I had an absolutely fantastic experience attending these worlds live. It's kind of difficult to recount it, but you can read about it here, in 4 parts:
I believe I said this in at least one of the above, but it was just so, so surreal to be watching gymnasts and gymnastics in person, rather than the hundreds if not thousands of hours I've watched through a screen. Like, oh McKayla Maroney is vaulting about 8 feet in front of my face...no big deal. But on to the juicy bit, actually reviewing worlds!
Well, what a glorious domination for them. I did expect I believe a beam medal, 1 or 2 AA medals, 1 or 2 floor medals and 1 or 2 vault medals. Which obviously they exceeded, with a total of 8- 4 (AA and FX gold, VT silver, BB bronze) for Simone Biles, 3 (AA, BB and UB silver) for Kyla Ross and 1 (vault gold) for McKayla Maroney. I do have to say that this medal haul was helped along by a bit of a flop as regards international competition. The US were prepared as if it was the Olympics, everyone else as if it was a post-Olympic world cup. Viktoria Komova was not there, the Russian programme was a shambles, Aliya Mustafina was a bit tired, and the Romanians were relying entirely on a just-recovered Larisa Iordache. China were relying on Yao Jinnan who was also bouncing back from injury and new girl Shang Chunsong. The AA medals, floor and vault would have been won anyway, regardless of the strength of the competition, but the beam and bars medals were a bit of a surprise, and definitely not foreseen at the start of the year. Not a surprise in the last few months, but in general when sights turned to Antwerp last year. They attest to a general weakness in both events, especially beam I think.
BUT, that said, the US had an incredibly impressive worlds and fair dues to their programme of excellent preparation. It's fairly hard to imagine another country toppling their spell of domination any time soon.
First, we need to talk about Simone Biles. Simone has had quite a topsy turvy year or so. She exploded onto the scene this year with a huge arsenal of upgrades, but she also showed inconsistency- with falls at American Cup and Chemnitz. Still, she was regarded as the best US all-arounder and her performance at Classics where she fell on 3 events and was pulled from the fourth didn't really alter this. Indeed, it seemed to energise her. The new US National Champion fulfilled all of her potential and promise and defied the ever-present nay-sayers by going to Antwerp and qualifying to all four event finals, as well as the top all-around qualifier. This feat of qualifying to all finals is very rare these days as we know, especially since top all-arounders tend to eschew doing two vaults. Aliya Mustafina famously did so in 2010, however.
Of course, qualifying is only part of what she needed to do. I was nervous every time she mounted an apparatus...especially when she was first up on beam in her group..and yet, there was no need. Her all-around performance was a tour de force, summed up by the fact that although she was in second by a tenth after three rotations, she finished the competition in the lead by nearly nine tenths- an enormous gap. Could she keep it up for event finals with no break in between? It seems in hindsight to be silly to have been concerned over her consistency. For a first year senior to win the all-around title, qualify to all finals, and bring home another 3 medals including a second title is phenomenal. And, she doesn't seem like she's even at the height of her difficulty yet.
I don't feel like I'm the person to talk about Kyla. I haven't been shy of the fact that although I appreciate her lines and mastery of her skills and routines, I don't have much time for her gymnastics otherwise. She certainly had a great worlds, better than I could have predicted. Watching her on beam and bars in particular, knowing that there wasn't a hope of a mistake, was kind of thrilling in a way. It's refreshing to know that nothing will go wrong. I'm very curious to know where she will go from here. Will 3 silvers be an added spur to up her difficulty so she is one of the top contenders next year too? Or will she stay in and around the same level of difficulty in order to preserve herself for college? We do know that the injury rate is laughably high as a result of striving for high difficulty, after all.
I have to laugh at the portrayals of McKayla Maroney as a one-eventer. A one-eventer does not place sixth in worlds qualifications all-around. She was a one-eventer last year since that is how she best served the team, and her own minor injuries meant saving herself for vault rather than adding floor into the mix was the best bet. I absolutely do not like the fact that Brenna Dowell was sacrificed at the last minute to make way for McKayla to do the all-around in qualifications, especially as she stood little chance of actually making the finals, which indeed proved to be the case. But it was still nice that she got the chance, and she certainly proved that all-around is not beyond her capabilities. Sixth with a fall, that is, and the best bars routine that she's ever done, an apparatus on which she has always looked nice, but much less secure than a bad routine by Aly Raisman.
