Kohei’s Magic. Even slightly hampered by a leg injury and an uncharacteristic fall on vault, the invincible Kohei Uchimura still dazzled his way to the top of the all-around qualifications and into five out of six event finals. At just 22 years old, the gymnast they call “Superman” has already won two world all-around titles, but has never stood next to his teammates atop the world team medal podium. The sensational Uchimura continues to captivate the world with his breathtaking skills and style, and has once again brought his magical gymnastics to the world stage. For his next “trick,” the world champion hopes to lead his Japanese team to its first world team title since all the way back in 1978 – in front of a roaring home crowd in Tokyo.
Sooners Start American Charge. Armed with three spectacular tumblers who all hail from the University of Oklahoma – Steven Legendre, Jake Dalton, and Jonathan Horton – the USA will begin its noble quest for the 2011 world team title on floor exercise, the event in which it outscored the entire field in qualifications. Japan already demonstrated just how tenuous this event can be when a slightly mistimed tumbling sequence resulted in a frightening concussion for one of its best gymnasts on the first day of competition. Today’s marathon floor routines – filled with intricate combinations and more flips and twists than ever before – have turned this once stable and predictable event into a real game-changer in world competition.
Pommel Horse Face-Off. Perhaps the most tenuous and least predictable event in men’s gymnastics, pommel horse is well known for dictating the fate of a competition. Japan and the USA were both solid in qualifications on pommel horse, and both will have the luxury of competing this event second – unlike China and Germany, who will have to tackle the beast on their first event. China’s lineup on this event is weaker than we’ve seen from their past dominant teams, and Germany self-destructed here in qualifications. This event will be absolutely pivotal in this final, as one fall can instantly change the color of a medal for any of these teams.
Orozco On Fire. It’s so hard to believe that an 18-year-old in his first world competition actually led the United States to one of its best performances of all time on Day 1 of these world championships. And it’s doubtful anyone would have predicted that this unseasoned youngster, who tore his Achilles tendon just over a year ago, would find himself in 2nd place in the all-around behind perhaps the greatest male gymnast in history. But that’s the current reality for John Orozco, whose performances in Tokyo thus far have likely surpassed his wildest dreams. He’ll now face the biggest test of his life, as he’ll be expected to contribute key routines for his country on four events under the brutal pressure of the world team finals. If he delivers like he did in qualifications, he could become an overnight hero for Team USA.
Underdogs. Unlike the qualifications, the precarious team final hinges on an unforgiving do-or-die format that allows for unsuspected upsets. Should one of the top three teams succumb to the intense pressure, Germany and Russia will likely be first in line to capitalize. Germany, led by Olympian and former world champion Fabian Hambuechen and world medalists Marcel Nguyen and Philip Boy, could creep much closer to the top three if they perform to their true capabilities when the heat is on. Russia has an exciting mix of both old and new talent, and will rely heavily on well-balanced all-arounders Emin Garibov and David Belyavskiy as well as powerhouses Anton Golotutskov and Denis Ablyazin in its attempt to sneak onto the podium.