OMG, the breakfast. Continental breakfasts in mainland Europe are always great, but this was just such an unbelievable spread. I've never seen such a varity of fruit, fruit salads, yoghurts and seeds on top of the excellent hot food and pastries- there were these tiny doughnuts which were amazing. Anyway. Event finals were starting a lot earlier than the all-around of course, at half 2. We got to the arena at about 2 and hung around it for a few minutes, magically hoping a stream of gymnasts would appear as spectators. But....Mai Murakami and Asuka Teramoto obliged!
Our seats were the same as yesterday, 2 rows further back, so the same view. Great for MAG floor, which started off the day. The noise of them warming up was astoundingly loud, like BAM..BAM..BAMMMMM. No music obviously so of course the landings were exemplified. It was really exciting to even think of seeing Kohei Uchimura's routine and Kenzo Shirai's AMAZING twistathon live and of course, they didn't disappoint. Mindblowing stuff. Every single roll-out skill was nervewracking, I'm delighted they're being phased out. I felt that it was a great honour to see Kohei Uchimura competing live and although his difficulty was a good bit lower than some, he was incredibly impressive and so clean. I don't really watch MAG floor and after watching so much of WAG floor, it's refreshing to see the differences - like the amount of great twisting combinations that we just don't see in WAG. However, I think I'd get bored of the lack of double backs if I watched or saw it in person more often. The fact that Kenzo Shirai was competing last was wonderful, it allowed the tension to build nicely. Everybody definitely got the memo about his crazy routine, huge cheer when he saluted. That quad twist...just incredible. Almost the best part of his routine though was Kohei Uchimura's reaction to the landing of the quad twist and the sheer joy when his score was posted. It's fantastic to see such sportmanship in action.
Thanks to Agnes Suto for mentioning the name of the marching in and out song, Martin Garrix- Animals. The cut the arena used is better than the video I found on youtube. The beat of it really fired up the crowd and I was thrilled when the vault finalists marched in...and there was no hot pink from the Americans. No red, white or blue from them either which I know bothers people but uhh such a stunning leotard, and I just love purple so much. So glamorous and regal with the jewelled neckline/bodice. Each time Simone Biles marched out at these worlds, at all five possible finals, I was blown away by how much shorter she is than the average gymnast. It's a reflection moreso on the changes of gymnast's builds over the years I think. Did you know that Shang Chunsong is actually taller than her? Barely, but still, hilarious :D
Sadly no timers this time around of course, I really think it's stupid and possibly dangerous not to allow it for event finals. Giulia Steingruber got the competition off to a great start with a fabulous Rudi. Yes, her feet are messy and she's a little bit too piked in the first half twist or so, but it looks amazing from the side and she almost stuck the landing. It's a weird experience to experience firsthand how little time a vault takes! And to be close enough to gymnasts that I could hit them with my water bottle if I so wished, people I've written so much about having only ever seen them on screens. Not to mention the weirdness of seeing yourself in the audience on footage! Back to Giulia, I'm so impressed that she learned the DTY in such a short space of time. A very wise decision as the DTT hadn't been working out, famously keeping her out of vault finals in London when she crashed it. And what a great DTY it was! She barely had leg separation on the block and she kept her legs glued together throughout the vault, which as we know is very rare, especially on vaults more difficult than a FTY. Again with the flexed feet...but again with the great landing, though she was bent over a little too much at the waist. A worthy contender for bronze.
Next up, the cannonball Produnova from Yamilet Pena. I admire her spirit a lot and I do think she does have a lot of innate vaulting talent, but this is a waste, and still so dangerous on her knees and ankles. It's especially surprising that she's still doing it after suffering setbacks with injury and with her coach leaving this year, and the fact that she could not land a handspring-layout front at Pan American Games not that long ago. Predictably, it was scary both in the air with her insufficient height, and on the ground though there was no doubt she got her feet under her and bearing weight enough to get a score. Huge groan of course from the crowd. I wonder what people like Oksana Chusovitina and McKayla Maroney who have been watching her splat this vault in the same finals for years think when she goes for it. It was upsetting to see the anguish on her face when she got up afterwards, though also maddening, I wished I had a stock of rotten tomatoes to throw at her coach and any other officials encouraging this gigantic hot mess. Even worse when she fell backwards on her second vault, sigh. I wish she could do an exchange programme with a US gym for a few months (not WOGA..) or just plain change citizenship.
Unsurprisingly, a huge roar greeted Oksana Chusovitina. Another legend I got goosebumps to see competing in front of me. She must like the springboard being set further back than usual, but this looked a bit like overkill as she hit the horse very far forward and the vault was consequently a struggle which she landed low. Still, she landed it, very impressive! It was hilarious when her coach was speaking to her right after and you could almost imagine Oksana thinking 'Be quiet, child!' It's got to take nerves to give constructive criticism to her. Happily, her second vault, Tsuk 1.5, was great! So straight and with great leg form. When you think of the pounding vault entails at her age, I highly doubt she does half the repetitions in training that her fellow competitors do. Which just serves to highlight the brilliance of that second vault, and indeed the ability to get around the first when the takeoff was wrong. What a privilege to see her in action.
Fourth to vault was Phan Thi Ha Thanh in another stunning leotard, pink this time. I've no issue with the colour when it's not sickly pale, hot pink, or pepto-bismol. She is so, so beautiful. I was gutted when she didn't make London finals last year, so it was great to see her here. She does pike her Rudi as we all know by now, and the last half twist is wild but it's really lovely in the air, very dynamic. At least from the side, which does mask quite a bit of what you see from the straight view on replay. Easier than ever to imagine why the judges don't deduct for things fans see on these replays. A pity she couldn't get her chest up on landing the Rudi though. And...I had a heart attack when 6.3 flashed up for her second vault. It never crossed my mind she would go for an amanar, because her DTY is not particularly great, or even secure. Madness to try it. Predictably, she barely got the two twists around and it was the scariest thing ever because it was the worst case of twisting into the ground I have ever seen. She's very lucky she got up and walked away after that. I'm all for difficulty and going all out, but they need to be skills you can actually do and do consistently. That was just frightening.
Chantysha Netteb qualified with low difficulty vaults, ahead of teammate Noel Van Klaveren who failed to make the final after practically landing her gorgeous DTY off the mat entirely. Chantysha has had issues with the DTY with a bad fall at Euros, and did revert to a 1.5 Yurchenko after. But the final is the time to bring it, so she went for the full 5.8. It looked good in the air and very clean and secure so it was a huge shock first of all when she fell backwards and a second, sickening shock when she grabbed her knee in agony. Just awful. My view of her face in intense suffering was all too clear and the big screen on my right which was too close to block out replayed it over, and over, and over again. The obvious pain on her face, the replay of her landing and the knee grabbing all screamed ACL tear, sadly. Chantysha is so promising, especially on vault, and it's just gutting to see her world championships go like this. What discipline it took for her not to make a sound.
After Chantysha Netteb was carried off on a stretcher (the worst sentence I think I've ever written here), it was Simone Biles' turn to vault. It's unnerving to be first up after that, harking back to Aly Raisman who had to go up on beam after Rebecca Bross dislocated her knee on vault at Nationals two years ago. But no problem for the new world champion, who launched her amanar up to the ceiling and had a better landing than the all-around, with just a small bounce back. The noise of her block is just BOOM, so explosive. Amazing. Her second vault, the Lopez, is the best I've ever seen. Her block is perfect, much superior to McKayla Maroney even, and she never once wavered from her pencil-like straight form. Her Cheng when we see it will no doubt be even more mindblowing.
The 2008 Olympic vault champion, Hong Un Jong, the only gymnast North Korea brought, has the second highest difficulty of all- 6.4 and 6.3 (Yamilet Pena just a tenth higher..), but her execution leaves her in contention for nothing more than bronze and the Cheng is a bit beyond her at times. Her first vault, the amanar, was better than I expected though. Very clean in the air but an uncontrolled landing marred it. It's a different story for the second vault, which was scrappy in the air, and so piked. The execution score she got was kind of hilarious, but then they mostly were in this final. Certainly it should not have approached a 9, a clear case of the judges afraid to penalise difficulty, again. Still, at least we weren't treated to a carcrash TTY, after an already scary few vaults! She's quite broad in the shoulders, and is definitely healthy and strong. The same can't be said of her coach, who looked like a doll by comparison- and basically, undernourished as a result of living through the famine in the 90's. I wonder how closely their delegation is watched at international competitions like this?
