By Patricia Duffy

“Until the very end, we kept you all waiting.”

Photos by Grace Chiu


“Until the very end, we kept you all waiting.”

It was a fact. China and Russia rotated together and battled against each other until the final moments of the 2018 Gymnastics World Championships men’s team final in Doha, Qatar.

Russia’s team message stated the obvious about China’s narrow 0.049 win over Russia. It really was until the very end.

Russia led after four rotations until Artur Dalaloyan fell on parallel bars and China immediately capitalized with an outstanding 16.2 (7.0 D-score, 9.2 E-score) from 2017 World Champion Zou Jingyuan. China jumped ahead and seemed poised to easily win the gold, but it wasn’t over quite yet.

Last up on high bar were Xiao Ruoteng and Nikita Nagornyy, respectively–the two teams current all-around stars who also happened to qualify 1-2 for the all-around final. Ruoteng uncharacteristically fell early in his routine, his second mistake of the night, opening the door for Russia.

Nagornyy just had to score above a 13.782 to top China and return Russia to glory on the World stage. (Russia hadn’t won a World medal since 2006.)

While it was a strong routine, Nagornyy made one mistake that seemingly cost Russia gold: on a giant after a release skill, he struggled to keep his handstand on top of the bar, pausing, bending his arms and almost tipping over. He saved it and finished beautifully, thinking to himself that he had secured the gold for his team.

“Actually, I thought we had won at that moment,” Nagornyy said. “Yes.”

But it wasn’t enough. Nagornyy’s score popped up and the devastation set in. While the Chinese team celebrated, Russia was visibly upset with the result.

“It’s very difficult to say what would have happened or what would have not happened, but I think that there is no such mistake which is qualified as half of the tenth,” Nagornyy said. “So, I don’t think it’s right.”

Despite hoping for a better result, the bigger prize was qualifying a team to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. China, Russia and Japan all secured team spots with their podium finishes.

“We’re so happy we got qualified to Tokyo because that is our final goal,” Xiao Ruoteng said. “We made every effort to do that.”

Team USA finished a respectable fourth in the final, highlighted by an outstanding floor rotation to cap the meet where Colin Van Wicklen, Yul Moldauer and Sam Mikulak each scored above a 14.0 to easily top fifth-place finisher Great Britain by 3.366 points.

The U.S. is a favorite to earn a team berth next year at the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.

“I think a lot of people weren’t expecting us to do very well or get really close to the podium at all,” Mikulak said. “We had a lot of people watching us, and we were turning some heads. Definitely changing the perception of where Team USA on the men’s side.”

Great Britain, Switzerland, Brazil and Netherlands rounded out the top 8 of the meet.


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