The man who tamed the triple double

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Simone Biles’s casual video drop of two stellar new tumbling passes Tuesday casts the spotlight on one of the hardest skills done in gymnastics: the triple twisting double back.

Up to now, the triple double has gotten short shrift in women’s gymnastics. Unlike some other triple things -- hi there, triple twisting Yurchenko! -- the gymworld hasn’t held its collective breath to see who would be the first to perform one. It was always kind of assumed that someone would get around to it at some point, and that that someone turns out to be Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time, is really no surprise at all.

Still, to look at the thing is just spectacular. Biles’s special ability is in the fact that she makes it look easy -- so easy that at first glance it looks like a double twisting double, which the 22-year-old Texan already does to great effect at the end of her floor routine. (And most gymnasts, if they do a double double at all, do it at the beginning of the routine.)

The triple double has been competed by several men, but the pioneer was the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Ri Jong Song, who debuted it at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The element is actually named the Ri Jong Song in the men’s code of points, though unfortunately for him, triple-double is a catchier term.

Ri’s whole routine is worth revisiting. In addition to opening with the skill that has come to bear his name, he ends with a terrific double twisting double layout, which is what most of the top contenders begin with even today. In addition to the difficulty of the tumbling, this is a thoughtfully presented routine -- it has a rather unique double-twisting Shushunova and a roundoff, windmill that evokes the great Chinese gymnasts of an earlier era.

Although certain form deductions (see handstand, press) assured that this routine would not contend for a medal, it stands out as being an exercise ahead of its time. As such, it deserves to be celebrated. Ri Jong Song continued on following the Athens Olympics, notably placing fourth on vault at the 2007 World Championships (where he showed a Tsuk triple and a Randi). But it was another man named Ri -- 2016 Olympic vault champion-to-be Ri Se Gwang, who shocked the world with his extraordinary capacity for adding extra twists to already extremely complex vaults — who we remember more today.

Is Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura done with gymnastics? Maybe not.

Oh, the shifting fortunes of Japanese men’s gymnastics!

The talented Kakeru Tanigawa won the prestigious NHK Cup -- and a spot on Japan’s men’s world team -- Sunday in Tokyo, scoring a respectable 84.098 in the all-around. That score, added to his scores from capturing his second Japanese national title last month (where he averaged around 85 points in the all-around) easily gave the 20-year-old the NHK title, only 0.2 ahead of his older and slightly better known brother Wataru.

Kakeru Tanigawa earned his second Japanese at

Kakeru Tanigawa earned his second Japanese at

Kazuma Kaya, the 2015 world bronze medalist on pommel horse, finished third in the NHK rankings. All three have qualified to compete as part of Japan’s world team for October’s World Championships in Stuttgart, the last major global event before the Tokyo Olympic Games, with two more to be added closer to the event.

The younger Tanigawa’s accolades, which include being Japan’s youngest ever national champion, have gone a bit under the radar due to the star power of Japan’s men’s team, led by two-time Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura and twistmaster Kenzo Shirai.

But recent results have thrown the established hierarchy into turmoil: Uchimura came to last month’s Japanese Championships injured and had the worst meet of his career, falling several times to finish 37th, missing the cut for the all-around final for the first time since his debut as a 16-year-old in 2005. A photo of Uchimura clutching his left shoulder in agony after a fall off the parallel bars remains the enduring image of the competition.

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Shirai, dealing with a foot injury, didn’t fare much better, finishing 30th all-around, or dead last among the finalists. Uchimura did not compete Sunday, though not exactly by choice: only the top 30 in the all-around from the Japanese Championships qualified to compete at the NHK Cup.

This is a strange turn of events for the Japanese, and gives them an unusual problem to deal with as their first home Summer Olympics in 56 years approaches. Shirai and especially Uchimura have underpinned the team with fabulous results and incredible performances. But Uchimura, now 30, and Shirai, now struggling with an injury that limits him on his best events, are no longer the ones delivering the highest quality performances -- not even close -- though they remain among the faces of the sport.

So if you’re deciding who you put on your world and Olympic teams, where do they factor in?

Uchimura may make it easier to solve the problem than it seems. Saying he finished in 37th place at the Japanese Championships smarts, but the reality is that he only trailed Tanigawa by five points. Had he simply stayed on the apparatus, he’d have at least three of those points back, which would have stood him in the middle of the pack among the finalists. From there, it’s a much smaller jump to being among the major team contenders.

“I don’t have any feelings of frustration,” Uchimura told the media afterwards. Training before the event had not gone particularly well either, it seems. “I mentioned a few times that you can’t compete what you can’t do in training, yet I somehow fell into that situation.”

With two Olympic all-around titles and GOAT status, Uchimura has already lived a thrilling life in gymnastics. His is a rare career even by the standards of the great champions. All that he needs to pad his legend now is a nice comeback tale, and with his results this spring, he’s certainly given himself the opportunity for that.

Play-by-Play: Men's qualifications at the 2019 European Championships, Subdivision 3

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Rotation 1: The heaviest hitters, namely world champion Artur Dalaloyan and Nikita Nagornyy of Russia, are now on the floor. Here we go!

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), FX: Front 2/1 to Randi, nice. Front layout to double front pike half out, stuck. Double doubl etuck, small hop. 2.5 to front 2/1, hop. 1.5 to Rudi. Love his attention to detail as well. Triple full, hop back. Claps his hands as he walks off. One done. 14.966.

Brinn Bevan (GBR), HB: Tak half, a tad overcooked, swings a little to the side. Kovacs, nice. Kolman, also good. Endos. Stalder. Hop full. Drills the double double layout into the ground. Nice stick for the 2018 British champion to begin his day.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), HB: Triple back, bounces out of bounds though with both feet I think. Double front pike half out, small hop back. Front 2/1 to double front. 2.5 to front 1/1 to front layout half. Double double tuck side pass, steps back and out of bounds again. Full out tucked last pass, making it look easy. Well, he won’t be pleased with the out of bounds, but lots of really hard gymnastics in that routine. 14.566. No floor final for him — Dalaloyan and Lankin are ahead of him.

Max Whitlock (GBR), HB: Yama. Hop 1.5. Endo. Stalder. Hop full. Quite meticulous work so far. Double double layout, ooh, has to take two big steps back to keep it on his feet. Welcome back to high bar, Max.

Alexander Shatilov (ISR)< HB: Kovacs. Tkatchev half. Tak half. Stalder. Full twisting double layout. 13.7.

Rayderley Zapata (ESP), FX: The man with the highest hurdles in gymnastics opens with a 1.5 to front double pike. Double front pike half out, stuck. Double front tuck half out, stuck again. Arabian double front half out. Stylish — middle splits to press hadnstand. 2.5 to front layout 1/1. The Spanish are coming alive. Pulls around his double layout to end. That is very worthy of a final. He’ll get it, too — 14.7.

Lukas Dauser (GER), PH: Hit routine for one of Germany’s sleekest gymnasts after an 8.933 disaster from teammate Felix Remuta just before him. This score will be considerably better.

Rotation 2:

Dominick Cunningham (GBR), FX: The 2018 European floor champ shows a stuck double double layout to beghin. Double front half out, terrific. 1.5 to front 2/1, no trouble. Double double tuck, small hop. 2.5 to Rudi side pass. Triple full, nearly stuck, tiny hop back. Impressive routine.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), PH: Powered through a clean set. 14.1.

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), PH: Ditto. 14.066.

Casimir Schmidt (NED), VT: Very good Tsuk 2.5, just a small hop on landing.

Artem Dolgopyat (ISR), FX: Front double tuck with 1.5 twists, stuck. Front 1/1 to Randi. Double double tuck, great landing. 2.5 to front 2/1. 1.5 to Rudi, stuck. He’s cleaned up well on this event. Arabian double front half out, floats to the ground for another stuck landing. Final! 15.366 — lead!

Nick Klessing (GER), SR: Great routine until he overcooks his triple back dismount and sits down.

Alexander Shatilov (ISR), FX: : 2.5 to front 2/1. Double double tuck, stuck. 1.5 to front 1/1 to Rudi. Double full, stuck. Russians. Good full in to end. Maybe two finals for Israel on floor! Alexander claps after his final pass.

Oliver Hegi (SUI) has made some sort of mistake on high bar and will not defend his European title on this event.

Marios Georgiou (CYP), FX: Double double tuck. Front layout to front 2/1, really nice stick. 2.5 to Rudi. Double full. Stuck triple full. A very nice routine, though given what else we’ve seen on floor today it’s unlikely to make finals.

Rotation 3:

Brinn Bevan (GBR), PH: Hit routine! Good Busnari, flairs, pirouetting dismount. Hit routine for Brinn.

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), SR: Maltese, quite good. Iron cross. Piked Yama, tucked Yama, roll to cross. Pull to planche. Full twisting double layout, basically stuck. Great stuff. 14.566.

Max Whitlock (GBR), PH: Scissor to handstand, circles, Russians on a pommel, Busnari, traveling flairs, Magyar, traveling Russian across the horse. Russians on the end. pirouetting dismount. It’s like, every hard thing you can do on pommel horse, done one after the other. Respect. 15.033 takes him into the lead.

Casimir Schmidt (NED), PB: Solid set with double front dismount, small hop. 13.366.

Epke Zonderland (NED), PB: Diamidov with extra spin, inside Diamadov. Front somie catch with his hands. Double pike with a small hop back. 14.366. That’s good for seventh, so he might squeak into the final.

Nick Klessing (GER), VT: Roche with a huge step forward.

Out of the corner of my eye, caught a stuck double front from newcomer Mustafa Arca of Turkey. Every country has their pet event — the British have pommel, the Russians have floor, the Americans like high bar. Turkey’s is definitely p-bars.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), SR: Maltese, excellent — so good he does it twice. Iron cross. Piked Yama, tucked Yama, roll to cross. Planche. Double double tuck, stuck. Great routine there too.

Felix Remuta (GER), VT: Roche with a hop and Tsuk 2.5 with a hop/step.

Petro Pakhniuk (GER), VT: Rolls backward out of his Tsuk double full. Oops.

Benjamin Gischard (SUI), FX: The final gymnast in this rotation has everyone’s attention, and keeps it by sticking most of his tumbling passes. Very nice routine, and he’s delighted with it too, clapping right after he salutes.

Rotation 4:

Andrey Likhovitskiy (BLR), FX: Front 2/1. 1.5 to front 1/1. Roundoff, layout. Double full. 2.5 to end. Everything very clean if not terribly difficult. Likhovitskiy, who lives and trains in Germany, is likely doing this to get an all-around score — that’ll be his ticket to Tokyo come this fall.

Nikita Nagornyy (NED), VT: Jogs into a fantastic Dragulescu, just a small hop. Fantastic. 14.833. Tsuk double pike, also excellent. 14.799 average.

Epke Zonderland (NED), HB: Cassina to Kovacs, nice. Kolman, great. Stalder 1.5. Tak half. Stalder. Hop full for good measure. And stuck double double layout. We’ve seen this routine or a slight variation of it for years now, and what’s stunning is how down to a science he’s got it, and how easy he makes it look. The only guy here combining Kovacs releases, and it puts us on the floor as always. 14.533 moves him into the lead ahead of Tin Sbric.

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), VT: Casual Yurchenko triple full with a hop back. As he does. 14.8. Second vault is a casual handspring front double pike, with just a little hop on the landing. 14.866 average. The vault final is going to be wild. If it were possible, Russia could go 1-2-3-4 in Europe on men’s vault.

Marcel Nguyen (GER), PB: Clips one of his feet on a rail on his first element but it doesn’t deter him.

Lukas Dauser (GER), PB: Terrific control on this routine from Germany’s p-bar Picasso. Beautiful work all the way through. Double front half out landed a little low, and he hopped the landing, but the rest was superb. 14.533 is his score following an accepted inquiry.

Courtney Tulloch (GBR), SR: Good interior, step on his full twisting double layout with a hop.

Yahor Sharamkou (BLR), FX: Opens by nearly sticking a triple back tuck, closes by sitting down an Arabian double front. Ah, gymnastics…

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), PB: 15.0 for a smashingly good routine. Moves into second on p-bars at this point.

Cyril Tommasone (FRA), PH: Leg separation on Russians the only flaw in an otherwise hit routine.

Rotation 5:

Casimir Schmidt (NED), FX: Double front half out. Front double pike, stuck. Front 2/1, front 1/1. 2.5 to front layout half. Russians. Roundoff, Arabian double front half out. Triple full, small hop. Casimir’s happy with that. 14.233.

Marcel Nguyen (GER), HB: Tak full. Tak half to Kovacs. Kolman, caught close to the bar and has to kip out of it. One armed giant…double double layout with a small step back. 13.166.

Lukas Dauser (GER), HB: Tak full to Yama. Kovacs. Tkatchev. Hop 1.5. One armed giant. Tak full. Full twisting double layout with a pretty big step forward, alas. Otherwise a nice routine.

Alexander Shatilov (ISR), VT: DTY, hop back.

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), PB: Fantastic routine capped with double front pike half out dismount!

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), HB: German giant to stalder. Tkatchev. Tkatchev half. Tak full. Tak half. Hop full. Full twisting double layout with a step.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), PB: 15.133 after a fabulous routine. He takes the lead on this event. His duel with Dalaloyan for the AA title is going to be something else.

The rotation ends with an unfortunate injury to Britain’s Dominick Cunningham on vault on a roundoff, half on, front double full off. Cunningham seemed to get lost in the air, bailed out and landed on a straight leg on the mat. He signaled for help immediately and was assisted on the mat by medics, who eventually wheeled him out on a stretcher.

Rotation 6:

Felix Remuta (GER), FX: Lands double double tuck on his hands and knees. Cool point in his routine is his back pike to prone position. Dismounts with triple full with a large step back. 13.266.

