Thoughts on men’s worlds prelims…

What a shocker from Tim McNeill! Who would have ever guessed this guy who choked away his chances of making the Olympic team last year would be sitting as the third best all-around gymnast in the world??? Not me! I was equally thrilled to see him hit pommel horse and make the finals…I think the Tim McNeill we saw from 2008 would not have been able to handle that pressure. Perhaps the Olympic Trials process itself prepared him for this type of pressure. How amazing it would be if he were to medal tomorrow. It’s also pretty crazy that he actually beat Jonathan Horton. Great for McNeill’s confidence, and probably quite a motivator for Horton in tomorrow’s finals.
Great to see Uchimura live up to his capabilities. He’s definitely the one to beat, but I still think Horton is the most capable of challenging him. Horton can go up three points on that prelim score of 88.0. His fall on pommel horse isn’t too surprising (although I was expecting him to hit here after his struggles at nationals), but I was surprised to see his floor, rings, and p-bars all scoring in the 14’s. He’s always in the 15’s on those three events, so he must not have been at his best on those either. Interestingly, Wesley Haagensen and Tim McNeill both outscored Horton on rings, McNeill outscored him on p-bars, and Leyva outscored him on high bar. After seeing how amazing he was at nationals, I was definitely expecting more from him.  Let’s hope he was saving his best meet for tomorrow, where anything can happen and he has the goods to at least win an all-around medal. Better yet, could BOTH Americans end up on the podium? How awesome that would be – completely unprecedented!
I’m really psyched that Legendre made floor finals, McNeill made pommel horse finals, and Horton and Leyva both made high bar finals. In fact, this high bar final has turned out to be exactly the type of final I hoped it would! Not only we will have two Americans with great shots for medals, but almost all of the high bar stars I was hoping to see in the finals (highlighted in my last blog) hit their routines and made it!!! What an incredible show that will be! It was awesome seeing Dragulescu didn’t disappoint – 2nd place on both floor and vault going into the finals. I never get tired of his huge vaults and tumbling skills. And maybe it’s time for Golotsutskov of Russia to finally win a world title. He won bronze on both floor and vault in Beijing, but has never been a world champion. As he is finally gaining consistency on both of his vaults, he leads the field heading into the finals.
No shocker that Zhang Hongtao leads pommel horse, although Kristzian Berki is only 0.175 behind him. I was just looking forward to seeing Xiao Qin and Zhang Hongtao battle it out in an unprecedented duel, but obviously they didn’t put Xiao Qin on the team. Remember that Krisztian Berki was the silver medalist from Stutttgart in 2007 but then was not awarded a wild card spot in Beijing. And Jordan Jovtchev continues to blow me away. He enters the rings finals in 3rd place, and just 0.3 away from first with a big step on the landing. Could the 36-year-old actually win it?
As far as disappointments go, the standouts to me were:
Diego Hypolito’s floor. Missed finals by .025, especially devastating after he was brought to tears in Beijing when he fell on his last pass and lost a chance for an Olympic medal.
Daniel Keatings’ pommel horse. He fell on his dismount and scored a 14.425. He likely would have scored a 15.425 and made the finals in front of his home crowd (along with teammate and Olympic bronze medalist Louis Smith), although that would have bumped Tim McNeill out of the finals, so maybe it’s not so bad!
Chen Yibing’s rings. It’s hard to feel sorry for a guy who has already won two world titles and an Olympic title on this event. I was just really looking forward to him going head to head with his teammate and new rings sensation, Yan Mingyong. Yan didn’t disappoint though, and I doubt anyone can beat him in the finals.
Jake Dalton’s vault. I know he’s only 18 years old, but there’s no question Jake Dalton was hoping to make the vault finals, and there’s no question he could have done so. By looking at his D-scores, which were both 6.6, he obviously didn’t do his Kasamatsu double full (which starts at a 7.0). I’m assuming he did a Kas-1 ½ and his handspring front double full. His first E-score was 9.375, and the second was a 7.85. I’m guessing he must have fallen on that second one…he would have needed a 9.4 on the second one to make the finals. Oh well, placing 21st out of 57 guys doing 2 vaults even with a fall at your first worlds is something to be proud of!
Overall, there was definitely a whole lot more positive than negative, especially from the USA men’s team!  We actually have six shots at medals – and for once two guys in contention for an all-around medal! Tomorrow will be an exciting day for USA gymnastics, and who knows, possibly one for the history books.
I’ll give more thoughts after tomorrow’s meet!