mardi 19 avril 2016

Olympic Test Event: the Women's team qualifies a full team to the Olympic Games!

In Rio, Belgium was ready to achieve its longtime goal and qualify a full team to the Olympic Games for the first time! And they did it with style, finishing in 3rd place.

Credit: An Vanderstraeten
The gymnastics world is changing and evolving fast. New countries are emerging. Countries like Belgium. The team that was sent to Rio was a mix of veterans and newcomers. Pressure was high as a lot of people expected Belgium to succesfully qualify for the Olympic Games. But the team was confident and they were right to be.

Before the Test Event, there were about 6 countries that could have qualified for the Games : Romania, France, Germany, Belgium, Brazil and Australia. The girls were in the last subdivision, along with France, meaning they had to wait all day. And they even got to wait a bit longer as a power cut in the arena resulted in an hour delay. But Belgium didn't let that incident get in its way.

Starting on vault, Laura Waem, Axelle Klinckaert, Gaelle Mys, Rune Hermans and Julie Croket all performed clean full twisting Yurchenko, the best score being a 14.200 for Axelle's performance. On bars, Senna Deriks was the best Belgian, scoring 14.333, followed by Laura Waem (14.200). 

Julie Croket unfortunately fell on balance beam (12.833) but her score didn't impact the team's total as Axelle Klinckaert (13.966), Rune Hermans (13.833), Gaelle Mys (13.833) and Laura Waem (13.700) got better scores.

Finishing up on floor, all they needed was an average of 51 points, easily doable for Belgium. And they didn't even had to wait the last gymnast to go to qualify as Rune Hermans' score was enough to put them in third. Axelle Klinckaert nonetheless performed her routine without pressure and then got to celebrate this historic moment with her teammates. 

Credit: FfG
Because what they did is historic. For the first time, Belgium will send a full team to the Olympic Games. After falling short 4 years ago in London, the team fought till the end and brilliantly achieved its longtime goal. With only one mistake (which didn't matter in the end), they proved their consistency and that they could perform extremely well under pressure. They also improved their Worlds team score by almost 2 points. In event finals yesterday, Senna Deriks (14.266) and Laura Waem (13.266) placed 6th and 8th respectively on bars.

Along with Brazil, easy winner of the Test Event, Germany and France, Belgium joins the teams from the United States, China, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, Canada and the Netherlands in Rio. In August, all the girls will achieve will be pure joy and experience. We know they are capable of great things, and as Yves Kieffer said, "at the Games, anything can happen". 

I'd like to say a few words about Australia and Romania to finish. Australia placed 5th, and I'd like to say how impressed I was by this team, because they fought hard. They lost some of their best gymnasts shortly before the Test Event, as Mary-Ann Monckton, Emily Whithead and Lauren Mitchell were injured. But Australia still competed with all its guts. And finally, I'd like to say a word about Romania. As I said at the beginning of this article, the gymnastics world is evolving. For the first time since 1968, Romania has failed to qualify for an Olympic Games. This beautiful team of young talents had disastrous meets in both Glasow and Rio and even the return of the great Catalina Ponor couldn't change that. Of course, they lost Larisa Iordache and Laura Jurca through injuries and maybe things could have been different with them on the team. It will be weird not to see Romania at the Games, especially on the 40 years anniversary of Nadia Comaneci's first perfect 10. I wish them all the best and hope they will bounce back from this.

Now, Team Belgium will take a short break before coming back to the gym and focus on the Belgian and the European Championships. And then, it will be time for the Games!

Team results here
Bars final results here

dimanche 17 avril 2016

Olympic Test Event: historical 7th place for the Men's team!

At the Rio Test Event, the Men's team made quite a big splash on the World's stage as they finished in 7th and beat their team total record by 6 points!

Credit: GymFed
Wow! That's the first word that comes to my mind when I think about what Belgium men's team has achieved in Rio. As a hardcore fan and a patriot, I was impatient to see what the boys had in store for us. 

Let me just say that following a competition through livescores but without actually see the competition is WAY more stressful than seeing it. All I could do was pray and see a good score coming up. And my prayers were heard.

