mercredi 28 octobre 2015

Worlds 2015: History in the making for our Men's team

Credit: GymFed

I wanted to take a few days before I write this article, because I wanted to talk not only about the results but about what the Men's National gymnastics team has achieved here in Glasgow. I wanted to go deeper, I wanted to try to find the right words because I feel like this is an important moment, a moment that we will remember. 

I also wanted to let the disappointment go away. Let's be clear, I'm not disappointed IN the gymnasts, I'm disappointed FOR them. But man! 17th in the World! That's huge! And yes, Belgium will not get the chance to send a full team at the test event, and yes, the selection will be hard given all the potential this team has, and yes, some will be left behind because of this. And yes, finally, the year and the road will be long for those athletes.

But once again: 17th IN THE WORLD! Four years ago, at the 2011 World Championships, Belgium didn't even have a full team! In the past three years, those boys have improved so much! They already made history last year, placing 19th at Worlds, earning the best result Belgium has ever had and qualifying a full team for a pre-olympic World Championships. And on Monday, they were 17th! They not only improved their team total by two points (and believe me, in gymnastics, that matters), they also improved their ranking.

I know that every single word I write here might not count for them, because of course, they are disappointed, because it was so close, because they could feel this might be their year, but guys, you made history for your country once again. 

Let's have a look at the team, shall we?
First of all, we have newcomers : Florian Landuyt (Sportac Deinze) and Jonathan Vrolix (Olympia Houthalen). Florian, let's be honest, didn't had the best podium training. But he came back so strong during qualifications, placing 1st reserve for the all-around final. Jonathan only competed on three apparatuses but he showed he wasn't afraid to stand up for the team. Then we have Bram Louwije (Turnkringe Vlamertinge), who was reserve last year. Four of his scores counted in the team total. He scored more than 14 on vault, a score that was dropped only because the others scored better. He is the 3rd all-arounder among the team. Jimmy Verbaeys (Blauwput Omnisport) didn't had the best day of his life out there. But you know what? Let's give him a break. Jimmy has been part of the Senior Belgian team for the past 4 years. He has been to ALL the World Championships since he turned senior in 2011. Same goes for the European Championships, except for this year. He went to the European Games, and most importantly, he was the first men's gymnast ever to qualify for the all-around final at the Olympic Games! So yes, Jimmy had mistakes during qualifications. A bad day happens, but he will learn the lesson and he will come back stronger from this. Siemon Volkaert (GymMax) only competed on three events. This year has been hard for him, as he was injured, but he still competed at the 2015 European Championships (11th on floor). Just a few weeks ago, he didn't do so well at the Osijek Grand Prix. But here, in Glasgow, all of his scores counted in the team total. I've been really impressed by Siemon on the past week, not only during the qualifications but also during podium training. And then we have Maxime Gentges. Who had a mistake too, that's true, but who didn't let go, coming back strong to place 2nd all-arounder. 

This team can be really proud, each gymnast can be proud of himself. I know all the efforts, all the time, all the energy, all the heart they put into their gymnastics. I have the chance to know some of them, being able to talk to them, seeing how they train. Yes, you missed a qualifying spot for the test event, but to me, that's not the most important thing. To me, it is the fact that you put Belgium Gymnastics on the World's map and showed that we are not a small nation anymore.

You made history for your country and I want to thank you for that.

dimanche 25 octobre 2015

Worlds 2015: a qualifying spot for the Test Event and two gymnasts in finals!

Yesterday, the Belgian women's team placed 11th as a team at the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships! With 219,780, they get their ticket for the Test Event in Rio! Lisa Verschueren and Rune Hermans qualified for the all-around final!

Credit: Florence Lestienne

Our gymnasts started on floor exercise. Laura Waem (Sportiva Sint-Gillis Waas) was the first gymnast to go. With a very clean serie and perfect landings, she earned a 13.400. Nest up was Cindy Vandenhole (Vaste Vuist Lauwe), who got 12.933. Belgium girls impressed with their expressiveness, as Gaelle Mys (OTV Nazareth)Lisa Verschueren (Sportiva Sint-Gillis-Waas) and Rune Hermans (Gym Haacht) earned 13.800, 13.933 and 13.966!

