Upgrade Season in Full Swing for Chinese Gymnastics

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

Zou Jingyuan: We’re Becoming Physically Stronger

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

The 2020 New Senior Preview

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.

Mai Murakami Is Planning to Do a Training Camp in America This Spring

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

Lin Chaopan: We Must Study Excellent International Competitors

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.”

Tang Xijing: “I want to thank coach Qiao and big sister Tingting”

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


Liu Tingting: “The falls from team finals taught me to become braver, face problems, and overcome myself”

The 2018 World Champion on the balance beam, Liu Tingting, came to the 2019 World Championships prepared to defend her title and compete in a world championships all-around final for the first time ever. Unfortunately several falls in the team final caused her to withdraw from the competition. Tingting came back strong during the bar and beam finals, placing seventh and second respectively.

In an interview after the beam finals Tingting said “my first series was a little crooked, however, I still controlled it. The latter part of my routine was a little tight, so if I relaxed a little more I could do better. Compared to the champion, Biles, there is a gap in my mentality. You need to make adjustments to yourself when the team doesn’t do as well and return things back to normal. I hope we can come back strong again for the Tokyo Olympics. Today I feel better than compared to the last few days. But after today I need to continue to improve my execution and work to my maximum. The falls from team finals taught me to become braver, face problems, and overcome myself.”

Photo from 新华社客户端

2019 World Championships Women’s Team Final Live Blog

The United States is the obvious gold medal favorite, but I’m excited to see how the other teams rank in comparison, and the battle for the bronze.

Marching in is happening and Melanie did this. GOLD

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McCallum VT: Easy DTY, small hop back. 14.6

Melnikova UB: Misses connections in first half, but makes it through. 14.333

Tang VT: DTY, a little low but hit.

Villa FX: Good landings on all passes but stumbles out of wolf turns a little. 13.3

Carey VT: Cheng. Nearly sticks it!! 15.166

Li VT: DTY, lands a little low and steps out of bounds. 14.166

DJDS Bars: Great releaase combo, beautiful Bhawarwaj. Great. 14.366?? Low IMO

Biles VT: Great Cheng. Even better than quals. 15.4

Spiridonova: Does her usual routine, probably won’t go above 15 like quals, but still really great.

Qi VT: DTY great

Eythora BB: Didn’t show the routine, but 11.4 :(((

Ana Padurairiu BB: Immediately falls on a wolf turn, which IMO was a political statement about wolf turns in general culture. Finishes nicely. 12.133

Wevers BB: Nice BHS mount into wolf full. Hits Wevers turn, but breaks some connections. Hit. 12.866 oof.

Carofiglio: LO+double front BASICALLY STUCK YES QUEEN. Dowell. She didn’t come to play. Steps out on her last pass 😦 Great choreography though, really enjoyable to watch. 13.333

End of first rotation

  1. USA
  2. RUS
  3. CHN
  4. FRA
  5. ITA
  6. CAN
  7. NED
  8. GB

This floor rotation is a dream. We have NED and CAN rotating together

Volleman FX: Full-in steps out (I think) Good turns. Hit routine. 13.566

James VT: 1.5, nice. 13.8

Villa VT: HUUGE DTY. Amanar potential 14.666

McCallum UB: Good releases, falls over on a toe full oops…. 12.966

MDJDS BB: Falls on front pike 😦 Good rest of routine though.

They aren’t showing Moors or Wevers on floor this is a hate crime.

Biles UB: Connects releases, good tkatchev to pak combo. stuck double-double dmt! Best routine she’s ever done! 14.6

Melnikova BB: Solid LOSO, hits connections. No wobbles at all whatsoever. Small hop on double pike get it! 13.7

Tingting UB: Good start, a little messy on release. Falls on Ono UGGH END ME. FALLS AGAIN WE’RE DONE THANKS. 11.9

Lee UB: Nabieva+Pak+Maloney+Bharwaj great routine!

Kinsella VT: Good DTY, small hop

Agafonova BB: Good routine so far, hits aerial LOSO. Falls on front tuck WHY good double back dmt.

End of rotation 2

  1. USA
  2. ITA
  3. CHN
  4. RUS
  5. GB
  6. FRA
  7. CAN
  8. NED

Eaker BB: Questionable rings… very pretty aerial loso loso.

