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I just had a chance to watch all of the men’s even finals in their entirety.  Here were some things that stuck out:

 

RUSSIA!

 

Wow this team is looking phenomenal right now.  The addition of Nikolai Kuksenkov – the transplanted Ukrainian and new World University Games all-around champion – is HUGE in and of itself, but aside from him this team has some incredibly exciting gymnasts.  Belyavskiy, Emin Garibov, and Denis Ablyazin are all looking better than ever, and Nikita Ignatyev is a strong all-arounder as well (88.85 in preliminaries).  If there were a world team competition this year, would Russia contend for the team gold?  That’s tough to answer since we never really know how China is truly looking until a world championships or Olympics rolls around, and Japan didn’t have all its stars in this competition, but there is no question that Russia would be incredibly competitive in a 3-up-3-count format.  I’m excited to see what they can do in Antwerp on the individual stage.  These guys will likely have MULTIPLE opportunities.  It’s so cool to see both the Russian men and women looking so good in the first year of the quadrennial.  Hopefully this is a sign of great things to come on the road to Rio.

 

Emin Garibov blew me away.  He absolutely deserved both of those gold medals on p-bars and high bar.  His p-bars routine was absolutely gorgeous, and I loved the stuck double front to end.  His high bar was phenomenal, and in my opinion deserving of a higher E-score than the 8.725 he received – it was beautiful!  I’m also quite certain I’ve never seen a gymnast do back-to-back LAID OUT Tcatchevs in a row – of course his second one was with a half turn.

 

As always, some of the scoring was quite curious to me.  Here were some of my issues with the men’s judging in the finals:

 

1.  Oleg Stepko’s pommel horse E-score of 8.45.  This routine was almost flawless, and in fact should have won the final in my opinion.  Where in the world were these deductions???  This score was ludicrous in my opinion.  The ONLY area I could see them deducting was a little bit of skew on his travels, but let’s face it, this is extremely common and even if deducted, would not nearly explain this score.

 

2.  Kuksenkov’s pommel horse was pretty clean, but clearly had some small form errors but was given a tenth higher E-score than Stepko and the gold medal.

 

3.  In addition, Daniel Corral of Mexico was given 0.125 higher in execution than Stepko despite hitting the horse on a one-pommel Russian, pressing up a bit slowly on the dismount and then going over on the wrong side!

 

4.  Even though Filip Ude fell towards the end of the routine, was it not virtually flawless up to that point?  That routine was incredible – the straightest body line and coolest handstand sequence in the world.  Why a 7.575 E-score?

 

5.  I didn’t think Ryohei Kato deserved the highest E-score on high bar (8.875).  I particularly don’t like the way he stoops in so low into his jam skills (I used to even hate when junior gymnasts did that when I judged), and his release moves were a bit low in amplitude and had some piked body shapes.  He received a higher E-score than Garbiov’s magnificent routine, and I would have probably even scored his teammate Yusuke Tanaka a little higher in execution, but Tanaka received 0.225 less (although Tanaka had a higher total score because of his 6.9 D-score).

 

Aside from these perplexing judging moments, this was an awesome meet – definitely the best gymnastics we have seen since London, and in many cases it rivaled and even surpassed some of the Olympic routines.  Yang Hak Seon’s vaults brought back fond memories from his gold medal performance in London – his triple twisting handspring front and stuck Tsuk triple full were two of the highlights of the entire competition.  That first vault may well be the most impressive piece of gymnastics being done in the world today.

 

I was very impressed with Ukrainians Oleg Verniaiev, Oleg Stepko, and Igor Radivilov.  This team may not quite be on par with Russia, but they aren’t far behind.  Varniaiev and Stepko are right up there in the all-around with the top Russians, and Radivilov’s Dragulescu on vault is perhaps the best in the world, not to mention his rings routine was one of the best looking routines in that final.

 

Finally, it’s awesome to see Fabian Hambuechen looking so good again.  He looks sharper than I’ve seen him in years, and will likely contend for a spot on the all-around podium this fall.

 

More to come!