The Record Breakers

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A total of 18 records were tied or broken by the women at this year’s world championships in Montreal, which is one of the most exciting parts of the competition for me.

I love seeing gymnasts take their programs to greater levels than ever before, and we saw that a few times this weekend, like when host country favorite Ellie Black became the first Canadian woman to win a world all-around medal and when Nina Derwael became the first Belgian to not only make an event final, but also to medal.

At a world championships with so many disappointments and injuries, we can’t ignore the incredible accomplishments of athletes who pushed themselves to tremendous heights, and we’re celebrating them here with a list of everyone who made history in Montreal.

Note that because Germany was split into East and West Germany for the world championships held from 1962 through 1989, the records for Germany only include 1954 through 1958 and 1991 to present. Both East Germany and West Germany existed as separate countries from Germany itself, and their records can not be broken, as neither country exists any longer, and the reunified Germany doesn’t claim either country’s records as its own.

For a full list of every country’s top all-time finishes at worlds, check out our research files, organized by country.

THE ALL-AROUND FINAL & QUALIFICATIONS

Ellie Black, Canada, 2nd place
Broke her own record, which was seventh place, set in 2015, to become the first Canadian woman to win an all-around medal at worlds. Second place is also Canada’s highest finish on any event in history; prior to this week, the top Canadian finish was Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs’ bronze medal on beam in 2006.

Claudia Cummins, South Africa, 34th place
Broke Kirsten Beckett’s 43rd place record set in 2013.

Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos, France, 5th place
Fourth French woman to place fifth in all-around competition, with Alexandra Lemoine the first to accomplish this in 1950 and Youna Dufournet the most recent fifth-place finisher in 2009.

Nina Derwael, Belgium, 8th place
Broke Lisa Verschueren’s 17th place record set in 2015. This year, Rune Hermans also broke Lisa’s record by finishing 11th, meaning Belgium’s two best all-around finishes in history came in Montreal on Friday night.

Sherine El Zeiny, Egypt, 36th place
Broke her own record, which was 46th place set in 2009.

Lucija Hribar, Slovenia, 40th place
Broke Mojca Marvic’s 43rd place record set in 1997.

Morgan Hurd, United States, 1st place
Joins a group of eight women from the U.S. who have won all-around gold at world championships, beginning with Kim Zmeskal in 1991 and with Simone Biles the most recent to accomplish this in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Barbora Mokosova, Slovakia, 31st place
Broke her own record, which was 39th place set in 2013.

Marina Nekrasova, Azerbaijan, 28th place
Broke Anna Pavlova’s 70th place record set in 2014.

Irina Sazonova, Iceland, 37th place
Broke Agnes Suto’s 68th place record set in 2013.

THE VAULT FINAL

Ellie Black, Canada, 4th place
Made history a second time this weekend by breaking Brittany Rogers’ 7th place record on vault, set in 2009.

Maria Paseka, Russia, 1st place
Tied her own record from 2015 as the third Russian woman to win vault. Maria is also the second Russian woman to win two vault titles after Elena Zamolodchikova accomplished this in 1999 and 2002.

THE UNEVEN BARS FINAL

Nina Derwael, Belgium, 3rd place
After qualifications, Nina became the first Belgian woman to make an event final at worlds. In Saturday’s final, she also became the first Belgian woman in history to win a world championships medal.

Fan Yilin, China, 1st place
Tied her own record from 2015 as the seventh Chinese woman to become the world champion on bars, with the first being Ma Yanhong in 1979. Fan is also the first Chinese woman to win two world titles on the event.

Elisabeth Seitz, Germany, 5th place
Became the third German woman to place fifth on bars at world championships, with Marie-Sophie Hindermann first making this happen in 2007 followed by Sophie Scheder also doing it in 2013.

THE BALANCE BEAM FINAL

Pauline Schäfer, Germany, 1st place
Beat her own 3rd place record from 2015 to become Germany’s first world champion in history on any event.

THE FLOOR EXERCISE FINAL

Brooklyn Moors, Canada, 5th place
Broke her country’s 8th place record first set in 1993 by Stella Umeh, and repeated by Yvonne Tousek in 1999 and Ellie Black in 2013.

