Looking Back: Best Competitions of 2015

11:43 PM Arabian Punch Front 0 Comments

Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (MAS)

The pre-Olympic year proved to be just as exciting as we had hoped, if not more exciting. We had a good group of new seniors that challenged national team members and pushed their respective countries to new heights. We had quite a few comebacks from 2012 Olympians Gabrielle Douglas and Aly Raisman to Catalina Ponor. We had shocks like no other in Romania failing to automatically qualify to Rio and the four-way tie for gold on uneven bars. We also had the rise of new "it" gymnasts in Manrique Larduet and the Dutch WAG team in general. What an exciting year! Here are a few of my favorite competitions below. Don't worry. Worlds will get it's own post.

Starting the season off, we had the Canada Winter Games with excellent live coverage. the exciting thing was that, again, juniors were not separated from seniors. We got to see the dominance of Canada's (hopeful) new stars for 2016 - Rose-Kaying Woo, Megan Roberts, and Shallon Olsen. These three have been on the watch list for quite some time and this only confirmed their reason for being on it. All 3 gymnasts showed double twisting Yurchenko vaults at this competition. This is exciting for Canada, a top 8 nation despite not having the most difficult vaults. These 3 are in a race against each other and also the current seniors for a place on the Rio Olympic team and the battle started early in the year.

Also, please humor me and watch this routine. I have had it saved in my watch later since February waiting for the appropriate time to share it with you guys. A young gymnast from British Columbia, Ilka Juk has some impressive difficulty and amazing flexibility!

The annual competition in Italy took place in March and marked the comeback of Aly Raisman and Gabrielle Douglas. It also marked the international debut for some of the new seniors, including the USA's Bailie Key who was anticipated to have a solid 2015. Gymnastics seems to be growing in popularity in Italy and makes for a fun and exciting meet. Raisman and Douglas had successful returns to competition.

June was a fun month (for me) because of both the Southeast Asian Games and the European Games. Both Games had excellent competition along with excellent coverage. European Games had live streams of every event and was an overall excellent production. SEA Games, honestly, I can't remember if they had live coverage but they had an amazing archived feed. They had each event final MAG and WAG. For the individual event finals, they alternated MAG and WAG so you got to see full routines of each with slow motion and scores. It. Was. Amazing. It's still archived now if you check Sport Singapore on YouTube.

Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, a rising star from Malaysia, had an amazing competition. She helped her team to the gold medal and earned her own silver in the all around. The competition continued with multiple medals but Abdul Hadi broke down when she realized she won the gold on floor exercise the final day of competition. She faced a lot of criticism following the competition that as a Muslim gymnast, her leotard was too revealing, but she stayed calm and handled the harsh words with clenched jaw and a smile. Abdul Hadi went on to compete well at worlds and earn herself a spot at the Test Event.

The format of the European Games was of question but with the debut of the competition, I think it worked for the best. European countries were able to send 3 of their top gymnasts as an extra trials for Worlds. It was an international competition with good competitors (Steingruber, Mustafina). It served as an international AA comeback for Viktoria Komova and also served as the "coming out party" for Lieke Wevers. For all the fear we had at the onset of the competition, it ended up being an excellent competition added to the calendar.

The Pan American Games proved to be an exciting competition, especially on the men's side. Manrique Larduet, who has been making a name for himself for the last few years, finally made it into the spotlight when he and American Sam Mikulak were battling for the all around title. Mikulak ultimately won that battle but Larduet left the Games with gold on vault, silver on parallel bars and in the all around, and bronze on rings.

In the rhythmic world, this is also where American Laura Zeng started to stake her claim on the international scene. Both Larduet and Zeng went on to have success at their respective World Championships. In addition, Ellie Black was the star of the Games as she won 5 medals at the Pan American Games in her native country.

The US domestic season, as always, proved to be very exciting. Biles asserted her dominance from the start but all around gymnasts 2-5 was up in the air for each day of competition. Rising star Nichols, Olympians Douglas and Raisman, and first year senior Key proved to have an ongoing competition amongst themselves. In addition, we had the question of who this 6th Worlds team member would be - Kocian vs Locklear, Skinner,  could Gowey factor in, where is Brenna on UB,  would Baumann be useful, and so on and so forth. We all know how it ended but it was still exciting nonetheless.

On the junior end, we had the very exciting competition between Hernandez and Foberg that came down to the very last event. Ragan Smith continued to assert herself as a junior to watch in the leadup to Rio. Then we had a few new junior stars in Gabby Perea and Alyona Shchennikova with their impressive uneven bar routines.

A World Championships post is on the way!

What were your favorite competitions of 2015?