ANTWERP, 1:31 p.m.: The U.S. women, in regal purple Under Armour leotards for the first day of event finals, are calmly going through their bars warmup in the arena, while the men are working on floor (Germany’s Matthias Fahrig has the highest double front ever seen anywhere, seriously.) The women on bars all look calm and focused — Kyla Ross went through several routines sans dismount, as did Simone Biles.
Also spotted: The huge swing of Britain’s Beckie Downie and the oh-so-cool Zuchold transition of Ruby Harold, and over on the floor podium, Diego Hypolito of Brazil doing handstand pushups, aided by his coach.
It will be interesting to see how new World champion Simone Biles comports herself during this event final one day after winning the world all-around title. Will she lose her head completely in the excitement of winning the all-around final and make mistakes? I don’t think so, somehow — she still looks wholly in the zone.
The other big matchup of the day will be between Biles and McKayla Maroney for the title on vault. Maroney is famous for her ability with an Amanar, but Biles’s is almost as good (in fact, the judges thought it was better in the prelim.) It may come down to a sticking competition for the title, something that Maroney is not really used to — until now, she has been nearly guaranteed vault titles so long as she lands on her feet. No more…
North Korea’s Hong Un Jong, the 2008 Olympic champion on the event, could also factor in, as her second vault is the most difficult of the three but her form is not always as good as the Americans’.
1:58 p.m.: After everyone else is done, the Chinese duo (Yao Jinnan and Huang Huidan) take to bars. While many of the alternates are warming up, including the Netherlands’s Casimir Schmidt on floor (soaking up the podium/big arena experience, no doubt), I have not seen Russia’s Tatiana Nabieva, who is first alternate on bars.
2:04 p.m.: Catalina Ponor is being interviewed on the podium. “I’m feeling good,” she said. “I’m working on a new project, and I hope it’s going to grow and I hope everyone will see soon what I’m talking about.” What’s it like being here as a spectator and not a gymnast? “It’s a tough moment…I miss gymnastics a lot, but what can I say? I’m happy to be here. I will support Romania. I will support my ex-teammates. I will be close to all the people who support gymnastics, and I wish everyone good luck.”
When Octavian Bellu retires, would she consider trying to coach the Romanian team? “I wish that Mr. Bellu and Ms. Mariana Bitang never get tired, and will be there, because I think that is their place.”
Note: Introductions are cute. Jake Dalton looks somber and serious, Kohei Uchimura calm and unaffected, Fabian Hambuechen like he’s enjoying himself and Kenzo Shirai a bit shy…
Kohei Uchimura, Japan: The four-time World champ will get things started here on one of his best events…1.5 to Randi, stuck. Nice opener. Front tuck full to front double full, small hop forward. 2.5 to Rudi, stuck. Double full, stuck. More precise on his landings here than he was in all-around finals…Tucked Thomas. And a triple full to end, stuck. Virtuousity! Remember that he is the defending World champion on this event — he won it in 2011 in Tokyo too…15.5/6.4/9.1.
Steven Legendre, USA: Front double full to double front, hop back. 2.5 twisting double tuck with a hop. Whip to Arabian double front with a hop. 2.5 to front layout full. Sky-high layout Thomas. Arabian double pike. A good performance from Legendre, but it’s evident as always in his toes and feet that he is not in the same class, form-wise, as Uchimura and co. Acrobatically, though, he’s basically second to none. 15.366/6.8/8.566.
Diego Hypolito, Brazil: 1.5 to Randi side pass to open, step forward. Arabian double front to front tuck full, interesting. Arabian double pike. The crowd is very impressed! I see some foot form. 2.5 to front double full, another step back. Layout Thomas. Triple full to end, slightly awkward landing, shuffles back. Not bad, but not what he once was on this event. 15.366/6.9/8.466.
