11 October, 2009

41st Artistic Gymnastics World Championships – London (GBR), October 13-18, 2009

Zou Kai CHNLONDON (GBR) The record-breaking event statistics and figures show levels of attendance and participation greater than ever before for an Individual World Championships – the 71 countries, more than 1,200 guests (gymnasts, coaches and officials) and in excess of 330 Media personnel – clearly show that the 41st Artsitic Gymnastics World Championships are already on everyone’s mind.
It will be a very strong competition!
The Ones To Watch
Apart from those great gymnasts who retired after Beijing 2008, Olympic All-Around Champion Yang Wei (CHN) Gold Medallist on Vault Leszek Blanik (POL), and the present champions who either through injury, or lack of preparation are unable to compete (like Women’s Olympic Champion Nasia Liukin, (USA), the world’s elite will be present at The O2.
London will see four formidable individual Olympic Individual Champions Zou Kai (CHN), winner of three Gold medals in Beijing (Floor, High Bar and Team); the Champion on Rings Cheng Yibing (CHN); Gold medallist on Uneven Bars He Kexin (CHN) and the gymnast Hong Un Jong (PRK) who wrote history for her country by winning their first Olympic title on Vault.
On four of the men’s apparatus (Floor, Rings, Vault and High Bar) seven of the eight Olympic finalists from Beijing will participate. In the women’s competition six of the Beijing Uneven Bars finalists will challenge for medals.
Add to this the gymnastics elite of five continents alongside the “best of the best” gymnasts from Great Britain’s finest generation in history, and then you can truly understand why London 2009 will be really special Championships.
Men’s All-Around
As a result of the retirement of Yang Wei (CHN), the 2005 World All-Around Champion Hiroyuki Tomita (JPN), and the fact that the surprising Beijing All-Around Bronze medallist Benoit Garanobe (FRA) will work only two apparatus in London – two names immediately spring to mind as clear favourites: the Japanese Kohei Ushimura (Silver medallist in Beijing) and Fabian Hambuechen (GER), 2007 World Silver medallist and current European Champion.
Research from international competitions in the last year shows that the following gymnasts could challenge for the Bronze medal or a top 10 place. The 2009 European Bronze medallist Yury Riazanov (RUS); Kazuhito Tanaka (JPN), experienced Dmitri Savitski (BLR) and Yernar Yerimbetov (KAZ); Jonathan Horton (USA), Alexander Shatilov (ISR), Fravious Kozci (ROM), Sergio Munos (ESP).
It could well be a great day for the host nation with Daniel Keatings, 2008 Junior European Champion in Lausanne and 2009 Senior All-around Silver medallist in Milan – in with a home chance!!
Men’s Floor
Olympic Champion Zou Kai (CHN) versus double World Champion Diego Hypolito (BRA) and the Japanese prodigy Kohei Ushimura.
The Brazilian threw a phenomenal double Arabian straight somersault with a full twist in the second somersault in the World Cup competition in Glasgow earlier this year and then continued to win on the international stage, so he should be ready to challenge for a third world title.
Keep an eye open for the following gymnasts who have the potential to reach this Final and a medal: Anton Golotsutskov (RUS), Eleftherios Kosmidis (GRE), Fabian Hambuechen (GER), Brandon O’Neil (CAN), Alexander Shatilov (ISR), Marian Dragulescu (ROM); Matthias Fahrig (GER) and last but not least the British Kristian Thomas.
Men’s Pommel Horse
Local boy Louis Smith is the only Olympic Pommel medallist from Beijing (Bronze) to compete in London, but his road to the highest place on the rostrum is far from safe. The biggest challenge for him will come from the Chinese Zhang Hongtao and the 2007 World Silver medallist Krisztian Berki (HUN).
Look out also for Daniel Keatings (GBR), Olympic finalist Kim Ji Hoon (KOR), 2006 World silver medallist Prashant Sellathurai (AUS), Saso Bertoncelj (SLO), Robert Seligman (CRO), Koki Sakamoto (JPN) and the Russian Andrey Perevozhnikov.
Men’s Rings
The Olympic Champion and double World Champion, 2006/2007 Chen Yibin (CHN) is the clear favourite on this apparatus, this time supported by his teammate Yang Mingyong.
The battle for the medals here includes a solid group of recognized Masters: former twice World Champion Jordan Jovchev (BUL); Olympic Bronze medallist Olexander Vorobiov (UKR); Danny Rodrigues Piheiro (FRA), Italian Ring Experts Mateo Morandi and Andrea Copolino; the Russians Konstantin Pluzhnikov and Alexander Balandin; Irodotos Georgalas (CYP), Regulo Carmona (VEN), and lesser known, but dangerous Timothy McNeil (USA).
Men’s Vault
Apart from the Olympic Champion Blanik, all the other great vaulters are in line for London, and all know how to win… you need two runs with Dif. 7.00 and a steady landing. The Silver medallist from Beijing Thomas Bouhail (FRA) is expected to show a new vault, kept in secret throughout the season.
Ri Se Gwang (PRK), World Bronze medallist from Stuttgart 2007 has already revealed his new in Glasgow – a Handspring double front salto with ½ turn in the piked position. The vaulting legend Marian Dragulescu (ROM) is once again, back in action and hopefully, in his best form.
