Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece
The apparatus world cup series is back, beginning the final stages of Olympic qualification for specialists who are hoping to make it to Tokyo.
As a reminder, to qualify to the Olympics via the world cups, a gymnast must win the overall apparatus world cup series, which began with last year’s Cottbus competition and concludes in Doha next spring. We’ve been tracking the series ranking for the women and for the men, with lots of changes taking place following world championships in Stuttgart, where many leaders on these lists qualified through the all-around or apparatus finals.
We have an event-by-event breakdown of those to watch this weekend, from the current leaders on the apparatus rankings to those in Cottbus who could sneak to the top by the series’ end.
U.S. gymnast Jade Carey, who won silver medals on vault at world championships in 2017 and again this year, has a commanding lead right now with a total of 85 points. She won’t compete in Cottbus, but will maintain her lead coming out of it because no one else is close enough to catch up.
Maria Paseka, currently third with 45 points, is most likely to win the title here thanks to her difficulty if she’s in good shape, but I’d also consider Yu Linmin of China a strong contender. Right now, Yu only has 30 points because she’s only attended a single world cup, but I could see her snagging gold here and jumping up to the top three if she does well.
The Slovenians, Tjasa Kysselef and Teja Belak, are currently ranked second and seventh, while sixth-place Paula Mejias of Puerto Rico and 10th-place Ayaka Sakaguchi will also compete, though none of these are considered strong enough to challenge for Tokyo.
Competing for the first time in this series is Cuba’s Yesenia Ferrera, who won the silver on vault at this summer’s Pan Am Games. She could be a podium contender in Cottbus, but she clearly has a long road ahead of her if she’s trying to qualify this way, and the same goes for Yamilet Peña of the Dominican Republic. I’d also keep an eye on Sara Peter of Hungary, while Gabriela Janik of Poland should also score well, though she’s already qualified to Tokyo and won’t factor into the qualification rankings.
With Nina Derwael off the rankings having qualified Belgium to the Olympic Games in Stuttgart, the race is now solidly between China’s Lyu Jiaqi and Fan Yilin. Lyu, who currently has 80 points to lead the field, won’t compete in Cottbus (and I don’t think it’s likely we’ll see her back at a world cup in the future), but Fan, who has 76 points (including two 30-point marks), could very well get herself to a 90 this weekend if she hits her routine.
She’ll have some tough competition from Anastasia Iliankova of Russia, however. Iliankova is currently fourth with a total of 50 points, getting 25 points in both Baku and Doha earlier this year. A podium finish here will get her into the 70s, and a win could get her to 80 points to tie for the lead.
Georgia-Rose Brown of Australia with 40 points for fifth place is the next-highest in the rankings in terms of who we’ll see in Cottbus, and then beyond her, we have to go all the way down to Anastasiia Bachynska in 12th place with 16 points, so there’s clearly a huge gap between the best and the rest right now.
Coming into the world cups for the first time as bars contenders are Amelie Morgan of Great Britain, Sophie Scheder of Germany, and Anastasia Agafonova of Russia, with Scheder and Agafonova most likely to factor into the rankings if they do well here and continue with the series.
This is going to be the most exciting race for Olympic qualification among the women, I think, as there is no clear absolute standout.
Emma Nedov of Australia came out of the first half of the series with the lead with 55 points, snagging 25 in Melbourne and another 30 in Baku, but China’s Li Qi is in a close second with 48 points (18 in Baku, 30 in Doha), and generally has the stronger routine…though of course, on beam, it doesn’t matter how strong your routine is if you don’t hit, and Nedov is great at hitting.
Also in Cottbus are Lai Pin-Ju of Chinese Taipei (fourth place with 36th points), Zhao Shiting of China (sixth with 30 points from just a single meet), Adela Sajn of Slovenia (seventh with 30 points), Lara Mori of Italy (eighth with 28 points), Anastasiia Bachynska of Ukraine (11th with 20 points), and Sophie Scheder of Germany (12th with 20 points). Among these, Zhao, Bachynska, and Scheder have the biggest opportunities to jump into the top of the race.