Fabian Hambuechen, Germany: Apparently one of Hambuechen’s Bundesliga buddies has brought a drum in to cheer him on, which is where some of the drumming we’ve heard during routines is coming from. Double layout to open, stuck but lands with legs apart as usual. 2.5 to double front, not bad. Tucked Thomas. Twisting side pass. Flairs sequence. Full in tuck, lands a little low and hops back, but how cool is that drum for getting you going? Americans, take note! 15.3/6.5/8.8. A bit low, IMO…
Jake Dalton, USA: Arabian double layout with a hop forward. Arabian double front, good landing. 1.5 to front double full, step on landing. 2.5 to front tuck full. Layout Thomas. Armswing to cover up a breather before his stuck triple full. Great routine for Jake — he can be happy with that. 15.6/6.7/8.9 puts him first above Uchimura right now!
Scott Morgan, Canada: Full twisting double layout, good landing. Double layout to punch 1 3/4 to his stomach has the crowd oohing. Front double full to front tuck full. Tucked Thomas. 2.5 to Rudi, small hop. Full in tuck with a pretty big step forward, but whatevs. This guy is very good for Canada’s men’s program! Nice routine. 14.833/6.4/8.433.
Dan Purvis, Great Britain: The redhead from Liverpool takes the floor…double double tuck, tidy landing, tiny hop. 1.5 to front double full to single stag to cover up what would have been a step. Double front side pass, well landed. 2.5 to front tuck full. Layout Thomas. Whip to Arabian double pike last pass — man, that’s hard! — with a small step forward. Great routine for Purvis. 15.4/6.5/8.9 puts him third with one performer to go. And that’s…
Kenzo Shirai, Japan: He was the top qualifier on floor in prelims…the best twister in gymnastics history, and only 17. 3.5 to front double full, stuck. Front tuck full to front triple full, takes a step to the side (crowd gasps). Whip to triple full side pass. 2.5 to Randi. And just the quad full left…he pretty much sticks it! Maybe just a little underrotation, but who cares? Kenzo is delighted, bursts into a huge happy smile, raises his arms and practically dances off the podium. Kohei is clapping and cheering and smiling. Everyone loves it! Kohei and Kenzo are standing together for photos — Kohei gives the thumbs up, Kenzo the peace sign. Jake Dalton is standing there like, how can I top that? Just the score…and they’re taking their time. 16.0/7.4/8.6. The crowd is on their feet! Kenzo becomes the youngest World floor champion in history! And one with one of the biggest smiles, no doubt.
GOLD: Kenzo Shirai, JPN
SILVER: Jake Dalton, USA
BRONZE: Kohei Uchimura
4. Purvis. 5. Hypolito 6. Legendre. 7. Hambuechen. 8. Morgan.
Giulia Steingruber, Switzerland: Rudi, excellent landing, you’d basically give that a stick, just the tiniest of hops. Steingruber has brought it today! The only thing you could possibly take from her is that her toes aren’t always perfectly pointed…15.5/6.2/9.3. Second vault: DTY, just moves one foot, again, really good. 14.966/5.8/9.166. Average: 15.233.
Yamilet Pena, Dominican Republic: Handspring double front to her bottom. I’m starting to feel slightly more comfortable with seeing her do this — she gets enough block to do it and not kill herself, even if she doesn’t land on her feet. At least she can get it mostly around. 14.766/7.0/7.766. Second vault is rather mediocre DTY, twists off the table, overrotates and has to roll backwards out of it. Looks very disappointed. She’s never been one to hide her emotions. 13.466/5.8/7.666. 13.966 average.
Oksana Chusovitina, Uzbekistan: Rudi, barely gets it to her feet. Didn’t have great block on that one and lands with legs quite apart. Ground comes up faster than she expected. Looks a little disappointed. 14.633/6.2/8.533. Second vault is Tsuk 1.5, jump/step forward. As she did in prelims, Chuso waves to the crowd. “What a gymnast, ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer says. 14.533/5.5/9.033. Average 14.583.