The fact that her floor music was overtime is an appalling mistake which should have been fixed at Classics, nevermind camp. The US may have the best programme in the world right now but their internal competitions tend to overlook things- like Peyton Ernst getting credited for a dance series when she did not in fact do one. This silly mistake meant McKayla tied with Kyla and lost on execution. Kyla earned her place fair and square of course, but it would have been amazing to see McKayla in the final, with a routine that was worthy of fighting for a medal. Getting knocked out of the AA- although undoubtedly with the knowledge that that was nearly a certainty is one thing, but getting knocked out of floor finals over such a trivial error that wasn't even her fault is quite a setback. But that didn't do anything to dent her only final performance, vault. The reigning world champion fought off some fairly stiff competition to regain her title in style, and put the spectre of London to rest.
Really, I am amazed they managed to field a team at all. Meningitis, viruses, back problems, it was all going down at Round Lake, in almost comical fashion. I did predict that Viktoria Komova would not do the AA this year, but hospitalised with meningitis? Not to mention Anastastia Grishina getting blacklisted and then dealing with back/leg injuries and Ksenia Afanasyeva needing ankle surgery at precisely the wrong time. And glossing over other injuries, like Evgeniya Shelgunova. The team of Aliya Mustafina, Tatiana Nabieva, Anna Rodionova and Maria Paseka would never have been predicted six months ago, or at least, half of it. But it didn't end there, before qualifications, Maria Paseka was declared out with injury and then Tatiana Nabieva fell flat on her face in warm-ups, which curtailed the amount of events she was able to do in the end. Seriously, that is one strong curse Round Lake has going on. What a pity that yet again, Aliya Mustafina had to carry the team on her back, despite having just recovered from yet another virus, seemingly so prevalent in Round Lake. Nevertheless, it was great experience for newcomer Anna Rodionova and it was nice to see the comeback of Tatiana Nabieva from the depths of Russia's b-team, who may yet be useful for Russia...particularly if they continue to be struck down so badly before a major competition. It proves the folly of peaking for Euros and Universiade, though the Russian Gymnastics Federation had their hand forced in that regard.
In the face of such adversity, three medals, one gold, is a fabulous result for Russia's WAG. Let's hope their programme bounces back quickly into producing more than one gymnast healthy enough to snatch medals.
But that one gymnast, Aliya Mustafina, is amazing. Footage from podium training was half deliriously exciting with upgrades, half gutting as she looked so tired and just not with it. We have come to expect lacklustre showings from Russia in podium training, yet it kind of seemed more than just not trying when it didn't matter. Adding two whips to her double arabian pass and adding a Seitz on bars was wonderful to see, yet she was having issues with landing the double arabian sometimes, and having trouble on bars too. Beam was still wobbly and the double turn connection was just not getting hit at all. Nevertheless, still a force to be reckoned with, and so she proved. Nobody competes like Aliya Mustafina. When she walked out and lined up for vault, she just exuded everything a top competitor should have, focus, poise, confidence with the addition in her case of queenly regal-ness. She wasn't really able to catch either or the top two throughout the all-around, but had such moments of greatness, a hit 6.7 bars set and utterly nailing her whip-whip-double arabian-stag. It's just so impressive to watch her in action. It's unfortunate her bars routine in event finals wasn't that bit better, but hey, it's new with fabulous composition. But, a key factor in the US team's success was repetition. There's a lot to be said for not chopping and changing...although, she shot that down by winning the beam title with a routine that has looked different in some way in almost every single competition this year. A great all-arounder, a top bars worker, but beam? How amazing that she still manages to surprise us. Before finals on Sunday I saw a post on twitter 'Plot twist: Aliya Mustafina is beam champion' which, really says it all.
Another team affected by injury (and a shedload of retirements, as usual). Diana Bulimar is definitely the gymnast I missed most - as we know she had to have knee surgery just a few weeks before worlds. Still, it was nice to see the previously invisible Stefanie Alina Stanila get some much-needed experience. Not that she received much attention, all eyes were on Larisa Iordache as usual, and Sandra Izbasa in floor finals. Only one medal was their sum total, when it really should have been three, possibly four. That said, Larisa had been dealing with yet more injuries this year and had not been back training at full strength for that long before worlds, while Sandra had only recently returned to competition, after a year long break.
It feels like Larisa Iordache has been around for years, and also that she has been more successful than she has in actuality. Quite an unlucky gymnast, dogged by injury and only in her second year as a senior. Her difficulty is enormous, her potential remains as high as ever, yet she doesn't seem to be able to get it together when it matters most. Obviously, lack of full-on training time will hinder that. But I feel she needs more competitive fire, she seems to be more nervous in the really big competitions. She's going nowhere, a gymnast like her will continue to be the backbone of Romania's WAG programme. Let's hope next year is her time to really shine and get everything together.
I'm quite curious to see if Sandra Izbasa will stick around. Her fall on the exact same element in floor finals as in London was really gutting, and could well be motivation to retire on a better note than that. Not that she let herself look upset, she was so smiley and dignified, wonderful to see.
