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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).