ANTWERP — Gymnasts from four different countries won world titles as the first day of event finals at the 2013 World Gymnastics Championships concluded in Belgium.
McKayla Maroney of the U.S. was the only gymnast to defend her title from the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo. Performing last up on vault, Maroney took a small step on her Amanar but edged teammate Simone Biles for the gold thanks to her second vault (roundoff, half on, front layout half off), a half twist harder than Biles’s (15.724-15.595 average).
Maroney, who to this point has been a shoo-in for gold on vault in every event she’s entered, won the event by only 0.129 and must be feeling pressure from Biles, who has been working a much harder Cheng second vault, though she did not use it here. Maroney said after the preliminary round that she hopes to be able to upgrade both her vaults — “an extra half twist on each” — within the next few years, which would arm both Americans .
North Korea’s Hong Un Jong, the 2008 Olympic vault champion, successfully landed both an Amanar and a Cheng for the bronze (15.483 average), albeit without the exceptional height and block of Biles. The women’s vault final featured some of the hardest skills ever thrown on the event, including a missed handspring double front from the Dominican Republic’s Yamilet Pena.
But it was the Netherlands’s Chantysha Netteb, a first-year senior and reigning Junior European champion on vault, who injured her right knee landing a double-twisting Yurchenko and had to be helped off the vaulting podium. Netteb will undergo a full examination in Amsterdam tomorrow to determine the seriousness of her injury.
After a fall by Yao Jinnan, China’s Huang Huidan stepped up to give China its first gold on uneven bars since He Kexin won in London in 2009 (15.4). Huang’s high-flying combinations gave her a slight edge over the U.S.’s Kyla Ross, who hit a fairly clean routine for silver (15.266). Olympic bars champion Aliya Mustafina settled the bronze with her eye-catching new skill (Maloney full to mixed grip), hitting her routine but taking a large step on her 1.5 twisting double tuck dismount (15.033).
Twisting wunderkind Kenzo Shirai of Japan spun his way through his floor routine to dominate the competition with his start score, 0.6 higher than anyone else’s (16.0). (As a bonus, the 17-year-old also showed two elements never before done on the World stage, a front triple full and a quad full). Teammate Kohei Uchimura, who sailed to his fourth consecutive world all-around title Thursday night, was virtuosity again on floor, turning in a clean performance to finish with the bronze (15.5) behind American Jake Dalton (15.6).
Japan doubled down on gold with Kohei Kameyama’s pommel horse routine, a complex and beautifully performed routine that carried a 6.9 start value (15.833). Kameyama’s clean form carried him over Britain’s Max Whitlock, who had the highest difficulty at 7.2, and Mexico’s promising Daniel Corral Barron, who tied Whitlock for the silver (15.633).
Olympic rings champion Arthur Zanetti of Brazil hit his full twisting double layout dismount on (and all the difficulty that came before it) to defend his title on his best event (15.8) over challengers Aleksandr Balandin of Russia (15.733) and the U.S.’s Brandon Wynn, who gave the Americans their first World medal on still rings since 1994 (15.666).
The 2013 World Championships concludes tomorrow with the second day of event finals, featuring women’s beam and floor and men’s vault, parallel bars and still rings.
Related: Full results here. Quick hits from event finals day one at the World Championships — check out the blow-by-blow of each routine here.