As 2012 comes to a close, gymnasts begin looking forward to the upcoming year for a fresh start. With many gymnast still feeling the “high” of the Olympics, as well as an extra boost in confidence, here is a look at 13 gymnasts to make a strong statement in 2013. Some are gymnasts that have been on the scene for a couple years, but have yet to reach their true potential, while some are newcomers that have already begun making an impact.
13. John Orozco- USA
After a somewhat disappointing Olympics, many have wondered will this give him motivation or leave a negative impact on his future. I feel it will give him the motivation to reach for his greatest potential. Yes, he is currently recovering from injury, however, if he does return in 2013 I feel he will have an impact. This injury can only help him improve even more on two of Team USA’s weakest events: Rings and Pommel Horse, which in the long run will only make him a bigger threat.
12. Zhou Shixiong- China
A name not well known on the International Scene, yet after his performance at this year’s Asian Championship I feel he may begin making a name for himself on Team China. Zhou came home with a Team Gold and All-Around Silver Medal (with a strong 89.45 score) from these Championships, however his 7.1 gold medal winning parallel bar routine he competed have raised some eyebrows around the world. With the Individual Worlds being right after the Chinese National Games, this gymnast may have the opportunity to take on the world in 2013.
11. Ri Se Gwang- North Korea
After a two-year ban from International competition, North Korea has resurfaced onto the gymnastics scene, and 2013 could be a great “Welcome Back” year for Ri Se Gwang. This powerful vaulter, has been known for years doing some of the most difficult vaults, such as a full twisting Tsukarara double back, piked Dragulescu and a piked Tsuk double back. These vaults could easily bring in a lot of hardware for this gymnast, as well potential success on rings and floor, two events he has had success on in the past. He should make things very interesting in competitions in 2013 on an event that continues to push the limits.
10. Sam Oldham- Great Britain
The youngest member of the Bronze-Medal Great Britain Team, Oldham has proved he is ready to make a bigger impact on the international scene. With years of huge success in the junior ranks, his years competing at the senior level have seen its high and lows. However, this young gymnast has the goods to not only help Team GB to fight for team medals, but have success individually with his all-around abilities, as well as his strongest event, high bar.
9. Max Whitlock- Great Britain
After being in teammate Louis Smith’s shadow on pommel horse, Whitlock should move to Team GBR’s number 1 spot on this event, if Smith sticks to his words on retirement, come 2013. Yet, Whitlock has more to offer than just great pommel work, he is strong on other events, such as floor, vault and p-bars. I expect the two bronze medals he won in London to be huge confidence boosters in his gymnastics, and will start to see success not only on pommel horse.
8. Oleg Stepko- Ukraine
The youngest member of his nation, Stepko was a huge part of Ukraine’s surprise 4th place finish in London. Competing in 5 events, the most of any of his teammates, Stepko showed he can bring strong results to his country. Also, with Mykola Kuksenkov joining Team Russia, Stepko should take over as the Number 2 guy for Ukraine. I expect to see this young gymnast competing a lot throughout 2013 continuing to gain experience and exposure.
7. Daniel Purvis- Great Britain
The third Team GBR gymnasts on the list, may only be a couple years older than his two teammates, however he is one of the leaders, if not the leader for Team GBR. After having a string of strong showings at international competitions, many thought Purvis could contend for an All-Around medal in London. Only 22, Purvis should continue to be a medal contender at international events in 2013, and a strong contender to finish Top 3 at Worlds.
6. Denis Albyazin- Russia
Known for his power on floor and vault, Albazin should continue to rack in numerous medals on these two events, as well as rings, an event he has proved to not underestimate him on. Already showing the most difficult floor routine last year, is there any way he could possibly make his routines more exciting? If he stays healthy and hits, he could be a two-time World Champion in 2013.
5. Mykola Kuksenkov- Russia (Formerly Ukraine)
After years of being Ukraine’s top gymnasts, the 23-year-old Kuksenkov has moved to compete for Team Russia. Already a strong all-around gymnast, not only will this help his gymnastics, he could also make Team Russia an even bigger threat in team competitions. He should easily be welcomed by the team because his strengths on pommel horse and high bar have always been a problem area for Russia. Kuksenkov could finally reach the podium after missing out the last couple of years.
4. Oleg Verniaiev- Ukraine
This 19-year-old has been talked up by many over the past year as a future threat, and he continues to prove. Verniaiev will now be seen as Ukraine’s top all-around gymnast with Kuksenkov’s departure from Team Ukraine, and has the potential to bring Ukraine back as a powerhouse. Showing huge difficulty across the board, this youngster just needs to clean up some things and gain the confidence needed to contend with the big names. Expect to see him competing a lot through 2013, and don’t be surprised if he brings home a few medals on the way.
3. Sam Mikulak- USA
The second of three Americans on this list, Mikulak was a surprise to many for his 2012 results. However, this one-time junior powerhouse has showed he has the goods to make a name for himself in the senior ranks. Like his teammate, he is currently recovering from a calf injury, which he has stated will benefit his weakest event, rings. I feel that 2013 may be the start to a great Quad for this 20-year-old, with the potential to not only factor in the all-around but a couple individual events as well. I am hoping he will be used safely throughout his NCAA season, because if he “peaks” for elite competition, he has the goods to raise even more eyebrows.
2. David Belyavskiy- Russia
With no true all-around great since Alexi Nemov, it was only time another great all-arounder come out of this rebuilding gymnastics nation. Belyavskiy, only 20-years-old, has the goods to bring an all-around title back to Russia. After qualifying in 2nd place to the All-Around Finals in London, he finished a strong 5th place, showing he still had room to improve. With Kuksenkov joining Team Russia, this may be the push needed, since he could potentially be fighting to be Russia’s top all-around gymnast, to improve and truly fight for a podium finish. During what is usually a rebuilding year after the Olympics, strong results this year could be the extra confidence needed for this young gymnast.
1. Danell Leyva- USA
The final American on the list may have been on the International Scene for a few years now, however he is still young and has a lot of gymnastics left in him. While his teammates went on tour, Leyva continued to train, even showing a new floor routine with a gorgeous Double Laid-Out Arabian opening pass, and some new high bar work. After a somewhat mixed feelings of an Olympics, this all-around bronze medalist will go into 2013 as one of the favorites for the World title. With this extra training time, hopefully Leyva and his coach have begun planning a strategy to improve on Pommel Horse and Rings to get him closer to that World All-Around Title next year, and a stepping stone to the title in Rio.
Article: Brian Taylor
Photo: Oleg Stepko
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