Men Finish Qualifications With Rollercoaster Day

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The Swiss men made it back to the Olympic Games

I went to bed last night at 11:30pm thinking I’d definitely wake up to watch qualifications at 4am. Guess what? When my alarm went off, I instantly went back to sleep and didn’t get up for another six hours.

Literally the first thing I did when waking up was check the all-around list, expecting to see Sam Mikulak right behind Nikita Nagornyy, because I’m nothing if not an optimist. When I didn’t see him in the top five, I refreshed, thinking the page must not have auto-refreshed in the night. Still no Mikulak. I scrolled down another five or so results, still nothing, and kept scrolling until 17th place popped up with his name next to it.

The day was full of wild disappointments like this, like Zou Jingyuan not making the p-bars final, and like the Netherlands absolutely imploding to go from an Olympic hopeful to 19th place. But there were also lots of happy moments, and lots of exciting moments, so we’ll get into those now, and talk about qualifiers to both the finals here as well as the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

CHINA AND JAPAN WERE GR8

As expected, the already-qualified Chinese and Japanese teams fit into the top three along with Russia, and both with room for improvement to have a chance at upsetting the Russians in the final (again).

China, about 1.5 points back from Russia, looked pretty great aside from not being at a hundred percent on pommels. Zou Jingyuan was fabulous there, however, and he should be a major medal contender in the final, which will be nice given that he won’t make the p-bars final. Xiao Ruoteng qualified third into the all-around final (though missed the pommels final, a bummer as he’s the reigning world champ), while Sun Wei made it in fifth place, Lin Chaopan helped the team on three events, putting up the second-best floor score of the meet, and Deng Shudi had a bit of a rough day overall.

For Japan, wunderkind Kakeru Tanigawa had a minor meltdown, qualifying 40th all-around and missing out on all individual finals. Since Japan only had two men competing all-around, it means only Kazuma Kaya will be in the final, having qualified fourth after a mostly good day. The elder Tanigawa, Wataru, also wasn’t on point today, but new Yuya Kamoto contributed well on his five events, while new kid Daiki Hashimoto had a spectacular worlds debut on four events, making the pommels and high bar finals.

UKRAINE & SWITZERLAND INTO THE FINAL

Of all the “will they, won’t they” teams, Ukraine and Switzerland crushed it. Oleg Verniaiev qualified in eighth place,  with just floor looking a little rough (he also went for a kaz double on vault and kind of almost got it but not really). Petro Pakhniuk finished above him in sixth, giving his all even on his weaker events in addition to qualifying into the p-bars final, and the rest of the guys more than did their jobs, making this a true team effort.

The Swiss guys — with the same team that competed at the Olympic Games three years ago! — did great work starting their day on high bar, and although they’re one of the weaker teams on pommels and rings, once they made it through, they were able to seal the deal with huge rotations on vault and p-bars. Pablo Brägger and Oliver Hegi led the team with fabulous performances, but like Ukraine, this day belonged to everyone.

GREAT BRITAIN & THE USA TOO

Most people expected these two teams to come in for team final spots, though it was a bit of a rough day for both in addition to some lineup spots being filled by guys who don’t really have the difficulty to make them top contenders. Thankfully, both teams were able to fight through and come back well enough to finish fifth and seventh, respectively, though the goal now would be to come back into the final and increase their scoring potential to challenge for higher rankings.

The British guys started well very well on vault, and then moved through the rest of the rotations well, coming back from falls on p-bars, high bar, and pommels to not count anything too rough, for the most part. Joe Fraser put up the p-bars routine of a lifetime, and both he and James Hall qualified to the all-around final despite Fraser falling on high bar and Hall falling on pommels. Max Whitlock and Dominick Cunningham were excellent today, and it was fantastic to finally see Giarnni Regini-Moran on a major senior squad…he also had a solid day, with his floor especially gorgeous, though his low difficulty held him back on several events.

