Epke Zonderland, Frank Rijken, Bram Verhofstad, Casimir Schmidt, and Bart Deurloo of the Netherlands
After last week’s women’s competition in Glasgow, it’s time for the men to strut their stuff. Beginning early Thursday morning, the top guys in Europe will contend for team and individual apparatus glory, and we have everything you need to know about who to watch and why.
The Team Final
It will all come down to Russia and Great Britain for the gold.
The Russian team is pretty unbelievable, super well balanced, and they’ve been remarkably consistent this year, with only a few minor hiccups among the tons of collective meets they’ve attended.
Top all-arounder David Belyavskiy will lend his talents on all but floor and rings this week, with pommels and p-bars where he’s likely to add the most value. Both Dmitrii Lankin and Artur Dalaloyan have been crushing it on floor this season and should help make this one of the team’s best events, and both Dalaloyan and Nikita Nagornyy — who’s competing on all but vault — will also bring in big numbers on p-bars, which is where this team truly shines.
Nikolai Kuksenkov rounds them out on pommels, making the team solely for what he can do on this event, even though he’s not even really a huge medal contender here. The former Ukrainian Olympian who moved to Russia after the 2012 Games, Kuksenkov was part of the silver medal-winning team in Rio alongside Belyavskiy and Nagornyy, but shoulder injuries following 2016 have kept the 29-year-old pretty limited.
His inclusion here shows just how badly Russia needed a sturdy and reliable pommels worker, but if all three going up on this event hit, it could end up being a strong event for the Russians, who will then really only need to worry about high bar, where they have great difficulty but not always the finesse needed to back it up.
I think the Russian men have looked the strongest this season so far, but while Great Britain has a couple of weak spots here and there, they’re also up for the challenge.
With a little bit of star power thanks to reigning floor and pommel horse champion Max Whitlock returning on his two pet events, the team can look forward to some big numbers there if he does what he’s capable of, especially on the horse. On floor, where the team begins their day, they’re joinied by the fabulous Dominick Cunningham, who will also be looking to bring in a big number on vault, and then they have Courtney Tulloch on rings, where he’ll lead the team with the ability to surge past a 15, and on vault, where he has excellent difficulty and will hope to challenge for a medal alongside Cunningham.
Vault will be Great Britain’s biggest chance to gain an edge over the Russians, but elsewhere, I’m concerned about their depth and think they’ll really need to cross their fingers for Russia to have an off day if they want to top the podium.
Joe Fraser is only just back from an injury that took him out of competition for about six months, and he has struggled quite a bit in the two times we’ve seen him since his return in June, and while James Hall will be relied upon to contribute potentially excellent scores with decent difficulty across the board, his performance will be more about his consistency and solid lead-off capabilities rather than tons of show-stopping routines (though I am excited for his high bar).
While these two battle it out for silver, I think bronze is going to be something of a mystery, especially with a few teams normally in the running — like Ukraine — dealing with top gymnasts being out with injuries, and so it could be anyone’s game.
One of the teams that will truly benefit from this is Turkey. While not quite a medal contender just yet due to a lack of depth (especially on floor and pommels), a couple of strong all-arounders in Ahmet Önder, who will compete all six here, and Ferhat Arican, on everything but rings, will lead the way with solid and consistent work while great high bar worker Umit Samiloglu and rings medal contender Ibrahim Colak have what it takes to fill a few of those gaps.
Also competing is Emre Gundogdu, the youngest member of the team who made his senior debut at Euros in 2015. Gundogdu will contribute on floor and rings, where he is capable of decent scores if he hits, but his consistency has been a bit lacking this year, and unlike his four teammates, he won’t be high on the list to make an individual final. Still, he could be a big help in getting Turkey to the team final, which would be a major achievement for the country on its own, and we’re really hoping they can pull it off.
As for those who are actually in contention for bronze, I think I’m mostly leaning towards the Netherlands, France, and Germany, though I’m not gonna lie…Italy has piqued my interest this season even without the injured Nicola Bartolini.
I am really not-so-secretly hoping that the Dutch men will be able to take the bronze. It’s going to be a close battle, but I think they have a lot of solid balance in their program right now, and though pommels could be stronger, that’s the case for almost every team here.
