2019 World Championships Preview

Before the World Championships have even begun, we’ve already had some interesting developments- mainly concerning team selection (don’t even get me started). Barring from anymore surprises, here are some I’ll be looking for

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, the American women have won the team title at every single World Championships and Olympic Games since 2011 and are looking to do the same here. The team consists of Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, Kara Eaker, Jade Carey, MyKayla Skinner, and Grace McCallum (with the alternate yet to be decided). As of right now, I think Skinner is likely to be the alternate, but that could change after podium training. Although Skinner’s Cheng on vault can contribute a very strong score, it would require Kara Eaker to do bars in the team final which isn’t ideal. Not only that, but the only other event Skinner would contribute to the team would be floor. Skinner is very good at floor, but her scores haven’t reflected it considering she had the fourth highest score behind Biles, Lee, Eaker (!!!), and Carey at the latest selection camp. Here’s the ideal team final lineup I’m thinking for the United States. 

VaultBarsBeam Floor
Grace McCallumGrace McCallumSimone BilesSunisa Lee
Jade CareySimone BilesSunisa LeeJade Carey
Simone BilesSunisa LeeKara EakerSimone Biles

(Also something to note: If Simone wins all the medals she’s capable of, she could break her tie with Khorkina and become the most decorated gymnast in world (excluding Olympic) medallist history #Simonethings. Because of the vast conspiracy theory of the universe constantly trying to sabotage Khorkina’s gymnastics, I’m excited to hear what Khorkina will say about Simone potentially beating her record. She’s also pregnant so that will be fun)

The silver medal favorite for the women are the Chinese. The team consists of Liu Tingting, Li Shijia, Tang Xijing, Qi Qi, Chen Yile, and Zhang Jin. Since Qiao Liang became the head coach of the womens team, the Chinese have looked exceptionally stronger on power events like vault and floor. This year they are expecting four DTYs from Liu, Li, Tang, and Qi. However beam is the event that separates them from the rest of the world. Based of podium training clips, the team final beam lineup is composed exclusively of routines with 6.5+ D, higher than any other country right now. The question that remains is, can their strength on bars and beam compensate for weaknesses on the power events? The Russian women, Angelina Melnikova, Maria Paseka, Aleksandra Schekoldina, Daria Spiridonova, Anastasiia Agafonova, and Lilia Akhaimova are looking to place in the top three, but it won’t be easy with an extremely strong French team, and a brand new generation of Italians. This year is a little weird for Russia, they’re missing 2012 and 2016 Olympic Champion Aliya Mustafina due to Valentina Rodionenko an injury. Russia is also waiting for their best juniors, Vladislava Urazova and Elena Gerasimova, to turn senior next year so for now they’re just playing the waiting game for now. My expectations aren’t too high for the Russians this year, however Melnikova will definitely be looking for an all around medal, and qualification to the floor final. Paseka (two-time world champion and Olympic medallist on vault) will be looking to make the vault final, as well as Akhaimova. 

The men’s team final should be very exciting this year with the emergence of a very strong Russian team. The team consists of Nikita Nagornyy, Artur Dalaloyan, David Belyavskiy, Ivan Stretovitch, Denis Abliazin, and Vladislav Poliashov.  I’m thinking a team final scenario would look like this for the Russians

FloorPommelRingsVaultParallel BarsHigh Bar
Belyavskiy/StretovitchStretovitch/ BelyavskiyDalaloyanNagornyyBelyavskiyStretovitch/ Nagornyy

Nikita triple-back Nagornyy is the favorite to take the all around title barring any catastrophe to happen because Russian gymnastics things. As of right now, I also consider the Russian men to be the favorite to win the team final, but the Chinese could upset. Last year, the Chinese edged the Russian men out by a pinhole sized margin of 0.049 for the gold medal. One thing worth mentioning is the Chinese team selected for this year’s World Championships is exactly the same as last year. The talented team consists of Xiao Ruoteng, Lin Chaopan, Zou Jingyuan, Sun Wei, Deng Shudi, and You Hao. I think it’s safe to say that the Japanese are the favorites for the bronze medal. The team consists of Kazuma Kaya, Wataru Tanigawa, Kakeru Tanigawa, Daiki Hashimoto, Yuya Kamoto, and Shogo Nonomura. Prior to contrary belief, Kazuma Kaya (2015 pommel horse bronze medallist, 2015 team gold medallist, 2018 team medallist) and Wataru Tanigawa (2018 team medallist) are not newcomers (*cough Olympic Channel). Kaya and one of the Tanigawa brothers will be looking to qualify and medal to the all around final. Kaya in particular is looking to be on the podium and is a bronze/silver medal threat. I’m very excited to see how this Japanese team does because it gives us a very good indication on how they’ll perform at their home Olympics this summer. 

Speaking of the Olympics this summer (!!!) there are still nine men and womens teams who are looking to battle for Olympic births. Last year the Chinese, Russian, and Japanese men automatically qualified by placing in the top three. This year, the American, British, Brazilian, Swiss, and Dutch teams are almost certain to qualify teams. However there are many bubble teams who are looking to qualify like Germany. The absence of key contributors Marcel Ngyuen and Andreas Brettschneider, are making it look like an uphill battle for the German men. One team that’s created quite the uproar recently is the Turkish men. The stars of the Turkish team, Ahment Onder, Ferhat Arican, and Ibrahim Colak are looking to carry the team to an Olympic qualification, which would be THE FIRST TIME IN TURKISH HISTORY a full team qualifies to the Olympics. The Ukrainian men consisting of Oleg Verniaiev, Petro Pakhniuk, Yevgen Yudenekov, Vladyslav Hryko, Igor Radivilov, and Maksym Vasylenko are also looking to qualify a team to the Olympics, and they should as long as they stay in one piece (I’m looking at you Oleg) and don’t implode halfway through the competition.

For the women, the United States, Russia, and China have automatically qualified teams for the Olympics next year. Teams like Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Brazil, the Netherlands, Canada, France, and Italy are almost certainly going to qualify teams as well, which leaves one more team to battle for the remaining spot. Right now I have my bets on Belgium. The Belgium team, headed by reigning bars world champion Nina Derwael is looking to grab the last spot and qualify to Tokyo. However another team like Ukraine could also slip in and grab their spot. The Ukranian team featuring stars like Diana Varinska, Angelina Radivilova, and newcomer Anastasiia Bachynska could challenge the Belgians and get the job done as long as they hit. For Ukraine, hitting routines when it counts has been an issue plaguing them since the early 2000’s. But this team seems to have found the secret formula and are looking to not only qualify a full team, but also make multiple event finals. 
Although we are missing many potential medal threats like Morgan Hurd, Kenzo Shirai, Mai Murakami, Riley McCukser, Nile Wilson, and Aliya Mustafina, this year’s world championships are going to be a major indicator of what we will see this summer in Tokyo, so sit back, hold on, don’t get injured, and enjoy the show.

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