mardi 10 octobre 2017

A reflection on Worlds: what's next?

On Sunday night, the lights were turned off in the Olympic Arena in Montreal, putting an end to the 47th World gymnastics championships. In Montreal, our Team Belgym showed promises, talent, and that hard work always pays off. With an historic bronze medal and three finals, but also all our gymnasts in the top 30, future seems bright for Belgium's gymnastics.

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
After a season packed of competitions, Maxime Gentges arrived in Montreal with high hopes and expectations, wishing to make it to the all-around final. Unfortunately, the young gymnast from Malmedy fell short and missed the final for a point, placing 29th with a total score of 76.364. Although this result is not the one he was hoping for, Maxime's performance in Montreal remains a great achievement, placing in the top 30 at Worlds, his best result. With a nagging wrist injury, Maxime kept pushing and gave his best, but will now have to undergo surgery. No doubt he'll be ready for the 2018 season, with his focus on the European and World Championships.

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
On the women's side, three gymnasts represented our country and they represented it well! Let's start with Maellyse Brassart. These Worlds were her very first big championships since she joined the seniors ranks in January. Injured just a few weeks ago, her status was uncertained until last minute but she ultimately was ready for the all-around, where she can score in the 53s. In Montreal, she showed a lot of promises, especially on floor and vault, her strongest apparatuses. Even though she finished third among the Belgians, her 25th place in qualifications is outstanding and promising as she can do even better, having to call a fall on bars.

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
Then comes Rune Hermans. The 18 years old is a veteran in the team, participating in her second World Championships. Two years ago, in Glasgow, she was then the baby of the team, but was already a star in the making, reaching the all-around final and placing 19th for her first major championships. As she told to Sporza before leaving for Montreal, she hoped to do better in Montreal. And boy she did! She qualified for the all-around final in 21st place, despite a fall on beam. In final, Rune was rock-solid, showing amazing lines and strong performances on floor and bars. With a total of 52.299, she ranked 11th in final, which is the second best results in Belgian's gymnastics history. In my opinion, Rune has everything it takes to be an even better all-arounder in the future, and should be a lock to the team in the coming years.

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
And finally, we have Nina Derwael. What more can we say about Nina? The words historical, magic, unbelievable, amazing have been used so many times in the past 14 months, starting with her incredible performance in the Olympic Games. Less than a year later, she made a name for herself as the new Queen of the uneven bars, being crowned European Champion in Cluj-Napoca, the first ever European title in Belgium's gymnastics history. With all the pressure that comes with this medal, she worked harder than ever, upgrading her bars routine, but also her beam and floor. Because Nina is so much more than just a bars specialist. She's an all-arounder first and foremost. In the all-around final, she placed 8th, the highest ranking ever achieved by a Belgian gymnast, male or female, at Worlds. But the best was yet to come. She knew - we all knew - she had the potential to medal on bars. Nina made (once again) history by qualifying for the final, being the first female gymnast to qualify for an apparatus final for our country. No matter what, she had put her mark on this year's World Championships. But she wanted more. With 15.033, Nina not only broke her personal record, she became the first female gymnast to bring home a World medal, the first World medal in 104 years for Belgium (last time was in 1913 with Pierre Hentges winning a bronze on parallel bars. Then, only 5 countries were taking part at Worlds). Historical. Magic. Unbelievable. Amazing. 

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
The hardest now will be for our gymnasts to stay focused and keep training. The next major competition will be the European Championships in August 2018. No doubt that our gymnasts' performances will be a big push for the next generation but also to the rest of the national team. Next year, the Road To Tokyo begins. And we'll be in the stands, cheering for our heroes.

2017 Worlds: Nina Derwael wins a historical bronze medal on uneven bars!

After an amazing performance in the all-around final along with Rune Hermans, Nina Derwael did even better in the uneven bars final, winning a historical bronze medal !

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
Nina successfully qualified for the final with the 4th best scores out of the 8 gymnasts that made it, posting 14.966. But she knew she had to step up her game if she wanted to medal. Which she did.

She was the second gymnast to go on Saturday, and with the best routine she's ever performed, she managed to score 15.033, earning the best score of her career under the new code of points ! All she had to do now was to wait anxiously.

Only two gymnasts surpassed her : the reigning World Champion, China's Fan Yilin (15.166), and European silver medalist Elena Eremina (Russia, 15.100), leaving Nina Derwael with a historical bronze medal around her neck.

What Nina achieved in Montreal is an amazing accomplishment. After being the first female gymnast to ever qualify to an apparatus final, she got Belgium's highest ranking in the all-around competition with an 8th place finish.

