Monday, 17 August 2015


US National Championships 2015

This weekend saw one of the highlights of the calendar in American gymnastics. The much coveted title of US National Champion was up for grabs as well those all important spots on the American National Team. Always one to watch, this year was no exception. World Champion Simone Biles was now up against 3 Olympians, with reigning Olympic AA Champion Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman back in competition alongside Kyla Ross. So who would come out on top?

Queen of Gymnastics - Simone Biles
It almost seemed a foregone conclusion that Simone would continue her impressive winning streak and take her third consecutive national title, but even she proved that she was only human this weekend. On day 1 she had a couple of very uncharacteristic wobbles on beam before stunning everyone who was watching by falling on her final tumble on floor. Still, her incredible difficulty and otherwise flawless execution meant that she actually went up one place in the rankings, from 3rd to 2nd. It was her incredible vault though that projected her, with a massive 16.250, into 1st place with a total of 61.100. I mean seriously, 61.100 with a fall! When I said earlier that she was human I may have been lying!

Day 2 saw Simone back to her normal, confident ways and she rocketed through the competition to take her third consecutive national title with a 2 day score of 124.100. She really is the most incredible gymnast and it's hard to see how anyone can ever beat her and yet she still always comes across as the most genuine, down to earth girl. She truly is a joy to watch.

Mags got Swag - Maggie Nichols
Known on Twitter as MagsGotSwag, Maggie Nichols certainly lived up to that this weekend. Always slightly below the radar in the past she really came into her own this weekend and delighted everyone with her excellent gymnastics. Her vault is a very well executed Amanar and she looks confident and elegant on beam and bars. On floor, she combines elegance and drama with her tumbling, leaps and spins and this is where her personality really starts to shine through. I enjoyed watching her on all four apparatus but particularly on floor.

She was one of the few gymnasts who managed to hit all 8 routines over the 2 days and finished second only to her best friend Simone!

Olympic Star - Aly Raisman
After taking time off after London 2012, Aly has started her comeback with Rio 2016 firmly in her sights. Finishing 3rd this weekend she has proved that she is still very definitely a force to be reckoned with in US gymnastics. Heading towards being as strong now as she was back in 2012, Aly has always come across as being very focused and driven and I am sure she will want to keep improving until she is better than she was at the last Olympics. She already has her Amanar vault back, though perhaps not as cleanly as it was back then, and her D score on bars is only marginally down from what it was. On beam she seems to be struggling more. She had a fall on day 1 which shocked everyone who knows just how consistent Aly usually is. In fact when asked when Aly had last fallen in a competition, her coach Mihai replied "never". Not to be deterred though she came back on day 2 with her usual consistency and raised her ranking from 4th (day 1) to 3rd (end of day 2). It is on floor though that Aly really shines through. She took the title of US National Champion on floor after two stunning performances. A dynamic gymnast, she is really able to play to her strengths on this apparatus and show everyone exactly how good she is.

It has been a real delight to see Aly back in the gym, not just because of how good she was in London but how good she is now and no doubt with better yet to come.

Key Player - Bailie Key
After making such a name for herself as a junior, Bailie's last junior year was marred by injury. Moving up to the senior ranks in 2015 saw her back in the spotlight and fighting to be noticed amongst the older girls. For me, she didn't stand out as much this weekend as she did as a junior and on day 1 she had some wobbles and errors which we are not used to seeing from her. By day 2 though, things were looking much better. She seemed more confident in her performances and her improved scores reflected that, finishing the weekend in a solid 4th place.

A lot was expected from Bailie as a junior and it will be nice to watch her grow and improve as she moves through the senior ranks.

Golden Girl - Gabby Douglas
Another London 2012 Olympian making a comeback, but this time the reigning Olympic Champion, Gabby Douglas. It can't have been easy to step back into the gym as Olympic Champion knowing you have to start from the beginning and prove yourself again, yet this is exactly what Gabby has done. Although, finishing in 5th place, she is no doubt not yet where she would want to be, there were still surges of the brilliance that we saw in London. Still working a DTY rather than an Amanar on vault, there were also slight errors throughout the 2 days but I am sure that these are not things we will be seeing for long. It was Gabby's floor routine that particularly stood out  for me and really captured her energy and enjoyment. I can't wait to see her continue to improve and shine.