Now this was a 50/50 team. Three girls with a big record for inconsistency, the fourth an international unknown with an age question mark over her head. It was very hard to predict what this team could do, and so sad that they spectacularly underperformed. Not Huang Huidan, who after so much flakiness but a streak of hit routines this year, unexpectedly claimed a bars title with a huge score and the best routine she has done all year. Injuries have done their damage, Yao Jinnan and Shang Chunsong have both been dealing with those, and although Zeng Siqi's major problem seems to be general frailty as well as inconsistency..she has not been the same gymnast since an injury she sustained two years ago. In spite of that, she was supposed to make beam finals easily and was a huge medal hope. After her performance at the National Games, hopes plummeted and she lived up to those by falling in qualifications. Personally, I think she needs conditioning more than anything. Endurance is a big issue with her. Not sure how the flakiness can be cured but sometimes that happens- look at Sui Lu. Yao remains a heartbreaker. Caught the Mo in the all-around only to fall victim to a tucked full (or fall?) that she absolutely cannot do on beam. It's so, so low that the margin for error is huge and when I saw her preparation for it I was raging because it was never going to work out. Had she landed it, it would have been hit with so many deductions that it would not have been worth doing. Lamentably poor coaching decision. Grrrr!
I mentioned this before but..to Mo or not to Mo? Worked out once out of two occasions at worlds. I believe she had the same hit record at National Games with it. Our favourite source, Valentina Rodionenko, states that Yao was failing to catch it over and over again that she saw, in training. I think if she cannot better it during winter training, as in not only catch it more often but ensure her feet and shins are not going to touch the bar, then I think it dropped. It's awesome, so so awesome, but there's not much point otherwise.
Shang Chunsong is interesting. Huge potential difficulty, 6.9 UB, 6.1 FX, 6.6 BB etc. But she didn't live up to expectations, falling on beam in the AA, an event she is usually quite consistent on, and not doing a good enough routine to really challenge for the second Chinese spot in uneven bars finals. Floor scoring was so harsh that I wasn't that taken back when she failed to qualify for that final, but in general, I wasn't happy with her execution scoring at all. Don't get me wrong, she HAS execution errors. But it seems like she gets deducted for everything, while others don't necessarily suffer the same level of high scrutiny. Personally, and feel free to disagree, but I think she is to some extent being judged just that little bit harsher, due to how young she looks. As if that's somehow her fault? If the FIG have an issue, then they should be questioning her federation. It is highly, highly unfair, IF perceptions over her age are working against her - I'm not saying this is unequivocally the case - to take it out on her scores.
I was thrilled when she stayed on the beam in event finals, and even though there were definitely biggish deductions to be found like the big wobble and the lamentable switch ring, that e panel hated her too. Sigh. Worlds was a mixed bag for her. Much needed international experience and exposure (not that the latter was kind), always a good thing though. I think that she peaked at National Games which is by no means a negative- this worlds wasn't a big deal, and the benefit she received from her medals at NG (approximately $500k, a university place, and the ability to provide a house etc. for her extremely poor family) is immense, a huge achievement. In person, her FTY looked fine to me. But seeing it on the replay and online, it's another story. It's quite anaemic and just not dynamic at all. She really could do with gaining muscle mass, she's not a fragile gymnast by any means if you look at her other events but it would really help her vault with the goal of achieving a DTY in the future. I'm hoping her form is tightened up during winter training. She could be so much better than the girl we saw in Antwerp.
Thankfully, China did not go away with no medals. An extremely dismal performance as a team, but not for Huang Huidan who definitely exceeded expectations. A well deserved title.
THE ALL AROUND
- The TENSION. It was awesome. An absolutely wonderful atmosphere.
- Always, always something to watch.
- The buzz when big skills were nailed.
- Yao catching her Mo, Victoria Moors nailing her laidout double double.
- The opportunity to watch the beautiful gymnasts who are far below the radar, like Noemi Makra, Anna Rodionova and Ilaria Kaeslin.
- The rotation music. WHAT a song.
- The enormous roar any time the two Belgian gymnasts competed.
- Seeing vault and the gymnasts so up close.
- The view in general. It was fantastic. Not for bars, but you can't have everything.
- BEAM Ilaria Kaeslin, Anna Rodionova, Noemi Makra, Natsumi Sasada
- FLOOR Victoria Moors, Simone Biles, Aliya Mustafina, Larisa Iordache, Elisabeth Seitz, Noemi Makra, Roxana Popa, Shang Chunsong
- BARS Yao Jinnan, Roxana Popa, Aliya Mustafina, Ruby Harrold, Noemi Makra
- VAULT Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, Giulia Steingruber, Roxana Popa, Noemi Makra
- Well...the falls really. Natsumi Sasada's meltdown on bars, Shang Chunsong, Larisa Iordache and Yao Jinnan's beam falls in particular. And Ruby Harrold and Victoria Moors. And Rebecca Tunney. Anna Rodionova. It's a loooong list.
