2014 Worlds Championships News

Written by Travis Seefried    Wednesday, 08 October 2014 23:14    PDF Print
Whitlock Gets Second Shot at All-Around
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

British star Max Whitlock will get another chance for redemption in Thursday evening's all-around final at the world championships in Nanning.

Max Whitlock (Great Britain)

The two-time bronze medalist from the 2012 Olympic Games will replace teammate Nile Wilson, who has withdrawn with a wrist injury.

Whitlock, the 2014 Commonwealth Games all-around champion, had originally failed to qualify to the all-around final after mishap on floor exercise in qualification left him in 14th place.

The top 24 gymnasts qualify to the all-around final; however, FIG rules stipulate only maximum of two gymnasts per country can advance to any final. Great Britain's Dan Purvis and Nile Wilson had qualified in 10th place and 13th place, respectively. Wilson edged Whitlock, the 2013 and 2014 British champion, for the second spot by .121.

"It was really tough out there and I'm not quite sure went wrong," Whitlock told the BBC about qualification. "I think I'm really feeling it now because there have been a lot of competitions this year, but I've just got to try and put it behind me and start with a clean slate."

When asked if British team coaches would consider replacing Wilson in favor of the more experienced Whitlock, head coach Eddie Van Hoof said it was not an option as Wilson and Purvis had "earned" their spots in the all-around final.

However, an untimely wrist injury has changed the all-around lineup. Wilson has been "carrying a sore wrist through the competition" and has withdrawn from the all-around final

"I'm obviously very disappointed," Wilson said after the team final, where Great Britain placed fourth. "My wrist was pretty sore today so I made the decision to pull out and save myself for the high bar final. I'll be right behind Max and Dan Purvis in the all-around and can't wait for the high bar on Sunday."

At the 2013 World Championships, Whitlock finished fourth all-aroundbehind medalists Kohei Uchimura (Japan), Ryohei Kato (Japan) and Fabian Hambüchen (Germany). Uchimura is favored to once again win, which will give him an unprecedented fifth consecutive world all-around titles.

Written by dwight normile    Wednesday, 08 October 2014 14:55    PDF Print
U.S. Women Win Back-to-Back World Titles
(11 votes, average 4.09 out of 5)

Jenny Liang (coach), Simone Biles, MyKayla Skinner, Alyssa Baumann, Madison Kocian, Madison Desch, Ashton Locklear, Kyla Ross.

While the U.S. women's team put up a fall-free effort in the world championship Team Finals, the rest of the eight-team field experienced a free fall of sorts. The defending champions posted the highest mark on every apparatus except balance beam (3rd), and never trailed throughout the meet. It was a show of dominance that could hardly have been predicted after the U.S. championships in August, when only eight gymnasts were healthy enough to compete in the all-around.

In Nanning, veteran Kyla Ross was the only American to work all four events in the medal round, while 2013 world all-around champion Simone Biles performed on every apparatus but uneven bars, where she had suffered a major break in qualifications.

Unlike the men's Team Final the day before, the women's meet had little drama. After Ross (double-twisting Yurchenko), MyKayla Skinner (Cheng Fei) and Biles (Amanar) vaulted for a team total of 46.741, the Americans had a healthy lead that only grew. At bars, Ross swung a steady 5.9-value (14.733) set and stuck her double layout. Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear, both of whom worked only one event, pitched in a 14.90 (6.3) and 15.10 (6.4), respectively. Each relied on tidy inside-Stalder work to boost their difficulty.

Alyssa Baumann kept the moment going on beam, her only event, with a 14.50 (6.0), while Ross and Biles each had a major wobble. Ross windmilled her arms after a side somi, and Biles nearly came off after her consecutive layouts.

By the final rotation, the U.S. had a cushion the size of an in-ground pit. All three gymnasts could have fallen and it would not have mattered. Ross (13.966) opened with an elegant routine (5.4 D-score) to set up power tumblers Skinner and Biles, both of whom had 6.5 of difficulty.

And both gymnasts made it look easy. MyKayla opened with two double-twisting doubles, one in layout, the other tucked. Her third pass was a tucked full-in, and after stepping out of the area on a leap, she closed with a 1.5 twist through to 2.5 twist (14.666). Biles' routine, which seems to get better every time she performs it, was more celebration than competition. Smiling throughout, she mounted with a tucked double-double and followed with her Biles, a double layout-half (stuck cold). After a double layout and tucked full-in, each from an effortless three-step run, she finished with a catchy ending pose that lit up the crowd (15.375).

