In 2019 the international governing body for gymnastics (FIG) attempted what had never been done before. That being, to hold a major event at the junior level in women’s gymnastics that truly replicated the size, scope, and scale of a major senior-level event. The competition in question was the 2019 Junior World Championships and while the competition was a resounding success, fate had other plans.
The success of the 2019 Junior World Championships was offset by the Covid-19 Pandemic. The next itineration of the newly created Junior World Championships was slated for 2021, only to be completely cancelled. Leaving a 4-year hiatus before the competition will be held again in 2023. Despite the difficult circumstances the following year would bring, the 2019 Junior World Championships did leave a lasting legacy.
That being, all the gymnasts who achieved major success at the 2019 Junior World Championships went on to achieve success at the senior level. Of the seven gymnasts who won medals in the individual events at the 2019 World Championships, six of them became Olympians. All seven gymnasts achieved some form of success at the senior level. Five of them are Olympians, another is a gold medalist at the World Championships, and the last has an All-Around medal.
While the very first Junior World Championships proved that this fledgling competition could accurately predict the “stars of tomorrow,” the 2019 World Championships proved something else. The 2019 World Championships proved there would be some “hidden gems” in the lower part of the standings.
There were four different gymnasts who would have major success at either the 2021 Olympics or 2022 World Championships, but fared rather poorly at the 2019 World Championships. It is hard not to sugarcoat it, four gymnasts who got completely trounced at the 2019 World Championships went on to completely surpass the opposition and have some of the most successful senior careers of their respective generation.
Guan Chenchen had the following results during the qualifications stage at the 2019 Junior World Championships:
Her average placement was 15th and ironically Chenchen had her worst showing on the balance beam. During beam qualifications Chenchen recorded a fall on beam and a mild balance check, netting her a score of 12.333 points. This occurring while her two teammates Ou Yushan and Wei Xiaoyuan were the only gymnasts to score 14.000+ points during beam qualifications and took the #1 and #2 qualifying positions.
But two years later at the 2021 Olympics things would be different. Wei Xiaoyuan did not make the starting Olympic lineup while Ou Yushan failed to advance beyond the qualifications stage in any of the individual events. This left Guan Chenchen as the only member of the Chinese delegation from the 2019 Junior World Championships to actually advance beyond the qualifications round at the 2021 Olympics.
Chenchen didn’t just advance, she led balance beam qualifications during the Olympics and achieved the highest score during Event Finals. In the process leaving no doubt as to who was the best beam worker at the 2021 Olympics.
Shoko Miyata had the following results during the qualifications stage at the 2019 Junior World Championships:
Shoko Miyata achieved an average placement of 31st in the standings. While she achieved moderate success on vault, this particular event only had half as many competitors as bars, beam, and floor. Shoko Miyata garnered little attention at the 2019 Junior World Championships and would remain in obscurity as her career progressed.
But following the 2021 Olympics and 2021 World Championships Japanese gymnastics experienced a mass retirement. Japan witnessed the departure of some ma experienced veterans, that by the time of the 2022 World Championships they were forced to field an “all rookie” team. In a highly unusual move, the Japanese starting lineup at the 2022 World Championships featured a team of gymnasts with no prior experience in senior level competition at the World Championships and/or Olympics.
For a team filled with overlooked gymnasts who had previously flown under the radar, the Japanese women surprised everyone by nearly winning a bronze medal in the team competition. The entire Japanese team stole the show, and then Shoko Miyata doubled down by carrying her momentum into the individual events.
Miyata became only the sixth Japanese gymnast to ever finish 8th or better in the All-Around. But the real success came when Shoko Miyata qualified to Event Finals on 3 of 4 events, the first Japanese woman to ever do so. At the 2022 World Championships Rebeca Andrade of Brazil was the most versatile gymnast, but statistically Shoko Miyata was the 2nd most versatile gymnast owing to her placement in the top-eight on 4 of 5 individual events. Most significantly, the bronze medal she won on balance beam at the 2022 World Championships.
