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Artur Dalaloyan: 'I Can't Believe It Yet'
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There were so many critical points in the men’s all-around final at the 2018 World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

The first was the tie between the defending champion from 2017 Worlds in Montreal, Xiao Ruoteng of China, and Russian Artur Dalaloyan (87.598). Dalaloyan, 22, won with the five highest E-scores.

Said Dalaloyan: “I can’t believe it yet. I need to to probably go to my hotel, take a deep breath and realize that yes, I won this championship.”

Dalaloyan was the first Russian to win a world all-around title since Nikolai Kryukov won the title at the 1999 Worlds in Tianjin, China. Kryukov previously had coached Dalaloyan on the junior national team.

The next critical turn of events had to do with Ukrainian Oleg Vernyayev, who after three events (rings, vault and parallel bars), had a massive 1.532 lead over Xiao. But on high bar, he went the wrong way on a Takemoto and touched down on his dismount, a double-twisting double layout.

The final blow hit Sam Mikulak deep in his gut. The five-time U.S. champion was on fire through five events, and could have claimed a medal, but on high bar he caught too close on a Kolman, which required a severely piked giant to get over the top. The next trick sealed his fate, which dropped him to fifth place.

“Having my grip slip on a Tkatchev-half was not the way I would ever thought this to go down,” he said.

Said Russian Nitika Nagornyy, who placed third, “Simply, Sam Mikulak made a mistake and gave me a chance, and I took advantage of it. …If I was fourth, I don’t know what I would have done—maybe run back to Russia by foot.”

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Dalaloyan. Kryukov was one of the coaches who guided him through his tumultuous career.

“I remember how he was in my youth team, and how I took him to the Japanese Junior International,” Kryukov said. “I remember saying to him, ‘Look what they are doing, the Chinese and Japanese gymnasts. Look, this is possible! But he still couldn’t believe in himself.”

The lack of confidence resulted in inconsistent performances, and he went through a rebellious period in his teens that finally resulted the 15-year-old being expelled from the national team for disciplinary reasons.

“I really understood a simple thing: I need gymnastics,” Dalaloyan said. “I did not do things the way professional athletes should do. When you are 18 or 19 years old, it is difficult to lock yourself in the gym and only train. I wanted to have fun, dance with girls, go for walks and much more.”

Dalaloyan was not selected for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Two years later he won the golds in the all-around and on floor, the vault silver and the bronze on parallel bars.

That’s quite a turnaround.

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