Marcel Nguyen (GER), FX: Double double layout, just a little hop forward. Front double pike half out, a little low. The rest was clean. 14.1.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), HB: Tak full, swings the wrong way, oops. Tak half. Tkatchev. Tkatchev half. One armed giant. Stalder. Double double layout with a hop back. For all their tumbling/vaulting prowess, the Russian guys often swing high bar a bit…gingerly. This was a good routine, but no exception. 13.933.

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), HB: Cassina. PIke Kovacs. Layout Tkatchev half. Layout Tkatchev. Endo. Yamawaki. Stalder. Full twisting double layout, stuck. Fantastic day for the world champion! 14.666 puts him first on high bar as well. 87.930 all-around total today.

Krisztofer Meszaros (HUN), FX: At every Euros there’s a young guy who doesn’t look old enough to be a senior, and here in Szczecin, Meszaros is it. Double front, well done. Front 2/1. Randi. 2.5 to front 1/1. Triple full to end. He may be young, but he’s got the skills.

Play-by-Play: Men's qualifications at the 2019 European Championships, Subdivision 2

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Subdivision 2, Rotation 1: Expect big things from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Britain, Turkey and Switzerland as this exciting subdivision unfolds.

Yordan Aleksandrov (BUL), FX: Good double double tuck to open. Front 1/1. Etc. 13.366.

Vahagn Davtyan (ARM), SR: Wonderful positions. Stuck full twisting double layout. 14.766 moves him into first place on this event so far.

Adam Steele (IRL), PB: Super cool little back flip element after a peach to open up his routine. Overcooks his Tippelt, alas. Several steps back on his double front tuck dismount, alas. 11.066.

Eddy Yusof (SUI), SR: 13.666, puts him fifth right now.

Nicola Barolini : Yama. Tkatchev. Blind Front stalderwork. Little bit of a stumble on a turn, just a tiny bit unsure of himself. Good double double layout dismount, tiny hop forward. A nice very clean routine although one with just a Yama as a release is a bit weak. 12.7.

James Hall (GBR), VT: Tsuk 2.5 with a step forward. Clean in the air, just the step. 14.366.

Carlo Macchini (ITA), HB: Kolman, well done. Yama. Great full twisting double layout, stuck. Another explosion from the Italians.

Joe Fraser (GBR), VT: Tsuk 2.5, legs a trifle bent in the air, hop forward. Powerful.

Nils Dunkel (GER), VT: Tsuk double full. Again a little bit of leg form and a step on the landing. 13.733.

Andreas Toba (GER), VT: Tsuk 2.5, well done.

Vladyslav Hrynevych, (UKR), PH: Stops after his first element but doesn’t fall. Does fall later on, however.

Oleg Verniaiev (UKR), PH: Scissor to handstand. Circles. Good Busnari. Circles on one pommel. Little leg separation but nothing seriousl. Again on the Russian travels but he stays on. Good finish. Hit routine, more or less. 14.1. Amazing considering what he’s been through to get here.

Jonathan Vrolix (BEL), FX: Front double pike, hops forward and out of bounds. Terrific stuff otherwise, just textbook. Sticks his Arabian double front dismount. A final seems questionable given the first pass, but maybe because everything else was great he will make it after all. 14.3 puts him second right now…

Vladyslav Polyashov (RUS), PB: Solid and smooth routine with a bit of everything. Terrific front straddle somie toward the end, lots of height. Front double tuck half twist dismount, stuck. One of the best things seen all day. Demonstrated real mastery all the way through.

Dmitry Lankin (RUS), PB: Falls on…a half turn? Oops. 13.533.

Loris Frasca (FRA), FX: Front 1/1 to Randi. 2.5 to front 2/1, a little short and takes a step to the side. Great flairs sequence, something a lot of the guys don’t do on floor anymore. Double front. 1.5 to Rudi, windmills his arms several times to hang on for the stick. 3/1 to end with a hop. Not bad at all overall.

Andreas Toba (GER), PB: Beautiful routine from the German veteran. Diamidov skills, including a one and a quarter pirouette onto one bar, are the highlight.

Rotation 2:

Marian Dragulescu (ROU), VT: His namesake vault, awesome as always, just a step back on the landing. The only place where Dragu kind of shows his age is that he’s no longer the sticking machine he once was, even on this vault, which he’s done thousands of times, over no less than 20 years. 14.6. Second vault is a roundoff, half on, front double full off and falls. 13.95. Well darn.

Some Dragulescu perspective: some of the men's gymnasts competing here were born in 2000, the year Dragulescu competed at his first Euros. Respect.

Eddy Yusof (SUI), VT: Makes his Tsuk double pike, step forward. Nice job as he had some problems with it in podium training the other day.

Fabulous floor set from Nicola Bartolini (ITA). His attention to detail is superb. Everything was wonderfully done (and stuck). He also does an unusual thing in a pretty press handstand combination. Beautifully stuck triple full to end. 14.466 takes the lead on floor, and deservedly so.

Christian Baumann (SUI), VT: DTY, hop back. Not bad at all.

Igor Radivilov (UKR), SR: Smooth, excellent routine.

David Vecsernyes (HUN), HB: Notable for his dismount, a full twisting double layout over the bar. Looks like a Cassina attempt, but is actually a dismount.

James Hall (GBR), PB: Peach. Two Gienger skills. Inside Diamidov. Stutz. Falls on uprise double front dismount. Shouldn’t keep him out of the AA final, however.

Vladyslav Polyashov (RUS), HB: Does a Yamawaki off the top of his routine and splits his legs, which makes everyone go, “Did he mean to do that?” He does another actual Yama later in the routine, either to make up for the first one or…maybe he’s trying to do the straddle as some sort of original skill? Hard to say. 13.533.

Ahmet Onder (TUR), VT: Dragulescu to his hands and knees. Awww.

Ivan Stretovich (RUS), HB: One armed giant. Great Tak full to Yama — we see so many of those that when one is really well done as his is, it stands out. Tucked Kovacs. Tak half. Layout Tkatchev. Tkatchev to Tkatchev half. Double double layout with a small hop. His first international competition since Rio.

Rotation 3:

Eddy Yusof (SUI), PB: Strong routine with a lot of diverse elements. Double pike is landed a little low and results in a step forward but otherwise it was very good. 13.666.

James Hall (GBR), HB: Cassina. Kovacs. Kolman. Yama. Tak full. Tak half. Hop full. Double double layout, small hop forward. Kovacs master. 14.2 puts him fourth so far.

Igor Radivilov (UKR), VT: Amazing Dragulescu, just a tiny hop on landing. That’s what comes of training a handspring front triple — two with a half twist becomes easy. 14.833. Second vault: Tsuk double pike, shuffle back but otherwise great. Igor’s happy with it, pumps his fists. Final for sure.

Cassina. Kolman, well caught. One armed giant. Tak full. Front stalders. Double double layout with both twists done on the second flip, unusual.

Ivan Stretovich (RUS), FX: Double front tuck half out, stuck. Double double tuck, tiny movement on landing. Front 2/1 to front full. 2.5 to Rudi with sizeable hop back. 1.5 to front layout half side pass. Triple full to end, small hop. Very nice. 14.433.

Didn’t see it, but Ferhat Arican of Turkey got 15.033 on parallel bars to move into the lead. Teammate Ahmet Onder follows up with a 14.866 to move into second at this point. Turkey = p-bars team.

Dmitry Lankin (RUS), FX: HUGE triple back to open, hop back. Incredible. 2.5 to front layout 1/1. Quad full. 2.5 to front 2/1. Front layout to Rudi. Triple full to end, tiny little hop. Awesome. 14.6 moves him ahead of Italy’s Nicola Bartolini for the lead on this event, and beautiful as Bartolini was, this was deserved.

Filip Sasnal (POL), HB: Yama. Offline on his hop 1.5 and does a couple crooked giants. Gets in trouble later in the routine and has to hop off. Sticks his double double layout dismount, though.

Konstantin Kuzovkov (GEO), FX: Beautiful opening stuck double layout. 2.5 to front layout half, small hop. Front 1/1 to front 2/1, cross step tp the side. Double full. Ooh, nearly collapses on his press handstand however. Triple full with chest low.

Rotation 4:

Christian Bataga (ROU), B: Yama. Tak half (angle). Tkatchev. Stalder full. Hop 1.5. Hop full. Double double tuck, shoulders too far back, has to take two big steps back to keep it on his feet.

Joe Fraser (GBR), FX: Double double tuck. Front 2/1 to front half. 2.5 to Rudi. Double full. Roundoff, full twisting double tuck, small hop back. Strong routine.

Ivan Stretovich (RUS), PH: One fall. 13.033.

Loris Frasca (FRA), VT: Tsuk triple, just a hop back. Very nice in the air, efficient twist. Second vault is a Dragulescu but he falls! Hmmmm. A few of the guys who you’d expect to be in finals on vault have fallen today, notably Dragulescu. With Frasca doing the same, the final opens up a little — or maybe someone will actually qualify with a fall.

Vladyslav Polyashov (RUS), PH: Hit routine with lots of flairs. Well done. 14.566 moves him into the lead on pommels!

Oleg Verniaiev (UKR), PB: Front somie. Peach half. English handstand, front Diamidov out. Tippelt. Inside Diamaidov. A little shaky on a couple of elements but honestly nothing to really deduct from. Double front half out dismount, small hop. Great routine all things considered. 14.9 puts him second to Arican right now.

Rotation 5:

Eddy Yusof (SUI), FX: Double double tuck, small hop. Front 2/1 to front half. 1.5 to Rudi. Double full. Full in. Nice set.

Joe Fraser (GBR), PH: Hit routine. 13.533.

Christian Baumann (SUI), FX: 2.5 to front layout. Arabian double front. Very nice flairs sequence. 3/1 to end.

Maksym Vasylenko (UKR), HB: Cassina, has to kip out of it. Kolman. Kovacs. Double double layout.

Vladyslav Hrynevych (UKR), HB: One fall.

Antoine Borello (FRA), PB: Hits his foot on a rail on a Diamidov type skill, slowing his momentum, but he doesn’t fall.

James Hall (GBR), PH: Even better hit set. 14.133.

Denis Abliazin (RUS): Pike Yama to planche. Iron cross, done twice. Giant. Double double layout, step forward. The Olympic bronze medalist on this event delivers a good routine when it matters. 14.633 for fifth so far. Final? Wait and see.

Nicola Bartolini (ITA), VT: Tsuk 2.5, very nice in the air but a sizable step on the landing. Does a second vault — DTY? Well landed too.

Ahmet Onder (TUR), FX: Double double layout, very nice! Front 2/1 to front layout half. Double double tuck, stuck. Landed so lightly! 2.5 to front layout 1/1. 1.5 to Rudi, small hop. Onder really has something on floor — good mechanics but also an increasing amount of elegance. Full in, small hop back. Great routine. The men’s floor final is going to be terrific. 14.5 puts him second right now.

Antonois Tantalidis of Greece is having a bad day on high bar — two falls.

Marian Dragulescu (ROU), FX: 1.5 to Randi. 2.5 to front 2/1 to front layout 1/1 — great pass. Double front half out. Double double tuck with a step back. Double full. Triple full with a step forward. And a little airplane move off the floor. Those hops and steps on his landing are going to impact his score, but it’s cool to see him innovating and outdoing everyone else still — watch in a year how everyone is doing 2.5 to front 2/1 to front layout 1/1.

Rotation 6:

Joe Fraser (GBR), SR: Tucked Yama (small struggle maybe?) to piked Yama to planche. Front giant. Double double tuck dismount.

Dmitry Lankin (RUS), VT: Randi, well done. Makes it look easy (it’s not easy.) 14.8. Second vault is a Tsuk 2.5, landed with a step forward.

Loris Frasca (FRA), HB: Tak full to Yama. Really nice Tak full. Stalder. hop full. Blind to front stalders. Tak half. Very smooth on this event. Double double layout, stuck. Nice job!

Denis Abliazin (RUS), VT: Randi, great. Absolutely great. It wasn’t great in podium training, but it’s great now. 14.9. Tsuk double pike, makes it easily, just a step back. Good for him! 14.8 is his final score — and puts him in first place on vault. Well well well.

Fall off the pommel horse for 2016 Armenian Olympian Harutyan Merdinyan, who waited five apparatus to do this routine. So no final for him unless something really strange happens…

Nicola Bartolini (ITA) ends his day on parallel bars with a

After two falls on high bar, Antonois Tantalidis of Greece redeems himself with a very nice floor exercise, including stuck double front side pass. Great landings on almost everything, actually. Only exception is his last pass, a 3/1, where he shows some helicopter legs and takes a step forward. But everything else was terrific.

Marco Sarrugerio (ITA), PB: Another beautiful routine from Italy, capped with a stuck double pike dismount. The Italian team is for real, guys. 14.166 puts him in sixth place on p-bars currently.

Play-by-Play: Men's qualification at the 2019 European Championships - Subdivision 1

Men’s All-around standings after subdivision 1 of 3.

Men’s All-around standings after subdivision 1 of 3.

Subdivision 1, Rotation 1: Here we go! The men will compete in three subdivisions today, the women in four tomorrow.

Ludovico Edalli, (ITA), FX: Half in half out, tucked, steps back. 1.5 to front 1/1. Double full. 2.5 twist.

Petrix Barbosa (POR), VT: Roche, low landing and may have touched his bottom to the mat, but has strong quads and muscles it so it looks like it was just low.

Filip Ude (CRO), PB: Cleanly through. Front straddle somie. But of a stumble forward on double pike dismount.

Toma Modoianu-Zseder (ROU), HB: Kolman, not even close. The rest was clean.

Nicolo Mozzato (ITA), FX: 2018 Junior European champ shows good double double tuck to open. Front 2/1 to front tuck full. 2.5 to front 1/1 with a hop forward. Double full. Stuck 3/1 to end. Very good routine. Promising for Italy.