Hazuki Watanabe had the following results during the qualifications stage at the 2019 Junior World Championships:
Like her teammate Shoko Miyata, Hazuki Watanabe was a veteran of the 2019 Junior World Championships who led Japan to an exciting performance during Team Finals at the 2022 World Championships where the “all rookie” Japanese lineup nearly won a bronze medal. Hazuki Watanabe also achieved breakout success at this competition, whereas Miyata had the versatility, Hazuki had the best single event.
Hazuki won the gold medal on beam at the 2022 World Championships. The irony of beam qualifications at the 2019 Junior World Championships is that it featured two future gold medalists, only they placed 21st and 31st in the 2019 standings. In both cases (Hazuki Watanabe and Guan Chenchen), they were the lowest ranking gymnasts from their respective country on that apparatus. Yet within a few years’ time, they would be the very best in the world on beam.
Japanese gymnasts Hazuki Watanabe and Shoko Miyata placed 21st and 62nd on beam at the 2019 Junior World Championships. At the 2022 World Championships the same two gymnasts shared a podium with a gold and bronze medal finish on balance beam.
Jessica Gadirova had the following results during the qualifications stage at the 2019 Junior World Championships:
Jessica’s average placement was 38th in the standings. Like Shoko Miyata, Jessica Gadirova didn’t have the results to make her stand out at the 2019 Junior World Championships. The only reason Jessica Gadirova wasn’t left in complete obscurity during the 2019 Junior World Championships was because of her identical twin sister.
Jennifer Gadirova finished in the top-eight on 4 of 5 individual events. Among Jennifer’s wins was a silver medal on vault. While Jennifer Gadirova had the stronger results as a junior, upon the duo’s arrival at the senior level it was once again Jennifer who was the first sibling to achieve success. Jennifer Gadirova appeared at the American Cup in 2020 while Jessica Gadirova did not. It would be one of the last major competitions held in any sport before the Covid-19 Pandemic triggered a world-wide sports hiatus.
At the time it appeared that there were two Gadirova sisters, but Jennifer Gadirova was clearly the better prospect. This caused fans to take a somber tone towards Jessica Gadirova as it was felt she was being outshone by her own sister, and might never achieve the same fanfare as her twin.
But when sports returned in 2021, the relationship between Jessica Gadirova and Jennifer Gadirova completely reverse itself. Now it is Jessica who is currently the more dominant member of the Gadirova duo. At the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Jennifer finished 13th in the All-Around and 7th during Floor Finals. But her twin sister Jessica finished 10th and 6th in these same two events.
Jessica also achieved resounding success at the European Championships winning five total medals including a bronze in the All-Around and two gold medals on floor. Then at the 2022 World Championships Jessica Gadirova won a bronze in the All-Around and a gold medal on floor. Despite being a relatively young gymnast, Jessica Gadirova is already one of the most successful gymnasts in the history of British women’s gymnastics. In the aftermath of her success at the 2022 World Championships, Jessica Gadirova has been granted serious recognition from the British press.
The 2019 Junior World Championships without question established a trend that those who place towards the top of the standings will go on to become successful gymnasts in senior competition. But this same competition also proved unequivocally that there will be “hidden gems” elsewhere in standings.
That just because a gymnast had “only” an average placement in the standings at the Junior World Championships, doesn’t mean she won’t one day rise to the top.
3 thoughts on “Gymnasts Who Overcame a Bad Showing at the Junior World Championships”
I am confused you have Wei Xiaoyuan as “went to the Olympics”. Yet, she was an alternate. Which is fine if you want to include the alternates as Olympians, even if the IOC doesn’t recognize alternates as Olympians.
But then you have Kayla DiCello, whose box is not checked for “went to the Olympics”, but was an alternate just like Wei Xiaoyuan.
Why is Wei’s box checked, but not DiCello?
So that seems to be an error on your part.
One counts as an Olympian as alternate, but the other does not?
It was an error on my part, Wei Xiaoyuan’s box shouldn’t have been checked.
I believe this young Japan WAG team will be shine in the world championships this year in Belgium surely ! They have potential to dominate in world championships and Olympics soon ! Especially for Shoko Miyata who’s maybe can win Olympic medal for AA !