By JoAnn Neff
The 2017 Taipei World University Games (WUG) Men’s Artistic Gymnastics (MAG) team arrived back in the USA Thursday after finishing 7th in team standings, while Robert Neff placed 12th in the all-around. It’s a great start for future USA MAG teams competing at this biennial sporting event!
The three top team scores went to Japan, Ukraine and Russia. (Since 2001, these three teams plus Korea, and Romania once, have finished in the top three, with Japan finishing first five times.) In the AA finals, Olympian Oleg Verniaiev of the Ukraine took gold, while Shogo Nonomura and Wataru Tanigawa of Japan finished with silver and bronze, respectively.
In the team competition, Team USA started on pommel horse. All four stayed on. Tristan Duran handled his lead-off pressure with a solid set. Levi Anderson followed with a strong finish to his set. Robert Neff hit a clean routine and Vitali Kan, struggling a bit from the start, fought through his routine and stayed on. The cumulative team score was 37.60.
On rings, Duran again led off with good swings and a strong set. Anderson finished his routine strong and with a stuck landing. Neff had a solid routine with a small step on his landing. Alex Diab, a rings standout, nailed a powerful routine that placed him in second at the end of day one qualifiers. (He was third reserve, of which two were used for rings finals.) The team score was a 40.95.
Each team member performed one vault and scored well, including Diab’s handspring 1 ½-twist layout. The vault score was a 42.150.
Duran led off strongly for a third time with a good parallel bars set that ended with a small step on his dismount. Diab also had a pretty clean set, but took a step on his landing. Anderson worked through his set to get his score to count and Neff anchored a clean hit set with a nearly stuck landing. Team score: 40.50.
The next rotation, high bar, is an event where both Anderson and Neff excel. Diab was first up for the team. He came off the bar. Anderson hit a good routine and Neff had a great routine. His events final score eroded from a multi-step landing. (He was first reserve for finals, but no competitors withdrew). The team score was 41.10.
Floor was the team’s last event. Anderson led off with Neff, Kan and Diab following. The first two men had good solid routines, while the team lost some points due to hops and missed skills in the last two routines. Team score: 40.025.
USA’s 7th-place finish had a score of 242.325. First-place Japan scored 260.225 of the 20 teams participating.
In the 18-athlete AA final, Neff was second to go on his first apparatus, pommel horse. His routine was better than it had been in the team qualifications/finals. He received the exact same score—a good start.
Next he led off on rings. Again he hit a solid routine, taking a step on the landing and scoring slightly higher than the first day of competition. On his third event, vault, he was last up and executed his 4.8 Kasamatsu 1/1 well. At the event’s midpoint, his score was exactly where it had been on Day 1.
Neff continued to the parallel bars. He had a super clean routine, but landed short, taking three steps and putting his hands down, scoring 1.25 lower than in qualifying. Fighting back on high bar, his highest-scoring event, he did what he had to do. A solid four-release set with a small step on his landing earned him the third-highest score (3-way tie) of the day.
Finishing on floor, Neff hopped a bit on his passes but finished his routine without any major deductions. His AA finals score was 80.70.
Now that they have returned home, their schedules are once again full with school and training. One gymnast has to catch up on his first missed week of school. Another has a Monday start date. A third awaits a test result from a summer course exam taken during their trip to Taipei. And the rest are preparing for the start of school in September.
All of these gymnasts are thrilled to have had the opportunity to represent Team USA in Taipei. The camaraderie amongst this group of athletes will extend through upcoming NCAA seasons, USAG events, and beyond. Their memories of competing at such a large sporting event, in a country where the people were proud, super helpful, friendly, and very organized, will last a lifetime. And their desire to perform routines with higher start values has just been elevated even more as a result of their WUG participation. Bravo!
For detailed results and more information on the 2017 WUG, visit: 2017.taipei
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