Visser VT: stuck 1.5! Nice!

Villa: Good combos almost gives me a heart attack on full pirouette. stuck dmt 14.266

Chen BB: Chinese LO great, small bobbles, good rings, triple full a lil short. 14.0

Akhaimova FX: Chuso, DLO stuck, double arabian, full-in hop back. Nice!

Olsen VT: Cheng but messy in the air.14.7

Downie UB: Hits all connections and connects ezhova to maloney! Queen! Hits routine A QUEEN 14.9!!!

Lee BB: Good start NO SUNI FALL ON LAYOUT UHHHH, wobbly a little hit rest of routine

Iorio UB: Ricna to pak, love her ezhova, double front is good.

Tingting BB: Falls and the world is over

Biles BB: Lots of pressure, nice loso loso, only full-in dmt. Great!

Li BB: Great fhs front flip, good splits, great double pike!

End of 3rd:

Tang FX: Triple full puch front, 2.5 pike, double pike clean overall and good triple spin. 13.5

MDJDS VT: Huuuuge DTY! She’s improved so much on this vault.

Lee FX: Great silivas and double lo, 1.5 1.5, hitting all her dance elements beautifully, double tuck clean. 14.2

Qi FX: half in half out, double tuck, very hoppy, triple full nice, 2.5 front pike. Good. 13.433

Akhaimova VT: Good Rudi! Step back, but hit nicely!

Carey FX: OOB on moors, ftdlo, double double, doubel tuck. nice 14.333

DaAmato BB: HIT BEAM OMG ITALY COMING FOR A SILVER MEDAL FNAIURGHAIREUGA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tingting FX: Nice triple full small hop, hitting these turns really nicely. Front full to finish.

Biles FX: TRIPLE DOUBLE THE BEST SHE’S EVER DONE IT. Biles small hop forwards. Finishes with Silivas sooo good. Thats sealed the deal for the United States.

FINAL STANDINGS:

  1. USA
  2. RUS
  3. ITA
  4. CHN
  5. FRA
  6. GB
  7. CAN
  8. NED

Recap: 2019 World Championships Women’s Qualifications

It was a lot, I know I know. Let’s unpack everything that just happened in women’s qualifications.

Lets’s start with Belgium. Belgium competed in the second subdivision and did their job to qualify a full-team to Tokyo. Belgian star, Nina Derwael, qualified first into the bars final as expected with a spectacular routine featuring her Nabieva release and her eponymous Derwael-Fenton release in combination. To put a cherry on top she also grabbed the last spot for the floor final and qualified seventh into the all-around final where she could potentially be a bronze medal threat.

