Tuesday, October 1, 2013

2013 Worlds: Introducing the Peloton of the Men's All-Around

Kohei Uchimura is poised to claim his fourth consecutive all-around title. So much has been said about the Superman of Gymnastics, and unless I dedicate a sonnet in iambic pentameter to him, I really have nothing new to add to the conversation. So, I've decided to focus my time and energy on the other guys.

For me, the men's all-around competition will be about the battle for silver and bronze. You see, there's quite a large peloton chasing Kohei Uchimura, and it's unclear how things will shake out. But I'm going to take a stab at it anyway.

Here are my personal rankings of the Kohei chasers:

2T. Sam Mikulak, USA
Qualifying Rank: 2
AA Score: 89.532
Event finals: High Bar

If there were a Mr. Congeniality award, Sam would win it. No doubt. When he isn't being Dance Cam Sam, he's off being Sam the Executioner. Of the peloton, Sam Mikulak had the best execution score during qualifications, averaging 8.789 across the six events. (Kohei averaged 8.971.) Since Sam has a mediocre difficulty score (36.9), he needs all the tenths he can get in order to keep pace with his competitors. In the past, Sam has struggled on pommel horse, and one slip-up could send him to the end of the pack.

Where to watch Sam: High Bar (Video) and Parallel Bars and most landings

2T. Ryohei Kato, Japan
Qualifying Rank: 3
All-Around Score: 89.474
Event Finals: High Bar

Yowza! It could be quite the battle between Ryohei Kato and Sam Mikulak. All in all, they're fairly similar all-arounders. Sure, Ryohei has the classic Japanese lines, and Sam is all biceps and quads and gluts and yum. Sure, Ryohei has a little more difficulty than Sam (37.4 vs. 36.9 in quals), but Sam has slightly better execution. But when it comes to the individual apparatuses, their strengths and weaknesses are remarkably similar. Both gymnasts are weaker on pommel horse and rings. Both gymnasts are competing 5.6 vaults. Both gymnasts have really clean parallel bar sets. And both gymnasts will be in the high bar event finals.

Honestly, I can't choose one over the other. So, I'm going with a tie.

Where to watch Ryohei: High Bar (Video) and Parallel Bars

4. Oleg Verniaiev, Ukraine
Qualifying Rank: 16
All-Around Score: 85.381
Event Finals: Vault

It would take talent for Oleg to do worse than he did on Monday. I mean, he finished 121st on high bar, receiving a 5.433 in execution. It… is… HARD to do worse than that. Thank the gymnastics gods for new life!

Of all the gymnasts in the peloton, Oleg has the difficulty to challenge Kohei Uchimura. In fact, during quals, his difficulty exceeded Kohei's (38.4 to 38.1). Now, he just has to get the execution scores to match Kohei. With beautiful Ukrainian toe point,
it will only be a matter of time until he hits his stride. I suspect that, within the next quad, Oleg will have his Lilia Podkopayeva 1995 moment and find himself on top of a medal podium. I just don't know if it will be this year. My heart says yes, but my brain says no. (But my heart also won't let me put him further down the list.)

Where to watch Oleg: Vault and Parallel Bars

5. Lin Chaopan, China
Qualifying Rank: 4
All-Around Score: 89.430
Event Finals: Parallel Bars, High Bar

Damn you, China and your YouTube ban! It makes it so hard to follow Chinese gymnastics online!

Here's what I know about Lin Chaopan, the precocious 18 year-old: In May of this year, Lin Chaopan finished second at the Chinese Nationals, but at the Chinese National Games in September, he finished ninth. *Raises eyebrows* Nevertheless, he was still selected to represent China at the World Championships, and so far, it appears to be a good decision. During qualifications, his difficulty totaled 37.7, which is quite good, and his execution averaged out to 8.638, again quite good. Unfortunately, Lin Chaopan suffers from MDAS (Modern-Day All-Around Syndrome): Good on everything but pommel horse and rings. (In fact, he's on the struggle bus on rings.) But he makes up for his weaknesses on vault, parallel bars, and high bar.

