Russia’s men edge China to claim maiden team title at worlds

Updated October 11, 2019

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STUTTGART: Russia’s Ivan Stretovich performs on the horizontal bar during the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships men’s team final at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle.—AFP
STUTTGART: Russia’s Ivan Stretovich performs on the horizontal bar during the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships men’s team final at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle.—AFP

STUTTGART: Russia’s men clinched their first-ever team title at the gymnastics world championships on Wednesday, edging China in a tight contest in Stuttgart to avenge their 2018 defeat.

Last year in Doha, Russia were beaten to the title by China by a slim margin of 0.049 points but there were no mistakes this time as European all-around champion Nikita Nagornyy closed out the victory.

The Russians finished with a score of 261.726 across six apparatus in the final — just 0.997 ahead of than China.

Heading into the final rotation, China were three solid routines away from defending their 2018 title but their chances suffered a blow when Sun Wei missed his opening release move on the high bar.

Sun finished with 12.766 before Artur Dalaloyan and Ivan Stretovich landed their attempts on the apparatus to put Russia firmly in the driving seat.

Needing 13.470 points for gold on the high bar, Nagornyy produced a clinical display to finish with a double twisting double straight dismount for a 14.466, which sparked wild celebrations from his team mates on the sidelines.

“I enjoyed the moment because these sensations and impressions that you feel before going out there, the responsibility, that’s something you can never find in life,” said Nagornyy, a team silver medallist behind China at the 2016 Olympics and 2018 world championships. “Only sports can give you emotions like that.”

Russia became the first European winner of the men’s team event since 2001 when Belarus took home the title.

“I can say... I can sleep well at night,” Dalaloyan said. “I couldn’t sleep well because of the lack of this team gold medal. A year ago, we lost to Team China. We had a huge aftertaste which motivated us to work harder... to get higher. Everything worked out. I am indescribably happy and satisfied.”

Amid Russia’s celebrations, Dalaloyan walked over to the Chinese team and embraced each athlete including Sun, who was weeping and covered his face with a jacket.

“I did that out of respect for the Chinese team because I saw some people had tears in their eyes and started to remember myself a year ago,” he said. “I saw the frustration on the guys’ faces and decided to support them because we’re all friends, all people. I know what it’s like to be second, so out of humanity I went over to support the guys.”

Russia had never won a team title at the worlds before, but the Soviet Union dominated the sport, winning four straight titles between 1985 and 1991.

Despite missing 21-times world medallist Kohei Uchimura through injury, Japan retained their bronze medal with a score of 258.159.

The United States, who last won a men’s team medal in 2014, extended their drought after finishing fourth in the standings, followed by Britain and Taiwan.

After a disappointing seventh place in the qualifying round, the Americans produced a string of consistent routines led by six-times national champion Sam Mikulak.

Mikulak competed in all six apparatus and earned an impressive 86.931, with focus now switching to Friday’s all-around final.

“I know he can repeat it on Friday,” US team high performance director Brett McClure said. “I actually think he left some tenths out there on the floor today. His goal was to stay on six events and mission accomplished. Now, the next time out, let’s just refine it a little bit more and see where he ends up.”

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2019