Last night in Rio, Maxime Gentges, Jimmy Verbaeys, Daan Kenis, Bram Louwije, Siemon Volkaert and Dennis Goossens hit routines after routines after routines. There were actually two mistakes, but this is not the most important thing here.

Belgium started on vault and right from the beginning, they showed they weren't there to just sit and watch the big nations fight for an Olympic spot. As an exemple, Daan scored a massive 15.208! Then, that's when I started to worry because for the next two subdivisions, Belgium only had 4 gymnasts on parallel bars and horizontal bars, meaning they couldn't afford to make mistakes. And they didn't. Yes, there were some landings deductions, but the lowest score was a 13.900, which is pretty awesome!

Credit: FfG
Moving on to floor exercise, Belgium was still in contention, just behind the Netherlands. Daan and Siemon got Belgium's highest scores with 14.633! On pommel horse, Daan might have had a mistake, but it didn't really impact the team total. Other than that, Belgium was pretty consistent, as Maxime and Siemon both got 14.233 and Bram and Jimmy both got 13.966. They finished on rings, where Dennis made the show to earn a 14.900.

In the end, Belgium placed 7th with a team total of 342.534. To give you a comparison, it is 6 points HIGHER than at Worlds last year. 6 points! In the gymnastics world, that's huge. And this mark of 342 points is now the best team score ever obtained by a team from Belgium. Now, of course we all wanted the boys to qualify. I'm sure it was in here somewhere in the back of their minds too. And it would have been so great but let's stay realistic. Against teams such as Germany, Ukraine, France and the Netherlands (who all qualified for the Olympics by the way), Belgium had few chances to make it. And that's okay. Because they gave it all. Because they showed what they were capable of. Because they showed once again that yes, they weren't supposed to be there at first, but they belong anyway. Yesterday wasn't about performance. It was about experience. Experiencing great moments. The boys had nothing to lose and they gave it all

Like Maxime Gentges said in an interview, they were aiming for the Top 24 two years ago. Last year, they were 17th and now they are approaching the Top 12. Team Belgium improves every year and it is improving FAST! Individually, Maxime Gentges also broke a personal record and scored 85.498. Jimmy Verbaeys was not far behind with 84.631. Daan (83.807) and Bram (83.798) also achieved amazing all-around results. Gentlemen, you can be extremely proud of what you've accomplished in Rio. In the last couple of years, you never ceased to impress me. I'm not scared for your future. Because it will be bright.

Guys, thank you.

Full results here

vendredi 15 avril 2016

Olympic Test Event: what to expect from our Women's team

In two days, our women's national team will compete at the Rio Olympic Test Event to try to earn a team spot at the Olympic Games for the first time in history!

Credit: Valerie Van Cauwenberghe
11th at last year's World Championships, Belgium easily qualified for the Test Event, a longtime goal of our gymnasts. The girls' preparation was pretty successful. In early March, Belgium won 6 medals at the International Gymnix, including three titles: the team gold, gold on bars for Nina Derwael and gold on floor exercise for Axelle Klinckaert.

10 days ago, our gymnasts won another important test; a friendly meet against the teams from Romania and Germany. Important because those two countries are in Rio and will be direct competitors at the Test Event, even tho Germany didn't send its A team in Mouscron. It was a good occasion to see where our gymnasts were standing and what needed to be fix before the Test Event.

After this competition, Laura WaemAxelle KlinckaertGaelle MysRune HermansJulie CroketSenna Deriks and Cindy Vandenhole (alternate) made the Test Event team. Nina Derwael unfortunately got injured a couple of weeks before the Test Event and is unable to compete in Rio. But she and Julie Meyers, the 2nd alternate, still travelled with the team.

As for the boys, we don't know the team line-up yet. But I think we can say Laura Waem and Axelle Klinckaert will compete on all four events. The last all arounder spot should be between Julie Croket and Rune Hermans. Since Rune didn't compete on floor in Mouscron, I'd say Julie should do the all-around while Rune will most likely compete on vault, bars and beam. Gaelle should compete on vault, beam and floor and Senna should compete on bars and floor. Star lists should be available tomorrow or on Sunday morning.

