Kohei Uchimura has been King for eight years, often winning by a margin of a point and a half, with his greatest victory coming in 2011 with a 3.101 victory over Germany’s Philipp Boy.
Last year, Uchimura was forced to continually look over his shoulder as he and Oleg Verniaiev stayed neck and neck throughout the entire competition, eventually winning by only 0.009. We haven’t quite seen the dominant performances from Uchimura that we are used to and so many speculate that this could be the year that he loses the title. But if we’ve learned anything from his past performance (like from 2012 qualifications to finals) we know that Uchimura saves his best for when it really counts.
With Max Whitlock out of the all-around, maybe this is finally the year that David Belyavskiy of Russia can make his way onto the all-around podium. With finishes in the top six multiple times throughout his career, I’m hoping that he can finally add an all-around medal to his already impressive haul of medals.
The other medal contenders include Kenzo Shirai of Japan, who is building up his all-around prowess, scoring within a tenth of Uchimura at the NHK Trophy this year; Yul Moldauer, the only U.S. gymnast doing the all-around after winning nationals this summer; the Chinese men Xiao Ruoteng and Lin Chaopan, who have the potential to score close to an 88; Nile Wilson of Great Britain, stepping out from Whitlock’s shadow; and the Cuban Manrique Larduet, whose injury in Rio held him back from giving his best performances.
With Shirai owning the top 8 scores all on his own this year, if he goes clean, he is unbeatable…unless the ever-so-sly Whitlock has something to say about it. Again, it’s a bit of a mystery what kind of routine Whitlock will show up with. Hopefully, he will end up challenging and we will have an exciting final!
Also breaking the 15 margin this year are Eddie Penev of the United States, Kim Han Sol of South Korea, and Wataru Tanigawa of Japan, and there is Belyavskiy and the Brazilian Arthur Nory to consider as well (you may remember Nory as the man who waited in the fetal position while Sam Mikulak competed on floor in Rio, waiting to see if he had medaled or not).
Making his return to the international competition is Daniel Purvis, who was the 2010 bronze medalist and 2013 fourth-place finisher on this event. After his disappointment in not making the 2016 Olympic team, I’m hopeful that he will come back and put together a very competitive set! Those also with competitive scores this year are Moldauer, Verniaiev (although he recently had a lot of struggles in Paris, particularly with his new opening run), and Artem Dolgopyat of Israel.
With the increased difficulty of the triple back, Nagornyy, a daredevil to be sure, will be a fan favorite, though to please the likes of the judges, he will need to pay more attention to his transitions.
What is interesting to note is that the event that is widely considered the most difficult in men’s gymnastics is the most diverse final. Over the past quad, no other event boasted gymnasts from seven different countries, five of which were countries that didn’t advance to the team final in Rio.
The biggest story to watch will of course be Whitlock. The reigning Olympic and world champion hasn’t competed since Rio and has been very hush-hush about the new skills that he is training. The one who has been very vocal about being ready to challenge is the American, Alex Naddour. With an upgraded routine and two solid days of championships, Naddour’s confidence should be high and ready to take his place on the podium again.
A contender that may have escaped the casual viewer’s predictions is France’s Cyril Tommasone, who medaled in the 2011 and 2014 world championships. To continue his streak of winning a medal every 3 years, especially after placing the dreaded fourth in Rio, be prepared to see him also on the stand.
With Krisztian Berki and Louis Smith out for the year for different reasons, we could see any number of competitors from any number of countries added in here. Marvin Kimble of the U.S. with a hit set could certainly make an impact, and Weng Hao of China earned a 15.4 in Baku — a score sure to land him on the podium if duplicated. Uchimura, Verniaiev, Filip Ude of Croatia, and Harutyun Merdinyan of Armenia are all gymnasts who have made finals in the last year, so this should be a close one!
This is arguably Eleftherios Petrounias’ medal to lose. The reigning Olympic and world champion looked nearly unbeatable at the recent Paris Cup. With his motivation coming from wanting to make his dad proud after losing him just shortly before the 2015 world championships in Glasgow, my bet is on his preparation and his drive to top the final.
What is interesting about this final is that the top five from Rio are competing in Montreal, including Arthur Zanetti of Brazil, Denis Ablyazin of Russia, Liu Yang of China, and Igor Radivilov of Ukraine.
Other outstanding competitors on the still rings include Samir Aït Saïd of France, who after breaking his leg in Rio had a fabulous showing at the Paris World Cup. Turkey’s Ibrahim Colak actually holds the second highest score in the world this year with a 15.6; he suffered a shoulder injury in the spring and so I’m eager to see if another country can win a medal.