Rick Jacobs (NED), SR: Picks up some big swing halfway through. Double double tuck to his hands and knees.

Milad Agharzayev (AZE), VT: Fall on a DTY, I believe. A fall, in any case.

Roman Kulesza (POL), HB: Big moment for the local hero, a 2012 Olympians. Good sladerwork to begin. Tak half, not bad at all. Layout Tkatchev. Tkatchev. Tkatchev half. Inverts full spin, stalder. Double double layout. Impressive! Great start for him.

Artur Davtyan (ARM), VT: Gorgeous Dragulescu, just danced around a bit on the landing. Goes back down the runway and sits down while waiting for the judges to deliberate. '“I guess he’s tired,” Luba comments. Second vault is a Tsuk triple, and wow he nearly flies off the podium he’s so off to the side. Goes off the mat as his coach shrieks in agony. We could hear it in the press gallery. Hmmmm. 14.316 average.

Michael Sorokine (ISR), SR: Falls on 1.5 twisting double tuck dismount. A shame!

Robert Kirmes (FIN), FX: All the standard stuff we see on men’s floor these days, but done with remarkably clean execution. Fun fact: his father was a Soviet Olympian in gymnastics, and his mom competed for Sweden. 13.933.

Emil Soravuo (FIN), FX: Wonderful double double tuck, kicks out, stuck. Front 1/1 to front 2/1, stuck. 2.5 to Rudi. The Finnish delegation is here in force and cheering him on in the stands. Front layout, front half. Playing it safe, perhaps, trying to get into the final. Sticks his 3/1 and lets a cry of triumph escape. Soravuo has been making some noise on the world cup circuit already this year, and he wants to be in finals. 14.366.

Subdivision 1, Rotation 2:

Filip Ude (CRO), HB: Tkatchev Tkatchav half. Stalder. Inverted stalders. Endo. All very textbook. Sticks his full twisting double layout dismount. Nice routine for the 2008 Olympic silver medalist on pommel horse. 13.333.

Bernardo Almeida (POR), PB: Beautiful work. Don’t know if he does anything distinctive enough to get him into the final, but a clean, nice routine.

Rokas Guscinas (LTU), HB: Yama with half twist. Tkatchev to Gienger. One armed giant. Yama. Front stalder, front stalder half. Underrotates his full twisting double layout and has to step forward and put a hand down.

Michel Bletterman (NED), VT: Tsuk double full, big step to the side.

Tin Srbic (CRO), HB: Tkatchev to layout TKatchev to Tkatchev half, well done. Tak half. Tkatchev half. Tak full. Front stalder. Stalder. Full twisting double layout with a hop forward. A strong routine that doesn’t put the final in doubt for him. Some questionable angles on the Tak skills, however, and he’ll want to erase the hop on his dismount, but a good routine. 14.5.

Rick Jacobs (NED), VT: Fall on otherwise nice DTY.

Andrey Medvedev (ISR), VT: Does a back tuck on the podium before going. Is that allowed? Very nice Tsuk double pike in any case, nearly stuck, great in the air. He created a sensation with his vaulting in podium training, and that’s the nicest and hardest skill we’ve seen done so far. 14.633. Second vault is gorgeous handspring double front pike. GORGEOUS. FINAL! 14.533 average.

Artur Davtyan (ARM), PB: Sticks his double pike dismount cold, in any case.

Ludovico Edalli (ITA), PH: Very nice routine. Cleanly through. 13.366.

Michael Sorokine (ISR), VT: Tsuk double full with a step to the side. 13.733.

Harald Wybye (NOR), VT: Tsuk double full, and a rare stick on men’s vault. Merits a high five from the coach. 13.866.

Subdivision 1, Rotation 3:

Nikolaos Kranitis (GRE), FX: Beautiful 2.5 to Rudi in the air, small symble on landing. Double double tuck, step forward, slight underrotation. Full in tuck, steps back and OOB. Triple full with a step back to end. This guy has exceptional presentation and unusually efficient twisting, but too many hops and stumbles on his landing will keep him from finaling here. 12.9.

Bernardo Almeida (POR), HB: Runs forward out of his dismount. 12.1.

Christoforos Konstantinidis (GRE), FX: Front 2/1 to front layout half, well done. Front 1/1 to double front, nice. Good cranked double double tuck, stuck. 1.5 to Rudi. Double full. Full in tuck, stuck, fist pumps. Both Greeks very impressive on floor, though this was the better routine of the two today. 14.3.

Artur Davtyan (ARM), HB: Yama. Stalder blind. Tak to Endo. Stalder. Double double tuck with a hop forward. Not really his event, this.

Luka van den Keybus (BEL), VT: Nice DTY. 13.7.

Filip Ude (CRO), FX: Gets through his whole routine and then slips on his final pass, a 2.5 and puts his hand down. 12.8.

Murad Agharzayev (AZE), HB: Has to stop after some kind of inverted skill goes wrong. Full twisting double layout with a hop. 10.733.

Aurel Benovic (CRO), FX: Handspring double front pike half out. Front 2/1 to layout 1/1. 2.5 to Rudi, small hop. Randi, not a lot of height, step to the side. Arabian double front with a step back. Too little power on his triple full to end, only gets 2.75 around and puts his hands down.

Petrix Barbosa (BRA), HB: Tkatchev, Tkatchav half in combination. Layout Tkatchev half. Nice Tak full. Stalder. Full twisting double layout with a hop. 12.0.

Nicolo Mozzato (ITA), SR: Very nice set, with piked to tucked Yamawakis, and double front pike dismount, which he sticks. 12.666.

Ludovico Edalli (ITA), SR: Basically a carbon copy of Mozzato’s routine, also with stuck front double pike.

Subdivision 1, Rotation 4:

Artur Davtyan (ARM), FX: Sweet routine with Front 2/1 to front 1/1, Arabian double front half out, triple twist dismount with a step back. 13.733.

Robert Seligman (CRO), PH: Clean set. No real dismount, but clean all the same. 13.966.

Filip Ude (CRO), PH: Starts very well, calm, clean work. Legs apart on his traveling Russians as always, but he takes the deduction and moves on. Struggle up to his full pirouette dismount, but he msucles as well as he can. A duduction as well, but overall a well presented routine, and you have to have respect for how hard his work is and how he tries to make it look easy.

Luca van den Keybus (BEL), PB: Peach. Tippelt. Front Diamidov. Diamidov. Diamadov with an extra spin, very nice. Stuck double pike dismount. 11.633.

Ludovico Edalli (ITA), VT: Tsuk double full. 13.333.

Nicolo Mozzato (ITA), VT: Tsuk 2.5 with a hop. 14.3.

Dzianis Sanuvonh (BLR), VT: Roche, very well done!

Petrix Barbosa (POR), FX: Sits down his first pass. Sits his last pass (2.5 twist) as well, poor guy.

Subdivision 1, Rotation 5:

Pavel Gulidov (ISR), FX: Front 2.1 to front 1/1, small steps. 2.5 to front half. Front double tuck, small hop. 1.5 to front layout half. 3/1 with a step to end.

Dusan Dordevic (SRB), HB: Finishes his high bar dismount on one knee. Walks off wincing and grabbing his hand a bit.

Eeli Mikkola (FIN), PB: Front flip. Peach. Does a handstand pushup afterward trying to hold the handstand. Uprise to double front tuck.

Joao Fuglsig (DEN), VT: First vault was something that landed facing forward — Tsuk 2.5 or potentially a Shewfelt, just a small hop. Great handspring double front second effort, another tiny hop. Cue the celebation in the Danish corner. 14.199 puts him third so far.

Robert Kirmes (FIN), PB: One big leg separation in a handstand in the routine, then falls on his double front dismount. Poor guy looks crushed. You had a great floor, Robert — hold on to that. 10.666.

Robert Ghiuzan (ROU), VT: A Roche that could not be more cowboyed, followed by a Tsuk double full, a bit awkward in the air.

Nicolo Mozzato (ITA), PB: Sweet set, well presented. The whole Italian team has wonderfully artistic gymnastics and isn’t recognized enough for it. Double front half out dismount.

Ludovico Edalli (ITA), PB: Beautiful set for the 2010 Youth Olympic bronze medalist on this event — and then falls back and sits his double pike dismount. That was really too bad. Edalli is taking it with good grace, shaking his head ruefully. 13.633.

Lukas Borkowski (POL), VT: Roche in which his seat hits before his feet, IMO. Then Tsuk 2.5 in which basically the same thing happens. He looks thrilled nonetheless.

Rick Jacobs (NED), FX: He was highly impressive in training…double double tuck, tiny hop. Front half to Randi, step to the side. Sticks third pass. Double full. Triple full to end, runs out of it and out of bounds. Lovely form, shame about the last pass. 11.866.

Artur Davtyan (ARM), PH: Some form here and there, basically piking his body in his circles, but gets through it without a fall. 13.666.

Michel Bletterman (NED), FX: Double front tuck. Roundoff, half in half out, step back. 2.5 to front tuck full. Russians. Double full. Arabian double front with a step forward. Triple full with a shuffle back. Good for him — one of the better floor routines we’ve seen this weekend.

Subdivision 1, Rotation 6:

Filip Ude (CRO), VT: Tsuk double full with a step forward. 13.433.

Luka van dne Keybus (BEL), FX: Wonderful height on his double front half out, wonderful height. Front 2/1 to front half. 2.5 to front 1/1, stuck. 1.5 to Rudi and finally a little hop forward. Double full, same thing. Sneaks his triple full around to end due to his strong and flexible Achilles. Claps his hands, delighted with that routine.

Lukas Borkowski (POL), PB: Clean set with double front dismount. Lukas is grinning widely and slapping hands with everyone he’s been rotating with all day.

Niccolo Mozzato (ITA), HB: Simply the highest Tkatchev half you’ll ever see. Floated. Great double double layout, stuck, and there’s an explosion of joy from the Italian corner. Brava! 14.133. Maybe a final!

Roman Kulesza (POL), PB: Bhavsar, Tippelt, inside Diamidov, etc. Double pike dismount. Roman says he works out two hours per day, works as a coordinator at his gym here in Szczecin the rest of the time. His last major international competition (besides the warmup he did at the Doha World Cup a few weeks ago)? The 2015 European Games. 12.833.

Dzianis Sanuvonh (BLR), HB: Awesome triple back dismount but falls on it. The Belarusians from what I’ve seen have been impressive so far here — the typical eastern European form, which is always a pleasure to watch, and intriguing skills. 12.2.

Robert Kirmes (FIN), HB: A long wait for him on the podium while the judges decide Sanuvonh’s fate. One armed giant. Tkatchev. Stalder. Blind. Front stalder. Full spin. Everything super clean. Terrific triple back somersault with just a small hop forward. Good way for him to end his day.

Michael Sorokine (ISR), PH: Off on a Russian travel — legs hit the horse.

Apparatus leaders after subdivision 1 of 3:

- Floor: Emil Soravuo (FIN), 14.366
- Pommel: Robert Seligman (CRO), 13.966
- Rings: Artur Avetisyan (ARM), 14.266
- Vault: Andrey Medvedev (ISR), 14.533
- P-Bars: Artur Davtyan (ARM), 13.633
- High Bar: Tin Srbic (CRO), 14.500

Livescoring: Check out smartscoring.com.

Quick hits: Men's Podium Training at the 2019 European Championships

Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine.

Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine.

SZCZECIN, 10:33 a.m.: For the first time in the history of the European Championships, the competition is being held in a city whose name is, well, something of a head-scratcher. How do you pronounce that? was everyone’s first question. (According to gimnastas.net, it’s pronounced “sh-chEh-cheen.” Here’s another pronunciation aid.) Who’s here and how are they projected to do? is the second.

2019 is a year with a lot of events — Europeans in April, the European Games in Minsk in June and the all-important Olympic qualification World Championships in Stuttgart in October, and word is that some gymnasts have opted to skip this event in favor of the European Games, or simply not risk anything and save themselves for worlds.

That leaves titles up for grabs here. The strongest of the Russians — world all-around champion Artur Dalaloyan and world bronze medalist Nikita Nagornyy are here, however, but even those two can’t account for every single medal available. So we might be in for some surprises. Read on for notes from today’s men’s training, updated as things happen.

10:45 a.m.: Out of retirement, or semi-retirement, or at least a long break, 2012 Olympian Roman Kulesza of Poland is working out on high bar. (Beautiful form, as always.) Roman and his wife Marta, a two-time Olympian, are the faces of Polish gymnastics, and of this Championships. Marta is currently in the arena as well, watching high bar accompanied by their almost two-year-old daughter Jagna.

10:50 a.m.: Under the lights. Here’s a view of the arena as the gymnasts in this session train. It’s not so much in the dark as under a well lit field of play, with spectators in the dark. Kind of like being in a theatre, actually.

IMG_6128.JPG

This gymnastics-theatre certainly adds ambiance — and it seems to be the coming thing. In Glasgow for both the 2015 Worlds and 2018 Europeans, this was the kind of lighting we got. Ditto at the 2017 Worlds in Montreal and at last month’s Birmingham World Cup. In an interview with Chris Brooks last week, I asked how the U.S.’s Allan Bower liked competing “in the dark” in Birmingham. Brooks said Bower was fine with it after a couple of turns.

11:10 a.m.: Israel’s Andrey Medvedev is doing some mighty fine vaulting this morning. First there was the casual Tsuk double pike, executed as though it were a single. But the bigger thing is his second vault, a handspring double front pike, where he nearly scrapes the ceiling. The pop off the table he gets on that is truly impressive.

11:25 a.m.: Croatia’s Filip Ude, who at 32 is the oldest Olympic medalist in the field here in Szczecin, can swing a terrific routine on pommel horse. His beautiful flairs sequence is one of the best parts of his floor set as well.

12:00 p.m.: In the arena and looking thrilled to be here is six-time Olympian Jordan Jovtchev of Bulgaria, who is going around the arena smiling and shaking hands and saying hello to everyone. He’s also paying close attention to everything happening on the competition podiums.

