The post-Olympics World Championships is always particularly exciting because it’s the crossroads between the “old” generation, which has already lived through an Olympic cycle, and the “new” generation — the up-and-comers who will push them during the next four years.
So who are the new kids? Here are 12 who will be making their Worlds debuts this week in Antwerp. We can’t wait.
Shang Chunsong, CHN. A tiny gymnast even by China’s standards, Shang was one of the first in 2012 to demonstrate what is likely to become one of the trends of the quad on uneven bars: connected release skills on high bar (in her case, Tkatchev to immediate Geinger). Her bar routine starts at a 6.7 (second highest D-score in the world right now, per Uncle Tim) and she looks like she’s a threat for the World beam title as well.
Must watch: Shang’s precision on beam.
Ryohei Kato, JPN. Like Kohei Uchimura in 2008, this rising Japanese star might have been just a year too young to step up in his first Olympics. But Uchimura himself has been talking up 20-year-old Kato as Kohei 2.0. Like every other men’s all-around challenger, he’s got gobs of difficulty and scores very well in international competition.
Must watch: Kato’s big swing on high bar.
Simone Biles, USA. If she just does what she’s capable of, the energetic new U.S. champion should do very well at her first Worlds. It’s too early in Biles’s career to say that consistency has really been an issue for her, although she does miss skills and take falls here and there. Worlds will be one more chance for her to prove that she can hit when it really counts. She should get several chances too, likely on vault, floor and in the all-around.
Must watch: Biles’s souped up floor set.
Noemi Makra, HUN. The new Hungarian sensation has won fans over with her presentation, technique and very classic style that brings to mind the gymnasts of old. She’s a budding fan favorite, and a just lovely to watch.
Must watch: Makra’s classic style on beam.
Roxana Popa, ESP. Romanian-born, Spanish-bred Popa is looked at as a potential future leader of the fledging Spanish women’s team, known for great technique, especially on uneven bars. Popa, a power gymnast, was sixth all-around at the European Championships earlier this year and has upped her difficulty while preparing for her first Worlds.
Must watch: Popa’s power on vault.
Sophie Scheder, GER. Germany’s new bars star is a compliment to standouts Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui. What Scheder brings to the bars are gorgeous long lines and exceptionally fluid transitions. Battling illness, Scheder was unable to perform her very best at the European Championships this spring, but she did still make bar finals. Expect the same here if she hits her set.
Must watch: Scheder’s sharp and smooth transitions on bars.
Mai Murakami, JPN. Gymnastics fans have been anticipating Mai Murakami’s debut on the senior world stage since she popped up as a plucky junior in 2009, showing things like a double double and double layout on floor in the same routine, and an audaciously daring beam set. Many thought Mai would get her chance in 2012, but she was not selected to the Olympic team. She hasn’t given up, though — with a dazzling new routine this year, she’s Japan’s best shot for a women’s medal on floor.
Must watch: Murakami’s explosive power on floor.
Natsumi Sasada, JPN. Like Murakami, Sasada is a super talent who didn’t quite make the Olympic cut last year, even though she was age eligible. While Murakami’s event is floor, Sasada shines on beam, where she may just show the most difficult mount ever done on the event: a roundoff onto the springboard followed by a full twisting back layout onto the beam.
Must watch: Sasada’s clean, calm, uber-difficult beam set.
Scott Morgan, CAN. Morgan has been a (sometimes overlooked) diamond for Canada at competitions like the Pan American Games during the past few years. He’s a dynamo on vault and floor and although his start values will make it hard for him to make an event final, the Canadian men, who didn’t qualify a team for the 2012 Olympics, are rebuilding at this point and Morgan and his strong performances will be able to help them as they do so.
Must watch: Morgan’s exceptional power on vault at the Anadia Cup.
Kaitlyn Hofland, CAN. The long, lean Canadian bars ingenue is one more example of how taller gymnasts can excel on this event. Hofland’s gorgeous lines evoke Australia’s Larrissa Miller, who gained international attention for her bars set and qualified for the bars final at Worlds in 2009. Hofland’s routine is impressive, and she could repeat that feat for the Canadians in Antwerp.
Must watch: Hofland’s clean-lined bar set.
Kenzo Shirai, JPN. This 17-year-old high schooler is the biggest floor twisting sensation of a nation that does floor twisting better than almost any other. Shirai’s tumbling passes wow even the most seasoned gymnastics-watcher. (A quad twist? As a dismount? Seriously?)
Must watch: Shirai’s super twisted floor.
Ruby Harrold, GBR. Harrold’s bars set stands out for its unique composition and a release move pioneered in the 1970s (called a Zuchold) that you just never see these days (her other transition, a Bhardwaj, is pretty equally rare). Given the inventiveness of uneven bars during the 70s and 80s, and how many Pak saltos and bails there are around today, this routine is so refreshing.
Must see: Harrold’s unique bar routine.
Related: Which Worlds debut are you most looking forward to in Antwerp this year? Please leave a comment below. Thanks!
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