Mai Murakami, Japan, 1st place
Broke Keiko Tanaka’s 3rd place record set in 1958. Mai is Japan’s second world champion in history, with the last gold medal coming 63 years ago from Keiko on beam in 1954.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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77 thoughts on “The Record Breakers

  1. What a great list!

    If I were picky, though, I’d point out that legally speaking Germany today is the same country still as West Germany back then; in the reunification, West Germany basically annexed East Germany, rather than both countries ceasing to exist and a whole new country being born. Might be seen differently for “sports history” purposes, though, of course!

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    • As I mentioned in the intro, East and West Germany don’t count for Germany’s records. Germany existed as a country from 1954-1958 and 1991-present for worlds. East and West Germany are considered different countries and have their own sets of records. Because they are no longer countries, their records can never be broken or changed. It’s the same with the Soviet Union and the countries it broke off into. The Soviet Union “became” Russia but not in terms of keeping sports records.

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    • I would agree with Mary. The medal count in gymnastics assumes that Germany’s existence as a country was interrupted during 1949-1990 and later reestablished in 1990. The usual consensus is that the German “Reich” existed between 1871-1933/45 (debatable), which means that it ended with either the Nazi’s seizure of power or Germany’s capitulation to the Allied Forces. The Federal Republic of Germany (“West Germany”) was founded under Allied Forces’ supervision in 1949 and is legally a “new” country. Germans therefor perceive “West” Germany as continuously existing since then and annexing/incorporating the territory of East Germany in 1990.
      Most other sports count West Germany’s achievements for their total count and list East Germany’s accomplishments separately. In football e.g. (or as people would call it soccer in the US) “Germany” has officially won 4 World Titles (’54, ’74, ’90, 2014) even though the first three were technically a West German achievement. East Germany’s Olympic gold in 1976 on the other hand doesn’t count towards their official medal count.
      It’s interesting to see history being interpreted differently in gymnastics. As a person that grew up in Germany it never occurred to me to see it in any other way, but for gymnastics it probably makes sense. West Germany’s program was not very successful compared to East Germany, and it would be wrong to list all of East Germany’s titles as shared accomplishments I guess 🙂

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      • Sorry for the long post, I didn’t want to come across as pushy, it just got me interested in the legal definition and I started digging up my history book about the second world war 😀

        Kudos to you Lauren for putting up with people like me on a daily basis! 🙂

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      • This is all true, BUT…not in the realm of record-keeping for gymnastics! They don’t count East Germany’s medals as their own records, which is why I don’t. The system was entirely separate, and I think part of why the GDR’s medals aren’t considered the German team’s medals could have to do with the fact that the coaches systematically drugged gymnasts unknowingly or unwillingly throughout much of the 70s and 80s, so I believe they kind of want that divide between the East German program and the post-1991 German program.

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        • I just realized that Paseja became a record breaker by becoming the first Russian gymnast to win the world title on vault consecutively, Zamo did so in noncinsecutive worlds.

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        • @Lauren, you missed the point of Gabsy’s comment… She never said East Germany records should be counted for Germany.

          Fantastic job with blog anyway !

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  2. I am honestly so excited about Team Germany! I’ve loved Elisabeth Seitz for years and seeing her continue to have competitive bars as well as be a top AAer (which IMO gets overlooked a lot) I couldn’t be prouder. And Tabea I’ve been obsessed with since Stuttgart, so good to see her redeem her Euros beam at Worlds! And two beam medals for Pauline? Amazing. These girls are pretty underrated and I’m so happy to see them becoming more visible!

    Obviously nina’s bar medal and the whole floor podium were epic as well and I can’t believe how many of the record setters on this list are so young! They still have the potential to accomplish so much more.

    Also shoutout to the smaller countries slowly moving their way up, it’s good to see them paving the way for an even more diverse group of international elites.

    I feel like Chuso deserves a record for making vault finals at Worlds (and medaling at most) 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2017 and doing so under 4 different flags.

