A weekend with lots of falls, sports tape and tears. But even more coaching, comforting and happy smiles.
- The discovery of the FIT Challenge was Blathnaid Higgins from Ireland. She seemed just a little gymnast like any other… until she took the floor. This girl was on fire. Her routine was full of confidence, energy and interesting choreography. The music had an Irish touch to it, which made the performance complete.
- Speaking about floor music, team Norway brought several routines to the Game of Thrones theme, and I loved it. (In fact I’m playing it non-stop in the background while writing this post.)
- In 2015, I was at the FIT Challenge as a volunteer. This year, I spotted a lot of familiar faces from behind my photography lens. It was nice to see espoir gymnasts back as juniors (Kay-Li De Neef, Margaux Daveloose, Sophia Kola, Edel Fosse…) and junior gymnasts as seniors (Lorette Charpy, Juliette Bossu, Naomi Visser, Francesca Noemi Linari, Caterina Cereghetti, Nina Derwael, Julie Meyers, Maellyse Brassart…). It was especially beautiful to see how they have grown both as people and as gymnasts in those two years.
- Team Spain ended up in fourth place. On floor exercise, the whip whip double tuck/full-in seems to have become their signature tumbling line and they nailed it. Andrea Carmona is one of the juniors that I’m keeping an eye on for the future.
- The Belgians showed lots of promise, but their difficulty and consistency needs more work. Juniors Julie Vandamme, Margaux Daveloose and Kay-Li De Neef came out in 9th, 10th and 12th place respectively. On the one hand, they have good start scores on beam, their skills look quite clean and their floor choreography is just lovely. On the other hand, their vaults and tumbling are still relatively easy and they need some more experience to get stronger mentally as well. New senior Maellyse looked very solid during qualifications. Her FTY on vault is my favourite and looks ready to be upgraded. Julie Croket was also present on the competition floor, though this time as a junior coach. It really looks like it’s her thing, so I hope she can accomplish great things with the juniors and help team Belgium get a team to the Games once more.
- The French juniors and espoirs were the most impressive. Carolann Heduit showed incredible difficulty across all four events. She finished fifth individually, with a total D-score of 21.7. The other top four finishers “only” had D-scores of 19.5 (Sydney Saturnino), 20.3 (Asia D’Amato), 19.7 (Elisa Iorio) and 20.0 (Sanna Veerman). Carolann obviously made some mistakes, but she still has time to improve her execution and win medals. In the espoir division, Charlene Birin and Eva Meder stood out to me on floor exercise. Charlene opened with a piked full-in. Just like that. Eva Meder had been in tears after balance beam, but she used that frustration in a captivating and fierce floor routine, set to dramatic music. (The part where she steps on pointed toes is my favourite.) I hadn’t heard of these two girls before, but I’m definitely going to remember them.
- There are three seniors who are a joy to watch on every apparatus. I’m talking about Juliette Bossu, Giada Grisetti and Naomi Visser. Basically everything they do looks graceful. They might not have the strength to pull off powerful DTY’s and DLO’s, but they almost look like fairies when twisting, leaping or swinging bars.
- The Italian team had a great competition weekend. They swept the junior AA podium and took home the team gold in the junior, senior and mixed competition. Desiree Carofiglio successfully competed her two double front skills on floor, even though she was suffering from foot pain. Elisa Iorio showed off her beautiful L-grip work on bars, in a routine with a 5.8 difficulty score.
- The most touching moments of the mixed team competition happened when juniors Carolann Heduit and Margaux Daveloose started crying and their senior teammates Lorette Charpy and Senna Deriks were there to cheer them up.
- In the end, the FIT Challenge ended with nothing but happy smiles.
>> All photos will be published on my Facebook page.