The second ever junior world championships kick off in Antalya, Turkey tomorrow with the men’s team competition and individual qualifications, and the field is a super exciting one, with lots of potential for small program and lesser-known athletes to shine.
As far as I know, there will not be a stream for the team final and individual qualifiers, but the FIG will reportedly stream all individual finals on YouTube. Additionally, you’ll be able to follow live scores via Longines.
The Team Competition
At junior worlds, the first day of competition serves as the qualifier for the individual finals, and the results will also count to determine the ranking for the team competition. With only two scores counting per team, it makes things kind of like a battle of the best all-arounders, and most programs have selected in this way rather than picking and choosing based on certain combinations of apparatus scores. While this format helps some teams and hurts others, it barely affects most of the top programs.
The teams that have the potential to be at their best here include “the usuals” like Japan and China, along with the growing programs of Italy and Great Britain. Japan is the clear standout for me, especially under the leadership of Tanida Masaharu, who should also be a top all-around contender if he’s on his game. Along with Tsunogai Tomoharu and floor/vault standout Kamiyama Haruto, the team should be in a position to once again capture the gold, but I wouldn’t count out the Italians to put up a massive fight. Led by another top all-arounder, 2022 EYOF silver medalist Riccardo Villa, the team also features Manuel Berettera and Tommaso Brugnami, both great across the board. Pommel horse and parallel bars could hold them back a bit compared to Japan, which has a big advantage on both, but otherwise they’re pretty well-matched and if everyone’s hitting tomorrow, it could end up being quite the fight.
While China on paper looks a bit behind on most events based on how the men looked last year, it’s been about six months since we’ve seen any of this program’s athletes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are major improvements. National youth champion He Xiang is pretty consistent across all six apparatuses, and though Yang Chunjie had some weak performances last year, he has similar potential, as does Qin Guohuan. I’m being a bit conservative with them in terms of my expectations, but the top of the podium isn’t off the table for them if they’ve increased their difficulty and are looking sharp.
Pommel horse should be a strength for the British men, and if they hit, the apparatus could keep the team afloat despite some weaker rotations elsewhere. The United States, France, and Germany also have teams that could be hit or miss with a team medal not out of the picture for any of them, and I’m very excited about Armenia as an outlier. As a country without tons of depths, the Armenian senior squad is known for tremendous specialists who are nearly all capable of winning word medals, though it’s been a challenge for them to put together a complete, competitive team. In this format, however, the three junior all-arounders – Erik Baghdasaryan, Hamlet Manukyan, and Mamikon Khachatryan – could be wildly successful, especially with pommels as a bit of a secret weapon.
Otherwise, the teams from Canada and Egypt could also do really well here, and I think we could see some surprises from South Korea, Ukraine, and Taiwan, all programs that haven’t had much international junior competition over the past couple of years, but Park Sunwoo should be a solid standout for the Korean program. I also expect super strong vault rotations from Hungary, Turkey, and Finland, something that could give all three programs a lift in the standings, but these teams will also have rotations where both routines that count may struggle to surpass a 12.0, obviously holding them back a bit.
The Individual Standouts
While a lot of men from the above programs will likely also top the individual all-around and apparatus standings, there are several athletes from non-threatening teams or otherwise small programs who could be big contenders.
My favorite on this list is Angel Barajas of Colombia, the star of the South American Junior Games last year who was one of only two athletes not named Fred Richard to win a gold medal at the Pan American Championships, where he won high bar after placing second all-around and also picked up medals on floor, vault, and parallel bars. Barajas could be among the top all-around contenders here, and he has the potential to make multiple finals, with high bar likely his best shot for a medal.
I also love fellow Pan Am athlete João Victor Perdigão of Brazil, who finished just behind Barajas at the South American Junior Games. Overall, he is a mostly solid all-arounder, especially if he can hit pommels, which has been a challenge for him in the past. If he competes two vaults, he’s definitely capable of making that final, as are Daniel Trifonov of Bulgaria, a powerful athlete who is on the higher end of combined difficulty in this field; Nicholas Howard of Australia, who recently won the bronze on this event at the DTB Pokal Team Challenge; and Olof Antti of Sweden, who has a high level of execution.
Pommel horse also has some excellent contenders from smaller programs. I particularly love Kristijonas Padegimas of Lithuania, who can do a senior-level routine with perfect precision, while Alfred Schwaiger of Austria and Dachi Dolidze of Georgia area also fantastic on this apparatus. Schwaiger is also a fairly strong all-arounder, but this apparatus is where he really shines, and he could be a favorite to make the final with a hit routine tomorrow.
