Controversy exploded on the gymternet yesterday when the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) announced that WAG athletes born in the year 2005 are now eligible to compete at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The Games were originally scheduled to begin on July 24 and run till August 9, 2020 until global COVID-19 concerns forced the organizing committee to delay the Games by a year, creating a nightmare for the organizers and a plethora of implications: one of those being age specifications for gymnasts who become seniors in 2021.
On one hand, there are many who believe the WAG field at the 2021 Olympics should comprise exclusively of gymnasts born on or prior to December 31, 2004. Considering the Olympic Committee is still marketing these Games as ‘Tokyo 2020’ and not ‘Tokyo 2021’ they’re making it clear this is not a brand new Olympics, but a postponed one.
Because these are still the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, just pushed back a year, it would only be fair to preserve the same rules and standards as if the competition was still being held in 2020. Therefore granting WAG athletes who don’t yet have senior eligibility by December 31, 2004 the ability to compete would be a deviation from the prescribed rules and original competition field. The FIG even made it clear that the rules will remain the same for the Games, stating the 2017-2020 Code of Points will continue to be used until the end of 2021 in order to accommodate for the postponed Olympics. They also announced the judges will remain the same and those who were invited before, will remain invited. Because we’re adhering to the standards of the original 2020 Olympics, shouldn’t we also keep the athlete field consistent and only allow those to compete who were eligible at the time?
Speaking of those who were eligible to compete at the time, allowing athletes born in 2005 to compete at the Olympics creates a huge question pertaining to Olympic qualification, specifically for 2005 athletes from countries who haven’t qualified full teams. For gymnasts who wish to qualify to Tokyo as individuals, they are able to do so via the 2019 World Championships, the Apparatus World Cup series, the 2020 Continental Championships, and 2020 All-Around World Cup series. However, since most of these competitions have already been held or are in progress, it makes it nearly impossible for 2005 seniors to qualify for Tokyo. Let me use Julia Soares from Brazil as an example. Brazil did not qualify a full team to the Olympics since they finished out of the top nine teams who did not already qualify. Soares, a 2005 senior, won’t qualify to Tokyo with a team since Brazil didn’t qualify. She also won’t be able to qualify via the Apparatus World Cup series since there is only one more competition left (Doha World Cup) and she isn’t age eligible to compete in it- not to mention she would also need at least three World Cups to rack up enough points for Olympic qualification. The Continental Championships (Pan-American Championships in this instance) also aren’t possible for Soares. Although they’ve been postponed, it’s possible they may still happen later this year, still making her ineligible to compete and qualify an individual spot.
On the other hand, giving 2005 seniors eligibility to compete at the 2021 Olympic Games gives opportunities to gymnasts who are capable of making the Olympics, but weren’t able due to their age. This ensures the Olympics feature the best of the best which is basically what the Olympics are, right? Talented 2005 seniors like Konnor McClain and Viktoria Listunova have high chances of making their country’s Olympic team and could potentially be medal threats.
The FIG technical regulations state that athletes must be 16 in order to compete at major international meets like the World Championships and Olympic Games. Excluding age eligible athletes from competing would contradict their own rules. Blythe Lawrence also brought up an interesting point mentioning athletes born in 2005 could file lawsuits for being barred from the competition, even though they are age eligible to compete.
These rules also apply to the men, meaning MAG athletes born in or prior to 2003 are now age eligible for the Olympics. However because most MAG athletes don’t hit their peak until they’re in their mid-twenties, the impact upon the competition is much lower for the men than the women who usually have a higher proportion of younger athletes (however the average age for WAG athletes has steadily risen over the past several years). It’s also not impossible for a talented 18 year old MAG athlete to make a major team (take Kenzo Shirai at 2013 Worlds for example who was only 17 at the time) therefore it still creates potential inconsistency in the field as well as unequal Olympic qualification opportunities for younger athletes.
This is a tough call for the FIG- no matter what decision they make there will be controversy. There are legitimate arguments for both sides of the issue, but the one thing we all can agree on: these Olympics will be like nothing we’ve ever had before.