On vault, they all performed a full twisting yurchenko. A simple vault but they all received clean execution scores! Rune got a 14.000, while Lisa scored 13.700. Two gymnasts then received scores higher than 14.000: Gaelle (14.133) and Cindy (14.100). Lisa got 13.916.

Credit: Full Time Gymnastics

Team Belgium then struggled a bit on the uneven bars, with Gaelle Mys falling on her double front dismount. Laura, last one to go, struggled on her Weiler move (12.066). But she came back strong with a stuck landing. Rune (13.566), Lisa (13.900) and mostly Cindy (14.033) got the highest scores for Belgium on this event.

The last event for the gymnasts was the beam. This event was kind of a nightmare lately for our gymnasts. But they were determined to stop this downward spiral and they did it in style! No fall! Julie Croket (GymMax), who's still recovering from her ankle injury, only competed on beam, where she earned 12.800. Laura then scored 14.000 with a beautiful routine and again a stuck double piked dismount. Lisa and Rune got 13.700 and 13.800. Gaelle, for who's beam is the best event, missed some connections but still earned a 13.300.

Credit: Full Time Gymnastics

With 219.780, Belgium qualifies for the Test Event as the team placed 11th! Individually, Lisa Verschueren and Rune Hermans both qualified for the all-around final, scoring 55.449 and 55.332.

The following countries earned a qualifying spot for the Olympic Games in Rio:
1. United States 236.611
2. Russia 231.437
3. Great Britain 227.162
4. China 225.127
5. Italy 224.452
6. Japan 223.863
7. Canada 222.780
8. The Netherlands 222.354

Those nations qualified for the Test Event in April:
9. Brazil 221.861
10. France 219.919
11. Belgium 219.780
12. Germany 219.261
13. Romania 217.220
14. Australia 214.812
15. Republic of Korea 213.744
16. Switzerland 213.494

This afternoon, around 17h30 Belgium time, the Men's team will try to earn a spot for the Test Event as well. Follow @belgiangym on Twitter for quick hits!

A massive thank you to Full Time Gymnastics for the pictures!

samedi 24 octobre 2015

Worlds 2015: review of the Men's podium training!

Wednesday, our Men's National Team had the opportunity to train on the competition apparatuses. What happened? Find out here !

Credit: Florence Lestienne

Our boys started on still rings. First up was Bram Louwije (Turnkring Vlamertinge). A few hesitations here and there but a good exercice overall. Jimmy Verbaeys (Blauwput Omnisport) also had a good routine, with just a step on his landing. Maxime Gentges (Gym Club Malmédy) and Jonathan Vrolix (Olympia Houthalen) both fell on their dismounts, a double piked salto for Maxime and a double layout for Jonathan. Our boys could go on the apparatus a second time, just the time for them to make some adjustments. 

On vault, no real problems, except for Florian Landuyt (Sportac Deinze), but he made a good vault on his second round. 

Next were the parallel bars, where Jimmy Verbaeys impressed with a difficult routine. A few adjustments for Bram and Jonathan, who didn't dismounted. Maxime hit his ffet on the bars on one of his elements but stuck his double piked dismount. Florian still struggled but nothing that he can't fix by the time the competition begins. 

On the horizontal bar, our gymnasts have shown the extent of their talent, including a very beautiful Kovacs from Maxime and a sky high Tkachev from Jimmy. Bram and Jonathan performed well, while Florian struggled on his dismount.

On floor, the best performance in my opinion, came from Siemon Volkaert (GymMax). He was very strong, performing tumbling passes after tumbling passes. Florian also had a very good routine with stuck landings, while Maxime performed very well. A fall for Bram and a small error for Jimmy but the rest was very good.

The pommel horse is for many the most difficult apparatus, as is the beam on the girls' side. And it is precisely here that the men's team finished its training. No problems for Maxime, Florian and Siemon. Jimmy struggled a bit on his dismount, while Bram fell once and Donna-Donny Truyens (Blauwput Omnisport), the alternate, fell twice.

Overall, there is room for improvement, but as the boys said themselves, it was only podium training!

Our boys will compete on Sunday around 17:30, Belgium time!

jeudi 22 octobre 2015

2015 Worlds: review of WAG's podium training

The Belgian women's team complete its podium training this Tuesday. This training was a good opportunity for our gymnasts to repeat their routines on the apparatuses they will compete on in qualifications. Let's see what happened!