With three strong vaults and rockstar floor and high bar rotations, the latter led by Epke Zonderland while Bart Deurloo will compete everything but p-bars, I’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen from them internationally this year and really want to see them make it happen (of course, I’m almost equally anticipating their grand entrance #TheForceIsGrace), but they’ll have to overcome a few weak spots — rings and p-bars specifically — to make it happen.
Despite the recent loss of Paul Degouy to injury, France is also looking more than capable of a strong finish here, mostly thanks to the insane consistency of Julien Gobaux, who will be one of the top contributors on all four events.
In addition to Gobaux, the other big thing the French have going for them is a great pommels lineup — one of the best in the field thanks especially to the smooth and solid work from Cyril Tommasone, who is here to fight for the individual final in addition to helping the team. With Loris Frasca bringing the big numbers on vault, Axel Augis contributing on everything but floor, and Edgar Boulet stepping in as the alternate to put up what could be the team’s best high bar set if he hits, this is a great team and I hope they can put it all together when it counts.
The Germans will mostly be hoping to make it through pommels alive, and they’re also potentially one of the weaker vault teams here, but they do have Marcel Nguyen leading them on p-bars and Andreas Bretschneider bringing his extreme difficulty to high bar, so that could make up for their slower events.
Though they don’t have any major rings or pommels standouts, Andreas Toba is solid on both, while Nick Klessing adds talent on floor, rings, and vault, and Nils Dunkel will round them out with routines on pommels and p-bars.
Pommels and high bar will be the biggest challenges for Italy, though they have a fantastic rings rotation led by medal contender Marco Lodadio, who will also hope to put up big numbers on floor alongside Ludovico Edalli and Tommaso de Vecchis. Andrea Russo and Marco Sarrugerio should both impress on rings and p-bars, and though Edalli doesn’t have a ton of difficulty on high bar, the team will want to rely on him for a big score there.
Who else should you watch for? Spain, led by national all-around champion Nestor Abad on all six events, will also see Rayderley Zapata add power on vault and floor after a fantastic run at the Mediterranean Games in his big comeback from an injury sustained last season.
Ukraine, which is missing several pieces of the puzzle without star Oleg Vernaiev, has especially large gaps on floor, pommels, p-bars, and high bar that they can’t seem to cover up, though Igor Radivilov will be looking for medals on rings and vault while Petro Pakhniuk will aim to stand out on pommels, p-bars, and high bar.
The Romanians are without Marian Dragulescu due to a heart problem or federation drama, take your pick, but Andrei Muntean is phenomenal on rings and p-bars, and Vlad Cotuna has been proving himself on p-bars and high bar this year.
I honestly don’t know what to expect from Armenia. Aside from Artur Davtyan, who will compete all six events, and his brother Davtyan, who will lend some power on floor and vault while also looking capable of a huge rings score, the rest of the team hasn’t really competed internationally at all this year. Veteran Harutyun Merdinyan can always be counted on for pommel horse, and they’ve also got Artur Tovmasyan on rings and high bar while newcomer Vigen Khachatryan, who represented the country at the Youth Olympic Games four years ago, will compete all but rings.
While Belgium doesn’t exactly stand out to me on any level aside from the individual, I think if they put together a solid day, they could contend for the final, though they’d really need to be on the money to make it. The team has a pretty solid vault lineup, and then Dennis Goossens is there to throw up a finals-contender rings set, and I could see them also looking good on high bar thanks to Noah Kuavita and Maxime Gentges, while Jonathan Vrolix is capable of consistent work on floor.
Finally, Switzerland recently lost Eddy Yusof to injury (on top of also being without Pablo Brägger), but his replacement Noe Seifert has potential on floor, and they’re still looking to get big numbers from Oliver Hegi on p-bars and high bar, Taha Serhani on floor and high bar, Benjamin Gischard on pommels and rings, and Henji Mboyo on all six events. Mboyo recently crushed it at a friendly meet in Germany, so hopefully he’ll bring the same spark to his performance here to help the Swiss men get the lift they need to make the final.
The Event Finals
On floor, the Russians — particularly Dalaloyan and Lankin — will be strong contenders for the final, and for the Brits, reigning Olympic champion Whitlock and his teammate Cunningham will also put up quite a fight.
