Argentina Snags All Individual Golds at South America’s Junior Games, Drops Team to Brazil

The multi-sport South American Junior Games were held over the weekend in Rosario, Argentina, where the host country’s younger generation showed off tons of promise and potential, winning all five individual gold medals and coming up a point shy of Brazil to get silver in the team competition.

Mia Mainardi, who turned 14 a couple of weeks before the Games, won the all-around, vault, and floor titles, and led the team on every event but bars. Her all-around performance was excellent, including a strong beam set followed by a floor routine with some major tumbling – a piked full-in to start, followed by an arabian double front, whip to double tuck (yes, for her third pass!), and a double full to finish. These routines in addition to mostly solid work on vault and bars got her to a 49.533 total to win the gold by three tenths.

Argentina also picked up bronze in the all-around with a lovely performance from Isabella Ajalla, who also recently turned 14. Ajalla was the top performer on bars for Argentina in the team competition, despite not being at a hundred percent there. In fact, she wasn’t at a hundred percent on beam either, but she still managed to qualify into the final, and thank goodness because her routine is stunning! She managed a 48.533 on this first day of competition, but I think on a fully hit day, she’d be capable of bringing that to a 50+ pretty easily, so I’m excited to see more from her.

The veteran of the team at 15, Nicole Iribarne ended up fifth with a 46.567, and also made the vault final, while Mia Corrente contributed on vault and floor and Tiziana Olivetto – the youngest on the team at 13 – contributed on bars and beam for the team.

Despite some truly excellent work here on the individual level, especially on vault, beam, and floor, the team from Argentina came up short on bars and wasn’t able to hold on for the team gold, falling to Brazil by just over a point. The Brazilian team had fewer individual standout performances, but they were steady and balanced enough as a team to take advantage of Argentina’s mistakes.

Gabriela Rodrigues led the team with a 49.233 to earn the silver all-around medal, showing especially excellent work on beam. Just off of the podium was Josiany Calixto, who finished fourth with a 47.733, while Andreza Lima was sixth with a 46.534. The team also had Hellen Benevides Silva contributing on every event but bars, which was covered by Maria Heloisa Moreno.

It was basically impossible for anyone to break into the Argentina-Brazil bubble, but Jireth Gonzalez got closest, finishing seventh all-around with a 44.367 to also lead Colombia to the bronze medal. Rounding out the top 10 were Lana Herrera of Panama in eighth with a 44.234, her teammate Tatiana Tapia in ninth with a 43.767, and Luana Roda of Peru in 10th with a 41.768.

Every medal in apparatus finals went to Argentina or Brazil, with both countries earning six apiece. Mainardi won vault with a Yurchenko full and Yurchenko layout half, earning a 12.850 average, followed closely by Iribarne, who performed a Yurchenko full and a tsuk tuck full for a 12.783 to earn the silver. For Brazil, Lima won the bronze, taking a big lunge to the side on her Yurchenko full, but coming back with a beautiful handspring front tuck to average a 12.683.

On bars, the gold went to Ajalla, who improved on her all-around routine to earn a 12.367, taking the title by about half a point. Ajalla performed a Maloney to Pak, toe shoot, blind change to front giant to piked Jaeger, and a blind full finished perfectly vertically right into a double tuck, which was clean with a small hop. She got the upset over both of the Brazilians who outscored her on day one. In the final, Rodrigues won silver with an 11.833, and though nothing really went wrong during her routine, she had a lot of leg separation issues as well as some late handstands, which all added up to hold her execution back. Calixto, who was the only gymnast to score above a 12 in prelims, unfortunately had a lot of mistakes in this routine, showing form issues throughout her toe full to Maloney to Pak and then also on her van Leeuwen, and then she had to rest on the bar after her straddle Jaeger, holding her back to the bronze with an 11.800.

Ajalla won the much-deserved gold on beam, where she had both the highest difficulty and the strongest execution to earn a 13.700. Her routine was incredible, with a switch leap to ring jump, triple flight series, switch ring to back handspring, front aerial, Onodi, and double full dismount. There were a few bobbles in there, and the execution score was definitely quite high compared to what this routine would earn in a senior international competition, but the execution scores overall were pretty high in this final, so the rankings were still correct.

Coming in for the silver and bronze here were Lima and Rodrigues, respectively. Lima had a layout stepout mount, cross straddle jump half to split jump half, side aerial to layout stepout, front aerial to jump series, and a great double tuck dismount to earn a 13.200. She also had a couple of iffy areas – most notably, her jumps in the cross series were a bit short, and she was also a little messy in the flight series – but it was a great routine overall. Rodrigues, meanwhile, had a few wobbles in her set, but she fought very well to stay on, earning a 12.533 to edge out Tapia for the bronze by just a tenth.

Unfortunately, Mainardi had a fall on her side somi, ending up in sixth with an 11.233, but I still had to give her a mention just for her cross straddle jump half, which had the best air position I think I’ve ever seen on this jump. She also came back with an excellent floor routine to take the gold with a 12.800, hitting the piked full-in and arabian double front especially nicely. Her chest on the whip to double tuck was a bit low, but she almost stuck it, and she finished well on the double full.

Lima won her third apparatus medal of the meet here, earning the silver with a 12.533 with an arabian double front, double pike (which rotated slowly but was still landed well), and a double full, all performed very well. Ajalla then took the bronze with a 12.367, showing a high double tuck, great 2½, and 1½ to front tuck in her tumbling, though she had a weird stumble on a leap early in her routine, which definitely held her back a bit in her execution.

The men’s competition didn’t have as much participation, with only 25 athletes in total, though it was very exciting to see the Colombian team get a massive upset over Brazil. At the South American Junior Championships last fall, Colombia finished third as a team with a 210.000 total, but with all three of those competitors back here with an additional two on the roster, they improved the score to a 223.969, more than six points ahead of Brazil in second with a 217.834, while Argentina finished third with a 214.133.

Colombia also had two athletes on the all-around podium, with Angel Barajas winning gold with a 78.068 while Manuel Lopez won the bronze with a 74.233, sandwiching Brazil’s João da Silva, who won the silver medal with a 75.033.

Barajas also nearly swept the apparatus titles, winning floor with a 12.975, pommels with a 12.175, vault with a 13.500 average, parallel bars with a 13.050, and high bar with a 13.225, while da Silva won the rings title with a 12.725, and added the bronze on vault with a 12.863 average.

Fausto Latella of Argentina won the silver on floor, Lopez won the silver on rings and high bar and the bronze on floor, Diego Espejo of Chile won the silver on pommels and parallel bars, Daniel Chica of Ecuador won the silver on vault, Thiago Ognibene of Argentina won the bronze on pommels, Nahuel Pardo of Argentina won the bronze on rings, Yan Zabala of Colombia won the bronze on parallel bars, and Cristobal Cuevas of Chile won the bronze on high bar.

Full results from both the WAG and MAG competitions are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins