I can't lie, it was not riveting. It could have been better, but everybody had much the same routine. Oh travelling Russians, how 'new'! There was a Croatian with a very good routine, but he totally biffed the handstand dismount unfortunately. Max Whitlock was quite messy I thought. I also used this final as a snacks interlude...
As mentioned, bars were at the far corner of the arena, but the view wasn't bad. It was still totally possible to see if handstands were being hit, and little errors like leg separations. First up, because the Chinese always seem to be first..Yao Jinnan. Will she go for the Mo? Yes, I didn't think there was much doubt that she wouldn't, she needed it to fend off Aliya Mustafina and teammate Huang Huidan. The sense of anticipation and excitement in the crowd when they know something awesome is coming up...the roar when she caught the Mo...and the grief when she peeled off straight away. Gutting. Her shins and/or feet have always seemed perilously close to the bar on recatch and a still image showed that she may have been closer than usual in this final.
I didn't want Huang Huidan on this team. Or indeed Zeng Siqi though I was proved right there. Huang Huidan has been a gigantic flake and I was sure that after unexpectedly winning the bars title at Nationals prelims in May that her luck was going to run out. But then she hit all over the place on bars at National Games and her place didn't look like wishful thinking anymore. But another fabulous routine when it counts the most? How refreshing, especially after Yao's disaster. I love her connections, so zippy and no dead hangs. The shap revolution is really helping Chinese bars, though the devaluation of pirouette combinations is not. Her routine is more impressive again since she's one of the few left not using any grips at all, and practically alone among the best bars workers. Fabulous planted dismount. She's not one of the greatest bars workers they have, her technique just seems a bit off or wonky on some skills, especially one particular pirouette near the end but she has improved this year and a Chinese routine FINALLY got a well earned huge score. Take that, Marta! Side note, she is stunning. She is of an ethnic minority, hence her unusual looks.
Next up, Becky Downie. GB are bursting with fabulous leos so I cannot endorse this Nastia-esque horrible-ness as a result. I CAN forgive North Korea, who have very little funding. Anyway, Becky has struggled with this routine all year, both with the difficulty and endurance, and also getting back into routine shape herself. Her full potential was apparently 6.9 but I don't think she went for that once in Antwerp, correct me if I'm wrong. The fact that she hit in qualifying after so many mishaps during the year made me feel that all of her luck had already been used up, which...sadly proved to be the case. The stalder shap to Hindorff was fantastic, so dynamic but it all seemed to come apart from there, second guessing herself, seeming to slow down. Despite that, the routine went on and she was still resolutely on the bars getting through her releases, so I thought, along with the crowd, that she was going to make it. And then, off on an easy move. Damn. So disappointing, but not particularly surprising. I hope she rocks it at Euros next year and shows what it will be like in all of its glory.
Sophie Scheder steps up. These mounts are so varied! Sometimes they glide kip facing the high bar, sometimes facing away from it, wow. Not that I blame them, you gotta preserve your energy for the super-high-difficulty interior of the routine, but..boring. I absolutely love Sophie's lines and her swing seems quite light and easy, though she seemed to hesitate just a bit in a handstand. Fabulous flighty Jaeger, and another great dismount. Where on earth did they pull that execution score from? 8.283, yeah okay. It may not have been that exciting or have the highest difficulty, but it was a very strong routine. Sigh.
It's Simone Seamoney, fresh from a vault silver. Another moment of appreciation for the glorious purple leotard. The US tend to not give us too many such moments in international competition, thanks to Marta's pink obsession. Can she have the highest execution score again like she did in qualifications? I love her, but..for real? The more time that passes, the more bizarre it seems. She does have one huge advantage over a lot of her competitors here, and that is that her routine is short, she goes up and gets the job done. No hanging around doing turn combinations, where deductions are so easy to find. Starts off with another thrilling glide kip, ooooh. Aly Raisman is back shouting again. I wonder how much patience those sitting near her have? I know for a fact she's down sitting with the general ticket holders. It's a strong routine with some nice skills, but I'd say her leg flickering, back arch and occasional flexed feet will get the benefit of the doubt again. Killer dismount! It looks too easy for her, as well as working on form it will be nice when she has a shap half going on and the Ray dismount. Replay shows short handstands, so it should be her lowest scoring bars routine this worlds. Annnd...it's higher than the AA and four tenths higher than Sophie's execution. It should be funny except it isn't.
Kyla Ross brings the purple goddess leo to a new level of regal. It's nice to have a routine where you just know this gymnast will stay on and never, ever fall. It's clean, it's pretty, another hit routine with pretty much a stuck landing. But I think she's showing some tiredness here, like Simone did too. Slight leg separation in a few skills, a little short here and there, it wasn't as 'on' as she normally is, though that's not a huge surprise given that the US girls has been training without a day off for 3 weeks by that point. Don't get me wrong, it was a great routine, but just not done to her absolute best. Interesting that the replay shows she has the same issues as Simone but not as obvious. That elegant awesome long line though, so great to watch. But yes, I was hoping it wouldn't be overscored and beat Huang Huidan's, since hers was that bit better and more difficult and....China have been having a miserable worlds. I'd love to see Kyla up her game here, it looks like she could easily. So much fluidity and ease. She's into silver but the queen is still to come.
Dun dun DUN. Here she is. Will we see the shap full? How tired is she by now? Lovely start to the routine and the shap full is such a thriller and although it's not the most elegant move out there and the last half is kind of jarring...it's still fantastic because it's so rare and so exciting. After that she breaks a connection and has slight hesitations and form breaks, but the flow otherwise is so lovely and her form is generally spot-on. She does her trademark dismount but has to take steps on it. Certainly not her best and the composition is quite new, but I was sure they'd hand her silver on a platter. When her score showed up and sent her into third it was such a shock, and I wasn't the only one. Kyla was certainly cleaner and Aliya didn't bring her full difficulty, but I still thought it was a brave and interesting move to finish off the podium in that order. It doesn't get mentioned much that she sickles her feet, but, yeah...she does. It's not that glaring but it does put a but of a downer on the routine for me, it's a pet hate unfortunately. This is not a fully on-form Aliya, and we know her knee has been causing her pain. I hope she gets a nice break, but what are the chances of that when there's world cups and Voronin and you've been carrying all of your team on your back for years?
Happily the excitement of the bigshots wasn't over, with Ruby Harrold last up. This routine is my second favourite after Yao's, and arguably more exciting since she's yet more innovative, and has cleaned up her execution a lot this year. Here comes..the Bhardwaj! Yes! And with so much less leg separation than when she first incorporated it into her routine. And there's not much of a breather since she goes straight into a nice Van Leeuwen (I am learnding, this is a toe-on shap half) and BAM Zuchold! I was expecting it, and the crowd too of course since there was a nice buzz right before but she still has jaws everywhere drop with that move, it's incredible. I bet she'll get it into a pencil-like handstand soon, since it was total banana-back earlier this year and only a slight arch now. Of all of the crazy bars moves Antwerp showed us, this is the most impressive because it was created when the bars were not much more than parallel bars, so to do it now when they're so much wider is...just awesome. She's short on handstands, has everybody on tenterhooks when she pauses in a pirouette and then is short on her double front (woohoo! Not a DLO or tuck full in!) and has to stumble back a bit...but...the score was still harsh. Hopefully motivation to clean it up even further, what a rollercoaster to finish up this final!
Favourite routine- Hmmm, Yao. Even with the fall, the rest was so precise and perfect.
Favourite skill- Zuchold
Biggest downer- Yao falling
Best leotard- Simone and Kyla
Worst- Becky, because hot pink is gross.
I knew rings would be a great spectacle, just for the sheer insane strength on display and it didn't disappoint in the slightest. So much..beefcake, I had a great view of men's faces being squashed by their own almost comically sized biceps. Balandin was so clean, I was delighted he stayed in the medals. The iron cross was definitely the most impressive skill I thought. I did find it weird how when they strain and strain for a straight line but the vast majority had their heads popped out of line, like 'here I am!'. Brandon Wynn's coach was decidedly not a happy bunny. Super distracting when he was running the length of the arena to file the appeal. The look of uncomprehending '???WTF??' on his face when the appeal was denied, and then the anger, was a sight to behold. He so totally punched a wall when they filed out of the arena.
Had an earlier breakfast than Saturday since I was determined to get some last-minute quality stalking time in. It seemed like a waste not to try, but again, no devastation if it were to be a dismal failure. The day started off badly because there was none of those amazing mini doughnuts :'( I was facing the entrance instead of a wall this time and noticed some Under Armour tracksuits. Could there be persons of interest in the 4 star after all? One of them looked familiar and eventually it clicked, Aly Raisman's mother! She looked really tired, that's jet lag for you. Surely this means the rest of the family appear and yes! There's Aly Raisman. Odd to be casually eating breakfast when a multi-Olympic and world medallist strolls in, who you've written so much about, whose FEET you have written so much about, and nobody bats an eyelid. She doesn't look like a gymnast in a tracksuit, just a regular sized, regular height human being. Much different to Mai Murakami and Asuka Teramoto! She stood quite near us talking across tables to her family, discussing the spectacle men's vault would be. I toyed with the idea of going up to grab some bread beside her but left it, since I am not a dedicated stalker at all and breakfast isn't really the time to annoy someone. I was laughing at the idea of going over and annoying her about her calorie intake 'Hey Aly, that won't help your comeback you know', because how obnoxious would that be. Don't worry, she remained unmolested by me and actually by everyone..there were some little girls in leotards floating around but maybe they too got the memo of leaving a fellow breakfaster in peace.
I should really have dramatised this and talked about how me and Aly totes breakfasted together, and joked about toepoint. Is it too late??
This is again too long, so I hope to squash Sunday into just one more post. Soon! After part 4, probably next week when I'm off, I'll do a big review post.
Highs and lows of the bars final? Favourite routine? Is it so hard to believe Aliya only got bronze or is that just me? How old is Huang Huidan now, considering her routine was much the same aged "7", which is, you know, impossible. A german article came out today lambasting Marta citing the same reasoning, hurray! Reasoning in the China age debate! :D