Sam Mikulak had four falls today, a real shame after putting up world-class routines on almost every event in his last four domestic meets. He almost missed all-around qualifications, ending up 27th overall, but getting bumped up to 24th thanks to the two-per-country rule. Yeah, an American benefitted from two-per-country. Exactly why the rule was made, amirite?

Mikulak aside, Yul Moldauer made the all-around final after a decent day, and Akash Modi had a fall on high bar to miss out. Shane Wiskus hit his four routines well enough to contribute counting scores on three of them, while Trevor Howard balanced him out with a hit rings set, though he wasn’t at his best on vault, a weak event overall for this U.S. team.

SOUTH KOREA TO TOKYO

This was the second-biggest surprise for me after Chinese Taipei’s finish yesterday. The South Korean team has had some standout individuals this quad but as a team, they’ve been hit or miss. Luckily, today was a major hit for them, as the team was able to make up for a few of their weakest events by crushing it on floor and vault.

Individually, Lee Jung-hyo made it into the all-around in 24th, Kim Han-sol qualified sixth on floor and just missed the vault final after finishing ninth there, and Yang Hak-seon topped the vault final with a 14.933 average, more than two tenths ahead of Artur Dalaloyan.

THE MISSES

Italy and France, which competed yesterday, missed out on sending teams to Tokyo, with Italy qualifying Ludovico Edalli through the all-around, while France will qualify Loris Frasca as an all-arounder and Cyril Tommasone through the pommels final, with Samir Aït Saïd waiting until this weekend to see if he’ll go through rings.

Five guys from non-qualifying teams made it to the rings final, and Aït Saïd is currently second among them, but all eight guys in this final are within about three tenths of one another, so it ain’t over until it’s over, leaving our Olympic hopefuls in a state of panic for the next five days.

Canada unfortunately couldn’t put together the kind of day they had at Pan Ams, counting especially weak routines on pommels and high bar, though René Cournoyer will qualify as an individual. Belgium missed out on team and individual spots, with Luka van den Keybus in the third reserve position, and the Netherlands, Belarus, Australia, Norway, Hungary, Romania, and Finland are also out, with the Netherlands the most shocking of this group.

After qualifying a team to the Olympic Games in 2016, the Dutch men have had some fantastic meets and then other terrifying ones, and sadly, this was one of the latter. They ended up finishing 19th, getting precariously through floor, pommels, and rings, but just when I thought things would pick up on vault, both Bart Deurloo and Casimir Schmidt had falls, so they had to count both of those, with Frank Rijken’s low-difficulty vault not surpassing either fall.

The team came back super well on p-bars, but then Schmidt put his hand down on his high bar dismount, and the team completed this nightmare day with a fall from Epke Zonderland, who scored an 11.766, which didn’t count to the total. Just…kill me.

THE INDIVIDUALS WHO QUALIFIED

Carlos Yulo was brilliant on floor today, and he ended up qualifying to that final as well as to the all-around final as the top individual competitor. Manrique Larduet and Milad Karimi both also qualified into the all-around final, and to the Olympic Games!

Other Olympic Games all-around qualifiers include Loris Frasca, Robert Tvorogal, Alexander Shatilov, Ferhat Arican, Artur Davtyan, David Huddleston, Bart Deurloo, Daniel Corral, René Cournoyer, Rasuljon Abdurakhimov, Marios Georgiou, Ivan Tikhonov, David Rumbutis, and Andrey Likhovitskiy, with Sofus Heggemsnes also going to eventually get named once the FIG reallocates the Japanese host country spot back to the all-around pool.

Twelve guys will also qualify to Tokyo via the event finals, with Artem Dolgopyat getting in on floor, Rhys McClenaghan and Cyril Tommasone on pommels, Shek Wai Hung, Le Thanh Tung, and Marian Dragulescu on vault, Ahmet Önder on p-bars, and Tin Srbic and Tyson Bull on high bar, with the remaining three to be determined on rings, where Ibrahim Colak, Samir Aït Saïd, Eleftherios Petrounias, Marco Lodadio, and Artur Tovmasyan all reached the final. The top three in Saturday’s final will get the Olympic berths, and it’s going to be a super tight race.