Phan Thi Ha Thanh, Vietnam: The 2011 World vault bronze medalist shows a decent Rudi first vault, landed a little low and takes a step forward. Better than Chuso’s, not as good as Steingruber’s. 14.966/6.2/8.866/-0.1. Second vault: Went for an Amanar and didn’t stand it up! That was a surprise. A bit underrotated, didn’t get the block she needed. Thought it was a DTY until the last second and she tries to crank around that extra half twist. Not sure how long she’s been training that — not long, by the looks of the vault. 13.633/6.3/7.933/-0.1. 14.299 average.
Chantysha Netteb, Netherlands: DTY and her right knee goes on her landing. She falls backward grabbing it and stays down. Receiving medical attention on the mat now, and then is lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled from the arena. Poor girl! She’s a first-year senior, and the reigning European junior champion on vault. Best wishes to her as she recovers.
Simone Biles, USA: Lovely Amanar, small hop back is the only thing. 15.933/6.3/9.633. Second vault is simply the best roundoff, half on, front layout half off ever. So much height, so much flight. She makes it look so easy…small hop to the side is really the only thing. Good for her! 15.258/5.6/9.658. Average 15.595 puts her first right now…
Hong Un Jong, North Korea: Has flashed 6.3, so no triple, or so we think…Amanar with a pretty decent step forward. That will not challenge Biles (or Maroney, likely), but she did stand up. Decent form in the air too — we’ve seen worse on this vault. 15.566/6.3/9.266. Second vault: A good Cheng (roundoff, half on, front 1.5 off), with a step back on landing. But that was harder than Biles’s second vault. Will it be enough? No — 15.4/6.4/9.0. 15.483 average.
McKayla Maroney, USA: Amanar, nearly stuck, lands on the line and eventually takes a teeny little step. Well, she went for the stick, and nearly got it. No 10 E-score today…15.966/6.3/9.766/-0/1. Second vault is roundoff, half on, front layout full off, and she makes it easily, just a controlled step forward on landing. I’d give it to her. The judges agree: 15.724 average, but just 0.129 over Biles means that she’s not far behind…
GOLD: McKayla Maroney, USA
SILVER: Simone Biles, USA
BRONZE: Hong Un Jong, PRK
Note: Cuteness at the end of the vault ceremony when Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney throw their bouquets into the crowd. I think they were following the leads of Kohei Uchimura and Kenzo Shirai, who marched out empty handed…
Zhang Hongtao, China: The 2009 World pommel horse champion ranked third in qualifications. Complicated and well controlled work. Two super small leg separations, once on a Russian travel and once just before his full pirouetting dismount. Otherwise, excellent routine. 15.6/6.6/9.0.
Alberto Busnari, Italy: The four-time Italian Olympian (2000-2012) started doing an unusual flairs to handstand and back down sequence in his routine several years ago, but he’s just now becoming known for it, and it’s just now becoming a trend. Busnari was fourth on pommel horse in London. Takes a deep breath before beginning. Busnari knows a good thing when he’s got one — he goes up through the handstand and down three times during this routine, picking his way carefully between the pommels. He’s very clean, and very careful. Just a small hesitation before his dismount (people in the crowd scream) and does full pirouette before planting himself on the floor. Will be interesting to see what the judges do — certainly it is one of the most original pommel routines of the past several years, but was it enough? Yes, for now — 15.6/7.1/8.5. Good for him!
Prashanth Sellathurai, Australia: If this were a competition for fastest pommel work, this tiny Aussie would win hands down. Watching it on the big screen it actually looks like a tape being played in fast forward. Halfway through the routine he misjudges where the horse is on one of those speedy circles, hits the side of the horse with his feet and falls. Pity! 14.033/6.6/7.433.
