2022 Commonwealth Games – Who to Watch!

By Aofie Cassidy for Inside Gymnastics

Mark your calendars! The 2022 Commonwealth Games will take place in Birmingham, United Kingdom from July 28-August 8. Gymnastics will kick off on July 29 with subdivision one of the men’s team final and event qualification at 4 a.m. ET. For the full schedule, click here. 

A little bit of history: The Games, which have been taking place since 1930, are a multi-sport event bringing together nations from around the British Commonwealth. It began in the form of the British Empire Games in 1930, which was then renamed the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954, the British Commonwealth Games in 1970 and eventually became the Games that we know today, the Commonwealth Games, in 1978. 

There will be teams from England, Canada, Australia, Wales and Scotland among many others competing in Birmingham. Here we will take a look at some of the gymnasts you should keep an eye on during these Championships!

Jenna LaLonde (CAN)

New to the senior level, 16 year-old LaLonde is certainly one to watch out for in Birmingham. LaLonde, who won a silver medal on beam at the Canadian Championships in May, trains at Ottawa Gymnastics Centre under the tutelage of Melanie Major and has had a busy debut year on the senior stage. LaLonde competed in both Italy and Germany earlier this year and I am sure will be looking forward to getting another stamp in her passport when she heads to Birmingham! 

Whilst LaLonde’s difficulty values are slightly low making medaling at the senior level difficult, it’s her style of gymnastics that should be watched! LaLonde has beautiful long lines complete with a pencil straight toe point and is a beautiful dancer on floor. She shows wonderful expression and personality throughout her floor routine and combines this with beautiful dance and acrobatic elements. 

This youngster certainly has something special and although we may not see her on the podium, she is a joy to watch and displays beautiful gymnastics we love!

Emily Whitehead (AUS)

2020 Olympian Emily Whitehead is looking strong coming into this competition. Whitehead, who hails from Mornington, Australia, a suburb of Melbourne, is a strong All-Around competitor who competes calmly and consistently. She often performs strong, clean routines that do not have a high degree of difficulty but score well because they are error free. This could be her secret weapon in Birmingham!

Whitehead will be looking to medal here just as she did at the last Commonwealth Games in 2018 where she took home bronze medals on vault and in the team competition.

Ondine Achampong (ENG)

Fresh off a silver medal in the All-Around at the 2022 British Championships, Achampong is looking extremely strong coming into this competition. Achampong moved gyms last year after she fell short of making the British Olympic team. Achampong moved to train at Aylesbury Gymnastics Academy under Joshua and Molly Richardson, the coaches of 2020 Olympic bronze medalists, Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova. 

Ondine has always been an extremely talented gymnast and was among the best in the UK prior to this coaching change, however, it seems that moving to train with Olympic coaches has brought her up a level. 

Achampong is truly an All-Around gymnast and is definitely a medal contender in the All-Around final as well as on uneven bars and balance beam, where she displays difficult gymnastics combined with beautiful execution. 

Rhys McClenaghan (NIR)

McClenaghan’s entry into these Games began with controversy. Although on the international stage, McClenaghan represents the Republic of Ireland, Rhys hails from Northern Ireland, a territory of the United Kingdom located on the island of Ireland. Because of deep divisions within the population of Northern Ireland and following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, citizens of Northern Ireland have the option to compete either for the Great British team or the Republic of Ireland team in sporting events. Rhys has chosen to compete for the Republic of Ireland at the Olympics, World Championships and any other FIG sanctioned event. 

However, as these are the Commonwealth Games and the Republic of Ireland is not a member of the British Commonwealth, Rhys does not have the option to compete for the Republic of Ireland and entered as a member of the Northern Irish delegation for these Games. However, in late May it was revealed that the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) had banned Rhys and his two Northern Irish teammates from competing at the Games. The FIG stated that it was a violation of the FIG statutes and rules as the trio had licenses registered with the Republic of Ireland and not Northern Ireland. The FIG came under fire from many for this ruling with Rhys stating that they had failed to recognize the delicate situation pertaining to Northern Ireland. It also left many scratching their heads as discussions with both Gymnastics Ireland and British Gymnastics prior to the 2018 Commonwealth Games had allowed Rhys to compete and ultimately win gold on pommel horse. 