On vault, Belgium doesn't have a high difficulty but it compensates with good execution. Axelle for instance can score around 14.300 for her full twisting Yurchenko. Senna Deriks and Laura Waem will be our best gymnasts on bars, an event on hich they can score between 14.100 and 14.600. Rune and Axelle usually have scores close to 14.000 while Julie should score around 13.500.

On beam, Axelle, Laura and Gaelle should bring important scores for Belgium. In Mouscron, they all scored above 14.000. Rune and Julie, if they don't make mistakes, should be able to score around 13.500-13.700. Axelle will be our best gymnast on floor, where we know she can score around 14.400. Gaelle usually gets scores around 13.800. Laura has a less difficult routine but she compensates her lack of difficlty with clean execution to score around 13.400. Julie is still on the way back and has not yet recovered all her difficulty, but if she hits, she should get 13.200-13.400.

Credit: GymFed
Competition will be fierce and the results between the teams should be tight. In addition to Belgium, France, Romania, Germany, Brazil, Australia, Switzerland and South Korea will be in contention to win a team spot for the Olympic Games. 

Yves Kieffer, the head coach of Belgium, thinks that 5 teams have chances to qualify: "There will be a big fight. There are 5 countries for 4 tickets. You  have Romania, Brazil, France, Belgium and Germany. Australia is a little behind, even if it is a great nation. It is more difficult for them right now. But for now, you can't say which countries will qualify. The Brazilians are at home, it's still a small advantage. The Romanians had an injury and they completely missed their qualifications in Glasgow but they won't do it twice. For me, I would say that these two teams have something more than the others. But if we do what we have to do, if we are steady as we usually are, we should qualify".

And in the gymnastics field, we usually thinks Belgium will qualify: "People say « you know, in Belgium, you have great Juniors, your Seniors are there too, you are in the Top 12 and your Juniors are coming, so if the work is done, it should do it ». Now, if we qualify, you can knocked out big nations, like Germany or France. Those are big names with a lot of means but it is also the nice side. And it can create a positive dynamics for gymnastics in Belgium. It will create an Elite culture, it will show that you can compete as an Elite in Belgium", says Yves Kieffer.

The pressure is obviously there for our gymnasts but Kieffer thinks that tis pressure is mostly on our competitors' shoulders: "Either way, the pressure is there. The Test Event, it's a competition like that, boom, it's yes or no. I think the pressure is more on the others than on us. Of course, the gymnasts will have pressure but if we qualify, it is exceptional, while other countries, big gymnastics nations, they have to qualify. They have to qualify because they have always been in the top 12, because their budget depends on it and they are in competition other Olympic sports. In France, there is a lot of competition with major sports such as judo, fencing, etc. Our gymnasts are accustomed to pressure, the little ones have shown that they can compete under pressure, the Seniors are always there in difficult conditions".

Our National coach and gymnasts have faith and trust and so do we. The results will be tight, but the girls have to believe they can do it. The qualification has never been so close. They have the potential to make history for Belgian gymnastics.

Here is their programme:
* Friday 15 April: podium training (8:00pm, Brazil time, 1:00am, Belgium time)
* Sunday 17 April : team competition (8:00pm, Brazil time, 1:00am, Belgium time)

jeudi 14 avril 2016

Olympic Test Event: what to expect from our Men's team

Here we go! Our national teams are in Rio for the long awaited Olympic Test Event! On Saturday, the boys will try to qualify a full team for the Olympic Games, for the first time in their history. What can we expect from them? Let's find out!

Credit: GymFed
First of all, a little flashback to the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow. There, the Men's team failed to qualify for the Test Event, placing 17th, a spot away from that qualifying spot. As I said at that time, they made history for Belgium, reaching the best ranking a Belgian men's team ever had. The boys quickly had to move on and focus on the Test Event as individuals, as two gymnasts would be sent to represent Belgium. But in February, Belarus withdrew from the Test Event and Belgium, the first reserve, eventually qualified a full team!

The preparation had to change, switching from an individual process to a team one. After successfull tests all over Europe, Jimmy VerbaeysMaxime GentgesDaan KenisBram LouwijeSiemon VolkaertDennis Goossens and Florian Landuyt (alternate) made the team.  Our gymnasts then travelled to Santos for a training camp before heading to Rio. Their podium training will take place today.

