Top New Senior Elites To Watch For In 2018

Each new year brings a new class of seniors in the elite gymnastics world — gymnasts who turn 16 in the year, making them eligible to compete for more major international competitions such as the world championships. 

In 2018, we will see a number of impressive junior elites turn senior. We’ve identified some of the key women to watch in the next year. 

Maile O’Keefe | USA

Maile O’Keefe is the current reigning junior national champion for the USA. At last year’s nationals, she not only placed first in the all-around, but also came second on vault, beam, and floor. O’Keefe also has a fair amount of international experience having competed at International Gymnix in Canada, the City of Jesolo Trophy in Italy, and Junior Japan in 2017. She came first in the all-around at both Junior Japan and International Gymnix, and second in the all-around in Jesolo. 

O’Keefe is so dominant in U.S. gymnastics that her scores in junior competitions have rivaled many of those in the senior field. At nationals, her total all-around score placed her just behind Ragan Smith in the senior field. One of O’Keefe’s best events is beam, where she competed with a 6.1 D-score in 2017. 

Check out her routine below from the International Gymnix competition: 


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Maile O'Keefe - Beam, USA - 2017 International Gymnix  - Junior Cup


Ana Padurariu | Canada

Ana Padurariu has been one of Canada’s top gymnasts out of both the junior and senior fields. She took first place in the all-around and on every event at Elite Canada in 2017. In addition to competing at International Gymnix last year — where she placed second in the all-around — Padurariu also competed internationally at the City of Jesolo Trophy, where she took fifth in the all-around and first on beam. 

Check out her gorgeous beam routine from Jesolo below: 


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Ana Padurariu - Beam (14.25-1st), Canada - 2017 City of Jesolo Trophy - Event Finals


Emma Malabuyo | USA

Emma Malabuyo has been right up there with O’Keefe as one of the top all-around gymnasts in the USA at the moment. She came second in the all-around at 2017 nationals and first on floor. Malabuyo has also had her fair share of international exposure. She took first place on floor at Junior Japan as well as first at the City of Jesolo Trophy.

Floor is undoubtedly Malabuyo’s best event, and she charms with her choreography. Check out her routine from the U.S. Classic, where she scored a 14.3:


Video via USA Gymnastics

Angelina Simakova | Russia

One of Russia’s star juniors last year was Angelina Simakova, who debuted in 2017 at the WOGA Classic, where she took first place in the all-around, as well as first on beam and floor. Most recently, Simakova competed at Elite Gym Massilia in France, where she once again took first in the Masters all-around, beating Padurariu and Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos. She also placed first in the beam and floor finals. 

Simakova is a particularly strong vaulter for the Russians. At Junior Japan, she competed two vaults: a front handspring front pike 1.5, and a front handspring front pike full. Her combined score of 14.433 got her first place at this meet. 

Check out her routines below: 


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Angelina Simakova - Vault (14.433-1st), Russia - Event Finals, 2017 International Junior Japan

Gabby Perea | USA

Gabby Perea is yet another strong all-around gymnast for USA. She took first place in the all-around at the 2017 City of Jesolo Trophy, totaling a huge 57.225, one of the highest all-around scores recorded in the world in 2017 from both juniors and seniors. Perea also took first on vault and bars in Jesolo and second on beam. At International Gymnix, she came second in the all-around, and took the gold medals on bars and beam, and the silver on floor.

Perea’s strongest event is bars, where she has one of the most difficult routines in the world. At nationals in 2017, she managed to compete with a 6.5 D-score, thanks to some huge combinations. 

Check out her routine from that competition below.


Video via USA Gymnastics

Chen Yile | China

Chen Yile is an up-and-coming gymnast for China, who has already shown that she is capable of great things, especially on bars and beam. At the 2017 Junior Japan competition, Chen placed third in the all-around (behind O’Keefe and Malabuyo) and first on bars, scoring a 14.166. She does beautifully pirouetting work in her bar routine.

Check out her routine below from the Junior Japan competition: 


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Chen Yile - Bars (14.166-1st), China - Event Finals, 2017 International Junior Japan

Kara Eaker | USA

Kara Eaker is one of the best beam workers in the world at the moment, and she is turning senior in 2018. Although she does not have any international experience yet, Eaker has showed beautiful gymnastics on the domestic stage and has had a quick rise to the elite world from the J.O. level, where she competed in 2016. At 2017 nationals, she placed first on beam with a huge 15.15. 

Eaker competes tough combinations on beam with nearly flawless execution. 

Check out her routine from Nationals below:


Video via USA Gymnastics

Li Qi | China

Another notable beamer is Li Qi from China, who is capable of competing with a 6.6 D-score. At the Junior Japan meet, she scored a 15.25 on the event in the all-around competition. Her routine includes a switch leap mount and beautiful mixed combinations, such as her switch leap to sheep jump to back handspring, and front aerial to split jump to Onodi to double stag. 

Check out her solid routine below from Junior Japan: 


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Li Qi - Beam, China - AA Competition, 2017 International Junior Japan


Notable Mentions:

Olivia Dunne, USA

Adeline Kenlin, USA

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Quote and letter via USA Gymnastics:

“The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) issued a letter today to USA Gymnastics initiating actions pursuant to Article 8 of its bylaws, which could ultimately result in the de-recognition of USA Gymnastics as a National Governing Body (NGB). This action is in accordance with their bylaws, which grant the USOC the power to review all matters relating to the continued recognition of an NGB. USA Gymnastics is carefully reviewing the contents of this letter and is evaluating the best path forward for our athletes, professional members, the organization and staff."USA Gymnastics’ board was seated in June 2018 and inherited an organization in crisis with significant challenges that were years in the making. In the four months since, the Board has done everything it could to move this organization towards a better future. We immediately took steps to change the leadership and are currently conducting a search to find a CEO who can rebuild the organization and, most importantly, regain the trust of the gymnastics community. Substantial work remains — in particular, working with the plaintiffs and USA Gymnastics’ insurers to resolve the ongoing litigation as quickly as possible. We will continue to prioritize our athletes’ health and safety and focus on acting in the best interests of the greater gymnastics community.”

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