Hong Un Jong faced a long absence from the sport after the FIG came down hard on North Korea due to age falsification.
The entire federation was banned from competition for two years, beginning in October 2010, due to North Korea submitting inconsistent age information for Hong’s sister, Hong Su Jong. The two-year ban lasted until October 5, 2012, meaning the nation would miss the London Games that August.
Hong Un Jong returned to competition last year to win the bronze medal on vault behind Americans McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles. This week, six years after earning the vault gold in Beijing, she once again became champion, earning the gold after successfully competing the Amanar and Cheng in vault finals, giving her a difficulty margin of eight tenths over silver medalist Biles.
“It is a great pleasure for me to be the champion in this World Championships,” Hong said following her win. “I am honored to give this pleasure and happiness to the people in my country.”
Hong noted that her mental preparation was key to her win, stating that she “managed to maintain everything” that she did during training. “I was very happy and satisfied with my performance today,” she said, modestly adding that “all I did was train very hard.”
Silver medalist Biles said she was also “pretty happy” with how she performed, though said she was “a little bit disappointed because she trained her vaults much better [than she competed them],” and “would be much happier” if she hit them the way she trained them, likely referring to the hops she took on the landings.
“I’m pretty proud, though,” she added. “I guess that’s all that matters.”
MyKayla Skinner, who won the bronze in her very first World Championships, said that she “tried her best and showed up prepared” and was happy to be “finally in the top three” after performing like she trained. “I came here and did what I wanted to do.”
“It was my personal best,” she said of the scores she earned for her Cheng and double-twisting Yurchenko vaults. “It feels awesome. I’m so excited.”
Skinner said that training with Biles in the weeks leading up to Worlds helped her improve so much, stating that Biles is “a great example, and she helped me a lot. She pushes me as well, and she’s really great to look up to.”
“Simone has competed at World Championships before, and this was my first time, so she has more experience…so I think next year will be really good for me because I will also have that experience,” she added.
Claudia Fragapane, the 16-year-old from Great Britain who impressed so much at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer, placed fifth on vault, improving on her qualifications ranking by two spots.
“I had a very good experience at the Commonwealth Games,” she told the press. “This year has been incredible for me, and I did my personal best on vault today. I’m happy…I just try to enjoy every single event.”
Article by Lauren Hopkins