Men’s Podium Day: Top 10 Takeaways from Training: 

The stage is set for the men’s competition in Tokyo. After a five-year wait if you will, the men hit the mat for podium training at the Ariake today. Here are our takeaways!

  1. Artur Daloloyan is just coming off of an achilles surgery. Not only is he jumping, and running, but after anticipating that he would not be doing floor or vault, he attempted his front handspring double pike (Roche). More tucked than piked, but with audible responses from the media and technical committee upon landing. Then a sigh, when he walked away, seemingly unscathed. He was able to also tumble on floor, pulling a front full rebound to Randi, 2.5 and even rebounded out of that to a front lay. Front layout to double front pike and stuck, too.
  2. In the Mixed Zone, Daloloyan stopped for a short amount of time and answered some questions through a translator. He stated that he will be completing all six events but is the fourth person for both vault and floor, so he doesn’t expect to be chosen for these anyway. Nikita Nagornyy walked past quickly and stated that he would do interviews after competition only and seemed frustrated about his training today and notably limping…still.
  3. Bail outs! Vault has been a struggle. China had issues with landings, Russia bailed out a bunch on floor (notably Dalaloyan turning a triple full into a double). A good skill to have, obviously, with air awareness and knowing if the set is off, height is not there, etc. But scary nonetheless.  
  4. Vault is the new Pommel Horse. There is always a pervasively cursed event- even across subdivisions and countries. Landings today on vault were  an issue. Twisting or flipping, a majority of the athletes have landed and simply sat backwards, as if they are not getting the block height they need or they are just tired. It led to some scary moments. There have literally been full rotations with one landing only. Japan even had difficulty today. Surprising, seeing as it is their equipment and boards here. Wataru Tanigawa (JPN) even hopped up on the vault, to do, what appeared to be a rocking check- front to back, shaking it, possibly to see if something wasn’t secured well enough? 
  5. Just Ask for Kohei. If you need directions to the stadium, don’t ask for Ariake. There are dozens of venues with that name in one way, shape or form. Ask where Kohei Uchimura (JPN) will be, and they will smile and then get you squared away. Multiple amazing releases from Kohei and then another try at a stalder Rybalko, missed twice. Still, Uchimura is like a playbook for release height
  6. That Cozy Feeling. There is not a great amount of room surrounding each individual event podium. Walking space, chairs, and then the outer ring for photographers. Usually there is dead space at the center of the floor and for certain on the outside. The grandness of the stadium feels more quaint and tight. Though a beautiful structure, it feels like a college meet and not the Olympics. 
  7. It is Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan’s 22nd Birthday today! Ireland should be so proud. He has moved mountains for Ireland’s program, being the first Irish gymnast to make a World or European final. He wants to add to his being the most decorated Irish gymnast with more. 
  8. Speaking of pommel horse, Max Whitlock (GBR) put up a stellar performance. After what appeared to be a disastrous vault and floor warm up for England (fall after fall, heads bowed, just an off day), he was ready to shine. Their rivalry is motivating for both of them, often being quoted that they each provide motivation to push to the top. 
  9. Mixed Zone! It was amazing to actually be present in a mixed zone. We have watched as tennis has successfully done socially-distanced interviews as recently as Wimbledon and the French Open. Sports across the globe are allowing media access to the athletes safely. 
  10. Alec Yoder (USA). Pommel horse is the only event he is here to do, and he had to wait (and will have to on Saturday) until the fourth event to perform. He looked a bit dazed, and that he is possibly in his head about it. It has to be stressful to have only one chance to do one event.  When he went the second time, he spent a lot of prep time, visualizing, then appeared to be approaching the PH and then stopped again to think. Again. Hope the nerves are out now. The arena butterflies need to have come and flown away, so Saturday can be the day that he needs. 

Bonus:

The British men’s and women’s program had their alternates credentialed as coaches (eek!). They have been practicing with the team. On the equipment. And there are videos posted.  It was reported today to the IOC. Understandably so, the divide between the alternate and the team members is and always will be a talking point. But especially at these Olympics, and especially in this pandemic year. Our thoughts are with the athletes, that they will get a chance to compete still and not be punished for decisions that the NGB made. 

Photos by Grace Chiu and Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics

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