    Anyway thank you Lauren for your hard work and great dialogue about the gym world! You’re the best 🙂

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  3. Some of these aren’t records; Morgan becoming the eighth US woman to win the world all around title, Melanie entering a four way tie for a national best placement, Seitz tying the 5th place German record, Fan Yilin becoming China’s seventh bar champion, and Paseka becoming the second back to back vault champion for Russia are all interesting facts but not records.

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    • I disagree with you. Morgan becoming the eight woman to win all-around is a record for one country, since the all-around has been around only since the 1950’s. Remember – the Soviet Union stopped in 1990. Also, tying for the best finish IS a record – record tied.

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      • But the title of this post is record BREAKERS. The things I listed didn’t break any records, they just tied them, or in the case of Morgan, Paseka and Yilin, built onto an already created legacy.

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      • Depends on how you look at it. The US has had 8 World AA Champions (Zmeskal, Miller, Memmell, Johnson, Sloan, Wieber, Biles, Hurd) while the USSR has had 9 or 10 (Rudko, Latynina, Tourischeva, Mukhina, Kim, Bicherova, Yurchenko, Shush/Omelianchik, Boginskaya). Actually 10 people, but I’m not sure if Shushunova & Omelianchik count as 1 or 2.
        However, Miller won 2 titles and Biles won 3, while Latynina & Tourischeva both won 2, so the countries are tied in terms of how many AA titles they have. Both have 11. In that sense, Hurd win’s tied the current record for country AA titles.

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  4. for the first time in my life i enjoyed the mens competition more than the girls, I’m not sure whats wrong with me but i didn’t think the girls competition was interesting at all, and the injuries were the cherry on top, it was dreadful to watch Vanessa cracking her leg live on tv, i hope the federation will look into the floor springs or whatever was wrong

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    • I was there in person and I didn’t realize how bad it was until she didn’t get up. I was sitting super far away and it just looked like she under rotated and put her hands down. Looking at it from in front on the video, it was a horrific fall. Complete Achilles tear, I believe. She just had Achilles surgery last year and probably should have not gone for that difficulty on floor. It was the same part of the floor that caused the issues during the mens quals, but Lauren said it had been checked and re-checked and nobody else reported anything wrong. Perhaps just a coincidence.

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        • A lot of people where I was sitting couldn’t see that corner of the floor very well because of the blocked view where the floor judges were sitting. We just saw her go down and they (thankfully) didn’t replay it on the big screen. I could see her being carried off the floor in agony. So weird to see that after seeing the same injury happen to Larisa just a few days earlier. Poor Vanessa.

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      • Resume of an interview Vanessa made here in Italy:
        “She was there non just for competing, she wanted to fight for a medal. As she was the last gymnasts of the rotation she had a look to Mai’s results and realized that if she performed all the difficulties she had trained recently, she could get the gold medal.” so sorry for her, she had just recovered

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        • I think it was too fast. She had gone into Rio with the idea that she would retire regardless of the result. Then she had Achilles surgery, recovery and then came back to light training in late winter/early spring, so she had no time in between to really get the mental break that she needed, compounded by physical issues. She was just pushing too high difficulty too fast, they should’ve waited until 2018 or maybe even 2019 so she could readjust both physically and mentally.

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        • I totally agree! Maybe she knows that next year it will be harder to medal… She saw that chance and she went for it… Reckless but brave

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        • I don’t know what would I have done if I were in her shoes… She’s still competitive on floor considering her age… She was 4th at the olympics but year by year new strong junior will come in senior division: this year worlds were a good shot for her… Almost all olympic champions took a break and the strongest favourite got injured…So play it safe and no medal or try to get gold?

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        • Indeed…nobody who beat her in the Olympics was in that final, so technically she had a good shot, but she hadn’t even been back in training that long after her double Achilles surgery. Tinkler is capable of way more difficulty than she put in, but obviously she wasn’t prepared to push herself too hard and get injured again, so didn’t even make the final. Steingruber too was holding back on floor quite a bit as she comes back from injury. It was a tricky one for Vanessa, for sure, but I don’t think her medal chances (with Murakami, Fragapane and Carey looking strong) were worth that injury. She just hadn’t been back training for long enough and now she’s looking at another year out.

