From water on the beam to historic team finishes, your Worlds recap (so far) — Other gym news — Thoughts from American, Canadian, and Brazilian world champions

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Nov. 5, 2022

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Well, it’s been a week. I kept thinking of ways to make a Worlds recap interesting this week, but ultimately I have decided to just…recap. If I missed anything that you wanted to hear more about, please let me know. 

Qualifications were pretty much impossible to watch, as the FIG provided no stream. See the liveblogs of quals from The Gymternet here and here and The Balance Beam Situation here and here

Peacock streamed the team and all-around finals, but apparently is not replaying them. Read The Gymternet’s liveblogs of team finals and AA finals and The Balance Beam Situation’s liveblogs of team finals and AA finals to get the specifics.

Event finals are taking place on the day I submit this and the day it comes out, so I’m going to discuss those next week, just FYI.

Some things I did have on my Worlds bingo card: The United States winning gold in the team competition, though they were not the decisive favorite this year as they have been in the past. The U.S. became the first nation ever to win six team world titles in women’s gymnastics. With three active college athletes and two NCAA commits, no less (UCLA’s Jordan Chiles, Oregon State’s Jade Carey, and Florida’s Leanne Wong, plus Skye Blakeley, who is committed to Florida, and alternate Lexi Zeiss who is committed to LSU). And, of course, SHILESE JONES, casual silver all-around medalist.

It’s a shining achievement and was a stunner to watch.

The U.S. also surpassed the Soviet Union for total world medals after Jones’ all-around silver (don’t worry, I’m going to talk more about Shilese). 

There were some real surprises, of course, like Rebeca Andrade being out of the vault final after her hands slipped on the table during her second vault in qualifications (and the vault becoming a source of genuine concern to many), China faltering in the team final, and a water leak directly ON the balance beam during the team final (see Five at The IX below for more on that!) that may or may not have affected the athletes, depending on whom you talked to.

But the biggest shock of this world championships, SO FAR (we have event finals yet to come), was Canada taking the team bronze medal and qualifying a team to the 2024 Olympics in Paris. It is Canada’s highest-ever finish at a world championship. Led by the indomitable Ellie Black, who also finished fifth in the all-around, this team will be one to watch in Paris for sure.

Andrade, as many assumed she would, came back from qualifications disappointment to win all-around gold. Her huge, beautiful Cheng in the first rotation of the AA competition both set the tone for her performance and was a testament to the mental toughness of gymnasts. 

I said I was going to talk more about Shilese Jones. SHILEEEEEEEESE! An all-around performance for the ages. Jones has been through so much this year, and after consistently being left off teams during the Forster Era and a gym change back to her original coaches, she appears to be here to stay, and I for one am here for it. I sobbed reading her Instagram post about her silver AA medal:

The uneven bars dismount that kept her from gold at U.S. nationals has looked great here, as did her standing Arabian on beam, another skill that has been inconsistent in the past for her. 

The British team here (Jessica Gadirova, Jennifer Gadirova, Alice Kinsella, Ondine Achampong, and Georgia-Mae Fenton) won bronze in the team final in front of a home audience, Team GB’s highest-ever Worlds finish for women’s artistic gymnastics and a sign of this team’s continuing dominance on the international stage. Jessica Gadirova followed that up by taking all-around bronze – the first AA medal for a British female gymnast. Kinsella was fourth in the AA by a very close margin. 

I’ve seen this Worlds referred to regularly this week as a “splatfest.” TBH, once you move past the very top performances in the world and allow for the major surprises that occur at every international meet (like Andrade’s vault slip), lots of these big meets are pretty splatty. Three gymnasts withdrew from the all-around due to injury. Gymnasts fall, and unfortunately, gymnasts get injured, even top gymnasts from top countries. (FLAVIA. Insert sob emoji, insert beam witch emoji.)

What we saw in Liverpool this week was the first time most of these gymnasts have been at an international meet with any kind of audience since the Stuttgart Worlds in 2019. (And let’s not forget that the year before that, the 2018 Doha Worlds barely attracted any audience either, even without a global pandemic.) The Olympics were pushed back. Training was interrupted. Many teams suffered from major retirements (Germany) and restructuring (Netherlands) in the lead-up to Liverpool. Given all that, I’m not surprised about splats. But what I have seen here is a lot of joy, which is something that, as we all know, has historically been in short supply in our sport. Gymnasts seem genuinely thrilled to be here, performing in front of an audience that clearly loves them. They even laughed about that water leak.

This is a rebuilding year in a rebuilding sport. Liverpool is giving us a glimpse of the future, and I think that future looks pretty bright. (We could make the arenas brighter, though. Just a thought.) 

Other gym news

It’s been hard to find other gym news this week since everyone has been laser-focused on what’s happening in Liverpool. I managed to scrounge up a few things though. 

More than 200 participants, including FIG president Morinari Watanabe and USAG president and CEO Li Li Leung, met in Liverpool for the inaugural Safe Sport Journey Symposium this week, joined by another 100 virtual participants. 

Daiane Dos Santos, three-time Olympian, Brazil’s first world champion, and the first Black woman to win a gold event medal at a world championships, is quoted in this article as saying about all-around champion Andrade,  “​​And today [Andrade] is the best. And [Shilese] Jones was second best. Two black women representing this presence, in a society that is still excluded, sacrificed. The message is there.“

Suni Lee signed a NIL deal with Clif Bar.

Avery Neff finally released us all from the pain over her college commitment and announced that she will compete for Utah.

Five at the IX: World champions, NBD

Five awesome videos courtesy of GymCastic, who have broadcast live from Liverpool all week, in no particular order, featuring American, Canadian, and Brazilian world champions.

Who’s your gymnastics idol? 

Shilese Jones on her AA final

Ellie Black on the Canadian team’s bronze medal

Rebeca Andrade on winning all-around gold

The water on the beam during the team final

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Written by Lela Moore