Looking more fit, more energetic, and more confident than she was at the American Cup in Florida four months ago, 2008 Olympian and defending British champion Hannah Whelan dominated the all-around at this weekend’s British Championships with a very strong 56.35, hitting four for four clean and crisp routines. She finished three full points ahead of 16-year-old Danusia Francis (53.15), who was initially named to the British World Championship team last year before becoming ill and being replaced at the last minute by Imogen Cairns. Jennifer Pinches finished third with a 52.85.
26-year-old Beth Tweddle did make a major error on bars in the preliminaries, coming up short on a toe-on full pirouette and having to improvise, but she fought through wonderfully and still qualified for the final. In world champion fashion, she hit her monstrous 6.5 set in the final and scored a 15.2, well over a point higher than second place Whelan. The 2009 world floor champion then went on to win that event as well with a tremendous 15.25 (6.1 D-score), a score that would have won the world floor title last year. Performing to the new music she debuted this spring, Tweddle nailed the same three tumbling passes that have given her so much success on this event over the last 3 years – 1 ½ to double Arabian (split jump out of it), piked double Arabian, and 2 ½ to front full.
Hannah Whelan Bars 2011 British Championships Event Finals
Hannah Whelan Beam 2011 British Championships All-Around
Hannah Whelan Floor 2011 British Championships Event Finals
Absolutely love her Shaposhnikova to Gienger combination – still the only one in the world I’ve ever seen do this. Hopefully she can upgrade that double pike dismount by worlds. Beam is solid and full of great connections – the aerial to back layout in particular is very nice and original. And her ability to perform that unique and engaging floor routine gets better and better…first two passes were stellar, and she could use a little more arm lift on the last two.
Danusia Francis Bars 2011 British Championships Event Finals
Danusia Francis Floor 2011 British Championships Event Finals
Such a shame she had to miss out on her worlds debut in Rotterdam last year due to illness while at the competition, but she looks to be right on track for a second chance in Tokyo this October. Her gymnastics has a beautiful elegance about it…very nice lines and handstands on bars, and that floor routine has to be one of the best choreographed in the entire world. I fully expect her to be a major factor for the British team this year, particularly considering the outstanding 14.9 she scored on beam to win that event in the event finals here. The Brits would have killed to have a score like that at worlds last year, as they fell apart on this event in team finals en route to their 7th place finish.
Beth Tweddle Bars 2011 British Championships Event Finals
Beth Tweddle Floor 2011 British Championships Event Finals
Though I don’t particularly care for her new floor music – and she’s never been a great dancer – she’s pretty much the same ole’ Beth, throwing one of the coolest bar routines ever done and a rock solid floor routine with smart connections and a high D-score.
These three gymnasts in particular will make up the core of the British team in Tokyo this year, where they’ll surely aim to improve upon their 7th place finish from Rotterdam. From the looks of things, I would definitely expect that to happen.