Top-eight tussles, Uchimura’s quest
and a wide open women’s all-around
By Dwight Normile
Photos: Thomas Schreyer
THE 43rd World Artistic Gymnastics Cham- pionships will determine most of the Olympic field, both in quantity and quality, but the competition in Tokyo, Oct. 7-16,
will also reveal some interesting subplots.
Beyond the battle for a top-eight finish in the qualification round, which will earn a guaranteed berth to
London 2012, there could be a flip-flop at the top of the
men’s team rankings in the team final. And with defending women’s champion Russia limping into the event
without world champion Aliya Mustafina, who tore her
left ACL at the 2011 Europeans in April, the women’s
team competition should return to a classic China-U.S.
duel, which characterized the previous quadrennium.
Individually, the big story will be Kohei Uchimura’s
quest to become the first male gymnast to win three
world all-around titles. (Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina is
the only woman to win three: 1997, 2001, 2003.) And
while such an accomplishment is
almost assured for this incredible
Japanese gymnast, it will not automatically place him atop the
sport’s long list of legends. Should
Uchimura, winner in 2009 and
’ 10, succeed in Tokyo, his hat
trick will have occurred within a
relatively brief time span.
In the 1960s and early ’70s, the
worlds were held only once between Olympic Games,
and in the 1980s, when Russians Yuri Korolev (1981,
’85) and Dmitry Bilozerchev (1983, ’87) both won
twice, the worlds were held every other year. Ivan
Ivankov (Belarus) was crowned twice in the 1990s
(1994, ’97), which included nine world championships,
six of which featured an all-around competition. Imagine
what Uchimura could have done then.
With Mustafina still rehabbing her knee and two-time
world all-around medalist Rebecca Bross (USA)
injured, the women’s all-around is there for the taking.
The early favorites would have to include new U.S.
champion Jordyn Wieber, who defeated Mustafina at
the ’ 11 American Cup in her senior debut, and Russians
Anna Dementyeva and Viktoria Komova. Should
the favorites falter, look for gymnasts from China and
Romania to step up.
Following is a breakdown of what to look for at the
Tokyo worlds in October.
Only injury or a complete
collapse will prevent
Japan’s Kohei Uchimura,
winner of the 2009 and
’ 10 world all-around
titles, from becoming the
first male to win three.