Naomi Visser: A Gymnast Who Deserves More Attention

Naomi Visser is a name that I’ve been seeing in the standings of major competition for years. But it seems that with each passing year I only see her name more and more. Naomi’s trait in the past few years is she only seems to become more impactful, more relevant, and more of a factor with each competition. It is not a single routine that makes her so impressive, but that I keep seeing her name time and time again.

Naomi is a workhorse for the Dutch program. As a 7th-year senior Naomi has failed to earn a major assignment she was eligible to compete in on just four occasions since 2017. But half of those occasions came in 2017 when she was a 1st-year senior. Since 2018 she has appeared in 9 of 11 competitions between the European Championships, World Championships, and Olympics.

But the most striking statistic is that the only time Naomi has failed to make All-Around finals in high-level competition was the very first time she competed in a major, senior-international competition at the 2018 European Championships. But at the 2018 European Championships she was only allowed to compete on vault and was ineligible for the All-Around. In other words, Naomi Visser has a record of eight consecutive appearances in All-Around Finals, on eight attempts at competing All-Around, while only having nine career competitions.

In recently years Naomi Visser has been particularly successful in the All-Around. The last time she truly struggled in the All-Around was the 2019 World Championships where she finished outside the top-20 in both qualifications and All-Around Finals. But ever since then Naomi Visser has finished inside the top-10 on all but one occasion. The lone exception being the 2022 World Championships where she qualified in the #9 position but a bad showing in All-Around Finals left her in 18th place. But given her qualification results were so strong, Visser’s All-Around talent was clearly visible.

But Naomi Visser’s other strength is in Event Finals. Since 2022 there have been two European Championships and one World Championships. Between these three competitions Visser has three consecutive appearances in uneven bars finals and three consecutive appearances in floor finals. In this time period and resulting three-competition stretch she has technically qualified into half of all apparatus finals. Add in her All-Around results and Visser has participated in 60% of all the individual events at the World Championships and European Championships level.

But sadly, Naomi Visser has never won a medal in any of the individual events between the European Championships or World Championships. When I stated previously that in her entire seven year senior career Naomi Visser has missed out on making the Dutch lineup on only four occasions between any of the major competitions, one of those four occasions was the 2021 Olympics. Despite being one of the most impactful Dutch gymnasts of the decade, Naomi Visser is not an Olympian.

Gymnasts from L to R: Lisa Vaelen, Georgia-Mae Fenton, Alice D’Amato, Zsofia Kovacs, Jessica Gadirova, and Naomi Visser

To add insult to injury, Visser was slated to travel to the Olympics as an alternate where she could have at least obtained some of the Olympic experience as a token appreciation for all her hard work. But a positive Covid test right before the Olympics prevented her from traveling with the team.

Naomi Visser’s unusual rise is that of a gymnast who can so easily be dismissed as unimportant at first glance, but simultaneously be a gymnast who keeps appearing time and time again towards the top of the final standings. She appeared so many times that eventually Naomi must now be categorized as one of the very best in the sport. The rise of Naomi Visser wasn’t a case where she shot into stardom overnight. She is a gymnast who first appeared at the bottom of the standings, then kept reappearing again and again until we are now forced to take her seriously. All while Visser is still waiting for that first elusive medal in any of the individual events of major competition.

There is a special feeling when it came to witnessing the rise of Naomi Visser because she rose to prominence in such a gradual fashion. Gymnasts win fans over with their amazing athletic feats and lovable personalities. And then there is Naomi Visser who for so long appeared to be unimportant and no different from any of the other gymnasts. But then her importance grew on you and one can only appreciate the way Naomi made you change your mind about her.

In gymnastics fandom, one of the best feelings to have is passionately rooting for a gymnast you never expected to become one of your favorites. If a gymnastics fan can overcome that initial opposition, he or she knows that the traits making her so likable are real.

But this is not all that makes Naomi special, because one of my favorite details about her career is the fact that she is only 21 years old. The trio of Elisabeth Seitz (age 29), Becky Downie (age 31), and Sanne Wevers (age 31) winning medals in Event Finals at the 2023 European championships was further proof that the “little girl” era of women’s gymnastics is dead while aging veterans are still viable medal threats.

But at the lower age brackets another trend is emerging, that being so many gymnasts don’t hit their stride until they already have years of experience at the senior level. Angelina Melnikova famously went on a hot streak in her early 20s. But so did Rebeca Andrade, Alice Kinsella, Martina Maggio, Jordan Chiles, Coline Devillard, Zsofia Kovacs, and Shilese Jones.

In the current era the most dominant age bracket are gymnasts in their early 20s. More strikingly, it is right around age 21 or 22 where the careers of so many gymnasts start to really get interesting. In women’s gymnastics, there is nothing more indicative of future success than a gymnast who is right around her 21st birthday showing tremendous improvement and consistency.

That description fits to a tee the suddenly successful Naomi Visser who just so happens to be 21 years old. If her 60% participation rate in the individual events isn’t enough to give one pause, the similarities she has in profile to so many other medal winners of the current era is further reassurance that this is a gymnast one must watch. All while being under the tutelage of a coach with an established track record of producing the most successful Dutch gymnasts to date.

But even if Naomi doesn’t achieve breakout success in the form of future medals, I feel she has already earned the right to be treated a peer amongst the medal contenders. When you qualify to Event Finals as frequently as Naomi Visser have, you deserve to be treated with the same respect as all the other top gymnasts. Because only the very best in the sport make Event Finals with this much frequency.

From L to R: Alice D’Amato, Naomi Visser, Georgia-Mae Fenton, and Jessica Gadirova

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