The American Cup has traditionally been a throw-away, garbage meet at the start of the elite season to test the waters with new routines, gain international experience, and try new upgrades. However this year is very different. The American Cup will be an important step for countries looking to qualify additional nominative spots for the Olympics via the all-around world cup route, which starts with the American Cup, then Stuttgart World Cup, followed by Birmingham World Cup, and finishing with the Tokyo World Cup. The top three countries at the end of the circuit will earn a +1 spot for the Olympics. Because of the stakes, the field is much more competitive than years past. The Russians withdrew from the meet citing not the coronavirus as their excuse, but long flights and climate acclimation were reasons to not attend(???) This is significant because the reigning world champion Nikita Nagornyy was on the nominative roster and was the heavy favorite to win the meet. This significantly opens the door for the rest of the field to grab some points and help their federations qualify additional spots to Tokyo. Let’s take a look at the major contenders:
With the absence of Nagornyy, it’s safe to say Sam Mikulak is the favorite to take the title this year. He won Winter Cup with an 86.8, debuting a few new upgrades. He’ll be looking to copy and paste his Winter Cup performance to help the U.S. men gain an additional spot for Tokyo. However this year’s particularly deep field means Mikulak MUST hit all six routines in order to win, and consistency hasn’t always been Mikulak’s strong point.
A potential threat to Mikulak is Oleg Verniaev, the current world all-around bronze medallist. Verniaev is also looking to help Ukraine qualify additional spots for Tokyo. Ukraine’s strategy for this world cup circuit is to send Verniaev to every single competition and pray he comes out alive. Depending on what kind of day Oleg has, he is very capable of taking this title considering he has very similar scoring potential to Sam Mikulak.
Newcomer Daiki Hashimoto will also be looking to finish among the top three. His breakout performance at the World Championships last year proved his ability to contend with the best in the world. He also won the All-Japan Championships with an 86.031 even placing ahead of Kazuma Kaya. Not only is this meet important for Japan’s chances of qualifying an additional spot for their home Olympics, but for Daiki, this is an important meet to prove why he should be on Japan’s Olympic team.
Also looking to finish among the top five is Lee Chih-Kai and James Hall. Lee is primarily known for his excellent pommel work after placing second at 2019 Worlds, however he’s also an extremely steady all-around gymnast. He qualified in seventh to the all-around final at those World Championships and helped qualify Taiwan grab a spot in the team final. Hall will be making his third consecutive American Cup appearance, finishing in the top three both in 2018 and 2019. He’ll be looking to finish in the top three again as long as he can stay in the 83-84 scoring range, which is very possible for him.
Shane Wiskus and Pablo Braegger are in contention to finish in the top five. Although Wiskus is the wildcard athlete for the United States and is ineligible to win points, he’ll be looking to have a clean, hit competition in order to prove to the Olympic selection committee that he’s ready to be on the four person team to Tokyo this summer. Pablo Braegger could fare very well in this meet barring
pommel horse any falls.
Also make sure to watch out for Braegger’s high bar, which should be the highlight of his competition.
The hearts of gymnastics fans around the world simultaneously shattered the second news of Asuka Teramoto’s Achilles injury was released. Teramoto was supposed to have a fairy tale ending to her gymnastics career by wrapping things up in the same city she made her international debut in at the Tokyo 2011 World Championships. With Teramoto out, selection for the 2020 Japanese Olympic team has become more of a toss-up for the Japanese Gymnastics Federation.
Teramoto was a crucial asset to the team, despite her short stature she competes a powerful handspring Rudi on vault. She’s also a very steady competitor on bars and beam, usually able to score in the mid to high thirteen range. Without the experience and contributions she offers, this is a big hit to the Japanese team. With a healthy Asuka Teramoto, I was predicting that the Japanese Olympic team would look something like
Mai Murakami (AA)
Asuka Teramoto (AA)
Hitomi Hatakeda (UB, FX)
Aiko Sugihara (VT, BB)
Using each member’s best international scores from the 2019 season, the scoring potential would look like this:
Using the top three scores on each event, this team would score a 164.4 which would have qualified in fifth place during qualifications at the 2019 World Championships. However, when we take Teramoto out and replace her with Nagi Kajita , the team situation would look something like this:
Using the top three scores for each event, this team would score a 162.8, which is 1.6 lower than the team with Teramoto.
Without the help of Teramoto, Japan could potentially miss the team final which would be devastating considering it’s their home Olympics. But I don’t think Japan needs to panic yet. They do have some new talented seniors like Chiaki Hatakeda who is age-eligible for Tokyo. You may remember her from several years ago when she competed a quadruple twist when she was 13. If she can clean up her execution a little bit, she has a very strong shot at making the team.
