All that glitters isn't goldWhen I first started thinking about this post, I was imagining picking one gymnast who had surprised me, probably focusing this week on someone at the British Championships. There were so many surprises however, I feel the need to dedicate this post to the women's senior championships as a whole.
The surprises were many and varied, some in a good way and some definitely not. In fact there were probably only two things about the championships that didn't surprise me. The first is, of course, Beth Tweddle's continuing excellent form on the Uneven Bars. Although still coming back from relatively recent knee surgery Beth delighted us with her usual impressive bars work. Although there was one connection she didn't go for, both in the all around and the final, her routine was still head and shoulders above the rest of the field and looking very strong. I think it can be quite easy at times to take Beth's exceptional level of skill for granted - she is Beth Tweddle, this is what she does! But we need to remind ourselves that here is an absolute world class gymnast in our midst.
The other gymnast who caused me no surprise was Rebecca Tunney, now the women's All Around British Champion. She continued her exceptional run of competitions to win yet another All Around Title with some style. She has placed first all around in all three of the Olympic Trials at still only 15 years old and in her first senior year. I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of Rebecca in both the near and more distant future.
So, the surprises. I am delighted to say that the first surprise for me was the sheer strength and determination of Jenni Pinches, working fantastically well all weekend to claim silver in the All Around, silver on vault and gold on beam. I have admired Jenni for quite a while, both her gymnastics and her attitude towards such a tough sport. I had been incredibly disappointed to see that Jenni had not performed at her best during the first two Olympic Trials so I was thrilled to see her wonderful performance this weekend. At her best she is quite captivating to watch and her enjoyment of the sport and bubbly personality shone through all weekend.
I have to admit to being slightly surprised by Imogen Cairns this weekend, though really I shouldn't be. She put in excellent performances in the All Around to finish just outside the medals in 4th. I have been watching Imogen perform nationally and internationally for many years and, at 23, she seems to be performing with more and more style, skill and accuracy with every passing competition. I hope I continue to be surprised by her gymnastics for many more years to come.
Niamh Rippin is another gymnast who surprised and pleased me over the course of the weekend. Although she has represented Great Britain internationally in the past, she is not one of the more well known British gymnasts. I was delighted to see how well she performed over all four pieces of apparatus, finishing in 5th place all around just behind Imogen Cairns. Her strength and power meant that she gave fantastic performances on vault and floor in particular. She qualified for the finals on these two pieces and took the gold on both. An excellent weekend for Niamh and a gymnast to look out for in the future.
Unfortunately, Hannah Whelan did not have such a good weekend. Although she gave a solid performance on three of the four pieces, a fall on beam meant that she had to relinquish the title she has held for the past two years. The majority of her performances were very good and had it not been for the fall on beam she would have taken the title, finishing a mere 0.950 behind Rebecca Tunney. But the mistake meant that she ended the all around competition in 3rd place behind both Rebecca Tunney and Jenni Pinches. She seemed slightly downcast all weekend and without her usual sparkle. In fact, surprisingly, Hannah did not take a single title this weekend. She added to her bronze all around with a silver on beam and a bronze on floor, but gold has eluded her this weekend.
Neither Becky Downie or Danusia Francis seemed to be on form this weekend which was a big surprise to me considering how well both have been performing recently. It has been lovely to see Becky Downie back in competition after injury and she seemed to have been going from strength to strength with each competition. She did take joint silver on beam with Hannah Whelan, but I am sure she will be disappointed with her performances this weekend considering we know exactly what she is capable of. The same can also be said for Danusia. She also seemed to have been gaining in confidence over recent competitions, but finished this weekend without any medals, only managing 6th place all around.
With such a weekend of surprises, any thoughts of potential teams for the Olympics have been completely turned on their head! I certainly don't envy those who have to chose the five girls to go forward to 2012. Personally, I wish the team was big enough for them all, but as it isn't I will have to nervously await the announcement on 4th July. The announcement will be streamed live on BGtv on Wednesday 4th July at 12 noon.