The following are a random collection of thoughts from watching the men’s competition yesterday at the EYOF in Utrecht. They’re not organized. Here’s how they tumbled out of my head:
Sometime within the past couple of years I asked a British athlete/coach/official/I don’t remember which, I asked whether the resources and passion that went into the London 2012 run would endure, and whether gymnastics would become as British a sport as, say, football. The official didn’t think that would happen, of course — but the future of the British men’s program looks safely assured so long as Nile Wilson, Gaius Thompson and Brinn Bevan remain a part of it.
Thompson is the long lean one of the group with by far the best lines and toepoint. He’s probably not going to be a power guy, but he’s surprisingly capable of big skills, in the mold of Kristian Thomas, the tall man of gymnastics. Wilson, second all-around at the 2012 Junior Europeans, is a light-haired, muscular kid, an excellent body for high-level gymnastics. With a slightly upgraded dismount — he did only a double tuck — his parallel bars exercise, an absolute thing of beauty, would be at home in any event final at any competition in the world (14.15, 9.15 E-score.)
Bevan is shorter and looks a year or two younger, but both guys’s skills are very mature — DTYs on vault, and both tossed off double twisting double tuck dismounts off rings and an excellent routine on p-bars, powerful and supple. Watch his excellent floor routine, and note that there’s some originality there — check out his 1.5 twisting Shushunova thingie after his double full. A trickster and originality too? Excellent.
Best of all, they looked like they were having the time of their lives doing it. The “Who are we? Team GB!!!” coming from the stands probably didn’t hurt the morale either.
The Russian school of men’s gymnastics is very much alive and well, as evidenced by the 3-4-5 all-around finishes of Valentin Starikov, Kirill Potapov and Ivan Stretovich (Stretovich is the odd man out of the all-around due to the two-per-country rule, but we’ll see him in event finals.) Starikov is a classically elegant Russian gymnast. Potapov is the size and shape of a small tank. The body of a rings specialist if ever there was one. But he’s not a rings specialist — he’s quite good on every event.
I didn’t see too much of Italy, but of what I did see it was simply beautiful gymnastics, especially on parallel bars and high bar. The form and line of the young Italian men is sublime, and their gymnastics was some of the most beautiful of the day. “Italy has a strong generation coming up,” a colleague remarked after watching their p-bars rotation. Agreed.
The Swiss men are coming along nicely as well. One thing that was striking about the new generation, evidenced by Lucas Fischer in Moscow earlier this year, is that they possess a good deal of what could only be called style. It’s not that their gymnastics is just correct and polished — this is the case of the Russian team, for example — but there’s an extra, well, something. That element of je ne sais quoi that Alexei Nemov had, it’s there is a lot of the Swiss team’s gymnastics as well. An additional bit of flair. Not necessarily difficulty, just gymnastics that is pretty, easy to watch. On some elements they are not as correct as the Russians, but as long as they continue as they are, they will do well. Sascha Conradi is a name to remember.
Turkey’s Ahmet Onder, a curly haired kid in a red uniform, led his team all day. He was also sixth in the all-around, the top qualifier from a nation other than Britain or Russia. Onder has terrific technique and very good form, and could be a force on the international scene in a few years as well.
The Dutch were of course the crowd favorites, and had the will of everyone in the building as they went through. Frank Rijken is their top gymnast right now.
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