RUBY AND POPPY

Poppy Grace-Stickler (left) and Ruby Evans at the 2023 Artistic British Championships in Liverpool.

GB Stars Ruby Evans And Poppy-Grace Stickler Lead Wales Bid In Sweden

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By Carl Field

Great Britain pair Ruby Evans and Poppy-Grace Stickler will headline for Wales as full men’s and women’s teams compete at next month’s artistic gymnastics Northern European Championships in Sweden.

Wales will include five Commonwealth Games stars after selection was confirmed for Halmstad and this year’s event from November 24 to 26.

GB World Championship duo Evans (Cardiff Olympic/Clwb Cymru) and Stickler (Capital/Clwb Cymru) lead the women’s team, which also includes Mali Morgan (Capital/Clwb Cymru) and Evie Flage-Donovan (Cardiff Central Youth Club/Clwb Cymru), along with twin sisters Abigail Roper and Emily Roper (both Pipers Vale).

Mia Evans (Park Wrekin) and Sofia Micallef (Cardiff Central Youth Club/Clwb Cymru) are named as reserves.

Some of Wales’ big hitters return on the men’s side.

Joe Cemlyn-Jones, Jacob Edwards and Josh Cook are back and are named alongside Theo-Amari Ochana (Heathrow) along with Leeds duo Henry Lewis and Elliot Vernon.

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Harrison Harris and Dan Winterborne from Valleys Gymnastics Academy are the men’s reserves.

Stickler, Morgan, Cemlyn-Jones, Edwards and Cook were all part of Team Wales at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, as of course were Mia Evans and Micallef.

Both the men’s and women’s teams have enjoyed success at the Northern Europeans in recent years.

At last year’s event in Finland, Ruby Evans, Mia Evans, Micallef, Flage-Donovan and Abi Roper were part of the women’s team who were crowned team champions, while Ruby also won gold on vault. Another Commonwealth gymnast in Jea Maracha, who took gold on uneven bars last year, has since retired.

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Stickler, who missed out last year through injury, was part of the team who won Northern European women’s team gold and individual all-around silver in Iceland in 2019 while she was still a junior.

Morgan is also back having missed out last year through injury.

Having taken an up-and-coming team to Finland year, it’s a strong looking men’s team.

Cemlyn-Jones and north Walian Edwards – who now train together at the City of Birmingham club – were also part of the team who won gold in the men’s team event when Cardiff hosted the Northern Europeans in 2021. It was there Cemlyn-Jones also bagged a hat-trick of individual golds in the all-around as well as on floor and on the pommel horse.

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Cook, who hails from Penarth and trained at YMCA Barry before moving to university in Chicago, Illinois, has been to two Commonwealth Games with Wales. He is back after missing the last two Northern European events. In 2019 he took gold on the rings and was part of the men’s team who won silver, which also included Cemlyn-Jones and Edwards.

Vernon, who trains at Leeds with former YMCA Barry gymnast Lewis, is a promising junior U18 gymnast and who further strengthens the current Welsh men’s squad.

The event also provides another opportunity for gymnasts to compete against the other Home Nations as well as those from the likes of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and hosts, Sweden.

Also part of the travelling Wales delegation to Sweden will be coaches Tracey Skirton-Davies, Josie Hayes, Pete Haysham and Andy Butcher, along with judges Sarah Twose, Elizabeth Lewis and Paul Edwards as well as chaperone Carol Sargeant and physio/head of delegation Sian Knott.

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