Gemma Frizelle. Pic: Getty Images.

Welsh Rhythmic Commonwealth Hopefuls Enjoy Success In Estonia

By Carl Field

Wales’ best rhythmic gymnasts enjoyed success in Tartu, Estonia at the Miss Valentine Tartu Grand Prix last weekend as they continue to build towards the Commonwealth Games.

Reigning Welsh senior champion Gemma Frizelle was competing in the Tartu Grand Prix, representing Great Britain.

The 23-year-old, who is attached to Llanelli Rhythmic Gymnastics Academy, successfully qualified for her first Grand Prix apparatus final, as she made the top eight in the hoop event. The hoop final was ultimately won along with an all-around triumph by Olympic bronze medallist Alina Harnasko.

Frizelle was also crowned ‘Miss Valentine’ at the end of the competition; an award chosen by the head judge for a standout performance.

Carmarthen-born Frizelle is a three-time former Rhythmic British Championships medallist who is targeting a second Commonwealth Games having also been part of Team Wales in Australia four years ago. She has also represented Great Britain at both the World and European Championships.

Meanwhile, four other Welsh rhythmic Birmingham hopefuls from Llanelli RGA were also in action and representing Wales in the international Miss Valentine tournament, which took place at the same University of Tartu Sports Hall venue.

They competed within their age groups with Elizabeth Popova and Emily Cullen going in the birth year 2006 first-year seniors competition, with Skyla Sims and Lauryn Carpenter in the birth year 2005 and older category.

Double Welsh junior champion Popova won bronze in the hoop and clubs events while Sims, who was Welsh senior champion in 2019, also made the podium, taking bronze in the hoop.

Carpenter placed fourth in the ball final.

Welsh rhythmic national coach Nia Evans said: “It’s still so early in the season, especially with the new code of points, but it was a good starting point.

“The gymnasts are also still finding their feet in terms of competitions and getting into the rhythm again after Covid and the many cancelled events.

“We are bringing home medals and the prestigious award of Miss Valentine, for which I am very proud of the girls. We have work to do, but it is definitely heading in the right direction.”

Those rhythmic gymnasts who ultimately go on to earn Team Wales selection for Birmingham this summer will certainly be following in some illustrious footsteps.

Frankie Jones is Wales’ most successful Commonwealth gymnast. She competed at three successive Games (2006, 2010 and 2014), winning a stunning six medals at the latter in Glasgow to add to the one picked up in Delhi four years earlier.

Meanwhile, Laura Halford won four medals across two Games; Glasgow 2014 and the most recent on Australia’s Gold Coast in 2018. A five-time former British and six-time former Welsh champion, she retired later that year and is now inspiring the next generation as a coach.

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