Ultimately however, the decision regarding the 2022 Games was overturned by the FIG on June 27th, giving a special dispensation to the three Northern Irish gymnasts who were set to compete in Birmingham. Rhys will undoubtedly be one to watch at these Games particularly in the pommel horse event final, as he is coming in as the reigning pommel horse champion from the 2018 Games in addition to being the 2018 European champion on the event and the 2019 World bronze medalist.

Joe Fraser (ENG)

2019 World Champion on the parallel bars, Joe Fraser is coming into these Games fresh from a big win at the 2022 British Championships where he became the new British All-Around champion. Fraser subsequently competed at the Baku World Cup in which he won a bronze medal on the parallel bars and a gold on the high bar. 

Fraser is a strong All-Around gymnast and will certainly be a medal contender in the All-Around competition and should also contend for medals on his best events, parallel bars, high bar and pommel horse. He will certainly be one to watch at these Games as he leads the extremely talented English men’s team in Birmingham. 

Georgia Godwin (AUS) 

Godwin comes into this competition having had a very successful Games in 2018, taking home silver in the All-Around, bronze on the uneven bars and bronze with the Australian team. Since these Games, Georgia has competed at the 2019 World Championships and the 2020 Olympic Games and has been the Australian national All-Around champion three years in a row. 

Sadly however, Georgia was unable to defend her national title this year after being sidelined by injury. Godwin has been on the road to recovery since the Olympics last Summer after having ankle surgery in late 2021. For this reason, it is hard to know what to expect from Godwin at these Games as she has not competed since Tokyo. 

However, should she be in full health and compete clean routines, Godwin will be a contender in the All-Around and could reach the vault, uneven bars or balance beam finals and potentially medal. Godwin will be the leader of the relatively young and inexperienced Australian team that is heading to Birmingham and should they all compete cleanly, they could potentially have a chance to take home a team medal as well.

Georgia-Mae Fenton (ENG)

21-year-old Fenton is coming into these Games having had a strong showing at the 2022 British Championships in which she took 4th in the All-Around, silver on uneven bars and bronze on the balance beam. Fenton is known for her uneven bar work and is the reigning Commonwealth Games champion on the event having taken gold at the Games in 2018. 

However, at the recent British Championships, Fenton did downgrade her dismount to a simple double tuck resulting in a lower score than usual on the event. However, it is likely that she will perform her more difficult dismount in Birmingham in a bid to retain her title in the uneven bars final. In addition, Fenton is also a strong All-Around competitor and could also make it to the balance beam final should she have a good day on the event. 

Jake Jarman (ENG)

20-year-old Jarman is the young gun of the English men’s team but don’t underestimate this youngster! Jarman was named as the alternate to the British Olympic team for last Summer’s Tokyo Games at just 19 years old and it seems Jarman has only continued to strive for more since then. 

Jarman took home two gold medals from this year’s British Championships on vault and floor in addition to a bronze in the All-Around. Jarman is a strong and powerful gymnast however can be slightly scrappy at times in the air, particularly on his twisting elements. However, overall presents a strong package and will certainly be one to watch in Birmingham.

Aoife is a native of Dublin, Ireland and graduated from Dublin City University in 2017 with a degree in English & History. A long time gymnastics fan, Aoife began a gymnastics blog whilst in college where she has interviewed gymnasts from the U.S., Australia, Ireland and the U.K., covered competitions and shared her love of the sport! When not writing about and watching gymnastics, Aoife can be found working in the aviation industry or traveling!

Photo by Grace Chiu 

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