Competition will be fierce for Team Belgium as teams from Germany, Canada, Romania, Spain, France, Ukraine and the Netherlands will compete in order to earn a team ticket for the Games. We don't know the line up yet, but I think GentgesVerbaeysKenis and Louwije will compete on all six events. Dennis Goossens is a rings specialist while Siemon Volkaert's best apparatuses are the floor, the vault and the pommel horse. JimmyMaximeBram and Daan can all score between 82 and 86 in the all around. Pommel hose shouldn't be an issue as Maxime Gentges can really score high there and has been consistent lately. Jimmy's best event is parallel bars where he can score above 15. I admit I don't know much about Daan but he can have good scores on vault and floor, an event on which he won a bronze medal as a Junior in 2012. I haven't seen much about Bram but I heard he upgraded on several apparatuses and can be really competitive there. Dennis recently won a bronze medal in a World Challenge Cup event with a score of 15+ on rings. And Siemon can also score around 14.700 on floor, and more than 14 on vault and on pommel horse.

I think a big advantage for Belgium is that they have nothing to lose. Belgium is seen as an outsider, and that can be helpful. They don't have the same kind of pressure the women's team has on its shoulder, for example.  Of course, they want to qualify a full team and you never know what could happen in a competition such as the Test Event. If you have a look at the qualifying results from Glasgow, Belgium was 17th, just a bit less than 6 points away from the top 12. And the gymnasts had mistakes, which means they could have placed higher. I want to believe they will qualify. But if they don't, they would have already made history for their country once again. And no matter what, Belgium will be at the Olympic Games : as a team that will compete at the Test Event, they automatically earn an individual spot for the Games.

Belgium will compete in the 3rd subdivision (out of three), with teams from Ukraine and the Netherlands. They will start the competition on vault.

Here is their programme:
* Thursday 14 April : podium training (6:30pm Brazil time, 11:30pm Belgium time)
* Saturday 16 April : team competition (6:30pm Brazil time, 11:30pm Belgium time)

As for now, we don't have infos on a livestream. Rumor has it that there will be none ... But let's hope rumor is wrong! I'll keep you posted.

samedi 9 avril 2016

5 medals at the International Junior Team Cup in Berlin!

This weekend, our juniors competed at the International Junior Team Cup in Berlin, one of the most prestigious junior international competitions in Europe. And the Belgians shone, winning 5 medals!

The competition started on Friday, with the team and all-around final that also served as the qualification round for the event finals starting on Saturday.

In the age group 1 (1998-1999), Noah Kuavita (Silok Deune) ranked 23rd, Takumi Onoshima (Athanor Gym Club) was 26th and Lukas Fickers placed 33rd (TSV 1970 Rocherath). In the age group 2 (2000-2001), Jonas Delvael (Gym Izegem) won a beautiful bronze medalJustin Pesesse (La Vaillante Tubize) finished right off the podium and ranked in 4th place. Ruben Marx (Olympia Houthalen) was 19th, Emiel Tiebout (Rust Roest Brugge) was 24th and Mattis Bouchet (Vaste Vuist Lauwe) placed 27th.

Credit: GymFed
Team Belgium 1 (Noah Kuavita, Takumi Onoshima, Ruben Marx and Jonas Delvael) ranked 7th, while Team Belgium 2 ( Mattis Bouchet, Lukas Fickers, Justin Pesesse and Emiel Tiebout) placed 15th. The team competition was won by Switzerland ahead of Russia and China.

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
This Saturday, Jonas Delvael shone again, winning three medals, one of each colour! He first grabbed the gold on pommel horse and then moved on to win silver on still rings. He then completed his collection by earning a bronze medal on parallel bars! Ruben Marx won a silver medal on horizontal bar. 

Also competing in finals this Saturday, Justin Pesesse placed 4th on floor despite a fall, while Takumi Onoshima ranked 6th on pommel horse, after he fell too. He then placed 5th on horizontal bar. 

Credit: Mathias Hikketik

This competition is part of the selection process for the Juniors European Championships that will be held in Switzerland at the end of May. The last selection competition will be a friendly meet in Sweden where Belgium will compete against the host country and a team from the Netherlands. 

