Samba star Rebeca Andrade is ready to step into the twinkle-toed shoes of Simone Biles at the World Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool.
That’s the view of five-time medallist Beth Tweddle ahead of the world’s best gymnasts descending on Merseyside in exactly one month.
Andrade bewitched the watching world with the ‘favela dance’ to win gold and silver in Tokyo, the first Brazilian woman to win an Olympic gymnastics medal.
With Biles on an indefinite mental health break and Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee also skipping this season, Tweddle sees Andrade as the sport’s next megastar.
“It’s Rebeca’s time to shine now,” she said. “Without Simone there’s an opportunity for gymnasts to come forward, to step up and make their mark.
“I don’t think she leaves a void, she has done amazing things for the sport and will continue to promote it, but we’ll see new names coming forward in Liverpool.
“I’ve seen Rebeca compete already this summer and she has performed really well. She’ll be looking to increase her medal tally from the Olympics at this World Championships.
“She’s just very stylish to watch. All of her skills are performed to the max, the power and the elegance behind it is incredible.”
Andrade led the Brazilian team to their first head-to-head victory over USA since 1997 at July’s Pan American Championships, seeming to herald a new era in the sport.
This week Biles insisted on Twitter that she has not retired and continues to undergo routine doping testing that paves a way for the 19-time world champion’s eventual return.
Tweddle was a trailblazer in continuing to compete up to the age of 28 and Biles would be 27 come the next Olympics in Paris.
“Every individual has to make the decision that’s best for themselves and Simone needed that time out,” said Tweddle, who was speaking at the launch of the medal designs, inspired by local artist Amy Flynn and the spirit of the city.
“She had a rollercoaster Games and she seems to be enjoying what she’s doing at the moment.
“The sport has changed so much in ten years. You’re not looking to retire in your late teens any more, athletes can carry on as long as they want to now.
“There is scope to take that time out after a major Games and do something different. It’s nice to see Simone and a group of gymnasts continue their journeys.”
Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova will be at the forefront of British medal hopes on home soil, joined by Alice Kinsella, Georgia-Mae Fenton and Ondine Achampong in the women’s team.
The teenagers backed up their Olympic debuts in Tokyo with standout performances at August’s European Championships in Munich, Jessica retaining her floor title.
“Through Covid we didn’t really see them, and then they came onto the senior team and go and win an Olympic bronze medal,” said Tweddle.
“What an amazing way to showcase yourselves. But they have backed that up, it’s not just about the one result. Jess did the routine of her life in that final.”
European and Commonwealth all-around champion Joe Fraser will be the standard-bearer on the men’s side with Jake Jarman, James Hall, Courtney Tulloch and Giarnni Regini-Moran in tow.
Tweddle added: “The thing is that the team morale in that boys team is incredible. Every interview they did, even if it was an individual medal, it wasn’t about them, they were doing it for the boys, doing it for the team. That’s an amazing thing for our sport at the minute.”
The World Gymnastics Championships Liverpool 2022 will be one of the largest international sporting events ever to be held in the city. Over 500 gymnasts from more than 70 countries will compete at the M&S Bank Arena from 29 October to 6 November 2022. Tickets are available at www.2022worldgymnastics.com/tickets.