The first day of event finals at the Doha World Cup today came with quite a few surprises, happy for some but unfortunate for others.
For the women, Wang Yan of China — who qualified first into the vault final with a solid three-tenth lead — was forced to withdraw from the competition after a fall during yesterday’s floor qualifications led to an injury. We’re not sure what happened, exactly, but hope she’s okay and that we’re able to see her back again soon.
It was a bummer to see her miss out on what could’ve been her second gold medal of the world cup season, but at the same time it was nice to see the young Doga Özgöcmez of Turkey get some big experience in a world cup final in her senior debut.
The podium looked like it might get exciting after Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan had some form and landing issues, but neither Emily Little of Australia nor Teja Belak of Slovenia were able to upset her, and so these three ended up bumped up exactly one spot each from qualifications.
Chusovitina scored a little bit lower than she normally does, averaging a 14.166 to get the gold. Her handspring front full was a little wild with a big hop forward to earn a 14.366 while her tsuk 1½ was decent in the air but had pre-flight leg separation and a big hop out-of-bounds for a 13.966.
With a big and mostly clean Yurchenko double earning a 14.466 and a slight pike in her tsuk full earning a 13.733, Little was able to come within less than a tenth from Chusovitina with a 14.099 average. This was Little’s third world cup silver medal in a row and her fourth in this series (she also got gold at Cottbus in November), maintaining her lead in the overall race at 80 points, a good margin ahead of Chusovitina, who is now at 60 points.
Belak was a little wild with her handspring front layout full form, bending her knees a bit throughout and seating the landing a bit too far back for a 14.166, but her Yurchenko 1.5 was great in the air, with only a couple of little stumbles back for a 14.0 to average a 14.083, just about a hundredth back from Little.
With a cleaner Yurchenko double, we definitely would’ve seen Zsofia Kovacs in the medal hunt, and she did get within about a tenth even with the mistake, averaging a 13.933. While she looked beautiful in the air, she came up quite a bit short on the landing, forcing her to take a big stumble forward with her chest down for a 14.2.
Qualifying sixth due to her lower difficulty, Kovacs upgraded her tsuk layout to a tsuk full for the final, and that second vault was fabulous aside from some pre-flight form issues, earning a 13.666. She’s still coming back bit by bit after making her Olympic debut last summer, but I think by the time we get to worlds, we should expect big things from this one.
The rest of the field didn’t get as close, with Tjasa Kysselef of Slovenia finishing fifth with a 13.516 (her handspring front tuck full had some big form issues and a hop sideways and she stumbled back her messy Yurchenko 1½), Yuliya Inshina of Azerbaijan finishing sixth with a 13.133 (her Yurchenko full was clean but landed off to the side, and she had a messy landing on her handspring front pike), Chaimaa Zemzami of Morocco in seventh with a 12.749 (she competed a handspring front tuck with a step and a tsuk layout with a hop, improving both a little from qualifications), and Doga Özgöcmez of Turkey in eighth with a 12.383 (she had a simple Yurchenko layout and a handspring front tuck, taking small steps on both).
Bars got off to a rough start with falls from Kovacs and Liu Tingting, and didn’t get much cleaner throughout the rotation, so this was a super rough meet with two of the biggest medal hopefuls ending up off the podium entirely.
Luo Huan had the strongest routine of the meet, with lovely work on her Maloney to pak, van Leeuwen, Healy to Ling to piked Jaeger, Healy half, and stuck double layout, earning a 14.433 to finish nearly one and a half points ahead of the rest of the field. Luo looked thrilled with her win, and clapped happily on the side for the remainder of the rotation, knowing throughout that she was pretty much guaranteed gold with the beautiful set she put up early on.
Kovacs actually also had a strong routine aside from two large mistakes, and still walked away with silver. She opened up with an inbar to inbar full, arching over the latter but controlling it nicely and continuing on into a clean Maloney to pak. Her van Leeuwen was also tidy, and she hit her toe half to piked Jaeger well, but then landed her full-in dismount super low, bouncing forward onto her head and somersaulting out of it. With the fall and inbar full mistake, she scored a 13.066, showing just how strong this routine could be when hit.
Her routine with a fall actually outscored Georgia-Rose Brown‘s hit routine, with Brown coming in at a 13.033. Brown looked a little uncharacteristically out of whack, though, with little mistakes on nearly everything and a bizarre rhythm throughout. Her toe full was a little late, her Maloney to pak was caught close with a leg bend on the latter, there was a muscled handstand before the Chow to bail to Ray, caught close, the toe half to Jaeger was also a bit too close for comfort, and she had a little hop on the double front, finishing well but taking a pretty severe hit to her E score.
Liu won gold on this event in Melbourne, but in Doha, she ended up having a fall on her Healy to Ling to piked Jaeger series, her legs coming apart and knees bending on the Ling, causing her to have to hop off of the bar before she was able to continue into the release. She got back on to repeat the Ling to Jaeger, but then muscled a handstand out of it, causing even more damage to her E score and finishing with a 13.0, just off the podium despite coming in a threat for gold.
Rianna Mizzen of Australia was another medal contender, having just come back from the silver in Baku and the bronze in Melbourne, but a fall at the end of her Weiler to Weiler half to Maloney to Hindorff series caused her to miss some connections and finish with just a 12.966 for fifth place.
In sixth was Lynn Genhart of Switzerland with a 12.833, Vendula Merkova of the Czech Republic was seventh with a 12.4, and Ivana Kamnikar of Slovenia was eighth, also with a 12.4, but bumped down a spot in the rankings for her lower E score.