With 179.280, the U.S. performed at a higher level than the other teams, several of which had a legitimate shot at silver. That medal when to China (172.587), although the home team was far from perfect. After hitting two of three Yurchenko-double-twists, the squad moved to one of its strong events, bars. But Shang Chunsong, whose routine is packed with big releases, made a silly error when her cast handstand went too far. She overarched in an effort to save it but dropped off. Huang Huidan, the 2013 world bars champion, hit well for 15.133 (Pak, Stalder-Shaposhnikova-half; barani-in dismount from elgrip), but Yao Jinnan did not work to her potential.

China found its groove on beam in the third rotation, but the gold was already out of reach. The American trio had already stayed on, but China posted a 44.066, tops for the event. Shang led the way with 15.066, showing solid tumbling, a double turn and triple twist dismount. Huang and Yao posted 14.60 and 14.40, respectively.

The final event revealed China's relative weakness to the field. It tallied the fifth-ranked total on floor (44.066), more than 3.0 behind the Americans. Tan Jiaxin opened with a clean 1.5 twist through to triple twist, but her D-score was only 5.6 (13.90). Chen Siyi was next and couldn't get through all of her tumbling. She fell on her double pike dismount, which could have been a result of her physical condition; she had wraps on both knees as well as on her left elbow and ankle. Shang anchored with a 14.033, which included her signature 1.5 twist through to triple twist punch front.

Russia held off Romania for the bronze, 171.462-170.963, riding the considerable talent and experience of Aliya Mustafina. The 2010 world champion worked every event for a 58.998 total, her top score coming on bars (15.066). Daria Spiridonova (inside-Stalder-Shaposhnikova-half) and Yekaterina Kramarenko contributed 14.966 and 14.633, but the next two events were a struggle for the team. Fifth place on beam and seventh on floor indicate that Russia is still trying to find six healthy, talented gymnasts. Closing on vault, with Yurchenko-doubles from Mustafina and Tatiana Nabieva and a Cheng Fei from Alla Sosnitskaya, the team was able reach the podium. But the team's overall performance gave credence to the words of deposed head coach Alexander Alexandrov, who told IG earlier this year that one of Russia's biggest problems was its lack of reserves in the program. Indeed, it appears that the reserves are already on the team.

With the lowest bars total of the meet (40.232), Romania did well to come so close to a medal. The team ranked second on vault and beam, and third on floor, which can be attributed to Larisa Iordache, who finally appears to be healthy.

Fifth-place Italy (169.023) ranked sixth on three events and second on floor, the latter due to the ageless Vanessa Ferrari, who led the team with her 14.666 (6.4). Ferrari, the 2006 world champion, mounted with three consecutive tumbling passes (tucked double-double, double layout to split jump, tucked full-in) and closed with a double pike. Ferrari, who turns 24 on Nov. 10, was the only Italian to do the all-around, and in fact was the only team member to work more than two events.

The lowest beam total dashed the hopes of Great Britain, a team that has shown great improvement and potential in recent years. Rebecca Downie seems to have found a new level of confidence, Ruby Harrold performs an extremely original routine on bars, and Claudia Fragapane is captivating on floor. Sixth place was probably lower than the Brits had hoped for, but a medal was probably out of reach anyway.

The Aussies used three 5.0 vaults, which was too much to overcome in a world Team Final. But head coach Peggy Liddick was pleased with how her team pulled together to finish seventh. After Lauren Mitchell had to pull out with injury, Kiera Munteanu stepped in and vaulted.

"Sometimes naiveté is a good thing," Liddick quipped.

She also praised the efforts of veteran Olivia Vivian. "She is an athlete and she is a fighter, and she sets such a great example for the young kids," Liddick said.

Japan finished eighth, mainly due to a lack of difficulty, which continues to be a narrative on the current state of gymnastics.

For now, the U.S. is leading the way in that department, even with four world championship rookies. Afterward, U.S. national team coordinator Marta Karolyi was all smiles.

"It makes me very happy because it proves that it's not just because somebody made a mistake [that we won]," she said. "But I think at this moment our group of girls are performing a higher level of gymnastics than most of the other countries."