Over on pommel horse, Robert Seligman and Ude look strong, with terrifically pure swings. Both look like potential candidates for the pommel horse final, though Seligman doesn’t do a dismount through handstand and Ude is having some trouble on his traveling Russians (legs apart).

12:30 p.m.: The Dutch situation, part I. Today’s podium training schedule features teams that are broken up, with event specialists training first and all-arounders coming later. So Epke Zonderland is not in this session. Instead we’re getting a look at newcomer Rick Jacobs, who is crisp on floor (sharp double double tuck, nice twisting skills.)

1:40 p.m.: Injury to Poland. The second subdivision starts with an injury to one of the Polish gymnasts on vault, who fell and was attended to on the mat by medics for a good 10 minutes before being put on a stretcher and quietly carried out of the arena.

1:45 p.m.: Will he or won’t he? Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev has been a no, then a possibly, and now finally a yes for these championships. Just a couple months removed from surgery in Israel, Verniaiev is at least going to do pommel horse here — and likely a couple of other things too.

Elsewhere, Belgium’s Jonathan Vrolix, who has been coming on on the world cup circuit, is looking sharp on floor. He could land on the podium here, as he nearly medaled in Doha. France’s Loris Frasca, who is training floor at the same time, looks like he could final as well.

Am liking the parallel bars routine of Ireland’s Adam Steele, which has an unusual and eye-catching little element — basically a peach entry with a back flip added. See it off the top of the routine below.

2:45 p.m.: Dmitry Lankin does a whole floor exercise minus his triple back first pass, which he saves for another turn, as one does with special elements. Here it is in slo-mo.

With his flashy triple back, Lankin is the star of this subdivision. But his teammate Ivan Stretovich, a member of Russia’s silver medal winning squad in 2016, shouldn’t be counted out either. Stretovich has excellent tumbling skills, and is a little bit more refined — obviously to him, men’s floor isn’t just the super hard tumbling skills. Too bad the rest of the world (and the FIG Men’s Technical Committee) doesn’t seem to agree.

Other things: When you’re doing serious vaulting, you prep the table. A lot. Ukraine’s Igor Radivilov, who should be in contention for the title here, spent a good five minutes and half a bag of chalk patting down the table until it was just the way he wanted before he attempted his Dragulescu and Tsuk double pike.

Oleg Verniaiev warmed up parallel bars looking…well, a little rough. The thing about men, though, is that what you get in training is not necessarily what you get in competition.

3:30 p.m.: Italy’s Nicola Bartolini, who may be the most heavily tattooed man in gymnastics, really has something. Not just great skills — the Netto Arena abounds with guys who can do triple fulls and double doubles in this moment. Bartolini brings something extra — extra extension, extra toepoint, a genuine artistic quality, especially on the power events, floor and vault.

The whole Italian team, despite their fifth place finish at the mini-Euros that was the DTB Pokal Team Challenge a few weeks back, does a beautiful gymnastics. Would be great to see Bartolini rewarded for it.

3:50 p.m.: Denis Abliazin is training a handspring Randi vault, as is Dmitry Lankin. Lankin is closer to doing it well — Abliazin, whose left shin is wrapped, has landed two on his hands and knees. Lankin, for his part, is just running off the side of the mat. Lankin finally does a very nice one to end his day. Abliazin, meanwhile, moves on to crashing his Tsuk double pikes. Sigh.

4:10 p.m.: End of subdivision two. And now — the Russians (more of them) are coming! The British (more of them too) are coming! Bring on the all-arounders.

4:25 p.m.: Overheard in the press zone: British gymnasts James Hall and Joe Fraser being interviewed.

Q: If you could do one women’s event, which one would it be?

James Hall: “Well, it wouldn’t be beam, for obvious reasons…”

5:03 p.m.: Floor training was some good, some bad for Artur Dalaloyan and Nikita Nagornyy. Nagornyy had some trouble keeping his passes in bounds, which might be expected when you do a double double tuck as a side pass. Dalaloyan had more problems, especially landing his double fronts (he crashed one flat to his back), but the thing about Dalaloyan is that he’s also the most capable guy, and did several beautiful things as well.

5:14 p.m.: Feels like half the floor finalists are out there right now. Seeing great stuff from Artem Dolgopyat of Israel, who opens with an unusual double front with 1.5 twists and also has a gorgeous Randi and 2.5 to front 2/1, which he just stuck. Dolgopyat has obviously worked hard to clean up his form, and looks terrific. So does Alexander Shatilov, who just won floor at the Doha World Cup on his 32nd birthday last month.

5:45 p.m.: Green screen fun. All athletes here are being asked to pose in front of a green screen. If they make finals, the footage will roll on the big screen in the arena during their introductions and before or after their routines.

5:46 p.m.: Whitlock the workhorse. Here’s Max Whitlock’s first go on pommels just now. (He’s also slated to do high bar here, his first outing on the apparatus in competition since the Rio Olympics.) He did two other sets as hard or harder than this and had just jumped up to do more when they called rotation.

6:43 p.m.: Achieving greatness is often a struggle, and Artur Dalaloyan made it look like it on parallel bars. Oh, he’ll be fine in the actual competition, but nobody but the best Russians manage to make doing their routines look like such a challenge. It takes a lot of splatting before you achieve refinement.

6:53 p.m.: Hey, stuck handspring double front from 2016 Olympian Benjamin Gischard of Switzerland just now. Nice. The longer training goes, the more people start clapping when they see something impressive. Another guy looking quite on point tonight is German veteran Marcel Nguyen. The Spieth floor here seems to agree with him. So do the parallel bars.

6:55 p.m.: Guess the highest men’s all-around score from a European so far this year. Nagornyy, you say. Nope. Dalaloyan? Wrong again. Answer: Turkey’s Ahmet Onder, according to the MAGnastics blog. Onder had an 85.6 at some competition (the Turkish Championships, perhaps?) before coming here. Nagornyy, by comparison, tops out at 85.065. Dalaloyan, though he won the Stuttgart World Cup, did so with two falls on high bar, so his AA total was kind of negligible, and he withdrew from the all-around at the Russian Championships in Penza due to illness. So there’s that. Something to think about as the week unfolds.

2019 World Cup preview - Men

Sam Mikulak of the USA.

Sam Mikulak of the USA.

There’s one big question to be answered at this weekend’s Tokyo World Cup: can Sam Mikulak put it all together?

Despite his fifth place all-around finish at last October’s World Championships, the highest of eight-gymnast field at this world cup event, Mikulak isn’t necessarily favored to take the title at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza Sunday. With the competition in the 2020 Olympic host city, the Japanese approach Tokyo as an omen of things to come next summer. To that end they’ve tapped 22-year-old star Kenzo Shirai as their primary starter.

But the bigger picture involves Mikulak and what he is or isn’t capable of. After years of almosts, the talented 26-year-old finally broke through with an individual world medal -- bronze on high bar -- last fall. (He also participated in five individual finals, the most of anyone except world champion Artur Dalaloyan and bronze medalist Nikita Nagornyy of Russia.) The question isn’t whether he’s capable. It’s whether he can do it when it counts.

At last month’s American Cup, Mikulak came out roaring, beginning his competition with maybe the best floor routine of his entire career, then gave the competition away to U.S. no. 2 Yul Moldauer after errors on parallel bars and high bar. So Mikulak comes to Tokyo fighting not just against the rest of the field, but the reputation for inconsistency that precedes him.

Tokyo is more than Shirai vs. Mikulak -- 2012 Olympic alternate Nikita Ignatyev, 2014 Youth Olympic star Giarnni Regini-Moran, Japan’s Wataru Tanegawa, Korea’s Bae Ga-ram and veterans Bart Deurloo of the Netherlands and Nestor Abad of Spain are also jockeying for the podium. Here’s my prediction for the top five.

GOLD - Kenzo Shirai, Japan. No less a gymnast than Kohei Uchimura anointed Shirai his successor after the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and with good reason: Shirai has superhuman capabilities on floor and vault. But is he a true all-around gymnast? He’s comparatively weak on pommel horse and rings but compensates for it with those exceptionally high scores on vault and floor. Mistakes on either of his best events could open the door for someone else, but on the bouncy Japanese equipment, that seems unlikely.

SILVER - Sam Mikulak, USA. Gymnasts like to say that their biggest competition is themselves, and that seems especially true of Mikulak, who has been defeated by his own head at several prominent international events. He changed up his training and his mindset last year, and it looked for a while like it was paying off. But the American Cup loss grates, and leaves Mikulak something of an underdog for gold at this meet.

BRONZE - Wataru Tanigawa, Japan. Capable of brilliance on rings, parallel bars and vault but also somewhat inconsistent, this two-time world team member is nevertheless one of the heaviest hitters in this field. Competing at home should help rather than hurt him.

4. Nikita Ignatyev, Russia. The 2012 Olympic team alternate dropped off the radar for several years before reappearing at this year’s Russian Championships, where he won all-around bronze amidst a very talented field. He looked strong and prepared at the DTB Pokal Team Challenge just afterward, so the sky’s the limit for him here.

5. Bart Deurloo, Netherlands. The Dutch team’s top all-arounder has gotten better and better since the American Cup. With a strong finish on high bar, his best event, a top five finish is totally possible for him.

World champion Artur Dalaloyan is engaged!

Talk about a proposal on fire!

World all-around champion Artur Dalaoyan of Russia is spoken for for good: The elegant 22-year-old posted a photo on Instagram showing him on bended knee holding a ring box out to girlfriend Olenka Borodina as a sentence (“Will you marry me?” perhaps) blazed behind him in the snowy landscape.

“She said YES,” Dalaloyan captioned the post, adding a ring emoji and the hashtag #happiness.

Doing wonderful things for the lady in his life has obviously been preoccupying Dalaloyan’s thoughts lately. Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, he posted a photo of himself snowboarding with Borodina, and asked followers what the best thing they’ve ever done for the women in their lives.

After his runaway victory at the Stuttgart World Cup two weeks ago, Dalaloyan will be heavily favored to win the men’s all-around title at next month’s European Championships in Szczecin, Poland. He finished second to Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev in 2017, the last time the men’s all-around was contested at Euros, and won five medals at the 2018 World Championships, including Russia’s first men’s all-around gold since Nikolay Kryukov in 1999.

Play-by-Play: 2019 Birmingham World Cup, Men's All-around Final

Nikita Nagornyy of Russia.

Nikita Nagornyy of Russia.

Rotation 1:

Ooh, in England, we compete in the dark, apparently. The British do seem to love a darkened gymnastics arena.

Jamie Lewis (GBR), FX: The last minute replacement for Brinn Bevan here, his first senior world cup. Full twisting double layout, a little piked, step forward. Crashes double double tucked second pass. 2.5 to front half, piked. 2/1. Triple full, gets it around. 12.266.

Joe Fraser (GBR), PH: Nile Wilson’s replacement here. Two scissor to handstands, moving well so far. Small form break before the dismount. Well done overall. 13.933.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), FX: Fantastic triple back tuck, steps back and out. Double front pike half out. Front 2/1 to double front, stuck, wonderful. 2.5 to front 1/1 to front layout half. Double double tuck as a side pass — whenever a gymnast can pull a double double side pass — where many gymnasts do double fulls — you know you’re dealing with a potential world floor champion. Finally, full out tuck. Packed routine. 14.366.

Christian Baumann (SUI), PH: Comes off on a Busnari, made it look like a dismount. Was going well before that, and went well after it, apart from a leg break on Russians late in the routine. 12.0.

Allan Bower (USA), FX: Double front pike. Double double tuck, bouce back. Front 2/1 to front half. 2/1. 1.5 to front 1/1. 2.5, stuck. He’s worked hard at cleaning up his form at Oklahoma, and it shows here. 13.666.

Bart Deurloo (NED), PH: Hit routine for Bart! Since his slow start at the American Cup, he’s gotten better and better — more determined, too. 13.4.

Petro Pakhnuik (UKR), FX: Double double tuck, nearly bounds out of bounds going backward. Randi, a little short. Front 2/1 to front 1/1. 2.5, hop forward. Double full, stuck. Nice Russians. Triple full, low landing, hop forward, but gets it done. 12.7.

Kazuma Kaya (JPN), PH: Flairs, Magyar, Scissors, circles on one pommel. Russians. Handstand full pirouette dismount. Hit routine! 13.8.

Sun Wei (CHN), FX: Front double pike, deep landing, hop back. Double layout, hop back. 2.5 to front layout half. Front 1/1 to Rudi. Triple full, bounce back. Some impecisions on the landings, but not bad overall. 13.566.

Rotation 2:

Christian Baumann (SUI), SR: Maltese, a little difficult, I’d say. Planche, definitely difficult for him. Press handstand. Front giant. Giant. Piked Yama, tucked Yama to straddle planche. Balance check in handstand before double double tuck that he pancakes on the mat. Oof. Not a great routine, but this is not a good event for him. 12.166 as he massages his shoulders in the kiss and cry.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), PH: Gets through it. A touch of leg form here and there. Quick quick on his dismount, but we’ve seen worse. 13.233.

Bart Deurloo (NED), SR: Iron cross. Planche. Piked Yama to hesitating handstand. Tucked Yama. Double double tuck, small shuffle. Again, better than he’s been. 13.1.

Allan Bower (USA), PH: Long, intricate routine. Concentrated set, hit routine. 14.2.

Kazuma Kaya (JPN), SR: Hit routine capped with beautiful double double layout dismount. Very nice! Kaya’s always been great on pommel horse, but here he shows improvement in his lines. Is it possible for a man to be graceful on rings? Yes. 14.133.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), SR: Scissors to handstand, one pommel work. Leg separations on Russians and as usual, his non-dismount, but he stayed on, so that’s something. 13.266.