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  5. I hope that someone will bring up all the injuries at this Worlds? I have never witnessed so many top athletes getting hurt this close to the competition. Will there be anyone investigating this to see if it had something to do with the equipment?

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    • The Gymnova floor was new for this comp. It has taller springs than last year’s one at Rio. I’m sure that didn’t help. Not to mention the horrific lighting. Those spotlights were blinding.

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  6. Is that a usual thing, having “new” equipment for a international competition? It just really seems like something was terribly wrong from the beginning. It is a shame. I feel so bad for all the athletes that got hurt. I wish them all a speedy recovery.

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    • Yeah, they usually have new equipment so I’m not sure if at this time around it just wasn’t broken in well enough? I think usually they try to break it in before using it but I’m not sure why that happened.

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    • I don’t think they do, really. I mean, they would help increase the gap a little, but really I don’t think they need to rely on any one person to win team medals.

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    • I hope they don’t , not because of any nation fandom but just think they have nothing to gain . Unless they have done something transformative eg have a baby it will be just an older version of them . With Mustafina we are interested to see if it is possible & how it transforms the development of gymnastics in Russia . We already have E Afanseyeva improving her mid teens results .

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        • You are just thinking of medals . They could get more but ppl get bored with the same ole same ole . Unless they have some new story to flog , the rest of us have moved on . One could be if Simone were to turn up fully not needing any banned drugs because as a young adult she went & received therapy & got on top of her alleged behavoural & focus deficiencies . Can she do it without Ritalin?
          For Raisman , I’m thinking the Matchmaker will given up entirely if she continues twirling & tumbling .( ok just jokin there ) .

          It didn’t work for Douglas .

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    • The U.S. still has a much better shot at team medals than any other country right now because they have depth. There’s no reason to peak as a nation for 2017 worlds. Next year, things will look incredibly different with the level of gymnastics because they’ll be peaking to grow as a team for that year. They don’t need Simone and Aly to be competitive.

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        • I agree with Lauren. The problem is depth. As a team, Russia is incredible on UB, decent on beam, but quite weak on floor and actually poor on vault. And, even if Eremina can be a serious contender for the AA title if she upgrades, the 2002 Russian babies are quite weak, except Simakova who has been injured during such a long time. Without Simone and Aly, US team will have at least 5 girls able to win the AA (probably more) and most of these girls can also win medals on different events. Moreover, this year, we can’t forget that Ragan Smith was unfortunately out. USA would have propably win gold and silver at AA and gold and bronze on floor, plus silver on vault and beam.

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      • I think Russia will try to preserve their stronger floor/vault workers and then try to create a gap for the US on Bars and Beam. Melnikova is very strong on vault and floor, Eremina is solid everywhere with her two slightly stronger events being Bars and Beam. Angelina Simakova is a very good vaulter (if she stays healthy), so she can do really good things for the program. 2003 junior Klimenko is kind of like Eremina in the sense that she’s pretty solid everywhere, but I have my eyes on 2004 baby Olga Astafeyeva. She’s so strong at such a young age. If biles comes back at anywhere near her peak it won’t matter much unless the US has falls or can’t translate their junior talent (which had never been a problem for them anyway). I think Aly might be done, she doesn’t seem as bent on coming back like she was post London but we’ll see.

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        • I love Aly but I have the feeling with the current scoring (see BB at worlds, not E above 7. something except Pauline..) she would get hammered at ther execution. All the new US seniors/ upcoming juniors have much more artistry etc. than probably everyone of the last two quads combined 😀

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  7. Seriously impressed with Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos.
    Favourite routine of the entire championships- Brooklyn Moors on floor. Blew me away!

    Question- who decides who gets the elegance prize?

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    • I’m a little annoyed there hasn’t been more on Ragan’s injury in general press. Feels like we haven’t heard much about it at all. It makes it hard to accept Morgan’s (deserved) win when Ragan’s prelims score, with two major mistakes, still would have blown away the entire competition in AA finals. Feels like she deserves more attention. If Ragan had been injured sooner, at camp or before prelims, it would be easier to process. Larisa’s injury hit me like a 2-ton truck, but at least I had a day to refocus. But Ragan warming up for an AA finals that she would have won even with a screwup? So rough.

