, instead adding the extra twist to make it a Cheng, and her trademark clean, confident, dynamic beam work just missing the full in dismount for now.
At full strength with full difficulty, Jennifer could make an enormous impact in Tokyo, the possibilities for her routines D score wise are very exciting, and she always delivers on E score. Huge congratulations to Jennifer, look forward to seeing you out there on the Olympic floor!
Jessica Gadirova – Aylesbury Gymnastics Academy
As with twin sister Jennifer, Jessica Gadirova came through the NDP ranks, also first coming to our attention at the 2016 English Espoir Championships, where she too impressed with her beautiful floor work. Intricate detailed choreography, beautiful carriage, musicality and fluidity. Every nuance of the music expressed in perfect timing with sharp as a tack movements , eye contact with the judges, and wonderful engagement. The difficulty was yet to come, but the performance quality of the now reigning European floor champion was evident from the off.
Into this quad, Jessica started to make her mark in 2018 when entering the junior ranks. 7th AA at the British, making bars (8th) and floor (6th) finals, followed by greater success in 2019 where she placed 4th AA at the English, with gold on vault, bronze on beam, and 4th on floor. At the British Championships she also finished 7th AA, making vault finals where she placed 8th, bars where she placed 4th, and taking the bronze medal on floor. In the same year Jessica took bronze at the Flanders international, and was a member of the 6th place finishing GB WAG team for the inaugural Junior World Championships.
We didn’t see Jessica in 2020, she would return to competition in 2021, making her senior debut at the European Championships. It is I think fair to say that perception wise Jessica had been in her twin sister’s shadow thanks largely to Jennifer’s stunning American Cup debut, and Jessica not having the opportunity to compete throughout her first senior year. Well, what a debut it was. Firstly the way she recovered from a nasty beam fall in qualification, she stayed on the mat for as long as she needed to gather herself, got up, paced a little, then remounted. A calm and mature response from such an inexperienced gymnast, allowing her to make the most of the rest of her routine.
The rest is of course very well documented, bronze AA, silver on vault, and the second ever British senior European floor champion. A full set of medals from one championships, big difficulty that in several places looked ready to upgrade, clean, dynamic, with that same performance quality we had seen back in 2016. It’s rare to see a gymnast enter the senior stage with such impact, Jessica matched her twin’s accomplishments from twelve months before, and British gymnastics had two very young, very exciting new talents.
Jessica’s winning floor from European Championships:
Jessica competed AA on three of the five trial days, winning each time. Combined with her European results, she was undoubtedly headed for Tokyo. Huge congratulations to Jessica, again enormous potential heading into the Games, and the possibility of even higher difficulty to make her even more competitive against the world’s very best.
Alice Kinsella – Park Wrekin
A hugely successful junior gymnast, including triple junior European medalist, Alice’s senior carer began as the quad began. She had a bit of a baptism of fire at the Stuttgart World Cup in that she did have a few errors, but she also put out a lot of new work signalling her intention to make an impression on the senior stage. Joint silver at the British, as well as 5th place on beam and floor placed her well amid the senior British ranks, she was rewarded with selection for the European Championships, where she qualified in 14th place to the AA final, in which over her first three pieces she performed superbly to be in 6th position, just a fall on bars affecting her final position, placing her a still very impressive 10th. Alice was selected for her first World Championships in October, where she again qualified for the AA final, but was unfortunately forced to withdraw due to injury.
In 2018 Alice represented Great Britain in the Birmingham World Cup, where she was thrilled to finish with the bronze medal. She then travelled to Australia’s Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games. She helped the English team to second place, took bronze in the AA competition, and performed superbly on beam to take the title. Fourth place with the British team at Europeans, then World team selection followed once more, where Alice contributed on three pieces to the GB team total.
2019 saw Alice once again selected to the European Championship team, she competed brilliantly in qualifications placing third AA, and qualifying to both beam and floor finals. The AA final didn’t go her way, but on day two of apparatus finals she made history by becoming GB’s first ever senior European beam champion, and cementing her place as a trail blazer in British WAG:
In the Autumn Alice was selected for her third senior World Championships, the first of the Olympic Trials. Alice helped the team to a 6th place finish, and Olympic qualification, as well as qualifying to the AA final where she competed very well to finish in 12th place, missing the top ten by only 0.133.
