World Gymnastics Championships

Getty Images

World Gymnastics Championships takeaways

Leave a comment

Three takeaways from the world gymnastics championships in Montreal …

1. Morgan Hurd jumbles U.S. women’s team picture

Hurd was fifth at the 2016 junior nationals and sixth at this year’s senior nationals. Now that the 16-year-old is world all-around champion, where will she stand domestically in 2018? 2020?

Remember, all the focus this year was on Olympic alternate Ragan Smith until Smith injured an ankle in warm-up for the all-around final and withdrew. Smith’s all-around score in qualifying (where she was second overall) would have won gold by seven tenths of a point.

Before worlds, she swept the AT&T American Cup and P&G Championships titles, both quite convincingly. Though Hurd did beat Smith in the U.S. selection camp’s closed-door competition in September to earn a place on the world team.

OK, so Hurd vs. Smith in 2018? It’s not looking that simple.

The second- and third-highest scorers at the P&G Championships came from the junior division. Maile O’Keefe and Emma Malabuyo both move up to senior next year.

As for 2020, Simone BilesAly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez have all said they hope to come back at some point in this Olympic cycle. Only Biles has returned to the gym, but no competition return dates have been set.

Team sizes will be cut from five to four for the Olympics (though two extra gymnasts can compete in individual events).

Also consider the high injury risk.

Chellsie Memmel (2005) and Bridget Sloan (2009) both won world titles the year after an Olympics and then struggled to stay healthy the rest of the quad. Memmel made the 2008 Olympic team, but only competed on uneven bars due to a broken ankle. Sloan withdrew from the 20102 Olympic Trials with an elbow injury.

Two others who won world all-around medals the year after the Olympics — Rebecca Bross (2009, silver) and Kyla Ross (2013, silver) — both did not make it back for the Games three years later.

So, Hurd has a long, tough road ahead for somebody who became the world’s best gymnast in her first year in the senior division.

2. U.S. men have one all-arounder; they need more

National champion Yul Moldauer did well for himself at his first worlds, finishing seventh in the all-around. He did so with a full point fewer in difficulty than anybody else in the top eight.

He’ll go back to Oklahoma for his junior season and presumably continue to improve, adding tougher skills to challenge the Chinese and Japanese.

If the U.S. men are to become Olympic team medal threats again, they need another all-arounder given the roster cut to four.

Will it be Sam Mikulak? The four-time U.S. champion has never been a bigger question mark since he burst onto the scene to make the 2012 Olympic team.

He looked just as promising as Moldauer in 2013, when Mikulak would have won a world all-around medal if not for falling on his last event, high bar. The last four years brought plenty of domestic success, but more Achilles tears (two) than individual international medals (zero).

Mikulak was put on the world team for high bar only and fell in qualifying. He said afterward he will go back to the all-around next year, but as he turns 25 years old, time is not on his side.

3. The international picture isn’t clear, either

The medalists at next year’s worlds in Doha could be very different.

Not only is the U.S. women’s program set for changes, but some of the world’s best gymnasts weren’t able to compete for medals in Montreal.

Romanian Larisa Iordache, a two-time world all-around medalist behind Biles, suffered an Achilles injury in qualifying. Russian Aliya Mustafina, all-around bronze medalist in Rio behind Biles and Raisman, took the year off due to pregnancy but is expected to return in 2018.

There is uncertainty at the top of men’s gymnastics for the first time in eight years.

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, the world’s top all-arounder from 2009 through 2016, also bowed out in qualifying due to injury. Combine that with Uchimura’s close win in Rio — by .099 over Ukrainian Oleg Verniaiev — and he will have a little bit to prove in 2018.

New world champion Xiao Ruoteng of China is seven years younger than Uchimura, who at 28 is past peak age for an all-arounder. Uchimura may trim his focus from the all-around to one or two events ahead of the Tokyo Games.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Simone Biles explains returning to the gym

Morgan Hurd, new world all-around champ, bonds with J.K. Rowling

Leave a comment

U.S. gymnast Morgan Hurd‘s two highlights from the past week:

“Clearly winning,” said the surprise world all-around champion, ” … and clearly getting the tweet from J.K.”

Hurd, the 4 1/2-foot, 16-year-old who competes in glasses, was clearly the standout performer of last week’s world gymnastics championships in Montreal.

Fifth at the U.S. junior championships a year ago — and sixth at this year’s senior nationals (coming off elbow surgery) — Hurd surged to win the most coveted prize in the sport aside from the Olympics.

Word reached Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who has clearly had an effect on Hurd.

Then came Saturday and Sunday.

Teammate Jade Carey captured Hurd’s reaction to the first congratulatory tweet. Hurd was lying down, receiving treatment ahead of Sunday’s balance beam final.

“I stopped and started bawling,” Hurd said later. “I had tears streaming down my face.”

Hurd had trouble sleeping the last several nights, acknowledging lament in not being able to thank every single person who praised her on social media.

She awoke Sunday to see the second tweet from Rowling call her a hero.