At the Nanning Women's Team Final, that was clear for all to see.

Written by Travis Seefried    Wednesday, 08 October 2014 03:30    PDF Print
Shang: China Can Do Better in Team Final
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

After her team dominated the second day of women's qualifications at the 45th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Nanning, gymnast Shang Chunsong openly spoke to Chinese journalists.

After her team dominated the second day of women's qualifications at the 45th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Nanning, gymnast Shang Chunsong openly spoke to Chinese journalists.

Shang expressed her own personal disappointment with how she did during the recent Asian Games and also in qualifications in Nanning. Shang credited overthinking and fatigue from the Asian Games as the reasons she did not perform up to her own standards.

When asked by journalists what her game plan was heading into Wednesday's team finals, she stated, "To adjust myself and avoid the mistakes I made today in the team competition. Also, challenging myself to work hard and do my best in the team competition."

She also admitted to feeling the pressure to qualify individually to the all-around and event finals. "Next, we just have to relax ourselves and compete for the team. I think we will do better when we are relaxed."

When asked if she thought China would win its first women's world team gold since 2006, Shang coyly responded with, "It's hard to say."

However, Shang said she was most disappointed in not making the balance beam finals in Nanning. After making mistakes at the recent Asian Games on beam, Shang burst into tears and lost her composure. This time, after a small mistake in Nanning cost her a spot in the balance beam finals, Shang said she was able to stay composed.

"I wanted to cry this time too, but I held it together," she said.

In qualification, the Chinese team finished second overall with a score of 230.753, well behind the Americans' 235.038 but still ahead of Russia's 228.135. China did however finish first as a team on the uneven bars and balance beam, while the Americans finished first on both vault and floor exercise. The team finals will be in the three-up, three-count format.

Individually, Shang qualified eighth to Thursday's individual all-around final. Defending champion Simone Biles of the United States qualified first ahead of 2010 world champion Aliya Mustafina of Russia and 2012 Olympian Larisa Iordache of Romania. Shang's teammate, Yao Jinnan, qualified in fourth.

In the event finals, Yao and defending uneven bars world champion Huang Huidan lead the way on bars. Yao and teammate Bai Yawen also qualified to the balance finals. No Chinese woman attempted to qualify for the vault final, while Shang missed a spot in the floor exercise finals by .2. She is the second reserve for that event.

The Chinese women hope to duplicate the same victory the Chinese men accomplished in the men's team finals on Monday where they beat the Japanese by .1 of a point.

Written by dwight normile    Tuesday, 07 October 2014 10:29    PDF Print
China Wins a Nailbiter in Nanning
(12 votes, average 3.83 out of 5)

Just when Japan appeared to have won its first world team title since 1978, China did what it has done so often in the past. This was Lucy pulling the football out from under Charlie Brown, and the hurt registered on the faces of the entire Japanese team, which had led throughout the meet.

As the top two seeds, China and Japan competed together, and both had finally succumbed to the growing pressure of an all-scores-count format in the fifth rotation. Deng Shudi's legs landed on the parallel bars during his Bhavsar, and Japan's Yusuke Tanaka was forced to take intermediate swing. So when Japan and China moved to their final event, the entire arena reached fever pitch.

Japan's Ryohei Kato appeared tight and coughed up some of Japan's lead when his Takemoto finished on the wrong side of the bar. Tanaka redeemed himself on high bar with the highest D-score of his team (7.0) for a 15.266, and Kohei Uchimura anchored with an impeccable 15.400 (6.9). (How the E-panel judges gave him only 8.50 is a mystery.) His fist pumps afterward indicated that he thought Japan had done enough to win. And to do it in Nanning would be sweet revenge, after China defeated Japan in Tokyo three years ago.

Not so fast. After Deng and Lin Chaopan got through their 6.9-value sets, each with an assortment of minor flaws, the 2010 world high bar champion waited to finally perform his only routine in the Team Final. Zhang Chenglong (pictured here), who towers above his teammates, literally did the same during his 7.5-value high bar routine. His Cassina soared well above the bar, eliciting a roar from the crowd. Each successful trick did the same, with the loudest eruption coming after he nailed his dismount. Suddenly Japan was not smiling, and when Zhang's 15.966 was flashed, a No. 1 was placed alongside of China for the first time during the meet. China had slipped ahead of Japan, 273.369-273.269, confirming the old axiom that every tenth really does count.

