Oh Canada, how far you’ve come.
The past four years have seen the rise of Canadian women’s gymanstics in a way it’s never quite risen before. Five years after finishing a heartbreaking 13th at the 2007 Worlds and not qualifying a team to the 2008 Olympics, the Canadian women were within striking distance of the podium in London, where they finished a best ever fifth as team.
It’s the opinion of many gymnastics pundits that had that team included (unfortunately injured) Peng Peng Lee, they would have finished ahead of China and pushed Romania for the bronze.
The 2013 Canadian Nationals, happening this week in Ottawa, Ontario, will be the first big test for a new Canadian generation that has earned the right to have some swagger in its step. If what we’ve seen so far from juniors like Heaven Latimer, Shallon Olsen, Rose Woo, new seniors Maegan Chant and Victoria Woo and Olympic veterans Ellie Black and Victoria Moors is any indication, Canada is going to be as deep — and as good — during the next four years as it was during the last.
Here are 12 to watch this week in Ottawa:
Ellie Black and Victoria Moors: Black, the triple gold medalist at the Ljubljana World Cup in Slovenia earlier this month is expected to battle for the all-around title with Olympic teammate Moors. Both are excellent on vault, beam and floor (Black as a twister, Moors as a power tumbler) and both count bars as their weakest event.
Both have had their fair share of successes recently too: Moors was third at the American Cup in March, and Black had that incredible result in Slovenia. Either one could easily win the game in Ottawa.
Maegan Chant: The first year senior is already a World Cup gold medalist (on floor, in March, at Cottbus). She’s a dynamo on the power events and shows excellent potential as a strong all-around gymnast as well. How good is she? In 2011, she became the first Canadian gymnast that I know of to throw a Tsuk double full on vault. Yes, that kind of potential.
Victoria Woo: The new senior was Canada’s breakout junior of 2012, I thought, competing well at Gymnix and the Pacific Rim Championships and showing strong and consistent routines at Gymnix earlier this year as well. Another to watch is her younger sister Rose, who is age-eligible for the 2016 Olympics and has some outrageous skills, including a unique front double pike dismount off bars.
Sabrina Gill: Brought up as a gymnast by Kelly Manjak and now trained by Lorne Bobkin at Futures in Ontario, Gill was impressive on the World Cup circuit earlier this year, notably at the French International, where she and teammate Kaitlyn Hofland qualified in first and second place for bar finals. Gill has also benefitted from a great deal of dance training, and is always entertaining to watch on floor. She was the Canadian Junior National Champion in 2010, and only a second year senior now. With just a little more confidence and consistency in competition, she could have a big impact on this team.
Kaitlyn Hofland: When she’s not filming commercials, tall, elegant Hofland is an excellent all-around gymnast and might be Canada’s best on bars at the moment. (She swings a bit like Svetlana Khorkina, so that tells you something.) Like Khorkina, she’s surprisingly durable, too — her height does not keep her from throwing tough things. Bars alone is a reason to include her on the competitive Canadian team, but I expect she’ll earn her spot on other events as well.
Jordyn Pedersen: She was Novice Canadian Champion in 2011 and has had some international exposure. Coach Lorne Bobkin hints that Pedersen to be one of the surprises of the meet: the 16-year-old has a new, more mature look and big, Rebecca Bross-style skills on floor.
Heaven Latimer: “What a gun!” Couch Gymnast Brigid McCarthy exclaimed after seeing Latimer perform at Gymnix in Montreal earlier this year. Indeed. Latimer packs a tremendous punch in her gymnastics — she’s the first Canadian I can recall who does a layout full twist on beam and has World class tumbling skills on floor. She’s also perhaps the most exciting performer in Canada right now. Take a look at her floor here.
Shallon Olsen: Canada’s junior sensation for the past three years is still in the junior division. She has a good tumbling and a good vault — a sharp double twisting Yurchenko — but bars is becoming more of a weakness as she grows. If she’s going to develop into the all-around gymnast she looks like, she will need to clean up on that event.
Brianna Clark: The 1998-born junior from Gymnix in Montreal has returned from a knee injury that kept her out of competition in 2012. Like most gymnasts out of Quebec, Clark has exceptional form and execution. She’ll be one to keep an eye on as the quad moves forward.
Mariana Colussi-Pelaez: Her big sister Silvia competed for Spain at the 2011 World Championships and London Test Event (and will be competing for Florida next fall), but Mariana Colussi-Pelaez has so far retained her eligibility as a Canadian. “Pinky,” as they call her, is quickly developing the beauty and grace of her sister on balance beam and floor exercise (I maintain that Silvia Colussi-Pelaez did one of the great “Carmen”s on floor). The skills are coming along as well. Watch out for this one.
Isabela Onyshko: I’d never heard of this 1998-born junior until I watched the videos from Elite Canada. She’s impressive — not only does she have good difficulty and potential on uneven bars, Canada’s weakest event, she’s one of those gymnasts that just looks totally calm no matter what’s happening. If things go wrong, she makes a correction without getting flustered about it. That would make her a great asset on beam as well.
The Gymnastics Examiner | Facebook | Twitter | Subscribe above