Full results here

jeudi 7 avril 2016

Two Juniors teams at the International Team Cup in Berlin!

The selection procedure continues for the Juniors European Championships. Next step: the International Junior Team Cup in Berlin for the Men's team!

Eight gymnasts are still in contention to qualify for the Juniors European Championships that will take place in Bern (Switzerland) from May 25th to 29th. Those eight gymnasts were supposed to compose two teams in Berlin. Unfortunately Iliaz Pyncket and Ward Claeys got injured and are replaced by Justin Pesesse and Emiel Tiebout. 

Team 1:
* Ruben Marx (Olympia Houthalen)
* Jonas Delvael (Gym Izegem)
* Noah Kuavita (Silok Deurne)
* Takumi Onoshima (Athanor Gym Club)
Team 2:
* Mattis Bouchet (Vaste Vuist Lauwe)
* Lukas Fickers (TSV 1970 Rocherath)
* Justin Pesesse (La Vaillante Tubize)
* Emiel Tiebout (Rust Roest Brugge)

4 gymnasts compete on each apparatus and the 3 best scores count for the team total. The competition will be fierce as teams from the United States, Canada, Japan and, of course, Germany, will be there.

Qualifications start on Friday. Team Belgium 2 will be in the first subdivision (9:30am) on pommel horse, and Team Belgium 1 will compete in the third subdivision (6:30pm) and will begin on pommel horse too. The final will take place on Saturday.

lundi 4 avril 2016

Belgium wins gold at the friendly meet!

This weekend, Mouscron hosted a prestigious friendly meet that gathered teams from Belgium, Romania and Germany. This meet served as a final test before the Olympic Test Event, that will be held in Rio in two weeks!

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
Although it was a friendly competition, this meet was also a good way to analyze what the competitors could do, as Romania and Germany will be direct opponents at the Test Event. This was a great opportunity for our gymnasts to compete against these teams. With a total of 222.900, Belgium won gold ahead of Romania (219.200) and Germany (215.250).

The Belgians started on vault, where they all performed the same vault, a  full twisting Yurchenko. Axelle Klinckaert got the highest score of the team (14.300), followed by Cindy Vandenhole (14.100) and Gaelle Mys (13.900). On Uneven bars, Senna Deriks continues to shine and gets the best score for Belgium (14.600). Laura Waem also presented a difficult routine that she mastered from the beginning to the end (14.100). Cindy Vandenhole got 13.250. If she didn't fall, she had ​​some form breaks. Axelle Klinckaert (13.950) and Rune Hermans (13.900) did their job, while Gaelle Mys presented a new double layout dismount (13.300).

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
On balance beam, Senna Deriks (11.300) and Rune Hermans (13.250) both fell, but three gymnasts got scores above 14: Axelle Klinckaert (14.400, highest Belgian score), Laura Waem (14.300) and Gaelle Mys (14.200). Cindy got 13.700.

Our gymnasts finished on floor exercise where they again showed their exressiveness. Axelle Klinckaert had some mistakes on her landings but still got 13.850. Cindy Vandenhole (12.700) also had some issues on her landings. Gaelle Mys received the score of 13.800 and Laura got 13.400.

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
Julie Croket and Julie Meyers were competing as individuals. Julie Croket went out of bounds twice on floor but she's on her way back! She got 13.000 on floor, 14.050 on vault, 13.550 on bars and 13.350 on beam. Julie Meyers had mistakes on bars (11.900) but got great scores on the other events: 13.800 (vault), 13.900 (beam) and 12.800 (floor).

Romania placed 2nd as a team. They started on bars, an event they had trouble with in the past. Maria Holbura got the highest score of the team (13.100), Diana Bulimar got 12.550 after a fall, and Andreea Iridon (12.950) and Dora Vulcan (12.750) got the 2nd and 3rd scores of the team.

They came back strong on beam where Diana Bulimar got the highest score (14.400) ahead of Catalina Ponor (14.300) and Andreea Iridon (14.200). Bulimar then shone on floor exercise where she got the highest score of the competition on this event (14.100). Ponor performed a new floor routine and got 13.800.

