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Competition Reports

Written by Christian Ivanov    Tuesday, 08 October 2019 13:38    PDF Print
Biles Leads the U.S. To Fifth Straight World Title
(5 votes, average 4.20 out of 5)

In an error filled-competition, Simone Biles led the United States to their fifth straight world championships title in Stuttgart, Germany. Biles competed on all four events for the team and posted the highest scores of the competition on VT-15.4 (Cheng), BB-14.443 (full twisting double tuck dismount) and FX-15.333 (triple twisting double tuck mount) to help the U.S. total 172.330 for their fifth title in a row. The U.S. team had to count falls on bars (Grace McCallum-toe full) and beam (Sunisa Lee-ff-ff layout two feet), but the rest of the performances were on point and with plenty of difficulty and poise. Lee earned the highest bar score for USA at 14.733/6.4 (Nabieva to Pak to Maloney to Bhardwaj). Jade Carey contributed big scores on vault (15.166) and floor (14.333), while Kara Eaker posted a worthy 14.0/6.0 for her difficult beam routine.  With her first gold medal in Stuttgart, Biles made history by earning her 21st medal from world championships, surpassing Russian legend Svetlana Khorkina who has a total of 20 world medals.

The Russian team defended their silver medal from a year ago in Doha posting 166.529. The team began on bars and earned the highest total of the day on the event (43.665), but then had two falls on the next event, beam. Strong floor and vault rotations by Angelina Melnikova and Lilia Akhaimova helped the team climb up in the rankings for a second consecutive team silver medal.

Italy was the Cinderella team of the competition and earned the bronze medal with 164.796. With four first year seniors on the squad the Italian team qualified in 8th place to the final. But with nearly perfect competition led by their strongest all-arounder, Giorgia Villa, the team won the bronze, their first team medal since 1950. “I am so proud of these warriors. I told them before beam: do great gymnastics, don’t worry about falling”, head coach Enrico Casella said after the competition. The Italian team suffered multiple falls on beam during qualifications, and had to end the competition on that event during the final. Their last gymnast Elisa Iorio fell on her mount (round off layout step out) but the team had established enough lead to be able to hold on to the third place finish. Italy was particularly impressive on bars where their three routines tied the score of the U.S for second best of the day, and vault where they competed three double twisting Yurchenko vaults.

Finishing in disappointing fourth was China scoring 164.230. The Chinese began on vault and managed to hit three double twisting Yurchenko vaults. But on bars Liu Tingting fell off twice on her Healy move, and then had another fall on beam (front handspring front), which distanced the team from the top contenders. The Chinese rallied to compete strong on floor but it wasn’t enough to catch the Italians.

After nearly a perfect qualifying round France started the competition with two falls on bars by Claire Pontlevoy (piked Jaeger and double front dismount) and then a fall on beam by team leader Melanie dos Santos crushed their hopes for a team medal. Sixth was Great Britain who had to count falls on floor and bars. Becky Downie eanred the top score of the day on bars at 14.9/6.5.  The teams from Canada and Netherlands finished in seventh and eighth place respectively.

The world championships continue tomorrow with the compelling men’s team final competition.

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Written by Christian Ivanov    Saturday, 05 October 2019 17:28    PDF Print
The U.S. and Simone Biles Dominate Qualifications At Worlds
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Competing in the last subdivision of the women’s qualification at the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, the U.S. team led by Simone Biles dominated the women’s competition. Counting a fall on beam on their last event, the U.S. team posted 174.205, five points higher than second place finisher China who posted 169.161. With a clean competition, third after qualification was Russia scoring 168.713.

Simone Biles successfully debuted her triple twisting double tuck on floor and double twisting double tuck off beam, and the two skills should be named “the Biles” after the FIG officially reviews the quality of the performances.

Four-time world all-around champion Biles tops the all-around standings with an impressive 59.432. Biles also qualified to all four individual event finals, posting the highest scores on beam 14.8 and floor 14.833, and second best score on vault 15.199, just .001 behind teammate Jade Carey.

Second in the all-around standings is Sunisa Lee (USA) who had to count a fall on her layout to two feet on beam. Lee’s best performance was on uneven bars where she posted a 15.0/6.4 and qualified to the bars final with third best score behind Nina Derwael from Belgium 15.141/6.5, and Daria Spiridonova from Russia 15.016/6.3. Lee also qualified to the floor final with the second highest score behind Biles, posting a 14.2, which tied teammate Carey, but Lee advanced to the final due to higher execution score.

The competition ended in a somewhat controversial way for the U.S. team as balance beam medal hopeful Kara Eaker received a score of 13.866 and the U.S. team inquired it. After the inquiry, instead of the score being raised, it was lowered to 13.466, which cost Eaker the final; she is now the first alternate for the beam final.

Third in the all-around standings is Melanie dos Santos who had a stellar performance resulting in 56.782. In addition, the French star qualified to the beam and floor finals, and France also qualified to the team finals in 4th place. Russia’s Angelina Melnikova posted the fourth best all-around at 56.599. Melnikova also advanced to the bars and floor finals.