Elizabeth Seitz slaying the monsters and claiming her throne

In the third subdivision, Germany also did there job to qualify a full team to the Olympics, but not without some drama. Originally Sophie Scheder was on the German roster for bars and beam, but she pulled out of the competition due to a last minute injury which resulted in the alternate, Pauline Schäfer to step in and do beam. Although the team accomplished their Olympic qualification goal, they missed out on the team final in their home World Championships. In order for them to have qualified in the top 8, they had to capitalize on their best event, bars. But a fall from Emelie Petz diminished any hopes of them to finish in the top 8. Elisabeth Seitz however, had a tremendous day where she qualified ninth into the all-around final, and fourth into the bars final. She also busted out her Yurchenko double-full which looked so amazing! I didn’t ever think she would do that vault again, but she proved me wrong and nearly stuck it. During this subdivision we also had fan-favorite and seven-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina competing. Chuso had a rough competition and jeopardized her Olympic spot by falling on vault. Luckily she scored just high enough in the all-around to punch her ticket to Tokyo and save humanity from tragedy. The Germans also accomplished their priority to qualify a full team to the Olympics, but not without some drama. Originally Sophie Scheder was on the German roster for bars and beam, but she pulled out of the competition due to a last-minute injury which resulted in the alternate, Pauline Schäfer to step in and do beam. Although the team accomplished their Olympic qualification goal, they missed out on the team final in their home World Championships. For them to have qualified in the top 8, they had to capitalize on their best event, bars. But their mistakes accumulated and diminished any hopes for a spot in the team final. Elisabeth Seitz however, had a tremendous day where she qualified ninth into the all-around final, and fourth into the bars final. She also busted out her Yurchenko double-full which looked so amazing! I didn’t ever think she would do that vault again, but she proved me wrong and nearly stuck it. During this subdivision, we also saw fan-favorite and seven-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina competing. Chuso had a rough competition and jeopardized her Olympic spot by falling on vault. Luckily she scored just high enough in the all-around to punch her ticket to Tokyo and save humanity from tragedy.  In the third subdivision, Germany also did there job to qualify a full team to the Olympics, but not without some drama. Originally Sophie Scheder was on the German roster for bars and beam, but she pulled out of the competition due to a last minute injury which resulted in the alternate, Pauline Schäfer to step in and do beam. Although the team accomplished their Olympic qualification goal, they missed out on the team final in their home World Championships. In order for them to have qualified in the top 8, they had to capitalize on their best event, bars. But a fall from Emelie Petz diminished any hopes of them to finish in the top 8. Elisabeth Seitz however, had a tremendous day where she qualified ninth into the all-around final, and fourth into the bars final. She also busted out her Yurchenko double-full which looked so amazing! I didn’t ever think she would do that vault again, but she proved me wrong and nearly stuck it. During this subdivision we also had fan-favorite and seven-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina competing. Chuso had a rough competition and jeopardized her Olympic spot by falling on vault. Luckily she scored just high enough in the all-around to punch her ticket to Tokyo and save humanity from tragedy.

The big news coming from the fourth subdivision was Yeo Seo-Jeong. Although she didn’t compete her eponymous vault, the Yeo, she still did a beautiful Rudi that easily put her into the vault final. If she does the Yeo in finals, (which is likely) I would say she’s the favorite to win the silver medal. Her qualification to the vault finals also punched her ticket to Tokyo, along with her teammate, Lee Yunseo who qualified for the all-around final.

So this next subdivision left me with lots of mixed emotions. I was celebrating the success of France while also crying for the downfall of Romania. French star, Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, lead the all-around standings after this subdivision putting up an impressive 56.782. The French team as of now is a potential bronze medal threat. They have difficult vaults, strong bars, solid beam, and powerful tumbling. Romania, on the other hand, didn’t have a great day. Denisa Golgota, the favorite for Romania’s individual Olympic spot, had mistakes on every event allowing Maria Holbura to take Romania’s individual Olympic spot. 

The next subdivision featured China and Canada. The Chinese surpassed many expectations going into the competition and was able to pass the French by a comfortable margin into first position. Rising star, Qi Qi helped the team by putting up a strong Rudi and Yurchenko double-full to grab a spot in the vault finals. 2018 world champion, Liu Tingting, posted the highest all-around score for the Chinese with a 55.865. The team posted the highest beam score in the competition averaging a 14.333. The Canadians had a good day securing their spot in the team final and grabbing a team spot for the Tokyo Olympics. Their top all-around score came from Elsabeth Black who posted a 55.199. However, I wouldn’t be able to mention this subdivision without bringing up the Brooklyn Moors floor inquiry drama. Moors was credited with a 13.666 and a 5.3 D-score for her floor routine, however her coaches submitted an inquiry to challenge the given score. Shockingly after reviewing the routine, the judges downgraded her D-score to a 5.2, resulting in her final score to be lowered by one tenth knocking her out of the floor final... and just wait till I get to the Americans… The next subdivision featured China and Canada. The Chinese surpassed many expectations going into the competition and was able to pass the French by a comfortable margin into the first position. Rising star, Qi Qi helped the team by putting up a strong Rudi and Yurchenko double-full to grab a spot in the vault finals. 2018 world champion, Liu Tingting, posted the highest all-around score for the Chinese with a 55.865. The team posted the highest beam score in the competition averaging a 14.333. The Canadians had a good day securing their spot in the team final and grabbing a team spot for the Tokyo Olympics. Their top all-around score came from Elsabeth Black who posted a 55.199. However, I wouldn’t be able to mention this subdivision without bringing up the Brooklyn Moors floor inquiry drama. Moors was credited with a 13.666 and a 5.3 D-score for her floor routine, however, her coaches submitted an inquiry to challenge the given score. Shockingly after reviewing the routine, the judges downgraded her D-score to a 5.2, resulting in her final score to be lowered by one-tenth knocking her out of the floor final... and just wait till I get to the Americans…