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  8. There is no way to sugarcoat how deeply ordinary this World Championships was. The FIG need to go back the drawing board as they have pissed on the great legacy of this sport almost to the point of non recovery. I was depressed watching the AA (and only hung on for the end to make sure that the judges didn’t totally shaft Morgan Hurd) and didn’t bother to tune into event finals. A list like this is a lovely way to attempt to build a positive news story but honestly, it was a terrible. From skill level. To execution. To injuries. I have long been a fading fan of the sport. I was excited to see my country broadcast this event live. But I just may have been lost to it for good.

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    • Remember when open-ended difficulty was introduced? Many commentators and sports writers were saying it would lead to an increase in injuries. Well, here we are. Half-filled competitions and an injury list as long as your arm. I hope the FIG and the technical committees are happy with their work

      I am about done with this sport. There is no way I would allow my daughter to take up elite gymnastics. I stopped training girls several years ago. It’s less a sport and more abusive with every quad and I can’t watch it any more. This wasn’t a “World’s”, it was a short list of the few dozen fit competitors left in the world and we even managed to cripple some of them

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  9. I liked very much this competition. There may be a “you tube effect” on gym : everybody can watch endlessly small videos of stellar gymnasts and performances. But in a real competition, gymnasts hit and fall, wobble and make mistakes, and the general level seems very average compared to the list of my favourite 40 routines on you tube. In the great 80’S, the greatest gymnasts fell, wobbled and made mistakes, exactly like today. And many Soviet gymnasts just disappeared from the scene beacause of injuries. If you compare these WC with those in 2013 in Antwerp, they were nor better, nor worse.
    Aliya Mustafina won the beam with a quite average performance because all the other gymnasts fell or made big mistakes (Biles for example). And on floor, Ferrari, Murakami and Black already made the final, and two gymnasts fell.
    Nothing wrong this year in my opinion. Just the first year of a quad.

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    • The first Worlds of a new quad is always hit or miss – some big name gymnasts retire, many gymnasts take a break after Worlds and don’t compete ie Simone, Aly, Laurie, Aliya, some take a shorter break and are not fully back e.g Fragapane, some need surgery for nagging injuries and schedule it for the non-team year Downie, Downie, Tinkler, Steingruber. Then there are a lot of new seniors making their debut and add to that a new COP and new equipment and it makes for a nervous competition.

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    • As someone who doesn’t watch much YouTube gymnastics outside of old competitions, doesn’t Insta, etc., and also didn’t feel there were more falls/mistakes at this Worlds than most (injuries, yes, mistakes, no), I think you may really be on to something with your remark on the YouTube effect.

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  10. If I’m not mistaken, Fan Yilin is only the second Chinese WAG to win back-to-back golds on any event. Cheng Fei first did it on V in 2005 and 2006. But Fan will need to win one more gold to match Cheng Fei’s record of three in a row (’05-’07).

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    • The record says that Fan Yilin is the first two win two world bars medals, not that she’s the first to win back to back golds on any event. I wrote: “Fan is also the first Chinese woman to win two world titles on the event.” THE event = the event we’re talking about = bars.

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        • I’m sorry! When I saw “if I’m not mistaken” I assumed it was a correction on my fact, which is what everyone else has been trying to do for the past two weeks…working 16 hour days at worlds and having to immediately go back to my day job takes a toll.

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  11. I wonder how much the lighting affected the gymnasts. I found it distracting when I was watching it on TV – it make the entire competition seem slightly off to me.

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    • Some gymnasts said it was annoying and others said they didn’t even notice it. I talked to one girl, and this was her first major international elite competition as a senior after she went to a few little events around Europe, and she said she didn’t even realize they were bad. I think mostly they were making fun of the lights being like suns but I don’t think based on what several athletes have said that they ended up being distracting during competition. Though of course everyone has different sensitivities…and for the most part they were high enough that you’d only really notice them if you were looking in that direction while spotting, and since no one generally spots at that angle, I don’t think it was too bad? Except high bar…the spotting for high bar must have been rough, and I think that could be the reason why so many guys missed such simple elements as Tkachevs and Yamawakis.

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