Max Whitlock, Great Britain: The Olympic bronze medalist has what is reputed to be the toughest pommel set in the world…he too goes up through the handstand and down in this routine, and though he’s fairly clean to my eyes he’s lost a bit of form — would like to see more toepoint, etc. Does one less half pirouette on his dismount than he’d planned, I think. You can distinguish the voice of Beth Tweddle in the stands somewhere yelling “go Max!” 15.633/7.2/8.433 — Max takes the lead!
Robert Seligman, Croatia: A long and elegant routine from this long and elegant gymnast. That was superb — wonderful lines on this event. If you could pair his bodyline with Whitlock’s difficulty, you’d have…well, Krisztian Berki, I suppose. But it would be nice to see Seligman get a moment in the sun too. Great set, but judges put him fourth right now — 15.433/6.4/9.033.
Kohei Kameyama, Japan: Hit set. The Japanese are going wild with delight in the stands. Terrific work, lines, form, difficulty, all the rest. Kohei flashes a peace sign. 15.833/6.9/9.933 puts him first ahead of Whitlock!
Daniel Corral Barron, Mexico: Another gorgeous routine for the tall young man from Mexico. He’s been one to watch on this event for a couple of years, and it seems now he’s getting what he deserves. 15.633/220.127.116.113 puts him third right now.
Matvei Petrov, Russia: One of the only Russian men to qualify for event finals, pommel horse specialist Petrov is the hope of his country here. After terrific performances at the European Championships and Universiade, the Russian men have seemed a tad beaten up…terrific work in the style of Seligman and Corral but breaks form on a traveling Russian. That will do it for him…15.416/6.7/8.716.
GOLD: Kohei Kameyama, JPN
SILVER: Max Whitlock, GBR
SILVER: Daniel Corral, MEX
4. Zhang. 4. Busnari. 6. Seligman. 7. Petrov. 8. Sellathurai.
Yao Jinnan, China: Stalder Maloney to Pak to stalder van Leeuen. Mo salto and misses! Never seen anyone miss a Mo. She comes down on her elbows but she’s all right, and the announcer says right away that flash photography is forbidden and that it’s dangerous for the gymnasts. Doesn’t stop a couple of people from flashing away through the rest of this routine right behind the bars. Double layout with a small hop. 14.633/6.9/7.733.
Huang Huidan, China: Inbar full to Maloney to Pak to stalder Maloney half. Blind to Ono to pike Jaeger. Full twisting double tuck, stuck. Hugs her coach on the podium. I dunno…in a few places that looked a tad sluggish, but what do I know? 15.4/6.6/8.8.
Beckie Downie, Great Britain: Had an incredible set going before she overcooked her last toe stalder half before her dismount and falls. Oh, Beckie…she looks devastated. Other than that, it was perfect, complicated and interesting, with great combos. Full twisting double tuck dismount, small step. What a shame, what a shame! 13.8/6.4/7.4.
Sophie Scheder, Germany: Inbar full to Maloney to bail to toe full, kips off, inbar Ray. Inbar stalder inbar blind to Jaeger. Full twisting double tuck, just a small hop. Lovely set. Great job for the first year senior, one of the new hopes of the German team. 14.683/6.4/8.283.
Simone Biles, USA: Weiler half to Maloney. Jerky toe full to Tkatchev. Pike Tkatchev to Pak. Toe shoot to high. Toe stalder to full twisting double tuck dismount, tiny hop. Great routine. The deduction on the toe full to Tkatchev will likely keep her out of the medals, but a hit is a hit. 14.716/6.1/8.616
Kyla Ross, USA: Opportunity for Ross! Inbar Shaposh (did her legs come apart on that? She lost her toepoint…) to Pak, toe Van Leeuen. Blind to Jaeger. Toe full to bail to Ray. Stuck double layout. 15.266/6.4/8.866 puts her second behind Huang right now!
