Friday, September 27, 2013

Men's Podium Training Round-Up

Image via IG2' Facebook

My OCD is kicking in. I can't handle the fact that all the videos and articles are scattered across the gymternet.

I need order.

I need organization.

And I'm assuming that some of my readers feel the same way. So, here's a little round-up from today's podium training…

The Latest Roster

Fabian Hambüchen

If only he were wearing his sexy nerd glasses during this interview… Woof…

Fabian admits that he's a little nervous about his new high bar set. Based on the interview, though, it's impossible to tell whether he's referring to the 7.4 routine that he performed at the German National Qualifier or whether he has upgraded even more since then. GAH! Blythe Lawrence, you're never allowed to go to a wedding in England ever again.

Right now, Fabian seems to be the favorite heading into the high bar final–mostly because he doesn't swing around the bar like a wet noodle.

Epke Zonderland

Earlier this year, the gymternet flipped when they saw video of Epke doing a Cassina, Kovacs, Kolman, Gaylord II combination. However, unless something changes, it looks as though we won't see a four-release combination in competition. During podium training, Epke's chin and the bar were a little too close for comfort, and he had to do a bent-arm giant out of his Kovacs.

That said, his separate release combinations (Cassina + Kovacs; Kolman + Gaylord II) are still going to be the hardest combinations in Antwerp. If only he had better form…

Daniel Keatings

According to an interview with British Gymnastics, Daniel is going back to his simpler pommel horse routine from the European Championships. This is not a very American strategy. (As we'll discuss below, the American men are going for broke, and gym gods willing, they won't break anything along the way.)

Keep in mind that Daniel Keatings beat both Krisztian Berki and Max Whitlock with this routine. So, going with the simpler routine might be a wise move.

Max Whitlock

I haven't found any videos of Max training, but he's all over the British press. It looks like he's becoming the face of British Gymnastics. The BBC recently ran an article titled "Is Max Whitlock the new Louis Smith?" In response, I quipped, "You better hope not. Louis hardly ever won gold. Plus, Max actually does more than one event." Once I read the article, I realized that they were talking more about leadership roles. Oops.

British Gymnastics also did an interview with him.

Nikolai Kuksenskov

Last week, Rewriting Russian Gymnastics reported that Kuksenkov had dislocated his finger, and it was unclear whether he would compete in Antwerp. Today, the Russian Gymnastics Federation pulled him from the all-around. It looks like he will compete solely on high bar.

By the way, according to Valentina Rodionenko, Emin Garibov will be his biggest competition--a statement that just makes me violently LOL. Garibov is good, but so are Zonderland and Hambüchen.

With Kuksenkov out of the all-around, Aleksandr Balandin has been added to the team. This makes qualifying for a rings final even more interesting. Think of Balandin as the Russian version of Brandon Wynn, but with arguably harder strength elements. Unfortunately, the Russian Gymnastics Federation does not send Balandin to too many meets because he's just a rings guy.

Since we haven't seen much of him, it's hard to tell how he'll fare. In the last video I saw, he fell on his dismount.
Let's hope that lightning doesn't strike twice.

Shirai Kenzo

Kenzo is the clear favorite on floor. Not only does he boast the hardest difficulty score in the world, but he's more consistent than guys like Denis Ablyazin, who also has a sizable D score. However, Kenzo's tumbling during podium training looked a little more labored than normal, and he clearly struggled with the quad twist at the end of this routine.

Fluke? I hope so. But should Kenzo falter, I'd look to Diego Hypólito and Denis Ablyazin (on a good day) to take advantage of the misstep.

Also noteworthy: According to Blythe, Kenzo easily did a triple-twisting Yurchenko during podium training. So, it looks like we'll see our first triple-twisting Yurchenko on the international stage. I bet that Sasha Artemev is bummed that he didn't do it first.

The vault should be judged out of a 16.00 (6.0 D).

Kohei Uchimura

At the Olympics, Kohei vaulted a Shewfelt (Yurchenko 2.5--now a 5.6), but since then, he's upgraded to a handspring Randi (6.0). In slow motion, you can see some of his technical problems (e.g. hand placement and skewed hips coming onto the horse.) But I doubt that the judges will be too picky when they see the vault in real time.

Maybe the vault's not as clean as Kohei's Shewfelt, but Kohei needs the 6.0 vault. It will help him fend off guys like Oleg Verniaiev, who also has a 6.0 vault, and it will give him a leg up on guys like Sam Mikulak, who's only vaulting a Kasamatsu 1.5 (5.6 D).

