Veterans, New Kids Face Off for First Event Medals

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Kenzo Shirai of Japan hopes to defend his title on floor today

The first day of event finals will get underway shortly at the 2018 World Championships in Doha, and we’re excited to see some old favorites fighting for podium spots against some of the sport’s freshest faces.

All finals will air live on the Olympic Channel, on Al Kass, and on the FIG’s YouTube Channel beginning at 4 pm local time (9 am ET). We’ll also have a live blog going up so you can follow along if you can’t watch.

Women’s Vault

Just as she won the all-around with two falls last night, Simone Biles is so far ahead on vault this year, the gold could be hers even if she sits the landing again. Coming in more than a point over the rest of the field with her newly-named Biles and an always-impressive Amanar, this will be the most runaway lead for gold we’ve probably ever seen in women’s vault.

Behind her, though, the race for silver and bronze will be an exciting one, with pretty much every gymnast capable of reaching the 14.3-14.6 range if they hit. The other seven coming into this final were separated by about four tenths in qualifications, but several of those on the lower end – like Canada’s Ellie Black and China’s Liu Jinru – are capable of upping their scores by a couple of tenths with better landings today.

My favorite for a medal outside of Biles is Shallon Olsen of Canada, who was in the silver medal position after prelims with her solid Cheng and Yurchenko double. In past years, Olsen would try to push her difficulty – and her medal chances – with an Amanar, and last year she actually submitted the Yurchenko triple just before finals, but in both Rio and Montreal, the risk didn’t pay off and she was left off the podium.

After seeing someone like Giulia Steingruber – who opted to not submit her front handspring double full to instead play it safe with her consistent Rudi – win bronze both years, however, Olsen seems to have learned that this is the way to go to guarantee success, and if she can hit two steady efforts, she’s easily going to take the silver.

I’m at a toss-up for bronze, though. Yeo Seo-jeong, the first-year senior from South Korea, looked fantastic in prelims with a Rudi and Yurchenko double, but Alexa Moreno of Mexico definitely surprised me with a solid Rudi of her own, paired with a tsuk double. I didn’t really consider Moreno much of a threat after seeing her at Pan Ams, her first international meet and second meet overall since Rio, but she was on her game in prelims here and she will be neck-and-neck with Yeo for the podium if both hit.

We also shouldn’t give up on Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan, who was fifth in qualifications, and while I don’t think her execution score will come in much better than it did last weekend – a solid 9.0 is where she tends to sit with her handspring front full and tsuk 1½ – if she upgrades to the Rudi or if anyone above her makes a mistakes, she’s in the picture for sure.

Both Black and Liu had rough vaults in prelims, and both improved vastly with their execution, with Black looking solid on the handspring front full in both the team and all-around competitions while Liu’s tsuk double also looked far better when she competed for the team. We also have to watch how North Korea’s Pyon Rye Yong handles her huge difficulty today compared to prelims, where she was a bit rough on her Rudi.

Basically, anyone in this final has enough difficulty to win in this final. It’ll all be about who hits it the best.

Women’s Uneven Bars

So far in Doha, Nina Derwael of Belgium, who has consistently posted the top scores on bars all year long, has continued her streak of putting up the best-scoring routines at worlds and is the one to beat coming into this final. With the most difficult routine as well as one of the best-executed, she has the potential to score several tenths above the rest of the field to win Belgium’s first world gold medal in history.

Biles has done well to end up not far behind Derwael most of the meet, but if the two are compared side-by-side, Derwael is the clear best here, and the scores have reflected it. I’m so impressed with seeing Biles work so hard on this event to become a medal contender in a really strong field, and she could legitimately win if Derwael makes mistakes, but I think she’s at least far ahead of the rest of them that silver won’t be hard to manage if she hits.

The rest of the field, from Elisabeth Seitz in third down to Becky Downie in eighth after qualifications, are all within about a tenth and a half from one another, so it’s literally impossible to pick out the best among these. The rankings will come down to the little things, like crossed feet, a baby step on the landing, or a handstand looking a few degrees down from perfect.

I think my favorite for the bronze is probably Aliya Mustafina of Russia. The comeback queen has looked flawless all week, and is picking up some of the best execution scores in the field. She also benefits from going last in the standings coming into the final, and I think she’ll pull out some tricky little upgrade to improve her chances even more to possibly threaten for silver or perhaps even gold.

