Looking Back: New Seniors of 2015

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Tutya Yilmaz 
Photo Credit: fanatik.com.tr

When I asked the gymternet who had the most successful senior debut, the answers were Fan Yilin, Ellie Downie, Flavia Saraiva, Sae Miyakawa. 2015 served as an interesting year since many of these gymnasts were also the competitors at the Youth Olympic Games. Some were hailed as "the next big thing" and this was the year that monicker was to come to fruition. You can find the list of seniors at the bottom.

Ellie Downie is certainly one of those athletes for which this came true. She had a stellar senior debut, to the point where I forgot this was her first year as a senior by the end of the World Championships. Early on in 2015, Downie was named to Great Britain's team for the 2015 European Championships. She had an amazing meet where she finished 3rd in the all around, a first medal for team Great Britain. Downie also qualified for the vault final as well as the uneven bar final alongside older sister Becky Downie. The success continued after Downie was named to the World Championship team. Downie did not qualify to the all around final due to a fall on bars and again had an error when competing uneven bars in the team final. However, it was Downie's solid DTY that sealed the deal for Team GB as they placed 3rd in the team final. Their first team medal at a World Championships. Downie went on to qualify for the vault final where with 2 cleanly executed vaults, she was able to place 4th amongst some of the top contenders expected to compete at Rio.

What Ellie has done this year is nothing short of amazing. She is one of the juniors that certainly lived up to the fame as a senior. She started the year with a bang and kept going, all that while recovering from an injury that kept her from training at 100% earlier in the year. It's exciting to think what the future might bring for Ellie Downie.

Sae Miyakawa was another Youth Olympian that had a great 2015.  She started the season at the WOGA Classic where she placed 6th in the all around and 2nd on vault. Miyakawa continued winning medals throughout the domestic season. She was a member of the Asian Championships team and helped Japan to a team gold while earning a vault silver and floor bronze. Miyakawa's real prowess is on the floor exercise where her passes are out of this world. At the recent Tokyo International, Miyakawa showed a full twisting double layout, front layout full to tucked double front, double double, and double layout dismount. This routine is insane. And apparently she has the potential for 6.8D. Honestly, Sae's the only woman at the moment that I think can nearly match Simone's floor exercise difficulty. It is just out of this world.


I feel like Fan Yilin deserves a special shoutout as she is the only new senior to have a gold medal and it was in the most interesting final we've ever seen! Fan was on track to be a star as a senior but then suffered some injuries prior to her senior debut. She was able to come back with a vengeance with a unique uneven bar dismount (video). Unfortunately, it wasn't credited as expected in international competition so the switch was made to the double layout.

After winning the uneven bar title at Chinese National Championships and coming in 3rd at Asian Championships, Fan competed remarkably well at her first World Championships. She contributed to the team score on both uneven bars and balance beam. Then there was the coveted uneven bar final where Fan was the first up to obtain the miraculous 15.366. Others tried to beat her score with no luck so Fan, along with 3 others, were named the Uneven Bar World Champions. She was the gymnast with the highest D score at 6.9. Fan's mother passed away last year and she hopes that her accomplishment made her mother proud.

A personal favorite goes to Tutya Yilmaz. I first discovered her during the 2013 EYOF where she had some great difficulty but some unfortunate execution errors. She then went to the YOG where she made multiple finals (all around, vault, and floor) but again with execution errors. This time, I remember what exactly intrigued me. Yilmaz had a back handspring layout full connection on beam. Her floor was also reminiscent of Alicia Sacramone - nice dance with clean tumbling. She has both a full in piked and tuck and they're both cleanly executed. At this year's World Championships, Yilmaz placed 44th on beam with a 5.9D and she didn't fall!!! Pretty impressive for a young athlete from an up and coming country. Her all around completition is on the FIG channel and I strongly recommend :)

Boglarka Devai is a new senior for Hungary that has quickly become essential to the success of the team. Often overshadowed by the big names in Dorina Boczogo and Noemi Makra, Hungary would not have achieved their 18th place finish at worlds if not for Devai's fabulous DTY. She received their highest score in TF by nearly 1 point. She also contributed on uneven bars.

Canadian gymnast Sydney Townsend gets the award for best comeback. She had a strong 2014 at the Youth Olympic Games but then struggled at the start of 2015. She then took the bulk of the competitive season off to rehab and it paid off. Though still not at 100%, Townsend was a crucial member for the 2015 team contributing on vault and floor exercise. I'm looking forward for what 2016 will bring for her.

Some seniors that were on my "watch list." Make sure to check out the New Senior page.

Senior in 2015 (born in 1999) - YOG eligible
Natallia Yakubava
Rune Hermans
Rebecca Andrade - injured
Milena Theodoro
Flavia Saraiva
Sydney Laird
Audrey Rousseau
Sydney Soloski
Sydney Townsend
Deng Yalan
Fan Yilin
Hong Ke
Liu Jinru
Liu Ying
Qin Chang
Wang Yan
Yuan Xiaoyang
Zhu Xiaofang
Czech Republic
Veronika Cenkova
Camille Bahl
Loan His
Antonia Alicke
Kim Janas - injured
Pauline Tratz
Great Britain
Georgina Clements
Ellie Downie
Rhyannon Jones
Aasha Kimpton - retired
April Maslen
Tyesha Mattis - injured
Amy Tinkler
Boglarka Devai
Iosra Abdelaziz - injured
Joana Favaretto
Chiara Imeraj
Alice Linguerri
Sae Miyakawa
Carla Cornejo
Stephanie Hernandez
Cinthia Ruiz
Karla Vielma
New Zealand
Millie Williamson
Wendy de Jong
Isa Maassen
Ava Verdeflor
Madalina Alexandrea Blendea
Andreea Iridon
Laura Jurca
Maria Bondareva
Anastasiia Dmitrieva
Daria Mikhailova
Seda Tutkhalyan
Nadine Joy Nathan
Gaia Nesurini
Tutya Yilmaz
Vanasia Bradley - injured
Nadia Cho - injured
Nia Dennis
Bailie Key
Taylor Lawson
Abigail Matthews
Lauren Navarro
Marissa Oakley
Lexy Ramler
Megan Skaggs
Alexis Vasquez - retired from elite

Who were some of your favorite first year seniors?