Star of the Bars - Madison Kocian
Madison Kocian seems to be slightly under the radar in terms of US gymnastics, despite being part of the Gold medal winning team at the 2014 World Championships. She is lovely to watch on beam and floor as she is such a beautifully elegant gymnast. Her routines on day 2 were much, much cleaner than day 1 and I particularly enjoyed her floor. With a solid DTY vault, it is nevertheless bars on which Madison truly shines. She posted the two highest bars scores of the weekend to take the bars title easily. She swings so smoothly and makes it look simply effortless. Taking 6th place, Madison was the last girl to qualify automatically for the National Team and this was very well deserved.

The top 6 all around finishers automatically qualify to the national team and so it is these 6 girls who were the first to be named. Keep watching for my 'best of the rest'.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


British Championships 2015

This weekend saw the Battle of the Brits as the top British gymnasts fought it out to become the next British Champion. Here is a look at some of the gymnasts that stood out for me over the weekend. For the full results via the British Gymnastics website click here.

Amy Tinkler
The new British Champion, Amy looked up to the challenge from the start. Only her first senior year, she saw off the competition and kept her nerve throughout. Solid on all four apparatus, her standout routine has to be on floor. With her opening pass of a full twisting double straight she makes the whole thing look so easy. Making three apparatus finals, she also took the Gold medal on Floor. She really was a joy to watch and a very deserving winner.

Claudia Fragapane
The Golden Girl of the Commonwealth Games, it was not an easy weekend for Claudia despite her taking the Silver medal in the All Around. She started with mistakes, catching her feet on the bars and falling on beam. However, she kept it altogether and produced one of the most outstanding floor routines I have seen. She hit every tumble and really brought the floor to life. She was rewarded with a 14.900, the highest score of the weekend. She finished on vault with her usual power and style. It wasn't over for Claudia then though. She made all four apparatus finals and came away with an amazing four medals: Gold on vault, Silver on floor and Bronze on bars and beam.

Ellie Downie
Proving this weekend that she is not just Becky Downie's little sister, Ellie stormed to third place All Around in her first senior year. It wasn't all plain sailing though. Starting on floor, Ellie landed one tumbling pass out of the floor area and sat down on another. She kept going though and strong performances on the other three pieces saw her finish with the Bronze. She then went on to take two apparatus medals, Silver on bars and Bronze on vault. The Downies are definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Kelly Simm
Finishing in a good 4th position, Kelly reminded us how powerful she is with some fantastic tumbling and vaulting. I particularly enjoyed watching her on those two apparatus and it was good to see her come away with a good result.

Tyesha Mattis
Recovering from injury and therefore only working two apparatus, Tyesha nevertheless proved that the power and strength she showed us as a junior is still very much there. She gave fantastic performances on both bars and beam which got her into both apparatus finals and followed this by taking both Gold medals. A great way to make a comeback!

Lisa Mason
Still going strong at a mere 33 years of age, Lisa finished an impressive 7th All Around. Known previously for her work on vault it was her floor routine that captured the attention this weekend. Strong and dynamic with some great tumbling, it was a great routine to watch. Also making three apparatus finals I was delighted to see Lisa come away with the Bronze medal on floor.

Georgina Hockenhull
Always an elegant gymnast who I love to watch, Georgina came to the competition only competing on beam. Despite a fall she still managed to qualify for the final where she took the Silver medal. 

Friday, 27 March 2015


Preview of the 2015 British Championships

By tomorrow there will be a brand new British Champion, with reigning champion Rebecca Tunney recovering from injury and therefore unable to defend her title. With many of the major contenders from previous years out of action it is all to play for - especially with the addition of this years new seniors.

Although it may seem a slightly depleted field at first glance without Hannah Whelan (retired), Rebecca Tunney (elbow surgery), Gabby Jupp (ACL) and Ruby Harrold (shoulder injury), there are still many fantastic gymnast to look out for.

Claudia Fragapane
The 'Pocket Rocket' was the hit of the English Commonwealth team in 2014 taking home 4 Gold medals. She then went on to Worlds where she finished in the top 10 All Around and qualified to the floor final. Having finished 3rd at last year's British Championships I am sure that Claudia will be aiming for the top spot this time round.

Becky Downie
Known for her outstanding bars work, Becky is always a force to be reckoned with. Her bars routine has seen her compete in Commonwealth, European and World finals and over the last few years she has packed the difficulty into all of her routines. Last year she managed to take the Silver medal in the All Around final but can she make it one better this year?