Credit: Florence Lestienne

Our gymnasts started on floor exercise. Laura Waem (Sportiva Sint-Gillis-Waas) was up first for the Belgian team. Recently injured, Laura made ​​a very good comeback at the Novara Cup in Italy. In Glasgow, she again delivered a good performance on floor. Cindy Vandenhole (Vaste Vuist Lauwe), Gaelle Mys (OTV Nazareth) and Lisa Verschueren (Sportiva Sint-Gillis-Waas) were very strong, especially on their landings. But it's Rune Hermans (Gym Haacht) who impressed me the most. The alternate Dorien Motten (Turnkringe Bilzen) also presented her routine. She took some time off to focus on her studies but she looked very fit. Julie Croket (GymMax), who recently injured her ankle, will only perform on beam.

On vault, no surprise. LauraRuneCindyGaelle and Lisa presented a full twisting yurchenko. Dorien did a front handspring piked somersault. She had some troubles with her landings. 

The uneven bars are not Gaelle's strongest event, but she has been really consistant and always present a good routine for the team. Lisa missed a couple of handstands but the rest was very good, while Laura had some problems with her full turns. Rune and Cindy, who got the best scores in Mouscron for Team Belgium on this event, have once again delivered very good routines.

Our gymnasts finished on beam, an apparatus that has been an issue lately. It still is, except for Gaelle, very solid once again, Rune and Laura. Unfortunately, Lisa fell twice and Cindy once. Julie struggled a bit wih one of her acrobatic series. Remember this was just podium training and that our gymnasts still have time to adjust. To finish on beam is never easy, but I'm sure the girls will be just fine in qualifications!

The qualification session for our girls will take place on Saturday around 12:30, Belgium time! I'll try to give you as much updates as I can, especially on Twitter (@belgiangym).

mercredi 14 octobre 2015

2015 Worlds: What to expect from our Women's team?

The World Championships (Glasgow, October 23 - November 1) start in less than 10 days ! Now that the preparation of our women's team is over, it's time to see a little further and try to see what are the strengths and weaknesses of the team.

Crédit: Florence Lestienne
11th last year, the objective of Belgium for this year is not so different: the top 16 and a qualifying spot for the Test Event! Personally, I think the team can approach the top 10 once again.

At the press conference organized by the Royal Belgian Gymnastics Federation on September 23, Yves Kieffer, the national coach announced his team :

* Gaelle Mys (OTV Nazareth)
* Lisa Verchueren (Sportiva Sint-Gillis-Waas)
* Rune Hermans (Gym Haacht)
* Cindy Vandenhole (Vaste Vuist Lauwe)
* Laura Waem (Sportiva Sint-Gillis-Waas)
* Julie Croket (GymMax)

* Jelle Beullens (De Gympies Keerbergen)
* Dorien Motten (Turnkring Bilzen)

Three gymnasts should compete on all four apparatuses during qualifications: Gaelle Mys, Rune Hermans and Lisa Verschueren. This season, they have achieved very good results, with fairly constant scores, and they have the potential to reach the all around final.

In addition to these three gymnasts, Belgium can also count on Cindy Vandenhole. The National champion also has the potential to get good scores on all four apparatuses. Then we have Laura Waem. All around finalist last year, she had some ankles issues this year, including an operation. But her return is dazzling: on September 13 in Mouscron, she only competed on uneven bars, performing a simplified routine. In Italy, this Saturday, she presented the four apparatuses and got the 4th total among the Belgian girls, just 0.150 behind Gaelle Mys. If she won't present the all around in Glasgow, Laura can still contribute significantly to the team total, especially on bars. And then there's Julie Croket. She got injured during the friendly meet against Sweden and Austria and is now on a race against time to be ready. Her participation or not will be determined last minute. If she is not fit enough, Jelle Beullens will replace her. Recently she has only competed on balance beam and floor exercise, but she is also preparing vault.

Here is how I see things:

On this apparatus, no real surprises. All the gymnasts perform the same vault: a Yurchenko with one twist. Vault is not the best event for Laura. I expect to see Lisa, Rune, Gaelle and Cindy here. They realize good vaults, with scores above 13.5 and close to 14. If Julie is ready, she would take the 5th spot in my opinion.