Was the highest score of the meet for the final routine home-cooked? Was it a tactical mistake for Japan to use Tanaka on parallel bars instead of defending world p-bar co-champ Uchimura? Was the new Code to blame for rewarding raw difficulty over clean execution? (China entered with a 2.20 advantage over Japan, based on prelim D-scores.) These questions will likely be debated until the 2015 worlds in Glasgow.

For now, however, China will celebrate its sixth consecutive world team title, and Japan will wonder once again what it has to do to win. That Japan had recently won the Asian Games over China meant little to the host team in Nanning.

"We were competing with the second team (at the Asian Games)," Zhang said. "But this time, we were competing with our best team … we prepared well, physically and mentally."

That strategy could also describe the bronze-medal team from the U.S., which had the best hit percentage of the three medalists. Embroiled in a battle for third with Great Britain and Russia, the Americans refused to crack. Their biggest mistake was probably on p-bars, where Donnell Whittenburg had to muscle through a peach-half—and he has strength to spare. So when the sixth and final rotation was at hand, the U.S. was able rise above the Brits on floor to claim third, its second consecutive world bronze (2011).

"We tried to stay within ourselves," said Sam Mikulak, who competed on floor, pommels and vault. "[We] didn't really look at scores, just [stayed] in our own little zone."

Said U.S. head coach Mark Williams: "We learned some lessons from London," he said, referring to the U.S. winning the Olympic qualification round but collapsing in the Team Final. "We made some improvements … and I think this team understood that they didn't need to watch the scoreboard … just do your gymnastics."

The U.S. scored 270.369, 3.0 behind the champions, while fourth-place Great Britain tallied 269.170, the result of low D-scores on rings and p-bars. The Brits did, however, win pommel horse behind Daniel Keatings, Max Whitlock and Daniel Purvis. And European junior champion Nile Wilson filled in well on four events.

Russia (266.503) had a shot at the bronze, but it finished on pommel horse with the second-lowest total on the event (42.933) and the lowest on p-bars, where David Belyavsky and Nikita Ignatyev fell on their dismounts.

Brazil, Switzerland and Germany completed the standings in sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.

For the next year, at least, China will enjoy its status as six-time defending world champions, with Japan settling for silver in the last four. Perhaps Glasgow will produce a different result. But if history is any indication, it would be wise not to bet against China.

Written by Amanda Turner    Monday, 06 October 2014 05:50    PDF Print
Worlds Preview: Women's Qualification, Session 12
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Teams from France and Greek are the last to take the floor as women's qualification ends in session 12 at the 45th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Nanning, China.

The qualifications are a make-or-break event for all the gymnasts. At stake are spots in the all-around final (top 24) and apparatus finals (top eight on each event). Only the top 24 countries will advance full teams to next year's world championships in Glasgow, the first qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Claire Martin (France)

Greece: Vault

Two-time Olympian Vasiliki Millousi leads the Greek team, which finished 24th at the 2011 Worlds. With political and economic uncertainty in Greece, their gymnasts are coming off a difficult year that saw their federation abruptly cancel the national championships. Millousi's beam routine has the style and difficulty worthy of a spot in the finals if she can hit.

Taiwan: Uneven Bars

Taiwan (also known as Chinese Taipei) sent four female gymnasts to Nanning, after not entering a team in 2010. Lin Tseng-Ning is the top gymnast and will anchor the squad on each event.

Malaysia: Balance Beam

Only two gymnasts from Malaysia will compete in China. The team's top gymnast, Tracie Ang, is out of the competition with injuries to her back and hip. Ang said the injuries were aggravated by her preparation for the Commonwealth Games this summer, and she is likely to need back surgery before she can continue.

France: Floor Exercise

Tenth at the 2011 World Championships, France is aiming for a top-eight finish in Nanning. The team features veterans Youna Dufournet, Marine Brevet and Mira Boumejajen, along with newcomer Claire Martin. Martin, one of France's top talents this quadrennium, is beautiful to watch but will not compete vault, ruling her out of the all-around final.

Next Up: The first medals of these world championships will be awarded after the men's team final on Tuesday!

Flip over to International Gymnast Magazine's official Facebook page for live commentary from the 2014 World Gymnastics Championships in Nanning!


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