Though the Russian men took the gold in the team final on Monday, it’s back to square one for Russia, Japan, and China, as the three will once again be in top contention for the all-around podium at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Hashimoto Daiki of Japan led all-around qualifications just over six tenths ahead of Nikita Nagornyy, who in turn wasn’t far ahead of China’s Xiao Ruoteng and Sun Wei.
Nagornyy, the 2019 world champion, and Xiao, who won the title in 2017, have spent the entire quad working up to this Olympic all-around final, while Hashimoto, a member of the bronze medal-winning worlds team in 2019, really only just came into his own as an all-arounder over the past year, surprising to win the All-Japan and NHK titles this year after previously never reaching the podium. For a quad that hasn’t seen many world-class all-arounders from Japan after nearly a decade of Uchimura Kohei’s dominance, I was worried Japan may not have an all-around medal contender in Tokyo, so it’s great to see Hashimoto turn into a last-minute threat just months before the Games.
My money is on Hashimoto for the win here, as he has looked phenomenal both days of competition so far, and shows no signs of slowing down or even slightly faltering. His scores are almost scarily consistent across the board between prelims and team finals, so if he can repeat this one more time, I think the title will be within reach.
In comparison, both Nagornyy and Xiao have had hot and cold moments throughout the meet, but at the same time, it’s mostly been little things that are easily fixable with a little bit of focus. If Nagornyy goes full throttle on floor, for example, I think he could match Hashimoto, while Xiao putting together his best work on pommels and high bar could make him more of a golden contender.
The three will be difficult to upset if they all hit, though Sun is right there to take advantage of any mistakes. Russia’s second all-around qualifier Artur Dalaloyan limited by his Achilles injury – though you wouldn’t know it watching him in either qualifications or the team final here! – while Japan’s second, Kitazono Takeru, is dealing with an elbow injury that is holding his difficulty back on a few events, so I’m not sure if either could be capable of making the podium happen, but I think the theme of this Olympic Games is to expect the unexpected, and I anticipate once again being thrown for a loop.
Outside of the big three, the top qualifiers were Joe Fraser of Great Britain, who had a magnificent qualifications to finish fifth with an 86.298, and then both Turkey and the United States had two strong competitors in the mix, as Ahmet Önder and his teammate Adem Asil finished eighth and 15th, while Brody Malone and teammate Sam Mikulak finished 11th and 14th, respectively. All of these men would be outside shots at best, but again, this sport is wild and unpredictable and that’s why we’re here.
I’d personally love to see Fraser keep his momentum going and feed off of the other guys in the top rotation group, especially after he and the rest of the British men did so well in the team final so finish fourth. His performance on Monday was similar to Hashimoto’s in that he looked unstoppable, just like he did in qualifications, so another performance like that combined with just one fall from one of the strongest could lead to a massive victory for him.
Others in the all-around competition include James Hall of Great Britain, Lee Chih-Kai and Tang Chia-Hung of Taiwan, Caio Souza and Diogo Soares of Brazil, Lukas Dauser and Philipp Herder of Germany, Petro Pakhniuk and Illia Kovtun of Ukraine, Milad Karimi of Kazakhstan, Benjamin Gischard and Eddy Yusof of Switzerland, and Lee Jun-ho of South Korea.
Of these, Kovtun has pulled off a ridiculous upset before when he went from 11th in qualifications with an 81.407 to winning the bronze medal with an 84.864, so a similar comeback from him here would not necessarily make him a medal threat, though he could absolutely increase his ranking to the top 10. I’m also hoping we see a stronger performance from Karimi, who was excellent on floor and high bar in prelims, but had falls on pommels and p-bars.
Article by Lauren Hopkins