Last but not least, the reigning world champion, she of the stupid meme, McKayla Maroney appeared at the end of the vault runway. It was quite a tense moment seeing her focusing and getting ready after what happened the last time she appeared in an international vault final. No white leotard this time! The step back, the incredibly fast and powerful run...no fear for her amanar, which was just unbelievable. She still has the most incredible block and airtime, even though she's not getting the same height as last year. And another almost (soo..close) stick! She knows how to please a worshipping crowd, such an exciting moment. That said, I have issues with that score. Her hips and knees are bent, she was off direction by quite a bit and she didn't quite stick it..so her score being higher than the TF vault in London last year, taking into account the lowering of difficulty on it, is funny, and not in a good way. Yes, yes, she will beat Simone Biles on difficulty. There's no need to be ridiculous about it though. Also, Simone's own amanar was better, but scored worse. McKayla's second vault was a great vault for anyone else, but it was a bit poor from her, her block was really quite wonky. The important thing was that she landed it, and it was really good otherwise, great explosive distance I thought. That must have been one great sigh of relief to banish the ghost of London with a second consecutive world title. Onwards and upwards hopefully, her execution and height are even better than what we witnessed here.
And the world champion is...big surprise here...McKayla Maroney! Silver of course went to Simone Biles with what were to me, easily the best two vaults of the competition and in third, Hong Un Jong beat off stiff competition from Giulia Steingruber and not so stiff from Phan Thi Ha Thanh, given her bad fall. It is absolutely fantastic to see somebody retain a title, and so magnificently. We shouldn't forget McKayla's string of injuries in the last year, and she had just 8 months of training to get to this point. I'm not sure we'll see a Cheng but I think a TTY is definitely possible, and I'm hopeful she can brush up just a bit on her execution and/or height. She absolutely deserved her gold..BUT..there's usually a but, it should have been closer as both of Simone Biles' vaults were in fact better. It's great to see these two sparring in international competition as well as internally, good motivation. Don't be fooled by gamefaces and Simone's polite but disinterested looking clap for McKayla after the latter landed her second vault. After the competition they marched out smiling and talking and when they came back for the medal ceremony, there was a great camaraderie between the two. What incredible vaulters, what a pleasure to see them raise the roof like this.
Many are saying Giulia Steingruber was robbed, and it's easy to see why. But although her vaults were great she did throw marks away with her low landings, and form issues particularly on the Rudi. It just wasn't enough to best a girl with seven more tenths of difficulty. I cannot but be happy for Hong Un Jong to take away a world championship medal. She is surely celebrated as an Olympic gold medallist, and entitled to live in the capital etc...but it's got to be miserable all the same and another prestigious medal cannot but be a good thing.
Here is a ridiculously great stop-motion photo gallery of every vault finalist in action. Love it!
Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney's glorious purple leotard. Perfect on both.
- The two amanars of the Americans, great to watch for different reasons.
- The clean fabulousness of Kohei Uchimura's floor.
- Everybody survived their roll-out passes.
- Kenzo Shirai's quad twist, because it's insane.
- And his entire routine, so exciting. I don't care how one-sided it is.
- Simone Biles' Lopez, it's just fantastic with the perfect block and technique.
- Giulia Steingruber's lovely DTY, despite the haste in which it was learned.
- The atmosphere before McKayla Maroney vaulted, so tense and expectant- waiting, wanting, hoping for the usual magic.
- What looks like an ACL tear for Chantysha Netteb.
- The constant replays of her injury.
- A totally unneccessary and dangerous amanar from Phan Thi Ha Thanh.
- The cannonball from Yamilet Pena and her fall on the second vault. :(
- Roll-out skills. So fearful of them.
Who do you think has the best amanar now? Who should have gotten bronze? HOW CUTE is it that Kenzo Shirai and Mai Murakami are a couple and have been for years? How much crack are Yamilet Pena's and Phan Thi Ha Thanh's coaches on?
I had to split this post in half, so coming up soon will be the second half of Saturday, and hopefully some of Sunday if I can squash it in. Being closer to vault helps me blab on more about it, not to mention their being so kind as to take it in turns to compete, rather than all at once in the AA :)