THE INDIVIDUALS WHO MISSED OUT

I think one of the biggest bummers for everyone was Tomas Gonzalez, who finished just 39th on floor to miss that final, and he’s currently second reserve going into the Olympics, making this a rough one.

Belgium had three guys get super close, but none of them actually got in, and I was also sad to see Audrys Nin Reyes and Oskar Kirmes miss out.

Also sad for me were Emil Soravuo missing floor, both Kazakh guys — Nariman Kurbanov and Akim Mussayev — as well as Saeedreza Keikha missing pommels, Ali Zahran and Vinzenz Höck missing rings, Ri Se Gwang and Jorge Vega missing vault (especially after Vega also missed floor), and probably most obviously Epke Zonderland on high bar, though hopefully some of these guys will be able to take advantage of the apparatus world cups to qualify that way.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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7 thoughts on “Men Finish Qualifications With Rollercoaster Day

  1. Thanks for all your work and writeups and score trackers. It’s such a great resource and is much appreciated.
    My thoughts related to Sam qualifying. Imo, nobody benefits from the 2 per country rule. The old 3-per-country rule qualified 36 gymnasts into the AA final, so pretty much almost everyone who has “benefited” (gotten into finals) because of the 2-per country rule all would have qualified anyway under the structure of the 3-per-country rule, and more athletes that miss out now would have gotten in then. No new gymnasts/countries are getting into AA finals now that wouldn’t have qualified under the old way. The 2-per/24 benefits no one. The 3-per/36 would qualify all the top All-Arounders plus a range of gymnasts from different countries.
    And the upset over athletes getting 2-perd out of AA finals was not about them being Americans. It was about them being in the top 4/5 gymnasts in the World with a legitimate shot to win. Because USA WAG has been on top, it’s happened to more Americans, but it’s not about them being Americans, it’s about wanting the top athletes competing in finals. It’s just as dumb when it happens to gymnasts from Russia and China.

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    • It’s certainly ironic that the U.S. originally was a huge proponent of the 2-per-country rule after the Romanian women swept the AA podium in Sydney and now the U.S. women are arguably most affected by it. I do still think it’s a good idea though. They want to have less routines to shorten event length, which I get even though it’s dumb. So if they’re going to keep the number of competitors down, I’m glad the rule exists to give other people a chance.

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    • Yeah, I know no one benefits. But the FIG’s explanation is that countries with limited resources benefit, which isn’t true and never has been. I just think it’s funny that they claim that it benefits these “underrepresented” countries, and then a gymnast from one of the top programs in the world gets in. I mean, it happens all the time where gymnasts from top programs are usually the ones who benefit by getting into finals when they initially miss out due to mistakes. It’s always someone like a British or French or [insert other top team here] gymnast who had falls in prelims, not a gymnast from a program with no resources.

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      • Yes, absolutely. It just read odd to me, as though the American men are at the same level as the American women. Because while the USA men were going through prelims, everyone wanted to see if Modi would 2-per Sam out of AA, but no one was thinking ‘Oh, Akash is going to beat Sam and Sam is going to screwed by 2-per-country.’ People were thinking, ‘Akash might beat Sam because Sam messed up half his routines.’ No one was upset because Sam, an American, was going to miss out on finals because of 2-per country, they were upset Sam screwed himself out. Just like no one really makes a big stink if one of the good Russians bombs in prelims and gets edged by his teammates. The 2-per-country upset comes when gymnasts do really well in qualifying, place near the top, and then get excluded anyway.
        And as you say, the 2-per doesn’t benefit many underrepresented countries. The FIG might do better to simply add in athletes. Like the top non-qualified athlete from each continent, after the fact or something. I don’t know.

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