By Anna Rose Johnson
Who will win the 2017 women’s World all-around title? In recent years, that would have been an easy question to answer—(Simone Biles!)—but it’s a different story this fall. When the top female gymnasts in the world gather in Montreal on October 6th, it could turn out to be the most competitive AA final in several years. Let’s take a look at some of the gymnasts who have a chance of taking home the gold:
USA’s all-around contenders will most likely be Ragan Smith, Riley McCusker, or Jordan Chiles. Fans are already predicting that the 2017 World champion will be Smith, who won the American Cup and P&G Championships in Anaheim this year in dynamic fashion. The 17-year-old’s best total this year was the 57.850 she posted on Day 2 of P&Gs, which included a 15.050 for her crisp, powerful beam performance. Smith is virtually guaranteed a position on the U.S. Worlds team, where she will certainly be one of the top candidates for all-around gold. But who will join her? Due to the two per-country rule, only two gymnasts from the USA will be able to compete in the all-around final, so it will likely come down to Chiles or McCusker, both of whom had inconsistent competitions in Anaheim. Chiles came out ahead, placing second in the all-around with a 56.000 on Day 2. But McCusker, whose best score at P&Gs was a 56.300 on Day 1, scored a 56.600 at Jesolo and could have a better chance of winning a medal in the World AA final. Chiles’ main strength is vault, where she performs an Amanar, while McCusker’s best event is uneven bars (she won the bars title at P&Gs ahead of 2014 World bars finalist Ashton Locklear).
After recovering from the injuries that prevented her from competing in Rio, Romania’s Larisa Iordache has staged a hugely successful comeback that included a victory at the 2017 World University Games and a near-sweep of the gold medals at 2017 Romanian Championships (held last weekend). Her bars routine, once a weak spot in her repertoire, has become a valuable asset to her all-around ability—it’s a smooth, clean performance that almost always receives a solid number. And now she’s upgraded to a tight, powerful double-double dismount, which should definitely help boost her AA totals. Additionally, her beam score last weekend was an incredible 15.566—the highest score on that apparatus recorded in 2017. The silver World AA medalist in 2014, and the bronze medalist the following year, Iordache could upgrade to gold this year if she remains consistent and hits her tricky beam routine.
The last time a female gymnast outside the United States won a World AA gold medal was in 2010, when a 16-year-old Aliya Mustafina dominated the Rotterdam World Championships and cemented herself as an international superstar. In 2017, two Russian gymnasts are poised to possibly repeat Mustafina’s feat seven years later. This summer, Elena Eremina and Angelina Melnikova proved that they have the potential to emerge victorious from the upcoming World Championships. Elena won the 2017 Russian Cup qualification round with a 57.900, including a 15.175 on uneven bars, where she opens her routine with an impeccable Nabieva (laid-out Tkatchev). Angelina, also an impressive bars worker, won the Russian Cup all-around final with a 57.650. Currently the reigning European floor champion, Angelina’s Romeo and Juliet floor routine is jam-packed and breathtaking. She mounts with a sky-high Arabian double front and proceeds to perform a double layout, piked full-in, and double pike!
China’s best hope for World AA gold comes from Liu Tingting, who won the 2017 Asian Championships with a 56.800. Her top score at those championships, a 15.300, came on beam, where her flexibility is simply unparalleled (especially on her switch leap)! The routine, which boasts a 6.6 D-score, is actually reminiscent of Olga Korbut’s iconic 1972 Olympic beam routine. Her full-twisting yurchenko on vault could turn out to be a weak spot on the World stage, especially with an all-around gold on the line. But if Tingting hits bars and beam, she has a great chance to make history for China.
Two stars from Japan are also quite capable of medaling in the World all-around this fall. Two-time Olympian Asuka Teramoto and 2016 Olympic finalist Mai Murakami have both been performing well at the domestic level this year—Teramoto placed second at the 2017 World University Games with a 55.650, while Murakami won the NHK Trophy with a 56.450. While Teramoto could be considered a bars and beam specialist due to her remarkable ability on those two apparatus, her best event is actually vault, where she scored a 15.000 at the 2017 All-Japan Student Championships for her front-handspring rudi 1 ½. Murakami is also a gifted vaulter and consistently scores well there (she’s currently training an Amanar), but floor is where she truly shines. She recently received a massive 14.800 for her stunning floor routine at the All-Japan Student meet. Both Teramoto and Murakami have made fabulous comebacks after Rio and could be in the mix for medals in Montreal—especially if Murakami lands her Amanar.
The all-around final in Montreal will be an unforgettable showdown. Who do you think will triumph?
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