Uneven bars:
In addition to the three all arounders, Laura can highly contribute to the team total on bars. At the Novara Cup, she earned a 14.450! Cindy can also score high here. In Mouscron, she scored 13.700. 

Balance beam:
The biggest problem for Belgium recently... Both in Mouscron and in Novara, the girls struggled on balance beam. Gaelle was the only one who performed two clean routines, with a potential to score 14 points or more, if she hits all her connections. Rune can get a score around 13.500, and so can Lisa. Laura has a higher difficulty score than Cindy on this apparatus (5.5 against 5.1). But they both have not had easy routines recently. And let's not forget Julie. If she's healthy, she could also contribute to the team total.

Floor exercise:
This is where Julie's absence, if the injury does not allow her to compete, could cost us the most. In Mouscron, although she put her hands down on her last tumbling pass, she really seemed on her way back with a routine combining difficulty and expressiveness. She has the potential to score 14 points or more on this event. That's also the case of Lisa, who got 14 points in Novara. Gaelle and Rune can get scores around 13.800. The fifth gymnast on this event would be Cindy rather than Laura, in my opinion. But if Julie can't compete, I would choose Laura rather than Jelle. They have similar difficulty scores (4.7), but Laura scored higher in Italy (13.250 against 12.850). And in qualifications, all the tenths matter.

So, in my opinion:
Vault: Rune Hermans, Gaelle Mys, Lisa Verschueren, Cindy Vandenhole, Julie Croket/Laura Waem

Uneven bars: Rune Hermans, Gaelle Mys, Lisa Verschueren, Cindy Vandenhole et Laura Waem

Balance beam: Rune Hermans, Gaelle Mys, Lisa Verschueren, Laura Waem, Cindy Vandenhole/Julie Croket

Floor exercise: Rune Hermans, Gaelle Mys, Lisa Verschueren, Cindy Vandenhole, Julie Croket/Laura Waem

As I said it in the article prefacing the potential of the men's team, anything could happen in competition. But I'm sure the women's team has what it takes to approach the top 10!

lundi 12 octobre 2015

2015 Worlds: What to expect from our Men's team?

The 2015 World Championships are just around the corner (Glasgow, October 23 - November 1)! Last year, the men's team finished in 19th place. And this year, the objective is clear: the top 16 and a qualifying spot for the Test Event!

Siemon Volkaert Instagram

Yesterday, the men's team has been named. Donna-Donny Truyens (Blauwput Omnisport), Jonathan Vrolix (Olympia Houthalen) and Siemon Volkaert (GymMax) were selected to represent Belgium in Glasgow. They join Jimmy Verbaeys (Blauwput Omnisport), Maxime Gentges (Gym Club Malmedy), Florian Landuyt (Sportac Deinze) and Bram Louwije (Turnkring Vlamertinge), who were already selected.

At the 2014 Worlds, Belgium ranked 19th, the best finish ever for team Belgium. With this ranking, the men's team qualified for the 2015 Worlds. And this year, the Belgian team wants to do even better: to reach the top 16 and earn a qualifying spot for the Test Event for the first time!

We don't know yet which gymnast will compete on which apparatus. Nevertheless, let's have some fun and try predicting the future !

To me, if they avoid injuries, three gymnasts will compete on all 6 apparatuses in qualifications: Jimmy Verbaeys, Maxime Gentges and Florian Landuyt. Jonathan Vrolix and Bram Louwije also have the capacity to perform in the all around, but with a 6-5-4 format (6 gymnasts in the team, 5 up on the event, the 4 best scores count), the coach might choose to split the apparatuses between the two of them. Finally, Siemon Volkaert and Donna-Donny Truyens are specialists. Siemon usually competes on floor exercise, pommel horse and vault, while Donna- Donny is a pommel horse specialist.

Here are my predictions:

Floor exercise:
I'll start with the three all-arounders. Jimmy, Maxime and Florian have all earned scores above the 14 marks at least three times this year. It will depend on the routine they will present, but Jimmy and Florian have already presented routines with a difficulty score of 6 or more this year (6.1 for Jimmy and 6.2 for Florian). Maxime starts a little lower, between 5.7 and 5.9, but he is able to get a score higher than 14. Personally, I would choose Siemon on this apparatus. He has a difficulty score of 6.4 and if he has not had much luck this year, on a good day, his score can really help the team. The 5th spot, for me, would go to Bram.

