Yup, definitely still wishing worlds was yet to come instead of finishing a few weeks ago.
Glasgow is a great city, I really enjoyed it. Not exactly spectacularly different to Dublin...certainly they have the same mild at best-wet and cold at worst weather systems, but that's okay since I don't have much time for the sun anyway. I'm getting good at picking hotels and always aim for an old one that's not a dump. Our hotel was not only a spectacular Victorian behemoth of a building, it was right in the centre and above the train station, which was a whopping 2 stops away from the arena. Seriously convenient. Glasgow seems to have a bad reputation here, most people made a face and suggested Edinburgh instead, a very nice city which spectacularly lacked the main reason for going in the first place. I get the impression it used to be a rough place but you can tell a lot of work has gone into regenerating it and I always felt safe, even on Hallowe'en night which is a spectacularly dangerous night back home. Very friendly place.
The arena itself is fantastic, very fancy. The seats are tiered quite high and I'm not happy that the 'priority' seats released first afforded me seats in the upper tiers only, despite buying a few hours after release. Clearly I am dedicated, do not shaft me on this. I'll know next time not to go ahead and buy, I just thought that was the availability. Lol. Antwerp was very, very different. Anyway, the view was fine, I just suffered jealousy of the people with seating much lower down. But it WAS good to get a great overall view, and our best seats were for the AA which was most important to me.
I never realised that introductions were missing from worlds, but it really added a lot to the atmosphere and it was wonderful to see teams and individuals recognised like this, with their huge flag behind them and some very catchy music-sometimes even matching the gymnast in some way. Nice bit of hype-building and I really hope that's not the last we've seen of it.
Diverse finals/better depth
It was just great to see much more diverse finals than we are used to, echoing MAG almost. This hasn't been an overnight change, but was more noticeable than in past worlds I thought. It's a big jump from the last Olympics and will be interesting to compare to Rio's finals. Vault was as usual the most diverse, but beam wasn't far behind for once. Two Dutch girls. While beam itself has suffered bigtime this quad and inconsistency even among the best is still a major issue, the fact that it's less deep than last quad is balanced out for me by the refreshing different styles on display, afforded by the diversity of the finalists. If only they could stay on the beam.
Floor and bars are stronger than ever, which is very exciting and bodes well for next year. And that was a floor final without Aly Raisman. Considering the quality of this year's floor final, there were quite a few big names missing. When you think that next year we'll be expecting Simone Biles, a second American such as the aforementioned Aly though medal-winner Maggie was certainly a worthy finalist, Ellie Black, Giulia Steingruber, Shang Chunsong, Ellie Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Larisa Iordache/?? Catalina Ponor ??, Vanessa Ferrari, Sae Miyakawa, Ksenia Afanasyeva and more to be vying for places...
On bars, the standard has definitely been raised. There have always been routines of the calibre the 4 gold medallists showed (what a sentence) but not quite so many. And there are plenty that are right behind them. The fact that most routines are fairly similar and shap-heavy is a bit of a drag, but some managed to stand out, such as Shang Chunsong with multiple releases, and Ruby Harrold for her unique skillset. A great routine to cap off the final.
The AA rankings both in qualifiers and finals were certainly an unusual mix, it was great to see Giulia Steingruber qualify 2nd behind only the untouchable Simone Biles and even though a fall on beam put paid to a repeat in finals, it really bodes well for how far she has come as an all-arounder. A shaken Romania clawed back to great places in the AA, from which they were completely out of the top 10 in qualifying-Larisa Iordache of course admirably clawing her way to bronze and Laura Jurca showing her potential finally to finish in 8th after qualifying 22nd. The best though was seeing Mai Murakami completely unexpectedly finishing 6th. It will be great to see Russia have more of a presence in the AA next year hopefully, with Seda's inconsistency putting paid to any glory there, but it was nice to have the focus more spread out.
GB Bronze Team Final
I don't think anyone expected that, and it blew the roof off. To get their first ever team final medal on home soil is just incredible. Seeing their reactions when the score came in and the realisation that their vault scores had been enough - it looked like they didn't let themselves believe it could be even after Russia imploded- was just such a great moment, historical and heartwarming. I didn't think it was possible-they are still a team that are on the way, having made huge strides but still affected by issues such as depth and messy form lowering scores, and of course it's a team final that didn't have Romania in it and had Russia counting no less than 4 falls-but it comes to the same thing, it doesn't matter what you CAN do, unless you can put it together when it counts like in the team final, and GB certainly accomplished that.