You may also be wondering about the current status of Sae Miyakawa. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any recent competition videos from Miyakawa, making it very difficult to pinpoint where she stands for possible team selection. She did compete at the 2019 All-Japan Championships, but she didn’t make a strong case for herself scoring only a 10.266 on floor. If she can regain her 2016 form, I think the best option for her would be to grab one of Japan’s specialist spots for vault and floor since a position on the four member team seems increasingly unlikely from her.
There is hope for Japan to send a strong team to Tokyo, but I think we know all too well about the Japanese Gymnastics Federation and their unpredictable selection policies.
Photo Credits: Zimbio
Physical fitness and conditioning has been the overarching theme of the winter training session at the Chinese National Gymnastics Training Center. It’s a push to help the gymnasts safely prepare their bodies for upgrades heading towards the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Qiao Liang, the head coach of the women’s team, noted progress in training
“Winter training is still in its primary phase. In recent training, we mainly improved physical fitness, special abilities, and difficulty. This test showed good results. Through the test, we also found that there are problems that we need to improve in the next phase of winter training. In general, the morale of the team has soared to a new height.”
“Frequent tests not only help us check the training work at all stages, but also better discover athletes’ psychological and technical problems. We are full of confidence in preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, but step by step we still need to watch for the capabilities of everyone.”
“After improving our physical capabilities, everyone learned new and difficult skills, but digesting and understanding requires a process. From preparing for the Olympic Games, our time is tight. What we have to do now is to shorten this process as much as possible and turn the training results into good results in the competition This is a big challenge for the coaching staff.”
“Newcomers grow fast, and the selection competition in this cycle will be very fierce, which is also a good thing. We must advance with difficulty and encourage every team member to work towards the goal of fighting for the Olympic Games.”
Photo via 中国体育图片哦
For Chinese gymnasts, winter training is a time of building intense physical fitness, increasing routine start values, improving routine composition, and cleaning up in the execution department. For the past several months, the Chinese have been hard at work gearing up for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.
Former two-time world champion on parallel bars, Zou Jingyuan, talked to Netease Sports about winter training.
“I’ve already been doing conditioning for more than half a year, and for more than an hour each day. Conditioning is effective for preventing injuries. Although it is boring to do everyday, building muscle is important for the protection of joints.”
Although Zou is best known for his colossal difficulty and superior execution on parallel bars, he is working to become a stronger all-around gymnast in order to strengthen his chances of being selected as a member of the four person team going to Tokyo.
During the interview, Zou also mentioned his parallel bars mistake during qualifications at 2019 World Championships that cost him a spot in the event finals.
“During the world championships qualification I did an easier routine, but still made a mistake. I then felt several cramps- it was pitiable. Besides not being totally focused, I also feel like physical fitness could have been inseparable.”
In other news, the article mentions Xiao Ruoteng has been increasing difficulty in his routines and states Xiao is “adding skills of G and F difficulty” into one of his routines. 2019 world team member, Qi Qi as well as new seniors Ou Yushan and Guan Chenchen also are rapidly increasing difficulty to their floor routines.
Photo via 中国体育图片哦
As the 2019 elite gymnastics season draws to a close, a fresh batch of top-notch juniors will become age-eligible to compete at the most prestigious gymnastics meet of the quad, the Olympic Games. Let’s dive in to see who’s who and what’s what
The Canadian women will be very excited with the addition of Zoé Allaire-Bourgie to their senior pool. Zoé is a very strong all-around gymnast with a particular strength on beam, showing off difficult elements like a back handspring-layout-layout triple series. Next year I’m sure we’ll see her joining the ranks of Ellie Black and Brooklyn Moors as one of the top all-arounders in Canada, and a potential Olympic contender. In addition to Zoé, one of Canada’s brightest junior MAG stars, Felix Dolci will also become age-eligible for the upcoming Olympic Games. Felix not only came away with a rings gold at the 2019 Junior World Championships but also finished top-five and earned a silver medal on floor. However, his treck to the Tokyo Olympic Games is exponentially more difficult as the Canadian men did not qualify a team via the 2019 World Championships, thus Felix will need to rely either on the 2020 Pan-American Games or the all-around world cup series to punch his Olympic ticket.
