Rising Canadian star Victoria Woo won the Challenge Division of L'International Gymnix Friday evening in Montreal, while up-and-coming Russian stars Anastasia Dmitrieva and Maria Bondareva tied for the junior title Saturday.
Woo, who competed for the Canadian junior team at the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships, scored 52.932 in the all-around to best a trio of gymnasts from Futures Gymnastics in Ontario -- 2010 Junior Canadian Champion Sabrina Gill, junior standouts Jordyn Pedersen and Casey Carvalho.
Unlike most competitions, which feature a junior and senior division only, Gymnix is a bit different: The Canadian system is comprised of Novice (think of them as pre-juniors), Junior and Senior divisions.
The "Challenge" portion of this meet is different from the Junior competition, but does contain some of the country's top gymnasts, who may not want the pressure of competing at the junior or senior level this early in the season. (For example, Peng Peng Lee made a splash competing in the Challenge division at Gymnix last year.)
Silvia Colussi-Pelaez, who trains in Ontario but competes for Spain, was fifth overall, followed by her younger sister Mariana. France's Morgane Detrez, seventh, was the top competitor who does not train in Canada.
At some point -- usually fairly early -- in their careers, the very best in the world compete at L'International Gymnix, the intimate-yet-prestigious yearly meet hosted by Club Gymnix, one of the premier clubs in Quebec.
Russia won the junior women's competition, easily defeating Canada, Japan and France with strong performances on bars, beam and floor. Canada was the top team on vault and floor, though only sixth out of seven teams on bars. Romania, as expected, had the highest team score on beam.
Like Bondareva, this is Dmitrieva's second time at Gymnix, and she seemed much improved from last year, whereas Bondareva, whom some see as a future leader of the Russian team, downgraded some of her skills (including beam, where she dismounted with an easy double twist).
Japan's Yuki Uchiyama finished third and had the top score of the evening on bars (13.633), ahead of Romania's Andreea Munteanu (highest beam score with 14.033) and Louise Vanhille of France. Canada's Heaven Latimer, sixth, was the highest home-country finisher in the junior division, but she had the top score on floor with 14.0.
Go through the Gymnix video archives through the years and you'll find Terin Humphrey, Larisa Iordache and Aliya Mustafina, all before they became well known. This year's edition, which gets underway in earnest tomorrow at the Centre Sportif Claude Robillard in Montreal, promises to live up to the standard set by the past: scheduled to compete are top juniors from Russia, Romania and Canada.
There are names and routines to get excited about, because we'll see at least some of these same gymnasts in Antwerp, Nanjing, Glasgow, Rio.
Club Gymnix itself has turned out some wonderful Canadian national team members in the past (Amelie Plante, Coralie Leblond-Chartrand and Paraskevi Babalis), and the club's gymnasts often use it as a springboard (no pun intended) to the big international meets.
The competition concludes Sunday evening with the senior session and junior event finals.
How to follow Gymnix: Check out their official Facebook page. Also have a gander at GymFever on Facebook, which has a few people there, as well as The Couch Gymnast for Brigid's excellent and insightful candids and reports.