I’m really hoping this will be Seitz’s year, though. After leading her teammates Pauline Schäfer and Sophie Scheder at the start of their senior careers in 2013, she has now seen both gymnasts get major international medals with Schäfer’s world beam title and Scheder’s bronze on bars in Rio. I’d love to see Seitz finally make it happen for herself, and if she competes here the way she has all week, it could absolutely happen.

Downie is also going to bring her highest level of difficulty to this final, which ups her chances significantly, and Jonna Adlerteg of Sweden – her country’s first event finalist in 60 years! – will have some room for improvement after a good but not perfect prelims. And while I don’t think Morgan Hurd or Luo Huan have the kind of routines that will make them major medal threats in this final, either could step it up and land on the podium if we see mistakes from others.

Men’s Floor Exercise

I was surprised to see Artur Dalaloyan of Russia outscore the favorite, and reigning world champion Kenzo Shirai of Japan in prelims, but while Shirai’s difficulty is insane – he’s about four tenths ahead of the rest of the field – his tumbling here hasn’t been super clean, which could hurt him if guys like Dalaloyan, Russia’s Nikita Nagornyy, and Israel’s Artem Dolgopyat have routine-of-a-lifetime kind of days.

I’m also really excited about the 18-year-old up-and-comer from the Philippines, Carlos Edriel Yulo, who ranked fourth in prelims with his superb difficulty and near-perfect technique and landings to match. In his first world championships, Yulo absolutely has what it takes to finish on the podium, and after an especially rough all-around competition a couple of nights ago, I hope he brings the fire to make it happen here.

Ahmet Önder of Turkey, Yul Moldauer of the United States, Kazuma Kaya of Japan, and Sam Mikulak of the United States will also compete in this final, and while I don’t think any of these is as competitive for a medal as the top guys are, this is men’s gymnastics and anything can happen.

Men’s Pommel Horse

More than half of the guys I expected to come into the pommels final as medal contenders ended up not making the final at all after the roughest qualification meet ever on this event, but there are still a number of awesome guys who will compete here, including reigning Olympic and world champion Max Whitlock, who will be the one to beat in this final after coming in with a three-tenth lead thanks to his beautiful, varied, and masterful work on the apparatus.

The rest of the guys are more or less on the same level, and as always, this will be an event where the podium could be determined by who can simply stay on. We’re approaching the end of a long week in Doha, and many of these guys have already competed in multiple finals, like the Russians Nagornyy and David Belyavskiy, as well as Xiao Ruoteng of China, who was second coming into the final.

I’d love to see one of the underrated pommel workers like Nariman Kurbanov of Kazakhstan or the super artistic Lee Chih Kai of Chinese Taipei take the title here, and both of these guys do fantastic work, but we’ve been getting some super aggressive sets from Sam Mikulak this week, and Cyril Tommasone of France has some of the best execution in this field.

Whitlock aside, I’m at a loss, but my perfect podium would see him at the top, Xiao with the silver, and Lee with the bronze.

Men’s Still Rings

What else can be said? Unlike Whitlock on pommels, where one fall can take him from gold to eighth place in a heartbeat, reigning European, world, and Olympic champion Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece is pretty much unbeatable here. He’ll go up first, which can be dangerous for most competitors, but when the rest of the field has to go up after him, their inability to match the perfection he brings to his routines will be hard for the judges to ignore.

I loved seeing Brazil’s Arthur Zanetti get so close in qualifications, however, and think he could be the one threat for gold here, while the rest of the field will hope for a bronze at best. I’m especially excited for the Armenians, Vahagn Davtyan and Artur Tovmasyan, both of whom have beautiful routines, and I love the difficulty Igor Radivilov brings.

Rounding out the field, we have veteran Marco Lodadio of Italy who can make up for some mistakes in prelims to climb the rankings, Nikita Simonov of Azerbaijan, who was such a surprise in reaching this final, and Nagornyy, who will have his third final of the day on this event and might be a bit tired, but I’d love to see him have a stellar day across the board after his rockstar week here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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2 thoughts on “Veterans, New Kids Face Off for First Event Medals

  1. Pingback: Veterans, New Kids Face Off for First Event Medals | species specific

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