Joe Fraser (GBR), SR: Roll to cross. Maltese. Pull to cross. Tucked Yama to pike Yama to straddle planche. Front giant. Giant. Double double tuck, step back. Joe, a Birmingham native performing before his home city, looks happy. 13.1.

Sun Wei (CHN), PH: Unlike most of the crowd here, he gets through his entire routine without making a major break. Good for him! 14.933.

Jamie Lewis (GBR), PH: Slow through the Busnari but great flairs, which the crowd loves. Extremely slow press to handstand to end, but he made it! That’ll be his victory today. “He’s growing into the competition,” Olly Hogben says, and that puts it well. 13.666.

Rotation 3:

Bart Deurloo (NED), VT: Tsuk 2.5 with a fairly big step forward. 14.166.

Allan Bower (USA), SR: Maltese. Roll to cross. Kip to Maltese. Tucked Yama to piked Yama to straddle planche. Front giant. Full twisting double layout (piked, some form in the air.) 12.5.

Kazuma Kaya (JPN), VT: Tsuk 2.5, low off the table and stumbles backwards but keeps it on his feet. Lets off a good-natured shrug as he walks off. Us too, Kazuma. 13.9.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), SR: Maltese. Iron cross. Piked Yama to tucked Yama to straddle planche. Front giant. Double front pike, hop forward. 13.566.

Joe Fraser (GBR), VT: Tsuk 2.5 with a little hop backward, one foot out. Not bad. 14.166.

Sun Wei (CHN), SR: Planche. Maltese. Maltese again. Tucked Yama, piked Yama, roll to iron cross. Press handstand. Giant. Double double tuck, small hop forward. 13.833.

Christian Baumann (SUI), VT: DTY, nearly stuck, finally emits a small hop forward. 14.066.

Jamie Lewis (GBR), SR: Planche. Piked Yama, tucked Yama, done with all the ease and enthusiasm of youth. Front giant. Great double double tuck dismount, stuck! Jamie’s smile after that could light the arena. 13.333.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), SR: Roll to Maltese. Pop to second Maltese, drops to iron cross, opens his hands. Piked Yama to tucked Yama to iron cross. Straddle planche. Front giant. Double double tuck, small hop back. The class of the field so far, without a doubt. 14.233.

Rotation 4:

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), VT: Tsuk 2.5 with a step forward. Quite clean in the air. 14.266.

Kazuma Kaya (JPN), PB: Front somie. Inside Diamidov. Peach half. Peach. Front straddle somie to shoulders. Bhavsar. Tippelt. Back tos 1/4 to single bar work. Uprise to double front half out, small hop/step on landing. Very nice. 14.566.

Sun Wei (CHN), VT: Hands down on undercooked Tsuk triple full. 13.566 loses him some ground.

Joe Fraser (GBR), PB: Very nice exercise that had the crowd on tenterhooks all the way through. Dismounts with double front half out with a small step to the side. Joe acquits himself well. 14.3.

Jamie Lewis (GBR), VT: Tsuk 2.5 with a step forward, good distance from the table. Excellent in the air, too. 14.233.

Christian Baumann (SUI), PB: The Swiss on his best event. Peach mount. Front somie, small hesitation going to the hanstand. Inside Diamidov. Bhavsar. Tippelt. Lovely line on this event. Stutz. Uprise double front half out, small hop. 14.166.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), VT: Fantastic Dragulescu, nearly stuck. A little cowboyed in the air, but so impressive all the same. 14.9.

Bart Deurloo (NED), PB: Peach. Cut and catch work, cool. Loses it on inside Diamidov, whoops. That will hurt the score. Back toss quarter turn, one bar work. Double pike with a step back.

Allan Bower (USA), VT: Tsuk 2.5, form in the air but good landing. Needs to work on straightening his legs, elongating his lines.

Rotation 5:

Joe Fraser (GBR), HB: Yama. Cassina. Kolman. One arm giant. Tak full, good. Stalders. Double double layout, great landing, call it a stick. What’s unusual is he does both twists on the double double in the second flip. 13.9.

Sun Wei (CHN), PB: Peach half. Peach. Giant. Front straddle somie. Bhavsar, traveling the length of the p-bars, impressive. Tippelt, again great distance. Inside Diamidov. Double front half out, knees totally together, excellent, just a hop forward. 14.566.

Christian Baumann (SUI), HB: Yama. Layout Tkatchev. Stalder hop 1.5. Hop 1.5. Endos. Stalder. A bit pikey on his double double layout, but a fair landing, just a small step forward. 13.866.

Jamie Lewis (GBR), PB: Comes off on his first element, a peach. He’s not had the easiest debut here, but he’s a first year senior, and he only got the call up to compete here a few days ago. So. Shows what he’s capable of throughout the rest of the routine. Double pike dismount with a step back. 11.9.

Bart Deurloo (NED), HB: Tak half, small hesitation. Cassina, legs a tad bent. Kovacs. Kolman. Tak full (legs), to Yama. Stalder. Hop full. Double double layout with just a small step forward. 13.8.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), PB: Front flip. Peach to English handstand, held not quite long enough. Peach half, good. Inside Diamadov to half to Diamadov to Diamidov 1.5, excellent. Finally double front half out with a hop forward. Like Artur Dalaloyan, Nagornyy sets himself apart with his skill selection. He doesn’t do the exact same moves as everyone else. And it’s great. 14.933.

Kazuma Kaya (JPN), HB: Tak half. Layout Tkatchev. Tkatchev. Hop full. Tak full to Yama, well done. German giant, a bit labored coming out of it. Double double layout, hop back. 13.966.

Allan Bower (USA), PB: Front flip. Peach, struggles to get to handstand. Geinger. Inside Diamidov. Diamidov. Front straddle somie. Stutz, again a shadow of a struggle. Double pike, step to the side. 12.9.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), PB: Front flip. Peach half. Giant. Peach. Diamidov. Front straddle somie. Inside Diamidov. Back toss quarter. Double front half out, small hop. 14.766.

Rotation 6:

Jamie Lewis (GBR), HB: Yama. Tkatchev. Great extension in Endos. Tak half. Stalder. Full twisting double layout with a step. 12.833.

Christian Baumann (SUI), FX: Randi. 2.5 to front layout, hop. Arabian double front. Double full, stuck. A little tired in his flairs after several good tumbling passes. Triple full, large step to the side/forward. Not easy ending on floor. 12.533.

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), HB: Needs six points to go into the lead. Layout Tkatchev. Layout Tkatchev half. Tak full, exactly right. Tak hafl, a little wild. Tkatchev. Tkatchev half. Stalder. Hand down on underrotated double double layout dismount. Oops. Not the way to finish the day, but his lead is likely to cover him, especially since Sun Wei did something similar on vault. His first five were awesome. 13.2.

Bart Deurloo (NED), FX: Double front half out, small shuffle back. Whip half to front 2/1. 1.5 to front 1/1. 2.5 to front layout half. Arabian double front, hop forward. 13.9.

Allan Bower (USA), HB: Yama. One armed giant. Tak full. Kovacs. Tkatchev. Endo. Stalder. Full twisting double layout, a tad piked in the air but stuck. 13.266.

Kazuma Kaya (JPN), FX: Great opening front double tuck half out. Front double pike. Front 2/1 to front 1/1. Double full. 2.5 to front layout half. Just the dismount: triple full, stumbles forward and puts his hand down. Ah, too bad! 13.366.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), HB: German giant. Tkatchev. Tkatchev half. Tak full. Tak half. Hop full. Full twisting double layout with a hop. Pakhniuk is pleased with his day. 13.766.

Joe Fraser (GBR), FX: Double double tuck, well controlled. Front 2/1 to front layout half. 2.5 to Rudi, small hop. Double full. Full twisting double tuck, done from a roundoff and stuck cold. Great way to end his day in Birmingham! 13.866.

Sun Wei (CHN), HB: Tak full. Layout Tkatchev to Tkatchev half. Tak half. Layout Tkatchev half. Yama. Double double layout, very clean, just a tiny hop forward. A medal for sure! 14.266 is good for silver.

GOLD - Nikita Nagornyy, RUS, 85.065
SILVER - Sun Wei, CHN, 84.73
BRONZE - Kazuma Kaya, JPN, 83.731
4 - Joe Fraser, GBR, 83.265
5 - Petro Pakhniuk, UKR, 82.33
6 - Allan Bower, USA, 80.898
7 - Bart Deurloo, NED, 80.532
8 - Christian Baumann, SUI, 78.797
9 - Jamie Lewis, GBR, 78.231

World champions, medalists lead Doha World Cup qualification

Carlos Yulo of the Philippines is the leader after qualification at the Doha World Cup in Qatar.

Carlos Yulo of the Philippines is the leader after qualification at the Doha World Cup in Qatar.

Six gymnasts from five different nations topped the standings in qualification at the Doha World Cup Wednesday and Thursday in the Qatari capital.

Doha brings back excellent memories for Carlos Yulo of the Philippines, who won his first world medal — a bronze on floor — at the Aspire Dome last October. Yulo was formidable in his return there Wednesday, where he posted the highest score on the event (14.6) to top 2017 World all-around champion Xiao Ruoteng (14.533).

Belgium’s Jonathan Vrolix posted an impressive 14.5 for third, proving that he’s a threat for the podium among a finals field that also includes world medalist Alexander Shatilov of Israel, Turkish star Ahmet Onder and Australian daredevil Chris Remkes, who tumbles a triple twisting double layout.

In the absence of Artem Dolgopyat of Israel, who already has two first-place finishes in the series, Yulo, who won floor at the Melbourne World Cup last month, is almost sure to move ahead of him in the actual rankings, but more important is the fact that Yulo has the chance to get another win here. In this game, a gymnast’s top three finishes count toward their standing in the World Cup rankings, meaning that three wins on the world cup circuit almost assures them the Olympic berth.

Doha MFX.JPG

World bronze medalist Lee Chih-Kai of Chinese Taipei, who also won in Baku, continued his streak of success with the top qualifying score on pommel horse, beating 2013 world champion Kohei Kameyama, the champion from Baku. Lee had a catastrophic performance in Azerbaijan and didn’t even qualify for the final, but by that point he’d already racked up two wins on the circuit, and a third win all but assures him the Olympic spot. Lee scored 15.166, ahead 2016 Olympian Harutyun Merdinyan of Armenia, who scored 14.966.

Doha PH.JPG

Bolstered by a 6.4 D-score, China’s Lan Xingyu qualified first on rings (15.166), ahead of Vahagn Davtyan (14.966) and Artur Tomvasyan (14.908). On vault, Ukraine’s Igor Radivilov used his Dragulescu and excellent Tsuk double pike to excellent effect (14.916), putting him ahead of resurgent 2012 Olympic champion Yang Hak-seon (14.9), whose patented handspring front triple full is as good as ever despite an injury-filled few years.

Doha SR.JPG
Doha MVT.JPG

Two-time world champion Zou Jingyuan leads parallel bars by a monster 15.866, 1.133 ahead of his nearest competitor. It’s been quite awhile since an event specialist has been so dominant that he or she could win with a fall, but then again, Zou is one of the great parallel bar workers in history.

Doha PB.JPG

On high bar, 2017 world champion Tin Srbic continues his prolonged battle with world champion Epke Zonderland. Srbic won round one in Doha; Zonderland, whose performances indicate that he understands well the difference between qualifications and finals, finished fourth. The surprise in the group was Kazakhstan’s Milad Karimi, who showed a 6.2 D-score routine (higher than both Srbic and Zonderland) for an impressive 14.3, just 0.033 behind Srbic. Japan’s Hidetaka Miyachi, another gymnast with a possibility of winning the world rankings crown, qualified sixth to the final.

Doha HB.JPG

Hugely competitive fields on each apparatus have led to some surprising shutouts, including three-time world champion Marian Draguelscu (ninth on floor), 2010 high bar world champion Zhang Chenglong (10th on high bar), Olympic rings bronze medalist Denis Ablyazin of Russia (14th on rings) and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Diego Hypolito, who showed a relatively simple 4.7 difficulty routine for 11.7 (40th on floor).

Quick hits: DTB Pokal, Men's Team Final

The podium finishers gather for a selfie at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart. Photo courtesy EnBW DTB Pokal.

The podium finishers gather for a selfie at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart. Photo courtesy EnBW DTB Pokal.

Rotation 1:

Ivan Stretovich (RUS), floor: HIt routine included running double front tuck mount, 2.5 to front 2/1 and triple full with a step to the side. The 2016 Olympian has grown a good deal and gotten quite lanky.

Lukas Dauser (GER), HB: Hit routine with great double double layout dismount.

Ludovico Edalli (ITA), HB: Terrific routine, capped with stuck full twisting double layout dismount. The 2010 Youth Olympic medalist has impeccable form and actually swings with artistry, if that’s possible to do.

Kenta Chiba (JPN), FX: Double front half twist, with the half twist done after the first somersault, unusual. 1.5 to Randi, OOB. 2.5 to Rudi. Double full. Triple full, small hop to the side.

Dmitry Lankin , floor: Triple back, bounds backward. 3.5 to front half. Quad twist. 2.5 to front 2/1. Rudi.

Rotation 2:

Niccolo Mozzato (ITA), FX: Very high double double tuck, stuck. Front 2/1 to front tuck 1/1. 2.5 to Rudi. Double full. Triple full. 13.933.

Kakeru Tanigawa, (JPN), PH: Falls halfway through.

Felix Remuta (GER), FX: Double front pike half out, shuffle backward. Front 2/1 to Randi. 2.5 to front full, nearly goes OOB. Double double tuck. Rudi. Triple full, step back. 14.4.

Alexander Chicherov (RUS), PH: Off.

Thierno Diallo (ESP), FX: Randi. Double front. Front 2/1 to Rudi. 2.5 to front layout. Double full. Triple full. 13.733.