Aliya Musatfina, Russia: Stalder full to full twisting Maloney to mixed grip. Pak to stalder to toe Maloney half. Inbar blind to Jaeger pike. toe full to 1.5 twisting double tuck, took a step on the landing, however. But Mustafina is proving that she can hit this routine…15.033/6.5/8.533 puts her third now…
Ruby Harrold, Great Britain: Maloney to Bhardwaj, really hard. Maloney half to Zuchold impresses everyone. Toe blind to Jaeger. Double front with a step back. Let’s see what the judges do with that…Ruby has worked so hard on her presentation during the past few months, and it’s evident in her improvement. 14.333/6.3/8.033.
GOLD: Huang Huidan, CHN
SILVER: Kyla Ross, USA
BRONZE: Aliya Mustafina, RUS
4. Biles. 5. Scheder. 6. Yao. 7. Harrold. 8. Downie.
Samir Ait Said, France: A group in the crowd holds up a sign that says, “Samir Ait-Said: Lord of the Rings.” With his taped shoulder and gritting his teeth, the Frenchman is the hope of his country on this event. Terrific rotuine for the co-European champion here — the crowd is very supportive (France too is just next door.) Full twisting double layout with a hop forward. Excellent set. 15.5/6.8/8.7.
Aleksandr Balandin, Russia: Presses right up to a gorgeous iron cross. Is remarkably slow in his movements — takes his time, as though to underline how very strong he is. Very beautiful style, very correct positions. A real show of force. Full twisting double layout with a hop. 15.733/6.9/8.833.
Arthur Zanetti, Brazil: The Olympic champ on this event looks a little nervous as he’s lifted to the rings. A very nice routine, punctuated with a stuck full twisting double layout. Jajajaja! Zanetti is pumping his fists before he lifts his head on that dismount. What relief he must feel! 15.8/6.8/9.0 moves him in front of Balandin!
Danny Pinheiro-Rodrigues, France: Fantastic routine going with two Victorian crosses. Went for broke and did a full twisting double layout dismount and didn’t have the stamina and stumbled forward. The crowd groans. Poor Danny! He looks very disappointed. 14.566/6.9/7.666.
Brandon Wynn, USA: Two inverted crosses to pike Yama to iron cross. The Americans, seated all the way across the arena, are yelling and yelling encouragement. Everyone else is silent. Full twisting double layout, stuck, and Brandon is celebrating on the podium! Literally dances off it and into the arms of his coach, Casimir Suarez. Brandon is something of a surprise at this meet — he’s actually a good all-arounder but best on rings. He competed rings and p-bars here and has made finals in both. The age of Wynn? 15.666/6.7/8.966. Third place right now.
Liu Yang, China: He was super impressive in qualifying, a regular Chen Yibing. Exceptional inverted cross. Azarian to inverted cross. Tucked Yama to Maltese. Iron cross. Full twisting double layout, but lands a bit low and takes a hop forward. 15.633/6.8/8.833.
Yuri van Gelder, Netherlands: A big ovation for the Dutchman as he mounts the rings. Kip to inverted cross. Maltese. Pike Yama to Azarian. Maltese. Iron cross. Showing no weakness…One last inverted cross thrown in there, and shouts of encouragement come from around the arena as he prepares for his dismount. Full twisting double layout, small hop, big smile from Yuri. 15.533/.6.9/8.633. Fifth place right now.
This is interesting: There’s an inquiry into the score of Brandon Wynn…but the judges do not modify the score.
Koji Yamamuro, Japan: Presses from an inverted cross to handstand, wow. Pike Yama to Azarian. Iron cross. Planche. Just a bit of endurance on his last handstand before his double double layout (guess he was saving what was left in the tank for that!) Just a small hop forward. Koji has his hands clasped as he waits for his score. 15.433/6.8/8.633 for seventh.
GOLD: Arthur Zanetti, BRA
SILVER: Aleksandr Balandin, RUS
BRONZE: Brandon Wynn, USA
4. Liu. 5. Van Gelder. 6. Ait Said. 7. Yamamuro. 8. Pinheiro-Rodrigues
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