The British and Italians, in my opinion, had quite an underwhelming performance. Ellie Downie had a major break on floor by falling on her Silivas. However, she recomposed herself on vault performing an amazing Cheng followed with a victory screech. Rebecca Downie also had a great day qualifying to the bars final with a 14.8. The new army of Italian seniors made their world championships debut at this competition and started out very shaky on floor. Desiree Carofiglio was the only Italian who posted a score above 13 on floor, and was able to do so with a Dowell and a layout in immediate connection to a double-front. However, the team quickly recollected themselves for vault and were able to post the third-highest vault score thanks to three massive double-twisting Yurchenkos. 

In subdivision 8 the Dutch had a little bit of a rough time. 2016 Olympic Champion Sanna Wevers didn’t have the beam routine she was capable of and posted a 13.2. Floor, on the other hand, went very well for the Dutch. The Netherlands are known for their impeccable artistry and they put on quite a performance with beautiful choreography specifically from Lieke Wevers and Eythora Thorsdottir. The biggest surprise in the competition for me was the Spanish team. SPAIN QUALIFIED A FULL TEAM TO THE OLYMPICS. Roxana Popa not only helped the Spanish team grab an Olympic qualification spot but made qualified into the floor finals with a 13.8 after several years of devastating injuries which kept her out of the Rio Olympics. 

Image result for cries in spanish

The Japanese unfortunately didn’t have the day they were looking for. Leaving their star, Mai Murakami, at home resulted in a much weaker team performance. They still qualified for the Olympic Games, but barely.

The biggest question of the competition for me was Russia. As Valentina Rodionenko stated, “our team isn’t well-balanced”. The selection of this team left me with many questions like “who will be the fourth person to do floor in qualifications?” “What about beam?” But, as Russia does, they greatly surpassed my expectations and rose towards the top of the leader board, finishing about a point behind China. One of my favorite moments of the competition included Angelina Melnikova’s braid popping out on her double-layout. 

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The final subdivision included the United States and Brazil. For the United States, Simone Biles became the first woman to ever compete a triple-double in competition. As of now, it will now be referred to as the Biles and has a J-rating, meaning she broke the code. Simone is the first gymnast in history to ever do a J-rated skill in competition. She also did her double-double beam dismount, which will also be named the Biles and was given an H. However, there was a lot of drama about only assigning the beam dismount an H-rating considering the full-in off beam is a G. The FIG defended themselves with this pile of garbage. Another controversial moment occurred with Kara Eaker’s beam score. As I mentioned earlier with Moor’s floor score being devalued, an inquiry was submitted for Eaker’s beam score, and the judges devalued Eaker’s D-score not by just one-tenth, but by four-tenths knocking her out of the beam finals. Meanwhile, Brazil suffered an injury quite early into the competition with two-time Olympian Jade Barbosa injuring her ankle on a Yurchenko double-full. Because of this, she was not able to compete on bars, beam, and floor, leaving the Brazilians only with three gymnasts on each event. Unfortunately, with no cushions for mistakes, the Brazilians were forced to count several scores in the elevens on bars, beam, and floor which knocked them not only out of contention to qualify for the team final, but out of qualifying for the Olympics completely. The lone representative for Brazil next year at the Olympics will be 2016 Olympian, Flavia Saraiva, who qualified for the beam and floor finals.

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This was a very surprising qualification round. I would never have predicted Brazil to be knocked out of Olympic qualification, and for Spain to qualify. But surprises happen when teams are put under immense amounts of pressure. For some people, the pressure may be too much to handle. As the rest of the competition ensues, I look forward to seeing more positive surprises on the competition floor, but am mentally preparing for the worst-of-the-worst.

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
DalaloyanDalaloyan/NagornyyNagornyyDalaloyanNagornyyBelyavskiy
NagornyyBelyavskiyAbliazinAbliazinDalaloyanDalaloyan

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.