25 Sep Preview: Top Men’s Storylines for the 2023 World Championships
Inside Gymnastics will be on the scene in Antwerp, Belgium bringing you all the action from the 2023 World Championships! Make sure you’re subscribed to our YouTube Channel and following our social media pages (X, Facebook, Instagram & Threads) for news and highlights throughout the weekend.
For the full competition draw and rotation order, click here.
Saturday, September 30
- Qualifications Subdivision 1 | Turkey, Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Brazil, AA3 & AA8 | 4 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 2 | Israel, Japan, Ukraine, Belgium, AS1 & AS2 | 6:15 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 3 | Australia, USA, Uzbekistan, Romania, AA5 & AA6 | 10:00 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 4 | Spain, Netherlands, China, Germany, AA4 & AA10 | 12:15 p.m. ET
Sunday, October 1
- Qualifications Subdivision 5 | Egypt, Canada, Colombia, Switzerland, AA9 & AA7 | 4 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 6 | Italy, South Korea, France, Hungary, AA1, AA2 | 6:15 a.m. ET
Top Men’s Storylines for the 2023 World Championships
By Ashlee Buhler, Christy Sandmaier and Anna Rose Johnson
The Road to Paris 2024 is in full swing and the stage is set! Next Stop: Antwerp, Belgium for the 2023 World Championships!
“Get Moved by Motion” — the theme of the competition — emphasizes the spirit of the sport we love, encompassing all of its motion and emotion on the world’s largest stage. As we anticipate all of the incredible moments of brilliance these athletes will bring to the floor with the 2024 Olympic Games on the horizon, no words seem more appropriate as we await all of the new headlines only a World Championship can write. It will be historic. Emotional. Moving.
With new stars rising to the occasion and Olympic tickets up for grabs, the competition in Antwerp is certain to be one of the most exciting World Championships we’ve seen to date. From the thrilling team final — Who will emerge victorious in the perennial battle between China and Japan in the men’s competition? — to the battle for the coveted All-Around crowns and individual event golds, new champions will rise to the top, dreams will be ignited, and fresh faces will look to make a statement just one year out from Paris!
Quest for the Best
All Hail the King
In case you need a refresher, here’s how the last two World Championships shaped up:
2021 World Championships: Zhang Boheng
2022 World Championships: Hashimoto Daiki
The battle between the two was cut short earlier this year at the University Games when Hashimoto withdrew from the All-Around final after a scary fall on pommel horse. Boheng went on to win the gold that day (86.733) despite a fall of his own on high bar in the last rotation. The world looked forward to a rematch in Antwerp, but Boheng opted for the Asian Games instead. This leaves the door wide open for Hashimoto to sail through to victory in Antwerp and the men’s field overall for a new name to rise to the top heading into Paris.
World University Games All-Around silver medallist Shi Cong of China and Japan’s Chiba Kenta, who has third best All-Around total of the season, could absolutely contend. As could U.S. National All-Around Champion Asher Hong, rising star and 2023 NCAA All-Around Champion Fred Richard, and Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun. In addition, 2023 European All-Around Champion Adem Asil could prove the surprise of the All-Around competition here along with Carlos Yulo (PHI) and Jake Jarman (GBR) who took silver behind Asil in Antalya.
Ready for Primetime: U.S. Men Go for the Podium
For the U.S. men, two-time U.S. National All-Around Champion and 2022 World high bar gold medalist Brody Malone is still out with an injury sustained on his high bar dismount in event finals at the 2023 DTB Pokal Team Challenge. In Liverpool last year, Malone edged out 2020 Olympic All-Around Champion Hashimoto Daiki of Japan to take the top spot on the event. His gold was the first World Championship win on the high bar by an American men’s gymnast in 43 years.
Malone’s absence leaves the door wide open for Team USA to step up not only in difficulty, improved execution and consistency, but in leadership. And while the U.S. men’s program will certainly be looking to a healthy Malone to help lead the effort in Paris, the team heading to Worlds—2023 U.S. All-Around champion and 2023 NCAA vault champion Asher Hong of Stanford University; Fred Richard of the University of Michigan, the 19-year-old NCAA All-Around, high bar and parallel bars champion; 20-year-old Khoi Young, a three-time NCAA All-American at Stanford; and 22-year-old Paul Juda, the 2022 NCAA All-Around champion from Michigan; and Yul Moldauer, who owns 10 NCAA titles while competing for Oklahoma, three U.S. titles, one World Championships bronze (floor in 2017), and 11 Pan American Championships medals—certainly has the potential to medal. They just need to treat it like a home game and walk into Worlds with confidence—knowing they’ll medal. Not hoping.