While Kohei is mostly known as an all-arounder, over the last 3 years, Kohei has been one of the top floor workers, as well. (2010 Worlds silver, 2011 Worlds gold, 2012 Olympic silver). However, it appears that Kohei doesn't have his sights set on a floor medal this year. If he did, I doubt that he would perform a double full side pass. That said, the landings look good, as they usually are. (And hey, you never know what Kohei might just bust out.)

Also of note: I wish that my boyfriend were as sexy as Kohei's Cassina. Oh, and Kohei made it to handstand on his pommel horse dismount.

Sam Mikulak

I'm sure about one thing: Sam Mikulak will have the most fun at the World Championships. Before leaving for Antwerp, he told the Michigan athletic department that he's looking forward to the chocolate and the diamonds. According to Blythe, Sam was dancing around out there. And Sam did a pretty good Molly Shannon superstar impression after his vault:

All kidding aside, Sam is looking strong on all 6 events. Heck, with the exception of a leg separation on his Russians, he even hit his pommel horse routine. That's important for two reasons. First, so far this year, he's 1 for 3 on pommels, so he needs some hit routines under his belt. Second, Sam has lower start values than competitors like Uchimura. In order to beat his opponents, he's going to need to out-execute them. Plain and simple.

Besides pommels, if there's one event I'm worried about, it's high bar. During podium training, the timing of his Cassina and his Kolman were a bit wacky. He was swinging sideways through the bottom of the bar, and honestly, determination and strong forearms were the only things keeping him on that bar. (You know what they say about guys with strong forearms…)

I'm not sure what to make of the problems with the Kolman. At the Anadia Challenge Cup, when his routine was easier, his Kolman was like a piece of Godiva chocolate.

Jake Dalton

Jake was like a little bunny out there on the floor. By that I mean was hopping on every landing. I understand that Jake may have done this to save his ankles, but just know this: if Jake lands like that in prelims, he may not make finals on floor. If you have a 7.4 difficulty level on floor, you can take a few hops, but if you're around the 6.7 and 6.8 level, you're going to need to be cleaner than a computer chip factory. Personally, I'm hoping that Jake's on the cleaner side.

When we interviewed Jake Dalton on GymCastic, he talked about his bad ankles. This seems to be a problem for a lot of the U.S. male tumblers and vaulters, and as a result, they tend to avoid backwards landings. Nevertheless, despite his iffy ankles, Jake Dalton is planning to throw a Dragulescu (handspring double front with a 1/2 twist). That, in and of itself, raises some eyebrows. What's even more worrisome is the fact that Jake did only a handspring double front during podium training, and when he threw a Dragulescu into a pit, the landing wasn't so cute.

Team USA is rolling the dice, and I'm not sure how I feel about this new "Just Chuck It" attitude. It reminds me a little of the Australian women in 2000 when their vault rotation was slightly terrifying. But who knows? It might pay off. All I can say is…

Gym Gods,

Please keep Jake Dalton safe. I can't handle another Philipp Boy in my life.


Also of note: Alex Naddour is competing a rings set that he hasn't competed before. He's hoping that the adrenaline carries him through.

Steven Legendre

Legendre was absent today. He didn't appear in either the USAG videos or the Gymnastike videos, so I'm guessing he's in a later subdivision. In any case, he's spending a lot of time with his ankles dunked in ice buckets:

Oleg Stepko

There have been many rumors flying around about Oleg Stepko, the 2013 European champion on parallel bars, and they were true. Stepko is officially out with a wrist injury.

To conclude…


Nota bene: I'm sure that there are many, many more videos and articles out there. If you have one you'd like to share, leave a comment below!

Related Links:

Men's Podium Training Round-Up: Part 2


  1. Kohei is going to win easily again.

    On a side note:
    People seem to think Dalton is hot but I've always thought Naddour is more attractive.

  2. what do they say about guys with strong forearms?

  3. Mikulak has them beat in the looks department.

  4. I think I found my new favourite men's gym blog. Awesome article, thanks for posting those podium training vids, had not seen them yet!


    Max Whitlock - Pommel Horse Podium Training

  6. i'm curious about the kuksenkov/balandin situation. yesterday's roster still had kuksenkov as an aa'er and no balandin there... and you post this the same day as the roster so im just confused

    1. If I recall correctly, the FIG nominative roster was released before the news article was published. I think the Russian delegation made the decision later in the day.