Loris Frasca

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.

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.


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