It’s a happy time for Ana Padurariu. Not only did the world beam silver medalist return to all-around competition for the first time in a year at Saturday’s Elite Canada in Gatineau, Quebec, she surprised Ellie Black to win it, then went on to pocket event titles on bars, beam and floor.
This is the way it was supposed to go for the beaming Padurariu, whose ear-to-ear smile is capable of lighting an arena. Not like last year, where her highly anticipated senior debut at Elite Canada was gashed by the broken foot she sustained after crashing her vault (because vault was her last event and she still scored 11.85 for it, she won the silver medal.)
The 16-year-old from Ontario has taken her time returning to the event (the strong Canadian vault squad of Black, Shallon Olsen and Sophie Marois doesn’t need her there anyway) and wisely chose to spend the rest of her 2018 refining her best events, uneven bars and balance beam, which resulted in Canada’s only second ever world medal on beam (the first since Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs took bronze in 2006.)
On Friday night, Padurariu returned to the power events with gusto, if not an overwhelming amount of actual power. Her vault is a respectable Yurchenko full, and she opens her new floor exercise with a double pike. The floor routine is remarkable for the way Padurariu enjoys herself out there, something usually not seen until the athlete is well into the throes of an NCAA career (see Ohashi, Katelyn.) It’s a party of an exercise, and a classy one, too: all that’s missing are the pearls, feather boa and cocktail poised elegantly in one elbow-length gloved hand.
On track to become Canada’s first ever three-time Olympian in women’s gymnastics, Black wasn’t far behind. The 23-year-old missed her clear hip pike Tkatchev on uneven bars, which turned out to be the difference in the all-around, but was her usual solid self everywhere else, especially on vault, where she turned in one of the best handspring front pike fulls of her career.
Never one to rest on her laurels -- this is a woman who struggled mightily on bars when she first came on the scene; today it’s one of her best events -- Black and coach Dave Kikuchi continue to mix and match skills to see what suits her best. The latest addition to her repertoire is a 2.5 twist dismount off beam, which Black hopes to upgrade to a triple by the end of the season.
Zoe Allaire-Bougie, the great 2020 hope of Montreal’s Club Gymnix, continued her ascent with the bronze medal. A solid all-around gymnast with exceptional strength and athleticism, with just a smidge more difficulty Allaire-Bougie will be capable of filling any hole in a Canadian team lineup.
The future looks bright, too: Thirteen-year-old Rebeka Groulx, who resembles Shawn Johnson, won the junior division after claiming this title as a novice last year. Groulx, who trains at Gym-Richelieu with 2016 Olympian Rose-Kaying Woo and her older sister Victoria, took the title over Clara Raposo (Manjak’s) and former Elite Canada novice champion Leah Tindale (Manjak’s). Elsewhere, twelve-year-old Alicia Wendland (Revolution) was especially impressive on vault and floor to win her age division.