As the first major international team competition of 2019, the City of Jesolo Trophy has historically been a competition where under-the-radar and returning gymnasts can shine. This year, the US will be sending a team of relative newcomers, giving them valuable international experience. The home team, Italy, will be sending some of their top seniors, all making their senior debuts, who can have a big impact on Italy’s performance at Worlds this year. China is also sending a team of strong seniors, including some veterans as well as newcomers, to vie for a place on the podium.

Gabby Perea and Sunisa Lee will be making their highly anticipated senior debuts in Jesolo this weekend, while second-year senior Emma Malabuyo will be joining Perea in making a comeback from a lengthy injury layoff. With Malabuyo and Perea returning from injury, it will be interesting to see if they are back at full strength yet. Perea and Lee will face off with Nina Derwael of Belgium, 2018 World uneven bars gold medalist, for the bars title in Jesolo. As a strong all-arounder, Malabuyo will be looking to defend her all-around title from 2018. Though Lee is best known for her work on the uneven bars, she is also a powerful tumbler and a great beam worker and will be in the running for an all-around medal as well.

Gabby Perea practices on the uneven bars at the City of Jesolo Trophy in Jesolo, Italy/Filippo Tomasi

Belgium is sending four of their top seniors, as all four gymnasts were part of Belgium’s 2018 World Championship team. Aside from Derwael’s world-class bar routine, she has a strong all-around program that earned her fourth place at Worlds last year. Axelle Klinckaert will also be one to watch, especially on vault and floor, where she can really help out the Belgian team. They are also sending a team of juniors to Jesolo, where they should be a podium threat and will be interesting to watch as they progress through their careers.

The Belgian seniors will face tough competition from China, where a team including Liu Tingting, the 2018 World beam champion and first-year senior Qi Qi will fight to win the competition. Tingting has a classical Chinese look on both beam and bars, with intricate connections, impressive artistry, and beautiful execution. Qi Qi will be in the mix for a medal on vault, where she tied for first place at the 2018 Chinese Championships. Zhang Jin, also a member of the 2018 Worlds team, will be a top contender for both the vault and floor finals.

Also making their senior debuts in Jesolo are Alice D’Amato and Asia D’Amato, who have been two of Italy’s top juniors. Asia D’Amato has competed an Amanar on vault and brings a great combination of difficulty and execution on this event, while her sister Alice is a fairly balanced competitor on all four events, also owning a Yurchenko double full of her own. Joining them will be Giorgia Villa, 2018 Youth Olympic Games all-around gold medalist ,and Elisa Iorio, the junior bronze medalist on beam at the 2018 European Championships. These four first-year seniors will be huge contributors to Italy’s team leading up to the 2020 Olympics and are expected to make a big first impression this weekend.

Kayla DiCello of the United States will be one to watch in the junior competition, coming off a win at the WOGA Classic earlier this month. She has impressive difficulty across the board and has proven herself a very consistent competitor. Her teammates Konnor McClain and Sophia Butler will also be top contenders in the junior field, having competed very well in 2018 and showing some new upgrades in competition already this year.

They will be competing against Russia’s Vladislava Urazova, who won the junior competition in Jesolo last year and will try to defend her title. Though Japan isn’t sending any top seniors, expect big things from junior Chiaki Hatakeda, who has the potential to become one of Japan’s top gymnasts in the coming years.

The junior and senior team and all-around competitions will take place on Saturday, March 2nd, with event finals for both taking place on Sunday, March 3rd in Jesolo.

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