Two questions hang over the World Gymnastics Championships men’s team final on Wednesday.
Can Japan end China’s dynasty?
How much will the loss of three Olympians impact the U.S.?
China has won six straight World Championships and the last two Olympics, its reign dating to 2006.
Japan finished second each time, but it appeared en route to gold at the 2014 Worlds in China until a clutch final high bar routine lifted the Chinese to the title by one tenth of a point. That marked the smallest margin of victory by a men’s or women’s team at an Olympics or Worlds since the sport threw out the perfect-10 scoring system a decade ago.
Japan’s confidence must be higher this week in Glasgow, Scotland, given it qualified first into the team final by 1.857 points over China.
However, if one adds up all the scores in qualifying by gymnasts who will contest the team final, China would beat Japan by .508.
Japan, led by five-time World all-around champion Kohei Uchimura, continues to look to preserve its heritage as the sport’s greatest dynastic nation.
Japan captured every Olympic and World title from 1960 through 1978, when Worlds were once every four years, but China is gaining.
Uchimura, arguably the greatest gymnast in history, has repeated that he values a team gold medal over an individual all-around title. He is going on all six events Wednesday, which he didn’t do in 2014.
The bronze-medal conversation usually starts with the U.S., but that isn’t the case this year. Great Britain and Russia easily topped the Americans in qualifying, to no surprise.
The U.S., which finished between third and fifth at every Olympics and Worlds since 2007, is without its three best gymnasts from 2014 — Olympians Sam Mikulak, John Orozco and Jacob Dalton — all injured.
The depleted Americans impressed some just by qualifying for this team final (and the Olympics) by finishing in the top eight in qualifying on Monday. They were fifth, led by Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva, who also qualified fourth into Thursday’s individual all-around final.
Donnell Whittenburg, who was fourth in all-around qualifying in his Worlds debut in 2014 but tumbled to 17th in the final, will be the busiest U.S. man in the team final. The powerful Maryland native will compete on five of six events, looking to better his qualifying performance that was 4.5 points shy of his 2014 qualifying total.
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