After a somewhat disappointing World Championships, the Chinese women are setting their expectations high for Tokyo. In 2020, the Chinese will welcome Guan Chenchen and Ou Yushan to their senior squad. Both were members of the silver medal-winning team at the 2019 Junior World Championships. Despite her small size (and quirky personality), Guan Chenchen packs lots of power. Her strengths on vault, beam, and floor are places where she can make important contributions to the team. On beam, Chenchen boasts a massive 6.7 D packed with connections and huge acrobatic elements like a two-foot layout and a handspring-front acro series. Ou Yushan, another Chinese beam goddess, is one of the strongest Chinese junior all-arounders I’ve seen since Wang Yan all the way back in 2014. She has beautiful execution across all four events, making her routines look easily upgradable to put her towards the top of the all-around rankings in the coming year.
Consistently being called “the next Kohei” by Japanese media, Takeru Kitazono is the future of Japanese gymnastics. Takeru first attracted my attention after I saw clips of him holding an iron cross at age eleven. Since then, his gymnastics has progressed at an incredible rate. In 2018, he took the all-around title at the Youth Olympic Games by almost two points. Later in 2019, he won the pommel horse and parallel bars titles at the 2019 Junior World Championships showing off huge upgrades and clean execution. I’m very excited to see how this gymnast factors into the senior scene, especially with the incredible amount of depth Japan already has.
Upon hearing about the disappointing news of Krisztián Berki missing out on the 2020 Olympics, Krisztian Balazs is looking to become the next star in Hungarian gymnastics. The Youth Olympic Games high bar medalist balances difficult release moves, with impeccable execution throughout his routines. Although the Tokyo Games might be a little too soon for him, the Paris 2024 Games are well within his capabilities, and I’m sure we’ll be very familiar with his name by then.
After taking the world by storm at the 2019 Junior World Championships, Jennifer Gadirova is looking increasingly likely to become a potential contender for the 2020 British Olympic team. At 2019 Elite Massilia, Jennifer debuted a massive DTY to give her the vault gold. She also has a full package floor routine fit with difficult tumbling, great dance elements, captivating choreography, and topped off with a fantastic ability to perform, captivating everyone who watches her.
During her junior career, not only did she throw a quad twist on floor, but Chiaki Hatakeda also competed a layout full on beam and a triple-full dismount. Nonetheless, many people have been keeping a close eye on her for a potential prospect of the Japanese 2020 Olympic squad. Although she hasn’t maintained the same level of difficulty in the past two years, potentially bringing her difficulty back for her senior debut could mean a lot, especially when taking a home Olympics into account.
Looking to join the ranks of Oleg Vernaiev, Igor Radivilov, and Petro Pakhnyuk, Nazar Chepurniy is Ukraine’s next biggest star. Nazar’s greatest contribution to the Ukrainian team is high bar, where he shows off difficult releases like a Kovacs, and finishes with a casual triple-twisting double-layout dismount. His high difficulty and clean execution led him to clench the gold on the event at the 2019 Junior World Championships.
After a period of downfall, the Romanians are looking to new seniors Ioana Stanciulescu and Silviana Sfiringu to restore their former glory. The duo were part of the Romanian team who finished fourth at the 2019 Junior World Championships. Both have shown impressive upgrades in the past year like a DTY on vault, E-level tumbling passes, and strong acrobatic elements on beam. However, the thing that makes their gymnastics really significant is their strength on uneven bars. Being able to have not only one, but two new uneven bar workers on the Romania squad could help Romania factor back in to the 2024 Olympic Games.
It seems every year there are a few Russian juniors who show up to meets, compete the most incredible beam routine you’ve ever seen, get lower back surgery in Germany, and retire. I’m hoping that won’t be the case for Vladislava Urazova and Elena Gerasimova. They are both incredible all-around gymnasts displaying maturity comparable to their senior counterparts. The promising duo helped the junior Russian team finish first at the 2019 Junior World Championships, as well as rake in a heap of individual medals like bars, beam, and floor gold.
