The Glasgow World Championships concluded with an exciting second day of apparatus finals, when one man defended his world title and one woman set a record for the most golds at a worlds.
North Korea's Ri Se Gwang won his second straight world title on vault, performing a piked Dragulescu and his own tsukahara to tucked full-in, back-out, after which he stumbled to stay on his feet. Both vaults are worth 6.4, which ultimately kept him ahead of four-time world vault champion Marian Dragulescu, 34 (Romania), who opened with his namesake vault (6.0) and followed with a Li Xiaopeng (6.2). Ri won, 15.45-15.40. And unlike last year, he did not have to limp off the podium.
American Donnell Whittenburg won the bronze, performing a Dragulescu and Ri Se Gwang. Perhaps gambling with the latter vault in the all-around final gave him more confidence in the final. His average was 15.35.
Oleg Vernyayev of Ukraine was fourth (Dragulescu, stuck; Lopez) with 15.283, and teammate Igor Radivilov placed fifth with 15.083 (Dragulescu, step; Tsukahara-double pike step).
Russia's Denis Ablyazin had the vaults to medal, but he put his hands down on a Ri Se Gwang. Finishing seventh and eighth, respectively, were Kenzo Shirai (Japan), who was incomplete on a Yurchenko-triple twist, and Kim Hansol (Korea), who fell forward on a Yeo 2.
One of the most competitive finals in Glasgow, parallel bars rewarded the men with the highest D-scores. China's You Hao (7.3 D-score) defeated defending champion Oleg Vernyayev (7.1), 16.216-16.066. You was precise throughout (Dmitrienko, piked Belle) and stuck his barani-out, while Vernyayev (peach-half, peach-1 bar, Healy; Bhavsar) failed to stick the same dismount.
Oleg Stepko (Makuts, peach-1 bar, Healy; double pike dismount, step; 7.0 D-score), who performed a superb set as the first competitor, tied for the bronze with China's Deng Shudi (7.1), who performed a piked Dmitrienko, piked Morisue and a piked Belle. Both gymnasts scored 15.966.
Excecution scores keith three of the remaining four competitors off the medal podium. Fifth-place Manrique Larduet of Cuba displayed the most amplitude of the finalists, but slight form breaks left him with 15.733 (6.9). Likewise, Danell Leyva (USA), sixth, was given 8.766 (6.9) for 15.666, although he appeared to hit everything well and stuck his double front.
Yusuke Tanaka (Japan) and Nile Wilson (Great Britain), each with only 6.6 of difficulty, never stood a chance of medaling in this field, and finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
Andreas Bretschneider (Germany), the first competitor, had the routine to medal. He really did. He opened with an easy (for him) double-twisting Kovacs and caught a Cassina and Kolman. Then things went south, when he didn't connect a Takemoto to Yamawaki and his layout double-double dismount sent him staggering forward to avoid a fall (14.966/7.2). He wound up fifth.
American Chris Brooks followed and peeled off on a Yamawaki-Tkatchev to cross grip combination. He finished sixth (13.80/6.4).
Then things got interesting. American Danell Leyva, the top qualifier, cranked through his routine with extra energy (layout Kovacs, Kolman, half Takemoto to layout Tkatchev, Rybalko) and stuck his layout double-double for 15.70. His 7.3 D-score was also the highest of the group. Considering how poorly Leyva had performed in the all-around final, this routine was an encouraging end to his world championships, and his coach/stepdad celebrated accordingly.
As the next competitor, Japan's Kohei Uchimura tempered the enthusiasm of the American camp. Trailing Leyva's D-score by 0.20, Uchimura made up for it in execution, 8.733-8.400, and won the gold with 15.833. He caught an impeccable Cassina, and linked a half-Takemoto to Kolman. Uchimura's biggest mistakes were minor — a slight pause as he hit the handstand on a Takemoto, and a hop after his layout double-double.
Cuba's Manrique Larduet grabbed the bronze (15.60/7.0) and again showed incredible amplitude in his routine. He favors the Tkatchev and performs variations of them well, and his triple-twisting double layout dismount looks easy for him. Had he stuck it, he might have earned the silver, or at least tied for it.