All three had hit routines, but lower difficulty than the rest of the bunch, as well as a few form issues in general. Genhart showed the most promise, but was a little shaky on some skills, arching some handstands, showing leg separation on her Maloney and van Leeuwen, and landing her double layout a bit squatted. Merkova, who turned 16 yesterday, showed one of her better efforts, but this just isn’t her event, while Kamnikar looked a bit rushed with some form breaks on several skills throughout.
The men’s floor competition, led by Pablo Brägger of Switzerland in qualifications, ended up getting a little exciting after Brägger made some mistakes, opening the doors for Tang Chia-Hung of Chinese Taipei to take the title.
Has anyone from Chinese Taipei won gold at a world cup before? It was so cool and unexpected, but he had a fantastic routine as the final competitor up, taking a step out-of-bounds on his opening 2½ to front double full, but coming back to nail his 3½, double arabian half-out, 1½ to Rudi, and triple full to finish with a 14.366. Great difficulty for this meet, and really, lots of room for improvement as well.
My new favorite gymnast ever, Milad Karimi of Kazakhstan, ended up sneaking in for the silver medal with a 14.266 after a fantastic routine. Karimi is 17, but looks about 12, so I was surprised to see him come in super confident, landing some great passes, like his front 2½, front full to front double full, double arabian half-out, and a stuck double double. Like Tang, his work here was great, but the best is that he is still very much upgrade-able and could have some big potential to grow in the future.
On the other end of the age spectrum, we had the always charming Marian Dragulescu of Romania in third with a 14.1. Dragulescu had an awesome day on this event, hitting a front double pike, 2½ to front full to barani, and a stuck dismount, improving a bit from his qualifications performance, and looking to be enjoying himself while at it.
Artur Davtyan hit an incredibly clean but low-difficulty routine to earn a 13.933 for fourth place, Kiichi Takenaka of Japan was fifth with a 13.7, Brägger was sixth with a 13.366 after going out-of-bounds on several passes (including his double double and 2½ to barani), Ferhat Arican of Turkey was seventh with a 12.9 after sitting his double arabian, and Oskar Kirmes of Finland was eighth with a 12.8 after crashing his triple full.
On pommel horse, 2012 Olympic champ Krisztian Berki of Hungary was expected to win, and of course he made it happen. He actually looked a little wonky at the start, but once he got his groove, he kept it going from start to finish, and was beautiful to watch, even to my untrained eye.
Xiao Ruoteng of China was second with a 14.8 while Davtyan came back from his floor fall to capture bronze with a 14.066, putting up an easier routine than the first two, though he was exceptional in his work and it was nice to see that rewarded with a medal.
Arican ended up getting bumped up from sixth to fourth place after getting back two-tenths the D panel initially didn’t reward him, finishing just a tenth from the podium after a mostly solid routine, but Filip Ude of Croatia had the heartbreak story here. Also with a 13.966, Ude had a fabulous routine until his knees bent and he slipped, landing on his back on top of the horse. With the rest as good as it was, give him back the point from the fall, and he would’ve finished ever-so-slightly ahead of Berki, and you could totally see that disappointment in his face when he saw his score come up.
Rounding out the field, we had Robert Tvorogal of Lithuania in sixth with a 13.766 after a clean routine, Zou Jingyuan of China in seventh with a 13.7 after losing his rhythm due to bent elbows on a handstand before his scissors, and Takenaka in eighth with an 11.5 after a fall.
Coming into the rings final, Artur Tovmasyan of Armenia and Igor Radivilov of Ukraine were basically tied, both getting a 15.1 in qualifications, though Tovmasyan won the tie-breaker thanks to a slightly higher E score.
Things were just about that close in finals as well, with Tovmasyan edging out Radivilov by just 0.067 with a 15.133 for gold to Radivilov’s 15.066 for silver. Both routines were great, and at that level it’s honestly so hard to distinguish between which is “better,” but I did notice Radivilov had an arched handstand before his double double dismount, hopped over, so perhaps that was the deal-breaker?
Speaking of close, Zou ended up only 0.033 behind Radivilov, showing an equally impressive routine of his own to bring it down to one tenth between all three medalists. Such a good final. With Zou, it was also difficult to pick out what went “wrong” to separate him from the two at the top, because he was just as lovely and controlled as the top guys, though his double double dismount also lacked a bit of control on the landing.
In fourth was Vahagn Davtyan of Armenia, again just 0.067 behind Zou. Davtyan actually stuck his full-twisting double layout dismount, but you could see a few points throughout his routine where he wasn’t as tight as the top three, especially on a planche and on one of his handstands close to the end.
Dennis Goossens of Belgium was fifth with a 14.5 for a clean routine of his own, Marcel Nguyen of Germany also looked clean, finishing sixth with a 14.433, Genichiro Kohzu of Japan was sixth with a 14.433 after some arched and shaky handstands, and Ibrahim Colak of Turkey was eighth with a 13.8 after a muscled handstand and sitting his piked double front dismount.
The competition wraps up tomorrow, where on the women’s side, Liu Tingting and Catalina Ponor will battle it out for the beam title while the floor gold is up for grabs. In the men’s competition, the vault race will be absolutely insane, Zou Jingyuan will hope to once again reach an impossible 16+ on p-bars, and Xiao Ruoteng will hope to improve a bit on his execution so he can walk away the high bar champ.
Article by Lauren Hopkins