“I started freaking out, but I had to be really quiet because [teammate] Ragan [Smith] was still sleeping,” Hurd said. “I was, like, jumping up and down in my bed.”

Hurd’s love for Rowling’s series about the boy wizard is compounded by the fact she is a rare gymnast who competes while wearing glasses. Very Potter-like.

“I tried contacts,” she said, according to FloGymnastics in May, “but they made my eyeballs dry, and when I got stuff in my eyes, I had to take them out and put them back in.”

Hurd is not the first elite gymnast to go the glasses route. Remember Fabian Hambuechen in Athens?

Hurd was born in China and adopted as a toddler, moving to Delaware. By developmental camps, she acted and looked like an adult, said her coach, Slava Glazounov.

“She would get herself a little cappucino, without the caffeine,” he said Sunday. “She would sit with her leg up and drink the coffee and read the book. And this was a 10-year-old kid. She does the same thing now.”

Hurd, who was born between “The Goblet of Fire” and “The Order of the Phoenix,” has twice taken the Pottermore quiz to determine her Hogwarts House.

Questions include — moon or stars? And would you rather be envied, imitated, trusted, praised, liked or feared?

Hurd was sorted into Ravenclaw — known for intelligence — and then, the second time, Gryffindor — marked by courage and bravery.

“I truly think I’m a Gryffindor because, I mean, I flip on a four-inch piece of wood,” said Hurd, who earned silver in Sunday’s balance beam final. “That’s got to count for something, right?”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Romania’s last golden gymnast says goodbye

Morgan Hurd adds silver medal to resume at World Gymnastics Championships

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Surprise women’s all-around world champion Morgan Hurd heard congratulations from many admirers since accepting her gold medal. But a tweet from J. K. Rowling – author of the bespectacled boy wizard series Harry Potter – surprised her the most.

Rowling called her a “real life hero in glasses.”

On Sunday, she added another medal to her Montreal haul; she captured a silver on beam despite being penalized a tenth of a point for a time violation. Regardless, it would not have been enough to overtake German gold medalist Pauline Schaefer’s score. Her gold medal was the first gymnastics world title for Germany since 1981. Her countrywoman Tabea Alt earned the bronze.

The three women from the Rio podium – the Netherlands’ Sanne Wevers, Laurie Hernandez, and Simone Biles – were not in the field.

Mai Murakami finished fourth in the beam final and the all-around final. She finally broke through in Montreal winning floor gold on Sunday. Previously, Japan’s only women’s floor world medal was a bronze, earned back in 1954.

The U.S.’ Jade Carey earned her second world silver medal in as many days behind Murakami, separated by 0.033 points. Carey, whose father is her coach, performed the best routine 2008 Olympic all-around gold medalist and commentator Nastia Liukin had ever seen from her to earn the medal. Great Britain’s Claudia Fragapane was third.

Ragan Smith had also qualified into the floor final, but her right ankle ligament injury sustained just before the all-around final took her out of apparatus finals as well. Benefiting from Smith’s withdrawal was Canada’s home favorite, and all-around silver medalist, Ellie Black. She couldn’t capitalize on it – Black was eighth in the vault final and seventh in floor finals on Sunday.

Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari, the 2006 all-around champion, crashed and grabbed her ankle at the end of her second floor pass. She did not complete her routine after being carried off the floor by medical staff.

Similarly, the Rio floor medalists – Biles, Aly Raisman, and Amy Tinkler – were not in the field.

On the men’s side, Japan’s Kenzo Shirai brought his medal tally to two golds and a bronze, after winning the fault final over Ukraine’s Igor Radivilov by 0.001.

“In my book, that’s basically a tie,” Liukin commented on the broadcast.

Hansol Kim of South Korea earned the bronze medal.

Shirai took home the vault bronze from Rio, though the gold and silver medalists from the Olympics were not in the field in Montreal.

Rio parallel bars gold medalist Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine answered Zou Jingyuan’s score of 15.900 with a “money” routine of his own.

“That is the most perfect I have ever seen Oleg look, right there,” gold medalist and commentator Tim Daggett said after Verniaiev’s routine. But it wasn’t enough. Verniaiev earned the silver behind China’s Zou by 0.67 points.

David Belyavskiy, who earlier this week won all-around silver, captured the bronze with a score of 15.266 points.

Croatia’s Tin Srbic captured high bar gold on Sunday with a score of 14.433 points. Srbic’s clean routine was rewarded after an apparatus finals filled with several falls from athletes with more difficulty in their routines. Croatia had never before won a high bar gold at worlds; their previous best finish was a bronze from 2014.

The Netherlands’ Epke Zonderland won high bar gold at the London 2012 Olympics, but a disastrous fall in Rio landed him in seventh place. In Montreal, he nearly repeated the mistake on the same skill, but held on with one hand to avoid the fall. His score of 14.233 earned him the silver, while countryman Bart Deurloo earned the bronze.

MORE: Saturday’s apparatus finals sees 2 more U.S. medals