Looking Back: World Championships 2015

8:35 PM Arabian Punch Front 3 Comments


The 2015 World Championships were just as exciting as one would hope in the pre-Olympic year. There were some exciting Rio qualification stories, some exciting records broken, and a super thrilling podium.

Romania
Think the first shock was Romania failing to team finals meaning they did not automatically qualify to Rio. In some ways, is it really that surprising? Romania struggled in 2014 because of the qualifying format. In a 3-up, 3-count, they thrive. But when a 4th score needs to count, they struggle to find it, especially on the uneven bars. The turmoil was extra high this year when Ana Maria Ocolisan got injured prior to qualifications. She was Romania's number 2 all arounder meaning they lost potential for her solid scores on all events. They felt this and it showed.

Not only did Romania fail to qualify a team automatically to Rio, they also failed to qualify anyone to any individual event finals. Though part of this may have been the early subdivision. Typically, scores rise during the day and Romania was early on in the first day of competition. Larisa Iordache, a potential floor medalist, didn't even make the final. (Honestly, I still think that score was a mess and I'm still pretty frustrated.)

The savior ended up being Laura Jurca. Jurca was heralded as when of the upcoming seniors. She went to the Youth Olympic Games as Romania's chosen representative. However, her senior debut was not what anyone had hopes. Not that it was bad, but it certainly wasn't as exciting as was hoped, especially with Bulimar coming back from injury and Ocolisan even surpassing Bulimar, Jurca was slowly making her way out of the AA conversation.

And of course, she had the best qualification of all the Romanians! This earned her a spot in the all around final with teammate Iordache and she finished that competition in 8th, a superb finish and the highest for any of the new 2015 seniors. Quite the accomplishment for a first World Championships.

Iordache's AA redemption was also a highlight. After missing out on the team final, floor, and beam final, Iordache was Romania's only hope for a medal. Not only that, but she was starting on balance beam and ending on the uneven bars. Seriously people?! After surviving beam, floor, and vault, Iordache was neck and neck with China's Shang Chunsong and was heading to the uneven bars. Barring a fall, Iordache could surpass her but she had to hit.

She did just that. I think we all felt the relief at the same moment. Larisa Iordache once again pulled through for Team Romania. The Test Event situation will be tough since Romania has not had to deal with this event ever so it will surely change the training schedule and plan for their Olympic year. However, nothing is impossible!

The Netherlands
On the flip side, the Dutch team qualified to the Olympics automatically. You often hear the gymnasts say how they were just shooting for top 16 but they did so much more than that. They were top 8, had 1 gymnast in the all around final, 2 in the beam final with 1 silver medal, and eventually 1 in the floor final. Quite a successful World Championships!

The gymnasts from the Netherlands have been getting a lot of praise because of their beautiful artistry and presence. They are employing the model of having lower difficulty that they're likely to hit with beautiful execution.

Four way tie
Where to even start? I am not a fan of breaking ties. I do understand the argument of having not having multiple champions. Imagine if there was a 4-way tie in the Super Bowl or the FIFA World Cup? There would be havoc. People would storm the field. But, alas, that's not our sport.

I think what I loved more than anything is that the uneven bars final was really anyone's game. Especially after Fan Yilin and Viktoria Komova tied, I thought that there was still a very real chance for an individual medalist. Kocian missed a connection and Spiridonova had some uncharacteristic errors. So why not tie them all?

I still think Viktoria Komova had the best performance of them all but at least we got to witness a final that will for sure be in the gymnastics history books.


Mai Murakami
The Mai Murakami makes me chuckle. Japan is one of the first countries to name their worlds team. It's based on a scoring system and rankings in domestic competitions. Murakami had a rough start to her 2015 as she was recovering from injury and not quite back to full difficulty. The murakami we saw at the start of the year was not the one we had watched as a junior and saw in the 2013 floor exercise final. Because of her low scores in earlier competitions, Murakami had a low ranking for the worlds team selection process and was initially named as alternate. Fast forward and one of her teammates suffers an injury and in goes Murakami. Initially alternate, Murakami competes the AA in team qualifications and helps Japan automatically qualify to the Rio Olympic Games. Not only that, she makes it to the AA final and finishes in 6th place.

SIXTH PLACE!

And she almost stayed at home! I don't know when the day will come that I will recover from this, if ever. In this sport, timing is everything and Murakami is a perfect example of that.

Maggie Nichols
When I went to 2013 US Nationals, a young gymnast caught my eye. She didn't have the most difficulty and certainly didn't have the most hype, but I just couldn't keep my eyes away when she was on floor. She had a solid DTY and a great beam with a serviceable uneven bar routine. Fast forward 1 year and Nichols is close to being named to the World Championship team when she suffers a season ending knee injury. A testament to her character, Nichols put her head down, healed, and came back better than she was before for the 2015 season. Nichols has had a steady climb through the ranks and then stayed in the top 5 throughout the USA's domestic season - a great feat with returning Olympians and all around finalists Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman.

After the closed door selection team camps, it became clear that Simone Biles and Gabrielle Douglas would be the USA's 2 all around gymnasts but who would be the 3rd? And could it be done in a way that wouldn't sacrifice the fact that Karolyi brought 2 bar specialists to worlds? The solution, unfortunately, was for Nichols to come out of the all around by not doing uneven bars in team qualification.

Karolyi quickly changed her mind for team finals. Nichols was the only US competitor to compete on all 4 events in team finals and she did remarkably well. Her score would have easily put her on the AA podium.

But that's ok. Nichols proved herself to Karolyi and showed that she could support the team no matter what.

And she wasn't done.

Nichols went on to earn the bronze medal on floor exercise alongside bff Biles. After nearly missing the worlds team one year, Nichols went on to becoming World Champion in the team event and a bronze medalist on floor, an amazing feat when you are competing with the reigning World and Olympic champions for one of the 2 spots allowed.

Words can't explain how proud I am of this girl. She came back from injury and showed so much improvement, upgrading to the Amanar vault and having a TF worthy UB routine. 2016 will certainly have it's challenges but I think Maggie Nichols has proved that she can handle it.

Simone breaking and making history
And we can't speak about worlds without acknowledging the champion herself.  Oh Simone Biles and the records you have broken. First female gymnast to ever win 3 consecutive World Championships. First back to back beam World Champion. Three-time Floor World Champion. She also has medals from all 3 years on vault and has even made the UB final.

In 2015, Biles did show us that she's human with an error on beam and an out of bounds on floor exercise. However, "human" doesn't necessarily mean "beatable." She still had over a point separating her from second place.

Heading into the Olympic year, Biles is still the most anticipated gymnast - ready to break more records (and many curses) surely making it an exciting time in gymnastics.


What were your favorite 2015 World Championships moments? MAG included! ;)

3 comments :

  1. I can't remember Larisa's floor from qualifications exactly but she almost always lands at least a few of her passes with her chest way down. Sometimes they seem to give her a free pass but if they actually take the deduction, as they should, it really hurts her score (especially since she downgraded her floor)

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    1. I see the same errors everyone else sees but I was definitely frustrated how drastically her score dropped compared to other international competitions. At first, I thought it was tight judging but then everything went to the wind and other scores seemed more appropriate. Not sure what happened :/ Guess all we can do is look forward and hope for the best for this year!

      I'm very curious to see what upgrades she's capable of because floor qualifications certainly aren't going to be easy anymore let alone getting a medal (Biles + 1, Afan + 1, Steingruber, Mai/Sae or both!, Erika Fasana/Vanessa Ferrari (likely both), Black/Dutch girls, etc.)!

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