Courtney Tulloch of Great Britain boasts one of the highest D Scores this year at a 6.4. The reigning European silver medalist should make an impact in the standings this year after not being able to compete in Rio with his team. Marco Lodadio of Italy could also make it into the final with a clean set!
There was some debate about which of the Americans would end up being the three competing for a spot in the final, but with Moldauer automatically getting a spot as the all-arounder, that left Kimble out with Whittenburg and Naddour filling the other two.
For the men, this is the event where we all just pray that someone doesn’t get injured. While Uchimura has remained king of the all-around, the gymnasts from North and South Korea have dominated this event since 2011. But with Re Se Gwang not competing and Yang Hak Seon being injured the past two years, I’m sure that Yang will be looking to take back this title.
According to Russian media, 2016 silver medalist Ablyazin will be limited to still rings after returning from an injury, leaving even more room for the twisting king, Shirai, to move up in the standings after winning a bronze medal last year.
Romanian veteran Marian Dragulescu, Whittenburg, and Radivilov round out the medalists from the last quad still competing. Additionally looking to challenge will be the American Eddie Penev, who has recently debuted a triple twisting Yurchenko, and reigning European vault champion Dalaloyan, while Keisuke Asato of Japan has the single highest score as well as the highest average this year, which could help him factor in as well.
What has been particularly exciting this year is the addition of gymnasts from countries that we don’t often see in the finals, like Christopher Remkes of Australia and Oskar Kirmes of Finland, though we’re bummed about missing out on Andrey Medvedev of Israel, who was injured at a recent challenge cup and will unfortunately have to sit this meet out after killing it in international competition this year.
Along with pommel horse, this is the event I expect to be the most competitive. The only score of any event this entire year over 16 is from Zou Jingyuan of China on p-bars. He scored a 16.166 in the qualifying round of Doha and has the three next-highest scores in 2017, making him practically unbeatable here.
Right behind him is reigning Olympic champion Verniaiev, and then his teammate Petro Pakhniuk has also been killing it this season, so if these three go clean, I expect this to be our podium. But in gymnastics, anything can happen, and I think the other medal contenders in here include Belyavskiy, Larduet, Lin, Whittenburg, and Marcel Nguyen of Germany.
That leaves us with the most exciting final of all: men’s high bar. This will be the final event of the competition, and for good reason. With Fabian Hambüchen on a break, Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands will be looking to reclaim his title after disappointingly missing the final in 2015 and falling in the final last year.
However, he is not the only Dutchman looking to be on that podium. Bart Deurloo recently posted a training video of him connecting a Kovacs to a Kassina to a Kolman to a Gaylord! In podium training, Deurloo had a nasty fall that caused him to lose consciousness for a moment, though he was checked out and able to finish his routine and move on to floor. Look for him to play it a bit safe in qualifications and then bring out all the stops in finals.
Olympic bronze medalist Nile Wilson will also be back this year, hoping to make an impact. Other showstoppers include the daredevils Andreas Bretschneider of Germany and Hidetaka Miyachi, both of whom have competed the double twisting layout Kovacs. After having surgeries on both of his shoulders this year, Bretschneider will be unable to compete the skill this year, but Miyachi has been hitting in training and could be the one to finally get it named.
Rounding out this final is likely to be a combination of Uchimura, Sam Mikulak of the United States, Swiss European medalists Pablo Brägger and Oliver Hegi, Lin, and Nory. With high bar, nothing is guaranteed, and after a number of setbacks, we’d love to see Mikulak come away with a medal at these championships!
By the Numbers
Here is the breakdown of country medals by event last quad.
- AA: Japan (6); Great Britain (2); Ukraine, Cuba, Germany, China (1)
- FX: Japan (4); Brazil (3); Great Britain (2); Spain, United States, Russia (1)
- PH: Great Britain (5); Japan (2); Hungary, Croatia, France, Mexico, Armenia (1)
- SR: Brazil, Russia, China (3); Greece (2); United States (1)
- VT: North Korea, United States (3); Russia (2); South Korea, Romania, Japan, Great Britain (1)
- PB: Ukraine, United States, China (3); Japan (2); Azerbaijan, Russia (1)
- HB: Japan (3); Germany, United States, Netherlands (2); Great Britain, Croatia, Cuba (1)
*Note Pommel Horse, Still Rings, and Parallel Bars have a total of 13 instead of 12 because of ties in 2015, 2014, and 2015 respectively.
With a new code and new rules, who will be the king of men’s gymnastics? Good luck to all the gymnasts! We wish you an exciting and safe competition.
Article by Kensley Behel
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