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Vansteenkiste: ‘I Am A Real Team Player’
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Jade Vansteenkiste of Belgium told IG that, following her individual success at this spring’s European Championships in Szczecin, Poland, she has the skill and spirit to be valuable for her country’s team effort at the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart in October.

“I can contribute by performing my best vault and best floor exercise, since these are my best and favorite apparatus where I have an acceptable difficulty level,” said Vansteenkiste, who finished 20th all-around and sixth on floor exercise in Szczecin. “I am a real team player who can fight for and work together with the other girls, my friends, towards our common goal.”

Vansteenkiste arrived in Szczecin with little advance billing, having competed on only two apparatus as a member of the sixth-place Belgian team at last year’s European Junior Championships in Glasgow. She also had little advance notice that she would be competing in Szczecin at all.

“Initially I didn’t make the team, so it was rather a surprise when I got selected the day before departure to Poland,” said Vansteenkiste, who will turn 16 on July 17. “Of course I was very happy and was determined to have a good and faultless competition. Somewhere I was hoping for the final on floor, since in Glasgow I was 10th and got so close to the final.”

Advancing to one, let alone two finals, caught Vansteenkiste pleasantly off-guard.

“After the qualifications I didn’t expect the all-around final at all, and knew that the floor final would still be within reach,” she said. “So when the confirmation came that I qualified for both the all-around final and the floor final, it was an enormous relief.”

A stronger performance on balance beam in the last rotation could have moved Vansteenkiste higher than 20th in the all-around final, but she is confident she will learn and progress from her mistakes.

“It was my first experience to compete in an all-around final and I could not really get rid of my stress,” said Vansteenkiste, who is coached by Yves Kieffer and Marjorie Heuls. “Balance beam is very often my weakest apparatus. I lack some confidence and it was the last apparatus that day. I still have to work a lot on balance beam to find a way to feel at ease. I really have to listen carefully to my coaches who help me find that confidence step by step.”

On a team known for its unusual choreography, Vansteenkiste said she is able to distinguish herself through her character and technique.

“My floor exercise is describing a jungle theme,” she said. “In the beginning I am a lion trying to catch some prey, and later on I am a horsewoman. The special choreography makes me, just like the other Belgian girls, unique on floor. Apart from the choreography, I am very good at making my twists.”

Vansteenkiste said she plans to polish her routines for a better chance of making the Belgian team for Stuttgart, especially given that several of Belgian’s best gymnasts, including Nina Derwael and Axelle Klinckaert, did not compete in Szczecin. At last fall’s Worlds in Doha, Derwael placed first on uneven bars and fourth all-around, and Klinckaert placed 18th all-around.

Nine teams from Stuttgart, plus the top three teams from Doha, will advance to next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“There is an international competition (this month) to test what we still have to work on,” Vansteenkiste told IG. “It will not really be on many new skills — maybe some, but especially it will be working on any detail to find confidence and perform very neatly.”

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