15 October, 2011

Men’s Individual All-around Final (CII) ART World Champ Tokyo 2011

Kohei Uchimura JPNDoha (QAT), AGU Office, October 14, 2011: By FIG Athletes Representative for Men’s Artistic Gymnastics and President of the FIG Athletes Commission Jani Tanskanen (FIN) reviews the Men’s All-around Final of the 43rd Artistic Gymnastics World Championships:
The name of the game going into the Men’s All-around Final was pretty much the same as usual and very much like the Team Final: avoiding mistakes can take you a long way, but at the same time you must be able to achieve the difficulty in all six apparatuses. It’s a big pressure for the gymnasts, but they are the best in the world so if anyone can do it, it would be them.
Going into the competition there really was only one favourite this time. Kohei Uchimura, World Champion twice in row, had been exceptionally convincing once again here in Tokyo. The question was, could he hold his nerve and become the first-ever three times Word Champion in AA. The battle for the other podium places was far more open with many gymnasts in with a chance.
Seven countries had managed to qualify two gymnasts for this final, making it 24 gymnasts from 17 different countries fighting for the medals tonight. Once again the atmosphere at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium was fantastic, with another full house there to see if the favourite could pull it off once again.
I missed the few first routines on the first rotation but that was for a good reason. I was having a meeting with the gymnasts about their feelings and opinions about our sport, and trying my best to get more athlete involvement in building the future of gymnastics.
Once I got to my seat, however, I sensed the electricity in the arena and arrived just in time to see Uchimura on his first apparatus, the Floor. He really nailed his routine (15.566), making every landing and setting the tone for the evening. I also saw Philipp Boy of Germany performing well on the Floor, whereas Russia’s Emin Garibov had to step down once from the apparatus during his Pommel Horse routine.
The second rotation on Pommel Horse featured the top-seeded group after qualification. Every gymnast in this group got through their routines on a difficult apparatus which has ruined many dreams of All-around glory in the past. Koji Yamamuro (JPN) 14.666, Danell Leyva (USA) 14.433, John Orozco (USA) 14.366 (with something of a struggle on his dismount), Uchimura 15.400 (already starting to open a gap to his closest rivals), Daniel Purvis (GBR) 14.566 and Boy 14.466 all went through cleanly to stay in the competition. It was also good to see Oleg Stepko of Ukraine, the Youth Olympic Champion on Pommel Horse, in action on the Parallel Bars. In his first year as a senior he is already earning a place among the best All-around gymnasts in the world.
On the third rotation Uchimura was again rock solid on the Rings, scoring 15.166, but none of the other leading contenders made any big mistakes either and the tension just kept building. Teng Haibin of China showed his talent on the Parallel Bars, scoring 15.233. At the halfway point of the competition, Uchimura was leading by 0.600, with his closest challenger Mykola Kuksenkov of Ukraine. But of those yet to perform on the Vault (usually the highest-scoring event), the closest to Kohei were his countryman Yamamuro (1.775 behind), Purvis (-2.200), Boy (-2.300) and Leyva (-2.525).
For the fourth rotation the top contenders were on Vault. Most of them performed solidly and scored between 15.866 (Orozco) and 16.233 (Uchimura – no surprise to see him come out on top once again). But the big drama during this rotation was when Teng Haibin crashed on his High Bar routine and almost simultaneously Leyva fell on his vault. Two strong contenders had seemingly blown their chances. At this point it is easy for a gymnast to lose his concentration, but he still needs to regroup and perform the rest of his routines to his full potential. Anyone who remembers how Paul Hamm achieved victory at the 2004 Olympic Games would know this. This rotation also showed two Floor finalists both showing why they got to that final with big scores on their favourite apparatus – Alexander Shatilov of Israel (15.300) and Tomas Gonzalez of Chile (15,333).
After the fourth rotation everyone had passed the Vault and the intermediate results were therefore more meaningful. But one has still to remember that none of the other apparatuses are totally even statistically, and then there are personally strong apparatuses which can boost you up the rankings (eg, Pommel Horse is statistically the lowest scoring event, but it could be the secret weapon for an All-around gymnast in which to excel and steal a march on his competitors. One look at today’s scores to see how Uchimura faired on the Pommel Horse and I guess it’s not a secret anymore!). After this rotation, the leaderboard looked something like this:

1. Uchimura
2. Yamamuro (-1,942)
3. Purvis (-2,433)
4. Boy (-2,467)
5. Belyavski (-2,557)
6. Tommassone (-2,799)
7. Kuksenkov (-2,799)
8. Shatilov (-3,132)

On the fifth rotation Uchimura was close to perfection on the Parallel Bars, again registering the highest apparatus score of the night with 15.566. Boy had some steps on his handstands, and a bigger step on his dismount – it was good (14.566), but certainly he is capable of doing even better here. Purvis and Yamamuro performed well and scored 15.200 and 14.966 respectively. Belyavski scored 14.733 and Kuksenkov got 15.200 on the High Bar, staying close to the medal placements. Leyva came back strongly after the Vault and posted the second highest score of the night on Parallel Bars with 15.333. Orozco also showed good work on this apparatus and climbed to seventh place and within 0.85 of the final podium place. Except for first place, everything was still open going into the final rotation.
The sixth and final rotation is decisive. If you have got this far without any mistakes and you take a look at the scoreboard, it suddenly might appear as though you have a good chance to finish high up; but everyone has to remember that it is not over until the fat lady sings (or until the last dismount is made?). Here again, it is vital to keep your concentration and thoughts under control.
Philipp Boy was first up on the Horizontal Bar and performed an absolutely magnificent routine. His event high of 16.066 tonight catapaulted him into the silver medal position and certainly put some extra pressure on the other gymnasts. Next up on the Horizontal Bar was Purvis, who hit a clean routine but could not quite match his German rival in terms of difficulty on this event: 14.800 put him 0.6 behind Boy in the final standings. Then it was time for Yamamuro’s final effort of the night. He also put in a solid routine, but again it was not quite difficult enough to pass Boy with 14.866, 0.3 short of Boy’s total of 90.530 but good enough for bronze.
There was more drama to come when Leyva had a bad-looking fall on his full-twisting Tkachev. He hit his face on the bar and looked a little disorientated for a while. He walked off the podium on his own and hopefully this will not affect his performance in the Parallel Bars final on Sunday. He will certainly be hungry to show what he is capable of doing in the All-around competition at next year’s London Olympic Games.
Belyavski finished off on the Pommel Horse with 14.733 to provisionally take fourth place behind Purvis. But Orozco also hit his High Bar routine cleanly, and also had difficulty, and his 15.366 put him right up there between Purvis and Belyavski totalling 89.664. Finally it was the moment everybody seemed to be waiting for – Uchimura finishing his All-around performance on the Horizontal Bar. Everyone remembered how he fell during the team finals on his Kovacs. Was he going to hit the mark this time?
He was. Uchimura did his full difficulty and nailed his routine. When he landed the crowd just went crazy! There was a standing ovation for him and the first people to rise from their seats were his fellow competitors and coaches in the delegates’ seats out of sheer respect for an amazing performance. The score of 15.700 flashed up on the scoreboard, giving him an enormous final total of 93.631, more than three points ahead of his closest rival.
I was not surprised but remain deeply impressed by the level at which Uchimura is able to perform on all apparatuses, combining difficulty with clean execution. That is what this sport is all about. I have nothing but respect for him. In my opinion he is the most complete and dominant gymnast in the world right now. But at the same time I must say that I have huge respect for all the gymnasts competing at this level and pushing their bodies to the limits constantly.
Once again I want to thank all the gymnasts in this final for offering the audience such a wonderful show tonight. I tip my hat to them – they all deserve to take a deep bow!

Final standings:

Gold Kohei Uchimura JPN      93.631
Silver Philipp Boy GER           90.530
Bronze Koji Yamamuro JPN   90.255

4. Daniel Purvis GBR 89.932
5. John Orozco USA 89.664
6. David Belyavski RUS 89.274
7. Mykola Kuksenkov UKR 89.132
8. Marcel Ngyen GER 88.831

Kochei Uchimura EC 2011