Amy Tinkler
One of the fresh faces on the Senior circuit, Amy has not only made herself known as a Junior, but has already made her mark as a Senior by taking the title of English Champion just a few weeks ago. Will she be able to repeat the victory this weekend?

Tyesha Mattis
A very powerful gymnast, Tyesha is also new to the Senior ranks. She impressed last year as a Junior and undoubtedly she will be ready to make an impression on the Seniors.

Ellie Downie
After years of waiting, both the Downie sisters are now competing at Senior level. I have no doubt that Ellie will be looking to not only follow in big sister Becky's footsteps but also to be hot on her heels!

Other names to look out for will be the stunning Welsh gymnasts, Raer Theaker, Angel Romaeo and Georgina Hockenhull. Charlie Fellows and Kelly Simm also have a great deal of experience and skill, not to mention former Olympian and comeback queen Lisa Mason.

It looks set to be a fantastic competition so may the best Brit win!

Saturday, 2 August 2014


Commonwealth Team Final

The pressure was on for the teams as they battled their way for glory in the team final. With England, Australia and Canada all fighting for the top of the podium, it was a question of which team could keep their nerves under control. With qualification being split over two days it would prove to be a great test of stamina as well as nerve.

It was, of course, England's day and they rose to the challenge magnificently. They set the benchmark at the end of Day 1 and led the rest of the teams by over a whole mark. With a 1 1/2 twisting Yurchenko and three DTYs on vault this was perhaps hardly surprising, especially as they were all very good vaults. It was then on to bars, were Becky and Ruby pulled out their usual stunning routines to set the score that neither Canada nor Australia could match. On to Day 2 and there were some worrying moments on beam. Claudia pulled off a fantastic routine to keep England in contention, then proceeded to follow that with her spectacular floor routine. With solid performances from the rest of the team on floor, the target was set for the other teams to try and beat. I have to say, I have never seen the England team looking as strong and confident as they did in this team final. They knew what they wanted to achieve and they knew they had the routines with which to achieve it. They held it together and did not let small mistakes put them off. A very strong competition and a very well deserved Gold medal.

Having won the team title at the last 4 Commonwealth Games, Australia must have been desperate to carry on their winning streak. With most of the Australian team only performing relatively simple vaults, it was a quiet start for them. On bars however, it was a different story. They exploded into the second rotation with some fabulous routines and plenty of difficulty. By the end of Day 1 it was still all to play for. Unfortunately, they were unable to keep the momentum going on Day 2. After a disastrous beam rotation, they could only hope to claw their way back into contention on floor. Their floor star, Lauren Mitchell, certainly gave it her all, but there were mistakes in their other routines and they had to settle for Silver. There was the promise of some really nice work from the Australian girls and I especially loved watching their bars. It was a shame to see so many mistakes from a team that was capable of much more.

Wales really were the surprise of the team final, coming through from the 3rd of 8 subdivisions to claim the Bronze medal. Always likely to be a strong team, they kept their nerve when others around them faltered and posted a score at the end of Day 2 that others would be unable to beat. What I loved best was seeing the reaction of the team in the stands when they found out they were going to be taking home a Commonwealth Team medal - it was sheer joy and disbelief, and a delight to see.

With the late withdrawal of Victoria Moors, Canada were not as strong a team as they might have hoped to be, but they really seemed to struggle throughout the team competition. Problems came on almost every apparatus and even their most experienced gymnast, Ellie Black, was not immune to the troubles and added to the falls. It was a shame for the Canadians, they will have come into the competition hoping for a medal and will no doubt be sorely disappointed to finish in fourth. There was some lovely work from some great gymnasts in amongst the problems, but unfortunately for Canada it was not their day.

The hosting nation were received by roars from the crowd all the way through and put in some good work to see them finish in a very creditable 5th position. They all seemed to rise to the occasion and were spurred on by the cheering crowd and they looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


British Championships 2014 All Around Final

With flashing lights, smoke machines and a stage for the gymnasts to enter the arena on to, the 2014 British Championships had drama written all over it. And the build up was not for nothing as there certainly was plenty of drama.

