China and Japan battle it out in the third session of qualification at the 46th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships at the SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow, Scotland. Pictured: Gymnastics king Kohei Uchimura begins his quest for six world titles.
The third day of qualification continues Sunday at the 46th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships at the SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow, Scotland. The third session of men's qualification includes defending world champion China and runner-up Japan, who have evolved the biggest rivalry in gymnastics over the past decade. Both teams are loaded with talent but the star of this session will be five-time world champion Kohei Uchimura.
The competition is the first of two qualifications for next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Only the top eight countries will clinch berths to send teams to the Olympics. Teams finishing ninth to 16th will advance to the second Olympic qualification next April in Rio, where four more teams will earn tickets to the Olympics. Also at stake are spots in the all-around final (top 24) and apparatus finals (top eight on each event). Individual gymnasts competing without teams can earn automatic berths to Rio by winning a medal in Glasgow.
Mixed Group 20: Floor Exercise
Egypt, Poland and Slovenia compete in Mixed Group 20. Slovenia is without two-time parallel bars world champion Mitja Petkovšek, who announced his retirement a few weeks ago. Slovenia still has medal hopes in pommel horse specialist Sašo Bertoncelj, a three-time world finalist and champion at this summer's European Games.
China: Pommel Horse
In 2014, China topped Japan by 1 point in qualification, and then beat them by .1 in the team final. The Chinese team lacks any major individual stars — no Chinese has won a world or Olympic all-around medal since Yang Wei won the 2008 Olympic Games — but they smartly design their team to get the best total possible. Five of the team members from 2014 are back, with newcomer Xiao Ruoteng replacing Ran Cheng. The team boasts world champions in Liu Yang (still rings), Zhang Chenglong (high bar), Lin Chaopan (parallel bars). The Chinese team typically plays it casual in qualifications, paying attention to their specialists qualifying to their best events while easily qualifying to team finals. Four are doing all-around, with You Hao are Liu sitting it out, so it is a mystery who will qualify to the all-around.
Belgium: Still Rings
Belgium was 19th at the 2014 Worlds and are unlikely to squeeze in the top 16 this year. Like their female counterparts, the Belgian men are an improving program. 2012 Olympian Jimmy Verbaeys, 21st all-around in London, is looking to get back into the all-around final.
Admired for their precise and beautiful gymnastics, the Japanese have nevertheless come up short at the world championships since 1978. They've been frustrated by China for the past decade, Japan's disappointing loss at the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo was surpassed only by their controversial .1 loss last year in Nanning. The team is full of talent, but all eyes will of course be on five-time Kohei Uchimura, who is simply the greatest male gymnast of all time. He is aiming to extend his spectacular streak with a sixth world title in Glasgow, but most of all would like a team title. Like China, Japan will easily qualify to the final barring a disaster, so the only question is which of their gymnasts will make the finals. Floor star Kenzo Shirai is out to regain his world title and has added a triple-twisting double back to his routine. Kazuma Kaya can bring a huge score on pommel horse, and Yusuke Tanaka is fantastic on parallel bars and high bar, and is a potential all-around medalist if he can put six strong routines together. 2012 Olympian Ryohei Kato, second all-around at the 2013 Worlds, injured his ankle in August and will skip floor and vault in Glasgow.
Mixed Group 16: Parallel Bars
Malaysia and Venezuela make up Mixed Group 16. 2008 Olympian Jose Luis Fuentes is still Venezuela's top gymnast. He made history in Beijing, qualifying to the all-around and pommel horse final, and is looking for a second Olympic berth. Malaysia has sent one gymnast, 18-year-old Loo Phay Xing, a finalist on pommels and parallel bars at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. Loo will compete three events in Glasgow.
Mixed Group 10: High Bar
Mixed Group 10 is Denmark and Ireland. The Irish trio will have huge support at the SSE Hydro Arena. 2012 Olympian Kieran Behan still leads Ireland and a flawless floor exercise performance could put him in the final.
Next Up: Full teams from Colombia, Greece and Korea!
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