Pommel horse:
If he is not the alternate, no doubt that Donna-Donny Truyens will contribute significantly to the team total on this apparatus. A flawless routine would be a major asset to the team. He was very consistent this year, except at the European Championships. Last week, he reached the 15 mark. Siemon is also able to get a good score, thanks to a high difficulty score (it can go up to 6.3). Nevertheless, this year, he struggled a bit on this event. If Siemon or Donna- Donny is an alternate, in addition to the three all-arounders, I would choose Bram again, because of his difficulty score (Jonathan has a 5.5 D score and Bram's between 5.7 and 6.4).

Still rings:
This is the weakest apparatus of the team in terms of difficulty. None of the gymnasts who will go to Glasgow is a specialist or has a stellar routine. Their difficulty scores are similar (between 5.1 and 5.6).

On vault, Maxime and Jimmy have similar results, scoring around 14. Florian, thanks to a higher degree of difficulty, can get a score above 14.5. This is also the case of Siemon. But he only vaulted a couple of times this year. Bram and Jonathan had good and not so good results on this apparatus this year. On average, they can get 13.5.

Parallel bars:
Jimmy can make a difference on this event. These past two weeks, he reached the 15 mark twice. Florian also performed a routine with a difficulty of 6.4, which could also bring valuable points to the team. As for Maxime, he is quite steady on this event. Bram and Jonathan have lower difficulty scores compared to the others but they should performed well.

Horizontal bar:
This season, it is once again Jimmy who had the best results on high bar, scoring an average of 14.3-14.5. Maxime and Florian are both good on this event. Jonathan does not have a very high difficulty score (4.7) but was fairly consistent in his results (around 13.5). As for Bram, he is able to score around the 14 points.

In a competition, the best and the worst can happen. Remember that Belgium recently earned a total of 338 points, the highest total ever made by a men's team. Many factors will be taken into account in Glasgow but one thing is for sure, our boys will give the best of themselves!

samedi 10 octobre 2015

Novara Cup: a bronze medal for team Belgium!

This Saturday, the Belgian women's team was in Italy for the Novara Cup, an international competition that saw teams from Italy, Spain, Romania and Belgium compete against each other. And our gymnasts won a team bronze!

This meet served as a final test for our WAG's team before the World Championships in Glasgow (October 23 - November 1), an important competition on the path to the Olympic Games.

In Italy, the girls struggled on balance beam, the same event they had trouble with in Mouscon last month. Jelle Beullens (De Gympies Keerbergen ) had the difficult task of going up first for Belgium. Unfortunately, with two falls, she does not get the result she hoped to launch the Belgian team into this competition (11.000). Rune Hermans (Gym Haacht) and Gaelle Mys (OTV Nazareth) achieved good results, even if we know Gaelle can score higher (13.500 and 13.550). Laura Waem (Sportiva Sint-Gillis-Waas), who had only competed on uneven bars in Mouscron, competed the all around this time. If she also fell on her side somersault, no doubt that this routine will give her confidence for what's come next (12.650). Cindy Vandenhole (Vaste Vuist Lauwe) also fell on her free cartwheel (12.350). Finally, Lisa Verschueren (Sportiva Sint-Gillis- Waas) had a couple of balance checks but had a very good double piked dismount (13.350).

Rune Hermans
On floor exercise, the girls impressed with their expressiveness, delivering good performances overall. Laura did a simplified exercise, with only two tumbling passes (13.250). Gaelle went out of bounds on one of her tumble passes (13,500). Lisa had the highest score on floor for team Belgium, earning 14.000. Rune, with clean landings and beautiful leaps, also earned a very good score (13,800). No major mistakes from Jelle (12.850) and Cindy (13,200).

Gaelle Mys
Vault, as we know, is not the apparatus where Belgium has the highest difficulty. The girls all made ​​a simple twisting Yurchenko. Laura, for who vault is a weakness, had the lowest score, 13.600. Lisa and Cindy had the best results (13 950).

The Belgian women's team ended its competition with beautiful bars routines! Gaelle Mys had a clean exercise, to begin this rotation (13.150). Rune Hermans and Lisa Verschueren then performed beautiful routines to earn 13.350 and 13.750 respectively. But it is Laura Waem who realized the best performance and got the highest score for the Belgian team with 14.450.

