The Literal Rise and Fall of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships

By Mia Merrill, Sports Editor The 45th artistic gymnastics world championships was held from October 3rd to 12th in Nanning, China.  I don’t know of anyone else who was excited as I was. It is safe to say that gymnastics is not a widely viewed sport, and so to those who understood my alternate cheering and moping this week, I thank you.

Simone Biles wins her fifth gold of the 2014 world championships / Photo by teamusa.org

Gymnastics competitions can go one of two ways: the consistent gymnasts from the countries with the most well-funded programs hit their routines and win, and specialists—gymnasts who concentrate on only one apparatus—help boost the team score. Or, because gymnastics is a sport about balancing on thin objects, holding yourself up with your core muscles for long amounts of time, and defying the laws of physics, the top qualifiers slip and fall and someone else gets the medal. It’s a brutal sport to do and see.

This would be an extremely long article if I went through all the details of each all-around and event final, but there is a cheat sheet at the bottom of this article that lists winners and medal counts by nation.

The main events of the competition were the men’s and women’s team finals. This was the first international team competition since the 2012 Olympics. China and Japan were very close throughout the men’s final, and the gold ultimately went to the home team of China, the reigning Olympic champions. Japan, who also won the silver in 2012, was awarded silver again, and the US won bronze. The US bronze is a major accomplishment after their fifth place Olympic finish.

The US women’s team won the gold, adding to their 2012 Olympic win and 2011world championships win. The US won by 6.693 points, which is a huge margin for gymnastics. Most competitions are won by one or two points, and some are won by just a few tenths of a point. As for the other competitors, China won silver, and Russia bronze. China’s silver is huge for the women’s team, who did not make the podium at the last Olympics.

Kohei Uchimura of Japan won the men’s individual all-around for the fifth consecutive time. Uchimura was the 2008 Olympic all-around silver medalist, the world all-around champion in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014, and the 2012 Olympic all-around champion. Uchimura, the 2011 world floor exercise champion and the 2013 world parallel bars champion, is one of the most talented and successful male gymnasts of all time. Max Whitlock of Great Britain, the current European pommel horse champion, won the silver in the all-around, and Yusuke Tanaka of Japan won the bronze.

The major upsets of this world championships came in the women’s individual all-around and balance beam finals. This all-around marked the first in which Olympic champion and three-time world and European champion Aliya Mustafina of Russia has participated in and not made the podium in four years. Fans and critics expected Mustafina, the 2010 world all-around champion, to defend her 2013 bronze medal.

Simone Biles of the US defended her gold medal to no surprise. After becoming the first African-American to win the women’s title in 2013, Biles is now the first woman in twenty years to win the title for two consecutive years. Biles is a four-time US national champion and a six-time world champion—and she’s only seventeen, in case you wanted to feel inadequate.

Larisa Iordache of Romania won the silver in the all-around, an incredible accomplishment after struggling in international all-arounds for many years. Iordache is the current European floor exercise champion. Kyla Ross, a member of the gold-winning US women’s “Fierce Five” 2012 Olympic team and the 2013 world all-around silver medalist, won the bronze.

In the balance beam final, frontrunners Yao Jinnan of China and Iordache both fell off the balance beam, and finished in eighth and fifth place, respectively. Ross, the 2013 beam silver medalist, finished in sixth. Biles won her fourth gold of the championships on the beam, after winning the bronze in 2013. Mustafina, the 2013 world balance beam champion, won the bronze medal. Some critics have expressed annoyance at Mustafina’s bronze, claiming that her performance was not worthy of the podium and that she only succeeded because others failed.

But that is the nature of gymnastics: one person’s success depends heavily on another’s failure. Some say that Ross would not have won the bronze in the all-around if some of the top eight qualifiers, like Mustafina and Jinnan, had not fallen in their last event. In the 2012 Olympics, McKayla Maroney of the US won the silver on vault after falling, because almost all the other competitors also fell. That’s what makes gymnastics such an exciting sport to watch. And it is sure to be just as exciting at next year’s world championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

Medal Count:

Women’s:

United States: 7

People’s Republic of China: 4

Russian Federation: 4

Romania: 2

People’s Democratic Republic of Korea: 1

 

Men’s:

Japan: 6

People’s Republic of China: 3

United States: 3

Brazil: 2

Croatia: 2

Russian Federation: 2

Ukraine: 2

France: 1

Hungary: 1

People’s Democratic Republic of Korea: 1

The Netherlands: 1

United Kingdom: 1

 

Results – Men’s:

Team: China, Japan, USA

Individual all-around: Kohei Uchimura (Japan), Max Whitlock (Great Britain), Yusuke Tanaka (Japan)

Floor exercise: Denis Ablyazin (Russia), Kenzo Shirai (Japan), Diego Hypolito (Brazil)

Pommel horse: Krisztian Berki (Hungary), Filip Ude (Croatia), Cyril Tommasone (France)

Still rings: Liu Yang (China), Arthur Zanetti (Brazil), You Hao (China)

Vault: Ri Se-gwang (North Korea), Ihor Radivilov (Ukraine), Jacob Dalton (USA)

Parallel bars: Oleh Vernyayev (Ukraine), Danell Leyva (USA), Ryohei Kato (Japan)

Horizontal bar: Epke Zonderland (The Netherlands), Kohei Uchimura (Japan), Marijo Moznik (Croatia)

 

Results – Women’s:

Team: USA, China, Russia

Individual all-around: Simone Biles (USA), Larisa Iordache (Romania), Kyla Ross (USA)

Vault: Hong Un-jong (North Korea), Simone Biles (USA), Mykayla Skinner (USA)

Uneven bars: Yao Jinnan (China), Huang Huidan (China), Daria Spiridonova (Russia)

Balance beam: Simone Biles (USA), Bai Yawen (China), Aliya Mustafina (Russia)

Floor exercise: Simone Biles (USA), Larisa Iordache (Romania), Aliya Mustafina (Russia)

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