Briannah Tsang one of three Canadians to qualify for finals on day one at Pan Ams

Newcomer Gabriella Douglas  (East York Gymnastics) is leading the field on balance beam after the first day of women’s qualification Thursday at the Pan American Senior Apparatus Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Douglas, a last-minute replacement for teammate Ellie Black, was the only gymnast to top 14.0 on balance beam, scoring 14.175 for a routine that carried a 5.9 difficulty score. Her unusual routine hinges on several intricate turning skills not often seen in competition.

The high difficulty mark makes it the second most difficult set amongst the eight who will advance to Saturday’s final, and Douglas’s execution score (8.275) was also the highest in the field.

Experience helped Olympic veteran Victoria Moors (Dynamo) qualify for finals on balance beam and floor exercise. Moors qualified for the beam final in fourth position with a confident routine that scored 13.725 points, and overcame a fall and out-of-bounds landing on floor on her new double twisting double layout to qualify sixth with 12.975 points.

Just behind her was Briannah Tsang (Flicka Gymnastics), who scored 12.95 points on floor to qualify for the final in seventh place. Scores from the qualifying rounds do not carry over to the finals.

After a best-ever fifth place team finish at the London Olympics last summer, the Canadian women are eager to prove that they still rank among the top teams in the world, national team coordinator Kyna Fletcher confirmed. The team is focused on attaining good results at the 2013 World Championships, to be held in Antwerp in October, and is using the Pan American championships as a testing ground for new routines.

“This meet is part of the preparation of our selection for World Championships. It has allowed the athletes the opportunity to be in front of judges, some with new content and choreography,” said Fletcher. “We are very happy with the opportunity to come and compete at this event as it is the first time in a number of years that Canada has participated.”

Brazilian veteran Daniele Hypolito had a banner qualification day in San Juan, qualifying to the floor final in first place (13.85 points) and finishing second to Douglas on balance beam (13.875). The talented Ana Sofia Gomez Porras of Guatemala is currently third on beam (13.8), while Cuba’s Dovelis Torres had the second best mark (and the highest difficulty score) on floor (13.8). Puetro Rico’s Paula Mejias was third on floor with 13.225 points.

Competition continues in San Juan Friday evening with vault and uneven bars qualification. Tsang, one of the best vaulters in Canada, is a favorite to make the final, while Kaitlyn Hofland  (East York Gymnastics) will compete on the uneven bars, an event where she is already a World Cup medalist.