The Chinese team led by Liu Tingting and Li Shijia who were sixth and seventh in the all-aruond managed to earn one final on both vault and bars, and two finals on beam.

The shock of the competition was Brazil who failed to qualify a full team to the Olympics by placing outside of top 12. The teams that earned tickets to Tokyo in order of placement are: 1. United States, 2. China, 3. Russia, 4. France, 5. Canada, 6. Netherlands, 7. Great Britain, 8. Italy, 9. Germany, 10. Belgium, 11. Japan and 12. Spain. The top 8 teams qualified to the team final on Tuesday.

According to the FIG qualification procedures the following all-arounders whose countries did not qualify to Tokyo have also earned their Olympic qualification:

1. Flavia Saraiva – Brazil

2. Giulia Steingruber – Switzerland

3. Georgia Godwin – Australia

4. Diana Varinska – Ukraine

5. Lee Yunseo – Korea

6. Zsofia Kovacs – Hungary

7. Martina Dominici – Argentina

8. Alexa Moreno – Mexico

9. Danusia Francis – Jamaica

10. Kim Su Jong – North Korea

11. Aneta Holasova – Czech Republic

12. Marcia Vidiaux – Cuba

13. Maria Holbura – Romania

14. Elisa Haemmerle – Austria

15. Anastasiya Alistratova – Belarus

16. Farah Ann Abdul Hadi – Malaysia

17. Mandy Mohamed – Egypt

18. Nazli Savranbasi – Turkey

19. Barbara Mokasova – Slovakia

20. Filipa Martins – Portugal

Unofficially, there should be 12 more spots available for Olympic qualification, 3 on each individual event final. Since most of the finalists are competitors whose teams have already qualified, these remaining spots should be given to the next all-arounders in line (one per country).

1.Yeo Seojeong – Korea – vault finalist

2. Ana Derek – Croatia

3. Caitlin Rooskrants – South Africa

4. Jonna Adlerteg – Sweden

5. Gabriela Janik – Poland

6. Simona Castro – Chile

7. Lihie Raz – Israel

8. Julie Erichsen – Norway

9. Ariana Orrego – Peru

10. Oksana Chusovitina – Uzbekistan

11. Ting Hua-Tien - Chinese Taipei

12. Marina Nekrasova – Azerbaijan

For full results click here.

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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 01 October 2019 11:03    PDF Print
Toba: ‘Inspiration Leads To New Achievements’
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Featured in the October issue of International Gymnast magazine, reigning German all-around champion Andreas Toba told IG he is eager to perform at his best in front of a home crowd at the World Championships starting Friday in Stuttgart.

“It makes it definitely more fun hearing all those fans who came here to see the result of your hard work,” said Toba, a two-time Olympian who hopes the German team’s performance in Stuttgart will earn it a berth to next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. “I’m sure it can positively hit everyone on the field of play and help to gain even more power. Inspirations leads to the new achievements.”

At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Toba bravely competed on pommel horse in qualifications following the serious injury he sustained on floor exercise in the previous rotation. His clutch performance earned Germany a spot in the team final and Toba the nickname “Hero de Janeiro” by members of the German media.

Toba and a business partner later opened “Hero’s,” a since-closed Hanover restaurant that he considers a worthwhile venture nonetheless.

“We did not have any thought that it should became a Plan B, if I cannot go along my gymnastics way or something like that,” he told IG. Hero’s was like a hobby to us. We tried it. Something went not in that direction which we had expected, and we decided to focus on other things. I’m a bit sorry about that, but there is a whole bunch of things to try in our lives, right?”


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Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 26 September 2019 11:25    PDF Print
‘We Will Fight In Any Circumstances,’ Says French Coach
(3 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)

French coach Eric Hagard told IG that his team and its individual gymnasts, including 2019 European all-around champion Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, have strong chances and high expectations for medals at the 2019 World Championships that begin October 4th in Stuttgart, Germany.

“The team is ready for Worlds, and we expect Olympic qualification,” he said. “We will have a last training camp in Paris just before our departure for Germany. The team spirit is strong and all the girls are determined, as is the coaching staff.”

Aiming for one of nine team berths to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games that are available in Stuttgart, the French squad for Worlds includes De Jesus Dos Santos, two-time European balance beam medalist and ’16 Olympic balance beam finalist Marine Boyer, ’19 European balance beam bronze medalist Lorette Charpy and Aline Friess.

The fifth designated starter, 2017 European vault champion and ’19 European vault silver medalist Coline Devillard, withdrew due to an ankle injury. “We will replace her with one of the young gymnasts who were alternates on the roster,” Hagard said.

France placed fifth in the team final at the 2018 Worlds in Doha, where the top three teams earned berths to Tokyo, but Hagard said his team has medal-winning potential in Stuttgart.