I also love Artem Dolgopyat and Alexander Shatilov of Israel here, and it would be awesome to see both of them end up sneaking in, and I think Gobaux, Zapata, Abad, Lodadio, Önder, and the Dutch guys — Deurloo, Casimir Schmidt, and Bram Verhofstad, the same three who caused the floor investigation drama when it broke in qualifications at worlds last year — are also pretty likely to challenge.
Boulet coming in as the alternate to make the final would be awesome, so I’m also crossing my fingers for him, and my two low-key favorites on this event are Tomas Kuzmickas of Lithuania and Andrew Smith of Ireland, neither of whom has tremendous difficulty, though both have done remarkably well on the international scene.
Pommels is all about — who else? — Whitlock, but Irish wunderkind Rhys McClenaghan already beat him once this year, topping him at the Commonwealth Games to become the sole gold medalist representing Northern Ireland, so I can’t wait to see these two guys meet up again with two of the most difficult and most beautiful routines we’ll see in Glasgow.
The others most likely to make a splash are Tommasone, Merdinyan, Belyavskiy and possibly his teammate Kuksenkov, Robert Seligman and Filip Ude of Croatia, Andrey Likhovitskiy of Belarus, and Saso Bertoncelj of Slovenia…and while Arican doesn’t always end up looking his best here, he has a ton of difficulty and all he’d have to do is hit.
Marios Georgiou of Cyprus, a hero at last year’s European Championships in addition to also ending up a standout at this year’s Commonwealth Games and Mediterranean Games, said his biggest wish in Glasgow is to make a final, and I think one of his chances could be on pommels…though he’s always so solid and clean, I think he could end up sneaking into a couple!
The reigning European (and Worlds and Olympic…) champion on rings, Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece, is back with the highest difficulty in the field, matched only by Tulloch, though Tulluch isn’t quite as clean and it’s looking like Petrounias could be unbeatable yet again.
Tulloch could of course get close, though, and for others looking to upset the king, I’m going with Radivilov, Colak, Lodadio, Goossens, and Vahagn Davtyan. I think Nagornyy, Lankin, and Muntean could also put up a good fight, and it would be nice to see Petrounias’ teammate Konstantinos Konstantinidis get to make it in alongside his buddy.
Two of the best vaulters here are Commonwealth Games medalists Tulloch and Cunningham, and then of course Radivilov is always bringing the huge difficulty (and occasionally the sticks!) while Frasca, Lankin, Dalaloyan, Dolgopyat, Andrey Medvedev of Israel, and Pavel Bulauski of Belarus should also be right up there.
On p-bars, the Russians — especially Belyavskiy and Nagornyy — are going to be hard to beat, but I’m obsessed with Arican and hope we can see him show up to medal, and you should also be on the lookout for his teammate, Önder, as well as Nguyen, Pakhniuk, Georgiou, and Muntean, and this is one spot where Hall and Fraser could make an impression for the Brits.
Sadly, one of the biggest threats for the high bar medal, Nile Wilson, is injured, thus his lack of inclusion on the British squad, so they’ll be sorely missing him there and on p-bars, especially after his commanding run at the Commonwealth Games.
I’m hoping in his absence we see Hall really step up and prove himself on this event after getting the silver medal to Wilson’s gold on the Gold Coast, though of course it won’t be easy with guys like the high-flying Bretschneider and Zonderland in the mix, and then he also has to watch out for the silent-but-deadly threat that is Tin Srbic of Croatia, the reigning world champion who quietly and cleanly hit his routine in Montreal while everyone else fell apart…and upgrades since then have made him even more of a challenge.
Deurloo, the bronze medalist at worlds last year, is also hoping to dominate, and we can also expect solid work from Hegi and Belyavskiy, but I feel like given the nature of this event, the others ending up with spots here could be total surprises, though I’d give an edge to Abad, Samiloglu, Önder, Edalli, Toba, and David Vecsernyes of Hungary…and I’d also really love to see Boulet or one of the younger Swiss guys like Serhani or Mboyo also challenge.
The senior men begin competing in qualifications at 10 am in Glasgow, so just a couple of hours from when this will be posted for those of you who are awake. 🙂 The start times are as follows, with all times local to Glasgow.
10:00 am — SUBDIVISION 1 (Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Monaco, Slovakia, Slovenia)
2:00 pm — SUBDIVISION 2 (Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden)
6:30 pm — SUBDIVISION 3 (Armenia, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine)
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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