Russia's men make strong start at World Artistic Gymnastics Championships

Team "will do everything" to end 12-year team medal drought in Doha.

Russia's men last won a team medal at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships back in 2006.

This year's squad is determined to end that drought, and they made a fine start in Thursday's first qualification round.

With Japan, Great Britain and China competing on Friday, the Russians currently sit atop the scoreboard with a lead of nearly 13 points over the Netherlands after day one of competition.

There is room for improvement too with both Nikolai Kuksenkov and Artur Dalaloyan coming off the pommel horse.

Russian men reflect on solid start in Doha

Russian men reflect on solid start in Doha

Kuksenkov said, "The team did good. We started very good on vault, parallel bars, as well. We have two finalists, Artur and David (Belyavskiy), so the competition was very good."

Russia's top performer on Thursday, Nikita Nagornyy, said, "On the pommel horse, we made a few mistakes but they were silly mistakes. Pommel horse is an event where we should be getting a lot of points."

Despite their barren run at the World Championships, Russia won team silver at Rio 2016 and are also reigning European team champions.

Nagornyy and David Belyavskiy are two talented all-around gymnasts with Kuksenkov another survivor from Rio.

But the emergence of Dalaloyan has added further depth, the 22-year-old winning gold in the vault and the parallel bars at August's European Championships.

With only two athletes per country advancing to the individual all-around final, there was fierce competition within the Russian squad.

And it was Belyavskiy, whose fall from the horizontal bar saw him just miss out on a medal in last year's all-around final in Montreal, who will have to watch as he finished behind Dalaloyan and Nagornny.

Belyavskiy scored just 12.500 on the floor after putting his hands down on his opening tumbling pass.

He almost earned a reprieve after Dalaloyan's 11.766 on the pommel horse, but Dalaloyan's fine performances on the parallel bars and the floor saw him finish more than 1.000 ahead and take the second spot.

Russia's Artur Dalaloyan on the parallel bars in qualification at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha
Russia's Artur Dalaloyan on the parallel bars in qualification at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in DohaRussia's Artur Dalaloyan on the parallel bars in qualification at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha

Kuksenkov said of his three all-around colleagues, “We are the team, so we help each other even if you’re going in third place and you can’t go to the all-around final because we are the team.

"We’re trying to help each other. We’re trying to get higher scores because we are the team."

Nagornyy came out on top on Thursday, and he currently leads the all-around standings with a total of 87.098.

He commented, "It was overall quite good. I made a few mistakes but we will deal with them. I will work on fixing the mistakes in the future."

Russia's Nikita Nagornyy on the rings in qualification at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha
Russia's Nikita Nagornyy on the rings in qualification at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in DohaRussia's Nikita Nagornyy on the rings in qualification at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha

Russia's total score of 258.402 is likely to see them through to the final as one of the top qualifiers.

But if they are to end that team medal drought, they will need to improve on the pommel horse in an unforgiving final where all scores count and one mistake can see a team fall out of the podium places.

Kuksenkov admits an increase in global standards has been a major factor in Russia's recent disappointments, but it is about time he and his team-mates changed that.

“Twelve years with no medal in team competition, I think it’s a lot of time for Russian gymnastics. I think it means not that Russian gymnastics is very bad, it means that the level of world gymnastics is very high.”

"We are trying to change it at this Worlds. We will do everything."

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