Last but not least are the new American seniors. Headlining the crop are Kayla DiCello and Olivia Greaves. Kayla won the 2019 U.S. Junior National AA title and took the vault and floor titles as well. Her incredible vaulting, tumbling, and all-around steadiness makes her stand out as a potential threat to make the U.S. Olympic team next year. In a long line of great uneven bar workers from MG Elite, Olivia Greaves is the next bar specialist from MG Elite. She released a training video earlier this year of her doing a sky-high Nabieva. In addition to bars, she also has an impressive floor routine packed with difficult tumbling, nice dance elements, and that fierce MG Elite choreography that separates her from the rest of the field.
This year has an enormous amount of depth and talent for many countries. As we’ve seen in the past, many countries struggle with transitioning their athletes from the junior to senior levels, and with the pressure of the Olympics looming, I’m excited to see what the future holds for these talented, young gymnasts.
After the Japanese Gymnastics Federation made the shocking decision to leave world champion Mai Murakami off the 2019 World Championships team, Mai looks forward to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as a strong potential medal threat. According to an article from Sankei Sports, Mai is planning to attend a training camp in the United States this spring.
“Mai Murakami, 23, is planning to do a training camp in America this spring”
“Murakami wasn’t selected as one of the national team members for the World Championships in October, due to her current condition of lower back pain. Getting ready for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Murakami and another contender [Kenzo Shirai] from her training base [Nittai University: where Mai graduated and her currently trains] are planning to work on intense training camp in early spring next year.”
Translation by Toshiki Nagamine
After a few minor mistakes during the high bar finals at the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships, Xinhua News interviewed Lin Chaopan and asked about his performance
“Today I didn’t have the best performance on high bar. On my first release move my body position wasn’t totally laid out and my second release was distorted. The rhythm towards the end of my routine was messed up. This issue wasn’t big, but really terrible; if my mind isn’t clear I can make a bigger mistake on the next element.”
During the team final, the Chinese men finished second behind the Russian men by a margin of 0.997.
“Our results this year were not good, I want to sleep on brushwood and taste gall (Chinese idiom: means you’re looking for a comeback after anger/humiliation/frustration) I hope during the winter training, we all improve our execution, and fight together to prepare, and I hope next year at the Olympics we do enough to get a good result.”
“We must study our excellent international competitors. Russia is our rival, they have very good stability, their abilities are also very strong. We don’t have the same difficulty. They are able to compete good difficulty while executing the routine well, this is key. It’s impossible to have a world championships without pressure, athletes with the ability to medal all have nervous moments. How do people overcome and compete in these tense moments? This is an area we need to study.”
“We need to face and accept the results, denying the results won’t help when trying to find out where the real problem is, and we may not be aware of the importance of our problems. These past few days we were mentally exhausted, but we can’t relax. Next we need to reflect, then start winter training, and prepare for the Olympics.”
Because of the new format for the 2020 Olympics, countries may select only four gymnasts to a team. Because of this, gymnasts with strong all-around capabilities are heavily favored. Chaopan stated he wants to increase his difficulty on rings and pommel horse to help the team leading up to the Olympics.
“I’m not going to add any more difficulty to parallel bars, floor, and vault, there isn’t enough time before the Olympics, I want to complete my routines well and make it more consistent. My winter training goal is to improve my abilities, and keep perfecting my routines from the team final.”
Two falls on the balance beam unfortunately cost Tang Xijing a spot for the all-around final at the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships due to her teammates, Liu Tingting and Li Shijia, qualifying ahead of her. However, a disastrous performance for Tingting during the team final caused her to withdraw from the all-around final, allowing Xijing to take Tingting’s spot.
Given the opportunity to compete, Xijing had a fantastic day and finished in second place with a 56.899, claiming the silver medal. In an interview following the competition she stated,
“Today during the competition I told myself to stay calm. Distractions off the competition floor don’t matter, do the best you can do, focus on what you need to do and let go.”
“I treated these world championships the same as a training camp. I Imagined I’m back at the National Training Center, slowly doing each skill. Do it, finish it, forget about it if it’s not good, and don’t think about skills too far ahead.”
“I’m extremely thankful for coach Qiao and big sister Tingting. If not for their decision, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to compete, and achieve the silver medal. Big sister Tingting came to the arena today to cheer me on, encourage me, and allow me to relax my mind to go over the most important parts. I won this precious silver medal today, the meaning it has to me is my distance to Tokyo is a step closer.”
Photo: Xinhua News