I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: one of the things I’ve learned this week is how a team does in podium training is not necessarily indicative of how it will perform in the competition. Take Japan: we saw Kohei Uchimura do next to nothing in podium training but grab his shoulder and wince, and he goes out and hits perhaps the cleanest and most difficult six routine set ever done by a male gymnast.
The word “scary” was referenced in conjunction with the way the Chinese women were vaulting and tumbling in the training gyms, but they were better than expected on the bouncier podium. Likewise, the Russian women seemed distracted and emotional at times during their training sessions. But they left it all in the back gyms of the Ahoy Arena and performed well on day one.
The question of the women’s competition now is how much of a gap is there between the top three from China, the top three from Russia, and the top three from the U.S. on each event? The answer: Not much. Russia’s top three are probably the strongest on vault, followed by the U.S. and China. The Chinese win on bars. Beam is simply about whoever makes the least mistakes in team finals. Floor…again it’s hard to say.
On the men’s side, Jonathan Horton said the U.S.’s top three on each event were probably underestimated. Russia, despite problems with consistency and execution, should be able to find three guys on each event to hit cleanly, and no scores from team qualifications carry over, meaning a team with three very good gymnasts on each event (think China now or Germany next year) is going to do better in finals than in qualifications. Given qualifying performances, it seems unlikely that anyone can overtake the Chinese, who made a definitive statement that they are the strongest in the world on rings, parallel bars and pommel horse.
Aliya Mustafina: Raise your hand if you remember the 2006 video of 11-year-old Mustafina at the Friendship Classic? (video can be played by clicking on the vid image off to the left). She fell on just about everything but the potential was starkly obvious. We’ve followed her progress since, and she has never, ever looked better than she did on the first night of qualifications. It’s nice to see that she’s gained some muscle. She has the longer body of a Nastia Liukin, but with more power to tumble and vault. And with those amazing vaults (an Amanar and a roundoff, half on, front layout full off), Mustafina could — and should — win the women’s all-around title, as well as World medals on the other four events. She qualified for all four event finals. The last person to do that was Svetlana Khorkina in 1997.
Two vaults: How heartening to see so many women attempt two vaults, even those who did things like a Yurchenko layout and a Tsuk pike.
Nice surprises: China’s consistency, Australia and Russia’s women’s teams (Russia given the reports that came out of podium training), Great Britain’s men and women, Vanessa Ferrari, He Kexin on floor, Jade Barbosa, Yana Demyanchuk (hit routines on both bars and beam for Ukraine, made event finals on beam), Ariella Kaeslin on vault (DTY!), Aliya Mustafina on vault, Ali Al Asi on events other than rings, Kohei Uchimura, the Dutch women’s determined performance, Ashleigh Brennan on beam (extraordinary), Imogen Cairns on floor (hit the hell out of the set), Philipp Boy in the all-around (second place in qualifying, and the two best German guys either aren’t competing or aren’t doing all-around!)
As expected: The U.S. men (a slightly mixed bag but mostly positive and with room to improve), the U.S. women (ditto), Alicia Sacramone (event finals on beam for the first time in her career, I believe), the Chinese men, France, Italy, Ukraine, Beth Tweddle and He Kexin on bars, Chen Yibing and Yan Mingyong on rings, Fabian Hambuechen on high bar, Krisztian Berki on pommel horse.
Not as good as anticipated: Romania, Belarus and Japanese women’s teams, the Russian men, Marian Dragulescu (he’s been battling an injury, however).
Everyone’s doing it: “El Tango de Roxanne” on floor, roundoff, full twisting side somie side passes for the men, (I call them “windmills” because the gymnast looks like a windmill in the air when they do a regular one), swing through or forward roll mounts on beam,
Great potential: The entire Isareli women’s team, Wai Hung Shek of Hong Kong, Ali Al Asi on vault.
The injured list: Chelsea Davis (U.S.), Rose Eliandre Bellemare (France), Fernando Petro (Venezuela), Mario Gorosito (Argentina), Benoit Caranobe (France).
Wish it hadn’t happened like that: Jordan Jovtchev’s rings dismount, Raluca Haidu’s full twist on beam, Marian Dragulecu’s floor routine,
Beautiful gymnastics from relative unknowns: Like Sweden’s Ida Jonsson, Lithuania’s Laura Svilpaite (OK, she was pretty well known as a junior), Israel’s Valeriia Makutskaya, Great Britain’s Ruslan Panteleymonov and so many more I can’t think of right now. Youtube and learn.
Spectacular skills: Lauren Mitchell’s Humphrey turn on beam (triple turn in sit position), Beth Tweddle’s opening pass on floor, Aliya’s Mustafina’s everything, but particularly her vaults, uneven bars dismount in combination and triple turn with leg at head on vault, Sanne Wevers’s double turn with leg up on beam, Ksenia Afanaseyeva’s unique position on her double turn on floor. David Belyavskiy’s double full in back out pike on floor, Anton Golotsutskov’s Dragulescu, Kohei Uchimura’s everything, Alberto Busnari’s pommel set (flairs through to handstand — twice!).
Bad good gymnastics. For the most part, there is nothing wrong with Belarus’s form and technique. But the team performed horribly — horribly — in qualification. There has to be something else going on that they come to a World Championship and despite talent and style perform that badly. Lack of funding? Political upheavals? Bad coaching?
Boing, boing, boing…: The podium is bouncy. That’s the only way to explain how the Chinese women made their vaults so easily in qualification, and how Mustafina looked like she was performing on a trampoline when she vaulted.
Happy birthday to…: The following gymnasts celebrated or will celebrate birthdays during their time in Rotterdam:
Sergei Khorkhordin, Russia (born October 9, turned 25)
Wai Hung Shek, Hong Kong (born October 10, turned 19)
Alice Janova, Czech Republic (born October 11, turned 16)
Ariella Kaeslin, Switzerland (born October 11, turned 23)
Elena Zaldivar, Spain (born October 12, turned 16)
Luke Wadsworth, Australia (born October 12, turned 20)
Daniel Groves, Switzerland (born October 13, turned 26)
Linda Staempfli, Switzerland (born October 13, turned 22)
Dmitry Kaspiarovich, Belarus (born October 15, turned 33)
Aurelie Malaussena, France (born October 17, turned 17)
Dominiqua Belanyi, Iceland (born October 18, turned 18)
Georgia Simpson, Australia (born October 19, turned 16)
Hau Trung Linh, Vietnam (born October 20, turning 24)
Ksenia Semyonova, Russia (born October 20, turning 18 the day of the women’s team final)
Yana Demyanchuk, Ukraine (born October 21, turning 17)
Maria Pitsikali, Greece (born October 22, turning 17)
Anna Myzdrikova, Russia (born October 22, turning 18)
Luke Carson, Ireland (born October 23, turning 21)
Maxim Petrishko, Kazakhstan (born October 23, turning 23)
Aagje Vanwalleghem, Belgium (born October 24, turning 23)
Fabian Hambuechen, Germany (born October 25, turning 23)
Dorottya Lenner, Hungary (born October 25, turning 16)
Marisela Cantu, Mexico (born October 25, turning 20)
Gymnastics Examiner Blythe Lawrence will be posting dispatches from the 2010 World Championhships in Rotterdam. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GymExaminer or click the “Subscribe” button above to receive the latest gymnastics news and results.