Netherlands qualifying for team final
Up there in terms of achievements with GB's medal. Who'd a thunk it? Doubly fantastic since it means they've qualified a team to the Olympics. Their greatest achievement to date on worlds and Olympics stage was Celine Van Gerner placing 12th in the London Olympics. Competing singly for her country, since NL haven't qualified a team to the Olympics in a long, long time, if ever. And this isn't even through the Test Event, but directly through worlds. This is a team who I was hoping would individually make a final or two, so that I would be able to watch them in person, but I never anticipated team final. One of those elegant types to enjoy watching but withhold hope from. They definitely had some issues in team finals, which was perhaps not surprising, but were nevertheless glorious to watch from the very moment they came on stage and performed their stunning and elegant salute, encompassing all they are as a team.
Netherlands individual qualifying and finals
Staying with the Dutch girls, I was flabbergasted to see Lieke Wevers qualifying 5th into the all-around. In the best way. Considering her start values, it highlights how vital execution and expression can be to scores, and how seriously FIG can take it. Sadly, Eythora Thorsdottir was just barely knocked out of the AA herself, but snuck into the beam final. Of course, she proceeded to have the oddest fall there but she was in good company with 50% of the finalists falling and it was still great to see her in person. I didn't dare hold out hope that Sanne Wevers would hit in the beam final, after qualifying second but having a nightmare in team finals-no outright disaster but failing her connections and thus a composite requirement, but lo and behold, beam silver! Brilliant result!
When you see teams with enormous potential dealing with enormous flaws- such as mass inconsistency from Russia, chronic lack of depth, political issues and abysmal bars from Romania, lack of depth, politics and power from China, form issues, lack of depth and minor inconsistency from GB etc. etc....it is just so GREAT to see a team nail everything. 12 solid, hit routines. Not only do they show power and consistency, but confidence, and the skills are always secure, you never have to hope the gymnast will rotate it fully. It's refreshing. Their qualifications performance was just so jarring and odd, but never fear, they were back to their robotically solid selves when it counted.
Watching Simone Biles in person
History in motion, she is fascinating to watch and it's fun to think that I've so far been able to see her in action twice, considering she will go down as one of the most legendary and talented gymnasts of all time. It's just bizarre to be blown away by her routines and know that she still has more to give and the potential for yet more difficulty.
Getting their act together for team silver. I've become too used to falls and mistakes from them, and qualifications did not inspire confidence, so I was thrilled to see them so solid in finals. Not perfect, (why can you never stay on the beam Wang Yan??) but 11/12 and a really quite super vault rotation of all things is still not to be sniffed at.
Shang Chunsong 4th AA, general hit record
She has previously stood out at worlds for all of the wrong reasons, so to witness her hitting again and again (yup, fell off beam after waiting far too long for the judges in quals but...just quals) and coming so close to beating Larisa Iordache was wonderful. She'll always be let down as regards AA as long as she carries a flat FTY, but to come so close is impressive. It's also nice to see her become the face of her team, and gain a ton of fans. The spread of her story has definitely helped, and has helped explain her circumstances etc, but I do feel a bit uneasy about it considering how detailed it is, just wondering does she know or did she give permission for all of it. Anyway, to come away from worlds with 2 4th places and one of them undeservedly low is disappointing, but she still has great performances and showed more of her potential than she has previously on the international stage.
Coming back from being a complete nonentity in the all-around and a meltdown in the team finals to shine in event finals, with no less than 3 golds and 1 silver. Despite some qualms about colours of some of those medals, there's no doubt they were impressive and it's great they were able to make a comeback.
I definitely have some issues with individual scores but overall, I felt the scoring was harsh and fair. It was reassuring to see them come down hard on things, on a relatively equal playing field.
Last but definitely not least..
Meeting the Biles
Still feels bizarre to have been invited to meet them, and very flattering to have my blog recognised. I had a great morning to start off event finals day 1, lovely people.
I'll probably do a part 2 to this, with lowlights, routines, things like that. Definitely still more to talk about this worlds. What were YOUR highlights? Favourite unexpected hitters? Or moments from off the competition floor? Best hair bow?