Niccola Bertolini (ITA), FX: Front double pike, wow that’s high. Double double tuck. 1.5 to front double full. A very good routine. He flutters his hand over his heart as he walks off the floor -- it made him nervous, this routine! Sidenote: Bertolini might be the most heavily tattooed man in gymnastics.

Kenta Chiba (JPN), PH: Some labored circles here and there, but he stayed on.13.933.

Nick Klessing (GER), FX: Double front half out tucked. Good landing. Front double pike. Front 1/1 to double front, saved by his very strong quads and several hops back.

Rotation 3:

Niels Dunkel (GER), PH: Cheered on (and carried through) this routine by the crowd. Makes it without falling.

Andreas Toba (GER), PH: Powers through, hit routine. 13.466.

Dmitry Lankin (RUS), SR: HIt routine, good strength parts, double double tuck dismount that he fights to stick and finally takes a step.

Ludovico Edalli (ITA), PH: Sweet routine. 13.6.

Rotation 4:

Caio Souza (BRA), VT: Tsuk 2.5, lands off to the right and has to take a big step forward.

Kakeru Tanigawa (JPN), VT: Undercooks a Tsuk triple and stumbles to the side, actually going off the mat and crashing into the signboard in front of the judges table.

Andreas Toba (GER), SR: Excellent routine, capped with stuck full twisting double layout. 14.266.

Ivan Stretovich (RUS), VT: Tsuk 2.5, small hop back. 14.466.

Arthur Zanetti (BRA), VT: Serviceable handspring double front.

Marco Sarrugerio (ITA), SR: A very rare fall on rings -- undercooked a handstand, tried valiently to hold it, and couldn’t. Jumps off and rechalks. Nice front double pike dismount.

Kenta Chiba (JPN), VT: Tsuk triple, big step to the side.

Nick Klessing (GER), SR: Pull to cross, planche. Front giant. Pikes and tucked Yamas to Maltese. And ooh, triple back dismount! Very nice. Klessing veritably dances off the mat!

Rotation 5:

Luca Lino Garza (ITA), VT: Tsuk 2.5 with a hop forward.

Shogo Nonomura (JPN), PB: Front flip. Inside Diamidov. Peach half, peach. Double tuck. Giant. Tippelt. Stutz. Double pike with a hop forward. Very nice. 14.7.

Felix Remuta (GER), VT: Makes the handspring double front look easy. Half twist, Felix? 14.033.

Nikita Ignatyev (RUS), PB: Giant, Tippelt. Double tuck. Inside Diamidov. Stutz. Double front hlaf out tucked. 14.166.

Nestor Abad (ESP), VT: Tsuk double full, hop. Great except for the hop from Spain’s veteran.

Bernardo Miranda (BRA), PB: Peach half, peach. Tippelt. Bhavsar. Double front with a hop. Nice lines for this event.

Niccola Bertolini (ITA), VT: 14.566 for his vault has him doing a little victory dance in the mixed zone.

Nick Klessing (GER), VT: Handspring double front, excellent, just a step forward.

Rotation 6:

Niels Dunkel (GER), PB: Lovely set. Niels is thrilled.

Fuya Maeno (JPN), HB: The best Tak half in the business. Wow. And stuck double double layout

Marco Sarrugerio (ITA), PB: Inside Diamidov to front straddle somie. Bhavsar. Giant to Tippelt. His elbows are naturally hyperextended, which make his handstands even nicer. Double pike with a hop.

Nikita Ignatyev (RUS), HB: Cassina. Kolman. Tak skills. One arm giant. Yama. Hop full. Stuck double double layout. Very nice routine!

Lukas Dauser (GER), PB: Germany’s PB artist at work. A strong and beautiful routine. Double front half out dismount, stuck cold. Lukas loves it. 13.966

Results

1 - Russia, 170.995
2 - Germany 1, 168.162
3 - Japan, 168.065
4 - Brazil, 166.263
5 - Italy, 162.897
6 - Spain, 157.897


Quick hits: Stuttgart World Cup, Men's All-around final

Artur Dalaloyan. Credit: Instagram/real_artur

Artur Dalaloyan. Credit: Instagram/real_artur

Rotation 1:

Akash Modi (USA), FX: Front double pike, hop forward. 2.5 to front 1/1 layout. Front 2/1 to front layout half. Randi, small hop. Double full, stuck. Triple full with a small hop forward to end. Good start for Akash, smiling in the kiss & cry. 13.433.

Frank Baines (GBR), FX: Lonnnng wait beside the floor for Modi's score. Front 2/1 to front layout half, stuck. Double front pike, stuck. Beautiful double double tuck, tiny hop. 2.5 to front layout. Double full, tiny hop. Arabian double, tiny hop. Great routine. 14.166.

Eddy Yusof (SUI), FX: Double front tuck half, step back. Open double double tuck. Front 2/1 to front half. 1.5 to front 1/1. Not as precise in his landings as the first two, but sticks double tuck. Ends the exercise as he starts it: full in with a step back. 13.366.

Marcel Nguyen (GER), FX: Double front pike half out, steps. Double layout 1/1, stuck. OOB on third pass. Lots of applause and encouragement from the GER crowd, and interestingly, a respectful silence during his press handstand. Full in, bounces back and just OOB again. 13.433.

Teppei Miwa (JPN), floor: The 18-year-old some sweet encouragement from his coach before he stepped into the corner. Double front pike, small hop. 3.5 twist. 1.5 to front 2/1. Double full, small hop. 2.5 to front layout half, stuck. Triple full, small hop forward. Classic JPN. 13.8.

Sun Wei (CHN), FX: Front double pike, hop. Wonderful double layout, like he's flying. Hands down on 2.5 to front layout half, mistimed. Oops. Front 1/1 to Rudi. A little too long in the corner before his triple full last pass, looked like he was conserving energy. 12.266.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), FX: Double double tuck, stumbles backward, saves it. Randi. Front 2/1 to front tuck half. 2.5 to front tuck 1/1. He manages to get to his feet though sometimes he looks like he's not going to. Triple full. Sigh of relief. 13.133.

Bart Deurloo (NED), FX: Double front tuck half out, stumbles back and out of bounds. Whoops. 1.5 to front 2/1. 2.5 to front 1/1 (I think). Great stuck Arabian double front to end though. Saved the best for last! 13.6.

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), FX: The Germans love Artur Dalaloyan, and introduce him as "King Artur." Front 2/1 to Randi. Front layout to double front pike half out. Double double tuck, hop. 2.5 to front 2/1, small hop. 1.5 to Rudi. Triple full. Not quite as precise as he might be, but that was a very good routine. Not easy, either. 14.366.

Rotation 2:

Sun Wei (CHN), PH: 14.4 for a hit set. Sun Wei on the upswing after that fall on floor. 14.4.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), PH: Long and complex routine with a non-dismount. Gets through the majority well, gets a little tired on his last Russian travel and takes some leg form. All in all positive, though. Petro seems to think so too - big smile! 14.333.

Eddy Yusof (SUI), PH: Efficient routine, swung fast. Just a little struggle going up to handstand on the dismount, but he acquitted himself well overall. 13.366 -- fair, not that much difficulty in it.

Akash Modi (USA), PH: Another very long, very complex set. Well swung until the end -- he was tired, had trouble getting to the handstand on his dismount and then didn't finish the pirouette. He gives a thumbs up anyway and gets some extra encouragement from the crowd. 13.466.

Marcel Nguyen (GER), PH: A bit low on his one pommel work, but maybe the applause of the crowd helped him through it. Survived without a fall on an event that he doesn't really look like he enjoys. Looks relieved in the kiss and cry. 13.066.

Bart Deurloo (NED), PH: Clean routine from Bart. Highlight was the travelling Russian across the horse. He sits down next to Petro Pakhniuk, who is still obviously delighted about his routine, and grinning broadly. 13.833.

Tippei Miwa (JPN), PH: Like Modi, it was great right up until the dismount, when he just ran out of gas and couldn't complete it. His coach seems quite nurturing with him, and seemed to reassure him as he walked off. 12.166.

Frank Baines (GBR), PH: Hit routine! Amazing Busnari with two pirouettes (most guys only do one) traveling across the horse. The rest was clean. Good for him! 13.433.

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), PH: Oh yes! Impressive hit routine with tons of variety. Scissors, Busnari, flairs, circle travels, the kitchen sink, all very well delivered. 14.066. Seeing the score finally gets a reaction from him, and he breaks into a big smile.

Rotation 3:

Teppei Miwa (JPN), SR: Once again, the dismount does him in. The interior of the routine was very good -- correct strength parts, correct delivery. But takes several steps back on double double tuck, though he did save it. 13.066.

Marcel Nguyen (GER), SR: The 31-year-old puts on a show for the home crowd on one of his best events, topping things off with a stuck full twisting double layout. 14.4 incites a spontaneous round of applause. 14.4.

Sun Wei (CHN), SR: A lot of beauty in all his routines, not just technical precision. Kicks out of his double double tuck dismount, finds the floor and sticks it cold. 12.966. Apparently I liked it more than the judges.

Akash Modi (USA), SR: Hit set, holds on for the stick on the double double tuck dismount. Akash is really pleased with that routine, plays to the crowd a little bit as he heads to the kiss and cry! 13.966.

13.766 on rings gives Bart Deurloo the lead at this point. A much happier outing for him so far in Stuttgart compared to the American Cup two weeks ago.

It's been great to see all the competitors enthusiastic here, but nobody is having a better time than Petro Pakhniuk, who came away from the rings podium pumping his fists and smiling from ear to ear. 13.2 puts him fourth right now.

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), SR: More gorgeous work. Wonderful angles, great precision. Full twisting double layout dismount, stuck. 14.5 will keep him in the lead.

Rotation 4:

Teppei Miwa (JPN), VT: Tsuk triple with a hop. Catlike landing. Nicely done. 14.733.

Sun Wei (CHN), VT: An even better Tsuk triple. Wonderful. 15.000.

Eddy Yusof (SUI), VT: Tsuk double pike, a bit tucked in the air but very nice, small step back. 14.366.

Frank Baines (GBR), vault: Handspring Rudi. 4.8 D, not difficult compared to some of the vaults in this field, but very well done. Gets above 9 in execution, which gives him 14.033.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), vault: Tsuk 2.5, hop forward. Another fist pump. What a happy competitor! 14.266 puts him in the lead at the moment.

Akash Modi (USA), VT: Tsuk 2.5 with a hop forward. Landed a little bit offline -- right foot over the white line. 14.1 gives him 54.965, and he takes the lead with three competitors still to come...

Marcel Nguyen (GER), VT: A handspring double front that could not be more cowboyed, but he gets it to his feet. Nearly lands lock-legged but not quite, fortunately. 13.922.

Bart Deurloo (NED), VT: Tsuk 2.5, great in the air and nearly stuck, just a small step back, finally. 14.4 puts him first at the moment.

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), VT: Piked Dragulescu! Some leg form (bent and separated), a bit of a stumble on landing, but still. Piked Dragulescu! 14.766.

Rotation 5:

Teppei Miwa (JPN), PB: Underbalances a handstand right before his double pike dismount, has to bend arms. That throws off his concentration, and then he sits the double pike. Too bad! The rest was great. Learning experience. 13.433.

Sun Wei (CHN): Peach half, peach. Giant. Uprise front straddle somie. Clips his foot a little on a swinging skill but no big deal. Belle. Inside Diamadov. Double front half out tucked, hop back. 14.5.

Frank Baines (GBR), PB: English handstand. Diamadov. Little struggle on one handstand. Double pike dismount with a step back. Maybe his roughest routine of the day so far, but he survived. 13.8.

Marcel Nguyen (GER), PB: His teammates, sitting in the stands, are coaching him through this routine. Impressive as ever from the 2012 Olympic silver medalist on this event, ending with full twisting double tuck dismount (just a hop). 14.666.

Eddy Yusof (SUI), PB: Takes a dramatic, gasp-inducing fall off the parallel bars on either a Belle or a Bhavsar. Lays there as if dead for a good five seconds before getting up. Appreciative applause from the audience as he finishes.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), PB: Another excellent routine from Pakhniuk. Double front with a half twist. 14.833. Pakhniuk adds a salute to his fist bumps here. His Yul Moldauer impression, perhaps?

Akash Modi (USA), PB: Great routine interior but lands on all fours on his full twisting double tuck dismount. That's a shame -- 13.233 that puts him fifth at this point.

Bart Deurloo (NED), PB: Basically falls attempting a Diamadov into handstand on one rail, an extremely hard skill. Covers it up by doing a half pirouette and kipping off, but the crowd (and likely the judges) are not fooled. 12.2.

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), PB: Clear hip mount. Diamadov. Stutz. Tippelt. Bhavsar. Front straddle somie. Inside Diamadov. Uprise to double front pike dismount! 15.066.

One of the many cool things about Artur Dalaloyan is that he's innovative. He isn't doing the same skills as everyone else. That, combined with his excellent presentation, sets him apart even further.

Rotation 6:

Eddy Yusof (SUI), HB: Lots of Tkatchev variations, Tak half way out of handstand. Nearly sticks his double double layout, but finally has to step back. 13.733.

Teppei Miwa (JPN), HB: Cassina. Kolman. Layout Tkatchev half. Layout Tkatchev to Tkatchev. Hop 1.5. Double double layout, tiny hop. The Germans, who love high bar more than any other apparatus, adore this routine. 14.466.

Bart Deurloo (NED), HB: Tak half. Cassina. Kovacs to Kolman. Tak full (angle) to Yama. Double double layout with a hop. 14.2.

Akash Modi (USA), HB: Tkatchev, layout Tkatchev, Tkatchev half, has to muscle a handstand...layout Tkatchev half. Double double layout, tiny hop. 13.9.

Frank Baines (GBR), HB: Tkatchev. Tkatchev half. Falls on Tak full, which would have been beautiful had he not fallen on it. Floats and sticks his full twisting double layout dismount. 12.166.