Rebecca Tunney
After a tough year battling injury in 2013 and unable to defend her 2012 British title, Rebecca certainly proved that she was back in business. Starting with a nice DTY with just a step on landing, she followed with the highest scoring bars routine of the day. Always a consistent bars worker, Rebecca has never had the difficulty to compete with the likes of Beth Tweddle, Becky Downie and Ruby Harrold. This weekend however, proved the exception. With a D score of 6.6, she performed a clean and fluent routine that left the crowd gasping. An amazing routine that I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of. Beam proved more problematic with a touch after her side somersault, but otherwise a steady routine. Floor was last and Rebecca was the last gymnast to compete. She performed well but with floor scores being low all weekend there was a wait for the score, which came up high enough for her to take the title of British Champion 2014. It was great to see her back to her winning ways.

Becky Downie
Becky started the competition with what we think of as her best piece - bars. Unfortunately though, bars proved to be something of a problem. After a great start she faltered above the bar and although she managed to save a fall, she lost marks for both execution and difficulty. But, this being Becky, she still scored 14.150 (the second highest bars score of the day). This was followed by an absolutely solid beam routine, packed with difficulty, until a very uncharacteristic fall on her dismount. But despite these shocks, it was the next rotation that would prove to be the biggest surprise of all, with Becky competing floor. After years of not competing all around, I was surprised and delighted to see that she would be doing all four pieces and challenging for the All Around title. And you certainly could not tell that this was her first performance of a floor routine for years, it was wonderful to watch. All that was left was vault and she performed her usual powerful vault, scoring a massive 15.000. Overall, her first all around competition in years scored her an impressive 56.350 and earned her the Silver medal.

Claudia Fragapane
A second year senior, Claudia is still new to competing at the senior level due to injury in 2013. Relatively unknown to many, she impressed most this weekend with her skills and her power. Her vaults were strong and powerful and saw her qualify in first place for the vault final. Her bars routine was steady and well performed and she finished with a fabulous double straight dismount. Her beam was strong and dynamic with some interesting and difficult skills. But it was floor where Claudia really made her mark. Posting the highest floor score of the day, she opened her routine with a fantastic full twisting double straight. It was amazing to watch and a great routine. A great competition and the Bronze medal was her reward. She is definitely one to watch out for in the future.

Raer Theaker
Raer had a steady competition, performing well on all four pieces. She managed to keep her nerve in a competition where many others were losing theirs. Her clean, solid performances saw her qualify for two finals and finish the day in a well deserved 4th place overall.

Georgina Hockenhull
Georgina really impressed me this weekend with some beautifully performed routines. She looked very elegant in all of her performances. I really enjoyed watching her and was very pleased that her efforts were rewarded with a strong 5th place finish.

Kelly Simm
After a great year, many expected Kelly to be challenging for the medals, but unfortunately it was not to be. Solid on beam and vault, she had troubles on bars which meant she finished the day in 6th place. Nevertheless I have no doubt we will be seeing much more of Kelly in the future.

Ruby Harrold
With Ruby having gone from strength to strength this last year, many were expecting Ruby to take the title but unfortunately it simply wasn't her day. Although she went through three of her routines cleanly, it was her trademark piece, bars, which gave her problems. With three falls and a score of 11.400 she finished the day down in 9th place. Not the day that she would have hoped for but still much more to come from her no doubt and I cannot wait to see it.

Lisa Mason
Lisa continued to surprise and impress this weekend, with some great routines and some great results. Competing on a sprained ankle which she had sustained during warm ups, Lisa nevertheless gave it her all and finished a creditable 11th place. She also qualified to three apparatus finals which she unfortunately had to withdraw from due to her injury. However, it was still a very good competition weekend for Lisa.

Hannah Whelan
Expected by many to compete all around and challenge for the title, Hannah only competed on vault, beam and floor. These were however, three exceptional performances and showed that Hannah really is still a very strong force in British gymnastics.

Overall, it was a very dramatic and surprising competition with many ups and downs and some unexpected results. It was one of those competitions where you simply could not predict what would happen next and kept everyone on the edge of their seat.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


Junior British Championships 2014

This coming weekend not only sees a battle for the title of British Champion 2014, but also an equally anticipated fight for the crown of Junior British Champion. There are many up and coming young gymnasts who are making their mark on the sport in Britain and this competition is sure to be a nail biting one. So who can we expect to see?

Tyesha Mattis
The reigning Junior Champion, Tyesha will be hoping to power ahead of the rest of the field and reclaim her title. A gymnast who seems to be going from strength to strength, she has already taken the title of English Junior Champion. (Incidentally, she posted a score of 55.300, almost 1 whole point higher than the top score in the Senior competition.) Tyesha will definitely be aiming for the top of the podium this weekend.