Brazil's Arthur Oyakawa was fourth, showing only 6.5 of difficulty, and tying for seventh were Oliver Hegi (Switzerland) and 2007 high bar champion Fabian Hambüchen (Germany), both of whom fell. Hegi missed a half-Takemoto to Def, and Hambüchen staggered to a fall on his dismount.
With four of the eight finalists falling, the chances of a medal increased for the rest. First up Eythora Thorsdottir (Netherlands) dropped off after an Onodi to ruin a beautifully choreographed routine, employing interesting turns. She finished eighth.
Sanne Wevers, also from Netherlands, was next and hit a strong routine that included two double turns, consecutive side aerials in opposite directions and a switch leap to full-twisting back handspring. After a layout Gainer dismount (not stuck), she scored 14.233, which was later raised after an enquiry to 14.333.
Wevers' score remained unbeaten until Simone Biles (USA) performed an exceptional routine as the seventh competitor. With 6.4 of difficulty, she cruised through her barani, flip-flop to two layout step-outs and stuck her tucked full-in from two flip-flops. Her biggest mistake was a slight wobble after a front aerial. Her 15.358 took the lead.
China's Wang Yan matched Biles' D-score, but she fell on her first pass, a layout barani that used the entire length of the beam. She finished fifth (13.633).
Russia's Viktoria Komova was next and wobbled big-time after her standing Arabian front, which gave her a temporary third-place 13.933 (5.7).
Germany's Pauline Schaefer bumped Komova to fourth with a 14.133 (5.8) that included an interesting mount: standing with her back to the side of the beam, jump back to straddle split. She performed a switch ring leap, a flip-flop layout, front aerial to side somir and a double turn. She also stuck her dismount, a layout gainer off the end.
Ellie Black of Canada and Seda Tutkhalyan of Russia had the routines to medal, but both had falls: Black missed her flip-flop tucked full, and Tutkhalyan fell on a roundoff layout (but later nailed a beautiful roundoff layout-full). Tutkhalyan finished sixth (13.50/6.0) and Black was seventh (13.466/6.0).
Women's floor featured diverse routines, most of which relied on difficult tumbling. But it was encouraging to see someone like Lieke Wevers of the Netherlands qualify to the final based on her expressive choreography. With only 5.4 for a D-score, however, and only two tumbling passes (back double tuck, 2.5 twisting back), she finished eighth with 14.100.
But floor was always going to be about Simone Biles, the heavy favorite to repeat her title for the third year in a row. In Glasgow, she did one of her best floor routines, even if she over-rotated her Biles to split jump again. This time she stayed in bounds and played to the crowd in her final performance at the worlds. Her 15.800/6.8 would be untouchable, but two more medals were still up for grabs.
Maggie Nichols (USA) slipped into second after posting 15.000/6.2, and she avoids disastrous tumbling landings by staggering her feet the way 1989 world champion Svetlana Boginskaya once did.
With a 6.4 D-score, Russia's Ksenia Afanasyeva dropped Nichols to third with a 15.100 that featured intriguing choreography and solid tumbling (double layout, two whips through to triple twist; 2.5 twist to front layout, double pike).
China's Shang Chunsong (6.4) and Japan's Sae Miyakawa (6.3) tied for fourth (14.933), each excelling in their tumbling. Miyakawa's score may have suffered from competing first in the final, as she opened with a clean layout full-out, and came back with a punch front layout to double front tuck. Her third pass, like that of Biles, was a tucked double-double and she dismounted with a strong double layout. Shang mounted with a 3.5 twist to piked front and followed with a 1.5 twist through to triple twist, punch front.
Great Britain was well represented with Elissa Downie (14.733/6.0) and Claudia Fragapane (14.466/6.2), who finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Downie's tumbling form was exemplary (1.5 twist to Arabian double tuck, stag jump; piked double Arabian; 2.5 twist to piked front; double pike), as was Fragapane's expression. The latter also has great tumbling, but she stepped out of bounds on her dismount, a double layout.
In the last three world championships, Biles has won 10 gold medals, a record number by a woman at a worlds. Larisa Latynina, Gina Gogean and Svetlana Khorkina each won nine.
"It has not sunk in yet, but I know what I achieved," she said. "And that is unbelievable. I am proud of myself and the team that I have."
Unbelievable is definitely the perfect adjective to describe the three-time world all-around champion too.
Check out complete coverage of the Glasgow World Championships in the December issue of IG.