After EYOF, Euros and YOG, you will know Anastasia Bachynska, yet it was her teammate Daria Murzhak who came out of nowhere. Her best events are beam and bars, but she boasts lovely lines on floor as well. A third place qualification for the balance beam final in Glasgow was the highlight of her year and makes her an upcoming force for team Ukraine.
Annie Young and Ondine Achampong have been standing in the shadows of Amelie Morgan at the big competitions this year. But as the latter is moving on to the senior ranks, it’s their time to make a name for themselves. 2018 was a fantastic year for both of them, as they finished second and third behind Amelie at British Championships and then went on to win the team bronze at the European Championships in their home country. We saw them again at the Top Gym tournament in November, where they placed 3th and 4th all-around and Ondine took the beam title. Make sure to watch Annie’s uneven bars and Ondine’s lovely long lines on bars, beam and floor.
Romania is back on the rise. While Denisa Golgota is leading the senior team, the junior squad is looking very promising, especially on beam and floor. The 2004 girls and Ana Maria Puiu finished 4th in the Glasgow team final, behind Italy’s golden generation, Russia and GB.
Silviana Sfiringu is probably their strongest junior all-arounder right now. She ended up 9th at the European Championships and was the only Romanian to make two event finals, vault and beam. At the Romanian Championships in October, she beat Ioana Stanciulescu in the AA and took home the vault and floor titles on the way out.
Ioana Stanciulescu is right behind her. She’s mostly famous for her Beauty and the Beast floor routine, which got her the European gold and beat top stars Giorgia Villa and Amelie Morgan. Although she missed beam finals, her 5.4 difficulty means she has lots of potential there as well.
Daniela Trica is another one of Romania’s superb beam workers. Her routine includes a back layout, a switch ring leap and some nice connections.
Antonia Duta achieved her best results on floor exercise this year. She competed in the Glasgow event final, but was bumped to fourth place after a tie-break. Three months later she redeemed herself and posted a top score of 13.550 at Top Gym.
With the whole USAG scandal going on, it seems the athletes themselves have dropped to the background a bit. Nonetheless, there’s a whole army of talented Americans coming up. Kayla DiCello is currently the best junior in the country. She’s the most complete and the most consistent all-arounder, proving her status with six all-around medals in 2018. While her “worst” score was a 53.100 at the Pacific Rim Championships, she reached a personal best of 55.750 on the second day of the U.S. Championships. Her ability to put up high scores on every event is what makes her stand out.
Right up there with Kayla is Skye Blakely*, who finished 4th at last year’s nationals. This WOGA girl has a slender physique but is surprisingly powerful as well. Her double-twisting yurchenko on vault, her high front tuck on beam and her tumbling passes on floor are a must watch.
I first saw Konnor McClain* years ago in one of those “future Olympian” videos on YouTube. She was only four and already doing back handsprings on floor and handstands on beam. Turns out she actually made it to the top level and those are her two standout pieces. She’s absolutely phenomenal on the balance beam, counting a bhs-bhs-layout and a standing full among her skills. That magic combination of clean execution and high difficulty is what earned her a 5th place all-around and a beam gold in Boston.
*Skye and Konnor are 2005 babies, which makes their achievements even more incredible.
Everyone knows that anything can happen in gymnastics, but I’m fully expecting these girls to make waves in the coming years and I hope to watch them all compete at the first Junior World Championships this year!