GYMNASTICS Preview: Biles and Uchimura return to World Champs

The gymnastics world essentially took a year off in 2017, with a World Championships which did not include a team competition and many of its great stars missing due to injury, retirement or just time off from the grind that had ended at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

But 2018 is different. The stars are back, in particular Kohei Uchimura (partly) and Simone Biles:

∙ Japan’s legendary Uchimura, now 29, returns to the Worlds in 2018 after an ankle injury kept him from defending his streak of six straight world titles in 2009-10-11-13-14-15, plys Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016. Including team and individual events, he owns 10 World Championships golds, five silvers and four bronzes, plus three Olympic golds (one for Team) and four silvers.

Reports from training sessions in Doha indicated he suffered a right ankle injury and would not compete in the All-Around, but would compete with the Japanese team in Horizontal Bar, Pommel Horse, Parallel Bars and Rings (skipping Floor and Vault).

∙ American Biles took 2017 off, after dominating women’s gymnastics in 2013-14-15, winning the All-Around world title each time, plus the 2016 Olympic All-Around. In Rio, she was a member of the U.S. team that easily took the gold in the Team event, then won golds in the Vault and Floor, plus a bronze on the Beam.

These two headline the 2018 World Championships at the 3,500-seat Aspire Dome in Doha (QAT), with Olympic implications, as the top three men’s and women’s teams will qualify for the Tokyo Games.

The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) announced entries that include a staggering total of 20 Olympic or World Champions from 13 countries who are scheduled to compete:

∙ Kohei Uchimura (JPN) ~ 2016 Rio All-Around gold; six-time World All-Around Champion
∙ Ruoteng Xiao (CHN) ~ 2017 World All-Around Champion
∙ Se-Gwang Ri (PRK) ~ 2016 Rio Vault gold; 2014-15 World Vault Champion
∙ Max Whitlock (GBR) ~ 2016 Olympic Floor and Pommel Horse golds
∙ Oleg Verniaiev (UKR) ~ 2016 Olympic Parallel Bars gold
∙ Eleftherios Petrounias (GRE) ~ 2016 Olympic Rings gold; 2017 World Rings Champion
∙ Kenzo Shirai (JPN) ~ 2017 World Floor Exercise and Vault Champion
∙ Jingyuan Zhou (CHN) ~ 2017 World Parallel Bars Champion
∙ Tin Srbic (CRO) ~ 2017 World Horizontal Bar Champion
∙ Chaopan Lin (CHN) ~ 2013 World Parallel Bars Champion
∙ Arthur Zanetti (BRA) ~ 2012 Olympic Rings gold; 2013 World Rings Champion
∙ Epke Zonderland (NED) ~ 2012 Olympic High Bar gold; 2013-14 World High Bar Champion
∙ Marian Dragulescu (ROU) ~ 2001-02-06-09World Floor Champion and 2001-05-06-09 World Vault Champion, now 37 years old!

∙ Simone Biles (USA) ~ 2016 Rio All-Around gold; three-time World All-Around Champion
∙ Morgan Hurd (USA) ~ 2017 World All-Around Champion
∙ Aliya Mustafina (RUS) ~ 2012-16 Olympic Uneven Bars gold; 2010 World All-Around Champ
∙ Sanne Wevers (NED) ~ 2016 Olympic Beam gold
∙ Mai Murakami (JPN) ~ 2017 World Floor Champion
∙ Daria Spiridonova (RUS) ~ 2015 World Uneven Bars Co-Champion
∙ Oksana Chusovitina (UZB) ~ 1991 World Floor Champ (URS) and 1993 World Vault Champ (UZB); now 43 years old!

There are plenty of additional contenders enrolled, including American Ragan Smith, who won the 2017 U.S. All-Around title and was a favorite for the Worlds All-Around gold, but injured her ankle in warm-ups for the final and could not compete.

The schedule:

∙ 25 October: Men’s Team qualification
∙ 26 October: Men’s Team qualification
∙ 27 October: Women’s Team qualification
∙ 28 October: Women’s Team qualification
∙ 29 October: Men’s Team final
∙ 30 October: Women’s Team final
∙ 31 October: Men’s All-Around final
∙ 01 November: Women’s All-Around final
∙ 02 November: Apparatus finals
(Men: Floor/Pommel Horse/Rings; Women: Vault/Uneven Bars)
∙ 03 November: Apparatus finals
(Men: Vault/Parallel Bars/Horizontal Bar; Women: Beam/Floor)

There is prize money at the Worlds, but it’s pretty pathetic considering the magnitude of the event:

∙ Team event: $15,000-9,000-6,000-3,000-3,000-3,000 for the top six teams
∙ All-Around: $5,000-3,000-1,000
∙ Apparatus: $3,000-2,000-1,000

How come we don’t see screams from the athletes about this?

The NBC Olympic Channel will have coverage from Doha beginning next Monday; there is also streaming coverage this weekend on Look for results here.