Worlds Preview: Men's Qualification, Session 1
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The 2017 World Championships begin with a bang Monday morning, with two Olympic champions from last summer's Games in Rio de Janeiro taking the floor at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. Pictured: Oleg Vernyayev (Ukraine)

The 2017 World Championships begin with a bang Monday morning in the first of four subdivisions of men's qualifications. Two Olympic champions from last summer's Games in Rio de Janeiro will take the floor at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, along with the defending all-around silver medalist from the 2015 Worlds.

With no team competition at this year's world championships, all the gymnasts competing in qualification will be aiming for medals, finals or just a personal best. The high caliber of men's gymnastics continues to grow around the world, as evidenced by more countries producing world-class gymnasts, most notably from Latin America.

Floor Exercise: Chinese Taipei and Germany

Four-time Olympian Fabian Hambüchen has officially retired after realizing his dream of Olympic gold in Rio on high bar, but veteran Marcel Nguyen is still going toward a fourth Olympic Games. Injured on floor exercise in Rio, Andreas Toba will compete a few events only. Ivan Rittschik (pommel horse) and Andreas Bretschneider (high bar) have chances for finals. Taipei continues to improve under Japanese coach Masao Hamada; Tang Chia-Hung won gold on floor exercise at this year's FIG World Challenge Cup in Doha.

Pommel Horse: Bulgaria, Uzbekistan and Armenia

The Armenian men boast two Olympians in world pommel horse medalist Harutyun Merdinyan and Artur Davtyan. Davtyan is a two-time European championships medalist on vault, while Vahagn Davtyan was a finalist on still rings at the 2015 Worlds in Glasgow, and has an element named after him. Bulgaria is represented by Bulgarian-American Yordan Aleksandrov, a senior at Cal-Berkeley.

Still Rings: Greece and Sweden

Olympic still rings champion Eleftherios Petrounias is the safest gold medal bet in Montreal, and the only gymnast who truly dominates any one event. He begins on his specialty and it will be interesting if will be outscored in qualification, in the case he is a victim of tight scoring in the early rounds.

Vault: Jamaica, Venezuela and Iceland

A diverse group of gymnasts is packed into this group, which interestingly includes three gymnasts from Jamaica. Former British team member Reiss Beckford, after his disappointment of not being sent to the Rio test event, is a sentimental favorite.

Parallel Bars: Ukraine, Israel and Algeria

All eyes will be on Ukraine's Oleg Vernyayev in this subdivision. The Olympic parallel bars champion is the best hope to finally defeat the undefeatable Kohei Uchimura of Japan. Vernyayev was gracious in his defeat last summer, losing the all-around title to King Kohei by a painfully thin .099, but there can be no question he wants to finally wear the all-around crown. In addition to parallel bars, Vernyayev is a potential finalist on several events, including pommel horse and vault. Despite being in his teammate's shadow, Petro Pakhnyuk has been hugely impressive this year since rejoining the Ukrainian team after several years of representing Azerbaijan. Pakhnyuk has improved significantly over the past year and has a shot at finals on floor exercise, pommel horse and parallel bars. Teammate Igor Radivilov has a good chance of finals on rings and vault if he hits, although the outrageous handspring triple front he attempted in Rio is a thing of the past.

Three-time Olympian Alexander Shatilov is absent, but Israel is represented by Artem Dolgopyat, who is actually a native of Ukraine. The springy Dolgopyat can do a triple back on floor exercise but may not risk it in qualification.

High Bar: Cuba, Qatar and Vietnam

After an injury left him disappointed in Rio, Cuba's Manrique Larduet is back in Montreal. He has not competed in any major international meets this year, but should be a contender for all-around, parallel bars and high bar finals if he is fully healthy.

Up next: The United States and Great Britain take the floor in subdivision two!

 

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