Alice was selected to compete at the 2021 European Championships, where she placed 11th in qualification, and was one of the reserves for the floor final, but due to two of her team mates finishing above her, had to sit out the AA final. Although not the championships she hoped for, Alice has performed very well at the trials, finishing second AA twice, and finishing in the top two positions on every piece several times.
Vastly experienced now, Alice finds herself in the position of leader of this young team heading into her first Olympic Games. Whether we will see the Amanar vault that we saw in training remains to be seen, but at her best, Alice is clean and calm with smooth work which is rightfully well rewarded by the international judges. Huge congratulations to Alice, I very much look forward to watching her take on the world once more.
Amelie Morgan – The Academy
Amelie Morgan began this quad as a stand out first year junior, when she took silver AA at the 2017 British, as well as Gold on beam, and silver on floor and bars. Fifth with with the team, 7th AA, and bronze on beam followed at EYOF, then she rounded off her first junior year with team, AA, and floor gold, as well as vault silver at the Olympic Hopes Cup. On to 2018, and her second junior year was even more successful, Junior English Champion, Junior British Champion, then history made at junior Europeans where she won an incredible five medals overall, team bronze, silver AA, bronze on vault, silver on beam, and bronze on floor. Even more success followed, with selection to the Youth Olympic Games, and another AA silver, plus silver on floor, and bronze on beam to add to her collection. I think it’s fair to say that alongside Ellie Downie, Amelie is GB’s most successful junior to date.
Amelie hit the senior ranks in 2019 starting strongly with the English AA title, and bronze AA at the British. She was selected for her first senior European championships where she finished a very impressive fifth in qualification, but was a victim of the depth of the British team, when she was two per country’d out of the AA by Ellie Downie, and Alice Kinsella. Amelie was also reserve for both the bars and beam finals at this championships. Shortly after Europeans Amelie was injured, but did make it back in time to be selected as a reserve to travel to Worlds, but was unfortunately injured once more. She did return to competition at the Cottbus World Cup, where she placed 7th on bars.
We didn’t see Amelie compete in 2020, she was of course out of the gym initially when covid hit, as were all the gymnasts. She then showed some very impressive work in training, including an Amanar vault, and the most beautiful Yurchenko to arabesque beam mount which makes you long for the days of ROV. 2021 saw Amelie selected for the European Championships, she had been dealing with an ankle injury which meant she wasn’t at full difficulty on floor and vault, but she did what she does best, go out there and repeatedly hit with elegant, clean, reliable routines packed with her trademark poise and grace that make you want to watch her. 4th AA, bronze on bars, and 4th on beam with just the tiniest touch of her hand on the apparatus to steady her Wolf spin keeping her from another trip to the podium. This was a strong statement of a showing, and whether she regains her previous difficulty again on floor and vault or not, on beam in particular, she is exactly the type of competitor you would want to put up on the biggest stage of all, and I’d be tempted to have her as leadoff in qualification, with the idea of steadying the team from the outset on this piece.
Huge congratulations to Amelie, she has battled through these last couple of years, and pulled herself back from multiple injuries to contention and selection. Another beautifully artistic gymnast to represent team GB.
Amelie’s beam from European’s AA:
So congratulations to the team, their coaches and clubs. Forever Olympians, beautiful gymnasts, incredible athletes, and arguably one of the cleanest and most artistic of the teams heading to Tokyo. Im sure like me, you can’t wait to cheer them on!
I would also like to congratulate all of the gymnasts who made it to the Olympic trial process, a four member team is so cruel, and I for one am thankful that this is the one and only time we shall see it. Left at home are multiple British AA Champions, Commonwealth, World Cup, European, and World medalists, every single one of them an outstanding athlete. I very much hope that this is not the last we see of any of them, especially given the last year. Ladies you too are all incredible gymnasts, who have achieved so much, and I hope to see you all achieve even more.
Ondine Achampong – Sapphire
Becky Downie – Notts
Ellie Downie – Notts
Claudia Fragpane – Bristol Hawks
Phoebe Jackubczyk – The Academy
Kelly Simm – Dynamo