Her bronze medal, the first for a female gymnast at Worlds, ends 104 years of shortage, the last medal being won in 1913 by Pierre Hentges on parallel bars, in a time where only 5 countries were competing at Worlds. 

After returning home on Monday, Nina will now enjoy a little of fame and will get back to work, with Glasgow and the European Championships in sight.

Full results here

samedi 7 octobre 2017

2017 Worlds: historical performances for Nina Derwael and Rune Hermans in final !

Last night, Nina Derwael and Rune Hermans both competed in the all-around final, with the hope of improving their qualification score. But they did even better than that, as they both placed in the top 12 and made history once again !

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
Nina started her competition on the uneven bars, her best event, where she got 14.966 to take the lead. That score was the highest of the competition, not only on the uneven bars but on all four events! Rune was in the 4th group and started on floor exercise, where she performed a piked full-in, un one and a half twist to full twist and a two and a half twist to front tuck, for which she received a 13.066.

In the lead after the first rotation, things got a bit more complicated on beam for Nina, as she fell on her back handspring layout step out. She finished strong, with a triple wolf turn, a double wolf turn and a Gainer dismount (11.633). On vault, Rune got a 13.300 for a Yurchenko full twist.

Moving on to floor, Nina performed the best floor routine of her season, posting 13.366 with her double piked, one and a half twist to full twist and a double tuck. No problem for Rune on bars, where she improved her qualifying score, getting a 13.900.

Before the last rotation, both Nina and Rune were in the top 10, which was already a huge accomplishment. Rune finished her competition on balance beam, an event that had caused troubles to all the competitiors all night long. Rune didn't fell but she had to count some major wobbles (12.033). Nina received a 13.533 for her Yurchenko full twist on vault.

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
With a total score of 53.498, Nina ranked 8th in the all-around, while Rune placed 11th (52.299). Our Belgians made history once again, achieving the best all-around results two gymnasts ever had ! Before that, the best results were a 17th and a 19th place obtained in 2015 in Glasgow by former elite gymnast Lisa Verschueren and ... Rune Hermans !

The all-around title was won by USA's Morgan Hurd (55.232), ahead of crowd favorite Elsabeth Black (Canada, 55.132) and Russia's Elena Eremina (54.799). The favorite to win the gold, the American Ragan Smith, sustained an ankle injury just a few minutes before the competition started.

Tonight, Nina Derwael will compete in the uneven bars final and will make history once again, as she's the first Belgian female gymnast to compete in an event final at Worlds.

Full results here.

jeudi 5 octobre 2017

2017 Worlds: another page of Belgian gymnastics History written in Montreal

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Olympic Arena in Montreal hosted the Women's qualifications. Maellyse Brassart, Rune Hermans and Nina Derwael all took part in these. And they wrote another page of Belgium's gymnastics history.

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
Our girls competed in the 2nd subdivision on Tuesday, meaning they had to wait 24 hours to know their rankings. But the wait was worth it.

They started on bars, Nina's best event. And the European Champion lived up to her standards, as she easily took the lead with a huge 14.966, her personal best. She also got an element named after her: the stalder linked to the Tkatchev regrasped in L grip. An element she will be sharing with Great Britain's Georgia-Mae Fenton who also successfully completed the skill. Rune Hermans also had a gret score, posting 13.800, while Maellyse delivered a good performance until the dismount where she had a rebound and put her hands down (12.533).

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
Beam has been a real struggle to a large majority of the competitors in Montreal, so was it for the Belgian girls. Nina fell on her roundoff layout step out mount (12.333), while Rune had to count a fall on her double spin (11.900). No fall for Maellyse, but a big wobble cost her a few tenths (12.200).

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
On floor, Maellyse delivered a strong performance, with a piked full-in, a double pike, a double tuck and a double twist with her now well-known "bird routine" (12.333). Rune started a new floor routine a few weeks ago and showed a lot of presence in her exercise in Montreal to get the highest score of the Belgians with a 12.833. Nina Derwael was right behind with 12.733.

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
They finished their competition on vault where they all performed a full twisting Yurchenko. Maellyse got the highest score with 13.741, followed by Nina (13.566) and Rune (13.333).

In the all-around ranking, Nina Derwael qualified for the final with an amazing 8th place and a total score of 53.598. Rune Hermans will be joining her, as she qualified in 21st place (51.866), her second World all-around final after Glasgow in 2015. For her first major meet with the Seniors, Maellyse can be really proud of herself as she ranked 25th in the World. No doubt she can do even better in the future (50.807).

In addition to these two finals, Nina Derwael also qualified for the uneven bars final in 4th place with her great routine. She is the first Belgian female gymnast ever to qualify for an apparatus final on the World's stage. Nina makes history yet again, a few months after bringing home the first ever European title for her country.

