By Aoife Cassidy for Inside Gymnastics

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! 

The 2022 European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) took place in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, July 24-30 and saw the junior gymnasts of Europe show the world what they are made of. 

The festival, which is a biennial multi- sport event for athletes aged 14-18 from any European country has been occurring since 1991. 

The competition was comprised of a qualifying round which also served as the individual All-Around and team final and qualified gymnasts for event finals and the mixed pairs final. The mixed pairs final, which is unique to the EYOF, is where the top male and the top female gymnast from each country competes for a medal. 

From the girl’s competition, Helen Kevric of Germany was undoubtedly the breakout star. The 14 year-old from Stuttgart took home two gold medals and four silver medals from Slovakia including the coveted all-around gold. Kevric is a strong All-Around competitor with her one weakness being the beam. She seems to simply not be confident on the event and many of her routines are filled with wobbles. Her floor exercise on the other hand displays confidence and command over all of her elements. During the mixed pairs final, Kevric put on the performance of a veteran where she performed to the sound of the pasodoble. Kevric opened with a dynamic tucked full in which was followed by a stunning stuck triple twist for her second tumbling pass and finished with a clean punch front to double twist. 

From the rest of the field, Amalia Puflea of Romania, Anna Lashchevska of Ukraine and the Italian team put on wonderful performances and took home an impressive haul of hardware. Puflea took home three golds and a silver including gold in the team competition and golds on beam and floor. Puflea is a classic Romanian gymnast, reminiscent of Romanian greats Catalina Ponor and Larisa Iordache. She is quick, sharp and powerful and moves with great rhythm on every event.

Lashchevska took home a silver on beam, a bronze in the mixed pairs final and took 4th in the All-Around. She is certainly one to watch and displays simply breathtaking gymnastics, particularly on beam where she combines difficult skills with beautiful artistry, making for the perfect balance beam routine. 

The young Italian women were also breakout stars with each member of the team taking home their own individual medal along with a team bronze and a mixed pairs gold. Martina Pieratti took gold on uneven bars whilst Arianna Grillo took bronze on beam and gold in mixed pairs and July Marano took silver on floor.

Watch out world, the Italian juniors are coming for you!

Meanwhile on the boy’s side, the story was a little more varied with medals being distributed to gymnasts from 13 different countries in comparison to seven on the girl’s.

Radomyr Stelmakh of Ukraine was the most successful gymnast of the Championships taking home a gold, two silvers and a bronze including the all-important All-Around gold. The 16 year-old from Zaporizhzhia took the All-Around gold, silver on floor exercise and pommel horse and bronze on parallel bars. It seems the legacy of great gymnastics for Ukranian men is continuing and the future is in safe hands!

Danny Crouch from the United Kingdom also took home several medals from Slovakia including gold on floor, silver on high bar and silver with the British team. Crouch, who trains at South Essex Gymnastics Club in southern England is a gymnast with impeccable form, particularly on his twisting elements on floor exercise. Crouch keeps a lovely straight line in his body when twisting complete with a lovely toe point. 

The Italian boys, like the Italian girls, were a strong team with each member taking home an individual medal along with team gold. The leader of the pack, Riccardo Villa took home the All-Around silver in addition to his team gold and mixed pairs gold which he won alongside Arianna Agrillo. Teammate, Tommaso Brugnami took bronze on vault whilst the third member of the team, Davide Oppizzio took home bronze on high bar to add to the team gold. 

Of course, one must recognise the absence of the Russian team from these Championships. Russian gymnasts have been banned from entering FIG sanctioned events following the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. Given the strength of the Russian programme for both women’s and men’s gymnastics, it cannot be denied that the results would have looked different had the Russian team been in attendance. 

Nonetheless, the future looks bright for the sport of gymnastics. There are clearly many extremely talented juniors ready and waiting in the wings for their moment to take the baton from the current senior gymnasts and show the world what they are made of. We will get to see more of these talented youngsters later this month at the 2022 Junior European Championships in Munich which will be held from August 11-14, 2022. We can’t wait to see what they bring to Munich! 

For more:

8 New Junior Elites To Get Excited About!

The Princess of Pan Ams – Isabella Ajalla

Skye Blakely Ready To Soar

TCT’s Levi Jung-Ruivivar Is Ready To Shine In The Senior Ranks

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