By Anna Rose Johnson
It’s a fact: the FIG World Cups have increased in popularity and prestige over the past several years, and the meets will have an especially significant impact in 2020, when the competitions will act as qualification rounds for the Tokyo Olympics. But this year’s World Cups could be the most interesting yet, with legends of the sport and Olympic gold medalists competing alongside the next generation of champions. The storylines are spellbinding—Kohei Uchimura making his anticipated comeback after a devastating injury in Montreal; Jordan Chiles returning to the international spotlight after a year of injury and inconsistency; and a slew of young stars looking to cement their spot on the world scene in the lead-up to the 2018 World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
Feature Photos by Ricardo Bufolin and Grace Chiu
BAKU WORLD CUP
Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Date: March 15-18
An apparatus-only competition, some of the world’s best event specialists often appear at the Baku World Cup. Uzbekistan’s perennial champion Oksana Chusovitina is slated to compete on vault and beam, while former Russian athletes Yulia Inshina and Marina Nekrasova will represent Azerbaijan on three events apiece. Two-time world uneven bars champion Fan Yilin of China will compete on bars and beam, as will her teammate, Luo Huan. The artistic Ioanna Xoulogi of Greece will perform on beam and floor, while Slovenia’s Teja Belak will compete on every apparatus except floor.
Major contenders in the men’s competition include reigning world still rings champion Eleftherios Petrounias (GRE), who will compete on rings and floor exercise, and 2015 world team gold medalist Kazuma Kaya (JPN), who is slated for every apparatus except parallel bars. Belarus’ Andrey Likhovitskiy, China’s You Hao, and Croatia’s Filip Ude will also perform. The Netherlands is sending a fantastic men’s team that includes newcomer Bram Verhofstad and veteran Bart Deurloo. You won’t want to miss this meet!
The complete roster and other details can be found here: http://www.fig-gymnastics.com/site/competition/view?id=14994
STUTTGART WORLD CUP
Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Date: March 16-18
This fascinating meet is divided into two parts: one is the official FIG World Cup and consists only of men’s and women’s all-around finals, and the other is a team competition that will include decorated athletes such as Olympian Janine Berger (GER) in her comeback meet and artistic Russian Maria Kharenkova.
The all-around meet will include some major names as well. USA’s Jordan Chiles will compete against Russia’s Angelina Melnikova in what should definitely be a thrilling battle. GBR’s bars queen Georgia-Mae Fenton and German veteran Elisabeth Seitz are also scheduled to compete. 2012 Olympic AA silver medalist Marcel Nguyen of Germany headlines the men’s field, along with China’s Sun Wei and Russia’s David Belyavskiy.
More details, such as the meet website and venue, can be found here: http://www.fig-gymnastics.com/site/competition/view?id=14981
The women’s roster for the DTB Pokal Team Challenge: https://www.enbw-dtbpokal.de/enbw-dtb-pokal-2018/starterfeld/teams-tc-frauen/
The men’s roster for the DTB Pokal Team Challenge: https://www.enbw-dtbpokal.de/enbw-dtb-pokal-2018/starterfeld/teams-tc-maenner/
BIRMINGHAM WORLD CUP
Location: Birmingham, England
Date: March 21-22
This World Cup features a fantastic blend of longtime fan favorites and rising stars, and the competition should be fierce. USA’s Margzetta Frazier, Russia’s Angelina Melnikova, and Japan’s Hitomi Hatakeda could be in the hunt for gold, while 2016 Olympic floor bronze medalist Amy Tinkler (GBR) and Canadian star Jade Chrobok will look to medal as well. James Hall of Great Britain, who just won silver at the 2018 American Cup, will compete in the men’s division with China’s Sun Wei, USA’s Donothan Bailey, and Germany’s Marcel Nguyen.
Learn more about this meet here: http://www.fig-gymnastics.com/site/competition/view?id=14976
DOHA WORLD CUP
Location: Doha, Qatar
Date: March 21-24
Held annually in Doha, this apparatus-only meet has a history of exciting results and often draws some of the top athletes. Belgium is sending a remarkable women’s team that includes 2017 world uneven bars bronze medalist Nina Derwael, and the French team is an all-star cast consisting of vault specialist Coline Devillard, Worlds finalist Mélanie de Jesus dos Santos, Louise Vanhille and Marine Boyer. Italy’s Lara Mori and Elisa Meneghini, Romania’s Anamaria Ocolișan, Russia’s Eleonora Afanaseva, and Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina will also perform, making this a truly special competition with plenty of depth and variety.
The King of Gymnastics will also make a rare appearance at this World Cup. Kohei Uchimura doesn’t typically compete internationally except for World Championships and Olympic Games, but he will perform on every apparatus except high bar in Doha. Uchimura’s teammate, Ryohei Kato, is slated to compete on floor and pommels. Other top competitors include Chile’s Tomás González, China’s Deng Shudi and Xiao Ruoteng, Croatia’s Tin Srbić, France’s Samir Ait Said, and Marvin Kimble and Alec Yoder of the United States.
The full roster, start list, and other info is available here: http://www.fig-gymnastics.com/site/competition/view?id=14997
Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com