This one is a no-brainer so easy it hurts.
Simone Biles is so unmatched in this vault field, if I were a betting man, I’d put eleventy billion dollars on her taking the gold here. In fact, I’d take that bet even further and say that she’s going to win it by a full point, nearly impossible on this apparatus and yet she’s going to be the one to make it happen, adding the first world vault gold to her collection that currently includes two silvers and a bronze.
Though she’ll debut her new vault – a Cheng with an extra half twist, which means she’s doing a Yurchenko half-on front layout with two twists off – in the all-around competition, she’s sticking to “just” the Cheng in the final, but all that means is that her combined difficulty will be an 11.8 instead of a 12.2, aka two tenths higher than anyone else in the field instead of a six-tenth advantage.
But no one can come close to what she’ll score from the E panel. The sheer power she gets off the table made her new (and soon-to-be eponymous) vault and her Amanar look like timers compared to the struggles most girls had with their Yurchenko doubles on the hard table in Doha. She was hyper-focused on her landings in podium training, which is huge as this is where she’s usually tackled the most, and she’s clean as hell in the air…what else can I say? She’s probably the best vaulter who has ever lived. Sit back and feel blessed to be experiencing history.
Sadly, some of the world’s top vaulters – including all three medalists last year, Maria Paseka of Russia, Jade Carey of the United States, and Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland, as well as European champion Boglarka Devai of Hungary – are skipping the action in Doha this week, but while that’s a bummer, it opens up the podium to several exciting up-and-comers, including Korean gymnasts from both North and South who are hoping to shake things up.
Asian Games champion Yeo Seo-jeong, a first-year senior from South Korea who also won the vault title at her international debut in Portugal this spring, has a pretty solid Rudi and Yurchenko double, but what we’ll want to watch from her is whether she’s going after the handspring double full, a half-twist up from the Rudi which she got credited – but crashed – at the world cup. This is a vault that has been submitted multiple times over the past decade, first by Alicia Sacramone and then by Steingruber, but Yeo became the first woman to try it out in competition this year and she could be the one who gets it named if she lands it in Doha.
Yeo, who also has a solid Yurchenko double, had a ton of pressure on her shoulders at the Asian Games as the daughter of 1996 Olympic silver medalist and two-time Asian Games vault champion Yeo Hong-chul. In addition to following in her dad’s footsteps, she would be the first South Korean woman to win Asian Games gold in over 30 years if she pulled this off, and many thought she’d cave to that pressure, but she “played it safe” with the Rudi to get the win, and now she’s looking like a top contender for a world medal as well.
The bronze medalist at the Asian Games, Pyon Rye Yong, has some equally difficult vaults in her pocket with both an Amanar and a Rudi. This will be the first world championships for the 17-year-old from North Korea, and while her consistency can be a little hit-or-miss on her top event, all she needs is one good day to wind up on the podium.
With so many of the traditional top girls out, this could be a medal year for Oksana Chusovitina, who last picked up hardware seven years ago in Tokyo. The Korean gymnasts and several other newcomers are all younger than Chusovitina’s child, but Chusovitina has what they don’t, which is the experience to hit every single time she competes. With four world cup titles on vault this year alone in addition to the Asian Games silver medal, Chusovitina’s expected difficulty might not be quite as high as we’ll see from some of these competitors, especially if she doesn’t do everything she’s capable of, but I wouldn’t count her out if I were you.
Also coming in with super difficult sets are Canada’s Shallon Olsen, who made the Olympic final in 2016 and then the worlds final last year, and Liu Jinru, who is taking over as China’s vault “it girl” in Wang Yan’s absence, earning her first major international assignments over the past month with the Asian Games and now worlds.
Though I don’t think we’ll see it this year, Olsen has trained a Yurchenko triple, which she submitted last-minute in Montreal after throwing it in warmups, though she ended up going with her Amanar and Cheng in the final. This year, Olsen has regularly competed the Cheng alongside her always-stable Yurchenko double, including at the Commonwealth Games where she won the gold. Liu, meanwhile, has a combination Rudi and tsuk double, but she didn’t make the Asian Games vault final because of a glitch with her starting time on one of her qualification runs, a bizarre error she certainly won’t repeat here.
I don’t see anyone breaking through the aforementioned group if all goes according to plan, but waiting in the wings are several strong gymnasts, including European medalists Angelina Melnikova of Russia and Denisa Golgota of Romania, Ellie Black of Canada, Lilia Akhaimova of Russia, Alexa Moreno of Mexico, Teja Belak of Slovenia, Tisha Volleman of the Netherlands, Sarah Voss of Germany, and Grace McCallum of the United States, all of whom have strong potential to make the final, though lack of difficulty may hold them back from the podium.
Like the all-around final, while Biles seems more than set to snag the gold, the rest of the competition should keep things super interesting, with the silver and bronze almost impossible to predict. I have a gut feeling about Chusovitina right now, and I also think this could be Olsen’s year as well if she does exactly what she did at the Commonwealth Games, but I’m really excited about the young talent that is Yeo, and I’d love to see her sneak onto the podium to really make a smash and put South Korea back on the map in this world stage debut.
The women’s qualifications at world championships will be held October 27-28, followed by the team final on October 30, the all-around final on November 1, and event finals held November 2-3. We’ll come back to you soon with previews for the apparatus and team competitions, as well as what you can expect from the men, who begin on October 25.
Article by Lauren Hopkins