It’s that time of year again! The World Championships have begun, and the best gymnastics from around the world is on display in Antwerp, Belgium. After watching the qualifying rounds, it is evident that the competitive field is so much stronger for the men than for the women in this post-Olympic year, and it’s just not the same without top contenders Viktoria Komova (RUS), Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS) and Diana Bulimar (ROU). But the show must go on!
As usual, one of the highlights was the All Around domination of Kohei Uchimura (JPN), 2.392 ahead of American Sam Mikulak. Uchimura managed to qualify to the finals on floor, parallel bars and high bar as well, the most of any male gymnast. He is looking to win his fourth consecutive World Championship, a record he surely deserves. I love rooting for the underdog, but I just can’t this time. With his exceptional technique, form and level of difficulty across all six events, King Kohei deserves to go down in the books as the undisputed best gymnast ever. On the women’s side, Simone Biles (USA) led the field by 0.935 and made it to all four apparatus finals! I am most impressed by her double double followed by a double layout half-out on floor.
Here are some of the most exciting and upsetting moments of prelims:
I really wanted Victoria Moors (CAN) to make it to the floor finals. She has great music, great dance, and a laid out double double! It’s a bummer she put her hands down. Fortunately she has another chance to have this tremendously difficult skill named after her during the All Around finals on Friday.
Zeng Siqi (CHN) was a breath of fresh air on the balance beam. Her routine began with an effortless press to handstand, and she was so solid on everything until a simple aerial cartwheel left her standing next to the apparatus. Add a point to her score, and she would have qualified in second place behind Larisa Iordache (ROU).
Wow! Kenzo Shirai (JPN) can really twist! Not only does he perform a Yurchenko triple twist on vault, but he finishes his floor routine with a quadruple twist…STUCK, for a 0.633 lead on this event.
I’m so disappointed that Japanese native Naoya Tsukahara just missed out on qualifying to the All Around. The son of legend Mitsuo Tsukahara is quickly becoming a legend himself, having won medals in the 1990s and 2000s including the 1999 World All Around Silver and the 2004 Olympic Team Gold. Now at age 36, he represents Australia.
Darn it! Too bad Sanne Wevers (NED) fell off the beam on her full-twisting backhandspring mount and later put her hands on the beam after an intricate pirouette sequence. She has completely mastered the pirouetting skills on this event, and I was keeping my fingers crossed that she would make the beam final. How about we have a look at her routine in Osijek a few weeks ago instead?!
Mai Murakami (JPN) will finally have the chance to showcase her exciting floor routine in the event finals this weekend. She begins with a double layout and a double double, performs a controlled quadruple turn, and ends with a triple twist. Check out her reaction at the end!
Oh no! I was really looking forward to a Korean North vs South showdown on vault, but that will have to wait for next year. Poor Ri Se Gwang (PRK) had to miss the 2012 Olympics when his federation was banned, and he just barely missed the final after falling on his piked Dragulescu first vault (D=6.4). He did a great job on his half-on, full-in back out (Tsukahara-Tsukahara?!) second vault (D=6.4), though, and ended up only 0.479 from first place. If only he had held back a bit on the difficulty in order to ensure a spot in the final….
At age 29, Vasiliki Millousi (GRE) is still going strong. Her stylish beam routine seemed a little underscored at 13.833 (D=5.9, E=7.933), and she just missed out on qualifying to the All Around by 0.098. Hmm….
Perhaps the worst time was had by Igor Radivilov (UKR), as he was injured on his Tsukahara piked double back vault after sticking a Dragulescu. He will be missed in the vault finals.
McKayla Maroney (USA) proved once again that she is the one to beat on vault. Both her Amanar and Mustafina vaults were fantastic in the air and she qualified in first place despite the large steps forward. Look for her atop the medal podium in finals.
Stay tuned for the All Around and Apparatus Finals!