For those not yet ranked, I’m thinking Amelie Morgan of Great Britain could be a threat, I’d really like to see Lisa Zimmermann do well at home, and Anastasia Agafonova of Russia could also put up a solid set.
WOMEN’S FLOOR EXERCISE
With 70 points at the moment, if she can win here and tack on 30 points to her total, she’d knock off her 20 points from last year’s Cottbus competition and increase her total to 80 points, putting her two points ahead of Carey, who currently has 78. Mori would also leapfrog ahead of teammate Vanessa Ferrari, who also has 70 points, but is ranked second ahead of Mori due to a tie-break. Ferrari will unfortunately not compete in Cottbus.
Another one with the potential to do well here is Marta Pihan-Kulesza of Poland (fourth place with 43 points), and then there’s Emma Nedov of Australia (sixth with 34 points), Paula Mejias of Puerto Rico (seventh with 33 points), and Adela Sajn of Slovenia (10th with 25 points) to be on the lookout for.
The biggest competition coming from someone new to the world cup series will be Claudia Fragapane of Great Britain, who won the world bronze medal on this event in 2017, but has been out of competition for much of the past two years due to injury. She had some great work on floor at Euros this year, however, and is capable of a mid-to-high 13, which should match Mori. A win here could get Fragapane in the top 10, and then another podium finish at a future world cup could easily move her to top five, putting her in contention to earn an Olympic spot this way.
I’d also pay attention to Denisa Golgota of Romania, who is currently ranked 18th, but has a ton of room to grow (and a lot of fire in her after missing out on an Olympic spot in Stuttgart) and Thais Fidelis of Brazil, who isn’t yet ranked but has the potential for a mid-13 on a good day.
MEN’S FLOOR EXERCISE
The men’s events in general are a bit more exciting here, and even though most of the world’s best floor workers qualified through worlds — either individually or with a team — there’s still a super high-quality field here, with a number of contenders in the mix.
Spain qualified a full team to the Games at worlds this year, but since Rayderley Zapata ended up withdrawing, he’s still eligible to qualify individually. He leads the pack right now with 85 points, and a top ranking tonight will get him to a perfect score.
Earlier this month, Zapata posted a 15 on this event with a 6.6 D score, so he could be pretty hard to beat, but Finland’s Emil Soravuo — currently ranked second with 68 points — is the king of execution and consistency, making up for what he lacks in difficulty with the most beautiful tumbling we generally see in men’s gymnastics.
While I love Zapata and think it would be awesome to see him secure his own spot, I think he will undeniably make the team next year, whereas Finland has no one going to Tokyo right now, and Soravuo absolutely deserves to be there. I’ll be secretly rooting for him to do super well here and throughout the rest of the series, but it’s undeniable how brilliant Zapata is on this event, so may the best man win.
Rok Klavora of Slovenia (currently ranked fifth with 37 points) and Murad Agharzayev (eighth with 28 points) are next in line in terms of top contenders, and I’d also keep my eye on Jorge Vega of Guatemala, who only competed at one event in the first half of the season, getting a total of 16 points, which currently ranks him 16th. But if he can get his tumbling together and hit, I think he’ll be in the mix to join Zapata and Soravuo in the top three.
There’s also Tomas Gonzalez to keep an eye on. He also only has one world cup score under his belt, earning 7 points at Cottbus last year, but he’s another guy with world-class difficulty and execution who can’t be ignored going into the Olympic qualification process.
As for those who are either lower-ranked or don’t yet have scores, I’d keep my eye on Audrys Nin Reyes of the Dominican Republic, Bram Verhofstad of the Netherlands, and Colin Van Wicklen of the United States.
