Stuttgart World Cup

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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