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
Germany placed 3rd (215.225). Pauline Tratz was the best German and got 14.050 on vault and 13.550 on floor. Leah Griesser was the best on bars (13.350) and Maike Enderle shone on beam (13.950). Note that Germany didn't send the team that will travel to Rio for the Test Event. Pauline Schaefer and Sophie Scheder were in Cottbus for the World Challenge Cup, Tabea Alt is still recovering from a knee injury and Elisabeth Seitz was resting.

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
Another amazing result to point out is Spain's Ana Perez Campos. She placed 5th in the all-around and got 14.150 on beam and 13.700 on vault and bars.

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
1. Belgium 222.900
2. Romania 219.200
3. Germany 215.250

In the all-around, Axelle Klinckaert won gold ahead of Laura Waem and Diana Bulimar. Gaelle Mys got 55+ and is 4th. Julie Croket comes back strong and placed 6th.

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
1. Axelle Klinckaert (BEL) 56.500
2. Laura Waem (BEL) 55.600
3. Diana Bulimar (ROU) 55.400
4. Gaelle Mys (BEL) 55.200
5. Ana Perez Campos (ESP) 54.350
6. Julie Croket (BEL) 53.950
9. Cindy Vandenhole (BEL) 53.750
13. Senna Deriks (BEL) 52.700
14. Julie Meyers (BEL) 52.400
19. Rune Hermans (BEL) 41.000 (3 agrès)

This result is very encouraging for the Belgian team, two weeks away from the Test Event, especially as the team total can be improved. The definitive team for the Test Event will be known Wednesday or Thursday and the gymnasts will leave for Rio on Friday. On Wednesday, Nina Derwael, who got injured, will have an x-ray. She will make the trip to Rio no matter what.

All-around results here
Team results here
Pictures here

Videos here

Romanian Juniors shone against Belgium in Mouscron

Our uionrs gymnasts are preparing for the European Championships that will be held in Bern (Switzerland) in June. This Sunday, Belgium received Romania in a friendly competition.

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
Romania won the team title, 164.350 to 153.500. Romanians were impressive and had few or no mistakes. They were in 1st place from the beginning. They started on vault, where Denisa Golgota got the highest score, a 15.000, for a clean double twisting Yurchenko. Belgium started on bars. Manon Muller and Alysha Senders both fell, Myrthe Potoms got the best score for Belgium (12.850), followed by Maellyse Brassart (11.750) and Chloé Leblicq (11.400). 

On beam, Maellyse Brassart (13.500) and Myrthe Potoms (13.400) delivered solid performances. Alysha Senders got 12.500 and Chloé Leblicq 11.750. Romania's Carmen Ghiciuc got the highest score on bars for her team (13.450).

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
Manon Muller and Alysha Senders got the highest scores ont floor for team Belgium (12.950 and 12.900 respectively), followed by Chloé Leblicq (11.400). Maellyse Brassart unfortunately fell twice, fall for Myrthe Potoms too. Romania continues to shine on beam where two gymnasts got a score of 14 or higher: Ioana Crisan (14.000) and Alisia Botnaru (14.150). 

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
Belgium finished on vault and Romania was on floor. Myrthe Potoms got once again the best score for Belgium (13.900), followed by Maellyse Brassart (13.850) and Chloé Leblicq (13.750). On floor, Olivia CimpeanIoana Crisan and Alisia Botnaru all got 13.400. 

Belgians Britt Vanneste and Rinke Santy competed as individuals. Rinke ranked 7th and Britt was 11th in the all-around.

Romania won the team gold. In the all-around, the podium was also 100% Romanian.

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
1. Romania 164.350
2. Belgium 153.500

Credit: Belgian Gymnastics
1. Carmen Ghiciuc (ROU) 54.400
2. Alisia Botnaru (ROU) 54.250
3. Ioana Crisan (ROU) 54.150
6. Myrthe Potoms (BEL) 50.750
7. Rinke Santy (BEL) 50.550
8. Maellyse Brassart (BEL) 49.850
9. Chloé Leblicq (BEL) 49.300
10. Alysha Senders (BEL) 48.800
11. Britt Vanneste (BEL) 48.750
12. Manon Muller (BEL) 48.350

All-around results here
Team results here
Pictures ici
Videos ici