Prior to worlds, Lee Chih Kai led the pommels rankings with a score of perfect 90, becoming the first athlete to do so. With his points reallocated, the Chinese specialist Weng Hao now leads with 85 points, which he can easily turn into 90 points this weekend.
He’s quite far ahead of the rest of the field right now, but Japan’s Kohei Kameyama (currently ranked third with 60 points) could also get a 90 with a win this weekend, and Saeedreza Keikha of Iran (currently second with 63 points) could get into the 70s with a top-two finish, so there’s still time for this final to see multiple guys reach a perfect 90, bringing the series winner down to a tie-break.
Other top-ranked competitors here include Kaito Imabayashi of Japan (fifth place with 39 points), Harutyun Merdinyan of Armenia (sixth with 38 points), Nariman Kurbanov of Kazakhstan (seventh with 32 points), Thierry Pellerin of Canada (eighth with 30 points), and Robert Seligman of Croatia (ninth with 28 points).
In this field, I also enjoy Stephen Nedoroscik of the United States (currently 16th with 16 points), but most of the other top pommels guys have already qualified to the Games and won’t be able to challenge for the series title.
Now this is going to be the competition to watch for the rest of the series. The competition is so deep on rings that five guys from non-qualified countries made the apparatus final at worlds this year, and with the Greek god of rings, Eleftherios Petrounias, finishing fourth among them, it meant he missed qualifying.
Petrounias missed the entire first half of the world cup series due to an injury that presumably is the reason why he wasn’t at full strength when he returned. However, while he is currently unranked, he has the potential to top this field as well as the upcoming world cup rings fields, and all he needs is three wins to get that 90 and make it to Tokyo. I feel like if anyone can make this happen, it’s Petrounias.
His biggest competition comes from China’s Liu Yang, currently third with 60 points after earning 30 points in Cottbus last year as well as in this year’s competition in Melbourne. Liu and Petrounias are by far the most talented rings guys here, and as with most rings competitions, it’s going to be super close between them. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if we got a nail-biter on the very last day of competition in Doha next year.
Again, this is a super deep field, and there are tons of guys I’d love to see make it. Courtney Tulloch of Great Britain is also in the mix (currently ranked second with 66 points), and then there’s Ali Zahran of Egypt (fourth with 50 points), Vahagn Davtyan of Armenia (seventh with 34 points), and Lan Xingyu of China (eighth with 30 points). I think Lan could also potentially be in the mix up there with his teammate and Petrounias.
An interesting note about China — the current leader on rings, You Hao, will be in Cottbus, but not for rings. Though he leads, it’s pretty much only because only two top guys have earned points at three different world cups, and he’s one of them. But his rankings overall at these world cups tend to be low in comparison to the top rings guys, and both Liu and Lan consistently outscore him, giving them the spots in the two-per-country qualifications and effectively taking You out of contention.
I’m also super into Federico Molinari of Argentina (13th with 19 points) and Vinzenz Höck of Austria (14th with 18 points), though unfortunately while both are beautiful rings workers, they’re not quite at the same level as the top guys. For those who aren’t currently ranked, Nikita Ignatyev of Russia has been looking great on the event, and I’m always here to watch Donnell Whittenburg of the United States do his thing.
You’d think high bar or pommels would be most comparable to women’s beam in the “whoever hits wins” aspect, but it’s actually vault that’s been pretty weird so far for the men, mostly because we’re seeing a lot of guys show up with ridiculous difficulty that they’re not hitting. There have been some epic crashes so far in this series, and I think it leaves the door wide open for a number of guys to earn that spot.
Currently leading is Jorge Vega of Guatemala with a total of 60 points after getting 20 in Cottbus last year, and then another 10 in Baku and 30 in Doha. He faces major competition from Hidenobu Yonekura of Japan, who is currently second with 55 points after just two meets. The best Vega will be able to do here is 80 points if he can drop his 10 and add 30, but Yonekura could reach 85 if he wins, so we’re likely to see a shift this weekend.
