Tokyo Olympics: From Simon Biles to Kohei Uchimura, top 10 gymnasts to look out for
From Simone Biles and Kohei Uchimura to Tang Xijing and Nina Derwael, here are some names to watch out for in the gymnastics events
With World No1 Simone Biles leading Team USA at the gymnastics events at the Olympics this year, the excitement and anticipation is high. The team of the superb six, according to several media outlets, are favored to rack up medals and win the team gold, but it's not just Team USA that is worth watching out for.
Gymnastics is a sport combining strength, dexterity and grace and we are all waiting with bated breath to catch some of the best athletes from around the world who will be competing in the Tokyo Olympics gymnastics events this year.
After several rumors of the Olympics being canceled due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, it has been reported that Tokyo is gearing up for the games, amidst an emergency situation, which are slated to start on Friday, 23 July, and go on till Sunday, 8 August. And while the excitement is high, here's all you need to know about the top ten gymnasts to look out for.
1 Simone Biles, USA
Simone Arianne Biles, 24, is the current World No 1 gymnast of American and Belizean origin from Ohio. Biles is the most decorated American gymnast and is widely considered to be the greatest and most dominant gymnast of all time, according to various news outlets. Biles has the most medals (25) tally and most gold medals (19) in gymnastics as well as she is a gymnast with the most all-around titles (5) in the world. She is the first American female gymnast to win a world medal in every event and is the current record-holder of the Yurchenko double pike landing, which she is the first woman ever to do and all of this makes her the woman to watch out for this year.
2 Kohei Uchimura, Japan
Kohei Uchimura from Fukuoka, who is widely considered as the best male gymnast in history, is returning to the Olympics for a fourth and final time; this time to compete in a single event. Uchimura, 32, who acquired the moniker "King Kohei" after winning all eight Olympic and global all-around titles from 2009 to 2016, qualified for the individual all-around via a tiebreaker. The International Gymnast Magazine described his skills as a "combination of tremendous difficulty, supreme consistency and extraordinary elegance of performance." Uchimura, for whom it will be a first non-team event, said: "I may not be part of the all-around team effort, but there’s still things I can contribute due to my experience.” This will be the last time we see the legend on the biggest sports world stage and by competing in the solo event only, he will lose out on the opportunity be the first man to win three-straight Olympic all-around titles. But watching the living legend one last time will definitely be worth it.
3 Nina Derwael, Belgium
Nina Derwael is a Belgian artistic gymnast, a two-time World champion (2018, 2019) and a two-time European champion (2017, 2018) on the uneven bars. She was the 2019 European Games champion on the balance beam and is a two-time Belgian national all-around champion. Derwael, who also represented Belgium at the 2016 Summer Olympics, is the first Belgian gymnast to win a medal at the World Championships as well as the first to become a World and European champion. Five-time world Olympic gold medallist Nellie Kim said to the Olympics official website, that Derwael could become the first Belgian woman to win an Olympic artistic gymnastics medal at Tokyo 2020.
4 Sam Mikulak, USA
Sam Mikulak is a six-time US national all-around champion and an eight-time NCAA champion, winning the team, individual all-around and several individual event titles at the NCAA Men's Gymnastics championships between 2011 to 2014. The Californian of Polish descent, who thinks himself as a mental health advocate for athletes, called the 2020 games the most "meaningful" and the "hardest" Olympics to qualify for in his career, according to Detroit News. “I’ve found a lot of benefit [from therapy],” Mikulak said, adding he was inspired by Michael Phelps to do the same. The 28-yar-old, whose favorite event is the high bar, is set to become the first US gymnast to compete in three Olympics since Blaine Wilson in 2004.
5 Angelina Melnikova, Russia
Angelina Romanovna Melnikova is a Russian artistic gymnast who won a silver medal in the team competition for Russia at the 2016 Summer Olympics. She finished third in the all-around standings behind Olympic bars champion Aliya Mustafina and 2014 Youth Olympic winner Seda Tutkhalyan, but was unable to compete in the final due to a regulation that only allowed two Russians per nation in each final. With the recent retirement of Mustafinathe ROC will need Melnikova to lead the way with her experience and the Olympics official website says the Russian is one to watch out for.
6 Nikita Nagornyy, Russia
Nikita Nagornyy, the 2019 World All-Around Champion is the man to watch out for this year. The 14-time gold-winning artistic gymnast at the 2021 European Gymnastics debuted a new skill on the floor and landed a triple back pike, which was then named 'The Nagornyy' after him. 'The Nagronyy' is graded with the highest “I” (0.9) value currently in the gymnastics Code of Points, which together with 'The Miyachi' on the horizontal bar, is one of only two elements across all apparatuses in men's artistic gymnastics to have this top difficulty assignment. The 24-year-old is set to vault into Tokyo as a dominator of men's gymnastics and a medal favorite this year.
7 Uladzislau Hancharou, Belarus
Uladzislau Alehavich Hancharou is the current Olympic champion in the men's individual trampoline event and became the first athlete representing Belarus to win gold in gymnastics trampolining in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.The 25-year-old from Viciebsk, Belarus, began reaching the podium at numerous World Cup events in 2014 when he won the individual gold at the European Championships and bronze in the team event. Hancharou, who holds the title of Master of Sport of International Class in Belarus, is a hot favorite this year along with teammate Ivan Litvinovich who placed second at the 2019 Worlds.
8 Xiao Ruoteng, China
Xiao Ruoteng was a member of the bronze medal-winning team at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and a three-time world championships gold winner. Ruoteng won the all-around competition at the 2017 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships and became the first gymnast in nine years, other than perennial favorite Kohei Uchimura, to win a major all-around title. Uchimura had hurt his ankle and withdrew during the qualification round. He will be joined in Tokyo with the reigning Chinese all-around champion Sun Wei.
9 Linoy Ashram, Israel
Linoy Ashram is a rhythmic gymnast from Rishon LeTsiyon, Israel who won the 2018 World All-around silver medal, two World All-around bronze medals, the 2020 European All-around champion and the silver medal in the 2019 European Games All-around. The Israeli finished second in the World Championships in 2018 and third in 2019 and became the first gymnast to win back-to-back all-around victories on the World Challenge Cup circuit in 2018. She also became the first Israeli to win gold in the Grand Prix Final. Ashram now holds the title of European all-around champion, with the ROC choosing not to participate in the event due to COVID-19 related concerns.
10 Tang Xijing, China
Tang Xijing won the 2019 World all-around silver medal, tying Jiang Yuyuan for the greatest all-around result by a Chinese woman in World or Olympic history, which she achieved in the 2010 World Championships. She also won the 2018 Chinese national all-around bronze medal, the 2018 Youth Olympic balance beam gold medal and the bronze medal on the uneven bars at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, and the 2019 Chinese national balance beam silver medal. Xijing placed second, 2.1 points below Biles at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in 2019. She is set to be quite the contender in Tokyo.
Gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics is set to begin July 24.