- Another missed opportunity for Yao Jinnan in particular, and for Larisa Iordache to really shine in an AA after what happened last year.
|Copyright - AP/ Virginia Mayo|
|Copyright- Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images|
In general, I had seen most of the other leotards too many times to really care about them, or I found them dull. The US predictably had a leotard that would have been lovely in a wide variety of colours, but not that ugly, ugly shade. I'm not sure about Victoria Moors' leotard. I think the pattern was a bit too clumped together? Loved the contrast of the colours though.
- McKayla Maroney vaulted right in front of me.
- See above.
- Also, Simone Biles did.
- Simone Biles' block on her Lopez.
- McKayla Maroney's amanar block is still phenomenal.
- Nobody died!
- The legend that is Oksana Chusovitina
- Higher calibre final than London.
- No deaths.
- Lots of diversity. Switzerland, USA, the Netherlands, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Dominican Republic...wow.
- Chantysha Netteb went for the DTY and tore her ACL right in front of me. Absolutely horrifying to witness and to imagine her suffering. The constant replays of her injury on the screen, which was too close to block from my field of vision. The pain on her face was just so heartwrenching. Awful, awful, awful.
- Others were lucky to get up after their vaults. A preposterous decision for Phan Thi Ha Thanh to go for the amanar when her DTY is dodgy. And not forgetting the death cannonball Produnova.
- Too Yurchenko friendly.
- Overscoring. LOL at McKayla Maroney's amanar score for which her execution score was higher than in London, kind of blatantly ignoring off centre, bent knees, bent hips.
Simone Biles' Lopez, since it was TEXTBOOK. Uhhhh so beautiful! I know I just pointed out the flaws in Maroney's amanar but the block she gets off that thing makes it a close second. It's like BOOM.
|Copyright- Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images|
- Great lineup. And some diversity, always great to see.
- Not one but TWO British girls made the final. Fantastic!
- Lots of dynamic connections, like Huang Huidan and Sophie Scheder.
- Rare, creative moves like Ruby Harrold's, super-difficult ones like Aliya Mustafina's Seitz and Yao Jinnan's Mo.
- Not a pirouette fest. Just enough.
- Very different styles of routines on display, from very different types of gymnasts.
- The gold medal winner doing the best routine of her life in a surprise finish.
- Yao falling. Ugly sobbing. It was especially bad since she caught and then peeled off..
- 8 glide kips. I understand why it's wise to conserve your energy but it was just dull..
- Sophie Scheder's score was too low.
- Simone Biles' score was too high.
- Aliya Mustafina missing a connection and biffing her dismount a little bit.
- Becky Downie coming off when it looked like she was going to make it.
The US, again.
- The stunningly elegant Anna Rodionova qualifying.
- Aliya Mustafina hitting a beam routine perfectly. Twilight zone.
- Kyla Ross' lovely long lines.
- I expected Simone to mess up. Couldn't really say she did, dismount a bit I suppose. Pleasantly surprised to see her maintain herself until the end of competition.
- A very surprising gold winner. Always interesting.
- The super difficult BHS-Arabian attempt!
- Larisa falling. Not unexpected given her performance on beam in general at worlds. But so devastating.
- Anna Rodionova's fall.
- Shang Chunsong's routine far from her best.
- Lack of difficulty, gold and silver had double tuck dismounts, bronze hadn't much in the interior of her routine despite the killer dismount. All three had extremely weak acro series.
- The enquiries. It just seemed to taint the whole final.
|Copyright- Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images|
Lovely! It's a much deeper shade than their usual ketchup, and so so much prettier. The mesh and stars are a nice contrast and the yellow livens it up without being ugly. Anna Rodionova would really have won since she had my favourite Russian leotard but it's not new, this is, and it's the surprise element of this that I love also.
- Killer difficulty. THREE double doubles, 1 full twisting double layout.
- The bounce, energy, charisma and charm of Mai Murakami and Simone Biles who just drew in the entire arena into their routines.
- Larisa Iordache recovering from her beam fall and the loss of that title by performing wonderfully - fantastic routine and tumbling.
- Simone Biles' double layout half. Such an awesome skill.
- Kyla Ross' much improved dance. Love the 'whip' bit especially.
- Elsabeth Black's 2.5 stepout, loved it.
- Underscoring, specifically Mai Murakami who was robbed of a medal.
- Inflation of Vanessa Ferrari's routine.
- Sandra Izbasa's fall.
Nothing really stood out..
Congratulations, you have reached the end! I won't have anything near as long until I'm dissecting Glasgow worlds. Anyway, feel free to discuss your liked and dislikes- if worlds is not too much of a distant memory by this stage!