Also competing are Tseng Wei-Sheng of Chinese Taipei (fourth place with 48 points), Yahor Sharamkou of Belarus (fifth with 44 points), Shin Jea-hwan of South Korea (seventh with 41 points, and another I’m expecting to boost his place in the rankings), Courtney Tulloch of Great Britain (11th with 26 points), and Colin Van Wicklen of the United States (12th with 25 points, earned from a single competition, so he’s another one who can see a major spike in the rankings this weekend, potentially even a top-three spot).
Audrys Nin Reys of the Dominican Republic could also make the final and earn some points, Rayderley Zapata of Spain will also give it a shot here, and this is another place where Russia’s Nikita Ignatyev and the United States’ Donnell Whittenburg have potential to stand out.
In addition to leading rings, China’s You Hao also currently leads parallel bars, and this is an event he’ll actually get to compete this weekend. You could up his 75-point total to 85 this weekend, but third-ranked Vladislav Poliashov of Russia could get 90, so look for this to be an exciting battle.
You has only earned 30 points at one competition thus far — in Melbourne earlier this year, where the field was at its weakest — whereas Poliashov has two 30s counting to his total of 60, and a win on Sunday could see him take over as the leader.
The only other top-ranked competitor in Cottbus is Mitchell Morgans of Australia, currently second with 66 points, but China’s Liu Rongbing will enter the mix this weekend, as will Vladislav Poliashov of Russia. There are also several guys competing this event who aren’t Tokyo-eligible, but will still make it a standout of this meet, including Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine, Ferhat Arican of Turkey, and Lukas Dauser of Germany, who should put on a wonderful performance for his fans here at home.
So, high bar leader Epke Zonderland is out of Cottbus due to a recent sinus surgery. His 85 points are actually matched by Hidetaka of Japan, who also has a total of 85, but loses out on a ridiculously close tie-break.
Both guys have earned two 30-point totals as well as one 25-point total, so it came down to the actual scores of their performances, with Zonderland getting just slightly ahead of Miyachi. The two have gone back and forth all season, and are incredibly close to one another in terms of their scoring potential, but without Zonderland here to defend his lead, if he hits, Miyachi will almost certainly take the win in this field, allowing him to drop his 25 points from Cottbus last year to reach a perfect 90.
Behind these two, no one else really compares, and no matter how anyone else finishes, Zonderland will stay in the top two along with Miyachi, which is a bit of a relief for him. Other top-ranked high bar guys in Cottbus include Zhang Chenglong of China (fourth place with 50 points), Mitchell Morgans of Australia (fifth with 43 points), David Vecsernyes of Hungary (sixth with 42 points), Randy Leru of Cuba (seventh with 25 points), and Alexey Rostov of Russia (eighth with 25 points).
I’d like to see the Italians competing this event — Nicolo Mozzato and Lorenzo Galli — do well enough to factor into the rankings, and I love Umit Samiloglu of Turkey and also want to see him at least reach the final.
The competition kicks off with qualifications tomorrow and Friday, and finals will be held on Friday and Saturday. You’ll be able to watch the finals on the Olympic Channel if you live in the United States (or if you’re a sneaky cyber criminal, or just have access to Tunnel Bear or Nord). A full list of competitors is below.
|Tomas Gonzalez||Makarena Pinto|
|Randy Leru||Yesenia Ferrera|
|Audrys Nin Reyes||Yamilet Peña|
Ahmed El Maraghy
|Ng Kiu Chung|
|David Vecsernyes||Sara Peter
|Mahdi Ahmad Kohani
|Edoardo de Rosa
|Ahmad Abu Al Soud
Majdi Al Hmood
|Olegs Ivanovs||Elina Vihrova|
|Sara van Disseldorp
|Slavomir Michnak||Barbora Mokosova|
Göksu Üctas Sanli
Colin Van Wicklen
Article by Lauren Hopkins