The other contenders include Anton Golotsutskov (RUS), bronze medallist in Beijing; 2004 Olympic silver medallist Evgeny Sapronenko (LAT); 2008 Olympic finalist Isaak Botella (ESP); 2006 World Silver medallist Dmitry Kasperovich (BLR), Jeffrey Wammes (NED), Flavius Koczi (ROM), to name but a few.
Men’s Parallel Bars
Research shows that the Chinese and the Koreans seem to know the best secrets of this apparatus. With the Olympic Champion Li Xiaopeng (CHN) retired, it should be the time of Korea’s Silver medallist from Beijing Yoo Won Chul.
However, Kim Soo Myun (KOR), Wang Guanyang (CHN), the 2007 World Bronze medallist Anton Fokin (UZB) and a group of outstanding Parallel Bars experts will not let this happen without fight: twice World Champion Mitja Petkovsek (SLO); current European Champion Yann Couchera (FRA); 2004 Olympic Champion Valery Goncharov (UKR); Fabian Hambuechen (GER); Vasileos Tsolakidis (GRE); Robert Kulecha (POL); Epke Zonderland (NED); Manuel Carballo (ESP).
Men’s Horizontal Bar
Will Zou Kai (CHN) be as lucky as he was in Beijing to see the majority of his opponents failing? The List of the challengers cannot be better!
Current World and triple European Champion Fabian Hambuechen (GER); Olympic Silver medallist Jonathan Horton (USA); 2004 Olympic Champion Igor Cassina (ITA); current European and 2001 World Champions Vlasios Maras; 2005 World Silver medallist Yan Couchera (FRA); eternal Horizontal Bar Master Ajaz Pegan (SLO); 2006 World Champion Philippe Rizzo (AUS); 2008 World Cup Final winner Epke Zonderland (NED) and possible dark horse Danell Leyva (USA) could well provide a spectacular ending of this World Championships.
Women’s All Around
The competition is largely open, but as in the previous years the winner is most likely to come from one of the four leading nations in Women’s gymnastics: China, Romania, Russia and USA.
Current European Champion Ksenia Semenova (RUS) versus Olympic Bronze medallist Yang Yilin and Xiao Sha (CHN), with Bridget Sloan (USA) seem to be the favourites.
Expect to see somewhere at the top Ana Maria Tamarjan (ROU); Ksenia Afanasieva (RUS), Britain’s Champion Becky Downie; Ariella Kaeslin (SUI); Ana Maria Izurieta (ESP) and Japan’s ever progressing champion Koko Tsurumil. Possible surprises could come from the debutants Rebecca Bross (USA) and Youna Dufournet (FRA).
Women’s Vault
Olympic Champion Hong Un Jong (PRK) is the clear favourite, along with the European Champion Ariella Kaeslin (SUI), whose 5th place in Beijing has rocketed her to stardom.
Watch for the Russians Anna Myzdrikova and Ekaterina Kurbatova (RUS); Kayla Williams (USA), Dorina Bozogo (HUN), veteran Jana Komrskova (CZE) who has came out of retirement. British Champion on Vault Marissa King (GBR) could also have a chance to reach the final.
Women’s Uneven Bars
With Beth Tweddle (GBR), the 2006 World and European Champion and World Cup Final winner competing in London, the Final on this apparatus is expected to turn into THE highlight of these Championships:
He Kexin (CHN)- Olympic Champion; Ksenia Semenova (RUS) – defending World Champion, Yang Yilin (CHN), Olympic Bronze medallist; two very strong Ukrainians in Anastasia Koval (5th) and Daria Zgoba, 8th in Beijing – all of them will be in London and it will be a red-hot competition. Possible surprises are from the Australians Lauren Mitchell or Larisa Miller. Becky Downie (GBR) also has a chance for this final.
Women’s Beam
This time the traditional Romanian – Chinese – American dominance on Beam could be upset by the Australian Lauren Mitchell who deservingly won the 2008 World Cup Final in Madrid, but the Ukrainian Yana Demyanchuk and the Dutch gymnast Sanne Wevers have also the capacity to surprise-the first won the European title in Milan this year; the second took the Gold in two consecutive Glasgow Grand Prix competitions.
European Silver medallist Ana Maria Tamarjan will do her utmost to keep the Romanian reputation on this apparatus; she performs a very difficult routine.
Other gymnasts to follow from day one through to the Final are Xiao Sha (CHN), Ksenia Afanasieva (RUS) and Koko Tsurumi (JPN), who were both finalists in Beijing.
Women’s Floor
With the Olympic Champion’s recent injury (Romanian Sandra Izbasa has, unfortunately, torn an Achilles), the Women’s Floor in London is the only apparatus without any Beijing Olympic finalists.
Beth Tweddle, now a living “British legend”, has the chance to turn this day and this event into the pinnacle of “her” Championships.
Watch for the Russian Anna Myzdrikova (winner of the Moscow World Stars competition and Silver medallist in Glasgow with an impressive programme including a triple twisting salto immediately followed by a tucked salto), and her teammate Ksenia Afanasieva.
Ana Maria Tamarjan (ROU); the winner in Cottbus (GER) Sui Lu (CHN), Ana Maria Izurieta (ESP) and the former European Champion, the Ukrainian Alina Kozich (who will represent Uzbekistan for the first time in a World Championship) are also potential medallists.
(By Vera Atkinson – British Gymnastics)

Zou Kai CHN