Sun Wei (CHN), HB: Layout Tkatchev to Tkatchev half. Layout Tkatchev half. Bit of originality with hop to mixed grip to Yama, not bothering to try a Tak. Double double layout with a small hop. Nice routine. 14.333.

Marcel Nguyen (GER), HB: Complete respectful silence in the hall as Marcel performs -- except from his teammates, who can't stop shouting their support at him. Tkatchevs, a Kovacs, a Kolman, a double double layout with a hop. Marcel takes a bow. 13.366.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), HB: Second coming into this rotation. German giants. Tkatchev. Tkatchev half. Tak variations, half and full. Full twisting double layout with a step back. 13.566. He looks just delighted. This is his day!

Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), HB: The first thing he does is come off on his Cassina. And it was going so, so well! Kovacs. Layout Tkatchev half. Tak half. Off again on layout Tkatchev! Ooooooo....

The upshot: Despite two falls on high bar on his last event, Artur Dalaloyan wins the Stuttgart World Cup with a 84.497 total, ahead of Sun Wei and Petro Pakhniuk. Rough ending for the world champ, but high bar shouldn't overshadow his other 5 events, which were excellent with a capital E.

Results

1 - Artur Dalaloyan, Russia, 84.497
2 - Sun Wei, China, 83.465
3 - Petro Pakhniuk, Ukraine, 83.331
4 - Marcel Nguyen, Germany, 82.864
5 - Akash Modi, USA, 82.098
6 - Bart Deurloo, Netherlands, 81.999
7 - Teppei Miwa, Japan, 81.664
8 - Eddy Yusof, Switzerland, 80.697
9 - Frank Baines, Great Britain, 80.631

Notes from Podium Training at the Stuttgart World Cup

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STUTTGART - To watch women’s podium training is like watching an extended preview of the next episode of your favorite TV drama. While it doesn’t give away the ending, you glean all sorts of details about the goings-on of your favorite characters. There are few secrets in women’s training at meets like the Stuttgart World Cup: If someone has an exciting new beam series or has changed their floor choreography or is thinking about maybe potentially throwing a Produnova vault, it shows up in training, clear as day.

By comparison, men’s podium training is extremely relaxed. The guys stretch, shake out their muscles, windmill their arms, swing bent-legged giants on high bar, cast to handstand on parallel bars and stay there for a bit, also with bent legs, and run down the vault runway and execute tremendously explosive front handspring vaults, the kind you see from level fives, only way, way better. Those things being accomplished, they often seem to retire for the night. Most of the time, the observer learns next to nothing.

It was worth it to come anyway, I thought, to see Artur Dalaloyan. The reigning world champion who was so convincing in his five-medal haul last fall in Doha finished in the neighborhood of seventeenth at last week’s Russian Championships. (Granted, he was sick and unprepared.) I was curious as to whether watching him train will give an indication of how much of that mid-70s all-around score he got in Penza was sickness and how much was being unprepared.

The first thing to notice about Dalaloyan’s technique is that it’s really, really beautiful. Russian technique in general is excellent; Dalaloyan surpasses excellence. Although short and muscular, he moves like a lynx, and everything is perfectly extended. That was clear. What wasn’t was where he really is physically -- he did a few circles on pommel horse, a few moves on rings and basic stuff on parallel bars; nothing close to a full routine. He dropped off rings rather than hold an iron cross at one point. His problem, if he’s going to have one Saturday, is likely to be endurance, not individual skills.

Other small observations:

Japan’s Teppei Miwa got lots of support from his coach, who clapped at everything he did, even if he fell, as though to say, “Hey, gymnastics is hard. You almost caught that bar -- you’ll get there!”

Great Britain’s Frank Baines, the 2012 junior European all-around champion, was the guy working the hardest on the eve of this World Cup. He was all over the gym, doing full sets on almost everything.

The Netherlands’s Bart Deurloo was also building up quite a sweat coming off a not amazing day at the American Cup two weeks ago. The one who snuck out early? That was Ukraine’s Petro Pakhnyuk.

Sun Wei, part of China’s world championship team last year, continues to show great form on all events. It’s not next level a la Dalaloyan, but it is extremely easy to watch.

Akash Modi’s first warmup turn on high bar included some giants and a big stuck double double layout. The last thing Modi did was a sweet multiple-combination release sequence on high bar, meriting a fist bump from his coach. Which just goes to show, if you wait around a bit, the guys do do real gymnastics -- it just takes them awhile to get going.

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Preview: Olympic, World champions round out men’s roster at Baku World Cup

Team Japan in Baku earlier this week. Photo: Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation.

Team Japan in Baku earlier this week. Photo: Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation.

Call it the Battle of Baku -- the individual apparatus kings of the sport from around the globe are gathering in the Azerbaijani capital this weekend to fight for world cup ranking points that for some will translate into Olympic qualification spots. Here’s what to expect in the men’s competition.

Men’s Floor Exercise: The best and the brightest

The men’s floor field includes Olympic medalists Marian Dragulescu of Romania and Diego Hypolito of Brazil, both of whom are also past world champions on the event. Three others -- Israelis Artem Dolgopyat and Alexander Shatilov and Carlos Yulo of the Philippines -- are world medalists, with Yulo having won the last round in Melbourne a few weeks ago. Great Britain’s Dominick Cunningham and Australian Chris Remkes, who showed a triple twisting double layout in Melbourne, could also factor in.

Pommel Horse: A gathering of greats

Old guard, new guard, or somewhere in the middle? Many of the greats of horse of the past decade or so will meet in Baku. The latest wunderkind is the bespectacled Weng Hao of China, one of a number of specialists gunning for an individual berth to Tokyo. Other emerging talents include European pommel champion Rhys McClenaghan of Ireland and reigning world bronze medalist Lee Chih-Kai of Chinese Taipei. Among the veterans, there’s longtime Croatian great Filip Ude, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist on the event, 2013 world champion Kohei Kameyama of Japan and French standout Cyril Tommasone. The man who could surprise many? Iran’s Saeedreza Keikha, who has two moves named after him on the pipe.

Still Rings: A mighty force

Projected to be one of the biggest battles of all, this final will be world championship-worthy. Among the contenders: 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ablyazin of Russia, reigning world bronze medalist Marco Lodadio of Italy, double world medalist You Hao of China, Ukrainian strongman Igor Radivilov, France’s Samir Ait Said, Britain’s Courtney Tulloch and Turkey’s Ibrahim Colak. The talent level boggles the mind.

Men’s Vault: The (other) Jump! boys

Take one Olympic champion (Korea’s Yang Hak-seon), a double Olympic medalist (Ablyazin), the man who did the now-forbidden handspring triple front on the Olympic-stage (Radivilov) and the man who gave the eponymous Dragulescu its name? It’s hard to know where to begin. One lesser-known name to watch as well is France’s Loris Frasca, who is just beginning to come into his own on an event where the French have typically excelled.

Parallel Bars: China vs. the world

If rings is the most competitive men’s event in Baku, p-bars may to be the least. 2015 world champion You Hao is the biggest name among specialists on this apparatus, and China has also entered newcomer Du Yixin, who, if he’s anything like the Chinese tend to be on this event, is beyond superb. Otherwise, there’s room for surprise from someone like Russian all-around silver medalist Vladyslav Polyashov, Japan’s Kaito Sugimoto or Turkey’s Colak, or a veteran, like Belarusian Olympian Andrei Likhovitskiy or Romania’s Cristian Bataga.

High Bar: Return of the big four

The kings of swing -- 2012 Olympic champion Epke Zonderland, 2017 World champion Tin Srbic of Croatia, 2010 World gold medalist Zhang Chenglong of China, and Japan’s Hidetaka Miyachi, who has no world title to his name but does the most difficult element anyone’s ever seen on the event with exceptionally good form, will each get their turn to prove that they are the champion of today. The day after, it will be back to the gym to prepare for the next one.











Nagornyy nets six gold at Russian Championships

Nikita Nagornyy topped six out of seven podiums at the Russian Championships in Penza this past weekend. Here, the parallel bars podium. Photo: Elena Mikhailovna/sportgymrus.ru

Nikita Nagornyy topped six out of seven podiums at the Russian Championships in Penza this past weekend. Here, the parallel bars podium. Photo: Elena Mikhailovna/sportgymrus.ru

Nikita Nagornyy reigned over the men’s competition at the Russian Championships, cruising to his first Russian all-around title Friday in Penza.

Illness prevented 2018 world all-around champion Artur Dalaloyan from defending his 2018 title, clearing the field for Nagornyy, who accumulated 173.296 points over two days of competition, well ahead of Vladyslav Polyshov (166.730) and 2012 Olympic team alternate Nikita Ignatyev (165.230).

Earlier in the week, Nagornyy led his Moscow team, which included Dalaloyan, Lankin, Alexey Kosyanov, Stanislav Khegai and Nikolai Kishkilev to silver in the team competition. The less-favored Central Federal District (2016 Olympian Ivan Stretovich, Polyashov, Sergey Krivunets, Alexey Rostov, Ilya Kibartas and Kirill Prokopyev) won the title by just over a point. The Siberian Federal District, including Ignatyev and 2016 Olympian Oleg Stepko, won the bronze.

Despite his margin of victory, Nagornyy, who took bronze in the all-around behind Dalaloyan and Xiao Ruoteng at the 2018 World Championships, found plenty to critique about his performance in Penza. “Unfortunately, I failed to accomplish what I set out to do today,” he said. “There were mistakes in the exercises on the horse, on the rings and on the parallel bars.”

All the same, Nagornyy was clearly the class of the field, and proved it during Saturday and Sunday’s event finals, where he went five for six, winning everything except floor exercise, where he took silver.

Despite being criticized for lack of preparation in the press by Russian head coach Andrei Rodionenko, the talented Dalaloyan’s chances of competing at next month’s European Championships remain intact. The world champion is scheduled to take part in this weekend’s Stuttgart World Cup, where he’ll have another chance to show what he’s capable of.

Russian Championships - Men’s Event Finals

Floor exercise

1 - Dmitry Lankin, 14.3
2 - Nikita Nagornyy, 14.1
3 - Kirill Prokopyev,  14.033

Pommel Horse

1 - Nikita Nagornyy, 14.366
2 - Sergey Eltsov, 14.233
3 - Kirill Prokopyev, 14.2 

Still Rings

1 - Nikita Nagornyy, 14.266
2 - Ilya Kibartas, Denis Ablyazin and Nikita Ignatiev, 14.133

Vault

1 - Nikita Nagornyy, 14.683
2 - Artur Dalaloyan, 14.516
3 - Oleg Stepko, 14.233

Parallel Bars

1 - Nikita Nagornyy, 15.0
2 - Dmitry Lankin, 14.533
3 - Nikita Ignatiev, 13.9

High Bar

1 - Nikita Nagornyy, 13.733
2 - Nikita Ignatiev, 13.7
3 - Ivan Stretovich, 13.5


For Moldauer, a third American Cup, taken with charm

A precise Yul Moldauer captured his third straight American Cup Saturday in Greensboro, North Carolina, becoming the first gymnast since Blaine Wilson twenty years ago to three-peat at the most prestigious international competition held in the U.S. each year.

Moldauer took advantage of a flare up of inconsistency by five-time U.S. champion Sam Mikulak to lock down victory at the American Cup by a thrilling 0.001 margin. But while Moldauer walked off the winner, he spent much of the day chasing two-time Olympian Mikulak, the gymnast who really controlled the meet from start to finish.

The early rounds certainly belonged to Mikulak, who jumped out to a healthy lead after one of the best floor routines of his career, sticking every tumbling pass cold. The 26-year-old followed with excellence on pommel horse (superb Busnari) and rings (stuck double double tuck dismount) before flagging in the latter half of the competition. A small hop to the side on his Kasamatsu 1.5 twist vault was no big deal, but a blown Bhavsar on parallel bars that left him sitting on the rails ever so briefly one routine later was a more serious fault.

Mikulak’s mistakes opened the door for Moldauer, who gathered momentum as he moved from one event to the next. Unable to match Mikulak’s difficulty on pommel horse or high bar, the energetic 22-year-old made up for it with stellar execution on every apparatus. His stuck Kasamatsu 1.5 twist vault was the turning point in the competition, and he took the lead after a brilliant parallel bars routine capped by a stuck double front half out dismount and one of his more enthusiastic shows of delight at hitting his routines, involving a trademark signoff involving yelling, fist pumps and a salute.

Despite Moldauer’s best efforts, Mikulak had a good chance to reclaim the lead on high bar, his best apparatus and Moldauer’s worst. So it was Mikulak who gave the game away when he was unable to complete a Tak half on high bar after catching Cassina and Kolman release skills that gave the game away. Truly in control of his fate for the first time all day after Mikulak’s error, Moldauer put his foot on the gas, turning in the best high bar routine he’s capable of and taking a calculated risk in throwing a triple twisting double layout dismount. It paid off.

“Mentally I felt like I was in all the right places,” said Mikulak, who posted top five finishes with the U.S. team, in the all-around and on pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar at the 2018 World Championships in Doha. “There are just a couple of things we need to refine over the next couple months. A couple more numbers and I’ll be right there.”

“It was fun,” added the humble Moldauer, who is always quick to praise Mikulak’s leadership qualities. “We said we were going to make it an exciting meet, and I thought it was a great meet.”

The anticipated Moldauer/Mikulak matchup might have been interrupted by Kenzo Shirai, the only competitor in the field capable of challenging the Americans in terms of difficulty score, had Shirai not sustained an ankle injury minutes before the competition began and withdrew. In lieu of a real challenge from European all-around bronze medalist James Hall of Great Britain (fifth) or Olympians Petro Pakhnuik of Ukraine (fourth), Christian Baumann of Switzerland or Bart Deurloo of the Netherlands (sixth and seventh), 2014 Youth Olympic silver medalist Ma Yue of China emerged as the bronze medalist. Ma, who was little-known before this meet, who took full advantage of his first world cup all-around stage to nab a podium finish.

