Who's who: 2016 Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships31/03/2016
For the 147 athletes from 20 countries who will be competing at the 2016 FIG World Championships in Acrobatic Gymnastics in Putian, China, from April 1-3, the competition simmers with possibility.
From top: Sultanbek Naisbayev and Daniyar Muslimov (KAZ); the Russian Women's Group including Valeriia Belkina at the 2014 Worlds; Marharyta Bartashevich and Viktoriya Mikhnovich (BLR); Marina Chernova (RUS); and the Chinese Men's Group as they won their second consecutive World title in Levallois.
According to the nominative competition lineup published this week, only four medallists from the 2014 Worlds in Levallois, France – Men’s Pair Yauheni Novikau and Ilya Rybinski (BLR), who won silver in 2014, Mixed Pair top Marina Chernova (RUS), who earned a World title with former partner Revaz Gurgenidze and Valeriia Belkina (RUS), a member of the silver medal-winning Women’s Group – have registered to compete in China.
That means the guard will be changing. World podiums will be filled by eager newcomers – or at least, eager new medallists. In addition to World titles, the World Championships serve as the sole qualifier for The World Games 2017 in Wroclaw (POL). The top five pairs or groups in each category will clinch a berth to The World Games.
Heres an early look at who’s up for the five World titles on the line in China.
Two-time reigning World champions Alexei Dudchenko and Konstantin Pilipchuk have stepped aside from competition this year, leaving World silver medallists Yauheni Navikov and Ilya Rybinski (BLR) as ostensibly the top men’s pair in the world. But the competition appears to be an east-meets-west battle between three strong contenders, all of whom know what it means to compete at a World Championships.
European champions Arne van Gelder and Vincent Casse (BEL) have proven unbeatable on the World Cup circuit this year, while Asian champions Sultanbek Naisbayev and Daniyar Muslimov (KAZ) could be their biggest competition. Both pairs have been here before, but neither have medalled: the Belgians were fourth in Levallois two years ago, while the Kazakhs competed in 2012 and 2014 but did not reach finals.
Don’t count them out: Michail Kraft and Tim Sebastian (GER) and Igor Mishev and Nikolay Suprunov (RUS) are young and eager to impress on the world stage. They’ve been competing well on the World Cup level, polishing their performances for Worlds.
Reigning World champions Nikki Snel and Eline de Smedt (BEL) won’t be in China either, so the women’s title is open. The field is especially competitive, with no fewer than five pairs eyeing the podium.
Belarus’s Marharyta Bartashevich and Viktoriya Mikhnovich are the experience leaders, having finished fourth at the 2014 Worlds, but lost out to Daria Guryeva and Daria Kalinina (RUS) for the 2015 European title. Meanwhile, on the World Cup circuit, Natascha van Es and Laurie Philpott (BEL) and Mo Zhixin and Zhang Zhiyun (CHN) have both enjoyed success.
Don’t count them out: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea impressed with daring moves at the 2014 Worlds, even though they left France empty-handed. Base Jong Kum Hwa returns this year with new partner Pyon Yun Ae for a second chance at a medal.
For her debut Worlds in 2014, 18-year-old Marina Chernova partnered with veteran Revaz Gurgenidze, who capped his career with his second World title in Mixed Pairs competition. This year, at 20, Chernova is the veteran and her partner Georgy Pataraya will be competing in his debut Worlds. The duo have already been racking up titles, winning the European and European Games titles in a rout last year.
Their challengers in China include a number of junior-turned-senior pairs, including Isabella Montagna and Lewis Walker (GBR). Alexis Martin (FRA) and Axl Osbourne (USA) will both be competing at their second World Championships, albeit with different partners -- and for Osbourne, who competed at the 2010 Worlds as part of a Men’s Pair, in a whole different category.
Don’t count them out: Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Fedkovich and Angelina Yanitskaya made a splash at the Asian Championships and stand to do the same in Putian.
Great Britain’s Elise Matthews, Georgia Lancaster and Millie Spalding won a surprise gold in 2014, and this year two British Groups are doubling down on the opportunity presented in China by sending two Women’s Groups. Keep an eye on Erin Mattinson, Lauren Emmerson and Lucy Atkinson, whose eye-popping difficulty helped them win at the Maia World Cup in Portugal last week, as well as China’s Li Run, Yang Xiaoyi and Xia Zhimeng, whose routine drew gasps from the crowd when they performed it at the Geneva World Cup in 2015.
Don’t count them out: Russia dominated the Women’s Group category in 2010 and 2012, and Valeriia Belkina, Yulia Nikitina and Zhanna Parkhomets would like the World title back. Russia’s clean form and stylish choreography have made them a crowd favorite in the past, though they will need to be nearly perfect in order to take the gold.
Men’s Group competition has been the domain of the Chinese for the past two World Championships, so the bar has been set high for Li Zheng, Rui Liuming, Zhou Jiahui and Zhang Teng, who have been tapped to carry on the country’s World dominance – and in front of a home crowd, no less. The Chinese men aren’t blind to the pressure: According to Zhang, they expect to become World champions, and hope to eclipse the feats of the Group that came before them.
In China’s way will be reigning European champion Israel, two Groups from Russia, as well as the perennially strong Bulgarians.
Don’t count them out: The British men, who took World silver with a different Group two years ago, had hoped for a medal of a different color. Their new Group -- Adam Upcott, Lewis Watts, Conor Sawenko and Charlie Tate will try to provide that in China.
Don’t miss any of the action from Putian! Check out the FIG’s 2016 Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships microsite, featuring competition reports, interviews and plenty of extras, here!
|01/04/2016 03/04/2016||25th Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships 2016||PUTIAN CITY (CHN)||ACRO|