Artur Dalaloyan wins world all-around title by narrowest of margins
There was confusion inside Doha's Aspire Dome as the final mark of the men’s all-around final at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships flashed on the scoreboard.
Defending world champion Xiao Ruoteng of China needed more than 14.233 to take gold from Russia’s Artur Dalaloyan.
His score was exactly 14.233.
In the all-around competition, ties are broken by taking the total after dropping the lowest of the six scores.
Dalaloyan discarded his 13.400 pommel horse mark, while Xiao’s lowest score was 14.133 on the floor exercise.
The result was the 22-year-old Russian became his country's first men’s all-around world champion since Nikolai Kryukov in 1999.
Xiao finished with the silver with another Russian, Nikita Nagorrnyy, rounding out the medals.
"I saw the (Xiao's) score and there was number two. I realised I came first," Dalaloyan said. "This is super, just unbelievable!"
Both Dalaloyan and Nagornyy made errors in Monday’s team final which contributed to the Russians dropping to second after posting the top score in qualification.
During the team competition, Dalaloyan did not make it up to the handstand on his first skill on the parallel bars, losing a full point before the routine had barely begun.
In the final rotation, Nagornyy stalled on a handstand on the high bar to end Russia’s chance for its first team world gold medal since the former Soviet Union won in 1991.
But not today.
Dalaloyan started brilliantly on the floor, tumbling an impressive triple back to open and sticking his triple twist dismount for a 14.800.
He went on to earn scores of 13.400 on pommel horse and 14.533 on the rings before nailing his front handspring double pike vault for a 15.133.
A near-flawless parallel bars routine earned him 15.566 and the lead going into the final apparatus.
The pressure of the moment did not faze him as he scored 14.166 on the high bar to take the gold medal. Just.
“I knew the fight would be intense. You just have to do your work, your combinations, from the beginning till the end." - world all-around champion Artur Dalaloyan
Nagornyy, for his part, performed solidly on five of the six events.
His only hiccup came on the parallel bars where an element nearly came down crooked, but he recovered quickly to finish his routine.
End of an era
A Chinese or Japanese man had won each of the last world or Olympic all-around titles since 2005.
Until today, American Paul Hamm was the last non-Chinese or Japanese man to win the title.
Hamm took back-to-back global titles at the 2003 World Championships and 2004 Athens Olympic Games before Japan’s Hiroyuki Tomita won the world title in 2005.
China’s Yang Wei dominated the rest of that Olympic cycle, including Beijing 2008, before Kohei Uchimura won six consecutive world titles and two golds at the Olympics.
Last year in Montreal, Uchimura’s streak came to an end as he withdrew from competition due to an ankle injury sustained in vault qualification.
In Doha, Uchimura was limited to three events in qualifying due to another ankle injury sustained late last month.
The Japanese will only take part in one individual final, the horizontal bar.
Xiao continued the Asian dominance 12 months ago, but relinquished his title in dramatic circumstances.
Rio 2016 all-around silver medallist Oleg Verniaiev led after three events including a 14.066 on the rings which he did not practise last week due to a shoulder injury.
But the other event which gave him difficulty, the high bar, proved fatal to his chances.
The Ukrainian failed to deliver on two elements in the middle of the routine before coming up short on his dismount, and his 11.500 dropped him down the leaderboard.
Two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak went into the final rotation in third place, but two errors on catch-and-release elements on the high bar dropped him to fifth in the final standings.