Laura Waem
Belgium scored 218.550 in total to win the bronze medal. That is 7 points higher than during the friendly meet held in Mouscron and 4 more than at last year's Worlds, in 2014. And that total can be improved, as the girls had mistakes on beam! 

In the all around, Lisa Verschueren is the first Belgian (6th, with 54.950), followed by Rune Hermans (10th, with 54.450).

1. Romania 226.500
2. Italy 225.150
3. Belgium 218.550
4. Spain 211.200

All around:
1. Larisa Iordache (ROU) 59.750
2. Carlotta Ferlito (ITA) 56.300
3. Elisa Meneghini (ITA) 56.100
6. Lisa Verschueren (BEL) 54.950
10. Rune Hermans (BEL) 54.450
12. Gaelle Mys (BEL) 54.100
13. Laura Waem (BEL) 53.950

16. Cindy Vandenhole (BEL) 53.400

Full results here:

mardi 6 octobre 2015

Novara Cup: last competition for our women's team before Worlds

On October 10, the Belgian women's team will be in Italy for the Novara Cup, an international competition that will gather teams from Italy, Belgium, Spain and Romania. Find here the list of participants!

Credit: Federazione Ginnastica d'Italia

This competition will serve as the last test before the 2015 World Championships (Glasgow, October 23 - November 1).

List of participants:
Team Belgium:
* Jelle Beullens (De Gympies Keerbergen)
* Rune Hermans (Gym Haacht)
* Gaelle Mys (OTV Nazareth)
* Cindy Vandenhole (Vaste Vuist Lauwe)
* Lisa Verschueren (Sportiva Sint-Gillis-Waas)
* Laura Waem (Sportiva Sint-Gillis-Waas)

Julie Croket is still recovering from the ankle injury she sustained at the friendly meet against Sweden and Austria.

Team Italy:
* Vanessa Ferrari
* Carlotta Ferlito
* Erika Fasana
* Lara Mori
* Elisa Meneghini
* Enus Mariani
* Tea Ugrin

Team Spain:
* Roxana Popa
* Ana Perez
* Nora Fernandez
* Paula Raya
* Claudia Colom
* Natalia Ros

Team Romania:
* Larisa Iordache
* Diana Bulimar
* Ana Maria Ocolisan
* Andreea Iridon
* Laura Jurca
* Silvia Zarzu

Jessica Lopez, from Venezuela, will also compete in the all around competition.

The meet will start at 4.30pm. A livestreaming link should be available.

Sources: GymFed
             Italian gymnastics federation
                OA Sport
                Ginnastica artistica italiana

lundi 5 octobre 2015

MAG: Italy wins a friendly meet against Belgium

This Saturday, our Men's National Team was in Cagliari (Italy) for a friendly meet against the Italian team. Find out here all the results!

Credit: Salvatore Sedda

Italy won the meet with 338.850 ahead of Belgium (333,500). In the all around, Italian gymnast Paolo Principi won gold (85.050), followed by two Belgians, Florian Landuyt (84.900) and Jimmy Verbaeys (84.150).

Credit: Salvatore Sedda

Belgium was represented by the nine gymnasts who are pre-selected for the World Championships in Glasgow (October 23 - November 1). For now, only Jimmy Verbaeys (Blauwput Omnisport), Florian Landuyt (Sportac Deinze), Maxime Gentges (Gym Club Malmedy) and Bram Louwije (Turnkringe Vlamertinge) have their ticket to Glasgow.

Five gymnasts are still in contention for the last two remaining spots for the team that will go to the World Championships. These gymnasts are: Kristof Schroé ('t Spagaatje Hoogstraten), Gilles Gentges (Gym Club Malmedy), Siemon Volkaert (GymMax), Donna-Donny Truyens (Blauwput Omnisport) and Jonathan Vrolix (Olympia Houthalen).

Credit: Salvatore Sedda
This friendly competition against Italy was used as apreparation and was the final test for our gymnasts for the World Championships in Glasgow, a decisive step towards the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

The final selection should be announced this week. The team will then go in Arques (France) for a training camp.

A big thanks to Salvatore Sedda for the pictures!