In Liverpool, the men qualified third into the team final but had major errors on pommel horse, high bar and floor exercise, finishing an all-too-familiar fifth. They finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympics, and are in their longest medal drought since missing the podium at every Olympics and Worlds between 1985 and 2000. Headed into Antwerp, this team is once again hungry, and very ready to prove they can not only hang with the top contenders, but take home medals and make a name for themselves.
With a mix of new talent and veteran experience, could this be their year to break onto the podium? We’re certainly routing for this team to make a statement for the U.S. and bring home the hardware.
“It’s a good mix of experience and youth—hard to believe 19-year-old Asher is one of the more experienced guys,” said Stanford head coach Thom Glielmi. “I think they are a tremendous team when you look at our three-up, three-count scenarios. Yul’s experience and willingness to share his knowledge bodes well for the team to do what they are capable of. Add to that the energy and excitement of younger guys and it’s going to be fun!”
For newly crowned U.S. National All-Around Champion Hong, who placed 6th in the all-around in Liverpool, his plan is to carry the NCAA atmosphere into Antwerp.
“It started with NCAA season and got me in that team mindset for sure. NCAA is all about team, and you kind of… not disregard, but you kind of let go of your individual ego a bit, and you set everything for the team,” Hong said of his mentality in San Jose. “That’s something I learned throughout the NCAA season. To have guys here as well, eleven of us compared to last year, where I was just kind of alone during Championships, really helped. Thom always says that last two events, that’s where the real gymnasts show up. When we’re at NCAAs or we’re competing here at Championships or Classics, that’s the mentality we have. And we’re going to try and keep it for Worlds this year.”
China vs. Japan Chapter 2023
The Perennial Favorites.
With traditional powerhouses China and Japan leading the way, the battle in the men’s competition could come down to as many as eight teams (and more) challenging each other for a place on the podium and those final nine spots to Paris (China, Japan and Great Britain have already qualified to the Games by virtue of their 1,2,3 placement in 2022).
Last year’s final in Liverpool could be described as unpredictable, thrilling, and historic. The men left nothing to chance and everything on the floor with unforeseeable twists and turns throughout the competition in a men’s team final we’ll not soon forget. Finishing over four points ahead of Japan, the Chinese team, led by 2021 World All-Around Champion Zhang Boheng, not only bounced back to win by the largest margin at Worlds in the last 15 years (the last four World team titles plus Olympic team title were decided by less than a point), but set a record for the most men’s World team titles in history. With these two teams seemingly in a class of their own in terms of difficulty, execution, and depth, it will come down to who is better in a 3-up, 3-count competition that promises not to be decided until the final routine.
With fierce competition expected to be on full display from Great Britain (Max is Back!), Italy, Brazil, Germany, Turkey (watch out for this team!), Spain, Canada, and Korea, the U.S. men will have to come out of the gates as strong as ever.
Back For More!—Whitlock Returns
Max Whitlock is easily one of Great Britain’s top gymnasts in history — he’s won an incredible six Olympic medals, including floor gold in 2016 and back-to-back pommel horse titles in 2016 and 2020. He’s also a three-time gold medalist on pommels at the World Championships (2015, 2017, and 2019), and his major medals in competitions such as Commonwealths and Europeans are countless. After all of those victories, it’s safe to say that his legacy has been cemented. Following the Tokyo 2020 Games, Whitlock chose to put a hold on training.
But he decided to return to the sport, and he began to train again. “I had a big feeling during that time off about the year-and-a-half push [to the Olympics] and that I would regret it 10, 20 years down the line if I didn’t do it,” Whitlock told the BBC in February 2023.
His hard work paid off, and in August, he was named to the 2023 World Championships team alongside teammates James Hall, Harry Hepworth, Jake Jarman (check out his floor routine!), and Courtney Tulloch.
“I’m excited to be back with the team with some big targets ahead,” he said in a BBC interview.
It will be exciting to see what happens in his World Championship return. (Just a few weeks prior, he topped reigning pommel horse champ Rhys McClenaghan at the Paris World Cup by 3.5 points!) Will he capture another pommel horse gold on the World stage? And will he help Great Britain to a team medal? We’ll soon find out!
Skill To Watch
Be on the lookout for Jake Jarman’s (GBR) 3.5 twisting double layout! The incredible skill was officially named after him at the Paris Challenge Cup, so be on the lookout for it live in Antwerp!