You May Not Have Made the Games; But You Caught My Eye
Image Credit: Athlete’s Eye
None of these athletes made the Games this season, some of them didn’t get much attention on the broadcast, but all of them stood out to me for one reason or another.
It can be difficult with fields of 60 athletes to keep track of everything that’s going on. Big names and big moments steal most of the attention and spotlight. One thing I try to do at competitions is watch what few others are watching, look for the athletes who may not have been in the spotlight yet, but they have a chance to be noticed in the next year or two. You may have noticed some of them as well, and it’s certainly possible you noticed some who aren’t on this list. These are six of about twenty I thought to highlight who got my attention at one of the big three Semifinals (North America and Europe) this season.
Evan Rogers – 15th North America East
Rogers is an athlete several people had DMed me about this year suggesting I was underrating him and that he would impress. In short, they were right.
After getting off to a pedestrian start with finishes of 20th, 22nd, and 43rd I wasn’t so sure. However, he closed the weekend with four consecutive finishes of 16th or better (16th, 4th, 15th, and 8th). Considering that the five best times in the world came from men in his region on the final test, that 8th feels even better than that.
A theme I noticed over Semis was that the veteran athletes seemed to improve as the weekend wore on, and especially on the last day. The fact that Rogers also did this speaks well for his prospects moving forward. He’s not the youngest guy on this list (he’s 29), but it’s also not unprecedented for an athlete to make the Games for the first time at 30 (Michal Wesolowski – 30 and Jake Douglas – 32 have done so this year alone). I think he just might have a chance.
Jordan Szewc – 13th North America East
Szewc is an athlete I was curious about coming into Semis. She’s only 20 and had already gotten my attention last year when she finished 14th at Granite Games. She had impressive finishes then of 5th, 11th, and 13th on some pretty gnarly tests.
Her Semifinal performance this year was actually somewhat similar to Mr. Rogers. Kind of a slow start, but finished with a 12th, a 13th, and a 9th to close things out. Seeing as the top six women in this region had a total of 8 finishes outside the top 10 (and only four finishes between them worse than 12th) those finishes are quite good. And just like last year, she’s having her best performances on tests that generally Games caliber athletes excel at. I think the future is very bright for her and therefore this is a name you might want to remember.
Garrett Clark – 16th North America East
He finished one spot behind Rogers, but he was about twice as far away from making the Games (based on points) as the man directly ahead of him. He’s also quite a bit younger than Rogers, which of course bodes well for his long term chances of taking the next step.
He boggled test one taking a 42nd, but everything else was 24th or better including a third on test 5 and a respectable combo of 13th and 20th on the final two tests. It’s the type of quiet consistency for a relatively young athlete that is encouraging. Hopefully he gets into a significant offseason competition or two and can hone his skills a little more. If so it seems that sneaking closer to a qualifying spot is within the realm of possibility eventually.
Justin Rhodes – 14th North America West
It might have been easier to pick John Wood or Jack Rozema who both finished ahead of Rhodes, but I know much more about them and they did get a bit of attention over the weekend as they were quite close to qualifying. Rhodes, being the least well known and the youngest amongst them gets the attention here though.
His gymnastics proficiency was really notable on both tests 2 (8th) and 6 (10th), and he added a 9th place finish on test 7, which I know some have called an echo bike test, but I’m telling you (and them) that the toes to bar mattered.
As a young man with a great gymnastics capacity and good general fitness to go with it, if he can improve strength gradually over the next couple of years we may have something here. That was the formula for Pat Vellner before everyone knew his name.
Linda Keesman – 13th Europe
Similarly to Szewc, Keesman was on my radar after taking 11th at the Lowlands Semifinal last season. The thing is, some athletes get close one year and fade away in the years to come. Keesman appeared to be heading that way through two tests (30th on test 1, 31st on test 2), but then rebounded extremely well notching three top tens and five straight top 20 finishes to close the weekend strong.
The European women’s field is deep and tough, but against the entirety of it she showed growth from this year to last and stayed in the fight right up until the end. If you watched her performance closely, two very tight no-rep calls on her very last handstand pirouette could have been the difference between her going to the Games or not. Margins like that are incredibly small for many athletes. Being a relatively unknown name from a country like the Netherlands that doesn’t have big name athletes drawing attention to up and coming ones can be tough. Based on what I’ve seen the last two seasons, Keesman has Games potential.
Martin Cuervo- 19th Europe
He’s the lowest placing (and farthest from qualifying for the Games) of any athlete on this list, but there’s a reason he’s on it. His two lowest finishes were test 1 (41st) and test 4 (30th with a 255 lb snatch). Otherwise everything was 12th through 19th. Nothing that totally stands out, but considering it’s his first semifinal, and the overall caliber of the field, he’s the kind of athlete who could, by getting stronger over the next couple years, take that next step. He finished 1 point behind 2022 Games athlete Enrico Zenoni, and got the better of fellow Spaniard Aniol Ekai, who many were high on, 2022 Games athlete Guillaume Briant, and 2022 online standout Harry Lightfoot, another popular pick to potentially make some noise at Semis.
Left Out Because They Were Given Some Attention During the Competition:
- Europe: Colin Bosshard, Antoine Dumain, Jennifer Muir, Madeleine Persson
- NA East: Austin Hatfield, Benoit Boulanger
- NA West: John Wood, Emily White, Hannah Black, Stacy Lerum
Strong Consideration but Narrowly Missed Out:
- Hattie Kanyo (NA West)
- Maximilian Krieg (NA West)
- Victor Helsinghof (Europe)