“Of course, the race for the team podium is going to be very exciting, because a few nations will be able to reach those steps,” said Hagard, who with his wife, Monique Hagard, coaches De Jesus Dos Santos, Charpy and Friess. “The U.S. and Simone Biles are unbeatable today, China seems to have a very good chance to climb onto the podium, and the bronze is open.”

Hagard cites Russia, Italy and Great Britain among the top teams capable of a medal in Stuttgart.

“Russia was third in Doha and is a serious contender, with experienced and talented gymnasts with numerous awards all around the world,” he said. “Italy is also a serious threat with its ‘Magic Four’ newcomers born in 2003 who are such excellent all-arounders, able to produce clean and precise routines on each apparatus. Great Britain has also a very good team, with the double Downies (Ellie and Becky).”

Hagard is confident in his own team’s medal hopefuls, though. Foremost among them is De Jesus Dos Santos, who placed fifth all-around at the 2017 Worlds in Montreal and sixth all-around at the 2018 Worlds.

“Melanie is the leader of the French team, and her last competition in Paris (Challenge Cup, September 14-15) was pretty good, with a gold medal on bars, which was her weakest event in the past,” Hagard said. “She worked a lot to upgrade her routine including a new connection with a Pak-full. She will also show a new floor routine based on her own musical choice. We are expecting the beam and floor finals, in order to show some enthusiastic and quality gymnastics.”

De Jesus Dos Santos has a realistic chance to challenge indomitable four-time world all-around champion Biles, Hagard said.

“Melanie is a good all-arounder and with her D-scores, she could be close to the unavoidable Queen Simone,” he said.

Hagard said that, even without Devillard’s services, France plans to perform with aggressiveness and pride. “Obviously, Coline’s injury is a big loss for the team, especially on vault, which was part of our winning strategy,” he told IG. “We will fight in any circumstances and show to the world that France is there!”

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Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 23 September 2019 09:06    PDF Print
Huddleston: ‘Bulgaria Will Be Back’
(4 votes, average 4.25 out of 5)

Born in the Netherlands to a Bulgarian mother and an American father, recent Challenge Cup of Mersin medalist David Huddleston of Bulgaria told IG he is hopeful that the once-mighty country he represents internationally can regain its former gymnastics stature.

“I of course strive to succeed,” said Huddleston, who earned the first Challenge Cup of his career when he won silver on vault in Mersin, Turkey, on September 1. “Not just for myself, but to help and show the world that Bulgaria, once on the top of the world in gymnastics, will be back sooner or later.”

Huddleston’s gymnastics journey is unique and indeed international. He was born in the Hague, the Netherlands, and lived in the Caribbean for eight years. He has lived “on and off” in the U.S. for a total of about five years, and in Bulgaria for a total of about six years.

“We have traveled a lot throughout the years,” Huddleston said.

Huddleston said he owes his gymnastics career to his mother, Gergana Georgieva, a former track athlete in her native country. She runs her own trucking company in Texas, assisted by Huddleston’s father, Herbert Justus Huddleston, who used to work for a solar company.

“My mother was the reason I started gymnastics in general,” said Huddleston, who holds dual citizenship with Bulgaria and the U.S. “She is an ex-athlete and saw potential in me as a gymnast. She made me do the splits every day and taught me how to do a back flip. In 2007 my mother was talking with my now coach, Damyan Ignatov, on the phone, and she took a big step of moving from the Caribbean to Bulgaria just so I could train with him.”

Huddleston also thrived while training in the U.S. during a couple relocations. He first trained under coach Vladimir Artemev at 5280 Gymnastics in Colorado, and later under 1988 Olympic all-around champion Vladimir Artemov (not to be confused with Artemev) in Texas. Later he trained at Alamo Gymnastics in Texas and then under coach Ryan Maskell at Powerhouse Gymnastics in San Antonio. “He is such an amazing coach and person,” said Huddleston of Maskell. Ignatov, with whom Huddleston now trains in Sofia, is responsible for his more recent progress.

“I am very thankful for him,” said Huddleston of Ignatov. “He was the one who pushed me and advanced me into being a better gymnast.”

Huddleston said he believes the current and future generations of Bulgarian gymnasts can thrive with more financial support. As another example of their potential, teammate Yordan Aleksandrov won two medals in Mersin and one medal at the Challenge Cup of Szombathely, Hungary, the following weekend.

“It's sad to know that the country you compete for was once at the top and now it's not — not even close,” Huddleston told IG. “In my opinion it all has to do with finances. We have a lot of young talented gymnasts that I dearly want to see, future-wise. I want them to succeed. We have really good gymnasts overall. It's just that, in my opinion, money is what's lacking. We don't go to many competitions to show what we can do.”

Huddleston now looks to qualify for next summer’s 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo through his performance at next month’s World Championships in Stuttgart.

“My plan to go to Tokyo is through the World Championships,” he said. “I will be doing my all-around performance.”

Check out David Huddleston on Instagram:

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