TL;DR – The Must-Watch Athletes in Each Event
I’ll make this simple and listicle-y for easy digestion. Without further ado, here are my top must-watch athletes and programs in the individual and team competitions in Antalya based on the routines I’ve seen over the past year (which of course excludes a few programs and athletes who have not competed, so we’ll definitely see some surprises in almost every category). Enjoy!
AA – George Atkins (Great Britain), Erik Baghdasaryan (Armenia), Angel Barajas (Colombia), Manuel Berettera (Italy), Tommaso Brugnami (Italy), Roman Cavallaro (France), Timo Eder (Germany), He Xiang (China), Anthony Mansard (France), Hamlet Manukyan (Armenia), Xavier Olasz (Canada), Park Sunwoo (South Korea), Winston Powell (Great Britain), Qin Guohuan (China), David Shamah (United States), Tanida Masaharu (Japan), Tsunogai Tomoharu (Japan), Kai Uemura (United States), Riccardo Villa (Italy), Yang Chunjie (China), Alexander Yolshina Cash (Great Britain)
FX – Manuel Berettera (Italy), Tommaso Brugnami (Italy), Victor Canuel (Canada), Timo Eder (Germany), Haruto Kamiyama (Japan), Anthony Mansard (France), Marcus Pietarinen (Finland), Tanida Masaharu (Japan), Riccardo Villa (Italy), Szilard Zavory (Hungary)
PH – George Atkins (Great Britain), Erik Baghdasaryan (Armenia), Dachi Dolidze (Georgia), Hamlet Manukyan (Armenia), Kristijonas Padegimas (Lithuania), Alfred Schwaiger (Austria), Tanida Masaharu (Japan), Tsunogai Tomoharu (Japan), Riccardo Villa (Italy), Alexander Yolshina Cash (Great Britain)
SR – Zaid Al Khalidi (Jordan), George Atkins (Great Britain), Romain Cavallaro (France), Volkan Arda Hamarat (Turkey), Maxim Kovalenko (Germany), Kiran Mandava (United States), Hamlet Manukyan (Armenia), Xavier Olasz (Canada), Tanida Masaharu (Japan), Riccardo Villa (Italy)
VT (assuming they end up doing two vaults) – Olof Antti (Sweden), Angel Barajas (Colombia), Tommaso Brugnami (Italy), Victor Canuel (Canada), Nicholas Howard (Australia), Maxim Kovalenko (Germany), Xavier Olasz (Canada), João Victor Perdigão (Brazil), Daniel Trifonov (Bulgaria), Yahia Zakaria (Egypt)
PB – George Atkins (Great Britain), Erik Baghdasaryan (Armenia), Angel Barajas (Colombia), Maxim Kovalenko (Germany), Anthony Mansard (France), Park Sunwoo (South Korea), David Shamah (United States), Tanida Masaharu (Japan), Alexander Yolshina Cash (Great Britain), Yahia Zakaria (Egypt)
HB – George Atkins (Great Britain), Angel Barajas (Colombia), Romain Cavallaro (France), He Xiang (China), Winston Powell (Great Britain), Tanida Masaharu (Japan), Tsunogai Tomoharu (Japan), Kai Uemura (United States), Riccardo Villa (Italy), Yang Chunjie (China)
TF – Armenia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Turkey, United States
Article by Lauren Hopkins
4 thoughts on “Get to Know the Junior Men Before Worlds”
Anthony Mansard is France’s best hope for an AA top 10, though a foot injury might slow him down. He already competed 3 EF at last year’s Jr Euros, at only 15 (+ team medal).
I was not aware of Armenia’s promises … exciting
Just woke up to see Armenia currently in third place ahead of France, Great Britain, the USA, Germany…an incredible result! I think Japan will knock them off the podium but I’m really happy to see that these guys did exactly what they were capable of, especially on pommels!
It seems you predicted the correct top 8 teams (still waiting for SUB4 though), congrats !
Armenia’s result is superb. The kind of result that makes MAG more exciting to follow than WAG.
I am now considering the trip for the Euros (post olympic ones, don’t remember the year). Their juniors will be seniors by then and the atmosphere (and food) should be great (gym is just an excuse, I have always wanted to visit Armenia)
Iran – to a lesser extent – is also a very pleasant surprise !
I’m still holding out for big scores from Canada and Egypt this subdivision, I think they both have the potential to break into the top 8, but we’ll see!
Iran is a huge surprise! Seeing how well their seniors have been doing at world cups recently (especially on rings and vault) gave me some hope for them, but I was hesitant since I’d never seen any of their junior worlds athletes compete before. Glad to see they’re on the right path after this result.