Here at the Triple Full headquarters we can't wait till it's 2009. Not just because that's when the new code comes into effect (cue one HUGE sigh of relief on our collective parts), but also because it will be interesting to see which juniors-turned-seniors will enrich the sport with their presence.
Among the more interesting juniors we think will turn senior in 2009 (some confirmation would be nice) are Tatiana Nabieva, Tatiana Solovyeva, Ana Porgras, Amelia Racea, Samantha Shapiro, Rebecca Bross, Peng-Peng Lee, and Charlotte Mackie. We can't wait to see these girls take on this year's crop of champions.
The young Russian we most look forward to seeing in 2009: Tatiana Solovyeva
However, this post is not about them. It's about the juniors you won't be seeing on the senior stage next year because they'll still be under age. And boy, are you missing out on something good.
Our top-5 of sadly age-ineligible budding stars:
China's tiny Cui Jie gets our vote for the Most-Promising-Junior-You're-Not-Likely-to-See-in-a-Senior Competition-Any-Time-Soon Award. She's basically a younger Cheng Fei – not terribly impressive on bars (by Chinese standards, that is), but excellent on the other events. Check out the floor exercise she did as a 13-year-old (featuring a gorgeous double Arabian) and you'll see why we're excited about her. Her beam also has future greatness written all over it. Watch those arms – they're beautiful. If she ever learns to connect that front tuck-Rueda combination, we'll love her all the way to a stack of gold medals.
We're not sure whether the mature Aliya Mustafina will live up to the promise of her extremely precocious 11-year-old self (best seen here), but we still enjoy watching her a lot. She has beautiful lines and extension, some original dance and pirouettes, and a bit of that old Soviet elegance that is all too rarely encountered in the sport these days. She's a rhythmic gymnast among acrobats, and the new code should work in her favor. Pencil her in for a few medals over the next quad. And her younger sister Nailya for the quad after that.
Aliya Mustafina (Photo: Jasmin Schneebeli-Wochner/Gymbox)
Larisa Iordache is Romania's national junior champion in her age category. The girl is twelve and has a fair bit of presence for one so young, not to mention some impressive skills. She hails from the same club that produced Aurelia Dobre, Dinamo Bucharest, and her coaches are quick to compare her to Aurelia, saying, "Larisa is exactly like Aurelia was twenty years ago." We don't know about you, but we like the sound of that. Click here to see an 11-year-old Larisa rock the floor in 2007!
Larisa Iordache (Photo: Ayako Murao)
Viktoria Komova has good genes. She's Vera Kolesnikova's daughter and she's clearly inherited her mother's talent. She mounts floor with a 1.5 twist through to a double Arabian (check it out here), and while her dance is nothing to write home about yet, her form and general liveliness indicate that she could become a decent dancer given some more time and a good choreographer. Plus she's working on a ff-layout stepout-Arabian combo and a double Arabian dismount on beam (yes, really). Madness, we tell you. Madness. Of a kind we highly appreciate.
If there's one thing all three of us agree on, it's that we dislike Jordyn Wieber's hands. However, if someone tells the kid to stop flexing those wrists, she'll have a bright future ahead of her. Especially if those rumors about her Amanar vault are true. Because that would be awesome.
Here's hoping these girls won't go the Nadezhda Ivanova / Irina Isayeva way…