Catherine Lyons
Catherine has had an amazing career as an Espoir gymnast and is now facing her first year as a Junior. Having won many titles as an Espoir, she recently had to settle for second place behind Tyesha at the recent English Championships. I have no doubt that she will be aiming for the top spot this weekend.

Georgia-Mae Fenton
Georgia-Mae is another gymnast making her debut as a Junior, having won the Espoir title last year. Will she be able to repeat her success from 2013 and take the crown as the Junior British Champion in 2014? Only working two pieces in the English Championships (bars and beam), Georgia-Mae is nevertheless one to watch.

Amy Tinkler
Amy has been one to watch for some time now and this will be no exception this weekend. She took the Silver medal in the all around competition last year and recently took the Bronze medal at the English Championships. She has some interesting and difficult work and will definitely be aiming for the medal podium.

Ellie Downie
Proving the saying 'it runs in the family', Ellie is firmly following in big sister Becky's footsteps. Ellie has a great deal to offer as an all around gymnast, finishing 4th at the recent English Championships. She will definitely be one to keep an eye out for this weekend.

Teal Grindle
Teal has been making her mark on British gymnastics for some time and will be hoping to impress once again this weekend. A first year Junior, she has been used to being on the medal podium as an Espoir and will no doubt be hoping to make it there as a Junior this year.

This is of course just a handful of the fabulous gymnasts who will be competing for the title this weekend and it looks set to be a fantastic competition.

Good luck to all the girls competing this weekend!


British Championships 2014

This coming weekend sees the battle of the Brits with the 2014 British Championships. British Gymnastics is asking you to 'Choose your champ', but with such a wide field of gymnasts competing this is surely going to be a tough decision, especially with reigning champion Gabby Jupp being out of the running due to her recovery from an ACL tear last year. So who are the possible champions of 2014?

Ruby Harrold
After her fourth place finish at the British Championships last year, Ruby has been going from strength to strength, not just on her signature piece, uneven bars, but also in the all around competitions. This was reinforced recently by her all around win at the English Championships. She will definitely be hoping to turn English Gold into the British title this weekend.

Hannah Whelan
After a disappointing 8th place finish all around in the 2014 British Championships, Hannah will be hoping to be back to her winning ways this year. She recently took the Welsh Open title by more than 2.500 ahead of Welsh Champion Raer Theaker with routines that included a grasp on beam and simple, single somersault dismounts on both bars and beam. With full routines by this weekend, Hannah will have the title in her sights.

Rebecca Tunney
The British Champion in 2012 and Team GBs youngest Olympian, Rebecca was unable to defend her title in 2013 due to injury. Although we do not seem to have seen much of Rebecca in the last couple of years, recent performances have been showing that she has been working on upgrades which we will hopefully see this weekend. Always one to perform well on the big occasion, she cannot be counted out.

Kelly Simm
Kelly is a gymnast who seems to have made a great improvement throughout the year. She was selected to compete for Great Britain at the 2013 Austrian Open, where she took the All Around title. At the 2013 British Teams competition she took the silver medal, second only to Ruby Harrold. I am sure we will see much of Kelly this coming weekend.

Raer Theaker
Current Welsh Champion, Raer was beaten in the Welsh Open only by Hannah Whelan. After finishing in 6th place at the British Championships last year, I am sure Raer will be hoping to improve on that and will have the medal rostrum firmly in her sights.

Charlie Fellows
A first year senior in 2013, Charlie impressed at last year's British Championships by taking the Silver medal in the all around. She is another gymnast we do not seem to have seen much of recently. She placed 4th at the recent English Championships but she will no doubt be hoping to repeat last year's British success this coming weekend.

Lisa Mason
Although still an outsider for an all around medal, it cannot be denied that Lisa has proved her doubters wrong. Having made a comeback last year at the age of 31 and after 13 years of retirement, Lisa initially only competed on vault and beam. This year however, she has not only tackled all four apparatus but finished a very creditable 7th place all around at the recent English Championships. Definitely still one to watch.

These are just a handful of the gymnasts that I cannot wait to see compete at the weekend. Others to watch out for include Claudia Fragapane, Jade Armstrong, Georgina Hockenhull and, of course, Becky Downie who is now competing on three apparatus. It certainly looks like it is shaping up to be a great competition.

Good luck to everyone competing this weekend!