Podium training begins at gymnastics Worlds

Gymnastics stars get their chance to test out arena prior to competition starting

For the next four days at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar, the men’s and women’s athletes will have their one and only chance to train on the podium and the equipment on which gold, silver and bronze will be decided.

Competition begins 25 October with the first medals awarded in the men’s team final on 29 October.

Olympic Channel is on site in Doha bringing fans highlights from the four days of training, so check back here for updates as podium training progresses.

Will Russia’s daring difficulty pay off?

The Russian men come to Doha with high hopes after winning the team silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and an impressive gold-medal-winning performance earlier this year at the European Championships.

Russian star David Belyavskiy left last year’s Worlds in Montreal with medals on the pommel horse and parallel bars. But he was disappointed after a fall in the final rotation of the all-around final cost him a chance at a medal, possibly gold.

"We went through all the preparation, everything worked out well," Belyavskiy told the Olympic Channel after podium training.

"We tried out the equipment today, it was all not bad, so we are hoping for a good performance.”

During podium training Sunday morning, the Russians displayed their trademark difficulty but with errors on every piece.

The squad seemed relaxed and laidback, despite the mistakes including a few crashes on vault and some struggles with timing on combination tumbling.

However, if they are to challenge the likes of Japan and China their strategy will be taking big risks. The question: will it pay off with a big reward?

The Flying Dutchman seeks third World high bar title

London 2012 Olympic champion Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands will compete for this third World title (2013, 2014) on the horizontal bar in Doha. The 32-year-old finished second at both last year’s World Championships and this year’s European Championships.

“The rain was, well, really hard. I was happy that I could already train yesterday,” Zonderland said of a rain storm that caused issues with flooded streets and venues. “It took a while before we could get here, I think for the rest the accommodation is really nice, and it’s a good format for us to perform well.”

Nicknamed the ‘Flying Dutchman’, Zonderland didn’t disappoint today in training executing his trademark high flying release moves in succession. He performed a Cassina to a Kovacs and then a Kohlman to a Gaylord II.

After so much success, Zonderland says his motivation comes from the experience of competition and bettering himself.

A show of friendship

Israeli gymnasts come to Doha able to make an impact beyond the field of play. The chance of medal winning performances from Alexander Shatilov or Artem Dolgopyat raises the possibility of seeing the Israeli flag lifted in Qatar. Given Israel’s often tense relationship with other states in the Middle East, Shatilov sees it as a chance to show friendship between the countries through sports.

“I think it’s really exciting to come to Qatar,” Shatilov said after podium training. “It’s nice to show friendship with this country and for us to compete here.”

Shatilov and Dolgopyat are both World medalists on the floor exercise. Dolgopyat won the silver medal last year in Montreal, while Shatilov owns two bronze medals from the 2009 and 2011 World Championships.

Artem Dolgopyat of Israel competes on the floor exercise during day one of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on October 2, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Artem Dolgopyat of Israel competes on the floor exercise during day one of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on October 2, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)Artem Dolgopyat of Israel competes on the floor exercise during day one of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on October 2, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

In training today, Dolgopyat struggled on his signature double front with one-and-a-half twist, but came back with a front full to Randi and impressive quadruple twist. Shatilov, the 31-year-old veteran, showed a unique double front pike half-out to open his routine.

“I think it will be amazing,” he said of chance to see his flag fly during a medal ceremony in Doha. “And, we will do all [we can] for this.”

Verniaiev still finding his form

Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev struggled through his training session today in Doha. The Rio Olympic champion on the parallel bars is in the midst of a comeback from surgery to both his right shoulder and left leg following last year’s Worlds.

“I had two surgeries and then six months off,” Verniaiev said through translation. “Then, I started working really, really hard.”

After a less than stellar run-through of his parallel bars routine, Verniaiev immediately sat down and massaged his shoulder. Minutes later on the high bar, never the 25-year-old’s favorite event, he performed a simple routine. Despite the surgery to his leg late last year, floor exercise was a bright spot as he tumbled tucked double-double first tumbling pass and dismounted with a triple full.

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“My leg is alright,” Verniaiev said. “But I still have some pain in my shoulder.”

The pain kept him from training on the still rings today in Doha, though he didn’t rule out competing on all six events when competition begins on Thursday.

“Survive,” he joked when asked of his plans for competition, before adding in English, “We will see before competition, I will think about this.”

A first for the Middle East

The World Championships in Doha mark the first time the competition has been held in an Arab country or in the Middle East.

“I’m very proud that my country hosts this competition,” said Ahmed Mosa, a member of the Qatari team in Doha. “I’m really excited to compete and smash all the apparatus and the routines there.”

Mosa, who competed at last year’s World Championships in Montreal, and the 2017 and 2018 World Cup competitions held in the same arena in Doha, hopes hosting the global championships in his home country will help to boost the sport’s profile.

“It will help inspire the young gymnasts who want to learn gymnastics in Qatar. It will make gymnastics more famous in Qatar,” he said.

Adding, “I’m really excited to see the crowed. I hope the crowd is going to cheer for us. It makes us more excited to do well in the routines.”

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