By Ashlee Buhler

It was a fight from start to finish and a story of redemption for Zhang Boheng (CHN) en route to becoming the 2021 World All-Around Champion. Despite placing first in the final Olympic Trial for China, Boheng was left off the Tokyo Olympic team. Now in first World Championships (and international debut), Zhang just may have done enough to create some regrets about that decision, holding off the reigning Olympic All-Around Champion Hashimoto Daiki (JPN) by just .017. Zhang totaled 87.981 to Hashimoto’s 87.964. Illia Kovtun (UKR) took the bronze with a total of 84.899.

Hashimoto and Zhang came in as the top qualifiers and set the stage for a great competition right off the bat. Hashimoto stuck his double double cold to open his routine on floor (14.833) while Zhang turned in a stellar routine of his own (14.883) featuring a powerful front full to double front, which he did exceptionally well, with some of the cleanest form in the competition.

In the second rotation it appeared Zhang opened the door when he fell on pommel horse, only to see Hashimoto follow with a fall of his own. The two alternated in the standings, with Caio Souza (BRA) briefly taking the lead at the halfway point, until the end of the fourth rotation when Zhang put up a 15.366 for an absolute state-of-the-art parallel bars routine, extending his lead over Hashimoto by .350.

Meanwhile, Kovtun was quietly keeping himself in the mix. His simple, yet beautifully executed Yurchenko double twist with a stuck landing was among the highlights of the competition. (9.5 E score/14.300).

In the final rotation, Zhang put the pressure on by nailing his high bar routine; executing his Cassina, Kohlman, and Kovacs with ease. Under tremendous pressure in his home country once again, Hashimoto needed a 15.150 or better to take the title. He was spectacular, with high flying release moves of his own. But with a big hop on the landing, it wasn’t quite enough to overcome Zhang and you could see it on his face. After the competition, Zhang told the press he was nervous while waiting for Hashimoto’s score to come up, knowing he was the reigning Olympic All-Around Champion, but in the end he was victorious.

“It was a great honor to hear my national anthem and be the champion here,” Zhang said. “Now my dream came true.”

For Team USA, Yul Moldauer put up a great fight after starting the competition with a shocking fall on his rings dismount. After the first rotation he was toward the end of the pack, but by the time the competition chalk dust settled in Kitakyushu, he was fourth – the highest All-Around finish for a U.S. man at the World Championships in the last ten years.

“I’m actually really happy considering I fell,” Moldauer said. “I just remembered that I was representing the USA and I didn’t want to give up just because I fell. You just have to keep going, keep fighting. I feel like this is a good stepping stone for me going into this next quad.”

Photos Volker Minkus/FIG; Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics

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