Gemma Frizelle followed in some very illustrious footsteps over the weekend after being crowned Welsh champion at the Rhythmic Welsh Open Championships in Cardiff.
The 23-year-old, who is attached to Llanelli Rhythmic Gymnastics Academy, stormed to the senior all-around title on Sunday with an overall total of 76.100, having scored 20.200 with the hoop, 21.117 with ball, 19.767 with clubs and 15.017 for her ribbon routine.
And, despite having competed for Team Wales at the Commonwealth Games in 2018, having been a three-time podium finisher at the British Championships, and having also represented Great Britain at both World and European Championships, this was Frizelle’s first senior Welsh title.
In achieving that feat she now joins the list of past Welsh senior champions, including multiple illustrious winners Frankie Jones and Laura Halford. She had been runner-up to six-time champion Halford four years in succession between 2015-18 – before injury kept her out of the 2019 event.
Frizelle then returned on Monday to bag all four apparatus titles, too, for good measure, scoring 21.850 with the hoop, 20.300 with ball, 15.917 with clubs and 17.033 with the ribbon.
This success should further help boost Frizelle’s hopes of securing her spot on Team Wales for what would be a second Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year.
The Rhythmic Welsh Open Championships, staged at the Sport Wales National Centre at Sophia Gardens, marked a long-awaited return for competitive gymnastics in Wales, which had been in hibernation since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Welsh Gymnastics Performance Director Jo Coombs – who coached Wales’ most successful rhythmic gymnast, seven-time Commonwealth Games medallist Frankie Jones – is delighted to see events finally back, while also reserved praise for Frizelle.
“Whilst a relatively small event to kick-start domestic competitions back up, it was fantastic to see gymnasts competing and they all looked as though they were enjoying being back,” said Coombs.
“It was great and such a welcome sight for gymnastics.
“Gemma’s win was totally deserved; she performed consistently and with confidence and worthy of a Welsh senior champion, following in the footsteps of both Frankie Jones and Laura Halford.”
Meanwhile it was also another memorable weekend for 14-year-old Elizabeth Popova, who retained the junior all-around title she won back in 2019.
Commonwealth Games Long Lister Popova (also Llanelli RGA), who turns 15 at the end of November, was once again in brilliant form and in no mood to let go of her title, winning with an overall score of 68.567. She scored 15.950 with hoop, 17.883 with ball, 17.683 with clubs and 17.050 with the ribbon.
She then also returned on Monday to win all four apparatus titles after scoring 19.200 with the hoop, 18.567 with ball, 19.067 with clubs and 16.117 for her ribbon.
“Elizabeth’s return to competition showed maturity and lots of improvement from 2019,” added Coombs.
“We certainly do hope as she moves into the senior ranks in 2022, she continues that improvement and pushes for both selection for Birmingham and a potential podium place.”