And the best might be yet to come.

Full results here.

mardi 3 octobre 2017

2017 Worlds: 29th place for Maxime Gentges in qualifications

The 2017 World Championships finally started on Monday with the men's qualifications. Maxime Gentges kicked things off for Belgium. He placed 29th after both days of qualifications!

Credit: Mathias Hikketik
Maxime started the competition on vault, where he performed a double twisting Yurchenko. He didn't get a big enough push off the table and couldn't avoid the fall (12.266). On parallel bars, Maxime had to count another fall on the dismount, as he stumbled backwards on his double pike (12.466).

Maxime seemed to regain a bit of confidence on his next two events. On high bar, he showed a good routine, with good heights on the releases to score 12.966. He got his best score on floor, with a great front layout to double front as his opening tumble. With a 13.600, Maxime seemed to be on the right path again. 

On pommel horse, one of his best event, a couple of leg separations cost him a few tenth (12.900). He finished his competition on rings, where he got 12.166. With a total score of 76.364, he placed 29th in qualifications, not enough to qualify for the all-around final. At the last World Championships in Glasgow, in 2015, Maxime was 65th. Last Spring, he placed 19th at the European Championships. He will now undergo surgery to fixa wrist that caused him pain for more than a year now.

Cuban Manrique Larduet lead the qualifications, ahead of China's Xiao Ruoteng and Russia's David Belyavskiy. Japan superstar Kohei Uchimura, 6 times World allaround Champion and 2-time Olympic all-around gold medalist was set to defend his titles but injured his ankle on vault. He couldn't finish his qualifications round.

The all-around final will take place on Thursday.

Full results here.

dimanche 1 octobre 2017

2017 Worlds: all you need to know and what to expect!

The 2017 World Gymnastics Championships will start tomorrow in Montreal, Canada! These are the first Worlds since last year's Olympic Games and new champions will be crowned. Here's a look at what to expect!

MTL 2017

On the men's side, Maxime Gentges will be the only representative for Team Belgium. His main goal will be to go clean and try to qualify for the all-around final. Maxime will compete in the 2nd subidivison on Monday 2nd October. Japan's Kohei Uchimura and Ukraine's Oleg Verniaiev will battle for gold in the all-around. Uchimura, undefeated since 2009, will try to win his 7th straight world all-around title! In the apparatus finals, Max Whitlock is a favorite to win gold on floor and pommels, while Eleftherios Petrounias will try to retain his World title on rings. 

On vault, Yang Hak-seon, the 2012 Olympic champion, will have to watch his back as European vault champion Artur Dalaloyan and Japan's star Kenzo Shirai should reach the final too. Oleg Verniaiev and Kohei Uchimura will be rivals again on parallel bars. The horizontal bar final should be sectacular with olympic champion Epke Zonderland, olympic bronze medalist Nile Wilson and European champion Pablo Brägger.

Men's program:

On the women's side, Team Belgium will be represented by uneven bars European champion Nina Derwael, Belgian champion Rune Hermans and first year Senior Maellyse Brassart. They will all compete on all four events in qualifications with the hope of qualifying for the all-around final. Only two gymnasts per country can enter the final so it'll be interesting to see who will make it. 

Rune and Maellyse were close to each other at both Nationals and FIT Challenge, with Rune Hermans ending on top both times. It will be Nina's first all-around competition since the European Championships back in April where she ended in 7th place in the final. 

In an interview on Sporza, Rune said she hoped to improve her ranking from 2015, when she qualified for the final and placed 19th. In addition to her all-around hopes, Nina Derwael is in contention for a spot in the uneven bars final. The European Champion has the 2nd highest difficulty score in the world with a 6.3. Known for her great execution, Nina has a shot at the podium, but making the final would already be a huge deal, as she'd be the first Belgian female gymnast to qualify for a world's event final.

No matter what, on Friday night, we'll have a brand new all-around world champion, as 3-times World Champion and Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles won't be in Montreal after a year off. On vault, favorites are Canada's Shallon Olsen and American Jade Carey. On bars, in addition to Nina Derwael, Fan Yilin and Russians Elena Eremina and Anastasia Iliankova are among the favorites.

On beam, the field is quite open. Romania's Larisa Iordache is a fan favorite, as well as Catalina Ponor and American Ragan Smith. On floor, Iordache should be in contention, alongside Amy Tinkler, Jade Carey and Mai Murakami.

Women's programme:

We'll try to provide you with live tweets and reports of the competition! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news! There will be no TV coverage in Belgium but the BBC will show the finals live. FIG will also provide a livestream for the countries which don't have a TV coverage.