Where to watch Lin Chaopan: Vault, Parallel Bars, and High Bar
Between Lin Chaopan and You Hao, China is poised to be a p-bar powerhouse for the next four years (or more).

6. Zhou Shixiong, China
Qualifying Rank: 5
All-Around Score: 88.898
Event Finals: None

Again, Damn you, China and your YouTube ban!

Here's what I know about 20 year-old Zhou Shixiong: In May, he finished sixth at the Chinese Nationals. Fast forward four months, and Zhou Shixiong was on top of the all-around podium at the Chinese National Games. Of the peloton, he has one of the more difficult programs planned (38.0), but his execution is not quite there. He averaged 8.516. Interestingly enough, one of his better routines in terms of execution is pommel horse. Not too many guys in the peloton can say that.

In short, give him a few years, and Zhou Shixiong should rise up the ranks.

Where to watch Zhou Shixiong: Parallel bars

Why are so many of the all-arounders good at parallel bars?

7. Max Whitlock, Great Britain
Qualifying Rank: 10
All-Around Score: 86.941
Event Finals: Pommel Horse

Max Whitlock was the silver medalist in the all-around at the 2013 European Championships, and it was largely due to his exceptional performances on floor and pommel horse. However, during qualifications at the World Championships, Max Whitlock struggled on floor, landing entirely out of bounds on his opening 3.5 to front full. To make matters worse, he scored dismally on rings. When it comes to rings, Max is praying to Nadia and all the gymnastics saints just to get by, but this time around, they did not listen. He had a 4.9 difficulty score, the lowest D score on rings among the peloton.

I suspect that Max won't let this happen again. I think it's safe to say that he will score roughly 1.5 points better than he did during qualifications.

Where to watch Max: Floor and Pommel horse

Video from podium training

8. Fabian Hambuechen, Germany
Qualifying Rank: 7
All-Around Score: 88.064
Event Finals: Floor, High Bar

Fabian Hambuechen finished second in the all-around at the 2013 University Games, scoring an 89.950. Based on his performance in Russia, one would think that Hambuechen would have a little extra something-something to give during the all-around finals. His biggest challenge will be his lack of difficulty. During the qualifying round, he performed some of the easier sets (36.6 total D) amongst the peloton. This is largely because Fabian has gone 25 years on this earth without learning to tame the wildebeest that is pommel horse. On Monday, he scored a 12.366 with a 5.1 in difficulty. Not his best effort. To give you a point of comparison, during the qualifying round at Universiade, he has performed a 5.3 difficulty score and was awarded a 14.250.

Should Fabian replicate his routine from the University Games, he could very well be on the medal podium. If not, expect one hell of a beautiful high bar routine.

Where to watch Fabian: Floor, Vault, Parallel Bars, and High Bar

9. Sergio Sasaki, Brazil
Qualifying Rank: 6
All-Around Score: 88.699
Event Finals: Vault

Since placing 10th at the Olympics, Sergio has been on my radar, and I think that he's yet another member of the pelton who's really waiting to have his breakout moment. I mean, he certainly has the difficulty to be on a medal podium. During the qualifying rounds, Sergio Sasaki tied Kohei Uchimura in difficulty (38.1). But unfortunately, Sergio is playing in the minor leagues when it comes to execution. Compared to Kohei Uchimura, who averaged 8.971 across all 6 apparatus, Sergio Sasaki averaged 8.450, one of the lower execution averages amongst the peloton.

I want to place Sergio higher in my rankings, but my aversion to poor execution doesn't allow me to do so. So, Sergio, please! I love you and your sexy macarena dancing! But for the love of Nemov, clean up your pommel horse and your high bar! I beg you!

Where to watch Sergio: Floor, Vault

Your take: 
How do you think the all-around final will shake out?

Related Links:

Men's Qualifications Round-Up: Day 1
Men's Qualifications Round-Up: Day 2

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