Before the day was out, Ma, seemed to have embraced the fuel-injected, NCAA-style approach to serious international competition espoused by Mikulak and Moldauer dubbed the “University of America” by commentators. As the competition went on, Ma celebrated his own successful routines and stuck landings with an enthusiasm that grew less bridled with every event.

Quick hits: 2019 American Cup

Rotation 1:

Sam Mikulak, floor: Running front double pike. 2.5 to double front, clicks heels together, stuck. Front double full to front tuck full. Flairs sequence, great.1.5 to front layout full. Triple twist, stuck. Tim Daggett going nuts. SAM going nuts! Wonderful routine. Wonderful. 14.733.

Bart Deurloo (NED), floor: Double front and slides off the floor. 1.5 to front double full. 2.5 to stop to punch front full. 2.5 to front layout half. Arabian double front with a small hop. 12.766.

Ma Yue (CHN), floor: Double front tuck half out, small hop. Front double full to front full, hop and OOB. Randi. Russians. Double full. Triple full with a hop back. More charisma than he’s displayed in previous years, honestly. 13.3.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), floor: Double double tuck, hop back. (He’s capable of a 2.5.) Randi, low landing. The feed cut out for the rest of it, but Petro looks pleased with this effort. 14.133.

James Hall (GBR), floor: Handspring front double pike. Double double tuck with a big step back. Front double full to front layout half. Randi, a little low. 2.5 to Rudi with another step. Oh, and almost collapses his wide arm handstand! Triple full with another big step sideways. 13.466.

Christian Baumann (SUI), floor: Randi with a step back, undercooked. 2.5 to front layout. Arabian double front. Double full side pass. Flairs and Fedorchenkos, a little slow. Not enough gas to make the triple full at the end, hands down. 12.466.

Yul Moldauer (USA), floor: Randi, great, small hop. 3.5 to front layout half, a little offline. 2.5 to front layout full. Arabian double front half out to screams of approval from the crowd. Flairs, so quick and pretty! Double full side pass. Triple full, hop forward. And his particular enthusiastic signoff with fist-pumping, etc. 14.5.

Rotation 2:

Bart Deurloo (NED), pommel: Russians between the pommels, looking good! But falls midway through. Pacing around taking his whole 30 seconds to catch his breath. The rest was fine. 12.166.

Ma Yue (CHN), pommel: Hits a nice routine and stands shouting in victory on the podium for at least 10 seconds afterwards. Pakniuk is up there ready to take over and Ma Yue is still shouting. Like Mikulak, he’s REALLY happy about this one. 14.033.

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), pommel: Two scissor to handstand, circles on one pommel, well done overall. Great lines for this event but does the dismount of a child, not even going for the handstand. 13.433.

James Hall (GBR), pommel: Scissor to handstand, one pommel work, Russian on one pommel, Russian travels, nice. Not the prettiest pommel worker perhaps, but terrific pirouetting dismount. Good on him! 14.2.

Christian Baumann (SUI), pommel horse: Scissor to handstand (what a popular mount!), travels, Busnari where he comes down between the pommels, legs way apart all the way through his Russians but wow, stays on. A Swiss miracle! Handstand dismount, no pirouettes. 12.933.

Yul Moldauer (USA), pommels: original scissor mount, flairs, Magyar. Very crowd-pleasing! Terrific lightness to this routine. Slightly tired on the dismount, but not bad at all. 13.8.

Sam Mikulak (USA), pommels: His own element, beautiful Busnari! Gave him problems at Worlds but none here. Ooh clips the horse but gets it back together. The rest is solid. Good for him! 14.433.

Rotation 3:

James Hall (GBR), rings: Pull to Maltese. Tim Daggett doesn't like it. Frankly, he's right -- low positions, even the iron cross. Yamawakis. Second cross, high. Giant. Double double tuck, step back. 13.666.

Christian Baumann (SUI), rings: He has more natural upper body strength than Hall. Yamawakis to straddle planche. Double double with a small hop to the side. He seems to be warming up as he goes on today. 13.633.

Yul Moldauer (USA), rings: With Sam Mikulak cheering him on, Yul blazes through a beautiful routine and opening his hands Petrounias-like on his strength moves. Stuck double double tuck. Melted into the floor indeed. 14.2.

Sam Mikulak (USA), rings: Rings face on. Cheeky smileo the judges. Maltese. Cross. Tucked Yamawaki to cross, low. Different kind of face now. Piked Yamawaki. Giant. Double double tuck, stuck. And finally, a happy smile. 14.1.

Rotation 4:

Petro Pakhniuk (UKR), vault: Tsuk 2.5, lands low and in a deep squat but saves it with a step to the side. All distance, no height. 13.833.

Yul Moldauer (USA), vault: Tsuk 2.5, STUCK. BAM. 14.733.

Sam Mikulak (USA), vault: Tries to emulate what Moldauer did right before him. Almost -- hops to the side. "I wanted to stick like you," he tells Yul as he walks back. 14.433.

Rotation 5:

Yul Moldauer (USA), p-bars: Peach, peach half, DIamaova, full spin on one arm, giant, Geinger with straight legs (!). Double front half out, stuck like a cat. And then lots of motion, with arm waving and celebrating and a military kind of salute. 14.966.

Sam Mikulak (USA), p-bars: Front flip. Inside Diamadov. Peach half. Peach. Front somie. Belle and nearly loses it! Oh dear. That's going to be a problem. Double front half out, stuck. He's eaten into his lead there. Hmm. 14.066.

Ma Yue (CHN), p-bars: Front flip. Peach, shy of handstand. Double tuck. Front straddle somie. Bhavsar. Belle. Inside Diamadov. Double pike, stuck. And a celebration of his own! He looks thrilled. University of China? 14.333.

Rotation 6:

Christian Baumann (SUI): Is getting some flak from the commentators for looking a bit too "relaxed" in his form, but a nice routine from him overall. Double double layout. 13.833.

Petro Pakhnuik (UKR), high bar: German giant out of handstand, oops. Tkatchev, Tkatchev half. Tak half. Stuck full twisting double layout. 13.733.

Ma Yue (CHN), high bar: Piked Tkatchev. Tkatchev. Tkatchev half. All the Tkatchevs. Hop full. Stuck double double layout! 13.9.

Sam Mikulak (USA), high bar: Cassina. Kolman, very nice. Layout Tkatchev. Tkatchev to Tkatchev half. And gives it away on the Tak half, doesn't complete it, swings the other way. Oh Sam oh Sam oh Sam...and then he sticks the double double layout. 14.066.

Yul Moldauer (USA), high bar: Yama. One armed giant. Tak full, nice. Tak half (angle). Tucked Kovacs. Hop full. Hop 1.5. Triple double layout, small hop on the landing, but yeah! Another huge celebration on the podium from Yul (and the girls in the crowd love it). 3-peat? It’s happening. 13.733 is only the fifth highest score on high bar, but no matter.

Results:

1 - Yul Moldauer, USA, 85.932
2 - Sam Mikulak, USA, 85.931
3 - Ma Yue. China, 84.465
4 - Petro Pakhnuik, UKR, 82.864
5 - James Hall, GBR, 82.698
6 - Christian Baumann, SUI, 81.631
7 - Bart Deurloo, NED, 76.932

American Cup 2019: Men's competition breakdown

Sam Mikulak will try to spoil Yul Moldauer’s potential three-peat at the American Cup Saturday in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Sam Mikulak will try to spoil Yul Moldauer’s potential three-peat at the American Cup Saturday in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Occasionally an Oleg Verniaiev or a Ryohei Kato or a Fabian Hambuechen pops in to take the crown, but for the better part of 20 years, the American Cup has been dominated by American men.

Will history repeat itself this year? Maybe not. Bolstered by out-of-this-world difficulty on floor, 2017 World all-around bronze medalist Kenzo Shirai of Japan, along with 2018 American Cup runner up James Hall, a silent assassin from Great Britain, pose a viable threat to Sam Mikulak and Yul Moldauer for this year’s American Cup title.

Make no mistake, the American men are strong. With two Olympics under his belt and several top five finishes at last fall’s Doha World Championships, Mikulak proved he’s just entering his zenith, and he competes especially well inside the country. That being said, the 26-year-old flashed a fair amount of his old inconsistency at Winter Cup two weeks ago in finishing second to Moldauer, who coasted to the title.

Moldauer comes in as the two-time defending American Cup champ and the first guy to potentially three-peat it since Blaine Wilson did it from 1997-99. Moldauer is a deeply talented competitor who doesn’t wilt in the spotlight, but he trails Mikulak in difficulty on pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar.

At last year’s world championships, Moldauer’s total difficulty score was in the low 32s, and he remains competitive because his execution is way above average when he’s on his game. Mikulak, meanwhile, was up around 35 for combined difficulty. Shirai, who nonetheless finished seventh below Mikulak’s fifth, carries around a whopping 35.9, the highest potential difficulty in this year’s American Cup field, and about seven points of that comes from floor alone. Hall carries in a respectable 34.5, priming him to play spoiler.

Ukraine’s Petro Pakhniuk, the Netherlands’s Bart Deurloo, China’s 2014 Youth Olympian Ma Yue and Switzerland’s Christian Baumann will all also be jostling for place. (Marcel Nguyen, originally scheduled to be there for Germany, dropped out a couple days ago.)

Shirai’s incredible difficulty on floor and vault ups his stock as an all-arounder, but execution-wise, the charismatic 22-year-old is weaker than average on rings and pommel horse. Pakhnuik, meanwhile is exceptionally good on pommel horse and parallel bars, and showed it in his bronze medal finish at last year’s cup. Ma is something of a question mark, though he does have a world cup title on rings under his belt.

Bottom line: if Mikulak does what he’s capable of, he’ll win his second American Cup title. But if he does something to take himself out of contention, the title is likely to be a fight between Moldauer, Shirai and Hall.

Skill watch: The Van Wicklen?

Colin Van Wicklen wasn’t fazed by competing at the World Championships in Doha with nary a world cup -- or any other international competition -- under his belt. “I’m 100 percent ready for this,” the American said last fall. “This is the perfect way for me to make a name for myself on the international stage.”

Doing well at your first ever international competition, especially when it happens to be a world championship, is one way to get your name out there. The other, of course, is to invent a skill. (That way your name isn’t just out there, it’s in the code of points forever.) Having accomplished the one, seems Van Wicklen is readying to do the other.

Behold, the double front pike full out, which, if submitted and competed successfully by him at just about any world cup event this year, could be dubbed the Van Wicklen forevermore. Front double pikes have proven more popular than ever this quad, as have the half-out variety. The double front pike is an E skill in the men’s code of points, worth 0.5 when performed correctly. The half out is an F, worth 0.6, so it follows that the full out would likely be classed as a G skill, worth 0.7.

Only two skills worth more on men’s floor exercise: the triple back tuck, named for Valeri Liukin, and the triple twisting double layout, named for Kenzo Shirai. Both are H-level skills, and worth 0.8 to whoever performs them well.

Radivilov, You, Miyachi break through for gold in Melbourne World Cup finals

A satisfied Igor Radivilov (UKR) pumps his fist after clinching gold at the Melbourne World Cup. Photo: Melbourne World Cup.

A satisfied Igor Radivilov (UKR) pumps his fist after clinching gold at the Melbourne World Cup. Photo: Melbourne World Cup.

Highly experienced gymnasts prevailed on the second day of men’s finals at the Melbourne World Cup, with many-time world vault finalist Igor Radivilov of Ukraine taking gold for a wonderful stuck Dragulescu and equally good Tsuk double pike, despite excellent Tsuk triple full and Dragulescu vaults from France’s Loris Frasca, matching Radivilov vault for vault in difficulty score. Great Britain’s Dominick Cunningham drilled a terrific Yurchenko triple full for bronze.

2015 World parallel bars champion You Hao of China scooped up the gold medal and valuable world cup points on his specialty ahead of Turkish specialists Ahmet Onder and Ferhat Arican, while Hidetaka Miyachi, he of the double twisting layout Kovacs on high bar, defeated a pair of world champions in the Netherlands’s Epke Zonderland and China’s Zhang Chenglong to stand atop the podium.

More than medals are at stake in Melbourne -- depending on where they rank in finals, gymnasts also earned valuable world cup points, which go toward their standing in the world cup series, an event that began last November and will conclude in the spring of 2020. The winners of the world cup series on each event, provided they do not help their teams qualify to the Games at this year’s World Championships, will earn berths to the Tokyo Olympics.

Results

Men’s Vault

1. Igor Radivilov, Ukraine, 14.949
2. Loris Frasca, France, 14.900
3. Dominick Cunningham, Great Britain, 14.749
4. Hidenobu Yonekura, Japan, 14.579
5. Shin Jea-hwan, South Korea, 14.566
6. Christopher Remkes, Australia, 14.083
7. Kim Han-sol, South Korea, 13.999
8. Milad Karimi, Kazakhstan, 13.583

Parallel Bars

1. You Hao, China, 15.066
2. Ahmet Onder, Turkey, 14.633
3. Ferhat Arican, Turkey, 14.366
4. Mitchell Morgans, Australia, 14.200
5. Hibiki Arayashiki, Japan, 14.066
6. Mikhail Koudinov, New Zealand, 12.933
7. Akim Mussayev, Kazakhstan, 12.266
8. Tomomasa Hasegawa, Japan, 11.466

High Bar

1. Hidetaka Miyachi, Japan, 14.733
2. Epke Zonderland, Netherlands, 14.733
3. Zhang Chenglong, China, 14.333
4. Mitchell Morgans, Australia, 14.033
5. Tyson Bull, Australia, 13.966
6. Ahmet Önder, Turkey, 13.900
7. Tin Srbic, Croatia, 13.266
8. Milad Karimi, Kazakhstan, 12.200